There are many ways in which an open adoption can benefit both the birth family and the adoptive family. A study from the Journal of Family Psychology shows that openness can often increase satisfaction in birth families and adoptive families with the adoption process as a whole. However, open adoption does require both birth families and adoptive families to put in some effort to become active participants in each other’s lives. Make sure you consider these elements as you prepare for your open adoption.
Create Clear Expectations
As an open adoption is prepared, birth families and adoptive families need to decide as soon as possible what the degree of openness in the relationship will be. Your adoption agency can assist with guidance on expectations, but some parts of contact may be up to the families involved. Make sure you know how many phone calls, emails, and in-person visits are expected. There are other small details that can be helpful to work out, including best times to call to avoid phone tag as well as how you expect to address each other and how the child will address the birth family members, when the child can speak.
When Necessary, Set Boundaries
Becoming part of an open adoption can feel like it creates a bond between you that may feel natural and family-like. This is a wonderful part of the process, but part of the clear expectations can also mean setting boundaries in terms of contact. Giving birth families time on their own and adoptive families time to bond as a unit can be helpful in between planned visits and contacts, since open adoption doesn’t ultimately mean co-parenting of the child. Boundaries are not a sign of separation, rather they acknowledge that birth families and adoptive families play different roles and they should be allowed to do so in a way that affirms and assists them both.
Expect to Re-evaluate as the Child Grows
As children grow, new circumstances may arise for both birth families and adoptive families. Being communicative and honest about possibly changing your arrangement in the open adoption is very important, especially as the child grows more and more aware of the birth parents’ role in his or her life. Being able to give clear expectations to the child, even if those expectations must change, helps the child adjust to the many important figures in his or her life.
Follow Through on Your Choices
Regardless of what the openness arrangement is, it is very helpful to follow through on choices: sending pictures and notes promptly, making phone calls, and being on time to in-person meetings makes it possible for everyone to feel more secure, including the child. If the arrangements need to change, make those changes as early as possible and with substantial communication, rather than simply not being present when expected.
Be Honest About Lack of Clarity
When you are feeling like the communication lines are unclear, or if you don’t feel that the agreement for openness is being met, it is good to be honest as soon as possible. Rather than having to make a confrontation, you, as a member of either a birth family or an adoptive family, can seek clarification from other people involved in your arrangement. Your willingness to be honest will open the lines of communication for everyone involved and can remove simple misunderstandings before they become sources of conflict.
By making a very firm foundation for your relationship through communication and acknowledgement of each other’s needs, you can work toward a wonderful open relationship between adoptive family and birth family. A child benefits from your efforts and hard work to grow with each other.
If you’re just beginning to think about either placing a child for adoption or about adopting a child, we’re here to support you and guide you through the process. Get started today!