An open adoption is one where you might get to meet the biological parents and get to know them before the adoption process begins and/or you might get to have contact with them after the adoption. This relationship, similar to that of any family, is delicate and needs to be maintained in the long run. Throughout the adoption journey, both families will rely on each other for comfort and peace of mind.
With open adoption, shutting out the birth family is not an option. Both families will want to be involved in each other’s lives. Although constant contact is not required, it will still be beneficial to know major details of each other’s lives. In some cases, the child does not want a relationship with their birth parents. But for those who do, you can set an incredible example through establishing a healthy relationship with his or her birth parents.
Of course, this building and maintaining of relationships look different for every family. Here is a helpful guide to open adoption relationships and how to start your bonding journey.
Why Stay in Touch?
To Help the Child
For any adoptees, they might feel a sense of loss even if they have joined a family. Part of that is not knowing the origin of their birth and their biological parents. While they will have you as their parents from now on, the curiosity might not go away. That loss could then translate to loneliness or detachment.
The benefit of an open adoption is the contact with the birth parents so the child won’t feel like they aren’t wanted. No matter what the reason is behind their biological parents placing them for adoption, the child might need time for acceptance. Being able to still have contact with the birth parents might help with that process.
Another benefit is that they can connect with their culture and heritage.
Remember that though they might need their birth parents for closure, they will need you most for the rest of their lives.
To Help the Birth Parents
Placing a child for adoption is one of the hardest things birth parents can go through. They might still want to be involved in the child’s life but won’t know how to start. When they are able to stay in contact with adoptive parents, they will feel at ease knowing their child is in good hands.
Adoptive parents can help ease this transition by opening their doors and not hiding anything from the biological parents concerning the child. Simply updating the birth parents about the child’s growth can go a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship as well as lowering any anxiety birth parents might feel.
To Help the Adoptive Parents
Down the road, the adoptive parents may need to consult the birth parents about the health of their child. For example, there could be some hereditary issues. Even with the health information adoptive parents will receive during the adoption process, they might need to communicate about the family’s medical history. Many birth parents are young when they place their child for adoption and their major health history hasn’t been developed yet to be shared at the time of the adoption.
Putting logistical stuff aside, having someone to talk to is always important when going through something as involved as adoption. For adoptive parents, they might not have enough support from their friends or families. To have the comfort of someone who understands the situation is invaluable.
It is also a learning curve for them, to learn about a different culture and all the identities of their child. Having this knowledge will help them bond with the child which can help them aid the child in their development.
How to Stay in Touch?
This is one of the simplest ways to contact the biological parents with updates or just to check in on each other. There aren’t any technical rules on how email should be sent. However, if you’d like, you can talk to the birth parents to work out how often emails should be sent and about what topic.
In some cases, they might not respond to the emails at first and that is okay. This is a difficult process for them and they need time as well. By talking to them about the email procedures, it will help make sure everyone is on the same page and lessen any burden or stress you might feel. It can also help the birth parents slowly get back to their routine without the child.
Calling is another way to check up on each other and can also be used if there are any urgent questions that need to be addressed. Similar to emails, phone calls can be scheduled and for specific content only. Some birth parents would prefer to have a structure with communications while others would love surprises. Make sure you check what works for them.
Skype or FaceTime
With the development of new technologies, staying connected is now convenient and more personal. Video calling is best for when the birth parents live far away or they simply want to see you and the child but are unable to meet up in person.
No amount of emails or video calls can replace physical human interactions. If meeting in person is an option, it could potentially be one of the best ways to connect. You can hear the true emotions and see body language for easier communication and understanding. It will also help the child see that they are still loved very much.
Some starting points for meetings could be getting a cup of coffee or grabbing dinner every now and then if it’s just the adult and going to a park or museum if the child is attending. Keep it consistent, but not too overwhelming for anyone.
Things to Consider
With all the responsibilities and tasks that come along with the adoption, both adoptive parents and birth parents might forget to take care of themselves. Sometimes they might put their needs at the bottom while caring for everyone else. This can happen in open adoptions too – both adoptive parents and birth parents might neglect their own needs trying to make the other feel good.
Be honest about what is comfortable for you, even if it might be at the expense of others. As adoptive parents, if you don’t like the idea of keeping in constant contact, you are entitled to do what is best for you and the child. As birth parents, if you don’t want to be as involved with the child’s life, that is okay as well.
It is important to establish this before the adoption is complete so neither party is surprised by any sudden change in actions. Being open about your feelings will also prevent any miscommunications and conflicts. The adoption agency can help with these discussions.
One myth is that open adoption means both parents will take turns parenting. This is not true. Once the paperwork is completed, adoptive parents are the legal parents, so they will do all of the parenting. Adoptive parents should be confident of their role in the child’s life. If needed, actions can be taken to create boundaries.
Another myth is the child might be confused about which parents are their real ones, which might hinder their identity growth. They should be given some credit. They can distinguish the influences each parent can have on them, similar to how they can distinguish between aunts and uncles and grandparents. Having an open adoption can actually encourage a sense of identity for the child.
The last myth is that birth parents can take back their child. There have been no cases where this has ever happened. In reality, allowing the birth parents to still interact with the child can fill in the void of loss. It will help them cope so that they won’t do anything rash.
Open Adoption Relationships
At the end of the day, you are the parents and the child is yours. Maintaining a relationship with your son or daughter’s birth parents does not mean you will be sharing the child. It just means that your child will be surrounding by that much more love and support.
Adoption Choices of New York
Over the past seventeen (17) years, Adoption Choices of New York has helped many individuals and couples make adoption plans and complete their families through the miracle of adoption. Our staff has well-established relationships with agencies and attorneys across the nation, as well as Adoption Choices agencies in many other states. As a leader in the adoption community, we have a genuine commitment to a sensitive, comprehensive and supportive experience for all involved in the adoption journey. We are dedicated to ensuring that your adoption is processed in a professional, competent and caring manner and would be delighted to answer your questions.
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Lisa Truong is an undergraduate journalism major at the University of Denver. She is minoring in writing and Chemistry. She has been commended by professors for her news stories as well as creative writing.
During her freshman year, her essay “See Ya on the Other Side” was displayed at a writing exhibition sponsored by the University of Denver. That essay later went on to be published in Many Voices One DU, a book also sponsored by the university.
Lisa frequently volunteers to be a leader at the Daniels School of Business for their quarterly Ethics Boot Camp where students learn about the importance of character in business. In her free time, Lisa enjoys watching animated movies with her mother, listening to music, going for bike rides, and eating breakfast food.
“Maintaining a Relationship with Your Child’s Birth Family.” American Adoptions Blog. January 17, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2019. https://www.americanadoptions.com/blog/maintaining-a-relationship-with-your-childs-birth-family/.
“Open Adoption: The Birth Parent-Adoptive Parent Relationship.” AdoptHelp. September 12, 2018. Accessed July 09, 2019. https://www.adopthelp.com/open-adoption-birth-parent-adoptive-parent-relationship/.
Openness in Adoption: Building Relationships Between Adoptive and Birth Families. PDF. Child Welfare Information Gateway, January 2013.