If you read our latest guide, “The Keys to a Successful Open Adoption,” you may know that open adoption is a type of adoption involving an open relationship between a child’s birth parent(s) and adoptive family. It enables both families to keep in touch over the years, and is proven to be very beneficial for a child.
An open adoption relationship can involve any level of openness. In some cases, a birth mother will choose to receive letters and picture updates from the adoptive family. Some families will stay in touch through direct emails or phone conversations. Some open adoptions involve in-person visits. In any open adoption, it is important to ensure that there is healthy, respectful communication between everyone involved.
Whether you are making an open adoption plan for your baby, are considering open adoption for your family, or already have an open adoption relationship, you are in the right place. Adoptions With Love has provided six open adoption tips below, to help you facilitate and navigate healthy adoption conversations.
1. Use Positive Adoption Language
Like any adoption, open adoption is an emotional journey. It involves many delicate relationships. As an expectant, birth, or adoptive parent, it is important to choose your words wisely in adoption conversations. Show care, respect, and empathy in all that you say:
- Say “make an adoption plan” instead of “give up for adoption”
- Do not say a child “is adopted;” if necessary, say he or she “was adopted” or “came into our family through adoption”
- Do not refer to birth parents as “real parents”
- Adoptive parents are just “parents”
- A pregnancy is not always “unwanted,” that is why we should say “unplanned” or “unintended”
Positive adoption language is essential for healthy dialogue in an open adoption relationship. It shows respect and consideration for the other parties, and allows you to reflect adoption in a positive light. This will enable your child to see his or her adoption positively, as well.
2. Set and Respect Boundaries
In an open adoption relationship, it is also important to be clear about your wishes and needs from the very beginning. If you are an expectant/birth mother, you deserve to be completely comfortable with the level of communication in your adoption plan. For example, if you are not ready for in-person visits or direct phone conversations with your child’s family, it is okay to say so. Ask the parents to respect your needs and boundaries as you heal. If you are an adoptive parent, it is also okay to discuss limitations with your child’s birth family if they are made with the child’s best interest in mind. There should be a mutual respect for everyone’s needs, as well.
3. Understand Expectations
Much like with boundaries, it is also important to set and respect expectations for ongoing communication. When making an open adoption plan, the adoptive family, birth parents, and an adoption agency should all discuss what is expected of one another. For example, does a birth mother expect the family to send pictures on a regular basis? Does she expect to be told of any significant health-related issues with her child? Does the adoptive family expect the birth mother to inform them of a phone number or address change? Having clear expectations on both sides (and understanding those expectations) will help ensure that communication remains consistent as the years go on, and that no one is left hurt or disappointed. No one should make promises they are not able to keep.
4. Always Be Honest
Be honest about your needs, your wishes, and your expectations. Never at any point should you feel completely conflicted or overwhelmed in your open adoption relationship. You can avoid this by being honest. For example, if you are a birth parent and want more updates of your child, you should talk about this openly with your child’s family and an adoption agency professional. If you are an adoptive parent and feel your level of openness is preventing you from bonding with your baby, it is okay to voice this as well. Together with an adoption agency, you all can talk about adjusting the level of contact in your open adoption plan.
5. Be Flexible
All relationships require fluidity, but this is especially true in open adoption relationships. As an expectant mother, birth parent, or adoptive family, it is important to remember that things can change over the years. A birth mother may get married or have other children. An adoptive family may develop a busier schedule as their child grows, going to dance class, music lessons, sports games, summer camps, etc. Either family may request more (or less) contact in the open adoption. Communication in an adoption relationship can fluctuate as needs change. Most significantly, it can change as the child grows older and begins to make decisions. He or she may request more or less contact with birth family members, and these wishes must also be respected.
6. Seek Professional Help if Needed
Many open adoption agencies offer post-adoption counseling and support. If you ever hit a bump in your open adoption, you can always reach out to a professional for help. Sometimes, an outside, unbiased, and professional perspective is best for resolving any open adoption challenges that arise.
Adoptions With Love is a private, non-profit adoption agency offering open, semi-open, and closed adoption plans. We offer free-of-cost counseling services to expectant/birth mothers considering adoption. We are also available any time of day, any day of week, to answer your call. Contact us toll-free at 1-800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 617-777-0072 to learn more about open adoption. You may also download our free guide below for more open adoption tips.