Most modern adoptions have some level of openness about them. This can often frighten adoptive families who have not researched or do not understand what open adoption is. We have allowed the media to shape our ideas of adoption but, an open adoption should be the type of relationship an adoptive family desires to share with their child’s birth mother.
The openness of an adoption differs with each case. An open adoption can vary from pictures and letters to visits and phone calls. Each party has a say in what degree of openness they would consider and your agency will match you according to those preferences. In order to fully understand what an open adoption can looks like we have five recommendations for adoptive families.
Research: First and foremost, we encourage families to research open adoptions and read what they are like for the family, birth mother and child. It is great to have an understanding of what an open adoption means for the birth mother. When a birth mother wants an open adoption, she wants the ability to know her child is safe and cared for. When she has committed to placing her child with you, she is trusting you with blind faith. It is comforting for her to be able to witness her child being loved on. For most birth mothers, the relationship is not want they desire. What brings them closure is seeing their child adjusting, growing and loving his or her new parents. As adoptive parents, you also want to consider how an open adoption will benefit your child in the long run. Adoption is not something to be ashamed of or to hide from your child. Adoption does not define them, but it is a part of them. The degree of openness will have an effect of all three parties and as adoptive parents you have to be the ones to do the research and prepare for it.
Discuss: Discuss what the relationship might look like. Discuss concerns you have. Discuss how you plan on telling your child. Discuss why you are hoping to adopt. Self-evaluation is key to appreciating adoptions. As family, it is best to discuss what type of adoption you all are comfortable with. You do not want to say you are open to visits, if you are not. Lying only creates a sense of discomfort, awkwardness and distrust for everyone involved. Always be honest with your agency so they can fully understand what you are and are not comfortable with. Being open with your agency from the beginning allows them to select a birth mother who has similar preferences.
Make a plan: Once you are matched with a birth mother, the agency should facilitate a meeting and help you all come up with a plan for future interactions. Be honest about your comfort level and only agree to what you have discussed with your spouse. You would never want to tell an agency or birth mom something, just because you think it is what she wants to hear. Most open adoptions agree to pictures and letters twice a year. Some families agree to pictures and letters twice a year with a visit once a year.
Set clear boundaries: You and your spouse have done the research, you have talked about what you are comfortable, you have made a plan and now you must stick to it. If you or your spouse is not comfortable with the birth mom coming to birthday parties in the future, then do not make that suggestion. Though you might feel pressured to allow extra visits or actives, but stick with your post adoption plan until both parties and the agency feel comfortable with changes. This allows the process to evolve smoothly for both parties. As an adoptive family, it is not your responsibility to help the birth mother, it is the agency’s. Each birth mother will grieve in a different way and we have to be able to counsel them through it.
Follow through: The best advice we can give to adoptive parents is to follow through with your commitments. Your birth mother is a special woman who place her child in your arms. She deserves your respect and love. The best way to show her that, is to follow through with your commitments to her. Understand that as time goes on this plan might grow or it might dwindle away, but as the adoptive parents you should never be the cause of the relationship dwindling. For the sake of your child, it is important to respect the commitments made with the birth mother.
Our goal as an agency is to change the stigmatism of adoption and we believe that part of that change begins with understanding. Once the world has an understanding of adoption, it will allow people to trust the process even more. Showing compassion and understanding will allowing anyone experiencing an unplanned pregnancy to feel safe and valued.