The current level of openness varies by state to state, but it is clear that the legal community fully understands and supports the need for transparency in adoption. In Minnesota, the courts even had us register our son in a national adoption database. If ever we lose contact with my son’s birth family, this database will allow us to find them.
Adoption relationships with birth families can run the spectrum from being “closed-no contact” (remembering that the legal aspect technically is open), to being incredibly open. Most relationships fall in the middle. Levels of openness are usually agreed upon prior to the birth of a child. In many cases, the level of openness is part of the profile matching process. Birth parents decide what level of openness they want to maintain with the child and adoptive family, and they are then shown profiles of adoptive parents who share that vision of openness.
Usually at Termination of Parental Rights, a document is signed stating that both families agree to a basic level of communication, with the parties deciding jointly if they want to make the relationship more open.
This is what my husband and I did with our adoption. On our profile, we stated that we wanted to remain in contact with the birth family though letters and photos, with the option of more communication as we feel comfortable. My son’s birth mother had the same feeling about openness, and we agreed to letters and pictures on birthdays and holidays.
However, we have been much more open than that. We’ve talked on the phone, texted occasionally, and are friends on Facebook. Since we had a domestic interstate adoption, we live very far away from his birth family, but we do hope to visit at some point. For those who adopt closer to home, you’ll have to think about whether visitation is right for you and your child.
As clean and clear cut as this sounds, open adoption relationships can be so complicated. I have firsthand experience how hard it is to keep the channels of communication open, even when your parental instincts are to shut them down. These relationships can be a total rollercoaster…up, down, up. High highs, and low lows. But you just have to keep saying to yourself that it is your job as a parent to maintain these relationships.
For most adoptive parents, open adoption relationships need frequent feeding and watering. Ideally, the maintenance of these relationships would be a two-way street, but many times it is not. You just keep plugging at it, until there is reciprocity. And sometimes there may not be, and that’s ok. Your child will appreciate your commitment to maintaining that connection to his/her birth family.
There is no right or wrong way to foster an open relationship. But there is one key to make it successful, and that is to keep your heart open. As long as you keep room in your heart for the family that gave you the most precious gift of parenthood, you’ll do all right.
Create a community around you of other adoptive parents…and if you’re comfortable with it, other birth parents (an extremely helpful resource to me to gain perspective and insight), and use that community to help you create a healthy relationship with your child’s birth family.
If you’re an adoptive parent, what do you do to maintain a healthy adoption?