Decades ago, almost every adoption was closed. Back then, people thought that closed adoption was best for the child. Today’s adoptions look much different. An estimated 95% of domestic adoptions now have some level of openness between adoptive parents and birth parents.
Even though there are varying kinds and levels of openness in open adoptions, there are healthy traits that many have in common. Here are 6 traits that adoptive families should strive for in healthy open adoptions:
1. Clear-Cut Expectations
If you want to have a healthy open adoption, you need to set clear-cut expectations. As you decide on what level of openness you’d welcome, think about the expectations you’d like to set, too. How often will you send the birth parents emails? How often will you call or text them? How will social media play a role in your relationship with the birth family? How do you feel about the birth parents contacting you by surprise? While these questions might feel uncomfortable now, asking honest questions is the best way to set clear expectations.
2. Honor Your Promises
Keeping your promises is essential for any healthy relationship. When it comes to your open adoption, you’ll probably make several promises, such as sending emails after placement. Every pledge you make in connection with your open adoption is significant. Breaking the trust of your baby’s birth parents is the last thing you want to do.
Know that you don’t have to agree to more than you can handle. It’s lots easier to add more openness to an adoption relationship than to try and remove it. Start small by developing your relationship in a feasible way in which you’re not over-committing. As time passes, you’ll get a better sense of which promises you can make and honor.
3. A Desire to Learn
One of the top traits of great adoptive parents is that they desire to learn more. Even though accepting that you’re a novice in the subject of open adoption might be difficult, it’s essential to becoming a healthy adoptive parent. There will be lots of things that you don’t know, and that’s OK. So long as you remain open to learning new things, you’ll position yourself for success.
4. Deal With Emotions
As you seek an open adoption, you’ll probably face a wide range of emotions, some of them negative. You might fear that the birth mother will change her mind and try to get her baby back. You might worry that having two sets of parents will confuse your child. These emotions and thoughts are normal.
So, when worries and concerns come up, remind yourself that they’re justified. Becoming a parent through adoption is a big responsibility, but also a big opportunity. If you start to feel fearful, remind yourself of all the benefits that creating a family through adoption provides.
5. Put the Child First
The adopted child should take priority over everything else. Every step of the way, their well-being should be considered first. Right now, it’s impossible to know how much contact your child needs as they grow up. Because of this, many adoptive parents seek the advice of a trained professional so that they can do what’s best for their child.
6. Remain Flexible
Try to keep a level of flexibility, because things change. Your baby’s birth mother may request visits, emails, and texts, but years later not have the need to stay in touch as much. The amount and level of contact may change as your child gets older.
Be flexible as you build a level of openness that comfortable for both you and for the birth family. The level of openness in your relationship will depend upon many factors, such as how far away you live from the birth family. In addition, some adoptive couples communicate with more than one member of the birth family.
Open adoption is complicated, but it’s so worth it. Once you decide that open adoption is the way you’ll become parents, it’s time to start cultivating the traits of successful open adoptive parents. Even though the six traits described above are by no means comprehensive, they’re part of the strong foundation that you can begin building now.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.