Is Open Adoption Confusing for Kids?

Dawn Davenport


Is Open Adoption Confusing for Kids?

Does open adoption make adoptive and birth parents feel better, but overlook the needs of adopted kids?

If we want to learn, we have to listen, even when (or maybe especially when) listening is uncomfortable. I received the following comment from an adult adoptee on my blog 10 Topics Adoptive Parent & Birth Mother Must Discuss Before Adopting questioning open adoption–the holy grail of current adoption practice.

On one hand, all of this openness sounds good. I admit that when I first heard of open adoption, it seemed way better than what I went through. Then, I took a step back and asked myself, “How would I feel if I had always known my biological parents, and they acted happy and satisfied that someone else was raising me”?

I would have been upset. Very upset. It would have been worse than not knowing. It would have been like getting stabbed right through the heart. What child wants to hear a parent say that they’re happy about something like that? Absolutely no one. It would be worse than closed adoption. It would be worse than having no parents at all.

It seems that openness is more a mechanism to calm the fears of both sets of parents. Biological parents get to see that the child is alive, well and (hopefully) properly cared for. The adoptive parents get legitimacy. They get the ultimate stamp of approval.

How utterly sad and lonely for the child! What does the child get out of it, except for a lifetime prescription for Prozac? Is that really a life that we would wish upon anybody? (emphasis added)

Is Open Adoption All About the Parents?

I do truly understand how annoying it is when someone starts quoting research that contradicts a heartfelt statement of your life experience. It has the potential of making the person feel dismissed. However (isn’t there always a “however”), in this case the adult adoptee was speculating on how she assumes adoptees in an open adoption would feel, so it seems fair to point to research in that area, not to negate her point, but to show how at least some open adoption adoptees feel.

The Largest Study on Open Adoption

The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) is a longitudinal adoption research study that focused on how open adoption affects adopted children, birth mothers, and adoptive parents.  It was national in scope and followed participants for over 20 years.  It is the largest adoption study of its type involving over 720 individuals. Participants were interviewed and visited at several times during the study. You can read our summary of this research on the Creating a Family Adoption Research page.

The study compared adopted children and adolescent adjustment among different levels of openness. I was surprised to find that the level of openness did not affect adjustment one way or the other, at least up to the teen years. Bottom line is that adopted adolescents looked about as adjusted as all US teens.

On average, our sample of adopted adolescents was no different in levels of adjustment from the national norms developed on a set of well validated measures. In addition, level of openness by itself was not a major predictor of adjustment outcomes…. However, relationship qualities such as collaboration in relationships [between adoptive and birth families] and perceptual qualities such as [adoptive parent’s perception of perceived compatibility] were predictive of adjustment across openness levels.

What Message Are You Sending

Regardless if kids overall in open adoptions are not being harmed by the experience, I think the commenter’s point is worthy of serious consideration. What message are we sending our kids in open adoptions? Can children accept that a birth parent is happy that the child is doing well in his adoptive home, but still wishes things had been different, and that they had been able to parent? Is this the message your child is getting?

P.S. I am interviewing adult adoptees for a book on what their experience and what they would like adoptive parents to know. I would love suggestions of adoptees to interview, and I’m particularly interested in talking with adoptees raised in an open adoption. They need to be over 18. PLEASE ask around.

Image credit: Pipistrula

14/01/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 45 Comments

45 Responses to Is Open Adoption Confusing for Kids?

  1. Avatar Leann says:

    Umm, this article is really offensive. I am forced to go through this route due to circumstances out of my control. I would do anything if to just raise my baby, but my sister is the next best option. Honestly, I am not the happiest over it, but it’s definitely better than nothing. I love my baby so much, that I decided I am moving states to be around her more and I will go out of my way to be there for her as much as possible, even “babysitting” her too. I am not using this as the easy route out. It’s very depressing and I honestly rather be mommy, not the cool aunt who just visits. I cry very much and it is not a selfish choice, it is a limited choice. Either closed or a stranger and I have no interest in that. I am thankful my sister is willing to help.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      We’re very sorry that you find the article offensive. It’s a hard thing to summarize any part of adoption, but particularly what “open adoption” means to readers, as the definitions of those “open adoptions” vary so much from family to family. It sounds as if your baby is surrounded by so many who love her, including you!, and your family is working together well to benefit her and keep her as the priority. But I can hear your hurt as well. I hope you can all continue to work well together to keep her growing and secure in your (collective) love for her.

  2. Avatar Jenn Porter says:

    I am an adult adoptee who was adopted in a private, closed adoption in the 80’s. I would say that I have always been healthy and well adjusted. I have just recently begun the search for my birth mother.

    I am also now the mother of two adopted daughters and one biological son. We have had open situations with both families – although we have lost contact with our oldest’s mother.

    If I could have chosen, I would have chosen an open adoption for myself. I grew up curious and wondered what my birth family was like. I know that even just knowing her name or having a picture of her would have been huge for me. It’s just the mystery and secrecy of it all that I hate. I was always proud to be adopted and don’t feel that openness would have changed that at all.

