Feeling at home in your open adoption.

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Voices

"We highly recommend OA & FS for their great support of both birth parents and adoptive families. They are so respectful of all parties, and provide ongoing help. They are always there for you."

Jeff & Vicki, Adoptive Parents

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Open Adoption & Family Services is a non-profit, pro-choice agency that welcomes diversity. We provide an empowerment model to expectant parents. Pregnant women/couples are treated with dignity and respect as they explore all of their pregnancy options. They are empowered with extensive information so they can make the decision that feels best to them. Regardless of their choice, they receive our compassion and support.

Our fully open adoptions include ongoing visits and lifelong services.  At OA&FS, our goal is for all of our clients – birthparents, adoptive parents and open adoptees – to feel at home in their open adoptions. Feeling at home is the reassuring sense of being completely welcomed, accepted and comfortable.

In his book “Hospitious Adoption”, Jim Gritter – a prominent open adoption advocate – uses the concept of hospitality as a framework to describe the components of a satisfying and meaningful open adoption experience.  The giving and receiving among adoptive parents, birthparents and ultimately the open adoptee, is implicit in the model of hospitality, and is at the core of our high-quality open adoptions.

When hospitality works, people feel at home. When adoption works, children feel at home.

Open adoption is about connecting families, not replacing them because they are both invaluable to the child. For the child, “home” is a state of mind that makes room for all of the people she counts on and loves. The hospitious home welcomes and celebrates every aspect of the adopted child.

For additional reading about hospitious adoption that includes real life stories of families living open adoptions, see the OA&FS 2011-12 annual report, and Fall 2012 Open Page newsletter.

We've gathered stories from all points of the adoption constellation. Learn what open adoption is all about from the people living it! Read first-person narratives by adoptive parents, birthparents, birth grandparents and open adoptees. View videos about open adoption. Have a take you’d like to share? Please contact Marketing & Development Director Sally Shuey at sally@openadopt.org. She'll be very happy to hear from you.

OA&FS open adoptee Ariel and her adoptive parents and birthparents wrote the stories below. This window into their various perspectives allows a view of open adoption from all sides and voices. Thanks to the entire family for this important contribution to our understanding of the open adoption experience.


About My Open Adoption
by Ariel

People often want to know what it’s like growing up in an open adoption. I find that people are fascinated by my story and I like to talk about it. I hope that by sharing my story as an open adoptee, people can see how great open adoption is. I hope that other adoptees embrace their open adoption and are proud of it. I have so many people that care about me!

My parents told me about my adoption when I was very young, so I have always known. My adoptive parents really tried to ensure that my birthparents were part of my life. They are comfortable with them being in my life. They scheduled times for me to see my birthparents while I was growing up. Now that I have a car, I can go see Sara and Jason on my own.

I have a close relationship with each of my birthparents. I see them on all the holidays and on birthdays. Now that I am away at college, I see them less, but we are still in touch. We are friends on Facebook.

Knowing my birthparents has absolutely helped me to know myself better. Knowing my medical history is important, but more important is that I know that side of me. I’m lucky because I have two sets of parents and all four have taught me things about life.


Why We Chose Open Adoption
by Sara, Ariel’s Birthmother

From her birth to when she left for college, I have been a part of Ariel’s life. Through her open adoption, her birthfather and I gave Ariel amazing parents who offered her more than I could have imagined. Seeing who she is now is proof of what an incredible job they did. I’m very proud of the decision I made those many years ago.

A few months into my junior year, I had dropped out of high school. I was working full-time and in my very naive 16-year-old mind, I thought I had a plan. In January, I found myself pregnant. I continued to work full-time throughout my pregnancy and slowly began to prepare. I bought a crib, baby clothes and other things.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was living with my Mom and one morning it clicked. I snapped or maybe I just woke up: I didn’t want to be a welfare case. I didn’t want my baby to struggle with a Mom who didn’t really have a plan in place to be a successful parent. I questioned how much additional help and support my family would really be able to provide. My Dad loved me, but helping raise my baby wasn’t going to happen. I knew my Mom would be there to help, and that she would insist I apply for every state resource out there for a teenage Mom.

I got out the phonebook, found Open Adoption & Family Services, and made a call. It was the right answer to the most difficult decision of my life. It was also the best decision I’ve ever made. I couldn’t see how I could go wrong: I could pick the parents. That gave me the chance to find the best match for my baby. Reading the full homestudies of adoptive parents was helpful. Getting a glimpse into someone’s life so you know what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, or how long have they been married are all things that give you peace and let you feel a connection to them even before you meet

Over the years, the adoption went exactly like it should have. We talk. We get together. It’s an extension of family that I’m very grateful to have. Laura and Nick kept me caught up on Ariel’s life through pictures, letters, e-mails and by arranging times we could get together. Even so, there was a length of time when I didn’t want to intrude. It wasn’t based on any feeling given off by Laura or Nick. For some reason, I felt I should give them space and not push too much of myself into Ariel’s life. Looking back now, that feeling was… completely stupid. When I planned my wedding six years ago, I really wanted Ariel to be a bridesmaid, but I convinced myself that it would have been asking too much from her. Ariel came to wedding and I regret 100% not asking her to be in it. I wish I would’ve at least given her the chance to make that decision.

What I want people to know about open adoption is don’t hesitate. Embrace it for exactly what is: a unique opportunity to share a wonderful part of your life with others. Open adoption has been the best of both worlds for me as I was given the very fortunate opportunity to watch Ariel grow up and still be connected with her. As Ariel grew older, it’s made it easier for us to keep in touch one on one. E-mail and Facebook are awesome for that!


