Open adoptions are becoming increasingly common, and it’s a wonderful trend in the adoption community. However, navigating relationships between adoptive and birth parents in open adoptions can be a bit tricky. On both sides, no one wants to come on too strong, but no one wants to come off as indifferent or uncaring either. As adoptive parents, it is impossible to understand what a birth parent is going through unless you have been there yourself. Here a few ways you can respectfully support your child’s birth parents in an open adoption.
Build a relationship pre-placement
In order to maintain a successful relationship with your child’s birth parents, the relationship needs to begin before the child is born. You may meet a few times to be, and while you will learn the parents hopes and expectations for their child’s future as well as the open adoption in those visits, you should not stop there. Continue to meet so that you can build a relationship, perhaps even a friendship, based on mutual trust and respect. The better you get to know your child’s birth parents, their values, and their hopes for your child, the more successful an open adoption will be.
Establish expectations for the adoption
Before the baby is born and has been placed, both the adoptive and birth parents need to meet and determine the parameters of the open adoption. Some adoptions are more “open” than others, and both sets of parents should be on the same page as to the scope of the adoption and the relationship between birth parents and child. With the help of an adoption professional like your adoption counselor, share your expectations for the open adoption, and more importantly, ask theirs. Make a list, or perhaps a timeline, to determine when you will send photos and updates as well as set up visits. Agreements on the parameters of an open adoption are not always legally-binded through papers or contracts depending on state law, but it can always be a commitment by both parties to continue to work for the relationship you both strive to have.
Keep your promises
When the baby has been officially placed, think back to the birth parents’ expectations of the adoption and the agreements you made. If you promised photos and updates once a month, be sure you follow through with those promises. While caring for a newborn is of course hectic and time-consuming, it is important that you take the time to let the birth parents known you have not forgotten your promise to them nor the gift they have given you.
Respect their space
In an open adoption, most birth parents will be eager to know that the child is happy and healthy, so they know that they have done the right thing, especially in the beginning. However, placing a child for adoption can also be a painful experience. Because of that, birth parents might pull away for a short time, perhaps not as involved or communicative as before. If this happens, do not push them, but respect that these parents are grieving something they have lost. While they know they have done what is best for their child, they still need time to grieve and cope with this new life.
Like any relationship, a successful relationship between parents in an open adoption is based on open and honest communication. People, expectations, and lives change, and it is important to stay open and communicate with one another throughout your child’s life. Especially as your child grows older, you may need to establish different parameters and expectations regarding the adoption, whether it’s changing the number of photos and updates you send, or adding visits between your child and his or her birth parents.
Remember that both you and your child’s birth parents only want what is best for your child. In an open adoption, building a relationship with your child’s birth parents based on open communication, respect, and support is best.