Often, when adoptive families or expectant parents first consider adoption, they have never heard of open adoption. With little understanding of what this type of relationship may look like, it can be easy to find yourself facing a variety of fears related to it. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Think about other areas of life. If you do not have a frame of reference for something, what thoughts and feelings do you have about it? As you learn more, do those fears continue or do they subside? Now, thinking about the adoption process, when you first heard of openness in adoption, what did you think about it? What feelings did it generate for you? It is very common to feel uncertain, cautious, or fearful about the unknowns.
The idea of openness—an ongoing relationship between birth parents and adoptive parents—may have been a strange concept when you first began the adoption process.
The idea of openness—an ongoing relationship between birth parents and adoptive parents—may have been a strange concept when you first began the adoption process. Many fears, worries, or potential concerns may arise. Some may be based on facts, but often they stem from myths about adoption.
When it comes to open adoption, what fears can you think of? Here are some common ones for both adoptive parents and birth parents:
- The birth parents will not be able to “let go” of the child
- The birth parents will take the child back
- The other party will be intrusive or won’t follow the openness plan
- The other party will not stay in contact—not keep up with the openness agreement
- The child will be confused—not knowing who the “real parents” are
- The child will play, or pit, one set of parents against the other
- Both parties will be competing with each other for the child’s love
- The adoptive parents may lose their child emotionally or physically to the birth parents
- For either party, if they measure themselves against the other party, they will be found inadequate
- Having ongoing contact will be too hard (emotionally or logistically)
- Fears of the unknown
Do any of these feel relatable to you? Have you found yourself face to face with any of these fears? If so, what do you do with these feelings?
Benefits of Openness
For some of these feelings, you can work through them on your own by acknowledging them and realizing that they are fears. Sometimes this can be done by looking at the benefits of openness to dispel the fears associated with it. Some benefits include:
- Open adoption can help birth parents work through their grief
- Birth parents don’t have to wonder where their child is and if he or she is okay
- Open adoption can often feel like extended family
- Open adoption is in the best interest of the child
- The child has access to their social and medical history
- Openness can create a better sense of security in the role of an adoptive parent
- There are more people to love the child
- You can still uphold the Spirit of Openness through conversations about the other party, even if the other party does not stay in contact for a time
- Adopted children do not get confused by openness – they know who their parents are
Working Through Your Fears
Without processing and dealing with your feelings and fears, there is a likelihood of getting stuck with those concerns, and they could become triggers that arise at any time. While some fears can be worked through on your own, sometimes, these fears may be best handled through counseling with an adoption competent therapist.
Fortunately, much of what we fear most never comes to pass. – Lori Holden
The good news is we don’t have to stay stuck in our fears, whatever they may be. As Lori Holden wrote in her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, “Fortunately, much of what we fear most never comes to pass. It was once pointed out to me that worrying makes us experience our fear at least one extra time than we need to, if not more” (172).
We also have Scripture to guide us. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB)
We Can Help
If you are a current expectant/birth parent or adoptive parent of New Life Adoptions, we encourage you to reach out to your social worker, or if your adoption was completed months or years ago, contact our Post Adoption Social Worker. It is important to process any fears you have related to adoption, and specifically open adoption. As indicated above, it may be that a referral to a therapist is the next best step.
Holden, Lori The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, Bowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2013.
Melina, Lois Raising Adopted Children, Quill, 2002.