Why We Chose Open Adoption
by Jason, Ariel’s Birthfather

Our open adoption has been a good story! In an open adoption, everyone gets to stay on board. It’s been a great experience for me to see Ariel grow up. If I had become a father at a very young age, I don’t know if I would have done as great a job. Nick and Laura weren’t able to have a child. That they were able to raise Ariel and that they did such a great job makes me feel really good.

Back then, Sara and I were really young. We weren’t sure for about six or seven months into the pregnancy what we should do. I felt it was ultimately Sara’s decision and my job was to support her choice. When Sara made the decision to explore adoption, we went to two agencies and decided to work with Open Adoption & Family Services. It made sense at that time in our lives and I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Absolutely every turn that Ariel’s life has taken since then has been for the better for her.

We read through a lot of intro letters and several families’ homestudies until we found the perfect match. When we found them, it became like a fairy tale situation. When we first began to get to know Nick and Laura, we just clicked. We have a lot of common interests so we became comfortable together as friends. That made it even easier to connect.

Kids can read so well what’s happening around them. For a child to see her birthparents and adoptive parents getting along so well is important. That’s the coolest part of how our adoption process went: how well we all got along. We started out with regular visits. I can’t recall, but think we agreed to four visits a year in our open adoption agreement. In the beginning, they seemed unsure how much to open up their lives to us and likewise, we weren’t exactly sure how involved we should be either. After the first couple of visits, it never felt uncomfortable or awkward. After a couple of years, we left the formalities behind and became more like an extended family.

Sara and I stayed together for about a year after Ariel was born and then our lives changed. We both moved and grew apart. After that, we each developed our own relationship with Ariel. Ariel’s the glue of our family. She’s full of stories and it was always fun to hear everything she’d done since we last talked. We also developed very close relationships with Ariel’s parents. When I call to talk with Ariel, I check in to see how Nick and Laura are doing, too. I learned a lot from them over the past years. When I needed it, I felt I could ask them for advice. My Dad passed away when I was quite young, so I really appreciated my relationship with them. It’s been great to have them in my life and an amazing experience to be there as Ariel became who she is today.


Why We Chose Open Adoption
by Laura, Ariel’s Adoptive Mother

When Ariel’s dad and I first considered adopting in 1990, open adoption practices had just begun to catch on in Oregon. We could find no adult adoptees or even teenagers we could talk to about their open adoption experience. By chance, I came across a news column about a radio personality in Portland who had been adopted in the 1950s.

Though it wasn’t common at the time, the adoptive couple stayed in touch with the birthparents, so Iris, the adoptee, grew up knowing both families. The gist of the story was she was very close to and tied to her birthparents, which in no way undermined her devotion to and closeness with her adoptive parents throughout her life. In the article, Iris acknowledged she was thankful to her birthparents for allowing her adoptive parents to have her. She also shared how grateful she was to her adoptive parents for enabling her relationship with her birthparents.

The article was a revelation for us. It was the first time I’d encountered an actual instance of an open adoption and clearly, the adoptee had thrived. At the time, many believed only damage or heartbreak would result from an open relationship. I have a sibling from a closed adoption who grew up with scant information about her birth family. In my sister’s case, my sense was that the secrecy brought no blessings to her life and may have contributed to her issues with anxiety and low self esteem.

We chose open adoption. Thankfully, Ariel hasn’t had to deal with identity issues to the same degree as my sister. Ariel knows her birthparents, and with that, she knows a lot more about herself. She knows who she looks like and her inherited medical history. Most importantly, she knows why she was given for adoption and that Sara and Jason love her. She also gets to be a part of her birth siblings’ lives as they grow up, and that has been priceless.

Maintaining a good relationship and staying in contact with Ariel’s birthparents has been important to me. It is essential that Ariel feel comfortable with her adoption and perceive her birthparents as positive, wonderful factors in her life. Sara and Jason are also important to me because I’m incredibly indebted to them.

I can’t imagine adopting any other way. I believe Ariel’s open adoption has enhanced all of our lives. When people unfamiliar with open adoption have asked how Ariel could love more than one mother, I usually respond by saying, “How does a mother love more than one child? It’s no more confusing than that.”


Why We Chose Open Adoption
by Nick, Ariel’s Adoptive Father

My child’s birthparents are important to me because they have given me a great gift. Their baby was very important to them. Sara proved that by the care she took to assure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. They both proved that by the care they took in making an incredibly difficult decision about how to give their baby the most promising future they possibly could. I immensely respect the strong character Sara and Jason showed.

Jason and Sara have given Ariel a great gift. They provided her the opportunity for a future that they could not have provided when they were in high school. By remaining close, they have provided Ariel with continuity. She knows who her birth parents are. She knows they love her and she knows they made a great sacrifice for her benefit. To me, the mutual trust and respect that we all have for each other has helped us create a strong relationship.

My advice for those who are just going into the adoption process is to be very honest. Be clear in your reasons and purpose in pursuing adoption. Clarity of purpose will help you evaluate when you have a strong match between you and the birth parents. Be patient and respect your intuition. I’m a big believer in karma, fate, “you reap what you sow,” and relying on intuition to evaluate character.

With Ariel, Sara and Jason, we hit the “adoption jackpot.” That’s the way you’re supposed to feel and I have talked to many parents who share that same feeling. With determination, patience and luck, we all have a very happy story. Ultimately, isn’t that what you’re trying to achieve?

In a closed adoption, you face the prospect of keeping a secret and lying to your child about his or her origin. That violates the most basic relationship between a parent and child: TRUST! As we considered adoption options and our goals, open adoption was the only alternative that made sense to Laura and me. That was in 1990. