What is Open Adoption and Why You Might Consider it When Placing Your Baby for Adoption?
There are many reasons expectant mothers and parents decide to place their babies for adoption. Whatever the reason, there are many facets to adoption and a lot to consider when making that choice. You, the expectant mother/parents, do not want to make a hasty decision; in the end, you are the only one that can decide what is best for you and the baby you carry.
What Does Adoption Mean?
You have probably heard the word but never found a use for it until now. Adoption, as stated on Dictionary.com, is “The act or process of establishing a legal relationship between a child and a parent other than the child’s biological parent, thereby entrusting the designated adult with responsibility for raising the child.” There are many types of adoption but for this article, we will focus on open adoption.
Reasons You Would Consider Adoption
You are a teenager who is still in high school and know, in your heart, that you would not be able to take care of a baby and continue your education. Nor would you financially be able to care for a child even if the birth father is still in the picture.
You are a college student who has become pregnant. You are aware that classes, homework, and, more than likely, at least a part-time job would not be enough or the best suited for either you or the child you carry.
You are newly married or fresh out of college but want to get your career off the ground before starting a family. You may not be ready at this point.
You are a mother with more children and you are already struggling to make ends meet. You understand the financial responsibility but do not know how you will feed one more child. You know that you want to give another family or couple the gift of parenting.
No matter what your reasoning is for adoption, open adoption may be something you want to look into. What is open adoption, you ask? Open adoption entails many facets. When it comes right down to it, you, the expectant mother/parents, work with your agency of choice — one agency being The Gladney Center for Adoption (although based in Texas, Gladney aides expectant mothers/parents in every aspect of adoption, including open adoption worldwide) — to choose what is in the best interest of both you and the baby.
Open adoption is your chance to work out a way to stay in contact with the adoptive parents throughout the many areas of the child’s life. Through the decision-making process, you will, along with the prospective adoptive parents, agree on how much contact you will have with your baby once he/she is placed in his/her forever home. This could include photos, letters, social media, and visitation. If visitation is one of the aspects of open adoption that you choose, it will be acknowledged and set by the judge when the adoption is finalized.
Many adopted children who have an open adoption know their birth parents well and thrive because they know where they come from, get the opportunity to understand who they are, and are lucky enough to have so many adults who care about their well-being. Some children do not have that option so they may not understand who they are or anything about their own culture if it is different from that of the adoptive parents. That is another positive aspect of open adoption.
Other positive aspects include:
- They know that they are loved by not only one set of parents but they also know that their birth mother/parents loved them enough to do something so selfless for them.
- The adoptive parents and the expectant parents work together to make sure that their child knows that they are wanted and loved.
- The child has a real relationship with both sets of parents.
There are negative connotations to open adoption just like there are positive aspects. Some of these are:
- When the child finds out that they are adopted, he/she may decide he/she does not want as much contact with the expectant parents or he/she wants more contact than the adoptive parents allow, which could cause conflict.
- The expectant mother/parents may want more time and contact with the child even though the adoptive parents have made it clear where the boundaries lie.
- The expectant mother/parents might shy away from visitation or any form of contact as the child grows older because she/they do not want to interfere with the preteen or teenage years, knowing how difficult those years can be for a child.
- The adoptive parents may want to restrict contact, especially if it had adverse effects on the child such as lashing out, negative behavior, etc. so that they can get the child the help he/she needs.
- As the child gets older, he/she may not want as much contact with their birth mother/parents for fear that others will know that they are adopted, be bullied because of it, or otherwise be treated differently because they were adopted.
Have you ever watched the reality show on MTV called Teen Mom OG? On that particular show, there is a couple who, as young teenagers at the beginning, knew they could not give the baby she carried the things she needed and they also knew that the environments they grew up in would not be good for the baby. So, they did the most selfless and loving thing they could for their daughter. They put her up for adoption.
