Open adoption is not always easy. OK, let’s be honest–they’re probably never “easy”. Open adoptions bring together people of different interests, often different socioeconomic levels, races, ages, etc. An added complication is the unequal power position of the adoptive parents and first parents. Once the adoption is complete, the adoptive parents hold most of the cards. Few states enforce open adoption agreements, and even states that do are hesitant to overrule decisions made by the child’s parents.
To add further complication, both sets of parents bring into the relationship a significant amount of loss and grief. Adoptive parents often have struggled for years with infertility and miscarriage, while birth parents have relinquished their child. Loss, especially significant losses such as these, can make it difficult for people to bring their best self to a relationship.
The Key to an Open Adoption
I loved a line in this week’s Creating a Family show by guest Brenda Romanchik, birth mother and adoption therapist, when talking about how we define open adoption. She said many people confuse openness in adoption with open adoption. For a true open adoption to happen there has to be some degree of relationship, while openness in adoption is mostly meeting contractual obligations.
Ponder on that—it’s all about relationship.
Frequency of contact nor type of contact aren’t the main point, so long as there is a relationship.
How to Make Open Adoption “Work”
When open adoptions works it is usually solely because both sets of parents have decided the relationship is worth making it work–worth the time, effort, and yes, sometimes frustration because it is in the best interest of the child they both love. They make the conscious effort to push down their fear and insecurities and need to control. Perhaps most important, they make a commitment that they are not going to throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble.
What if You Don’t Like Your Child’s Birth Parent?
We all have people in our lives that are hard to like. Most of us have people in our families that would fit that bill as well. Romanchik’s advice is to look for at least one thing that you like about your child’s birth mother or birth father and focus on that.
The key is to shift your focus from what you to don’t like to what you do like. And remember, if your initial response is that there is nothing to like about your child’s first mom or dad, your child inherited certain traits, characteristics, and temperaments from these people. You love your child, thus there should be something for you to like/respect about your the people who gave birth to them.
The second major key is to use the Creating a Family’s #1 Tip for a Making Open Adoptions Work to evaluate your actions in relation to your child’s birthparents. It’s easy and it works!
This week’s show on Creating Relationships in Open Adoption (even when it’s hard) is worth the listen.Rupert Ganzer