  3. Avatar marilynn says:

    you said:
    “2) The same person’s mother also relinquished a child and in the words of the bmom blogger: “She simply told us that a family was unable to have a baby, so she was using her belly to grow one for them.” To me, I feel that the more important person in that picture are the APs not the child. I don’t want to be leaving one family because another family wanted a child.
    3) Even statements “I wasn’t ready to parent” comes across as sounding like they just couldn’t be stuffed to make any adjustments.”

    And that sums up what is wrong with having donors abandon their parental responsibilities.

  4. Avatar Robyn C says:

    TAO, thanks for clarifying. What you say makes more sense now, and I understand.

  5. Avatar cb says:

    Btw I just wanted to point out that it is the statements themselves that irritate me. When I read more, I can see that the bmoms really love and miss their children but their statements give the impression that it is easier on them than it is.

  6. Avatar cb says:

    Anyway, my last post is more about how it would have been for NZ bmoms in particular at that time – I really can’t say how it was for my own bmom and will never know I suppose. It is also to show that I understand the difficulties and can understand why women may relinquish their children. At the same time, it does help a child to know that the DESIRE to parent was there and that if possible, that’s what the bmom would have done.

    One thing also is that often what some adoptive parents like to hear from a birthmother might not always be what an adoptee wants to hear from a birthmother (all are different of course). Today’s bmothers are saying what sounds good to AP ears but I sometimes wonder what the child will think. I read some of the blogs by some young bmoms and wonder how their children would feel if reading them.

    The following are issues I have with some of the more “happy” bmom blogs:

    1) I feel uncomfortable when they talk on behalf of their child, eg comments like “She is where she was meant to be”. Umm, I’m a human in my own right, I’LL decide where I was meant or not meant to be. I know that if I heard that from my bmother, I’d feel a real pressure to not feel anything but happiness.
    2) The same person’s mother also relinquished a child and in the words of the bmom blogger: “She simply told us that a family was unable to have a baby, so she was using her belly to grow one for them.” To me, I feel that the more important person in that picture are the APs not the child. I don’t want to be leaving one family because another family wanted a child.
    3) Even statements “I wasn’t ready to parent” comes across as sounding like they just couldn’t be stuffed to make any adjustments.

    I do think these statements are more to ease the feelings of APs than for the ears of adoptees.

  7. Avatar cb (sorry also used "c" as well) says:

    “But Robyn, I didn’t say that you always found a way to raise your child – but you tried to figure out a way to do so first before you chose adoption – that may be obvious or a first assumption to adults who live in the adult world.”

    That’s what I got from your post too, TAO.

    I try to think about what I might like to hear from my bmom and it would probaby be somthig like:

    “I really wanted to be able to raise you but I didn’t feel how I would be able to raise you safely at that time”.

    My info did say she had very mixed feelings about the adoption so that does make it sound like it wasn’t an easy decision for her. To me, that’s the part from the info that touched my heart the most, rather than the actual other reasons (financial difficulty, wanted me to have a father, parents didn’t know). The hardest is the “parents didn’t know” because it implies shame although I don’t really know the full reason for not telling, i.e. whether it was just plain shame or also where there were other reasons (although my bfamily is great, from certain snippets I’ve found out, I think there were difficulties financially back home at the time (grandparents were farmers) and also healthwise with grandmother) – it was also a very small town). My bmother was overseas on a working holiday at the time she got pregnant and then gave birth. Funnily enough, when I got my OBC and info the first time, I’d just come back from an overseas working holiday in the UK and thus I could put myself in her shoes to some extent. I knew that if I’d gotten pregnant in the UK, I don’t know that I could have told my parents at the time but from the experience of someone I knew over there at the time, I would have been able to get a council flat and help. If my trip had been 20 years earlier and no help available, I know it would have been almost impossible to try to raise a child safely by myself.

    One thing I instinctively realised was how important having alternate childcare was and that was extremely difficult to find in 1960s NZ. If one has no alternate childcare, one can’t work and if one can’t work one would have not been able to earn money. That would have been my bmom’s options in 1960s NZ.

    One thing I discovered is that if my bmom had been in NZ 20 years beforehand, she might have had more options – the following is what their mission was in the 1940s:

    “In Auckland, two small-scale organisations for the aid of unmarried mothers came into being. In September 1943 the (x) movement was formed by a group of men and women keen to enlist public support for women alone and in difficulties with children, and in particular to help those who wished to keep their babies instead of having them adopted. It had comprehensive plans for a home and crèeche, coping both with unmarried mothers and those who needed daytime care for their babies: the children would be tended, under trained supervision, by the mothers-in-waiting who would thus receive good training. Those who wished to keep their babies would work during the day, returning to them in the evening at the home, if they did not live elsewhere. The movement hoped to establish several such homes, each taking about 20 women. It was, said its secretary on 23 October, ‘an adventure with a vision’, hoping to make a stand for a better way of life, with a wide-ranging educational programme through films and literature under the guiding spirit of Christianity. Donations of money were sought, and also clothes and accessories for mothers and babies. By January 1944 (x) had city headquarters for interviewing applicants. In its first four months, 61 expectant mothers had sought advice and 41 other women had made general inquiries; 9 adoptions had been arranged and foster parents were sought for 18 expected babies. Baby clothes had been given to destitute mothers, and fathers of motherless children had also been given aid and advice. Its home remained an aspiration, but it continued to give practical help with advice and organisation. For instance, in January 1945 it advertised: ‘Deserted single girl. Mothers receive no maintenance or social security benefits for babies; domestic employment wanted where child no objection; country or town” Note the provision of childcare which would have helped women at the time.

