Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear Sugar: The Pros and Cons of Open Adoption

Dear Sugar:

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, my hubby and I wanted to adopt a baby.  So we called an agency, did the interviews and background checks, got fingerprinted, had a home inspection, and then filled out THE checklist.   You know it.   The one that basically says "what do you want in an adoption?"
We swiftly checked "semi open."  It seemed like the best route.  Keep it simple, but not close the door.  Play it safe and as easy as possible.   

But our first adoption ended up being open, quite quickly and naturally, and from there, we only wanted open adoptions.  We got educated on openness and decided it was best.   

Fast forward to today:  four children, four open adoptions.    And today I want to tell you the straight-up, non sugar-coated pros and cons of open adoption.  Because someone needs to tell you.   

Pro:  Openness means the adoptee (and/or parents) gets to directly ask the birth parent(s) questions.
Con:  The truth isn't always told or answers given, even though the adoption is open.  

Pro:  Openness means fewer wonderings and "what ifs."
Con:  Openness doesn't eradicate adoptee fantasies of what could have been.  

Pro:  Openness means the birth parent(s) can see how the child is doing in person.
Con:  Seeing the child in person can be hurtful and simultaneously helpful (like hearing the child call for "mom" or "dad" or reaching for them).

Pro:  Openness means the child has a cultural AND genetic tie to birth family members.
Con:  It can be awkward when the two families' values, speech, mannerisms, etc. are different, perhaps making the adoptee feel the need to choose.

Pro:  Openness takes away a lot of shame and secrecy.
Con:  Some shame and secrecy can still exist; open adoption isn't the "fix all."  

Pro:  Openness can be positive and maintained when the birth and (adoptive) parents make the effort early on. 
Con:  Hurt feelings can arise when the openness changes, by the choice of any of the parents or the adoptee.  

Pro:  Openness can benefit all triad members in many ways.
Con:  Open adoption is a TON of work for all parties involved, creating a lot of stress, anxiety, uncertainty.

Pro:  Openness is an ongoing decision that has flexibility.
Con:  When one part of the triad drops or decreases the openness, there are BIG and difficult feelings for those left to deal with the aftermath. 

Pro:  Openness can be great in-the-moment (such as a visit).
Con:  Children (adoptees) can struggle for days or weeks before and after a visit, even when the visit is positive.   

Pro:  Openness requires all members to work to communicate, offer grace, and embrace empathy.  
Con:  It can be exhausting.   

Pro:  Openness with each birth family means some level of fairness between your children.
Con:  Openness is a spectrum, and when it's not "even" between children, it can cause hurt feelings, grief, and stress.   

Pro:  Openness helps all triad members to expand their hearts and establish healthy boundaries and expectations.   
Con:  Openness doesn't automatically mean these things are accomplished, and sometimes there are high expectations that aren't ever met.  

Pro:  Openness has become less of an anomaly and more of a norm.
Con:  Openness is sometimes used by unethical adoption professionals to "sell" adoption to expectant mothers.  

Pro:  Openness should primarily benefit the child, and it's beautiful when this is understood.
Con:  When openness becomes centered on the comfort of the birth or (adoptive) parents, the best interest of the child becomes lost.   

Pro:  Openness means the child sees the birth and (adoptive) parents as a united "team."
Con:  Open adoption is not co-parenting, and sometimes this is misunderstood and causes hurt feelings.  

Pro:  Openness becomes a norm, letting the adoptee know he/she doesn't have to choose between the sets of parents.
Con:  There are simply some things that open adoption cannot "fix" or change.    

Pro:  Openness is a great concept, making sense in theory.
Con:  Openness is complicated, bittersweet, and there is NO road map.

Pro:  Openness can lead one to put forth one's best effort in order to honor another.
Con:  Sometimes this means feeling extraordinary pressure to be someone you're not, to be a "super" parent (whether birth or adoptive), even being inauthentic.  

What would you add to the pros and cons list?  

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