Power Dynamics in Adoptive Parenting

Birthmother and daughter at airport

A critical element of open adoption relationships - and one you may not have previously considered - is the power differential in the birth parent / adoptive parent relationship. This power differential is one that fluctuates over time and it can have a real impact on your adoptive parenting. Joining us today to address this important topic is Kathryn Russell. Kathryn is a licensed social worker and the Executive Director of Absolute Love Adoptions, a nonprofit serving Pennsylvania through home studies, placement services, digital courses, and a line of custom curated Gift Boxes for Birth mothers called Solace.

"As a social worker, I've been in the adoption space for about 10 years and I felt like I was seeing the same things happening over and over again," Kathryn says. "Mainly that a birth mom would feel like she was the center of attention during the pre-adoption process. And adoptive families were feeling like they had no control during this very uncertain time."

But then after placement, there is often a sudden change in that dynamic.

"Once placement occurs, the pendulum swings so abruptly that birth moms feel like they have vanished. And the adoptive family now feels like they have all this power and control and they aren't necessarily sure what to do with it," states Kathryn. "So I started finding that these open relationships were hard to maintain. It is hard for both parties to find equilibrium. I find that birth parents will say that they are afraid of overstepping. They will say things like they feel they are walking on eggshells, like they just absolutely vanished. And adoptive parents are then struggling with how to behave as well."

If you are hoping to adopt, now is the time to start thinking about how you might treat the birth mother in your life. And you may begin to consider what the implications are of the choices that you will make in this vital relationship.

"If we're encouraging families to pursue openness and we want families to be healthy," says Kathryn. "Then we have to give them the tools to do it with."

About this Podcast

Join adoption consultant and host Nicole Witt in this illuminating podcast for people who are considering adoption. Get invaluable suggestions and information from respected adoption professionals and guests. If you are getting serious about adopting, you won’t want to miss a single episode of Adopting! The Podcast.

Nicole Witt