    None of that was an option in mid 1960s, in fact they had gone full circle – they had decided that it was best for children to be raised by married prents and thus did everything to make sure that the pregnant unwed woman came to that conclusion too, regardless of her intrinsic qualities. Also, NZ from 1955 onwards had one of shortest periods in the world at the time before a mother could relinquish her child – 10 days (pushed for by the above organisation) – thus, the mother would be expected to sign at that time. Perhaps not coincidentally, NZ also ended up having the highest adoption rates at that time. They actually ran out of available adoptive parents from the late 60s on and babies were ending up in foster care because of no alternatives so in the end, so counselling changed (because somehow “you’re not what’s best for your child.” doesn’t quite have the same ring when the only alternative is a foster home rather than the married parents living in a house with a white picket fence), policies changed, help came in and women had the wherewithal to be able to parent their own children if they so desired.

    Now, I’m not saying that my bmother would have tried to raise me in mid 1940s either even with that extra help – however, I would at least know that she would have more options if she had decided to do so. In 1960s NZ, it seemed almost impossible for a mother without familial/partner support or a job that might be able to accommodate a child while working (eg kindly shopowning boss or if one worked from home). So, it doesn’t seem too surprising to me that the 1960s were the “Baby Dump Era” as one commenter on here so kindly put it – what on earth were they supposed to do. At least with adoptive parents or even foster care (the only alternative for a few years), we would have been fed and clothed and kept safe, something our mothers probably couldn’t guarantee for us if they tried to raise a child with not only no help but sheer and utter disapproval. Also, in many ways it was harder for middle class girls because working class girls often had community support, whereas the middle class was more about “keeping up with the Joneses” and community support was lacking.

  8. Avatar AnonAP says:

    TAO, thanks for making me think. Again and as always. I particularly appreciated this comment from your first post: “Open adoption has just as many con’s as closed, the pro’s seem to outweigh the con’s in the long-term, over the lifetime of the adoptee. That matters but parents should really listen to what the adoptee in the post has to say because it is a valid concern – finding the right balance is the job of the adults to not allow it to be seen by the child as either / or – rather both – truthfully and with great honesty.”

    With regards to the happiness…wow, that’s tough. I have a hope that open adoption will allow for a relationship and understanding that goes beyond any simple statement. I can’t speak for my daughter’s birthmother, but I do think she experienced a welter of emotions from all over the range when deciding to place her baby for adoption. Joy that she was able to keep her safe as long as she did, relief that she was healthy, intense love for and pride in her beautiful daughter, intense grief at the decision she had come to, fear that it might be the wrong choice, hope that her child would grow up happy and safe in our care. All of these were clear from our conversations, and I know we only saw and heard the very surface of what she felt and experienced. No one sentence or interaction can capture or explain all these things or the reasons why she made the choice she did. I hope, I hope, I hope that open adoption can lead to understanding and maybe a sense of peace and resolution over time.

  9. Avatar TAO says:


    I am speaking to what a “child” may need to know. From the child’s view. Not the parents, or the adult adoptee, the child, who may just need to know their mother and/or father actually thought the child was worth it – to them.

    All the adults can rationalize things in their adult brains. A child’s brain is not at that cognitive level. They don’t have enough life experiences in the real world to say and understand what adults say and think is obvious.

    Self-worth ties into the category of “Rejection” in the attached article. There are defined challenges for adoptees to work through – whatever level they may be to the individual. I’m just speaking from “my” view as one of those children…a lived experience.

  10. Avatar Greg says:


    That’s a great point how one parents their children not only impacts their child but it also impacts their children’s children in future generations. I know someone whose grandmother was an orphan. Her Grandmother because of the horrors she experienced as a child was not a good mother to her children. Though she was a great grandmother to her grandchildren. This person’s mother then was not a good mother to her children because of how she was parented. Now this person questions whether she would continue the cycle of bad mothers in her family even though her personality is nothing like her mother’s.

    It can become a vicious cycle. This goes beyond just adoption and even in nuclear families and ones torn apart by divorce this happens. How a child is raised can impact future generations in positive or negative ways. It’s up to the parents to be responsible for that.

  11. Avatar cb says:

    Spiritually, adoption can be very confusing for a child if they are sent one set of messages in life re how to treat people in general and then sent a different set of messages re how to treat their biological relations.

    There are of course many good APs who don’t do that but there are definite those who do. One sees it all the time online.

  12. Avatar cb says:

    “If you don’t believe me, look at foster care – there are hundreds of thousands of kids whose parents do just enough to work their plan, but can’t actually parent. How much better might it be for at least some of those kids if their parents showed their love by letting go?”

