While openness has become a more common practice in the adoption community, it can still be a relatively new reality for some to have an open relationship with their child’s birth parents. The term “open adoption” typically is used to refer to adoptions in which all parties are known to each other and have some form of ongoing contact. Adoptions vary in their levels of openness, from confidential (closed), to mediated (semi-open), to fully disclosed with ongoing contact (open). The primary benefit of having some level of an open adoption is the access children will have to birth relatives and to their own histories. They can get a first-hand understanding of the reasons leading to their birthparents’ decisions about them, and have a direct way to find other answers, ranging from medical and genealogical information to personal questions as simple (and important) as “Who do I look like?” or “Do I have other brothers or sisters?” As adopted children grow up and form their identities, they typically confront many questions related to genetic background and birth family. When there is no way for them to find answers, they must manage ongoing uncertainty.
When adopted children seek information about their histories, or when they struggle with feelings related to their adoptions, it is paramount that they feel able to talk freely with their parents and that they feel heard and understood. Adopted children who experience more open adoption communication are reported to have higher self-esteem, and their parents rated them lower in behavioral problems. Among adopted adolescents, those who had greater openness in their families reported more trust for their parents, fewer feelings of alienation and better overall family functioning.
Benefits for the Child
- Establish a sense of connection and belonging
- Develop a deeper understanding of their identity and a greater sense of wholeness
- Gain access to important genetic and medical information
- Preserve connections not only to family but also to their cultural and ethnic heritage
- Develop a better understanding for the reasons for placement, which can lessen feelings of abandonment and increase a sense of belonging
- Increase the number of supportive adults in their lives
Benefits for Birth Parents
- Gain peace of mind and comfort in knowing how their child is doing
- Develop personal relationships with the adoptive parents and the child as he or she grows
- Become more satisfied with the adoption process
Benefits for Adoptive Parents
- Build a healthy relationship with their child’s birth family and provide lifelong connections for their child
- Gain direct access to birth family members who can answer their child’s questions
- Improve their understanding of their child’s history
- Develop more positive attitudes about their child’s birth parents
- Increase their confidence and sense of permanency in parenting
Openness in adoption can provide a child with valuable connections to his or her past. No single open arrangement, however, is right for everyone. As with any relationship, there may be bumps and challenges along the way in the relationships between birth and adoptive families. Likewise, these relationships are likely to evolve and change over time. Through careful consideration of options, a clear child-focused approach, and a strong commitment to making it work, you and the birth parent can decide what level of openness is right for your family and the adoption triad.
By: Caidon Glover