4 Serious Challenges in Open Adoption – And How to Deal With Them

It's possible to find ways to make open adoption work for all parties.

Lita Jordan December 23, 2017
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Open adoption can be a beautiful relationship. And like any relationship, it can also have its fair share of ups and downs. Open adoption is a lifelong relationship between birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child who was adopted. There are bound to be challenges in any relationship, in this case ultimately affecting the child the most. While many of these challenges can be minute, some challenges can be more serious and more difficult to work through. Here are four serious challenges in open adoption and how to deal with them:

1. Communication

In many states, open adoption is not a legal process. It is a faith and honor system placed in both parties to hold up their end of the agreement. Open adoption will require ongoing communication long after an agency or attorney is no longer involved. It can be easy to get into the swing of life and fall short of the original agreement. Open adoption takes constant communication and honesty. When a third party is no longer involved, it can become difficult to remain open and honest. Be clear with what you want and what your intentions are. Even though open adoption agreements may not be a legal process, draw up an agreement with your agency so that expectations are clear to all parties. Make sure all involved are setting forth realistic expectations. The more realistic and honest you are, the better the chance the agreement will remain honored.

2. Situational Changes

Think about your life 5 years prior to now. I bet the picture is quite different than it was then. As your child grows, so will your open adoption relationship and your life in general. There may be changes that affect the open adoption on both sides. Relationships may change. Neither adoptive nor birth parents are immune to divorce or relational discord. Both sets of parents may change employment or get married to someone not initially involved in the adoption. As with any change, it is important to remain honest and open in order to maintain a healthy open adoption. Communicate with one another and work out a plan together on what this means for the open relationship. If there is discord, seek counsel from your agency if possible.

3. Disagreement

It is easy, especially in very open adoptions, to feel a bit of tug and pull in regards to how a child is raised and the details of how an open adoption proceeds. While adoptive parents have the ultimate authority over their child’s life and a birth parent’s involvement, it is not uncommon to feel a bit of a struggle when opinions of birth parents are voiced. There may also be a struggle when it comes to what information is shared on social media and in the public. These disagreements can be minor or escalate into a need for changes in the open adoption arrangement. It is important to set boundaries and expectations early on. If there is discord with either party, it is important to express that before feelings escalate. If your agency is willing to step in as an intermediary throughout the child’s life, the third party can be incredibly helpful in solving disagreement.

4. Distance

As lives changes and opportunities arise, open adoptions that were once easy may become extremely taxing if one or both parties relocates. It can be very sudden and is simply a fact of life. Unfortunately, there is really no requirement or realistic expectation for an adoptive or birth family to stay in one place. Distance can take its toll on both parties due to expectations of travel and/or drastic changes to earlier agreements. This is a challenge that can be negotiated early on and also talked about when the time comes. It may be difficult, but broach the subject as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Be honest about what travel and time commitment you are willing to make. With social media, it is so much easier to stay in touch in this day and age. It is easy to find ways to make open adoption work for all parties.

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Lita Jordan

Lita Jordan is a master of all things "home." A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the "other Michael Jordan" and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on Facebook.


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