If you are involved in a domestic infant adoption, there’s a good chance it’s at least semi-open.
More than 90 percent of domestic adoptions include at least some contact between adoptive parents and birth parents. The level of openness varies drastically, from a personal relationship to letters and photos sent through an intermediary. This can come as a surprise to prospective birth mothers and hopeful adoptive parents who are considering adoption for the first time.
Public understanding of open adoption is, generally speaking, poor. There are all kinds of myths out there that create fear and apprehension. Maybe you hold some of these myths to be truths, and that’s creating anxiety. But here’s the truth: open adoption can be a beautiful and amazing part of your adoption journey.
Here are several fears about open adoption that prospective birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents may hold, and how to conquer them.
Birth Parent Fears about Open Adoption
My child won’t want to talk to me.
This is a common fear shared by many birth parents. The thought process is that the child will feel like you “gave them up,” and therefore won’t want to speak with you. American Adoptions has been a part of thousands of open adoptions, and we can tell you from experience that this is not the case.
Adoptees in open adoption typically have an appreciation and affection for their birth parents. Rather than feeling that you gave them up, they often feel that you gave them life. People tend to become more cynical as we age, but children often shock us with their positivity. Their first reaction to learning their adoption story, especially if it’s told to them in a positive way, is often not what we’d expect.
The adoptive parents won’t follow through.
One of the most common concerns our adoption specialists hear from prospective birth parents is that adoptive parents won’t follow through on the post-placement communication plan. From our more than 25 years of experience, we can tell you that this fear is rarely realized. Still, it is a leap of faith.
To a certain extent, you just have to trust the adoptive family. There are some things you can do to increase the chances of a successful open adoption, like creating a clear communication plan and choosing an adoptive family that you feel you can trust. We’ve seen many beautiful relationships form through open adoption. Yours could be one, too.
I’ll end up with parenting responsibilities if we keep open communication.
One of the main reasons for choosing adoption is that the responsibilities of parenting — be it financial, emotional or anything else — aren’t a fit for your life right now. But if you maintain contact with your child and the adoptive family, will you end up taking on some of those responsibilities? No, you will not.
Open adoption is not co-parenting. While you will reap the benefit of continued communication, you will not be responsible for any aspect of parenting.
I’ll realize that the adoptive parents don’t love my child enough.
Prospective birth parents choose adoption out of love. It’s arguably the most misunderstood element of adoption, as shown by the ubiquitous nature of the phrase “giving a baby up” for adoption. It’s not giving up — it’s giving a chance at life. You may worry that the adoptive family won’t be able to love your baby as much as you do, and that you’ll realize this in maintaining contact with them.
The truth is that adoptive parents carry immense love for their babies. An adoptive couple has gone through a long, often hard, journey. The moment they are placed with the baby is often the best moment of their life. Family is more than biology for these parents, and their love will be strong.
Maintaining contact will make emotional healing post-placement more difficult.
Adoption is an emotional journey. Even when you are completely confident it is the right decision, it’s still hard. Everyone is different, and each person responds differently. You’re going to need time to heal in your own way after placement. Many birth mothers worry that this healing will be hampered by open adoption.
Because everyone is unique, we can’t say exactly how open adoption is going to affect you. What we can say is that we have seen open adoption aid in, not take away from, healing for many birth mothers. Open adoption affirms your choice. As you see your child being loved, growing and thriving, you can be even more sure that adoption was the right thing for your life and your child’s life.
As an extra layer of reassurance, also keep in mind that you can request more space if you feel it’s necessary. If you decide that you need an additional six months before seeing any photos, you can ask your agency to hold them.
Adoptive Parent Fears about Open Adoption
Open adoption will result in co-parenting.
On the flipside of a concern many birth parents share, hopeful adoptive parents are often worried that open adoption will lead to co-parenting, too. But while birth parents are worried they will be pulled into co-parenting, adoptive parents tend to fear that birth parents will ask for it. This is simply not the case.
Open adoption does not lead to co-parenting. Communication is not a gateway to shared responsibility, nor is it a slippery slope to confusing the roles each adult plays in the child’s life. As the (adoptive) parents, you can help you child understand the importance of his or her birth parents without blurring the lines of parental responsibility.
My child may reject me if they know about their birth family.
As adoptive parents, your child will eventually have to ask and answer questions about personal identity that are more nuanced than they would be for a child born into a family biologically. This is not bad thing, just different. In the course of this process, it is natural and good for a child to express interest and affection for their biological family. One common misstep for adoptive parents is to freak out when this happens and equate their child’s interest with rejection. When a child cares about their biological heritage, this is not a rejection of the adoptive family.
Open adoption provides clear answers that can help a child form a positive self-identity. This is good for everyone involved and is most certainly in the best interests of the child. Keep in mind that it is possible for a child to feel genuine love for both the adoptive family and biological family. In fact, it’s beautiful when this happens. And no matter what, they are your child.
Open adoption can allow birth parents to regain custody.
Another common fear about open adoption is that it is, in some way, a caveat to complete placement. Here’s the truth you need to know: when your adoption is legally finalized, that’s it. A final decree of adoption is just that — final.
Aside from this legal security, this open adoption fear can also be addressed with a better understanding of birth parents. When an expectant mother chooses adoption, it is because she believes your family will be best for her baby. She wants you to love, cherish and enjoy this journey. Open adoption is not a threat to custody. Rather, it’s an opportunity to form a beautiful relationship.
The rules of the open adoption will continually change.
What if we want something different, or the birth parents want something different, a year from now? Will we be constantly adjusting to new expectations? How can we manage this?
First off, successful open adoptions typically have clear expectations and consistent boundaries. It takes both sides to maintain something like this, and we’ve seen it done many times. However, flexibility isn’t always bad. If you think of your open adoption as a genuine relationship, it’s natural that things will occasionally change, just like in any other relationship. Try to think of this as an opportunity rather than a burden. A positive outlook goes a long way.
A child will be confused by open adoption.
Things that are not common are not necessarily confusing. Just because most children are not in open adoption situations does not mean that children cannot understand open adoption. In fact, what often happens is adults project their own confusion onto children.
Children’s ability to comprehend open adoption often surprises many adults. When explained simply and at an age-appropriate level, your child will be able to understand that you are their parents, while also understanding that they have another (birth) mom who loves them very much. Sure, there may be difficult moments and times when words seem to fail. But keep persisting — your child will be able to figure it out as long as they know they are loved.
These are several of the most common fears prospective birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents have about open adoption. It’s an emotional subject and it can be confusing, but it can also be beautiful and life-changing. We would encourage you to embrace your open adoption relationship. There may be challenges, but it will be worth it.
To learn more about open adoption and how to start your own adoption process, contact American Adoptions today.