As you watch them go through the process of choosing parents, the birthing plan, as well as for deciding on an open adoption with the prospective adoptive parents they chose, they both go through a myriad of emotions. Even after placing their daughter, it was difficult for them because their adoption, although open, was left to the adoptive parents regarding when or if they could see the baby. I followed this story closely until the show stopped airing and watched as the birth mother grappled with her decision.
Luckily, there are groups that birth mothers/parents can join with members who know where you are coming from and can give you additional support. The birth mother went to a retreat with other birth mothers who had gone through or who were going through the same emotions she was. She knew what she chose to do was best for her baby but, at the same time, it broke her heart because she knew that visits were left up to the adoptive parents so she and the birth father never had a set visitation schedule.
This bothered both of them a lot but they attended counseling and these retreats to help them through the tough times. Unfortunately, for the couple on Teen Mom OG, their support system was split. His mom supported them in every decision they made regarding their open adoption from the start whereas her mom did not or could not understand why she placed her baby for adoption even though she knew that the environment was not a good one.
To assist you in understanding more about open adoption, I have asked a birth mother to share her story with you in hopes that it will help you make the decision that is best for you and your baby.
Katie’s Open Adoption Story
I was just 16 when I got pregnant and my mom sent me to live at the Gladney Center for Adoption dorms. I spent roughly 7.5 months of my pregnancy there; it was pretty emotionally straining, being so young and trying to figure out life as a pregnant 16-year-old. It was at the dorms by looking through profile books that I chose my son’s parents. They drove up as soon as I went into labor and part of my plan was for me to keep my son for a week after I delivered. I stayed at the dorms and my son went with a transitional care family and then would spend the days with me.
This was just so that I could spend some time with him; I did sign away my rights at 48 hours so that the adoptive parents would have the confidence and security knowing that week was not for me to change my mind. Since placement day, we have had a semi-open adoption agreement that has flowed and gone very smoothly. My son is now 18.5 years old. The things that I love about my adoption story and having it be semi-open would be getting the letter and picture updates once a year. Those letters and pictures I really cherish and look forward to each summer, I really needed those for my heart to heal. But now that he has turned 18, it has ended our formal agreement.
I think the one thing I would do differently looking back now is advocate a little bit more for myself; I would not be so afraid to ask his parents questions in letters. I have always been very cautious in our semi-open adoption to not cross any boundaries, either perceived or real. I waited 18 years to even ask his parents if he ever read my letters over the years, or asked about me, knew who I was, etc. I waited until the final update to ask these crucial questions that I had been wanting to know for 18 years. Even after 18 years, I have never regretted my decision of placing him with his family. I have peace with that decision and knowing it was in his best interest, which at the end of the day is all a birth mom can ask for— peace.
Thank you, Katie, for sharing your story on semi-open adoption. Knowing that real people have gone through it and seeing open adoption as a positive experience can assist you, the birth parents, in making a decision that will change not only your life but the lives of those involved.
How Does Open Adoption Affect Those Involved?
Just like in a family where things might not be traditional, if the birth mother/parents are involved in aspects of the child they “share” with the adoptive parents and if the child is not afraid to ask questions of either set of parents, they can learn a great deal about who they are than if the chosen adoption process is a closed one or if they are afraid to ask. It is up to you, the birth mother/parents, and the adoptive parents to help the child grow into a great person through being as available to your child as the adoptive parents allow.
Open adoption is also a good thing for the adoptive parents because if there is ever anything wrong with the baby/child (for example, the child needs a kidney transplant or a heart defect), the adoptive parents have a way to let the birth mother/parents know and the birth mother/parents just might be the saving grace for their child. The adoptive parents also get to know the birth mother/parents as they grow into adulthood as people and not just teenagers who gave them a selfless gift. They have the opportunity to make this a positive experience for everyone involved. After the baby is placed with them, they make the decisions as to how much or little contact there is.
It also affects the birth mother/parents because they are allowed to watch the child they could not raise on their own grow into an awesome adult.
DISCLAIMER: Although this is a guide to assist expectant mothers in their choice to place their baby in regards to open adoption, please contact an adoption agency or adoption attorney for help.