Part 2, from philosopher and adoptive parent Brynn Welch.
Social convention 2: unless the adopted child, adoptive parents, or birth parents say otherwise, assume the birth parents are off limits.
What happens in the absence of this convention: Curiosity quickly moves to voyeurism, the expression of which ranges from thoughtless insensitivity to staggering cruelty. First and most importantly, details about the birth parents are simply none of anyone’s business. Just as it would be invasive for me to ask for the details regarding someone else’ child’s conception and birth or the impact those have on the parents’ emotional, financial, or professional situation, there’s no good reason to ask for those details about my son’s birth parents. Second, the tone underlying many of these comments is troubling. They are sometimes openly derogatory and almost always disregard the birth parent’s experience, treating the birth parent(s) as merely means to an end. In general, questions and comments about birth parents fail to recognize them as moral equals. One thing that has always shocked me is that while people will celebrate my new family, they will show disdain for the person who made it possible. Third, people often ignore the fact that my son is present when they ask these questions/make comments about his biological parents. The effect is that I am often asked invasive questions in front of my child, and those questions (or the assumptions that generate them) are insulting to the mother of my child. That is obviously an undesirable effect, and I am certain not the one intended by the person posing the question or making the comment.
The advice: bear in mind that questions about the birth parent(s) seem benign but are often experienced as intrusive and offensive. Moreover, the type and quality of relationship between adoptive parents and birth parents vary widely. Those relationships are deeply personal and complex, so it’s best to avoid probing into/commenting on the relationship for the same reason it’s generally a good idea to avoid doing so with respect to someone’s marriage. In this case, curiosity is trumped by a family’s desire for privacy, so err on the side of caution: wait for an invitation inside.