Sharing Medical Information with Your Child’s Birth Family

I received an email this week from an adoptive mom who has had contact with her daughter's birth family for a while now.   Her question was in regard to sharing medical information with birth mothers and she suggested it might make an interesting blog topic.  I imagine others might have the same question so I'm sharing an excerpt from her email along with my thoughts here.



Here is her question:

As I am thinking about my next letter to my daughter’s birth mother, I have a question for you.

Do birth mothers want to know health information about their adopted children, even if it is not good news? We want every scrap of health information about the birth family, shouldn’t we offer them the same level of sharing back?

This mom went on to share that her daughter had recently been diagnosed with dyslexia and anxiety and wondered about sharing this information with her daughter's birth mother.

How much medical information about your child should you share with the birth family?

I immediately knew what my thoughts were on the matter.  But before I replied I wanted to check in with Fide since she has the on-the-ground contact with the birth mothers we work with and sees first-hand the direct effects on and reactions of birth mothers to all kinds of news shared in letters from adoptive parents. It turned out Fide’s thoughts mirrored mine very closely.

I’ve always felt that with issues like ADHD, anxiety and learning disorders it’s better not to share this information with birth mothers.  Mostly because these seem like such first world diagnoses.  Most birth families do not have the context to understand them the way we do.  They don't have conversations about these issues with other moms on the playground or have access to listservs and internet groups for emotional support in help in understanding.  Being told the child they placed for adoption has a medical condition which they don’t fully understand can cause them stress and worry.  In some cases the birth mothers feel guilt and may feel the condition is their fault.  Others may worry that the adoptive family sees something wrong with the child. Given the birth mother may not understand these types of diagnoses and knowing about it would only cause worry or confusion, Fide and I both feel their isn’t a good reason to share this type of information.

On the other hand, in the case of serious, physical, medical conditions, like cancer, it makes sense to share this information.  Knowing about a serious diagnosis might have an impact on someone else in the family.  And, as Fide pointed out to me, we have had cases where the objective in sharing was to help the child.

Some might say this is a “paternal” view of what information to share with the birth family.  But if sharing information is only going to cause pain, guilt or confusion with no clear benefit to anyone, then it isn't something I would do.

As always comment or email your thoughts.