Conquering Your Fear of Open Adoption: What You Need To Know

This guest post is by Amanda Grant, founder of USAdopt.

amanda-grant-adoptionThe words “open adoption” often strike fear in the hearts of adoptive parents, unnecessarily. Think of open adoption as an open door, a new beginning, a starting point.

It is a very general term for a very personal and unique experience between birth families, adoptive families and the child that connects them.

It is an experience that is unlike any other relationship you will have in life and can be incredibly enriching for everyone involved.

The most common fears come from not understanding what open adoption is and how it works. So let me help clarify for you.

What is Open Adoption?

Open adoption is one possible description of the access to communication between the families involved in an adoption. There are three basic types of adoption with regard to communication – closed, semi-open and open.

A closed adoption is one where no identifying information is shared between the birth and adoptive families and there is no communication. To be clear, identifying information means last names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, etc.

Typically the birth mother selects the adoptive family but the two do not meet and there is no agreement for any form of ongoing communication over the course of the child’s life.

A semi-open adoption is one where the two families usually meet and agree to communicate going forward. In these types of arrangements too there is no exchange of identifying information.

All communication takes place through the agency or attorney and is on a first name basis only.

A typical agreement would be for the adoptive parents to send letters and photos the first few months after the child’s placement and then annually before the child’s birthday.

It’s also common to agree to an annual visit, which can be attended by a social worker if it makes everyone more comfortable, at least in the beginning until the relationship begins to evolve.

An open adoption is one where there is a more open sharing of information and a desire by both families to maintain communication and a relationship.

Names and identifying information are often exchanged and there is an initial mutual desire to have ongoing communication between the families and the child over the course of the child’s life.

Importantly I say “initial” intention to communicate because, like any other human relationship, relationships between adoptive families and birth families and children can and will change.

A birth mother who initially wants a closed relationship may change her mind later on and ask the adoptive family for communication. Or an adoptive family that starts out with a semi-open relationship may want to open it further.

As with any relationship, you have to approach it with caution, and there could be situations where you want to reduce communication with your child’s birth family in an effort to protect your child or to care for their best interests.

It is your right as your child’s parent(s) to reduce or eliminate communication if necessary. It is also your right to allow a positive relationship to slowly blossom. All of these are real possibilities.

While you will never be able to predict the future and anticipate what your relationship with your child’s birth family will be down the road, there are a few really important things to remember that should provide reassurance as you embark on this journey:

  • Open adoption eliminates the factors that have caused life-long anguish for adoptees historically – understanding why they were adopted, why they look they do — and it eliminates life-altering gaps in their identity.
  • Open adoption normalizes adoption. A child’s family has more people in it who love him or her.
  • It’s often said that we do not talk about the things we are ashamed of.  Being open about your child’s adoption and keeping connected with their birth family sends a powerful message to your child about how you view their adoption and the way they came to be part of your family.
  • Open adoption relationships tend to begin as semi-open relationships more often than not, with no identifying information shared.
  • Semi-open relationships provide protection and comfort for both the birth family and adoptive family.
  • Relationships between your families will change.
  • Birth families do not want to co-parent your child. They cannot reclaim your child after adoption. They want to know that your child is loved, and happy, and safe. Openness helps them to be able to move forward with their lives and provides the extra blessing of knowing the child they brought into the world.
  • Trust and love grow over time and many birth and adoptive families reap the rewards of this unexpected and expanded family for their child and everyone else.
  • Your relationship with your child’s birth family is yours only while your child is young. As they grow up, your child will have the greatest role in communicating with his or her birth family and it will become their relationship too.
  • Birth parents are human beings who more often than not are making an adoption plan because of their love and caring for their child.  What an amazing opportunity to have this family be part of your child’s life and your family.

While open adoption is a relatively new type of relationship, reaching its groundswell of acceptance in only the last 20 years or so, its potential rewards are evident and growing.

Open adoption is proving to create a life without mystery for children who were adopted, a life that can be celebrated instead of regretted by birth parents, and an enriching and life-changing opportunity for adoptive families to give their child all of the family that is theirs.

Why wouldn’t you consider this for your child and your family?

Amanda Grant founded USAdopt to help people achieve their dreams of adopting children. Based on years of research and her personal experience as an adoptive parent, Amanda developed adoption education tools to guide people through the process more quickly and confidently while reducing risk and cost. The organization combines Amanda’s life-long commitment to serving others with the management expertise gained during her 20+ year career as a senior officer in the institutional investment business.

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