Adoptions With Love Blog

Common Open Adoption Challenges & How to Handle Them

When many women first come to Adoptions With Love, they are considering open adoption for their babies. They know the positive outcomes of open adoption, however, often worry that openness (or contact) with an adoptive family might also be too overwhelming. They are unsure which level of open adoption will be most comfortable, or how much communication they should commit to at the time. Similarly, we frequently hear from hopeful parents that are hesitant to commit to an open adoption relationship. They worry that having contact with biological parents might be too confusing for their future child. They are unsure if they should consider openness as an option for their family.

These are common concerns among both waiting adoptive parents and newly expectant/birth parents. They know the benefits that open adoption can bring to a child, but also fear the complicated relationships and conflicting conversations that openness can create. If you are considering open adoption, but are worried about problems arising after placement, you are not alone.

As an open adoption agency with over 32 years of experience, Adoptions With Love is very familiar with the challenges that can arise post-adoption. We have helped many expectant mothers, birth parents, and adoptive parents navigate sensitive adoption conversations, hard-to-meet expectations, and other open adoption concerns. We have also helped families shape very successful, healthy open adoption relationships by working through those challenges together. We can also help you.

Below are some common open adoption concerns among expectant, birth, and adoptive parents:

Challenge: Openness is “too much” –

Many expectant/birth parents will initially choose a fully open adoption for their baby, knowing that they want to stay in touch over the years. Sometimes, however, that level of openness can be overwhelming at first. Choosing adoption is a very emotional journey, one that involves both grief and loss. For some birth mothers, it may unexpectedly become too difficult to receive updates from the adoptive family. Other birth parents may decide that ongoing visits, phone calls, and emails are too overwhelming, and need space to move forward with their lives. Sometimes, adoptive parents may also need space in the beginning to bond with their new baby.

Resolution: A successful open adoption involves honesty. Be honest with your feelings and your comfort level. If anything changes, let the other family and/or your adoption counselor know. At Adoptions With Love, open adoption plans remain open for renegotiation as needs and feelings change. You may also consider a mediated or semi-open adoption through Adoptions With Love. Adoptive families send us letters and pictures, and we send these to the biological parents if and when they wish. In a semi-open adoption, “too much” is not much of a problem at all.

Challenge: Lack of privacy –

Open adoption involves an exchange of information between the birth parents and an adoptive family: names, phone numbers, emails, and sometimes photos of one another. When boundaries are not defined in open adoption agreements, this sharing of information can lead to overstepping. For example, a birth parent might share a photo of the baby online, with which the adoptive parents are not comfortable.

Resolution: When making an open adoption plan, it is absolutely essential to set boundaries, limitations and expectations. If you are an expectant/birth parent, make sure you are comfortable with everything outlined in your open adoption agreement. Ensure that the adoptive family understands and respects your needs and privacy. If you are an adoptive parent, you should also set boundaries in the best interest of your child. Adoptions With Love recommends keeping open adoption conversations offline or limited to a private, confidential platform. This will ensure that no personal information is lost to the vast World Wide Web. Read our eBook, “The Role of Social Media Among the Adoption Triad” for more tips on setting boundaries for social media.

Challenge: Undefined Roles –

Many families considering open adoption have concerns about the role of the birth parents: Will having a “birth mother” be confusing for the child? Will the adoptive parents have to share parental roles with the biological parents? In a successful open adoption, the answer is usually “no.” Children in open adoptions typically have a clear understanding of who each parent is and what role they play in the family. Sometimes, however, openness can create confusion for the parents without preliminary discussion. They may not know how to refer to the birth parents, or how much to involve them in caring for the baby or in important family decisions.

Resolution: Along with establishing boundaries, it is important to have preliminary discussions about roles and expectations in an open adoption. Understand that the adoptive parents are the daily caregivers, the nurturers, and that the birth parents are an important part of the child’s biology and roots. In the beginning, decide on names together – not for the child, but for the birth family. Does the birth mother want the child to call her “birth mom,” by her name, or something else? This will also help alleviate any confusion for the child.

Challenge: Unfulfilled Promises –

Unfilled promises are something that both birth parents and adoptive parents fear in open adoption situations. They worry about being cut-off or getting more/less contact than originally discussed. Many adoptive parents worry about getting their child’s hopes up, only to disappoint them if communication falls through.

Resolution: Do not make promises you know you cannot keep. Never commit to an openness level that you cannot maintain. Most of all think about your child and his or her best interests. How will your child feel if a promise is broken? How would that affect your long-term relationship with your child? Always keep respect, honesty, compromise, empathy, and commitment at the heart of your open adoption plan. An open adoption agreement and the involvement of an adoption agency can also help prevent unfulfilled promises and expectations.

To some people, open adoption sounds complicated and confusing. To others, it sounds like a very positive and bonding experience. If the open adoption is approached with care and respect, it can be an amazing gift to everyone involved.  The best interests of the child are paramount in making an open adoption plan. You can learn more about creating healthy open adoption relationships, and how to prevent open adoption problems, in our new eBook, “The Keys to a Successful Open Adoption.”

If at any point you need help in your open adoption, whether it is starting a plan or navigating a difficult conversation, know that Adoptions With Love is here for you. Call us toll-free at 1-800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 617-777-0072 to speak with one of our compassionate adoption counselors.