    Yet those are the parents who think they can parent and because they won’t ever admit that they can’t, they can’t be helped. Those that admit that they are failing are those that are most likely to be helped.

    Also, when it comes to people deliberately getting pregnant, they are not going to be voluntarily placing their child for adoption at birth – that rather takes away the point of them getting pregnant – options counselling will have no effect on them (as this counselling is designed to pit “unplanned” against “planned”)

    Also money does help because useless rich parents can just shove their kids in a boarding school or hire a nanny and live their lives as if they never had a child in their lives.

  13. Avatar cb says:

    I also think that one needs to ask themselves what question they are actually asking and whether are they asking for their child or for themselves.

    Open adoption in a broader sense (eg in more traditional “adoptions such as Polynesian ones and Africans ones)have been around for ever and the children who are raised in the situations seem much less confused than many raised in Western adoptions. One suspects it is because these less formal adoptions understand that a natural bond forms between a child and the person who raises them – it seems to me that the architects of modern Western adoption never trusted that natural bond and felt the need to force it by making sure the children/parents bonded by default. It often seems to me that the more successful open adoptions are helped by parents who understand that their child will bond to them regardless of who else is in the picture (assuming others are functional). Those who feel it is a competition are those whose OAs will probably fail.

  14. Avatar c says:

    The process of how an emom comes to decide that “I’m not what’s best for you.” is important though.
    It is in the best interests of the child, mother and society that the expectant mother receives proper pastoral care that takes into account her intrinsic qualities and extrinsic circumstances and helps improve her situation regardless of the choice she eventually makes. In fact, the pastoral care must come first before that parenting decision should even be thought of being made.

    It isn’t possible for that pastoral care to be truly provided by an adoptioncentric organisation – there will always be an undercurrent of “you are not what’s best for your child” which is necessary for them to cultivate in the minds of their clients to be able to survive – true unbiased counselling would severely curtail their earning power. Whether the mother who goes through an adoptioncentric organisation ends up parenting or placing, that whole “you are not what’s best for your child” will end up being part of her psyche and may in fact affect that mother’s parenting of either this child or future/other children for the rest of her life. In fact, many agencies may be turning out women in worse psychological condition than before they went in.

    Considering the number of women who have children already who end up placing their latest child, one would think that proper pastoral care would be paramount so that the already existing family is improved. It seems to me too often that it is often the other way around. It is like pregnant emom and older child come in out of the snow and once the unborn child comes along, the pregnant emom and older child are kicked back out into the snow.

    Organisations able to provide true pastoral care are those that are able to survive with or without adoptions – ones where adoption is an auxillary service.
    Organisations also need to make sure that the client hasn’t been subjected to counselling early their pregnancy who have installed a message of not being best for their child purely because of the fact that their pregnancy was unplanned.

    Btw I read blogs by all types of bmoms/adoptees/APs etc and it is often when reading the very pro-adoption bmom blogs that one sees what little true counselling has really taken place.

  15. Avatar TAO says:

    ^ *how a child would see it in an open adoption…

  16. Avatar TAO says:

    Robyn C,

    But Robyn, I didn’t say that you always found a way to raise your child – but you tried to figure out a way to do so first before you chose adoption – that may be obvious or a first assumption to adults who live in the adult world.

    My comment was a direct response to Dawn saying does this statement make it better: “so I’m happy I made that decision because I believe it is/was in the best interest of this child.” from my first comment, and I (as a child asking why), don’t hear any I tried in it – just that you came up with a reason not to. It’s too pat, neat, tidy for a child to just accept, and that is what the post is about to me – how the child could see it in a closed adoption.

    It delves into the self-worth challenges you can face as a child who is adopted. Why wasn’t I kept questions, did you try, did you want to keep me, did you fight to keep me before you came to that decision. It isn’t what the end result ended up as – it boils down to was I worth keeping question.

  17. Avatar Greg says:


    I don’t think the decision to raise a child as a single parent or a teenage couple when you don’t have the means to do so at the time is any more or less brave a decision than it is to place a child for adoption. They are both tough decisions to make that have a life long impact on both the parent(s) and the child. I also don’t believe either decision shows the parent(s) love the child any more or less.

    The parent(s) is always going to wonder whether they may the right or wrong decision at the time. As I’ve read a lot of people say the life the child will have will be different either way but it’s impossible to say whether it’s better or worse.

  18. Avatar Jennifer W. says:

    Dawn, you are such a wise woman…. I appreciate your posts.. I really do!

  19. Avatar Robyn C says:

    TAO said, “Because, if you love someone you are willing to fight for them.”

    But sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, you say, “I’m not what’s best for you.” DS’s birthmother had an older son when she placed DS. She placed DS because she couldn’t give both of her children the lives she felt they deserved. She was right. Time has shown that. If she had kept DS, his life would be incredibly different, and he would be worse off for it. I can’t say why, because it’s not appropriate to share her story in public, but we all – DS’s birthmother, her mother, myself, and DS – know that’s true. The best thing she could have done for him was to let him go, and place him in a home where he could have a better life.

