Opening Your Heart to Open Adoption
Open Adoption (n): the sharing of information and/or contacts between the adoptive and biological parents of an adopted child, before and/or after the placement of the child, and perhaps continuing for the life of the child.
As a prospective adoptive parent (or even as a new adoptive parent) navigating your adoption journey, the concept of openness can be intimidating. Many adopters struggle internally with questions about openness. How do I explain my child’s story, and their birth parents’ identities, to them? Will I know the right things to say? Will I ever selfishly struggle with the special bond between my child and their birth parents? Is there for a manual for how to do this right?
For every family struggling with the concept of openness, there is a family reaping the benefits of open adoption. A recent study conducted at The University of Texas at Arlington found that birth parents benefit greatly from openness upon placement of their child. Of the 223 birth parents surveyed, approximately 4 out of 5 relinquished their parental rights for financial reasons. Many of these birth parents are in an open adoption agreement with their child’s adoptive parents and they are not the only ones positively affected by openness.
According to Professor Harold D. Grotevant of the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, open adoption comes full circle for all. “Open adoption requires us to rethink the meaning of family. Adoption doesn’t simply mean adding a child; it means extending the family’s boundary to include a child’s birth relatives. We have found that adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents alike are all more satisfied when they have opportunities for contact.”
As you consider openness in your own adoption plan, take these key pieces of advice from the adoptive parents who have chartered the waters of open adoption in the past.
Toss Aside What You Think You Know
It’s human nature to think that you have it all figured out. As individuals, it can often be difficult to admit that we don’t know everything. Many families who have experienced successful open adoptions admit that much of their initial hesitance resulted from a belief that they completely understood the process. No one adoption journey is the same and there isn’t a clear-cut process for how yours will pan out. It’s important to be open to as much information as possible. If you’re considering an open adoption, reach out to a social worker from a private adoption agency specializing in openness. These social workers are great references and you may find that you still have a lot to learn about open adoption. Oftentimes, the negative connotations surrounding openness are misguided.
Ask Yourself the Biggie – “What Am I So Afraid Of?”
This question is a soul-searching one where many areas of your life are concerned. This is especially true in the case of open adoption. A common factor regarding openness in many families is fear. Some adoptive mothers fear that they’ll be viewed as second best if their child knows their birth mother. Some adoptive fathers wonder if a child can ever truly be theirs if openness is a factor. Can I be a real parent if there is another father or mother in my child’s life? Identifying your true fears is a way to address them head on and discover ways to combat them in the quest to do what is right for your child and, ultimately, for your entire family.
Dive into the Unknown
Think for a moment about some of the greatest things that you have done in your life. You may be reflecting on falling in love, skydiving, pushing your body to limits that you didn’t think were possible. There’s one common denominator in many of the most life-changing experiences – they require a leap a faith. Open adoption isn’t any different.
Every day, families all across the United States form an indelible bond through open adoption. These families grow together, they get strong together, they ask the tough questions together. In all of the research that has been done on open adoption, the results are the same. Open adoption is the best option for every member of the adoption triad. If you are struggling to make a decision regarding open adoption, reach out to agencies like Adoptions From The Heart for a second opinion. Adoption is a difficult process for everyone involved. With open adoption, however, you create a larger support system for yourself and your family.