Preparing Your Family for Adoption

The Open Adoption Question

Understanding and Connecting with Birth Families

As we build our families through adoption, many of us struggle with the concept of open adoption and try to define what it means for our families. Is it good to pursue it or is it just pop psychology? What will it mean to our preschool children, to our teenage children, to our adult children? If I have learned one thing this past year, it is that there is no definitive answer to this question. Everyone is shaped by personal experiences, the children adopted, legal systems, information available, country of origin for the child, and the desires of the birthparents of the adopted children.

Our first exposure to open adoption began five years ago when my husband and I began the adoption process. Our first reaction was “absolutely not,” we wanted a baby and that was that. No 800 numbers, no meeting birthparents, no on-going contact. Then, we started to open our minds a little. We talked to adoptive families and birthparents, we read books, and we listened to our hearts.

Two occurrences changed the way we looked at open adoption. We knew the parents of a little girl who always has had a lot of questions about her birth family. She was convinced her teacher was her birth mom until her parents pointed out she was in her sixties. Next it was the Sunday school teacher, but she had five children and very dark hair. Then it was the beautiful woman who waved to her in a store. It just went on and on. The adoptive parents found an intermediary to speak with the birth mom and they began to exchange pictures and letters. This action went a long way towards providing the little girl comfort and knowledge about her biological background. We both thought how sad for that little girl too have spent so much time fantasizing about her birthmom and how wonderful that the closed adoption was able to be turned into an open adoption.

Around that same time I attended a presentation where the speakers were an adoptive couple, their parents, the adopted child, the birth parents, and the birth grandparents. This large group presented their very open relationship. To be honest, as I sat there I thought this was the craziest thing I had ever seen. However, what I walked away thinking was that both families thought it was very natural to know each other. They believe that their relationship will have a positive effect on the adopted child because the child will know first hand who the birth family is and why the adoption occurred. They felt that the child won’t spend time fantasizing about birth parents or be troubled about search issues. Incidentally, no one in that room questioned who the “real” parents were.

Five years later, we have two beautiful adopted children. We regularly correspond with both of our children’s birthmothers through letters and pictures. Our second child’s adoption also included meeting our son’s birthmom, being at the hospital 16 hours after he was born, and ongoing occasional visits. And, we love it. We sincerely believe more information is better than less, and that the more answers we can offer our children now the better their adjustment and understanding will be in the future. In both of their circumstances, an adoption plan was made before their births and carried forward. Both birth moms have told us that the pictures and letters mean a great deal to them and that it is very healing to know that their children are happy and healthy. Writing to them has actually created a nice, written chronology of our children’s lives that we think they will enjoy reading when they get older. We strongly believe that you can never have too many people to love you in this world.

Source: Lorie Angeline, Southern Tier Adoptive Families (STAF) Newsletter, Reprinted with permission of the author

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