Would You Ever Close Your Open Adoption?

Dawn Davenport


closing an open adoption

What would justify an adoptive parent changing their mind after the adoption and closing the adoption?

There have been a series of posts in the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group that break my heart. Several birth moms have talked about having been promised an open adoption before placement by their child’s adoptive parents, but a couple of years into the adoption, communication started to dwindle and ultimately the adoptions closed. Others talked about their fear of this happening.

It is heartbreaking to read of their longing and angst. They feel betrayed by the very people they chose to do the most important thing in the world—raise their child. Understandably, many also feel mad as hell at the adoptive parents, at the adoption professionals, and also at the very institution of adoption. I get it!

Is there ever a reason for an adoptive parent to close an adoption and break a promise they gave of openness?

Well, I suppose if I think hard enough I can imagine a scenario where the child’s safety is truly threatened or the first parents are simply not able to work within any boundaries, but in almost all cases, some degree of openness can be maintained even in the most extreme circumstances. (Keep in mind that openness does not necessarily mean visits.)

And honestly, often when I hear adoptive parents consider closing an adoption, it is for annoying, but relatively trivial things that would elicit a deep sigh and an eye roll if done by another family member. It certainly would not result in cutting that family member out of their life.

After reading some of these tragic stories in the group, a group member wrote the following letter to her son’s birth mother and birth father. Get your hanky ready!


Eight months have gone by since we met you, and then E [their son], and our lives changed forever. Eight months is such a short amount of time, and yet some days it feels like a lifetime. We think back to those first few meetings we had getting to know each other. Intermingling the most intense and important conversations of our lives with talk about bands we like and how many times M has gone to the ER (a lot).

So many things were said, promises were made and the unknowns were too great to measure.

We know how unsure we were of how to feel, what to say, what to do. We never wanted you to feel pressured, but we also wanted you to know how much we wanted to be parents, and how committed we were to maintaining a relationship with you both. We can’t imagine how you were feeling, preparing to trust us, practical strangers, with the most precious thing in the world– your son. You were taking a chance, hoping that we meant all the things we said, and that we would do all the things we said we would. It was a big leap of faith, contact agreement or not.

Through much reading online, we’ve learned that too many birth parents feel afraid all the time that their children’s adoptive parents will pull back or pull away. That if they say something wrong, or do something wrong that their access to their child will be restricted. It’s been heartbreaking to know that people feel that way and live with that kind of fear. So we thought that 8 months after we made so many promises, when there was so much on the line, we should tell you again what our intentions are.

You will always be in E’s life. You will always have a place in our hearts and at our table. We look at this child who we love more than life itself, and we see both your faces looking back at us. We are grateful for you every single day, and we think of you every single day. No matter who you are, or what you are, or what you do, or what kinds of challenges life throws your way, we will never shut you out.

Nothing you could say or ask or think would change our commitment to you. You are our family now, and that is forever.

It won’t always be easy. We won’t always see eye to eye. There will be misunderstandings, miscommunications, differences of opinion, and we will work through them. We don’t expect you to be perfect, and we hope you don’t expect us to be either. We’ve made mistakes and we will make them again, and we hope you will forgive us. We know you may make mistakes as well, and we promise to forgive you.

We are not in competition with you for the role of E’s parents. We are all his parents. Adoptive mother, adoptive father, birth mother, birth father. Each is different but they are all equally important to him. He needs all of us in different ways. Him loving you does not take away from the love he has for us. There is enough love for all of us.

We want you to know that in every choice we make for him, adoption related or not, we are thinking of E and what is best for him. And what is best for him is to always know you and be able to see his face in yours. To be able to ask you the questions he has about where he came from and why he was adopted.

Someday this sweet little baby will grow into a boy, and then a teenager, and then a man, and we will have to answer to him for every choice we’ve made for him, as will you. We want to be able to look him in the eye and tell him that we always put him first, even when it was hard.

We are in this for the long haul, we are not going anywhere. You don’t ever need to be afraid to be yourself and share your life with us (which we hope you will!). We aren’t just tolerating you; we want you in our lives! You’re stuck with us, so get used to it. {smile emoticon}


If you promised openness, what would make you close it? Have you closed your adoption? Why?

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

20/06/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Would You Ever Close Your Open Adoption?

  1. Avatar TB says:

    Thank you for bringing this up! My husband and I have been talking about this a lot in the past few weeks. We adopted our daughter from foster care (she is now 3). While her birth-parents are quite unstable, and we never had an openness agreement with either of them to begin with, we are struggling to figure out what steps we should/shouldn’t take at this point. We know she will some day want to reach out to them, but we don’t know how much openness to consider and pursue at this early stage. Instability and inability to work within boundaries really affect my perspective on how we should approach it. It is difficult! We do truly want what is best for her!

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      TB, you aren’t alone in trying to figure out the best way to incorporate the spirit of openness in a difficult situation. Keep in mind that the type of openness can vary depending on the circumstances. And it is true also that sometimes openness is simply not in anyone’s best interest, but often some level can be achieved. I would strongly recommend that you go through the resources we have in our Open Adoption section of our Adoption A-Z Resource Guide (https://creatingafamily.org/adoption/resources/ ) We include many resources for open adoption in difficult birth family situations.

      I would also encourage you to join the Creating a Family Facebook Support Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/creatingafamily/) It’s a closed Facebook group so that only those in the group can see the posts. Lots of folks there are in your exact shoes and can tell you what they have done.

  2. Avatar Lori Holden says:

    What a beautiful letter, one that come from a place of true connection and empathy. I have a feeling that extending these sentiments will go a long way in developing a trusting relationship with the child’s other family.

    You asked about a reason to close an adoption. I’ve observed on occasion that as parents turn over the reins of contact to their son or daughter, sometimes the adoptee may want contact to recede — for whatever reason. I think such a desire would need to be respected and explored in a connected manner. I’d say that at this point, the parents’ duty is to keep the long-term view, as adults are often better-prepared to do (meaning don’t indulge in or encourage “never” absolutes when it comes to non-contact — keep the kiddo present-focused).

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Lori, very good point. Ultimately we as adoptive parents are keepers of the relationship for our kids, but as they age it it their relationship and they get to shape it how they like. I’ve also seen other reasons that adoptions have needed to be closed–highly unstable first parents, safety issues, etc., but even then the spirit of openness can be honored usually.

      • Avatar K says:

        I wish I could close my open adoption. I love my son’s birth mom. She and I were to have an open relationship through the agency on behalf of my son. However, at the hospital, the staff violated the agreement and shared my first and last name with her. Given the extreme violence of his birth father, I am always afraid that he will find us. It is a contested adoption. He is fighting although he cannot parent due to his incarceration. But he tries to hurt the birthmother through other people and continues to threaten her. She has accidentally shared his full name with me. If she were to do that with him and share my name, I believe we would be in jeopardy. The closing the adoption with her at this point would not help since she already knows my name. But I am extremely anxious that due to a slip up or threat, our info will be shared. I wish it had been closed from the beginning in a way.
        If the safety issue were not there, I would be very happy with to maintain our open adoption. I never imagined living with this hanging over us. As the lawyers prepare for hearings for TPR, I’m afraid the threat will grow.

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