Open adoptions are all about relationships, and like all relationships, they are often complicated, but let’s be honest– open adoptions can take “complication” to a whole new high (or would that be low). Birth parents and adoptive parents often come from different backgrounds with different life experiences with varying degrees of “power” in the relationship.
People often say that many relationships such as marriages and friendships and in-laws have differences, so what’s the difference? While it is true that many relationships are built around or survive through differences, it is also true that there is usually more shared common ground and societal expectations to smooth the way.
Given all this messiness, why bother with open adoptions? Why muddy up your life having contact with your child’s birth parents? Why run the risk of confusing children or making the adoptive parents feel less than biological parents…as if they were simply babysitters of someone else’s child. These were the questions being asked back when open adoptions first began in domestic infant adoption in the US, and questions that the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) was designed to answer when it began in 1987.
I have long been a fan of the MRARP research project and we interviewed the two lead researchers of MTARP on a Creating a Family show. Dr. Hal Grotevant and Dr. Ruth McRoy are the preeminent experts on open adoption and how we currently practice adoption in the US. Being the research geek that I am, I was beyond excited to be able to interview them, but even if you don’t share my enthusiasm for research, you will thoroughly enjoy this show.
The Hassle of Relationships
Some open adoption relationships are smooth, easy, and enjoyable for everyone involved. Others are…not. These fraught open adoptions require a deep breath and prayer before every encounter. Most are somewhere in between. I don’t know about you, but this pretty well describes relationships that already exist within my biological family.
Why do we accept these complications in our biological family, but become overwhelmed when they happen with our child’s birth parents? Is it because we view the relationship with our bio relatives as “required”, and the relationship with our child’s birth parent as optional?
Why Go Through the Work of Open Adoption
Why go through all the bother of open adoption? In essence, that was the question the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project set out to answer 27 years ago when it began. They have continued to interview the same adoptees, birth mothers, and adoptive parents to see how open adoptions evolve. Their findings are fascinating. The bottom line is that we go through the hassle of open adoption relationships because it is best for our kids, kind for birth parents, and good for us.
It’s All About the Attitude
Success in open adoption is no different from success in any other relationship—it requires commitment, communication, and flexibility…and the greatest of these is commitment. In the last year, I have seen adoptive parents consider closing an adoption for the following reasons:
- Birth parents calling the child by the name they gave him, rather than the name his adoptive parents gave him.
- Birth father referring to the child as “my child” on Facebook.
- Birth parents not consistently showing up for a scheduled visit.
You will have to decide for yourself if these reasons justify closing an adoption, but I somehow doubt that these parents would cut out a biological relative for similar “offenses”.
This brings me to my #1 Rule for a Successful Open Adoption. It’s called the Slightly Annoying Grandmother rule, and you really must check it out.
How would you rate the ease of your open adoption relationship? Feel like friends? Dread each meeting? Somewhere in between?
First published in 2014; Updated in 2017
Image credit: Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen
Add Your Comment
This is very frustrating. We are “cheer-leaded” into open adoption and find ourselves having to parent the bio-parents and the adopted child. Please stop referring to bio parents as similar or just like family members that we differ from. Many bio parents have huge needs and the society pushes this onto the adoptive parents to figure out. Sorry, just frustrated with transient bio parents that confuse our child, stress the family and prevent the adoptive family unit from fully forming.
We get it. Some open adoptions can be a lot of work – some nuances indeed can make the bio parents quite different from your family. And yes, some of them have significant challenges. However, when you consider the broader definition of “open adoption” to include a spirit of openness and a willingness to work together to keep the child’s best interest at the center of the story, there are many things that can be done to keep the relationship open and moving forward.
One resource we love is Lori Holden’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, which we discussed in this course on open adoption. Additionally, we recommend these tips to help you manage your expectations and work on the relationship.
“open adoptions can take “complication” to a whole new high (or would that be low). Birth parents and adoptive parents often come from different backgrounds with different life experiences with varying degrees of “power” in the relationship.”
Way to write a derisive condesecending derogative snide power intro, that sums up a toxic adopters psychopathology perfectly. Want the baby but not the story while nit dealing with your own pathetic story.
