Adoptive and birth parents are choosing open adoption agreements more and more in today’s adoption world. It’s been said that this type of adoption is the most beneficial option for all involved — birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee. But that begs the question: How do these arrangements work exactly? How are the parties able to thrive and cultivate their relationship long term?
For the answers, keep reading. Adoption Choices of New York is here to reveal our best practices to successful open adoptions.
7. Reinvent Your Definition of “Family”
For as long as we can remember, the concept of a nuclear family has dominated how we see and define the word, “family.” It’s the traditional understanding that a family unit is comprised of two loving parents — a man and a woman — who live with their biological and adopted children under the same roof. However, through the years, this has morphed into something quite different. In today’s world, “family” has a variety of meanings and structures.
Successful open adoptions thrive on the idea that both birth and adoptive parents can co-exist. Take the TV show Modern Family, for instance. As the title suggests, the show helps audiences expand their horizons by portraying a blended, non-traditional family. It encourages all of us to rethink what we know, and to create new mental images of how families can be structured.
6. Establish Clear Boundaries
Before the baby is born, you’ll want to meet with the birth parents to establish a plan of how things will move forward post adoption. When the first contact will occur. How often. The number of visits in a year, and so on and so forth. Once all of this has been decided, you’ll sign a Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA) with the birth parents. Having these boundaries in place ahead of time will greatly help during the first few months when emotions are high. The birth parents will be grieving, and both you and your baby will be adjusting to your new life together.
Establishing clear boundaries and forming a contractual agreement may sound uncomfortable at first, but they are a crucial element in successful open adoptions. During the first few months, especially. They act as great tools of accountability, and help you understand what to expect from the birth parents. Without any agreed upon rules, emotions can easily take over and cause issues. Boundaries are one of the many reasons why open adoptions thrive.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If an open adoption agreement is a new concept to you, check with your adoption agency to see if they offer any post-adoption services. Or, research support groups in your area. Even though there will be times where you feel you’re the only one that has experienced what you are — you aren’t. There are many others who have walked similar journeys, and who would be more than happy to lend a hand. Sometimes gaining a new perspective from the outside makes all the difference.
Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of your support system either. If there’s a day that you don’t feel you can handle everything by yourself and need a break, call up a trusted friend or family member. That’s what they are for. To love and support you however you need them to.
4. Keep to Your Original Agreement
After the adoption is finalized, the PACA you signed becomes enforceable in the state of New York. So, it’s crucial that you keep to your original agreement with the birth parents. Any promises you made. Frequency of contact. Following through with your prearranged agreement for your child’s birth mother to visit. Anything and everything. Your adoption specialist is always there for support and to address any questions or concerns that come up, but they aren’t as visible as in the adoption process.
One of the goals in successful open adoptions is to give the birth mother peace of mind that you are the people she thought you were when she chose you. That you weren’t just someone who wanted her baby and then disappeared after everything is said and done. In order for her to grieve healthfully, she needs to know that she made the right decision of entrusting her baby to you. So, whatever you do, keep yourself accountable and follow through on your adoption plan with her.
3. Be Honest and Have Mutual Respect
Without honesty and respect, relationships quickly fizzle out or plummet into conflict. These two ingredients ensure that all parties listen to one another without anyone becoming demanding or defensive. For instance, if the birth parents start pushing for more and more visits or updates, it’s important to take a deep breath and express your honest feelings about that. Your sense of calm will help defuse them, and then lead to a healthy discussion about how to best solve their request together.
Honesty and respect are crucial to successful open adoptions. Especially because there are multiple people involved, open adoption agreements come with benefits and challenges. However, reminding yourself that it is in the best interest of your child will help you navigate through all the twists and turns.
2. Communicate on a Regular Basis
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then, communicate some more. We cannot stress this particular aspect enough. Communication can either make or break any relationship. Open adoptions are no exception. Without speaking to the birth parents on a regular basis, you cannot build a healthy or trusting relationship with them. You can’t get to know them as people, or learn their expectations or ideas for life moving forward.
Before the baby is born, make a point to meet with the birth parents. Speak with them on a regular basis. Hear their thoughts and share your own. Communicate your feelings, listen to theirs, and then find common ground. Successful open adoptions are nothing without strong and healthy communication.
1. Always Put Your Child First
In the midst of everything else, remember to always put your child first. Their health and well-being should be considered above anything else. Just as your child’s birth mother put him or her above her own needs and wants when she chose to place them for adoption, so should you. Adoption, after all, is more than just you becoming a parent. It goes beyond the relationship you build with the birth parents.
Adoption is all about the precious life you are welcoming into your family.
That’s why you decided on an open adoption agreement in the first place, right? Because you wanted your child to grow up and knowing where they came from. To have the opportunity to meet their birth parents, and ask questions. You knew instinctively that this was best for them — and you’re right.
Successful Open Adoptions
There is no magic or cookie-cutter formula to successful open adoptions. Each and every adoptive and birth family is different, and have their own visions of how they want things to go post adoption. However, it’s important to make sure that all parties are always on the same page, to communicate with each other on a regular basis, and to not make big decisions behind the others’ backs.
The above resource can help you navigate and set up a long-lasting open adoption agreement. If you are ever confused, have issues in the relationship, or want other tips don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are more than happy to help in whatever way we can. We want you to have the best and healthiest relationships with the birth family and your child possible.
Adoption Choices of New York
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, Adoption Choices of New York.
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
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
Adoptions, Lifelong. “7 Tips for Healthy Communication in an Open Adoption.” LifeLong Adoptions, www.lifelongadoptions.com/10-lgbt-adoptive-parents/242-7-tips-for-healthy-communication-in-an-open-adoption.
Dinwoodie, April. “6 Key Factors to Consider for an Open Adoption.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 28 June 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/6-key-factors-to-consider-for-an-open-adoption_b_7157382.
Jones, Alice, et al. “Top Ten Tips for a Successful Open Adoption.” Creating a Family, 3 June 2019, creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-tips-successful-open-adoption/.
Nrfa. “Open Adoption: 5 Must-Have Characteristics for Adoptive Parents.” National Registry for Embryo Adoption, 30 Nov. 2017, www.nrfa.org/characteristics-of-healthy-open-adoption/.