Adopted 5 Yr Old Daughter Is Constantly Asking to See Her Birth Mom...

Updated on June 24, 2012
D.M. asks from Durham, NH
12 answers

We have had our 5 year old adopted daughter in our care since she was 5 weeks old. DCYF tried very hard to get her back to her birthmom and was successful for about six weeks when she was about 16 months old. When she came back she was a very different kid - scared of being left alone, using four letter words, she'd lost weight, etc. We eventually adopted her through an open adoption with her birth mom when she was 3. She has not seen her birthmom on a regular basis at all since she came back to us after her brief "reunion" with her birthmom, and although she has seen her on a couple of holidays in the past, the last time she saw her was at her 4th birthday party (over a year and 4 months ago). I really enjoy being with her birthmom and I'd like to see her again at some point, but I'm having a really hard time because I'm pretty sure that her birthmom had a baby in April. As far as I know I haven't heard that she's lost the baby and I'm pretty sure that my daughter wouldn't understand if she saw her birthmom with a new baby that she was keeping...her birthmom couldn't keep her, so why can she keep this one? Also, her birthmom was pretty good at sending cards, etc. on a fairly regular basis until this past year. She didn't receive any acknowledgement on Christmas or her birthday this year. Our daughter seems to think that she can leave us and move in with her birthmom when things aren't going her way at our home. I keep on telling her that this is her family and that she's stuck with us! Whenever she's really upset with one of us she starts ranting and raving about how much she hates us and that she wants to go "home" - that she wishes that she'd never been adopted, etc. She also tells me almost every day that we don't love her and that we don't care about her or take care of her the same way that we do with our two biological children. We try so hard to give her everything that she needs and of course we treat all of our children differently - they all have different personalities and different needs. Are there any moms out there that have any similar experiences with adoptive children? I am just so hesitant to contact her birth mom right now. I'm scared that she will be viewed as the "fun one" and that my husband and I will seem like the mean ones, when, in fact, we are the ones that are truly parenting her! Any words of encouragement? Thanks, mamas!

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answers from Boston on

I want to add another thought to this: she maybe trying to make sure you do love her, want her, will not give her away by pushing you away a little. You should consider therapy for all of you but also address her fears and continue with the 'I will always love you, and we wanted you now and forever'
I had an abusive father and I would do my best to test my mom (I was a child and hurting) by trying to push her away to prove I was not loveable.
Because she has had contact with this unstable person you may be afraid you can do it to. She is 5, she is a child and has fears that you can only reassure.


answers from Boston on

You are to be commended for rescuing this child!

I'm not an expert on this and I'm sure you will get many helpful responses either on techniques or on books that can be shared.

I just want to encourage you to keep on plugging away! Whenever I got ticked off at my parents, I assumed I was "adopted" because that meant I wasn't really theirs. What I didn't get is that adoption is the ultimate act of love. Bio kids come to you, but adopted kids are CHOSEN by you. Let your daughter know that she was a conscious choice by your and your husband. My husband is adopted and he has always felt that his "adoptive" parents are just "his parents" - other than some curiosity about medical history and ethnic/national background, he has no interest in his birth family. Your daughter's situation is complicated because of the openness of the arrangement and the fact that she has lived with her birth mom.

I agree that any new baby is going to be a huge blow to your daughter - while it might be "neat" that she has a sibling, if the birth mom is keeping that child, it will increase your daughter's feeling of isolation. Until you know more info about where that baby is, and until the birth mom expresses some interest in seeing your daughter or at least contacting her, I think you have to kind of sit tight and not make overtures. You don't know what you're going to find on the other end, and your daughter needs dependability and stability.

I know there are books about all kinds of families coming together for different reasons. Maybe you can find some to share with her. Even if they represent vastly different arrangements from what you have (grandparents raising kids, people who adopt children with multiple disabilities), it might broaden your daughter's horizons a little, so that her family looks more "normal" in her eyes. Stories of people adopting multi-racial children, or kids with medical issues, and so on, might show her that adoptive parents are truly motivated to give love and care to children. They make this choice, they don't just cope with a stray child that is handed to them.

As for the birth mother being viewed as the "fun one" - this is the same thing many of us deal with when there is a divorce and custody is shared. The non-custodial parent is often viewed as the President of Party Central.

I think you can share with all of your children that you make rules because you love them, that you do all those chores (make meals, clean, shop, help with homework) and so on because you love them and they need that support and guidance. It's not glamorous but it's true love to do the hard stuff with kids. Anyone can do the easy stuff.

Good luck!



answers from Boston on

I think you should go to family counseling to explore healthier ways to deal with the relationship between birth family and adoptive family. Your 5 year old must be very advanced if she is able to remember being with birthmom over a year ago.
You are her mom now and your family is her family. Not sure what type of relationship she has with birthmom. Your family chose her to be part of your family. She needs to know that she was chosen.
I think it's normal for most kids (adopted or not) when they get mad or not get their way that they want to go somewhere else.
You're a good mom in that you have her best interest at heart and are seeking assistance. I would imagine that she has a much better life now and someday she will know that.
Good luck in your journey. You'll get there!



answers from Philadelphia on

I have a similar kind of problem, although a different adoption story. We adopted our first boy, whose BM was young and had no support if she kept him. I also have a biological son- I became pregnant a month after my adoptive son was born.(Didn't think that was a possibility for us.) My son has always known he is adopted; he seems to get angrier at me at times (when he's in trouble) and that's when I usually bring up the adoption topic. Last week I showed him more pictures of his BM on the computer and he asked soon after- can he go to her house to see her. She is friends with us on facebook so it is a semi-open adoption but I don't know how she would feel about seeing him. I told him that we would need to write her a note but he didn't want to do that. Also since then he has been even more difficult to discipline (send to timeout) and I think it's because he believes he doesn't have to listen to us because we're not his birth parents. I asked him if he was happy that we showed him more pics and talked about her some more- he said Yes. But I am really doubting myself on whether or not it was the right choice for me. Unfortunately his personality is quite different from my other son and us and frequently gets in trouble. This only adds to his anger and jealousy. His BM also got pregnant again about a year after he was born- but kept that child because the boyfriend and family were able to support them. (She never told us who our boy's BF was and my son has asked about him as well.) I'm not sure how my 5yr would react to that either. But part of me thinks that he'd be happy knowing that he has another brother who looks a little like him and probably has a similar personality. I have no idea when a good time/age would be to tell him though.
So yes, I understand your situation and think that allowing the children to have some sort of contact with BM is to their benefit, even though it will make our life more difficult at times (when parenting them.)
I like your comment "we treat all of our children differently - they all have different personalities and different needs" because I always think to myself that if I only treated my boys more the same that my adopted boy wouldn't be jealous. But we just keep trying to do our best- one way or another.



answers from Providence on

Hi D., I think that your job as an adoptive mom is tough. I also think that gentle honesty goes a long way and will be something that your daughter appreciates as she gets older. With that being said, I am not really open to the idea of open adoptions because I think it can send confusing messages to children. I was adopted as an infant and know very little about my birthmother. I would have liked to know more, but more was not available. My mother always offered to look into getting more information with me, but I never took her up on the idea.
I think that some information is good, so that your daughter knows where her roots come from, and talking with her about her birthmom's situation & how you are her parents & love her & will be there for her is good as well. But I also think that integrating her into your family would require you to cut ties with the birthmom until your daughter is old enough to handle & understand the situation. You will struggle for a while, but time will show her that you are there for her when she needs you.



answers from New London on

Dear D.. All I can say is "Congratulations" and "Hold on to your hat". LOL
I have a 12 yr old daughter who I adopted at age 5 1/2. It is a closed adoption. We have been through soooo much in the past 6+ years. I didn't read all the posts below but skimmed over a few. Someone mentioned a scrap book. My daughter has a life book we make together at family therapy. It has pics of her birth mom and all her siblings along with her foster family, her adoptive family and friends.
This has proved very helpful. When we were in the visiting stage, I gave her my life book to keep and familiarized herself with. Also very helpful.

Some things that can be comforting is terminology. What our Children's Aid Agency uses is the three Fs.
First Family
Foster Family
Forever Family
This helped my daughter to feel she belonged somewhere. She still has her life book and takes it out every now and then.
Another term is "Adoption Plan" I noticed some people use the phrase...gave up for adoption. Sounds too negative and unwanting. A plan is positive and a happy event.

We had family therapy which was the best thing for us. Also, I had a lot of help from the agency with their child youth worker. She came to my house weekly at first to help her get settled. (She had a lot of issues to deal with)

One other ppst mentioned she is testing you and I agree. She needs to know you are there for the long haul and I guess the best thing I can say is BE CONSISTENT. Whether it is with discipline, consequences, or just the day to day interaction. BE CONSISTENT. Eventually, she will see she IS HOME. Try not to change too much at once. If you need to do behaviour modification, pick one thing at a time and work through it them move to the next.
I know my daughter did and still does have problems with transitions.

There is so much I could share with you. Please feel free to email me at any time.
Don't forget, we understand the situation as adults, but how confusing must it be for a child's mind to comprehend and sort through this. Just keep loving her and keep asking questions when you don't have the answers yourself. You are doing great!
Shannon's forever mom



answers from Boston on

I'm an adoptive mom of a beautiful, almost six year old, girl from Guatemala. My situation is so different from yours that I have no direct words of advice or suggestions. However, maybe this site has something that can help: They have online courses that teach you how to talk to your kid about adoption, etc. Also, what about seeking advice from your adoption agency? I know the agency I use has continuing support groups.



answers from Milwaukee on

D., I am a grown woman who was adopted and have a sibling who was natural childbirth. My parents always told me I was chosen and read a book about this to me. Adopted children are special b/c of all the children you could have picked, she is the one who puts the sparkle in your eye. I don't know my birthmom,so I can't relate on that one. It sounds to me that she needs some one on one time with you. My friends with adopted children keep a large photo if they know the birthmom in the child's room, and regardless of if they know the bm, when they say their prayers daily thank God for the birthmom sharing this precious child and ask special blessings on the birthmother. Perhaps this positive talk in front of your daughter will acknowledge her feelings of being torn between you and her bm, and help her recognize you respect that she has strong positive feelings about her bm.



answers from Boston on

D., I know what you are going through. I adopted a 12 year who had been in foster care for several years. The irony is that this girl is also my granddaughter. Her mother lacked the responsibility and common sense to keep her safe and healthy (long story). Anyway, it was a kinship adoption and I never tried to make her consider me her mom. She lost out on having a doting grandmother and instead I was the disciplinarian, parent, etc. He mother was allowed to visit, which she did when she felt like it, which wasn't often. Well, she did have another baby and for the longest time, we kept it from my granddaughter but knew she would have to know at some point. I guess we were waiting to see if my daughter would be able to care for it. As it turned out, my granddaughter 'ran into' her mom at the mall with the baby and to make matters worse, it was my granddaughter's birthday and her mother did not acknowledge it. There's more to this if you want to hear it, but the point is that we can't protect them from these situations. It's better to just let her see what her mother is really like while being cared for by you.



answers from Burlington on

First of all, I have no answers. My 2 are adopted, but too young to bring up these issues. We have available counseling (kid, family etc) through our adoption agency...can you tap into that kind of resource? They seem like they have answers to many of these common questions/issues that kids can/should have. She seems like she is testing you in some ways to make sure that you are keeping her? Hope you find some answers, I am seeing my future! :) Good luck.



answers from Boston on

Hi D.,

First of all she is only five. She cannot possibly understand all of what is happening. What she knows is that she lives with you, you care for her when her bio Mom did not. She cannot understand why her bio Mom cannot care for her. She will realize when she is OLDER that you are her safe place, that you were the one to care for her, loved her.... that you were her true Mom. But do not be upset that she has a special spot for her bio Mother. You have an open adoption, this is what you signed up for. Contact with the bio Mom. Now how to deal with YOUR little girl who is confused, angry, feeling left behind by her bio mom. You said you treat them all different, I just hope the love and caring is the same. You have to keep reassuring that you will love and care for her because she was chosen to be with your family. Make sure she knows that you will never leave her. She maybe acting out because this is how she feels. I could bet my life that she loves you and the rest of the family so much, she may be afraid and is acting out. Loving and reassurance is what she needs. You sound like a caring loving parent, her parent. Patience with your little girl will go a long long way when you try to understand more what she is feeling, she cannot help it.
I don't know if this will help but its a suggestion. Do you have a photo of the birth mom with your little girl, photos of all of you with the birth mom. I was thinking of a small photo book just for her, so when she is feeling a little lost she can look at it any time she wants. You can make it a special gift just from you and your husband. Beside each photo you can write a special note just for her. Maybe telling her how special she is to you and her birth mom. And I agree not contacting the bio mom if she has had another baby, she may not understand even more stuff.....she is just to young. Good luck!



answers from Springfield on


You said one thing that stood out that may be able to help...

"I really enjoy being with her birthmom and I'd like to see her again at some point..." Maybe you and she can sit down with your daughter and work out a solution together. Having her birth mother verify all you've said might help to unarm her "I want to go home" argument.

Best wishes.

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