Child-centered open adoptions begin with a close and trusting relationship between birthparents and adoptive parents. This unique partnership acknowledges not only the parties’ mutual respect and shared love for the child, but also their separate and distinct roles.
Birthparents and adoptive parents work together to create a healthy foundation for the child. As the child develops and pieces his identity together, he needs the unconditional love, acceptance and support from both birthparents and adoptive parents. Children need to know that these important people believe in them, love them, and celebrate them.
Birthparents and adoptive parents can affirm one another by endorsing the special roles each holds in the child’s life. In a truly child-centered open adoption, birthparents and adoptive parents cope with their own losses so they are able to build a respectful partnership that meets the ongoing needs of the child. We have been so impressed over the years by the ways in which adoptive parents and birthparents have welcomed one another into their lives.
How birthparents and adoptive parents
can affirm one another.
- Be yourself; don’t feel you have to hide who you are. Face your fears and insecurities and do your best to settle them. Do you fear the other party’s disapproval? Their grief? Their bond with the child? Do what you need to work through these concerns, so instead of worrying you can relax and enjoy the relationship.
- Be expressive and affectionate - don’t hold back. Create an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging. Welcome one another and leave no doubt about your sincerity.
- Keep the lines of communication open. If you are uncomfortable with a conversation or visit, go back to the source. Talk to the other party about what could improve communication. Express concerns directly and graciously. Part ways with a clear plan for when, where and how the next contact will occur.
- Acknowledge shared traits. Adoptive parents, verbally acknowledge the characteristics (i.e. personality, physical traits, talents) the child shares with the birthparent. Birthparents, point out the traits the child has received from the adoptive parents (i.e. mannerisms, values, hobbies).
- Acknowledge loss. Adoptive parents, express the empathy you feel for the birthparent’s loss. Birthparents, acknowledge your empathy for the adoptive parents’ infertility losses.
- Show appreciation. Express your appreciation for the way the birthparent interacts with your family. Compliment the adoptive parents on what a great job they’re doing as parents. Encourage a sense of teamwork. The child needs your affirmation and will surely benefit from everyone’s cooperative efforts.
- Be realistic. The average age of birthparents is 23 years old. Adoptive parents, have realistic expectations about birthparents’ willingness and ability to reciprocate phone calls and correspondence. Take the initiative to keep the relationship lively and current. Even if there are stretches when your efforts meet with little or no response, do your best to keep the connection alive because it holds great importance to your child. By communicating frequently, you are letting the birthfamily know that their hopes for their child are being realized.
- Be considerate. Birthparents, be considerate of the time restraints adoptive parents may be experiencing as new parents. Make the effort to keep in touch with the adoptive family; they care deeply about how you are doing.
- Be optimistic about the other party fulfilling their potential in life and within the relationship. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Be proud of one another and your open adoption relationship. Let others know how enriching your open adoption is to you.
- Share your appreciation of one another with the child. Let the child know he’s surrounded by people who care about and love him deeply.
- Recognize holidays. Remember Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthmother’s Day and the child’s birthday as important times to acknowledge and honor one another.