For some adoptive families entering into the adoption process, the prospects of an open adoption can seem a little bit scary, and rightfully so. Some common questions and fears many adoptive families have about open adoption are: Will the birth parents try to reclaim their child? Will our adopted child be confused with two sets of parents? Will we really feel like the child’s parents if her birth parents are still in the picture?
All of these questions and emotions are completely natural for adoptive families to have. However, what nearly every adoptive couple learns once they participate in an open adoption is that those questions and concerns they once had ultimately turned out to be unwarranted, often propagated by the media.
Let’s briefly look at each of their concerns.
Will the birth parents try to reclaim their child? Legally, birth parents can’t “take back their child,” and furthermore, it is extremely rare that they would even want to. The birth parents have nine months to think about their adoption plan, and at least three days after the birth of their baby to choose whether to parent or adopt the baby. The notion that birth parents view the adoptive family as an obstacle between them and their child is completely false and an image evoked in various media.
Will our adopted child be confused with two sets of parents? Most adoptive parents who participate in an open adoption visit the birth parents no more than once or twice per year. Even for those who visit even more frequently is hardly enough to cause any sort of confusion in the adopted child. The adoptive parents see the child every day, and pass on all of their traditions and values. The birth parents may be viewed as extended family by the adoptee, but never as his or her actual parents.
Will we really feel like the child’s parents if his or her birth parents are still in the picture? Without a doubt, this is a valid question and a common concern for many adoptive parents. The answer is yes. As stated in the previous question, there are so many more factors in being parents to a child than simply blood and genetics. The traditions, values, relationships, hobbies, and other family idiosyncrasies trump genetics by a long shot. When the adoptive family does visit the birth parents, it will be clear who the child’s parents are by the way she talks, acts, likes, dislikes and most importantly, who she loves. The child loves the people who have raised her, nurtured her, and taught her everything she knows. Again, this is a valid question, but it can only truly be answered through personal experience.
Now that some of the more common concerns about an open adoption are answered, let’s take a look at all of the benefits an open adoption provides to all parties involved.
These are the top five reasons adoptive families may want to consider open adoption.
1. Adoptee will know why she was adopted – Growing up, an adoptee will undoubtedly have questions about why she was placed for adoption. In a closed adoption, her adoptive parents will only be able to tell her what the birth parents have told her, if anything, about her birth parents’ decision to place her for adoption. Therefore, there may be some speculation as to why the adoptee was placed for adoption.
In an open adoption, this question can be answered. Often times, the birth parents will make clear that they either weren’t ready to become parents at that time in their lives, or perhaps they simply wanted a better life for their child and felt the adoptive parents could provide that during that time. Whatever the case may be, open adoption offers this knowledge to the adoptee, and the comfort in knowing why her birth parents chose adoption.
2. Adoptee won’t have as many questions about her origin – Naturally, the adoptee will want to know where her blonde hair, 6 foot frame or inherent talents came from. She will wonder what her birth parents looked like, what they were good at, and other biographical information. In a closed adoption, it is unlikely she will be able to answer many of those questions, outside from what her adoptive parents tell her about them, if of course they even know. In an open adoption, all of these questions will be answered.
3. Adoptee will know more medical information about himself or herself – Most adoption agencies do all they can to get as much medical information as possible from the birth parents. In some circumstances, not all medical information can be recovered for various reasons, particularly medical information about grandparents. Also, some medical issues develop later in life, so it may be impossible to recover that information after the adoption takes place in a closed adoption.
In an open adoption, up-to-date medical information is much more likely to be recovered from the birth parents. Any medical question the adoptee may need to know about her birth parents or their parents is simply a phone call or a visit away.
4. The birth parents will have peace of mind about their decision – The birth parents are faced with probably the toughest decision they will ever make when choosing adoption. This decision may weigh on them heavily for the rest of their lives if they are not at all involved in their children’s lives.
Through open adoption, the birth parents are given at least some information about the child – whichever the two parties agree on prior to the adoption. Receiving pictures, letters, and sometimes even phone calls or visits mean the world to most birth parents. Knowing their child is doing well reconfirms their decision to adopt and allows them to continue on with their own lives.
5. Addition to the family – Many open adoptions begin with pictures and letters, and sometimes they begin to evolve into phone calls and even visits. Then, naturally these relationships can turn into friendships. Some relationships become so close that adoptive families even consider the birth parents part of their family.
This natural progression from simply “birth parents” to members of the family isn’t necessarily the goal of an open adoption, but when it does happen, it is an amazing relationship for all involved. The adoptive family is happy, the adoptee is happy because she knows her origins and who her birth parents are, and the birth parents are happy because they are allowed at least some contact with their biological child and know that their decision to adopt was the right one.
Open adoption is clearly not for everyone, nor is meant to be. However, when the birth parents want it and the adoptive family is open to it, the benefits are limitless and can only truly be quantified when experienced for themselves. The adoption landscape has moved on from the closed adoptions of the past – today, semi-open and open adoptions are becoming more commonplace to the benefit of the adoptive family, the birth parents, and most importantly, the adoptee.
American Adoptions has much more information on Open Adoption for both prospective adoptive families and birth parents.
Dustin Freund is a writer for American Adoptions and has been writing for 10 years.
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