    I know that’s not always the case. Sometimes, adoption just means “different” and not “better.” Eight years in, and we can say for DS, it is better.

    So, no, you don’t always fight to hang on. That’s not necessarily love. Sometimes, you let go. If you don’t believe me, look at foster care – there are hundreds of thousands of kids whose parents do just enough to work their plan, but can’t actually parent. How much better might it be for at least some of those kids if their parents showed their love by letting go?

  20. Avatar AC H. says:

    Yes, thank you Chrissy.

  21. Lisa, we’re nothing is not about opening up conversations. 🙂 This is an interesting one.

  22. Avatar TAO says:

    Beth C said: “Why does it have to be “if I could have seen anyway to raise you I would have moved mountains to do so”? Am I wrong in assuming there are Birth Parents out there that COULD have raised their kids (for example some that are already parenting), but also knew that they wouldn not have been able to provide the KIND of life they wanted for their child, and so choose adoption? Why is that bad? Why isn’t that something an adoptee could feel gratefull for? Why is the BEST option to stay with the person that gave birth to you?”

    Because, if you love someone you are willing to fight for them.

    Because every adoption starts with loss of the child’s family.

    You find out there is another couple somewhere in the states who can give your children the kind of life you can’t, the world at their fingertips, an open invitation anywhere, all the love they could possibly need, and never want for anything for the rest of their life. It is obvious that your children would have a better life. Would you gladly offer your children to them to adopt, or, would you try your hardest to figure out a way to give them the best life you possibly can, before you considered that choice?

    If you made that choice without trying to figure out a way to keep them, do you think your children be grateful that you severed them, from you? Would they think it showed you loved them, if you didn’t try to find a way to keep them first?

    There is always someone better. Better is the enemy of best.

  23. Avatar Greg says:

    The point that Lori stresses in her book is that there is a difference between an open contact adoption and an open relationship adoption. Open contact is when the adoptive parents agree to provide updates and some visitation in some cases. Open relationship is where you have an open environment between adoptive parents, birth/first families and children. The two sets of parents have a relationship and trust one another.

    I have no experience with adoption but to me Open Adoption sounds like it’s making the best of a less than ideal situation. It doesn’t sound like its perfect but it’s better than a closed adoption. There are no birth/first parent searched or unanswered questions about a child’s background. They should have a better understanding of where certain traits come from as well.

    No family is perfect and divorces can be devastating or some negative effect on children. But it’s better than them growing up in a hostile household. The same can be said for open adoption. It’s not ideal but it’s better than a closed adoption if an adoption is going to happen.

  24. Avatar Crissy Benton says:

    2 of my cousins were adopted by our grandmother. They were NOT happy about seeing their mom all the time, especially because she got married, had more children (that she kept) and seemed to move on with her life ( in some sense, without them). It would have been better if she were in a different state and never really saw them. But she lived only an hour away and eventually in the same city. This was detremental to their development and they created a deep sense of resentment in their spirits.

    My father was not in my life for many years, once he was, I felt more rejection than when he was only known by a name and a picture. I felt so unwanted to see how he had been invlolved in the lives of my younger brothers and sisters and had been paying child support. I was forgotten and thrown to the side while he was involved with my younger sisters and brothers. Before he came in the picture, I was just fine not knowing him.

    It has taken the word of God to heal me in these areas and at 31, with 2 biological children and 1 adopted baby on the way, I continue to work to peel back the layers of hurt and rejection simply from what I discovered by “knowing” my father.

    Hopefully this helps someone.

  25. Avatar AnonAP says:

    This is really interesting. I wonder to some extent on how the great variations in what defines open adoption play out in these studies. I also kind of wonder about it in the context of the research laid out in this NYTimes article:

    In that context, it seems like open adoption could be helpful for an adoptee if it supports the development of a positive narrative. On the other hand, if the open adoption is just sort of incidental or not integrated into the family’s stories and the family’s perception of itself that it could be a neutral or burdensome thing. I think our community has a long way to go to understand all of the pros and cons of open adoption, and I’m looking forward to more research and discussion to come.

  26. Avatar Lisa R. says:

    I love that this conversation is out in the open. It feels like these questions get asked very quietly and secretively.

  27. Avatar Catherine says:

    I am an adoptee and am parent to one adopted child and one biological child (conceived with fertility treatments and sperm donor). I had a closed adoption but have a relationship with my birth family as an adult. My daughter is almost 6 came home at 27 months and we have an open adoption with her birth parents, that for the most part works well. I also enjoy knowing my birth family, but it is a double edged sword. I feel not a complete member of my birth family. If you want to interview me you can.

  28. Avatar c says:

    Just an observation. One thing I’ve noticed when online APs have more than one child and varying degrees of openness, the child in the less open OA often wishes their OA was as open as their more open OA sibling’s adoption, I’ve hardly seen any where the child wishes their OA was less open than their asiblings (and in those cases, it seems to be because of truly dysfunctional situations).

