Birth fathers often have a bad reputation in the adoption community. But they can contribute greatly to the adoption triad.

Honoring Fathers in the Adoption Community

A father is an important part of a child’s life. Studies have shown that children who have affection and support from their fathers have great cognitive and social development. When my husband, Ryan, and I were facing infertility struggles and then adoption struggles, many people asked me how I was handling everything, but few people asked Ryan. Although he tried to stay strong, he sometimes felt sad that he was not able to resolve our struggles. He wanted to be a father and had waited for years for that to happen. 

When he confided in his brother, his brother listened and tried to be more supportive. He had a couple of children at the time, but had never experienced the wait and struggles like we did to become a parent. After being placed with our first son, my husband called his brother and shared the good news. Ryan told him about how becoming a parent made him feel so much love for the baby, for me, and for his entire family. It increased his capacity to love. 

About a year after adopting our son, my sister announced that she was pregnant after experiencing a long battle with infertility. Ryan pulled her and her husband aside and told them, “Becoming a parent is better than you could ever imagine. It changes your life in the best way.” 

In adoption, there are two fathers to consider: the birth father and the adoptive father. 

Birth Fathers in the Adoptive Community

Birth fathers are often not involved in the adoption decision, but a birth father and their families are important to the child. They deserve more attention than they are usually given. Sometimes they are pushed to the side because it might make a difficult adoption decision a little easier. At times there is a stereotype that birth fathers do not care about their children and do not want any responsibility. The birth fathers that I have met are not like this at all. They care about their children and want what is best for them.

Our Son’s Birth Father

When the movie Kung Fu Panda 2 came out, we saw it in the movie theater with our son. There is a part where the father, a goose, talks to Po’s birth father, a panda, and says, “Having you in Po’s life doesn’t mean less for me, it means more for Po.” My husband and I locked eyes in the theater, and both of us burst into tears. We feel the exact same way with our son’s birth father. There is not a competition between my husband and him. Having a relationship with both his birth father and adoptive father brings so much more to our son’s life.

When the adoption plan was made by our son’s birth mother, the expectant father was not totally on board. There was some pressure from his family to push back on the adoption plan. We did not have the opportunity to meet him until the day after the birth of the baby. Saying that we were nervous to meet him is a big understatement. We did not know how it would go, especially because the breakup had not gone too well, but our son’s birth mother allowed him to come. She knew that the adoption plan was the best decision for her and the baby, and she wanted him to accept it as well. Hopefully, we could help him think differently about the adoption plan. 

The hospital allowed us to go into a separate room with the baby and the birth father. He held his son while we had a great conversation. He asked us questions about our families, our home, and why we were wanting to adopt. His heart was opening to the idea of adoption, and he felt comfortable with us. He knew that he wanted his son to have more than he could currently give him. 

We had a conversation about open adoption and he did not know much about it. He did not want to be disruptive about the adoption plan, but he was not sure what his role should be. We invited him into the conversation about open adoption and the process that would happen in the coming days. He was eager to be an active part of the plan and not just be told what was going to happen to his son. In the next few days, we were able to build our relationship with him and meet his family. 

Our son feels love and support from his birth father. We celebrated his second birthday at Chuck E. Cheese with his birth father and his family. We have been to family picnics with them, spent time at his mom’s house, and gone to the zoo with them. Our son has pictures of him and his birth father hanging in his room. He looks up to him and has commented that he wants to do the same job as him. My son was the ring bearer in his birth father’s wedding and he took his responsibility very seriously. He protected that ring with everything he had. I love seeing their relationship grow and develop as they send silly filtered pictures to each other and talk about their favorite books. They will continue to develop their relationship.

Sam

Sam is the birth father of my friend’s son. My friend and her husband adopted their son at birth. His birth parents both chose to make an adoption plan. When they were presented with my friend’s adoption profile, they knew that they were the right family for their son. They made a plan for open adoption. Both birth parents visited and had a relationship with their son and his adoptive parents. Tragedy struck when the son was four years old and his birth mother died. This was devastating for everyone, including the birth father, even though the birth parents had a strained relationship. The grief that he was feeling encouraged him to pour more into the relationship with his son. He visits every year on the boy’s birthday. They enjoy playing legos together and looking at family pictures. The boy teaches his birth father about his newest skills in Minecraft. This birth father is a great influence and has helped with the son’s sadness about losing his birth mother. Birth fathers can provide answers for their children. They can help promote a healthy relationship and give the children support and love.

