The understanding and acceptance of open adoption is a growing trend. Adoption professionals and adoptive parents are beginning to understand that open adoption is not only possible, but healthiest for a child of adoption. However, there are still a lot of myths adoptive parents hold onto, most perpetuated by television and Lifetime movies. It takes a lot of education and experience to understand that open adoption can be a wonderful and healthy relationship.
Myth #1: It’s too confusing for the child.
Children are a just as receptive to varying relational dynamics as an adult. Even if they have an understanding that they have “two moms,” it will be very clear to them the difference between the two because of the relationship they hold with each. If we remain open to and answer the child’s questions, there will be little to no confusion, as a title is just a title. It is time and nurturing that will define a relationship. Children will eventually learn the complexities of each relationship as they grow.
Myth #2: Their birth parents don’t “deserve” an open adoption.
While there are cases where an open adoption is not an option due to abuse and safety concerns, many adoptions involve children being voluntarily placed. Making the choice to place a child is not a reason for someone to not deserve communication and updates. Even when a child has been removed by the state, people do change. There are extreme cases where this is not true, but especially with the current opioid crisis, people do come out on the other side. In the end, a person being not “deserving” enough of their child is not your call. A person may be too dangerous to be in contact with their child, but leave the judgement of “deserving” off the table.
3. It will be too inconvenient for our family.
Open adoption does not look a certain way. Many imagine open adoption to involve the birth parents contacting a child whenever they want and seeing their child whenever they choose. Open adoption is all about your preference and the ball is completely in your court. It is up to you decide what is best for the safety and well-being of your child. This does not have to include visits and can change as situations change. You can choose from scenarios such as a visit at a public place every six months, a visit once a year, to no visits at all. Your open adoption may simply include communication and pictures on social media or a once a year letter and pictures. There are many ways to make open adoption convenient and healthy for your family.
4. The birth family no longer matters.
Last Halloween, we took my daughter to visit her biological aunt and sister. We all took them trick-or-treating and ate a meal together. Though my daughter is very young, she had an immediate connection with her sister and her sister with her. Both of their eyes lit up at seeing one another and they spent the entire day enthralled with one another. Birth families matter. They did not choose adoption. My child did not choose to be adopted. If the situation allows it and is healthy, it is important to make that effort.
5. They will try to take my child back.
Once an adoption is finalized, your child is yours, just as they would be if you gave birth to them. I understand this fear, but this would be like a stranger coming to take claim to your child. They will have no legal standing any longer to take your child. The only way your child can be taken at this point is through child protective services. When you hear various scenarios in the news of children “taken back,” this is due to steps being skipped in adoption or some sort of legality not being executed. If you went through the adoption process legally, the birth family cannot regain custody of a child. Open adoption does not change that in any way.
Open adoption is scary. It is heart-wrenching and it is new. It takes a lot of pride swallowing, but it a beautiful, life-giving option. If open adoption is an option for your family, please take the time to consider what you might be comfortable with. Your relationship with the birth family will ebb and flow as situations change. Your terms can change and what your open adoption looks like can change. It is completely up to you and your child. Take the time to speak with your agency about what open adoption can do for you situation and learn from others who have been through open adoption. Building bridges for your child will be one of the most important things you ever do.