  29. Avatar c says:

    Btw I thought this young lady’s article (first linked to via was a thoughtful piece that tried very hard to portray both sides. It is both reassuring to those women who truly have no choice in relinquishment that their child can lead a good life but also points out that placing a child for “a better life” isn’t without consequence.

  30. Avatar c says:

    Obviously there are many variables but it is often worth looking at the best case scenarios to see why they are successful eg are they successful because of the people in them; are they helped along by good advice from adoption professionals etc etc.

    One often seems posts on forums and blogs about misunderstandings about a new open adoption, often starting right after the birth. Sometimes I wonder where on earth the agency is in all these dealings. A good agency should be helping their clients to successfully navigate their open adoptions and to keep them grounded in reality.
    One of the things re open adoption is that it is used as a hook and one needs to make sure that one’s agency is genuinely interested in helping clients navigate OA rather than just using OA to entice prospective eparents.

    Many agencies promote OA because they understand that women are more likely to relinquish if they can be promised contact through their life. If only closed adoptions were available, there would be far less women placing their children. Unfortunately, when OA is not presented in an honest way, it can just make things worse for everyong because they all go into it with false expectations. Also when adoption professionals are sending mixed messages eg on the one hand telling emoms how different today’s adoptions are because they are more open and then on the other hand having stuff like this in their training:

    “Open adoption is an example of a practice that could be carried out in either the humane or inhumane world. The first question to ask is:

    “Who is the openness for?”

    1. Some counselors think it is for the child, on the grounds that the birth mother would refuse the adoption if not granted the open context. Thus, open adoption becomes acceptable or desirable because it is an alternative that either preserves the life of the child outright, or at least provides a better daily atmosphere and opportunity for growth and development in a mature, stable family. But practically speaking, the welfare of the child is being held hostage by a mother who has chosen not to parent, but wants some degree of access to the child.

    It is difficult to predict, of course, the future relationship of the birth mother and the adoptive parents; the response of the child to having intermittent contact; the ongoing emotions of either watching others raise a child you gave birth to or watching the mother of a child you are raising come in and out of the picture.
    These relational complications, if attended to without guilt, resentment, self-pity, longing, rethinking, self-centeredness, etc., can qualify as being in the humane world. But the initial decision is a compromise in the name of acting in the best interests of the child. It is likely that in some cases, the compromise is essential. It is probably not essential in the majority of cases where it is considered initially.”

    Then it isn’t surprising that perhaps people become a bit cynical. These organisation promote OA ont he one hand because they know it will get the emoms in and then they consider them selfish for then wanting those OAs.

  31. Avatar Beth C. says:

    I read this thread this mornign and its been on my mind ever since. I have two adopted girls from birth. There are such strong feeling her from an adoptee, that I don’t understand, and I want to so that I can help my kids through it when/if they have similar feelings. Why does it have to be “if I could have seen anyway to raise you I would have moved mountains to do so”? Am I wrong in assuming there are Birth Parents out there that COULD have raised their kids (for example some that are already parenting), but also knew that they wouldn not have been able to provide the KIND of life they wanted for their child, and so choose adoption? Why is that bad? Why isn’t that something an adoptee could feel gratefull for? Why is the BEST option to stay with the person that gave birth to you? I just have a hard time thinking that all adoptees would feel so aweful about the fact they were adopted. Do you think some would be grateful and even happy their parent made that choose for them? What am I missing? And about the inheritance rights, when you legal adopt a person then they have your inheritance rights. They are not giving those up they are transfered to their “new” parents. This was something I vidily remember from our court herrings. Why is that big deal? I would assume that in the example the parents that were not abel to properly care for the kids would have a much smaller inheritence than the family that adopts them. Just trying to understand.

  32. Avatar Robyn C says:

    I think adoption hurts sometimes whether it’s open, closed, or somewhere in between. I know my son (almost 8) isn’t confused. He’s sad sometimes that his siblings don’t live with him. He’s upset that we don’t know anything about his birth father. But it makes him feel better to know that his birth mother, as well as his sister, aunt, cousin, and grandmother, all love him. Because we know what’s going on in their lives, especially his birth mother’s, he can see why she chose adoption, and, even at this age, understands why it was better for him. His birth mother isn’t “happy” that she placed him, but she is content that it was the right decision.

    Whether the adoption is open or closed, the child is still going to be adopted. I think open adoptions allow for a lot more communication and more questions answered, especially the one that seems to come up *all the time* in adoptee comments: Who do I look like? My son knows what his family looks like and will always have a relationship with them. It won’t confuse him. It might hurt him. But not having a relationship with them would hurt him too.

  33. Avatar Heather says:

    Last night my 6 year old (adopted from Ethiopia at 7 months old) said “Mom, did you know R from ballet class is from Ethiopia also?” I answered that I knew she was and then she replied “Well we weren’t born in the same place because I was born at the Black Lion Hospital.” I answered that both birth families were from the same part of Ethiopia and they were in the same ethnic group. She answered,”But R doesn’t know where she was born.”

