Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on adoption these are just my personal thoughts and beliefs on what I believe about adoption and things I have learned through my own experiences. Thanks!
Having an open adoption can seem frightening, can’t it? I know that having an open adoption turns a lot of people off to the idea of adopting, or even turns them to adopting internationally. What can I say, but I used to be one of those people. It’s a hard thing to understand or explain to outsiders with no experience in the adoption world. I am here to tell you what a blessing open adoption is, though, and what once seemed petrifying is just another part of our life and another blessing that we count.
Not so scary:
If you have read our story of how we started the adoption process, you would know that we started out with foster care. You can read more on our story here. When we started the process in fostering we had to complete several hours of training classes, and we also had to complete training hours to keep our Homestudy updated. Through all the classes and training we have learned a lot about open adoption. I have also read many books on the subject. What we have learned and experienced has shown us that openness in adoption can have a lot of benefits to everyone involved.
Different degrees of openness:
There are many different degrees of open adoption among families. It really is as unique as the situation. I know some families have shared stories where the birth family joins their family for holidays and birthdays, or family game night. Some stories I have read about have the child’s birth parents babysit while the adoptive parents go out for an evening. Some families may also have visits with the extended family of the biological parents. Phones calls and text messages aren’t abnormal to some. To those that think those situations are extreme there are also relationships that just have yearly visits or no visits at all, but ongoing updates.
Then there are also cases where there is no openness at all. No way of getting in touch with the birth family unless through the agency. Every situation is different. Every person I have talked to has a different arrangement that best suits their family.
Five benefits of open adoption:
1. No one will fantasy about anyone involved. Whether it be on behalf of the adoptee or birth family or even the adoptive parents, everyone is aware and understands where they came from. Instead of wondering “I wonder why my eyes are blue?” Your child can actually see that he gets his blue eyes from his biological dad. Or birth families may wonder if their child is happy, they can see for themselves that he or she is happy with their own eyes. As an adoptive mom, there are also times where I may ask myself, “where does he get that trait?” because neither my husband or I have it. It answers a lot of questions for everyone involved and leaves less to the imagination.
2. A huge benefit of open adoption is being able to get the medical history. I know people who don’t have that information and really wish they had a way of knowing. I know diabetes and high cholesterol runs in my family. Having this knowledge helps me to take care of myself better to hopefully prevent those things being in my future. Just like if you know breast cancer runs in your family you would get screened for early detection. If this information is unavailable you may or may not get screened.
3. Sharing a piece of knowledge with your child is priceless. Rarely I have times that I get sad when I look at my beautiful children and not see my physical traits reflected back at me. They are beautiful and many times I think there is NO WAY my husband and I would have created such a beautiful human being. I just wonder what a mini-me or a mini version of my hubby would look like. What I do see is that their sparkly blue eyes are like their birth fathers or their hair is curly like their birth mom. They may also be athletic or artistic when I am not either one of those things. I love being able to share with my child where they got their traits from, and who doesn’t like to hear you have your mom’s chin or your dad’s beautiful eyes and dimples?
4. There are more people to love your child. I feel the more the better! If you can love more than one child, why can’t a child love more than one mom or dad? Does that make you any less of a parent? No. I will be there everyday to help them live their everyday life by wiping the tears, and giving hugs during the happy or sad times, or helping with homework, but the one thing I can’t ever give them is what their birth mother gave them, and that was life. I can’t ever take that away, nor would I want to. We both have important roles in our child’s life that are irreplaceable.
5. My child gets a chance to know where he came from. He gets to know his family. Some may say “well you ARE his family.” Well yes, we are, but there is more to it than just us. My child is who he is because of them. The good, the bad and the ugly. Yes, you throw in the goodies and extra baggage that we give to him also, and it’s all HIS to have. We can finish that family tree assignment. We will have access to his heritage or nationality information. He can have a relationship with his biological siblings if there are any. How great would it be to have contact with your biological siblings? Your child may find they have a lot in common.The child will know that their best intention was in mind when making this decision and made with love.
Are there any negatives of open adoption?
I am sure like anything there are not so appealing things about open adoption. We have been fortune that the relationships that we have are wonderful. Our children’s birth families respect us as our child’s parents and respect is also reciprocated. You will need to set boundaries and get established, just like any relationship. Will you always get along and see eye to eye on everything? Probably not. But that is where the mutual respect comes in. This isn’t a joint or co-parenting thing. They picked you to parent their child and to make the best decisions for them as possible.
They want your family to succeed, and that is why an adoption plan was made for their child. It is a relationship that needs work, like any other. I like to describe it as an in-law relationship. You love your spouse’s parents because they are a part of him and they are forever a part of your life. You won’t always see eye to eye but you try your best for the love of your spouse. It’s no different when having an open adoption.
Determine if it’s a good idea:
Another time that open adoption wouldn’t be good is if the birth family doesn’t support the adoption or let you do the parenting, or overall isn’t a healthy situation for your child to be involved in. It should be determined if having openness in this relationship is a good fit for everyone involved. If visits or talking with the birth family brings unwanted behaviors from your child you may need to reassess the situation and give it more time and space before resuming visits or chats. Also, it is unfair to the child if the birth family keeps making empty promises to the child and not following through. To a child, that is hurtful and cause other damage.
Will they come take my child away?
We have all seen the horror stories in the news about adopted kids being separated from their adoptive parents and returning home. Of course, the news will find the negative times and report them. There are cases of this happening but there are more happy outcomes than not. When will the news report those times? I pray that no one has to ever experience anything as heartbreaking as what those families have been through.
Research the agency
That is the reason you need to really research the agency that you use to make sure they have a good reputation. Good agencies will not try to take all your money without you ever having a child placed with you. They will also do their homework and cross all their T’s and dot their I’s to make sure things like that don’t happen. Yes, it can still happen….but it’s rare and shouldn’t deter you from bringing home your child.
The bottom line is have no fear and trust. God says not to live in fear but to trust Him. If adoption is something you truly want to do you should have faith and trust God to get you through. Will it be easy? No. Will it always end the way we want it? No. We must have faith and believe that God is working it all out according to His will not ours. In His timing not ours. It can be an emotional roller coaster, but every hill and valley are worth it. I will leave you with some bible verses that have helped me when fear creeps in:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:25
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
Please share this post so others considering adoption can know some of the great benefits of open adoption. Sign up to receive email updates as well. Thanks!