The Benefits of Open Adoption

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“When you honor the birth family, you honor the child.” ~Sherry Eldridge

Alright, so now you have the blog that explains open adoption (Open Adoption 101), the blog about my feelings toward it (Open Adoption, Closed Heart), and now, you’ve reached the last installment in this series, which speaks about the positives of being involved in an adoption that’s open.  If you haven’t read either of those, I’d advise you to at least read this first one if you’re not familiar with the concept.  So it’s time to get your notebooks and pens out again class.  Let’s discuss the benefits of an open adoption….

Those who are new to the adoption process, or those on the outside watching a family member or friend go through it, are often shocked to find out about the concept of open adoption.  Once they find out what it is, their next question is usually, why would anyone want to do that???  Well read on…..

Believe it or not, open adoption is beneficial for all three parties of the adoption triad; the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.  Ultimately though, the huge developmental and emotional benefits it holds for the child are most important.

Identity & Self-Esteem

Imagine looking in a mirror and not having a clue who you look like, or where any of features came from.  How lost and disconnected would you feel?

Connection to their birth family gives a child a sense of identity and where they came from.  It helps to give them a with better self-esteem,  and knowledge of who they are.  Identity can be a particularly challenging time for teens as they’re discovering the world, and their place in it.  Couple that with being adopted and having limited or no connection to your birth family altogether, and it can become terribly painful, to the point it can have lasting effects into adulthood..

Children who have connections to birth parents or extended family know why they entered adoption, as opposed to it being left up to their imagination.  Unknowns left to a child’s imagination, can become wildly off course. They start thinking their birth mother didn’t want them. Or it was their fault; they were an awful child (cried too much, behaved badly, wouldn’t listen), and their parent couldn’t possibly love them.  Or they were so bad that people came and ripped them away from their family because of it.   If they know and have positive relationships with other members of their birth family, they can see this was not the case.

Now some people would argue this point, by questioning scenarios of foster children who were severely abused or neglected.  If your child was not old enough to remember the abuse, why would you want to make them aware of it?  And why would you want them in touch with someone that abused them?

Children should be aware of what their history entails, even if it’s negative.  To lie and put a positive spin on their history is of no benefit.  Establishing trust is one of the biggest challenges for adoptive parents and their children. Especially foster children who may have been moved from foster home to foster home before being adopted.  So if  the child looks into their adoption when they are older, and finds their a/parent lied to them, it could potentially destroy the relationship. It’s better for the child, to reveal honest, age appropriate information to them as they grow.  When the information is revealed, it’s important to impress upon them that it was not their fault, and that their parent made a bad decision.  For example, tell the child that no matter how much a baby cries, and how frustrated a parent can get, it’s never okay for them to hit their baby.  That was a bad decision.  It’s also important never to tell the child their parent was a bad person, or the child may feel as though they might be bad too because they are born from their birth parents.   Bad choices don’t make a person bad.

In most cases, if the child is severely abused, the parent will not have the right to see them, as it’s obviously detrimental to the child.  However, that doesn’t mean that there might not be a healthy relationship with another member of the birth family.  Having other birth members in contact, will reinforce that they are lovable and were not deserving of what happened to them in the past.

Security

Children who do not have an open relationship with their birth parents, may choose later on to make contact with them.  This can pose another challenge because they may feel afraid of hurting their adoptive parents and/or be afraid of rejection from their birth parents.  Lack of contact doesn’t just occur with closed adoptions.  Unfortunately, in open adoptions, there is are a lot of children who initially had contact with their birth parents, but over time their birth parents withdraw and they lose contact.  In these instances, it is extremely important, that even if there is no longer a response to phone calls, emails, or letters, that you continue to maintain contact.  It will make them feel more secure in searching for their birth parents if the desire arises.  They won’t fear hurting or disappointing their adopted parents because they know they support them in being connected to their history.  It also gives them the security of a safe place to come back to in order to process their feelings about the connection that does develop, or their feelings of rejection if it doesn’t.

Medical History

A child’s birth family can supply very important information on a child’s medical background.  They can supply missing links that may not otherwise be known if the only information an adoptive family has was given at the time of birth.  Medical conditions that develop in the birth family may could develop over time, and may not exist at the time the child was born.  An ongoing relationship could be very beneficial in a quicker diagnosis and treatment of medical issues an adoptive child may encounter later in life.

Love

This one is probably the most obvious, but can still be overlooked by those who reject the idea of open adoption.  Love is an important and integral part of raising a happy and well adjusted child.  So why would anyone reject expanding the circle of love that embraces their child?  Two families means twice the love, and twice the support, which can only be a positive thing.  An adoptive parent can’t be naive enough to think that their love is a cure all for the painful adjustments adoptive children face, but it is definitely one of the most important building blocks.  So if love can be multiplied, a child has a good foundation to flourish.

So those are the cornerstone benefits of open adoption for an adoptee.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are benefits for all members of the triad, but ultimately, it is the child’s benefit that is most important.

Despite the benefit, it won’t necessarily be easy.  You don’t have to like open adoption, you just have to be accepting of it.  Like it or not, birth parents are a part of your child’s life, whether you have an open or closed adoption for that matter. Your child’s life doesn’t start the day you adopt them.  Like any other child, an adoptee needs to feel unconditional love, support and acceptance.  That means accepting the whole child; past and all.  Hell, we all come with baggage.  If you have a past, you have baggage.  It might be a regular suitcase, a trunk, or if you’re lucky, just a  carry on.  But it’s there, with your ID tag is attached to it.  Whatever the size, it’s always lighter, the more hands that are there to help carry the load.

“This was what love meant after all: sacrifice and selflessness. It did not mean hearts and flowers and a happy ending, but the knowledge that another’s well-being is more important than one’s own.”

                                                                       ~Melissa de la Cruz, from Lost in Time

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