An open adoption is essentially a relationship between the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the child, versus a closed adoption, where the birth parents aren’t a part of the child’s upbringing whatsoever. In order for the open adoption to thrive, there are three key ingredients needed: commitment, communication, and flexibility.
The first key ingredient for a successful open adoption is commitment. All parties need to be fully committed to the relationship in order for the open adoption to fully thrive as it was intended. Open adoption is not co-parenting, but is similar to marriage in the mutual love the birth parents and adoptive parents both share for the child. If you are the adoptive parents, you are responsible for setting boundaries that are in the best interest of your child.
Conflict may arise between adoptive parents and birth parents from time to time, and it’s always best to approach conflict from a both/and position and not either/or. You should always be on the same team. Remember: open adoption is like a marriage. Both parties should always try to find a way to understand where the other is coming from. With the exception of extreme situations that could inflict physical, mental, or emotional harm on your adoptive child, it is not wise to intentionally extract the birth parents from the child’s life altogether. If you wouldn’t cut off one of your biological family members for doing what your child’s birth parents did, you shouldn’t cut the birth parents out of your child’s life, either.
Both parties must be communicative to make the open adoption work. It is imperative both parties express their needs respectfully, and that those needs are heard. Honesty is also important, as the words that go unsaid can build into resentment over time.
As seasons come and go, relationships can change, and both parties will need to be flexible to accommodate those changes. When the relationship first begins with a domestic adoption, as the adoptive parents, you may be parenting a newborn whose teen birth mother lives just 15 minutes away. Seven years pass and that teen mother is now in her mid-20’s, married, and moving out of town. Eventually she may parent children with her husband, and make trips to town to allow her children to have a relationship with their sibling, who is in your care.
The point here is relationships and circumstances change over time, and it is imperative for both parties to be as flexible as possible for the duration of the child’s life until they reach adulthood and are free to make their own decisions. What worked for the relationship five years ago might not work with the circumstances of today. Always act in the best interest of the child, even if it is an inconvenience on your part.
Open adoptions can cause awkward moments and maybe even some frustration, but when all parties are working in sync for the greater good of the child, it’s a win-win for everyone.