On the rise within adoption is open adoption relationships, or a continued relationship between adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptee. There is really no guide to having an open adoption relationship, but those who want to engage in one should operate on the principles of being ethical, honest, trustworthy, and transparent. I won’t get into the benefits of open adoption in this article, but I will tell you when and how best to discuss open adoption relationships.
1. Before Placement
Before anything is signed or made official, if possible, the expectant mother (a woman who is making an adoption plan, but who hasn’t decided firmly on whether or not she wants to place her child) and hopeful adoptive parents should sit down and have a conversation about their expectations when it comes to an open adoption. It is easiest if everyone is honest about how they view a continuing relationship. If the expectant mother would like more contact and openness than a hopeful adoptive parent is willing to commit to, it is not a good match and is best if the expectant mother is given the opportunity to find adoptive parents that better align with what she wishes.
Some aspects of the continuing relationship to discuss at this stage include how often updates would be given; what those updates could look like in terms of letters, emails, texts, calls, photos, videos, etc; whether visits are a possibility; if they are, how often and where would those take place; what holidays like birthdays could possibly look like; and what birth parents would like to be called. All of these are just jumping-off points for conversation.
At some point in the relationship, it might be a good idea to see if the open adoption relationship is meeting everyone’s expectations. I feel that this should be an in-person conversation if possible. Some people may want more contact than they originally desired, and for some, it may be less as the ebb and flow of life doesn’t allow for as much contact as originally hoped. It is imperative that there is trust in the relationship to have this conversation—as honesty is needed.
3. When There Is a Problem
As with any relationship, there is a chance you may not agree always. Instead of ignoring any problems that may arise, you should get the problem out in the open and discuss what that may mean for the relationship. If need be, look into getting a mediator or counselor if the issue is bigger than the parties feel they can handle. It doesn’t mean that there is failure or a lack of hope within the relationship, just that some extra work is needed to be at its best.
4. When the Child Is Old Enough to Have an Opinion
The adoptee is the reason for the season. While the parents may dictate a relationship before the child is old enough to have an opinion or understanding of the relationship, when they have reached a certain age or maturity level, it is important that the decision to continue a relationship is up to them. If adopted at birth or a young age, adoptees did not have a choice in the adoption, so they should be given the choice on who they wish to include in their life and what that looks like.
When considering an open adoption relationship, all parties should understand that like with any relationship, there is going to be ups and downs. Adoption adds an additional layer or two of intense feelings. But those that choose to enter into this arrangement should keep a basis of being ethical, honest, trustworthy, and transparent. Most important of all, remember that there is a child at the center of this whom they love.
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