Actually in my experience it’s the mothers (who you designate in your power adopter reductive coloniser language as ‘birth mother’) who is the intelligent astute loving and very capable and far superior mother, locked into a legal entrapment over her own born infant with a toxic dishonest ruthless power tripper adopter who hasnt come to terms with their own infertility/reproductive challenges/unresolved psychomatic family issues.
Adopters often lack boundaries, get off on seeing others hurt, see themselves as enlightened or superior when really they privileged to strike at a point in time and have no other qualification of superiority except in their narcissism, their own need being everyone else’s problem and burden to bear (ie their lack, infertility / cervix incompetence/etc) .
So really adopters such as you are cowards, manipulators and liars to yourself as much as anyone else. You expect someone to relinquish their baby to your pathetic snide self and then belittle the mother to compensate for your own infertility/issues while presenting yourself as ‘lovely’ people.
Often writing articles , columns, books such as Fast Track Adoptions’ to reinforce your self righteous baby snatch and to glorify yourself. Because you know you have someone elses baby and you are keeping that mother and child frim each other because of your own lack. In fact you use isolation and separation of closed adoption to try to reinforce your ownership and control over that acquired child.and are quite happy for the acquired chikd (someone else’s child) to suffer identity bewilderment and think they are unloved for your own comfort (and did i mention cowardly vicious heart)
Guess what, you’re transparent.. Hardly ideal parent material. More like needing go to therapy and deal with your own competitve mother-nihilist issues.
And have you ever thought how much trauma your infertility/entitlement to adopt psychosis has caused? Not just on the mother, child and first family, but generations to come?
Pethaps it’s to teflect upon that, and tge industry your.demand has put upon others – the young women not even in their reproductive years being earmarked as target groups by adoption brokers in an created to meet the demand of fulfilling your ‘need’?
You want to patholgise and belittle mothers with your off backhand articles. Well let us pathologise you. Because your article reveals you have many issues. And i pity the child brought up under your toxic psychosexual pathology.
Here’s to all the beautiful mothers our there, big shout out to those who were coerced into a situation where they were engaging with loving community minded ideal of adoption and adopters and instead got vicious manipulative condescending nisogynist snark bags instead.
Special note to author – go see a psychotherapist to deal with your unresolved infertility and other issues and stop inflicting your vileness on others . It’s time the psychopathology of adopters such as you is put under the microscope and looked at and identified. To protect mothers and childten and families from being predated up9n by yout type. Anything less is misogyny.
Yes darling YOU are the “low”.
Adoption. Mothers don’t bother with the hassle of sociopathic competitive belittling derogative cruel adopters . Your children are always better off with you. Save yourself the nightmare and the hassle and the hatefest of adoption. You dont want these competitive psychos in your life and least of all anywhere near your newborns. Spare yourself, your child, your future children and grandchildren from the ongoing trauma, lies, displacement and belittling that is adoption. And save your child and yourself and your family the nightmare that adoption is .
Also be very aware that by relinquishing tour child you rusk and set your child up for loss to adoption (and so the trauma continue) as well as all the other dysfunctions and trauma of adoption.
Adoption is not guardianship. It is all about ownership. And it attracts that type of person. Who wants to own a child. Not care and share with the childs best needs in mind.
I wouldnt let adopters in to have a cup of tea with me, let alone look after my own born. Don’t allow such sociopaths in your life .
So, in short, right back at you. Ugly human. Cheers
Mother : mother of the child
Adopter: person who gains someone else’s child through the legal process of adoption, changes the identity of the child, gets given a false birth certificate even though has never guven birth and is nit genetically related, has the legal power to exclude the child from his/her own family for nongood reasin except own nuerosis. Often has unresolved psychosexual issues, is comoetitve, small minded and is creating own mother identity on false claim which develops a hostile nuerosis and fabrications of truth. Known to be controlling and socioapthic. Known to have very little empathy and generally aggressively classist.
