While open adoption seems to be the more trendy option for those pursuing adoption, adoptions can definitely still vary from this sort. Unlike years past, open adoption has replaced the archaic idea that a baby should not ever know about the adoption, nor should he or she be in contact with her birth family. Open adoption allows families to connect, and more importantly for the adoptee to have access to his or her origins at will.
However, despite the increase in open adoptions, there are also some that close, whether it is written into the “contract” or by force of will by a member in the relationship. When an adoption closes, there is a vehement belief that it is in the best interest of the child. However, it can be argued genuinely that closing an adoption for any other reason than proven harm, could be a terrible mistake and wind up causing more damage than waiting out the storm, so to speak.
Adoptive families have a obligation to make sure that they do everything within their power to maintain the growing relationship between themselves and the birth family. Birth parents obviously play a role in this too, but since the adoptive parents are the ones at the helm of this relationship, the responsibility lies with them. This maintenance is not necessarily for either the birth parents or the adoptive family, but for the adoptee who should not be placed in the middle of the relationships. Consideration should be given to the adoptee, no matter his or her age, and how backing off from the relationship or closing it could wind up impacting him or her later in life, or even in the here and now.
Once that responsibility is accepted, it should be noted that as the child grows there will be a fluctuation in power. Adoptive parents should be willing to allow the child to take the reins, and grow the relationship in a way that is best for them. If the adoptee feels that there is hesitation, or uncertainty from the his adoptive parents, he most certainly will struggle with maintaining a relationship with his birth family out of fear of further rejection. Thus, we have further established that the responsibility for keeping the relationship healthy and beneficial to the adoptee.
What do you do when there are issues in your open adoption? The honest truth is that you treat it like you would treat any other familial relationship. When you are upset at your extended family, most of us don't go out of our way to close them out permanently. Usually there is a cooling down period, followed by communication regarding feelings, and then we move on to establishing boundaries. Sometimes, it's hard to do this, but when we all feel safe in these relationships, they flourish. The same can be said with the open adoption relationship. Boundaries should be stated, and flexible. No one should be in a camp that refuses to move, or develop with the relationship. When this happens, it becomes a power struggle, and less of a relationship.
When an adoption closes, birth parents have no options. If you have no intention of maintaining an open adoption for the child's entire life, then that should be stated at the very beginning. If you enter into an open adoption, the idea is that it should remain as such- not for the adults benefit, but simply, for the child. The truth is, one day, the child will come to know how it all played out, and if we fail to acknowledge this, we are playing a tricky game that will surely wind up burning us in the end.
How do you keep it all open? It's simple:
Make the openness a part of the child's life from the beginning. Don't make ultimatums to one another. Be willing to listen when things are getting tough. If you don't agree, and the situation is escalating, find a neutral mediator. Think about the impact of the situation, and how it will play out for the adoptee. Ask your child what he or she would like to do, and allow honesty. State flexible boundaries, and revisit them as necessary. Never lash out in anger, and give each other the proper space to feel the very incredible emotions that are associated with adoption.
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.