Openness in Adoption
A Guide to Open Adoption for Birth & Adoptive Parents
In many cases, it is adverse situation that brings birthparents and adoptive parents to voluntary adoption. For birthparents it is usually an untimely pregnancy and the realization that they are unable to parent at this time in their life. For adoptive parents, it is for the most part, infertility and the realization that they are ready to parent at this time in their life. Regardless of their individual crisis, it is their mutual love of children that bring them to adoption.
Open Adoption is one of the many options available to birth and adoptive parents in making an adoption plan. Open adoption is not shared parenting, but rather a shared journey. It is a commitment between birthparents and adoptive parents that focus on treating the adopted child with individual dignity in an atmosphere of security, stability, truth and openness.
Open adoption is a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. As in all good relationships, it requires that birth and adoptive parents alike put aside their insecurities, jealousies and face the fears. It requires that they mutually work toward building a foundation of trust among themselves to build a spirit of love and cooperation for the sake of the adopted child.
In open adoption the adoptive parents are the child’s “Mom” and “Dad” at all times. They are the people who will be meeting the child’s needs, and making all the parenting decisions, taking the legal, social, educational, spiritual, emotional and financial responsibilities for the child. Their role as the psychological parents of the child should never be usurped and should always be respected and upheld.
In open adoption, the birthparents role is one of an extended family member, just like any other extended family member of the adoptive family. They should be identified as a birthparent which is a legitimate unique relationship with the child but yet similar to that of an “aunt” or “uncle”.
Open adoption fully recognizes that adoption itself is a unique way to form a family. It has issues, concerns and dynamics that are different than those of biological families. It accepts the reality that adoption is a life-long process for all involved rather than a one-time event that ends at placement and finalization.
It embraces the ideals that children are not possessions to be hoarded and that love should never divide people, but rather multiply among people. It recognizes that keeping secrets in a family is harmful particularly to the adoptee and that adoption means accepting the reality that every adopted person comes to adoption with a set of birthparents.
Forming a family thru open adoption is not without complexities and problems any more than closed adoption is or for that matter, families that are formed biologically. All good relationships require work and commitment. However, open adoption may not be for everyone and it is important that birthparents and adoptive parents fully educate themselves before choosing open adoption as an option. The integrity of the adoption process should not be comprised by people wanting to adopt using open adoption to “try to get a baby” or birthparents who think they are going to “co-parent”.
The following questions may help birth and adoptive parents decide if open adoption is for them:
- Can I be honest in all my adoption interactions?
- Can I center on the best interest of the child and elevate his/her interest above my own?
- Can I protect the honor and reputation of all parties in this adoption relationship?
- Can I uphold, respect, and support the adoptive parents as the ‘real’ parents of this child?
- Can I uphold, comply and not interfere with parenting decisions the adoptive parents make for their child?
- Can I respect the importance that the birthparents role may play in my child’s life?
- Will I be able to be direct and forthcoming in expressing concerns?
- Would I consider mediation in the event of a major misunderstanding or disagreement?
- Will I be able to consider situation from the perspective of others?
- Will I be able to follow thru on any commitments and agreements I make to others in an adoption relationship?
- Can I stay flexible and open to new possibilities?
- Will I consult others before introducing new people to the relationship?
- Am I normally possessive or jealous in other relationships?
- Do I have difficulty compromising and with control related issues?
- Do I view adoption as being over following placement or finalization?
- Am I willing to educate myself about issues associated with infertility?
- Am I willing to educate and accept the realities of adoption and adoption related issues as they apply to the adoptee?