Many people say, especially those outside of the adoption community, that they could never be in an open adoption. The reasons vary but mostly, it’s the idea of openness with the birthfamily that seems to scare them off the most. Even potential adopting couples will admit to having some hesitation with the idea of full openness as it does seem a little harrowing in concept. However, is it as scary as it seems?
The truth is, open adoption is not always easy. It’s not going to be a perfect relationship from day one, and like any other relationship out there, it will take work to get everyone on the same page, and jive together. Sometimes this can happen over a period of months, but for most, it takes years as you quietly get to know one another. It’s important that both the birth parents and adoptive parents have confidence in the relationship and each other, as this will reflect for the adoptee, and provide a safe environment for him or her to be nurtured in various ways by both sides.
A lot of adoptees struggle with being torn between the two sets of parents, much like a child in a divorce, but to a more severe degree. Some will feel that the acceptance of one will lead to the rejection of the other, or they fear that there could be other repercussions in their relationships should they grow close to their birth family. When the birth family and the adoptive family have a love for one another that is genuine and true, the adoptee will see this and will not have to fear that he or she will need to choose between either set of parents. This sort of confidence is an incredibly integral part of the open adoption relationship. If her adoptive parents trust them, and have no issue with her trusting them, there is little to no reason to fear that there could be a negative backlash for the adoptee.
Ultimately, open adoption is for the benefit of the child, but it’s also a way for the birthparents to continue to feel secure in their decision-making. Perhaps they were coerced into the decision, but the openness of the adoptive family can reassure every one in an adoption that their child is growing, healthy and is loved. Furthermore, what child doesn’t need more love? When you have the birthfamily around it ensures that from every angle possible the child is surrounded by love, and persons who will support him or her through life.
Flexibility is essential in an open adoption. We set ourselves up for failure when we expect that the adoption will never evolve, and certainly, for anyone in life, this is never a good attitude to have. Open adoptions will change just like every other aspect of our life. Sometimes we’ll know that a change is coming, and we’ll be able to prepare for it, but other times, we’ll have to go with the flow, and find our new source of normal as life throws curveballs at us. When we are inflexible, we show that we are unable to have confidence in the stability of the relationships with in the triad. Good, solid relationships will be able to withstand the flow of life and the new adventures it throws at us. Open adoption is most certainly an adventure where we should expect inclines and rough patches.
What can happen when you don’t open yourself to investing in a relationship with the birthfamily or adoptive parents? It can seem as though everything will work out just fine for a brief period of time. However, as the child ages, that emotional investment will start to prove successful. If the open adoption was built on a platform of sand, you will see over time that the relationship will not stabilize, and when issues arise, the house is likely to seep into the abyss. This is absolutely not good for the child, nor is it the actual version of open adoption.
Open adoption is about forming life long relationships that will be for the benefit of all. It’s not about territory, or roles in terms of who is parent and who is not. It’s a branching of family, and when we look at any other way, we can see how some open relationships fail. Of course, we should obviously be thinking primarily for the adoptee, but even in the midst of fortifying these relationships we can find another version of family that will bring us joy and love.
It doesn’t have to be a scary road, open adoption. It can have it’s ups and downs, like any other relationship, but if everyone has their hearts in the right place, and is committed to respecting one another, and building life long familial relationships, then open adoption can be a beautiful concept for even the strongest doubter.
Credits: Danielle Barnsley-Cervo
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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.