Sunday, March 13, 2011

Open Adoption: Visits

Miss E walking around in my high heels.
My family is excited about our upcoming visit with both our girls' biological families.

Many people who are new to adoption or those who don't know much about adoption are often shocked and uncomfortable when they learn we are part of two very open adoptions. They don't understand why in the world we would allow our girls to see their biological families. There is the assumption that birth families should just move on or get over the adoption. There are also assumptions that birth families are bad, immature, detrimental, etc. people and therefore do not deserve to see their biological children.

What these individuals fail to realize:

---Biological parents do not "get over" the loss of their children, even when that loss is voluntary. My daughters will ALWAYS have a place in the hearts of their biological families, and my daughters will always have a part of them with their biological families.

---Birth parents are often every day people. To assume that someone who places a child for adoption is by default (according to what or whom? media stereotypes I guess....) someone who is addicted to drugs, is sexually promiscuous, isn't responsible, lacks ambition, etc. is simply an assumption. I knew a woman for years----a professional, a Christian, an active community member, a mother, a wife---who revealed to me she had placed a baby for adoption. You never know who is a birth parent.

---Open adoptions can involve loving, stable, trusting relationships.

---One thing is always in common---the biological parents and the adoptive parents love the child.

---Open adoption is a privilege for our family (and for many). To be able to foster and grow relationships between adoptive parents, biological family members, and the child is a blessing.

---Open adoptions yield continuous family history, medical history, culture, etc. that allows the adoptee (the child) to know where he/she came from and to grow in his/her identity as an adoptee. Some research suggests that relationships that yield information is so important to adoptees.

We were not always gung-ho about open adoption, as many adoptive parents are not at the beginning of their adoption journey, but the more we learned and read about open adoption and how past adoptions in earlier decades were detrimental to birth mothers, we knew open adoption was for us.

Open adoption, as I often tell others, requires that adoptive parents be very honest with themselves about the reality of their family situation. My daughters have TWO mothers, TWO fathers, siblings who don't live in the same homes. And that is ok. I cannot pretend I am either of my girls' sole mother. Though my role and their biological mothers' roles and responsibilities are quite different, reality is reality. And to not accept that reality, to not embrace it, will, I believe cause harm to the adoptee, insecurities in relationships, and eventually, major issues.

Many adoptive mothers (present or waiting) tell me, "I could NEVER be part of an open adoption." But we have to remember, raising kids isn't about us. It's not about our insecurities regarding infertility or loss of a pregnancy or fear of the adoptee's birth mother. It's about the child and raising that child to be the best adult he or she can be and sometimes (dare I say often?) that involves "sucking it up" and entering into an open adoption.

I strongly believe that knowledge is power. Learning about open adoption and growing in the idea of the possibility of a lasting relationship between biological and adoptive family members can be beneficial to all.

A totally open adoption isn't for everyone, and I do not think an adoptive family should ever agree to a open adoption situation they aren't comfortable with simply to get a child. And I do not ever believe in exposing a child to unsafe situations/people. BUT, I often hear so many excuses as to why open adoption isn't for an adoptive family, and their reasons are often oozing the truth: that they are too scared, too uneducated, too selfish.
Adoptive families need to consider the possibilities, including the multiple positive ones that can come from open adoption and work to make some adoption openness possible if the situation is safe for everyone involved. Possibilities might include pictures and letters, e-mail, texts, phone calls, and/or visits. There are various degrees of openness, but many can provide what I have read adoptees crave: information.
Our open adoptions didn't go from 0 to 60. With Miss E, we started with snail mailed pictures and letters, moved to include e-mails and texts, and now visits. With Baby E, our adoption moved more quickly into openness, but we felt secure and confident in our relationship for that to happen. Visits are joyous occasions, and we are honored that both of our girls are able to see their biological parents. They are too young now to remember those visits, but we'll continue with them, taking lots of pictures, and making memories for all.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on open adoption, and I hope that no matter where your adoptions are or could be, that you never cease to learn, grown, and embrace change.


  1. My son's parents parents did not want him as part of their lives, but we kept in contact via letters and phone calls with one of his aunts. I was "too scared" to do an open adoption with my older daughter. But God let me try again with our most recent adoption. It has been a blessing!!! We tell everyone we adopted three girls and a birthmom! :)

  2. There's such a spectrum of birth parents out there. I've worked with so many adoptive families from various paths and frankly, so many adoptive parents' experiences aren't as positive. We have adoptions both ways and I see the benefits of our choices in each situation. It's great when openness b can work out for the child. The birth parents know my husband and I are the parents. My kids don't have 2 moms or 2 dads; they have a Mommy, Daddy and birth parents whom we refer to by their names. In our open adoption, having this established had made it easier for everyone.


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