Open adoptions have become more common in recent years than they ever have been before. However, open adoptions can sometimes still be a scary thought when navigating between the birth family and adoptive family. Both parties want to have the best possible outcome for the child while also making sure it is healthy. At times, you may feel like you are not doing enough or that you are giving more than the other party. So how can you have a healthy open adoption for your child?
1. Get to know them
Get to know the birth family or the adoptive family before placement. This can set the stage for an ongoing relationship. Spend time talking on the phone and possibly have visits prior to placement. Tell each other what you want and would hope for later on. Possibly find out why they chose you.
Just like in any relationship, you want to make sure you are communicating your wants and wishes. If you want to have visits with the child after placement, it is important to say that. After that, work with the family or case worker to set up times/days that work for all parties (after placement and prior to, if able to). If you feel something is wrong or unsafe, communicate this with the other party. Communicate what works and what does not.
Things come up when a visit can’t happen, you are not ready for the visit, or possibly the child is old enough to make that decision and has decided they are not ready. Being honest is important to let the other parities know when/if you are ready to have that visit. Not only that but also to make sure you are in a place for that visit. Things change over time and if you are not in a place where it would be healthy or safe, it might have to wait for a later date.
I often find myself preaching this one to many of my clients. I have had clients that have gone hours out of their way to pick up a birthmother just to have a visit. If this is you and you are fine with that great, but if you feel that you are doing a majority of the work for the visit and the other party is not putting in effort that could be a problem. Often in relationships that have no boundaries, one person might find themselves getting taken advantage of and that could lead to resentment. Working out a plan for the visit or for the communication from the start can make sure that no one’s boundaries are being crossed and it sets those expectations early on.
5. Other means of contact
Open adoption does not just mean visits. At times, visits are not possible, but sharing the love you have for that child through photos, letters, emails, etc. can also be a great way to connect and stay in contact over time. There are now so many options with technology to stay in touch.
In the end it is about what is safe and healthy for the child. I have heard from many families in open adoptions that the other party is just like an extension of their family and it just means more people to love their child. However, there might be times you might need professional help to navigate that relationship even with other family members, and that’s ok.
Written by Valerie Ortega.
Valerie is a Licensed Professional Counselor- Associate, supervised by Shawna Munson, MA, LPC-S, and when she is not working for Caring Adoptions, she is do therapy sessions with clients at Restoring Hope Counseling. If you are interested in seeking therapy, please visit the following page: https://www.rhchouston.com/team-valerie and set up an appointment with her today