Priorities: Getting Out What You Put In

What are the key ingredients to making an open adoption actually be an open adoption?

Aren’t open adoptions just open because birth parents and adoptive parents agree that the relationship is an open one, share phone numbers and have an occasional visit?

Let’s return to the basics. It’s often been said that open adoption is a relationship. In all actuality, open adoption is not a relationship, it’s several relationships. It’s the relationship between adoptive and birth parents. It’s the relationship between adoptive parents and adopted children. It’s the relationship between birth parents and the child they placed for adoption. On top of this, let’s throw in the relationship the child has with grandparents, both through adoption and birth. And what’s the relationship between siblings…those in the family who lives together day-to-day and those who are seen during visits?

So back to the ingredients. If we are going to have this thing called open adoption, and it involves all these relationships, how will it look and how does it work? There are many cliches that come to mind, including “you get out of it what you put into it.” The crux of most relationships comes down to this  simple saying.

Think about a great relationship that you once had, but no longer do.

Maybe it was a relationship between your best friend in high school. Maybe it was your first love. Maybe it was with a co-worker from your last job. Why is this relationship no longer great? In all likelihood, it’s not because of some huge argument. Relationships tend to drift away because they are not made a priority. Things happen. Phone calls or texts don’t get returned immediately and then become forgotten. The in-box of the email keeps getting more and more new emails on top of the original from that friend. The talk of “we should get together someday” never actually makes it to an actual date.

Now think of a relationship you are still in and all is going well. It’s a safe bet that phone calls and texts are returned. Conversations happen regularly. Time is spent together. Plans are made—and kept. The vague “someday” becomes “next Friday”.

Not all relationships are meant to last forever. There are good reasons why certain relationships are not a priority. A former co-worker with whom you shared an occasional drink after work is not the same as the person connected to you through a child you both adore. Adoption, on the other hand, is a lifelong set of relationships.

In an open adoption that works well, the relationship with the child is the priority. Because it’s a priority, you plan ahead. You put dates on the calendar. You answer texts. Not only do you answer texts, you initiate texts or calls. You don’t worry about whose turn it is to do what.

And you do this open adoption relationship thing because you know the child benefits.

The child knows they are loved. They learn their identity, both from the birth parents and from their adoptive parents. The child can deal with reality, not fantasy. And in the end, this set of adoption relationships helps create an adult who can create healthy, loving relationships of their own.

Healthy, loving relationships. Isn’t that what we all are hoping for?


Words Matter: Telling Your Child’s Story

As a society, we tend to throw around words that then become labels.

Words serve as codes and conjure pictures in our minds. These pictures then shape our attitudes. Attitudes become beliefs. And these beliefs are what we pass on to our children.

Here at ASC we have long advocated for the use of positive adoption language. Positive language serves to remove both stereotypes and judgements. For example—to say a woman gave up her baby evokes a pictures of an uncaring woman who just quits. She quits being a mother. She quits caring for her child. She is then deemed a quitter. This is negative language at its worst. Positive language says a woman placed her child for adoption. She made an adoption plan. The picture that comes to mind shows a woman with purpose and intent. Far from being a quitter, this woman is choosing and acting in a way that provides love, care, and stability for her child.

The use of positive language for your child’s story may involve more than just those things related solely to adoption. There may be pieces to your child’s story that involve birth parents who use drugs, have mental illness, or are in the United States illegally. It can be easy to use that shorthand and refer to the birth parents as addicts, or crazies, or illegals. What will your child think of their birth parent if this is how you think of them?

Here’s a quick guide to positive language for situations that may apply to your child’s adoption story.

While not all the words on the left are negative in and of themselves, they should be used with caution. Don’t let the “less positive” become just a label!

As you wonder who your child’s birth parents will be, or wonder how your child’s birth family is doing now after the placement, practice using the more positive language. If you slip up, give yourself some grace. Just keep on going. This is not an all inclusive list—if you’ve got a term or phrase to share, just let us know!


Grief in Adoption…the hard stuff.

Trying to picture what it will be like to place your baby with someone besides you will be one of the hardest things you ever do—until you actually do the adoption. In giving your baby the gift of an adoptive family, you will experience a loss. How it hits you and how you get through this is an unknown and question mark until it actually happens. But some things seem to happen to everyone who experiences a loss, and hopefully this information can help you prepare for what is to come.

Mixed Emotions

The first thing to know about this process is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Emotions are one of the few things that belong only to us and no one can take them away. You may feel several emotions at one time; you may feel just one emotion very strongly. You may be very happy for the adoptive family and excited for the baby. You may be relieved that this time in your life is ending and you don’t have to worry any more. You may be very sad and angry.

Handling Your Grief

It has been said that there are five stages of grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Don’t think of these as a checklist to do and be done. People move back and forth between them. One day you may be sad beyond belief, and the next you might be angry. For a while you may be ok with everything and think you have reached acceptance, and the next day everything you see may make you want to cry.

One of the good things about emotions is that they change. They may stick around for a time—whether good or bad emotions—but they will change. A lot of how you get through these emotions will depend on the things you think and tell yourself. When you find you are feeling something that makes you uncomfortable, remind yourself how strong you are. Think about the life you chose for your baby. But if you need to cry—then CRY! If you need to yell—then YELL! Write down your feelings. Talk with your coordinator or someone you trust about other ways to move through the feelings you wish you weren’t having.

We strive to help all the women with whom we work be proud and confident of their decision to place their child. You are part of an elite group of women who have recognized that this was not the right time in your life to raise a child so you made the hard choices, did your best and gave a gift of love. Adoption is really a gift of love and life for your baby.