We are in the process of adopting an infant. Family and friends are very excited for us, and while I appreciate their exuberance, the mama bear in me is writing this to educate them and others on what an open adoption will look like in our family.
An open adoption is when the adoptive and birth families share identifying information and have contact with each other during and after the adoption process.
An open adoption can look different for every family.
For instance, in our family, we will have a unique and delicate situation to balance on our hands. We will have a bi-racial biological child AND an adopted child. Here’s what you can expect an open adoption to look like in our family:
1. Our Child Will Know He/She is Adopted From Birth
There are numerous benefits that come from open adoption. For the child, open adoption means
- A sense of belonging, which may lessen his or her feelings of abandonment
- Connection to his or her cultural and ethnic background and ancestry
- Better access (than would be possible in a closed adoption) to important medical information, such as factors that can lead to disease, or medical conditions that exist in the birth families
- Better understanding of the reasons for placement
- A sense of knowing that he or she looks like someone else or has characteristics that come from a blood connection
For the adoptive parents, they will have access to one or more birth family members who can answer background and other questions that the adoptive parent cannot and access to important medical information. Parents will also have the chance to build lifelong relationships with birth families which will bridge a valuable connection to child and birth families.
Our child’s adoption story will be known, celebrated, and shared. It won’t be a shameful secret that we whisper about in privacy.
Our child will be encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings and to ask any questions regarding their adoption.
2. We Will Not Use Clarifying Adjectives in Everyday Language
Our adopted child will be called “our child.” Our biological child will be called “our child.” We will refer to ourselves as “parents” rather than the “adoptive parents” when speaking of one child and “biological parents” when speaking of the other.
Of course, there will be times when we do have to point out the difference. For example, for the purposes of this post I am, and for medical appointments I might have to as well.
But when introducing our children for the first time, we will not, and we expect other people to do the same, introduce them as our “adopted child” and “biological child.” They will just be “our children.”
If the subject of adoption comes up naturally, we will address it in an open and honest way.
3. We Have to Be Mindful of the “Looks Like” and “In Your Genes” Comments
People love to point out how much a child looks like and acts like their parents. I get it. I do that too.
However, since we have a delicate situation like I mentioned earlier, we have to be mindful of how much we make these comments around our adopted child.
We never want one child feeling less than another child because of biological reasons.
For example, we can’t constantly point out how much our biological child looks and takes after our certain personality traits (“It must be in your genes!”) in front of our other child who doesn’t share our genetic makeup.
While our child who is adopted can certainly grow to have similar traits, quirks, and interests like us through nurture and environment, we don’t want to remind them how different they are by constantly pointing out similarities and differences in looks to their sibling.
4. Our Children Are Siblings
On that note, our children are siblings in all aspects of life. For example, while it can be expected that our parents as grandparents will treat our adopted child as their grandchild just like they would our biological child, it will go the other way.
Our child’s birth families, if they wish to have an ongoing open relationship with us, will have a relationship with our biological son. That means they will get updates and photos of both of our children. If we all decide to meet, they will meet both children.
5. We Will Share Little Information to Others About the Birth Family
Until a solid relationship has been built between us and the birth family, we will share little details about them with the public, including family and friends.
This privacy is for a couple of reasons. One, the intimate details of their story aren’t ours to tell. It’s something our child can choose to share.
Two, we are not leaving the background, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, reasons for choosing adoption, legal or illegal activities of the birth family up for unwanted scrutiny and unfair assumptions by other people not in our immediate family.
For example, let’s say that the birth mother of our child has been on drugs and in and out of jail. Now, let’s say that that fact is well known. Biases and prejudices can start to be unfairly labeled and put upon our child knowingly or unknowingly. For instance, someone might say, “He’s going to turn out like his mother if he keeps up that attitude.”
Nope, I’m going to stop that before it even begins.
Adoption can be such a beautiful thing but sometimes it’s important to put some boundaries into place and prepare family and friends for welcoming our child so everyone can feel loved and safe.
Do you have any other boundaries you set early on that helped with an adoption?
Let us know in the comments below.
Our next reco: 10 Things This Adoptive Mom Wants You to Know