5 Qualities You Need to Embark on an Open Adoption Journey

Through my three open adoptions, I've learned that there are a few qualities you'd got to have to succeed.

Rachel Garlinghouse January 04, 2016
article image

When we were first waiting to adopt, we swiftly checked the “semi-open adoption” box and moved on. We thought it would be the easy option, the best of both worlds, the sweet spot. But as soon as we went to court to gain guardianship of our first child, we got a call saying her birth mother wanted to meet us. The semi-open adoption door swung wide open. Today we have three children and three open adoptions, and here’s what I’ve learned are the must-have five qualities needed to succeed:

1:  Bravery

Agreeing to an open adoption means being brave. Brave in the face of a misunderstanding.  Brave when it comes to meeting a birth family member for the first time. Brave when others outside of our adoption family don’t understand why we choose open adoption.

2:  Empathy

Empathy can be tough to learn and navigate, but it’s a necessary component of any open adoption. Empathy toward the child’s needs and feelings and questions. Empathy toward the child’s birth parents as they face grief and personal challenges. Empathy toward the partner we adopted with as he or she faces uncertainties with open adoption.

3:  Education

Education isn’t something that is learned and done. Education occurs over a lifetime. It’s never-ending. Education means listening to all triad members, reading blogs and books and articles, listening to podcasts, considering the viewpoints of others. Education means letting pride fall by the wayside.

4: Vulnerability

Being vulnerable is scary, but it’s necessary for any parent-by-adoption. Vulnerability means demonstrating to our children that it’s okay to “put it on the line” and see where open adoption takes us. Vulnerability provides opportunity for good things to happen.

5:  Patience

In our seven (plus) years of parenting, we’ve learned that open adoption requires a lot, and I mean a lot, of patience. Patience when a visit gets cancelled. Patience when one of our children struggles with adoption questions and emotions. Patience when a birth family doesn’t meet our expectations or breaks a promise. Patience with those who don’t quite “get” what open adoption is.

If you are ready to embark on your open adoption journey, click here to speak with an adoption professional!

author image

Rachel Garlinghouse

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of "Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children," "Black Girls Can: An Empowering Story of Yesterdays and Todays," and "Encouragement for the Adoption Journey: 52 Devotions and a Journal" (co-authored with Madeleine Melcher). Rachel's adoption education and experience has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, Huffington Post Live, ABCNews.com, Babble, Scary Mommy, Portrait of Adoption, Slow Mama, I Am Not the Babysitter, and more. Rachel is a mom of three children, adopted domestically and transracially. Learn more about her family's adventures at White Sugar, Brown Sugar or on Twitter @whitebrownsugar.


Want to contact an adoption professional?

Love this? Want more?

Claim Your FREE Adoption Summit Ticket!


The #1 adoption website is hosting the largest, FREE virtual adoption summit. Come listen to 50+ adoption experts share their knowledge and insights.

Members of the adoption community are invited to watch the virtual summit for FREE on September 23-27, 2019, or for a small fee, you can purchase an All-Access Pass to get access to the summit videos for 12 months along with a variety of other benefits.

Get Your Free Ticket


Host: ws1.elevati.net