After reading The Klein's post on open adoption, that is below, I am so very thrilled to get the opportunity to share it here on our blog. They continue to educate, open the eyes of others, show love and kindness to others. Please be sure to read it completely, and we encourage you to share this post. Most of the time, in the news and media we only see the heartbreaking stories from adoption. Together, let's take this post and share the positives of open adoption!
We have open adoptions in all four of our adoptions. What does that even mean?
Well, frankly, it looks different in each of our adoptions. At a minimum, an open adoption involves the exchange of information such as the full names of adoptive and birthparents, and contact information, whether it is a physical address or post office box, phone number, or email address. Most times the adoptive parents and birthparents meet one another at least once. In many cases, there is regular contact (such as sending pictures and updates) and sometimes even visits between the birthparents and adoptee.
In our specific adoptions, we have varying levels of interaction, some of which are affected by distance. Three of our children's birthparents are friends on facebook, so they get frequent updates via pictures and cute stories throughout our daily life. Some of our children's birthparents have requested pictures and letters once a year to a few times a year (somewhat dependent on the age/developmental stage of the children). We meet frequently with two of our children's birthparents so they can actually spend time face to face celebrating birthdays or enjoying outings to a zoo, park, restaurant, or children's museum. Every couple years I make books about each child on snapfish and send copies of those books to the children's birthparents for them to keep and treasure.
Always the goal is to let them get to know one another and to build memories and a relationship.
Some people fear open adoption.
We have heard people express fears that a birthparent might change their mind and come and "kidnap" a child. We have never seen any support for this fear. In fact, our experience has shown that having a way to stay in touch with their children, to see how they are doing and that they are loved, helps birthparents through the grieving process.
Others are concerned that children might be confused at the birthparents' presence in their lives. We just haven't found that to be the case. Think about it--we are perfectly capable of loving more than one child and knowing who is who. I daresay most of us had more than one grandma and grandpa, but we knew who each was and had relationships with each of them. Children are able to understand, at various levels developmentally, of course, both their first mom and their day-to-day mom and their respective roles.
Other objections I have heard include the possibilities of birthparents interfering in parenting or a child wanting to live with his or her birthparents (particularly during challenging seasons such as the teen years) and I can't speak very much to these concerns yet as we are only eight years into these open adoption relationships. So far, all of our children's birthparents/birthfamilies have been only respectful of our role as the rule-enforcing parents, and they even clear gifts with us before giving them to their children. I'm not really worried about these concerns as my husband and I both have pretty strong personalities and aren't afraid to stand up for our beliefs and practices, and I also feel confident that our children's birthparents chose us to parent their children because they trusted us.
I think it's probably pretty likely that a time will come that each of our children will think it would be better to live with someone else because they are unhappy with our rules or something (the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence!). There have certainly been times our biological children haven't been the happiest with their responsibilities or privileges, but that's just part of life. We'll deal with it as it comes, but I hope we adoptive parents and birthparents will be able to stand as a united front in the best interests of the children we all love.
We have found open adoption to be a blessing for all involved.
For the children/adoptees (my number one concern) I have found open adoption to help them in developing their identity. They don't have to wonder who they look like or where they have inherited a certain talent. If they should have any medical issues or wonder about potential allergies they will have the ability to get the answers. They'll never have to look at strangers wondering if that might be their first mom or dad. I'm hoping it will be less awkward for them to establish mature relationships with their birthfamilies as adults as they have been able to build on that relationship through the years. I have read too many stories of adoptees in reunion with their birthfamily who have no common ground, who simply can't establish any kind of rapport with their birthparents, and they ache and feel like they lost their families twice as a result.
For the birthparents, open adoption seems to help with the grieving process. Speaking from my own observations (not trying to speak for birthparents), their greatest desire seems to be that their children are safe, that they are loved, that they, the birthparents, made the best decision they could. Seeing their children grow and develop normally, seeing their smiles and contentment, seeing how very much we love them, seems to have been a source of comfort and reassurance for our children's birthparents. They don't have to wonder what their child looks like or how they are doing--they can see for themselves.
For us, the adoptive parents, open adoption has also been a blessing. Knowing our children's birthfamilies helps us to know our children more completely. Loving our children's birthparents has grown our extended family even more than we ever could have imagine. Not only have we been blessed with more children through open adoption, but we have also been blessed with friends. There are certain people you can rave to about your child--how cute and smart and generally wonderful they are. But sharing your love for a child with his or her first parents--well, they love him or her every bit as much as you do. They will agree with every single thing you say about how fabulous those children are. And that's just fun!
The benefits outweigh the complications.
I can't deny that open adoption can be complicated. There are frequently many differences between the lives of the adoptive family and the birthfamily that have to be considered and reconciled--whether they be cultural, socioeconomic, racial, educational, geographic, age. . .the list goes on and on. Coordinating schedules and expressing expectations aren't always easy. But always the effort is worth it for the good of all of us involved.
I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Klein's for being so open and helpful in our first series on adoption. Please feel free to comment and ask questions, Shonya would be happy to answer any. Be sure to check her blog out as well, it's chalked full of great posts!
Learning How Much I Don't Know
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back Monday when you get to hear from Roberta. She was adopted as an infant, so we will get to hear her story of growing up as an adopted child.
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