WHAT IS OPEN ADOPTION?
Open adoption has many meanings today. I consider an open adoption one where the adoptive parents & the birthparents of the adopted child have met, know each other’s identity and are committed to having contact over the years as family to each other. It is important to underline that relationships will evolve/ develop over the years the way other relationships do in our lives.
ADOPTION CREATES BLENDED FAMILIES. This is a familiar concept in our society. When we think of adoption in those terms, it tends to make open adoption less mysterious. After all, I imagine that the vast majority of us have dealt with blended family matters within our families.
I have observed that there are adoptive parents who say they want an open adoption as long as it doesn’t confuse the child. The fact is children sort out the various relationships in their lives including the fact that they have parents who are raising them & birthparents who are not. This understanding happens over time, but that is how learning happens for children-developmentally and with appropriate repetition.
Now, I certainly don’t want to suggest that open adoption takes away the complexities of adoption, because it doesn’t. It does offer avenues for helping our children cope with the multitude of feelings including feelings of loss, rejection, abandonment, grief and more. The beauty is that adoptive parents & birthparents can help the child walk thru these feelings. They can help him understand over time why the adoption happened to HIM, the feelings the birthparents/ birthfamily have for him, etc. The child can also witness the commitment of his adoptive parents and his birthparents to build the relationship over the years. Surrounding the child with this is very powerful and yields many benefits to all involved.
Among these is the awareness of the faithfulness & love both sets of parents feel for the child. It also gives the child observable permission to love both sets of parents. When adoptive parents & birthparents feel comfortable with the role they have in the child’s life. it diminishes the possibility of competition between them. The reality is that everyone is important in the child’s life and will affect his sense of self and his self- esteem.
I want to add that when adoptive parents and birthparents/birthfamily develop affection/respect bonds, that they too benefit. Adoptive parents feel more entitled to be the child’s parents and birthparents feel more entitled to stay in the picture and develop a committed relationship, with an important role in the child’s life also. This strengthens the self-esteem of everyone that is involved.
I can’t UNDERLINE enough how important it is that the adults genuinely commit to work on the relationship over the years-- the kind of commitment that will survive even through times of misunderstandings and conflict. After all, we’re not talking here of perfect relationships- we’re talking about real people and well, sometimes life isn’t perfect. However, when we truly understand that maintaining bonds is important in adoption, we will tend to work harder at it for the good of our children.
BY PATRICIA MARTINEZ DORNER –AUGUST 1999
THIS ARTICLE MAY BE CITED AND/OR REPRODUCED WHEN THE AUTHOR IS CITED.