No one in an open adoption will claim it is always easy. As with any relationship, open adoption takes work and can be frustrating or heartbreaking for all members of the triad at times. But before closing an open adoption, seriously reflect on how it will affect everyone.
1. Adoptive parents will be less equipped to answer the tough questions.
My 8-year-old son has already asked a lot of tough questions as to why he was adopted. Being able to ask those questions of not just myself and my husband, but also of his birth parents, is a huge benefit. Instead of just saying, “I don’t know” to a question, I can say, “Let’s call and ask.”
He’s getting to the age where “we” are knowing less and less, and just about everyone in the world is smarter than his dad and me. Being able to ask questions of his birth family (hopefully) will help him get the answers he needs from a source he will actually want to listen to!
2. Adoptees won’t REALLY know who they look like.
Having an old picture of your birth parent and seeing them as you grow up are two different things. At different points through the years I have seen different physical and personality traits come out in our son that I also see in his birth family. Some of them make me (and them!) cringe, some are uncanny and some are downright strange. But seeing them and knowing where they come from is amazing to watch. To see our son make a face like his birth dad while blurting out something my husband would say is cool to see. He is seeing those similarities now, too, and I can only imagine he will continue to compare more and more as he grows up.
3. Adoptees won’t know anything besides basic health history.
Duh! Due to open adoption we have up-to-date medical history. Our son’s great grandmother has suffered cancer recently. We would never have known that if we had a closed adoption.
4. Birth families will struggle more to heal and find closure.
I sincerely hope that seeing our son grow up alleviates some of the pain our child’s birth family feels. Not that they will miss him any less, but that they know he is okay and can see him as he grows. There is no need to say “good-bye.” Just “until the next time,” no matter how long the gaps may be.
5. All sides will worry about reunification.
Adoptees will wonder if their adoptive parents are really okay with them searching, if their birth family wants to be found, and how/if they can find them. Adoptive parents will worry about their child being disappointed, whether in them or the birth family. Birth families will worry about being resented, how adoptive families may react, and what stories the adoptee has been told.
6. You lose out on extended family.
Of course we love our son’s birth parents, but we also love their extended family. Our parents and grandparents truly have a lot of interests in common. Our kids all benefit from having extra grandparents and aunts and uncles. No one can be loved by too many people!
No open adoption is perfect, and openness can look different for everyone and every situation. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to openness, but in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the risk.