People have mixed views on open adoptions most likely because it can take so many forms. Unless an open adoption agreement is drawn up, there is no hard and fast rule about what open adoption means aside from stating that the adoptive parents have legal custody of the child and that the birth and adoptive parents have some level of access to the other party’s personal information before and/or after the adoption. The most common experience of an open adoption is for the birth mother to meet and voice her opinion about prospective adoptive parents. Once the adoption is complete, adoptive parents often send yearly photos and letters to keep the birth parents updated on their child. Some adoptive parents even agree to involve the birth parents in their child’s life by facilitating in-person interactions.
Whatever form open adoptions take, the result is generally positive for all parties involved, particularly the child despite the flurry of questions and anxiety that hovers around this type of adoption. Adolescents in an open adoption have reported greater satisfaction with their adoption, ability to accept the reasons for their adoption, greater understanding of the origins of their physical and personality traits, and positive feelings towards their biological mother. A study by Evan Donaldson has shown that the success of an open adoption is based on whether the openness of the relationship is child-focused.
While I am convinced by the data, I don’t need to read research papers to understand that open adoptions benefit the child and that should be the priority. As an adoptee in a closed adoption, I always felt like something was missing, and I had a hard time believing there was no information out there. From the moment I found out about my adoption, a seed of curiosity was planted, and it blossomed and morphed into mistrust, identity issues, a sense of loss, and paranoia. I obsessed over finding my birth mother, and without the unabashed support of my adoptive parents, I felt very alone. Adoption or rather, my adoption, was a taboo topic growing up. I didn’t know if the resistance to talking openly about it came from my adoptive parents’ insecurities or from their optimistic hope that the world wouldn’t notice how my brown skin contrasted against my mother’s white skin.
When I was twenty-five, I decided to fly back to my birth country and seek out my biological mother. I went back to the orphanage I came from and was met with resistance from the nuns when I told them why I was there. They tried to persuade me to stop looking because I may disrupt my birth mother’s life. They reminded me I had a good life with my adoptive parents and could see no reason to dig into the past. These women wanted to protect my two mothers, but what they didn’t understand is by doing so, they weren’t protecting me.