Sunday, December 15, 2013

What is an open adoption?

This blog has been neglected lately, but I have a 3 yr old who is constantly vying for my attention.  

I thought today I would write about a question I am often asked.  I am often asked if we have an “open” adoption, and when I respond, “yes”, it is often followed up by questions about what an “open” adoption is.  The term “open adoption” is a broad term and different for each family.

Prior to adopting Jacob we attended an adoption conference through our agency.  At the conference there were several birth mothers who shared their experiences and answered questions.  Every one of them had “open” adoptions, but the level of openness was different for each one of them.  Some only exchanged pictures, some of them visited once a year, some more often.  It helped us understand the importance of not committing to a level of openness that we were not willing or comfortable committing to.  .

The birthmothers shared how the thing they feared the most was that the level of openness that had decided upon would not be honored after the adoption was finalized.  Most everyone has this concern and understandably, nobody wants it to happen to them.  This was a concern for Jacob’s birth parents as well.  No one enforces your relationship with one another after placement; it is between you and your child's birthparents.  The tricky thing about adoption is that it wasn’t until after papers were signed and our son was placed with us, would we have the opportunity to prove ourselves and show that we would keep our promise.  Our son's birthparents had to trust us at our word, which is a hard and scary thing to do.  We are thankful they did trust us and I am grateful to have an open adoption with them.  They are great people and respectful towards us, and this helps us maintain the good relationship we have with them. 

So you may be asking, what is our “open” adoption like?  We generally exchange pictures around the holidays or birthdays.   But I also send them when he is doing something fun I think they might like—like playing ball or his first day of school, etc.  We have been able to visit in person with both his birth mother and birth father every year, and that has been fun.  Jacob loves seeing them and loves all the attention he gets from each of them. 

We knew that the first little bit after the adoption would probably be difficult for his birth mother, so we sent messages and pictures more often--even daily for the first week or so, and we told her if she was having a hard day and just wanted to see a picture of Jacob to contact us and we would send her one, etc.   I think she appreciated that and I enjoyed sending her pictures and messages about Jacob. 

The key to having an open adoption is respect and good communication from all parties involved.  And each adoption and situation is different, but we have been happy with our experience in an “open” adoption.

You know I love to talk about Jacob, so I will share a quick story that made my heart smile the other day.  We were having family pictures taken by a girl we know, and as we were driving her home, she asked us if Jacob’s adoption was open  (she was curious, since she was adopted).  We told her that yes we did, and said we had recently visited with his birth mother and birth father.  I then turned to Jacob and asked him if he remembered seeing them.  He said yes and then I asked if he could tell her their names.  He then said, “____ is my birth mother, and _____ is my birth father.  He was smiling and so happy when he mentioned their names, and I was too.  I am glad he knows them and loves them, and that he has felt of their love for him as well.