The Role of Birth Grandparents in Open Adoption

by Laura Christianson

A grandma-to-be e-mailed me this week, saying that her daughter will be placing her baby for adoption in an open adoption. Grandma asks:

When we go to the hospital, I would like to give the adoptive mom a present for the baby from my husband and I. Do you have any suggestions?

She also says that she’d like to write her grandson a letter, and wonders whether that would be necessary, since it will be an open adoption.

I suggested some items grandma could give her grandson, based on the gifts our sons received from their biological grandparents (readers, I’d love to hear your suggestions for appropriate gifts):

  • Crochet a baby blanket and matching booties, or sew a cozy flannel quilt. If you’re not crafty, buy a baby blanket (both our sons, who are now 13 and 10, still sleep with the blankets their birth grandmas gave them when they were newborns—one son’s blanket is completely in shreds, but he loves it).
  • A photo album, collage, or reprints of pictures of the baby’s birth parents as they were growing up. We have a wonderful time seeing how much our sons look like their birth parents when they were the same ages. Adoptive families also appreciate receiving pictures of members of the extended birth family.
  • A family tree and a complete medical history, from the grandparent’s perspective. Sometimes grandparents know things about their family’s ethnic and medical history that the birth parents are unaware of.

I encouraged Grandma to write her grandson a letter. When we adopted our sons, I created special binders for them in which I place all the letters and cards they receive from everyone in their birth families. It’s a special treat to review the letters every so often; they bring back the feelings those loved ones had at that moment in time.

I recommend that grandparents of children placed in an open adoption approach the adoptive parents to ask how they feel about the grandparents being involved in the child’s life. Grandparents often feel left out of the loop when their children make an adoption plan, and they feel sad and helpless when their grandchild (which is often the first grandchild) enters another family. But grandparents are grandparents. Given the opportunity, they may just turn out to be terrific! 

And after all, you can never have too many people to love your child.

For more news and information about adoption, please visit my Web site,

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