First Families

First families. It can be a polarizing topic within the adoption community. Just in my little world I know family with an open international adoption and another family that is completely uncomfortable with the thought of first parents. As the experts will tell you, whether or not you as adoptive parents want to acknowledge the existence of first parents, they are still very present in the minds of most adoptees.

I’ve always thought of us as partners with our son’s first parents. They did what they could, and we picked up when they couldn’t do anymore. We’ve never felt threatened by our son’s first family. We’ve talked to him about them since he came home. At first it was a little awkward–you the mom talking about another mom–but now it’s easy and comfortable to mention them.

And J’s now talking about them pretty often, which is nice to see. We want him to be able to talk with us about his feelings and be open about his thoughts, knowing he isn’t hurting us by thinking about them.

I wish we’d known that open international adoptions were possible. We would have pursued it from the beginning. But we didn’t know. Our son’s family history is complex, so while we were in Korea we began adovating for more than is normally allowed, yet I wish we’d done more.

For the last year, I’ve been writing letters to agencies and the family (through the agencies) in hopes of establishing open communication. So far I haven’t had any luck. It’s frustrating not knowing if my letters are even arriving in Korea, and if they are, is the agency editing things out? Does the family understand that we want to communicate with them, to share our son’s life with them, and to share their lives with him? We have some information from the agency indicating that the family is interested in communicating. Yet, so far the communication has been one sided.

I hate that something I feel is so important for my son is completely at the mercy of others. Others who I have no way of communicating with face to face (our U.S. agency is in another state).

I know that my pursuing this in itself is a somewhat controversial. Some adult adoptees believe the search should be left for the adoptee to do. I defend our decision with the argument that very few people know our whole story, and those who do understand why we feel making the connections now is so important.

Interestingly, as I work on this for our family, I came across a blog recently that encouraged adoptive parents to search for first families for their children. Harlow’s Monkey quoted another blogger in this post answering a question posted by a prospective adoptive parent. (The links on Harlow’s Monkey’s blog can lead you through the blog trail of this one.) For international adoption, Atlasien said one thing adoptive parents can do is “work to establish contact with your child’s biological family.”

Some readers questioned this stance in the comments section for this post on Harlow’s Monkey. So in the comments section Atlasien went on to explain, “searching in international adoption is so hard, if you wait, you are just increasing that chances that people will move away, get sick and die, lose paperwork, and so on. By waiting, you are passively removing choice from your child. But you are not removing a choice if you search for your child when they are younger… the adoptee always has the choice, when they become an adult, to STOP contact. And stopping contact is a lot easier than starting it.” If you read all of the comments you’ll see that Jae Ran of Harlow’s Monkey agreed, noting of course that many adoptees feel the search should be theirs.

I’ve read so many stories from adult adoptees about missing the opportunities to make those connections by a year or a few months because the person holding the information had died or moved. That’s why we feel it’s important for us to start the process. I wish more agencies understood the importance and made it easier to connect birth families and adoptive families who are open to communication.

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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