I’m an adoptive mother. Ours was a closed adoption and it wasn’t until recently (20+ years after the adoption) that we found any information on our son’s birth family. Reunification with his birth mother was sweet all around. But we have yet to communicate with his birth father. It appears he has no interest in connecting, and that’s okay.

Our situation may not be the norm. More and more, birth fathers are choosing to participate in open adoptions. And of those who have been in a closed adoption, many are thrilled at connecting and being reunited with their children.

For those in an open adoption, birth fathers’ participation may be every bit as active as are birth mothers’. This means that the need for open, honest communication, juggling schedules, accommodating change, and keeping commitments is increased.

So what do birth fathers expect or want from adoptive parents? Is it the same for birth mothers? Surprising to me was the message one birth father, Jason, who is involved in an open adoption, shared with all adoptive parents:  “Strong fences make great neighbors,” he said.

And then he continued, telling me that in the beginning of the relationship, the adoptive parents may be in a better place, emotionally, than the birth parents are. The instability that birth parents, in general, and birth fathers, specifically, feel, can create a multitude of difficulties. So, “set boundaries right out of the gate with the birth parents. This will create the expectations for the rest of the relationship. Not that the fences can’t be moved or changed—but it’s important that while the birth parents are going through their emotional rides, those fences are up to protect all.”

So while adoptive parents prepare for an open adoption, consider the words of Jason. Go ahead and take the reins, being sure to show respect, be tender, and accommodate the suggestions and desires of the birth parents while communicating clear, firm boundaries.