By Pat Mills, MS, Adoption Counselor -
Hi, I am Pat Mills, adoption counselor. I have worked in adoptions for 23 years (13 with newborns). I have worked with both adoptive parents and birth parents from initial screening to finalization.
The words “open adoption” can be very frightening for those just beginning their adoption journey. But it doesn’t have to be something to fear. Understanding the purpose and rewards of open adoption may help you see things a little differently. Having worked with infant adoption for 13 years, I have seen the benefits and would like to share my thoughts. I have placed babies in a closed adoption, semi-open adoption and very open adoption and this is what I have learned.
The benefits fall into three categories as do the members of the adoption triad. All three categories or reasons to be open are equally important.
First, let me define the terminology. Open adoption is when the birth parents and adoptive parents share full disclosure, identifying information, have contact through phone, email, letters, and personal contact. A semi-open adoption is the most frequent method and is defined as some disclosure, identifying information, email, phone calls and contact through the agency after the birth. A closed adoption is of no benefit to anyone and is defined as neither party sharing information nor meeting.
The first person who benefits initially from open or semi-open adoption is the birth parent(s). The birth parent gains the most initially when an atmosphere of openness is present. The birth parent(s) are given the task of choosing parents for their child. This can be daunting. Having looked at profiles, the birth parents often feel a sense of relief when meeting the adoptive parents in person and getting to know them. The personal contact gives them a sense of, “I have chosen well”, “I know my baby will be well taken care of”, “I am making the right decision” and other feelings of a similar nature. Continued contact allows the birth parents to relax knowing they have made the right decision. Far fewer birth parents change their minds regarding placement if an open or semi-open relationships exists.
The adoptive family also benefits from openness or semi-openness. The adoptive family gains a tremendous amount of information to later pass to their child when she begins to ask questions about her birth parents and why she was adopted. The adoptive parents also get a sense of the character and personality of the birth parents which is impossible to learn from written information. This is a tremendous gift that they can later relay to their child about her origins.
The third person to benefit is the child. If the adoptive parents have gotten the information and had a relationship with the birth parents the child can receive invaluable information from the adoptive parents. It is comforting to the child to know that the adoptive parents made the choice to get to know the birth parents and learn all they could in order to share this information with the child. Getting to know as much as possible through actual contact or through information passed on the child helps the child to feel good about herself and helps with molding her identity in a positive manner. Knowing that her birth and adoptive families met and shared her best interests is a very positive experience for adoptees.
As you can see all three members of the triad benefit greatly from semi-open or open adoption. You must make a decision you are comfortable with and a commitment you can honor, being mindful of the potential benefits of all involved, especially your child.
Pat Mills, Adoption Counselor
23 years experience in the adoption field