What is Open Adoption?

Helping others understand the open adoption relationship.

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Being so involved in the adoption community, it’s natural that I get a lot of inquiries from friends and random people seeking help in beginning their adoption journey.  One of the things I have to often remind myself is that I was once in their shoes.  In today’s adoption climate, open adoption is the norm.  But that doesn’t mean that everyone in the early stages of adoption knows about open adoption or is immediately comfortable with the idea.

Another Adoption.com Staff Storyteller, Melissa Giarrosso, recently published an article titled Our Adoptions are Not Made-For-TV Movies.  Her article, if you haven’t read it already (you should), brings to light the very real, but totally sensationalized, stereotypical view of open adoption based on media stories and drama producing movies.  The fears of open adoption are not from real life experience, but crazy over-the-top stories that make the news or are portrayed to make for interesting TV.  Just like you don’t hear about the millions of dogs that don’t attack, the one that does makes the news.  That doesn’t make all dogs bad.

Open Adoption at hospital

When I first started out in my adoption journey, I automatically assumed I would want a closed adoption.  Not only is that what I knew from a historical standpoint, but I also feared the unknown.  When I started learning that the adoption agencies encouraged open adoption, I remember thinking, “Well I guess we could check the box for semi-open.” I was hesitant and afraid.  I heard horror stories of mothers changing their mind.  I had people in my ear asking questions like “aren’t you afraid she’ll want him back?” I wondered if open adoption would mean co-parenting. I feared that I would have to “share” this child that I waited so long for.

After taking adoption training courses, reading books, talking to fellow adoptive parents, and listening to the stories of birth parents and people who themselves were adopted, I decided that open adoption wasn’t nearly as  bad as I was making it out to be.  It could be beautiful. It would give my son the missing link that people in closed adoptions never had access to.  It would open our world and grow our family.

Open Adoption first mother's day

So when I have people come to me, terrified of what open adoption is, my first reaction is to just tell them to suck it up. It’s best for the child and it is an honor to invite these people into our lives–after all, they are putting their trust in us to raise their child! But, I have to remind myself, they haven’t traveled the adoption road as long as I have.  They are new to this.  They haven’t had the education and the time to learn.  They are afraid and have all these external sources telling them that open adoption should be feared.  So I just have to tell our story.  A story of love, kindness, trust, heartache, and understanding.  I explain to them why open adoption is thought to be the healthier way to raise their future child.  I point them in the direction to resources to help them come to the decision on their own.

Open Adoption Labor Day

Open adoption isn’t always perfect.  Sometimes the relationship comes naturally.  Sometimes it takes work.  Sometimes it takes a lot of work.  It doesn’t mean that it’s not worth fighting for, though.  Our children deserve being fought for!

So What is Open Adoption?

• Self-identity for the child.

• Birth parents having knowledge of well-being of the child.

• Love and communication.

Open Adoption mother's day cookout

Open adoption can vary, depending on the pre-arranged requests, the relationship built, distance, and time.  But one thing remains true, no matter what level of openness you have with your child’s birth family: It is important.  It is an honor.  It should never be taken for granted.  It should never be held over a birth parent’s head as a punishment or reward.  It should always be under-promised and over-delivered.

Open Adoption Ezra

What are some misconceptions you have heard from people that fear open adoption?

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