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Is Open Adoption Right For Me?

Open adoption is a fairly recent development in the world of adoption, and adoptive families and birth families are beginning to recognize its great benefits. Initially there could be some trepidation or speculation about how open adoptions “really work.” Hearing myths and false stories could also cause hesitation when considering if open adoption is right for you.  

What is Open Adoption?

An open adoption simply means that there is a healthy and open relationship between the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth family. Instead of wondering where they came from, adoptees will grow up knowing who their birth family is. Open adoptions facilitate communication with all parties involved in the adoption, replacing the questions and secrets of the past.  

Open adoption is not joint custody or co-parenting between the adoptive parents and birth parents. Boundaries and rules must be set with everyone involved in order to ensure a functioning relationship. This could include formal agreements about contact and visitation or a more relaxed, informal relationship. Every open adoption is different and what works for some families may not work for others. As with every relationship, maintaining a healthy, open adoption takes work. The most important factor in this relationship is the need for honest communication.  

Pros and Cons of Open Adoption

Open adoption benefits every party involved in the adoption, not just the child or the birth parents.

Benefits for adoptive parents:

For adoptive parents, it provides an opportunity for them to constantly learn about where their child came from, and to ask questions. This could include simple things like asking about birth parents’ likes or dislikes or childhood temperament--or perhaps more important questions like an in-depth medical history. Adoptive parents also find that as they get to know the birth parents of their children, they grow to love them even more for this incredible gift they have received from them.

Benefits for the adoptee:

Benefits for the adoptee include not only knowing where they came from, but more importantly why they were placed. The mystery surrounding their adoption will disappear as they develop a relationship with their birth parents and are able to ask questions. Instead of having the old-age adoption perspective that they were unwanted or unloved, they will know firsthand how much they are truly loved by their birth parents. Instead of just one family to love them, they will have two!

Benefits for the birth families:

Open adoptions also benefit the birth families. By maintaining a relationship with their birth child and the adoptive family, birth parents are able to see their child growing and thriving with their new family. While they relinquished their rights to be parents, they can still be an active and involved part of their birth child’s life. During their grieving process, they can also be comforted by pictures, visits, and communication. Families of the birth parents can also develop a relationship with the adoptee through open adoption.

The benefits of open adoption far outweigh the disadvantages, but as with any relationship, there are some limitations. These issues might include maintaining healthy boundaries with birth parents and adoptive parents or trying to juggle multiple relationships with the birth families. Most disadvantages with open adoption can be resolved through honest and effective communication.

The Long Term Commitment of Open Adoption

Whether or not you choose to have an open adoption, you must understand that there is a long term commitment involved with choosing open adoption. Once an adoption is “open” and those relationships are developed, it can be extremely painful to suddenly cut off communication and contact. If promises or contracts are made, both parties need to work to maintain those relationships. Most importantly, the adoptee’s needs must come above all else. As stated before, relationships in open adoptions take work, but if successful they can be extremely rewarding.

AUTHOR: Tiffany Smart. Tiffany Smart is a birth mom of a two year old boy and enjoys the benefits of an open adoption. She is currently a Senior in the Social Work Program at Utah State University. When she gets a break from studying, she likes to run, mountain bike with her husband, and play the piano.
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