Finding the Right Amount of Openness in Your Adoption

What do you do when you believe that a completely open adoption is not in your child's best interest?

Denalee Chapman May 26, 2016
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Want to make yourself a target? One quick experience showed me that even a little post on Facebook can stir a lot of emotions and result in harsh words, attacks, misunderstanding and confusion. Thankfully, a brave momma stood her ground, appeared to take no offense, and calmly explained herself. It quieted the group and even resulted in moderate praise . . . after the initial explosions.

An outsider looking into the adoption world might believe that closed adoptions are a thing of the past. After all, look at all the families singing the praises of open adoption! More to love, more to be loved by, parties, gatherings, extended-extended family, and on and on . . . What’s not to love about open adoption? In fact, there’s kind of a snobbery and even some amount of exclusiveness associated with those who are passionate about open adoption. Not everyone, of course. But to an outsider, it sure can feel like that. A newbie to adoption might feel like the new kid in school who can immediately spot the popular crowd and inwardly seek acceptance. Of course I want open adoption . . . everyone should have an open adoption.

I love this statement from adoptive mother, Baylee: “Adoption is solely about what is best for the children. Absolutely NOTHING is wrong with a closed adoption if you feel that that is the best situation for your child. Adoption is not about the biological mother and it is not about the adoptive parents. It is about the child and what is best for that child.”

But isn’t open adoption always best for the child? There are those who would answer an immediate, loud YES. But that’s because of their realm of experience. Perhaps the correct answer is more like of a “usually.” Baylee is one whose experience is teaching her otherwise.

Just 20 years old, married for six months, and able to have biological children, Baylee and her husband were given an opportunity to adopt a baby. A family member was pregnant with her sixth child. Her five older children were removed from her home and her parental rights had been terminated. This birth mother chose what she thought was best for her unborn child: adoption into a home of her choice.

Everything about this adoption has been about the child. Sure, it makes Baylee and her husband happy, even ecstatic, to call this precious baby their own! But it’s not about them . . . it’s about the baby. So, when confronted with the type of adoption that would be best, they have chosen to close the door, protect the child, and nurture their son.

“No one should tell an adoptive mother that she is wrong for choosing a closed adoption. It is better for my child to not have a relationship with his biological mother at this point. My main thought and concern with this statement is that a closed adoption is perfectly fine. DO NOT feel ashamed for wanting a closed adoption. DO NOT feel guilty for a closed adoption. Open adoptions are beautiful and such a great experience for some families. But often times it isn’t in the child’s best interest. Let’s always keep in our minds and in our hearts that every adoption is for the child. Let’s make their lives beautiful by doing what is best for them.”

No one outside of Baylee’s family needs to know the particulars . . . it’s none of our business. Judgement is best set aside. Of course, a decision to close an adoption should not be made lightly and the parent’s personal motivations for closing the adoption should be very closely examined. When, as in Baylee’s case, the parent feels that closing the adoption is best for the child, it might be worthwhile to consult a counselor—preferably one with experience in adoption—to confirm those thoughts.

To assist in making the decision of either closing an adoption partially, completely, or even opening the adoption more than it is, it might be advisable to ask yourself some questions, including the following:

  • Is my child’s physical or emotional well-being negatively affected by an association with the birth parent?

  • Would closing the adoption create more safety (emotional and physical) for my child?

  • If direct contact is unsafe for my child, could I maintain some level of openness and still ensure my child’s well-being? (i.e., sending photos through a mediator; providing regular one-way updates;  maintaining a private blog, Facebook page, or Instagram account)

  • Would an agreement for the birth parent and adoptive parent to keep each other apprised of contact information be appropriate so the adoptee can contact the birth family when grown?

  • Do the birth parents and adoptive parents agree that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate contact?

There is no hard-and-fast answer to what is best for an adoptee. So here’s a plea: Don’t judge. Enjoy your adoption, whether it’s open or closed . . . and accept others for their choices. After all, we all want the same thing: We want what’s best for our children.

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at DenaleeChapman.com.


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