Adoptive Fathers

I recently read a book by Scott Simon—the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition with Scott Simon—called Baby, We Were Meant For Each Other. He and his wife adopted two daughters from China. He tells the story of how they decided to adopt and the experiences of traveling to China and meeting his daughters for the first time. After going to the hotel in China with their new baby, he realized in the space of a few hours, his life had suddenly developed some new truths. First, he and his wife loved each other more than they had hours before. Second, they loved this new baby more than anything in the world. Third, their baby had opened new chambers of their hearts. He shared: “Our daughters can become brain surgeons, coal miners, desperados, paratroopers, or prima ballerinas. But each time I look at them some eye in my soul will see them ages six and three, finger painting and giggling on the kitchen floor. No doubt parents’ view of their children is often sentimental and deficient. But it’s distinctly ours. We will remember their nightmares and always see their innocence. We become their advocates for life. The way we see our children as all ages at once is part of how having children rewires our souls. It is the special vision that makes us parents.” Adoptive parents often hear things like, “I don’t know if I could love a child that wasn’t my own.” For the adoptive fathers that I know, this was never how they felt. They had hoped and prayed for this child. They felt the love immediately. 

Ryan

Becoming a father changed my husband. My husband was a great person when I met him and fell in love with him. Parenthood made him even better and gave him more purpose in his life. It rewired his soul. He has become his children’s advocate. From the moment he became a father, he was always willing to wake up and feed the baby or change the baby’s diaper. Now that our children are out of diapers, he is the one who will put them to bed. He goes upstairs when they call him two minutes after they go to bed. One of our children will ask us to lie in his bed with him. My husband is always willing to do that because he says that our son won’t keep asking for much longer. Every day when our son was in kindergarten and had a hard time going to school, Ryan would draw him a funny picture and write a note to put in his lunch. Our son was excited to see what it would be every day. 

I think that Ryan was the key in helping our son’s birth father change his mind about the adoption. He developed a relationship by asking about his interests. This helped them both become more active participants in the adoption plan. And now they continue to have a great relationship. Ryan makes sure that he talks about our son’s birth father when we are unable to visit. We don’t have an open relationship with our other sons’ birth father, but Ryan talks about him to the boys with respect. Ryan is continually trying to be a better dad for our boys. He wants to be a good man and shows them a great example. His best example that they see is that he loves me and puts me first. Adoption made Ryan a father, and he counts it as one of his greatest blessings.

David

Many years ago David and his wife had a child. But then after years of trying for another child, they were unable to. They made the decision to try to adopt. This wasn’t something that they had planned on early on in their marriage, but they felt it would help complete their family. They researched different adoption agencies and found one that they thought would be best for them. 

After several months of waiting and hoping for something to happen, they received a phone call that there was a baby girl at a hospital three hours away. It was an exciting time for them as they prepared to go pick her up. Upon holding the new baby, David immediately felt like he was home and this baby was meant to be his daughter. They have a close relationship, especially after his wife died when the child was 16. David also encouraged her to reach out to find her birth family. She found her birth father and her dad was by her side when they met for the first time. David understood that meeting her birth father didn’t take away from his relationship with her, but it helped her have more. Adoption is a beautiful thing.

The fathers in the adoption community should be admired and loved. Birth fathers are caring and they want what is best for their children, even though it is a hard decision to make. They continue to love and support their children in an open adoption. Adoptive fathers have waited and wanted the opportunity to be fathers. They open their hearts and homes to these children that they feel are meant to be in their families. These fathers are important and inspiring, and they can support each other in their respective roles. 

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.
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Alicia Nelson

Alicia Nelson is a wife and a mother to three rambunctious boys. She is an online teacher and teaches English to Chinese children. Adoption has become her passion. She loves connecting with others on infertility, adoption, and foster care. She enjoys woodworking, being outdoors, listening to podcasts, and reading good books. She lives in Washington state with her family.