Has adoption touched your life? Because the field of adoption has undergone sweeping changes over the years, you may be more aware of it now. The process is more open.
In fact, experts believe the era of closed adoption is over because the process of finding birth relatives is accessible and commonplace. Researchers at the Evan B. Donaldson Institute, a national adoption think tank, report that the Internet has had a ‘transformative impact’ on adoption.
At Open Adoption & Family Services, we have been cultivating and supporting open adoptions since our inception in 1985. In an open adoption, birth parents choose adoptive parents after reading a comprehensive packet of materials about them. They meet and create a friendship that is similar to an extended family relationship. Because our expertise is in the area of relationship development, we work with birth and adoptive parents to help them build a strong and healthy foundation for their open adoption relationship. Together, they create a legally enforceable adoption agreement that outlines their future visits.
On-going contact provides birth parents with the reassurance that their child is thriving in the adoptive home. This helps them feel at peace with their decision. Knowing that the birth parents fully support the adoption, the adoptive parents feel secure in welcoming the birth parents into their lives.
In reality, how does it work? We asked the birth mother and adoptive parents of Carly to talk about the experience of going through an open adoption. Michele, the adoptive mother, says, “It was always my expectation to have as open a relationship as possible.”
Joanna, the birth mother, says, “I really liked them after meeting them and hoped we would remain close, but I don’t think I could have dreamed how close we would all become.”
“In many ways,” adds Mike, the adoptive father, “our relationship with Joanna and her parents is closer than a friendship and different than our relationship with our relatives because we have gone through a powerful process of intentionally creating a family relationship around the birth of a child.”
All of the parents believe they have benefited from their relationship. “Becoming a parent is an experience that expands one’s capacity for love,” Michele says. “Becoming a parent by way of open adoption does this, too, but exponentially. I have learned that love overcomes fear. We figured out pretty quickly that we had the most important and amazing thing in our lives in common. It is hard to get much more connected then that.”
Joanna, who was adopted herself, says, “I think it’s been wonderful for me to be able to see Carly – never will I have the ‘what if’ types of questions. I have gained a big, loving family.”
They all say that their daughter, now age 8, has benefited from open adoption, too. “Carly is a very confident and secure little girl,” Mike says. “I think to feel secure, every child wants to know they have family around them that loves them.”
“She has a really big family that loves her to pieces,” Joanna says.
Adoption has come out of the shadows, shedding decades of secrecy. Now birth and adoptive parents form natural friendships that meet the on-going needs of the child. Adoption is an experience they can all regard with pride.
Shari Levine, MA is the Executive Director of Open Adoption and Family Services. She is the adoptive mom of two children who were born and raised in open adoptions. She has very close relationships with both of their birth moms. More information on the agency is at http://www.openadopt.org or 1-800-772-1115.