One of the key components to understanding and respecting Open Adoption, is realizing that it is not just one moment in time. Open adoption is this ever flowing process between an adoptive family, a birth parent and a child.
There are various levels to open adoption that individuals are cautiously maneuvering through, on an individual basis according to one’s comfort level.
Different Ways Open Adoption Can Look
Open adoption can be as minimal as an expecting parent choosing an adoptive family, but never really having any sort of contact during pregnancy or placement. A birth parent may opt to just want to receive their future picture and letter updates from adoptive families and for them, that is enough. That is they level of openness they decided they needed as they go through their individual grieving process that adoption entails.
Open adoption can also be extremely close to the point where adoptive families connect with birth parents through phone calls, text messages and visits on their own, without an agency liaison. Many adoptive families who experience these sorts of open adoptions, feel comfortable enough with their child’s birth parents, that these relationships and lines of communication simply work for these families.
Open adoption plans can be on any length of the spectrum of openness. It is important to realize that as an agency, we do our best to ensure that a birth family and an adoptive family are comfortable with the same amount of openness before any sort of matching is completed. This allows for all parties to feel a sense of ease in the open adoption process.
Ebb and Flow Over Time
What many do not realize is that a birth parent goes through an extreme amount of emotions at different points in their journey of adoption. Birth parents are also going through their own personal lives and struggles even post-placement, which may alter their future connection to their open adoption. What this means for an adoptive family, is that birth parents may come and go in their relationship to the family and child, and that is okay. Part of parenting a child through open adoption, is realizing that they can walk through that door to “openness” at any point in the child’s life. Being willing to keep that door open shows the respect and understanding that an adoptive family has for open adoption, and specifically the respect they have for their child’s birth parents.
Regardless of a birth parent’s commitment to the future contact, an adoptive family’s role it stay open-minded and provide a space for that door to open whenever a birth parent is ready. This means continuing to send pictures and letters to the agency for a birth family, and continuing to educate their child on the loving decision their birth parent made in choosing adoption. Continue to honor and respect your child’s birth parent and allow a child to understand that you as an adoptive parent will remain committed and supportive to their relationship with their birth parent, if and when their birth parent is ever ready. It takes away the tug of war many adoptees say they feel in choosing between their birth and adoptive families. The truth is it doesn’t have to be either/or but BOTH is an option.
Reconnecting After No Contact
One of our social workers recently had a birth mother come into their office, who unfortunately had lost touch with our agency and the adoptive family that she placed with over 12 years ago. This woman had gone through her own personal struggles of drug addiction and incarceration but was now in a really good place in her life. She asked if we had any recent updates from the adoptive family. I stepped away from our meeting to find a folder filled with over 10 years’ worth of correspondence that this adoptive family had been sending her. We have had been holding all of these pictures and letters for if and when she came back to the agency wanting them. It was such an honor to be able to hand this birth mother a bag filled with amazing stories and pictures of her beautiful son from the last 10 years. She smiled at me and said that she can see what a beautiful life her son was given. I reminded her that she made the decision to give him this beautiful life and she should feel proud of herself.
As a social worker, it was so nice to be able to witness what open adoption can provide, even years later. This family was highly devoted to the commitment they made to these birth parents and the respect they have for open adoption.