Open adoption is a funny thing. Where’s the rule book? How are supposed to know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to setting boundaries? After all, the person on your left will tell you that you should have no boundaries—that you should feel comfortable letting your child’s birth parents into every facet of your life. And the person to your right will tell you you’re damaging the well-being of your child’s development if you let the birth parents receive anything more than a random photograph in the mail every few years. So, what’s right? Where’s the rule book?

Answer: There is no rule book, and only you can truly know what’s right for your own home.

That sounds all perfect and polished, doesn’t it? It’s not. Almost everyone who hears that statement, that we need to do what is right for our own home, will nod their head and say—yes, you tell ‘em, brother. That’s the way it should be. Then I see people do horrible, horrible things, and I know they’re back there behind their closed door saying, “Hey. I know what’s right for my family!”

For example: I’m in constant contact with a lot of people in the adoption world from all over the country. This week someone asked for some advice on her situation. She was promised an open adoption (she’s a birth mom), but the adoptive parents didn’t follow through. It’s hard for me to judge the adoptive parents when I know so few details about why that is. After all, even though I have two beautiful and VERY open adoptions with my two children’s birth families, my wife and I would have to make some serious changes if things got out of control. But that really didn’t seem to be the case. This adoptive family has chosen to keep their child’s biological roots a complete secret– like he was born to them biologically. Birth mom has been writing him random letters for over a decade and just barely found out that he hasn’t been shown a single one. And the worst part is that the birth mom had been getting letters from her biological son, only to find out that the adoptive parents were making it all up and writing those letters themselves.

This is what I’m talking about. How could someone possibly think this is a good idea? Not only are they hurting the birth mom, but their lives and insecurities will hurt their son; I’m almost certain of that. Still, I’d bet my life that the adoptive parents are sitting at home comfortably on their couch talking about how they know what’s best for their child.

So I have to change that previous answer to this: There is no rule book, but take everyone’s well-being into account. There is no room for selfishness by birth parents or adoptive parents in an open adoption. Have you considered everyone’s wishes or just your own? And yes, only you can know what’s right for you own home. Whether through meditation or prayer, have you honestly asked yourself whether or not your behavior fits within these guidelines?

Open adoption is the best thing to happen to my home, but it’s something that takes work. Everyone deals with different things, but a good, healthy relationship is not only possible, it’s wonderful. My home is a testament to that.