    Apparently for my six year old knowing where she was born, the specifics of it:the city, the hospital, and details of her birth,is very important to her. She knows how she entered into this world. That information was given by her birth mother agreeing to an open adoption and telling us, via a translator and email the details of our daughter’s birth. My daughter’s first mom has photos of our daughter and knows without a doubt how loved our daughter is. I know I am on the winning side of this equation (with a hell of a lot of privilege), but openness seems a much better option.

  34. Avatar Pamela P. says:

    My sister was placed with our family through adoption (as an infant). When she was in her early 20s she found her biological parents and learned she had 2 full bio sisters. Years later she maintains a strong relationship with one of her sisters. It’s so great to see them together. They look like twins, they have so much in common, etc. The adoption was closed. They only knew about each other later in life. I always thought, it’s such a shame that they weren’t able to have that relationship all along. I always wanted the adoption of our daughter to be open primarily because of this so that if there were siblings involved that it would be best for them to be able to know each other. So people ask me, isn’t that confusing for her or them? And I say, well wouldn’t it be more confusing finally meeting each other after 18 years? I don’t know whether what we’re doing (the openness) is good or bad. It feels right.

  35. I really like what Jim Gritter has to say about your question: “Is it your experience that to be fully informed is to be confused?”

    But as I think this post through, I wonder if the inquirer wasn’t expressing confusion, but rejection. Open adoption being a reason to have to face that rejection over and over.

    Hmmmm….I agree that for some, that would be very very hard, no matter if there were contact or not. I suppose there is a range of response to such rejection, like there is with many human issues.

    The inquirer said: “How would I feel if I had always known my biological parents, and they acted happy and satisfied that someone else was raising me”?

    That’s an insight we parents in an open adoption need to be aware of. Of the 4 birth parents in our constellation, I can’t say that any are happy they placed. Most of them have expressed their losses to our children and their wishes that they could have parented at that time. There is much gray area between the extremes of “happy” and devastated.

    Short of happy, however, resilience is something we (both sets of parents) wish to model and cultivate in our children — but not to the extreme of callousness.

    In my case our children have been and will be able to address these issues as they come up directly with their first parents. I think that direct connection is an important facet of open adoption. The adopted person can go to where the answers are.

  36. Avatar marilynn says:

    I’ve brought this up before and people respond that then why would anyone want to adopt if they did not get to name the kid and become mom and dad? They’ll say then it’s just like babysitting and the kid would not feel like a full fledged member of the family that adopts. I’m like that’s not true – they’d have all the parental rights and the law is set up to treat the dependent adopted child exactly the same as a kid you’d have yourself, medical benefits, military death benefits, inheritance – nothing is stopping y’all from adding them to your family when you sign up to take care of them, they’d have every reason to feel like a full fledged member of their adopted family because legally they are with all the kinship rights and bells and whistles to prove it. So sit down with them not getting to be a full member of the family junk. They can be a full member of the adoptive family without having to give up membership in their own family and without having to sacrifice their identities. We make them do that as payment. Cause listen to those words “why would anyone want to adopt if they did not get to be the kids real parents?” “why would they do all the work of raising the kid only just to be unpaid baby sitters?” “I’m mommy I’m the one who does all the work her biologicals neglected her.” All that you see? It’s like they won’t do the work unless they get the title and the papers. That is not fair to the adopted person. It is not suppose to be about the rights of the parent anyway. As people as free citizens they deserve care while they are minors and people would still adopt people would still foster the world is filled with loving and caring people who will help them without taking anything away from them in exchange for that love and care I believe that. I for one would rather my tax dollars go to pay for our state to fund the care of children whose parents rights have been terminated than try and sell them off to private families who will take away their rights and identities. I know that kids deserve to be cared for without loosing their kinship or their rights and I don’t mind having that safety net there for them if there are not people willing to adopt them without taking away their identities and rights. I don’t think their freedom should be for sale and I’m just fine funding and underwriting their care until they reach adulthood if there really was nobody willing to do it unless they got to put their names on their birth records and terminate their kinship in their bio families. Of course adoptions should be open.

  37. Avatar marilynn says:

    The good part of adoption is that a disinterested third party is supposed to positively identify the minor’s biological parents and attempt to determine that the reason for letting someone else raise them is legitimate, not commercial or altruistic in nature and also not coerced. I don’t think courts take that part of the investigation quite seriously enough really, but the protection is supposed to be there and it is a good thing. Also they are supposed to try and find another family member to care for the child before allowing the adoption to go through. Another good thing about adoption is the background checking to make sure the adopting party is well suited to the child and that there should be no money being exchanged for the placement. All this needs to be beefed up to prevent minors from being given as gifts to needy people etc. It should be about finding people to raise minors as a last resort not as a way to find children for people to raise.

