Twenty years ago, adoptions were considered “closed,” and were handled privately. Adoptive parents were discouraged from telling their adoptees about their history. In today’s world, it’s almost opposite. Adoptive parents and birth parents have knowledge of each other — and having some sort of contact — has become the new norm.
Understanding Open Adoption
In short, an open adoption means that the birth parents maintains some form of contact with the adopted child. Therein lies the complexity. Does that mean there is a correct way to go about open adoption, and an incorrect way? No. There is no right or wrong way. It just means that there’s added elements that need to be talked about. But, in the end, it should be worth it to everyone involved.
Fears, worries and concerns are completely natural for both the adoptive parents and birth parents to feel with this sort of adoption. Wondering how or if it’ll work out. If a sudden distance will develop. Having trepidation about if all parties will get along is also normal, and part of the experience.
However, let’s put some of these fears to rest.
Open adoption allows the adoptee to know more about where they came from, as well as all the emotions that went along with their birth parents’ decision to make a plan for their adoption. This openness will no doubt contain an emotional rollercoaster to process, but, in the long run, it will help the adoptee come to terms with their adoption and pave a path of open communication and closeness with them.
Really, in a sense, it’s all about communication. Making sure that each side — the adoptive parents and birth parents — converse and work out a solid plan will ensure things go smoothly as the adoptee grows up. Granted, relationships will change and challenging circumstances will arise; but, if both work together, a closer bond can develop. Sometimes better than first imagined.
Statistically, if there is any distance that occurs, it’ll be on the birth parent side. They may need some space to process and grieve, and may or may not want the adoptee to see that. To save them that confusion and heartache. This can be equally difficult for the adoptive parents as well.
Thus, it’s important to establish healthy boundaries. This can be achieved by creating agreements that all involved can keep, and maintaining openness and honesty. Most importantly, no matter what, try and remain calm in every conversation. Emotions will occur, and there’s no way to avoid them, but it is possible to work through them together.
Respect Privacy Levels
A huge thing in establishing healthy boundaries is ensuring that each party respects the others’ comfort level when it comes to privacy. In other words, if either party doesn’t wish to disclose an excess of personal information, it’s best not to. Besides, personal information has already been collected in the selection process. Remember that your communication should mostly surround how you both want to raise the child.
The amount of contact, too, is another thing to make sure that each party discusses with the other — especially in the beginning. If the birth mother, in particular, needs time to grieve, give her that time and space. Both the adoptive parents and birth parents need to be rock solid on each other’s’ expectations before and after the adoption process is finalized. This will also help all parties better respect each other as well.
Set Realistic Expectations
It’s common in the first couple weeks or months post placement for contact to be very limited. Emotions are high during this time, and a time of transition and space is necessary and in the best interest of the adoptee. Then, over the following months, contract may increase slightly via emails, letters or sending pictures back and forth. A simple and non-intrusive way of checking in and seeing how things are going.
If it is agreed upon, post-placement visits can occur. Sometimes these happen around a birthday. However, these visits are only incorporated for as long as it’s in the best interest of the adoptee.
Getting more formal arrangements by the court is another way that adoptive parents and birth parents can establish healthy boundaries together. A judge can draw up a legal adoption agreement.
Some states in the US actually require this in the adoption finalization process. Be sure to consult with your adoption professional or agency to double check what’s necessary for your area. They will be your best resource and advocate as they will understand the complex legal requirements, answer your questions, and ensure your legal rights are protected. To find the right attorney, consider researching one with the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA).
Before and after the adoption is finalization, adoptive parents and birth parents can also seek help through a counselor. There are counselors who specialize in adoption, and who will help both parties come to mutual agreements when it comes to a satisfying, sustainable relationship. Joint counseling sessions can be a very beneficial experience, and is something to take into consideration when establishing healthy boundaries. Consult your adoption agency or adoption professional to see about the potential of post adoption and joint counseling.
As humans, we have varying beliefs, viewpoints and ideas of how we think things should go. That’s perfectly normal and ok. That said, each and every adoption process is going to be unique to the families involved. Communication systems and agreements will vary as well. However, as long as the adoptee’s best interest is kept in mind, everything will work out.
Again, always consult with your adoption agency or adoption professional for any questions or concerns related to establishing healthy boundaries.
If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Nevada. You may visit the website here or contact us by 775-825-4673 (Reno Office) or 702-474-4673 (Las Vegas Office). Our hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm PST.
Want to Give Back?
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with CrowdRise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more. But, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
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