Open adoption has slowly and steadily become an accepted norm in infant adoption circles. The opportunities that open adoption offers your child can reap many benefits for their identity as they grow. It’s important to remember that the benefits of open adoption are not just for the child. They help all members of the adoption triad — adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents! Initially, many prospective adoptive parents fear open adoption, but there are several reasons you should consider it as you build your family.
3 Reasons You Should Consider Open Adoption
1. Open Adoption Maintains Connection for the Child
The child you adopt will have the opportunity to maintain crucial connections with their first family when you choose open adoption. Most adopted children want to know whose eyes they have, where they got their drawing talent, or if they are lefties because one of their birth parents was a leftie. Whatever level of openness you pursue with your child’s birth parents, this connection affords the child many ways to answer the inevitable questions.
Those connections inform your child’s growing sense of self.
Your child’s questions will eventually focus on more complex questions beyond physical traits or skills inherited from their birth parents. It’s essential to prepare for those complexities as they grow. Providing a connection with their birth family offers your child the chance to ask those questions and begin conversations to support the child’s curiosity. Open adoption often creates an atmosphere that welcomes open dialogue and interest. You can work with the birth parents to increase your child’s understanding of their adoption story.
Cultivating a relationship with their birth parents helps your child feel more confident and secure in their place in the world. As they grapple with their growing identity, your child can glean information from their adopted and birth family to inform their developing sense of self. Open adoption can provide many opportunities for openness, honesty, and trust to build self-understanding.
Those connections anchor your child to an extended family.
When you maintain openness in your child’s adoption, you can expand your child’s connections to the extended birth family. Helping your child maintain those connections teaches them that they are part of something bigger than themselves. That kind of anchoring can create confidence and security for your child – especially when that network is honest, loving, and welcoming. Even if relationships with extended family are limited by distance or access, the sense that your child fits into a bigger scheme can help them make sense of their story. Choosing to embrace open adoption often means expanding your definition of family. You will have the chance to include others who will support him and help him understand his world.
2. Open Adoption Offers Connections for the Birth Parent
Choosing to place a child for adoption can be the most challenging choice a woman ever makes. Working toward an open adoption offers opportunities for the birth mother to navigate her options with information and support. When adoptive parents maintain openness, birth parents can have a safe space to seek answers to questions and concerns about the child’s present and future.
Openness with a birth mother can be empowering.
Another important choice that follows the birth mother’s matching process is working with the adoptive parents over the degree of openness. Opportunities to engage in dialogue with the adoptive parents and have choices and a voice beyond placement will empower her to continue to learn and grow in this connected relationship.
Openness with a birth mother can support her view of the future.
Openness in the adoption relationship can also support her grieving process. Being pregnant, surrendering her child to someone else’s arms, and learning how to resume life after placement all involve loss. She can cope with those losses and changes when she feels supported by your family. Knowing that her child is being well-cared for, loved, and cherished allows her to envision her own future and how it includes her baby. She can take time, with her partner if one is involved, to work through complex emotions like fear and sadness in the context of the connection she shares with you and her child.
3. Open Adoption Offers Benefits for the Adoptive Parents
The topic of open adoption often brings up a lot of fear or anxiety for prospective adoptive parents. However, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the education to dispel the many myths around open adoption that still linger in society. For example, open adoption does not mean co-parenting. It also does not mean losing your child if the birth parent changes her mind.
Opportunities to learn can be a significant benefit.
Adoptive parenting is a journey that requires all the support and nurture you can gather. Educating yourself will always benefit your personal growth as an adoptive parent. You can share those learning opportunities with family and friends, so they approach your family’s adoption with accurate information. You can learn and grow and have opportunities to increase awareness about adoption to help others’ understanding with solid, reliable education.
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Adoptive parents can have increased access to the child’s story.
Even before an adopted child can ask the questions they need to develop their identity, open adoption offers adoptive parents many opportunities to get vital information about the child and the birth family. As you get to know your child’s birth mother, you can learn about family medical, education, and mental health history as the child ages. When you work to build trust between you, you can inquire about your child’s prenatal experience to better understand how to support your child. For example, you can ask your child’s birth mom about antibiotics during pregnancy when the dentist expresses interest in your child’s dental health. You and the birth mom can talk about her struggles in school with undiagnosed dyslexia. This priceless information about your child will help you offer a rounded-out view of his identity and be ready to support him on the way.
Adoptive parents can gain insight into their child’s development.
Additionally, openness with your child’s birth family can give you insight into your child’s strengths, challenges, and temperament. Engaging in conversation about things like your child’s stellar spelling skills or passion for soccer often means you can tell your child what you’ve learned about his birth mom or dad. The fact that you can report this information to your child and connect him to his birth family can build his trust in you. He learns about himself but also figures out that you won’t hold things back, good or bad, to help him understand who he is. Even when you uncover challenges he may have inherited from his birth parents, you can point to ways they overcame those challenges while you support him to grow and adapt.
Your relationship skills will benefit from a view of openness.
Open adoption can take many different forms on a wide range of openness. Learning how to navigate the degree of openness that is right for you, your child, and the child’s birth family can be tricky. When you are committed to building a relationship with the birth parents, you gain the potential benefit of life-long relationships with your child’s family and community.
You have vast opportunities to model the values you hold dear as you navigate this adoption relationship. By keeping the channels of communication open and sincere, you can also learn or hone new skills for navigating relationships. For example, you can learn flexibility and compassion when working with another family whose culture and style is different than your own. You will also model for your child how to prioritize relationships and grow together when you choose to keep building a relationship with the child’s birth parents. The lessons you learn won’t just benefit your open adoption — they will also come in handy as you parent this child to adulthood.
Open Adoption offers opportunities to share your child’s story.
Another significant benefit for adoptive parents is the ability to share the telling of their child’s adoption story with someone else. When you have a birth parent’s help to answer your child’s questions about why they were placed, it creates a more complete picture for your child. Collaborating with the birth mom to help the child grow in his understanding ensures that the story is accurate.
For example, when you hear your son telling a friend that his real mom gave him away because she wanted to be a flight attendant, you can reach out to his birth mom and ask for her help. You can say, “I think it would help if you talked to him and give him more information about why you made the decision to place him with us. How can we both him view this decision as more than being “given away” and deeper than wanting to apply for a job?”
Open Adoption Can Open Your World
Unless your child is at risk for physical harm, there are many meaningful ways to navigate an open adoption. Whether you choose in-person visits, online communication, or some variation and blend of both, how you view and navigate open adoption can expand your world. Your child’s identity formation will be more fully informed when you work together to integrate birth parents, extended family, and your family on the way.
Are you considering open adoption? What other benefits can you think of for any member of the relationship? Tell us more in the comments.
Image Credits: Andrea Piacquadio; cottonbro studio; fauxels