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Published Wednesday September 2nd, 2009 at 10:28am

Original Article by Dianna Brodine

Adoption is more than the legal joining of a minor child and an adoptive parent. Adoption is the creation of a family. As open adoptions become more commonplace in both domestic and international adoption situations, the definition of "family" has expanded, to include all three sides of the adoption triad. But what is the adoption triad and why should all three sides of the triad be respected?

Adoption triad is the term used to represent the three parties represented in an adoption: the child, the adoptive parents, and the birthmother.

Adopted Child

The adopted child gains a new family when the legal process of adoption is completed. However, the child also loses the legal link to his or her birthfamily - not just birthparents, but also grandparents, possible siblings, cousins, etc. Adoption is a joining of families, but also a separation of families and it's important that adoptive parents do not discount this loss.

Adoptive Parents

Adoptive parents have typically made the most positive choices in an adoption situation. They have chosen to adopt a child. They have chosen whether to a pursue domestic, international, or foster care adoption. They have chosen the agency they wished to work with. They often have the option of choosing the sex or age range of their adopted child. Losses or hardships experienced by the adoptive family are typically experienced prior to the beginning of the adoption process.


The birthmother (or first mother, depending on the language chosen) is the most overlooked part of the adoption triad. The birthparents have chosen to relinquish their child, rather than raise the child. There are a number of factors that could cause this decision, and it is not a decision made lightly or rashly. The birthmother in an open adoption situation is able to choose the family she believes is best-suited to raise her child. This is often the only control the birthmother has in the situation once the adoption choice has been made, and her choices should be respected.

Why is the Adoption Triad Important?

Recognizing the three sides of the adoption triad is important in both open and closed adoption situations. In open adoptions, the birthmother (and in some cases, birthfather and birthgrandparents) remain a part of the adopted child's life. In a closed adoption, where an adopted child's link to his or her birthfamily is already tenuous, acknowledging the third part of the adoption triad is a way of letting the adopted child know that his history is important, and that the adoptive family values the choices made by the birthmother.