Apologies tto any carers who axtually are caring non judgement inclusive genuinely empathic peiple to the mothers in this brutal misogynist and outdated practice of adoption
Kim Taylor and Debbie
Many strides have been made in the treatment of mental illness in the last few years. I suggest you avail yourselves of some of those treatments at the earliest opportunity, by either getting on some meds ( could be anything from anti psychotics to good old Midol), or getting a qualified psychotherapist/psychologist to switch the ones you are presently on, because clearly they are not doing the trick.
As to the question of whether open adoptions are worth the hassle, I would like to say yes, but after reading KT and Debbie’s delightful views on said subject, I would have to respond with a resounding NO. Who would want to keep contact with people who hold such toxic views about the people who are parenting their children? How would/could it possibly be good for children to be exposed to such attitudes? If this was a traditional two parent family that could not live together due to divorce, would one parent be expected to tolerate such abuse from the other parent in order to keep that parent’s relationship with the children intact? I think we all know the answer to that. And yet these BPs are so surprised when their open adoptions close. Who would want to maintain a connection of any kind with someone so abusive.
At the end of the day, I still believe that open adoption is worth the effort, but only if the birth parent wake up and realize that they have a responsibility to act like adults, too, for the sake of the children that they now share with the APs. For the sake of the children you claim to love so much, GROW UP.
P.S.Hate has no place in any kind of adoption, but especially in an open adoption. Thank you.
as an adoptee we will always be more connected to our bio families and the more adopters try to stop that natural connection the more we despise them… Adoption is something we do not choose and is only really our prison till we are of age to escape.
“Birth parents calling the child by the name they gave him, rather than the name his adoptive parents gave him.
Birth father referring to the child as “my child” on Facebook.
Birth parents not consistently showing up for a scheduled visit.”
Your adopted child was not the product of your egg and sperm, your adopted child will not carry your genetic memory, your traits, your personality, your interests and so forth. If you are unable to accept that then do not seek out adoption as a way to help cop with your infertility.
Adoption is a process of aiding and helping a child who’s biological parents cannot take care of them. They are not “used babies” to claim ownership of to when you can’t conceive the child you originally wanted. Adoptees often face “weird” and complicated relationships with their birth families as well as well as their adopted families. Many wonder why their “real mothers” gave them up. Who their “real fathers” really are, if they have any siblings and so forth. Open adoption helps answer those questions, and allows the child to grow up with their extended families so they will not have to awkwardly meet them in adulthood, long after their grandparents and even their parents have passed. Allowed these kids to no longer have any angst or anxiety of if their birthparents are still alive and where could they be? Why would you even consider taking that away from them because their birthfather or birthmother, considers their biological child that they’d conceived with their own flesh, “their child” on social media? Doesn’t that scream more of insecurities on your part, and how you’re projecting them on your adopted children?
It is beyond me that anyone who is truly thinking of the well-being of the adopted child would comprise or even overlook the child’s well-being for the emotional convenience or “work convenience” of the adoptive parents. As if the entire process is just about so you can have the parenthood experiences you want. You are there for *them. They are not here, for *you. It is just completely and totally beyond me.
Our daughter has been with us since she was 2 years and 9 months. She is 6 now. We have an open adoption with her paternal and maternal sides of the family. It is difficult and stressful at times. After a visit, our daughter typically has lots of questions that are sometimes painful for us on a selfish level (It would be so nice if she were just all ours with nothing to muddy the waters!)…Just being honest. As our daughter gets older, she is processing her adoption on a different level and feeling the loss of not being raised by her birth parents at times. This too is hard. No one wants to see their child hurt in any way. We always wonder if this pain would be less for her if she were not having regular visits with her birth families. All of this being said, there are some amazingly touching and positive moments in our interactions with the birth families. When we get letters from the birth families telling us how thankful and meaningful their visits are, my heart swells with happiness and a confidence that we are doing the right thing. When I think about the fact that my daughter will never question where she came from or wonder if she looks like anyone in her birth family, I feel a sense of peace. For us, open adoption is difficult, but my heart tells me it is the right thing to do.
Good for you mama. Listen to your heart!
Everyone involved with adoption should listen to this show…