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?


This Is Kind of a Big Deal…I Need a Maybe Family!

“My mom’s mad, the father doesn’t believe the baby is his, and life is falling apart. Maybe I can do this, but maybe it’s time to look into adoption.”

Jessica remembers writing this in her journal. She remembers the feeling of being completely and totally overwhelmed. She called herself “dumb” (she’s not!) and wondered what to do.

Sometimes when you decide to look into adoption, a “maybe family” jumps into your mind. Or falls into your lap. Your second cousin once removed has a friend who knows of a family trying to adopt. You’ve talked to your second cousin once removed a few times and trust him up to a point. You agree to talk with the cousin’s friend who puts you in touch with the family trying to adopt. They tell you they have been trying to adopt for years, that birth mothers have scammed them and taken lots of money from them and they want you to sign something RIGHT NOW that will guarantee you will hand over your baby to them. Your heart goes out to them, and you WANT to help them.

But that feeling in the pit of your stomach is letting you know that this doesn’t feel quite right. There’s something about that signing anything RIGHT NOW that doesn’t sit well. So you start looking through Facebook. And Instagram. You google “adoption”. And you see countless pictures of smiling families from all over. Some have other kids. Some have dogs. Some are single. Some are paired up and seem cute and sweet. That overwhelming feeling starts to take over. They all promise to love your child. They all promise to provide your child an education, vacations, and holiday traditions. All those smiling people promise they will stay in touch with you long after the adoption is over. Letters. Pictures. Texts. Facebook posts. Visits. “But will they?” you wonder to yourself. And that feeling in the pit of your stomach is back.

Adoption does not have to be that way. You have control. You have the right to learn all you can about the maybe family that tells you they would love to adopt your baby. You can make choices for yourself and your baby. Now is the time to find an expert…someone who knows about adoption. Someone who knows about the laws that are about adoption. Someone who has completely checked out the maybe family, and knows that they are truly safe and stable. Think about letting a licensed, reputable adoption agency or an adoption attorney do some of the hard work of checking out the maybe family.

This is the time you are looking for an expert. To say an adoption attorney is an attorney who does adoptions sounds silly, but an adoption attorney is one who really has specialized in this field, and really gets how important this decision is for you and your baby. Now is not the time to use the lawyer who got your brother’s girlfriend out of her drunk driving charge. Licensed agencies know how to dig deep into the maybe parents’ world and check them out. This means the families they are working with are secure, safe and stable. A good agency also understands that adoption involves relationships—relationships between you and the maybe family, you and your baby, and the maybe family and the baby. That agency also knows that relationships change over the years, and they will be around for the long haul.

The Adoption Support Center is one of those licensed, reputable agencies that has done the hard work of checking out people who want to adopt. The women who work there passionately care about what happens to you and to your baby. Let the Adoption Support Center help you get rid of that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. Contact them anytime—no question is too big or too small. Remember, you have options and you are in control!