    The bad thing about adoption is that the child has to give anything up at all in order to be taken care of and raised to adulthood. Here is an example of what they loose if permanent placement is made: Let’s say the child’s parents are neglectful and its dangerous for them to be in their care and there are no relatives able to take care of the kid; the parents rights are terminated and they become wards of the state, but the children’s birth records are not changed to eliminate the names of the parents. This is critical because that means the child’s kinship rights remain intact despite the tragic loss they’ve experienced they are still legally recognized as siblings to their parents other children. They would still get social security death benefits if their parents died while they were minors and they’d still inherit of they passed away. Their family can still obtain copies of their vital records and vice versa. IMO there is no reason why the parents should not still be ordered to pay support the way plenty of parents do when they loose custody in a divorce and have only visitation or supervised visitation. The child is still their responsibility to provide for even if they can’t be in their physical custody for safety reasons. That all makes sense. A kid that ages out of foster care ages out with their kinship rights fully intact. It’s very easy for me to reunite them with their family. But finding siblings who were placed in permanent adoptive homes sucks because in order to get them adopted and off the state dole, the state sells out the kid’s identity and kinship rights. The state allows the adopting party to give the child a new identity, the birth record is changed and the person looses all kinship rights in their family. It does not matter if they are allowed to see their family or to know who they are as is common in open adoption – they still loose their right to be legally recognized family, not just for 18 years but for life. It’s like they have a job to do which is to pretend to be the as if born to child of the people who adopt them when they did not have to give that up in order to become a ward of the state and receive care when the state was providing it. It’s like the state says, in exchange for taking this kid off our hands, we will let you put your names on their birth record and will refer to you as their mother and father. So it’s like the kid does not deserve to receive care and support from anyone without having to do a job and be those people’s forever kid. They have to stop being who they are and stop being their own parents child or nobody will take care of them. But that is not true, people will and do take care of them without taking their identity away – the state does it, the foster care system does it which means they do deserve it. Obviously they don’t have to loose anything any rights because every child born deserves the care of their bio parents without having to pretend to be someone they are not but adoption makes them have to perform a service they loose their identity and rights in exchange for care and that is so wrong. Open adoption is like a bone a compromise so they won’t notice or care that they still are not legally being treated fairly. Cause if your going to tell them the truth about having two families why not let them live it? Why not leave their birth record and their name and identity alone and just have the adoption decree stand on its own? The adoption decree is the document that proves the people who adopt have all the parental rights. They don’t need to take away the identity or the kinship rights from the adopted person in order to have the parental rights. We need to look at how we turn adopted people into second class citizens with fewer rights by what we offer people in exchange for adopting. People adopt in order to become parents and that is the wrong thing about it. In order to turn them into parents it requires adjusting the identity of the adopted person, falsifying their records and making them give up their legal kinship and true identity, not just for 18 years but for their whole life.

    You gotta realize that of all the families I’ve reunited as happy as they are they are not legal kin because the state sold their kinship out. So the open adoption is a bit of a sham and a bone you know? If your going to tell a person the truth let them live it let them keep their identity and their kinship rather than letting it be purchased in exchange for raising them. A child should not have to do a GD thing to deserve food and shelter and love and care. Nothing should be given up or lost


  38. Avatar TAO says:


    Not really, because there is no – if I could have seen anyway to raise you I would moved mountains to do so – in that message. I think I have told you before about mom’s face crumbling, and tears streaming down her face at the mere thought of what any of our mothers went through. I needed to see that automatic instinctive reaction to the thought of it – even if that was mom’s perspective rather than directly from my mother. I needed to know that is likely how my mother felt also.

    Perhaps I am just from another era – but I think that not being kept is still something an adoptee can struggle with – and I don’t think your statement solves that – especially not in the teen years that is riddled with insecurity, and wanting to fit in.

  39. Avatar Cynthia says:

    I have a now adult daughter adopted at 1 yr. and we have talked about this openness. We think openness has it’s own share of troubles as well as a closed adoption. I would like to see what other adoptees would have to say about it.

  40. Avatar TAO says:

    I sat on the fence of open adoptions for a long time before I decided they were okay. A lot of my concern was the same – would I really want my mother or father “Happy” with the situation. I doubt any adoptee would want their parents of birth to be damaged to the point of not having a life – but would they really want to know they do the happy dance about adopting out their child?

    That concern also applies to any adoption today where the Mother speaks to how positive adoption is, and, promotes adoption.

    Open adoption has just as many con’s as closed, the pro’s seem to outweigh the con’s in the long-term, over the lifetime of the adoptee. That matters but parents should really listen to what the adoptee in the post has to say because it is a valid concern – finding the right balance is the job of the adults to not allow it to be seen by the child as either / or – rather both – truthfully and with great honesty.

    I think the concept of balance and acceptance of hard emotions isn’t allowed in many on-line adoption discussions today. Reason: they aren’t positive and adoption is beautiful (of course except that it’s not either/or). Comments that don’t agree with you are seen as negative, only cheering/agreeing is allowed.

    Many want everything to be positive in adoption, and it isn’t. No amount of only hearing the positive side, only seeing adoption as positive, speaking the right positive language in talking to your child will remove the hard parts – it just makes sure you won’t be included if, or when, they feel them.

    • TAO, I don’t know of many first parents who would say they are happy about having placed, but many who would say it was the best decision at that time. I suppose the extension of that statement would be “so I’m happy I made that decision because I believe it is/was in the best interest of this child.” Does that sentiment change your perspective?

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