The adoption process has, traditionally, been veiled in secrecy. The cloak and dagger may have been replaced with a receiving blanket and a pacifier, but the truth remains–adoption has, historically, been conducted behind closed doors, identities have been protected, and lips have been firmly sealed.
Modern adoption, however, is changing. With more birth and adoptive parents opting for open adoptions, the aura of mystery has been removed. Birth parents need no longer worry over their child’s fate. And adopted children need no longer wonder who they are, where they come from, or why they were given up.
Due to its relative newness, many people contemplating placing a child up for adoption or becoming adoptive parents, themselves, are unsure about what open adoption entails.
What is “open adoption?”
The “custom-designed” nature of open adoption means that these arrangements may vary widely from one family to the next, but they typically enable the birth mother to keep in contact with the adoptive parents, child, or both. This contact could range from simple letters and e-mails or occasional meetings right up to regular face-to-face contact.
As “Is Adoption Right For You?: Open Adoption in Real Life” advises, what open adoption looks like is unique to each birth mother and adoptive family; therefore, it is important for you to consider what you’d like your relationship to look like. Ensure that you team up with birth or adoptive parents who want the same things as you do from an open adoption.
Understand Your Role
In all formal adoptions–yes, even in open ones–birth parents relinquish their parental rights. This means that your role in the open adoption does not include co-parenting rights or any other degree of authority over decisions regarding the child. Likewise, the adoptive parents must also respect any boundaries set forth by the open adoption agreement. It is important that all parties involved have clear and concise roles as defined by the open adoption contract.
The Child Comes First
When it comes to navigating an open adoption arrangement, it is important that the adults always put the child’s best interests ahead of their needs. After all, if they can work cooperatively within the parameters of the agreement, an open adoption can benefit their child tremendously.
According to “Open Adoption Facts,” a study by the National Association of Social Workers revealed that children who grow up in an open adoption versus a closed one exhibit a clearer sense of identity, a greater understanding of why they were placed for adoption, the knowledge that they were loved by their birth family, and the benefits of access to their medical and social histories and their biological siblings.
The First Year Can be Tough
It is important, however, to note that implementing an open adoption arrangement will not always be sunshine and lollipops. The parties involved barely know each other, so there will likely be personality clashes, moments of distrust, and insecurities to overcome.
Adoptive parents may be prepared to deal with an over-involved birth parent, but are often surprised when the birth mother takes a giant step back and decreases contact. “Adoption: When Problems Occur With Birthparents” states that this is normal as birthparents often feel reassured that you are doing a good job as parents and that their child is safe and happy. By pulling away, they are taking measures to get on with their life.
The whole point of placing a child for adoption or adopting a child as your own is to provide a little boy or girl with a better life. When designing and adhering to an open adoption agreement, it is important to keep this goal in mind. It’s all about what’s best for the child. The smile on their face will make it all worthwhile.
Do you have experience with an open adoption? We’d love to hear from you.