Why visits are so meaningful and how to promote healthy relationships for every individual
Last year was challenging and frightening. With so many unknowns from the coronavirus, our lives had to halt, keeping us confined to our homes. In order to protect from sickness and exposure, many adoptive triads had to forgo their visits.
As the world begins to reopen, it is crucial to consider visits once again. Birthparent visits are a key factor to successful open adoptions. The possibility of watching their child grow and thrive gives reassurance to birth parents. Communication is essential for adoption triads which helps bring comfort to birth parents’ decisions to place their child for adoption.
Summer is the perfect backdrop for birth parent visits. As more individuals are vaccinated, the opportunity to meet safely are endless, from hiking to a picnic at the park or a virtual movie party. Getting together is easier than ever.
Why Visits are Important for Birth Parents
Maintaining a relationship among the adoption triad is beneficial for everyone, but especially birth parents. Place yourself in your child’s birth parents’ shoes while at the hospital as they say goodbye to their baby.
In a closed adoption, that would be the last memory a birth mother could cling to. The birth mother’s mind would be haunted with questions like- what would they look like one day, or would they be happy and understand why decided to place. Visits and communication allow birth parents the opportunity to watch their child grow.
Visits are an essential part of open adoption and provide birth mothers and fathers with the ability to move forward healthily. The possibility of updates and visits will ease birth parents’ minds from “what ifs” and help them be comfortable with their decision to place.
Understanding the Benefits of Visits
As prospective adoptive parents, openness may be a new term in your vocabulary. Openness refers to some form of communication-maintained post-placement. Planning visits with your child’s birth parent provides the birth parent with
- A feeling of connection to the child and adoptive family.
- A comfort in knowing that their birth child will know them.
- The knowledge that the child grows up safe, healthy, and happy.
- An opportunity to celebrate their birth child’s accomplishments.
- A sense of peace regarding her/histheir decision to place their child for adoption.
- The chance to tell their birth child their adoption story and reasons for placing.
Visitations are valuable to adoptees too. Adoptees who have ongoing contact with their birth parents can be more satisfied with their adoptions than those without contact.
Maintaining openness allows adoptees to understand the reasons for their adoption better, promotes more positive feelings toward their birth mother, higher self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems, more trust for their adoptive parents, and fewer feelings of alienation.
Openness in adoption can also reduce adoptive parents’ fear, increase their empathy toward birth parents, and benefit their relationships with their adopted children.
Two Important Aspects of Openness
Openness is unique to every adoption triad. Every person in the triad will have different expectations for their ideal adoption. Sometimes birth parents are more inclined to less openness post placement as they grieve; this can be challenging for adoptive parents excited about complete openness.
Adoptive mother Kristy explains, “We (Kristy and her husband) were always ready for complete openness. In my mind, I envisioned the big Thanksgiving dinners and family vacations. But she (adoptive mom) wasn’t ready for that yet. So we just continued to keep the door open and let her know we were there.”
As an adoption triad, it is crucial to set boundaries and keep communication open so all parties feel heard and satisfied.
Keeping the Door Open
Keeping a line of communication open is one of the most important aspects of openness. Encouraging conversation about how you are feeling and what you expect is so beneficial to a successful relationship. Adoption is a relationship, and you need to put the work into it.
Starting a conversation can be difficult. Sometimes there are misconceptions and miscommunications during the adoption process. An agency can help to facilitate the discussion about the degree of openness and keeping promises. Whether it’s six months or five years post-placement, the agency is there to ensure the entire adoption triad is supported, respected, and thriving.
Embrace New Technology to Stay Connected
While sending letters and pictures is the most common communication in adoptions, staying connected is easy with the dawn of new technology. Talk about working in texting, phone calls, emails, or video chats into your adoption plan.
Some birth and adoptive parents even use social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to communicate! Create a private Facebook page where you can post updates, videos, and pictures to each other.
Boundaries are a healthy factor in adoption. Part of communication stems from establishing boundaries. Even before placement, talking about expectations and setting limitations is important for both birth and adoptive parents. Boundaries need to make sense for all parties’ interests: the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and the birth parent.
The beauty of open adoption is it changes and flows with time. As the adoptee gets older and life occurs, the boundaries of your adoption are bound to change. Keeping communication open with no judgment is both healthy and necessary. Although it can be uncomfortable, understanding boundaries and how they change will keep each person feeling supported.
Se-Ayra, a birth mother, sat down with her child’s adoptive family before discussing their expectations for the process.
“During our meeting, they gave me an empty picture book and said, ‘This is our promise. We are going to send you pictures and letters to fill all these pages.’ And they did. It is full now,” she recalls, “But having the book, and watching it fill up, served as a reminder for me that they were gonna keep their promises.”
Accept the Unexpected
Open adoption is a beautiful gift. In open adoption, so many people surround the child with love and support. While your relationship will change through the years, working with each other to maintain communication and boundaries will bring comfort to the entire adoption triad. Embrace new technology to promote healthy visits and communication. Spending time together as an adoptive triad is an integral part of open adoption.
Looking for ideas for open adoption visits? Check out our social media pages for our summer weekly series #AFTHSummerBucketList. Or check out https://afth.org/summer-bucket-list-open-adoption-visits/.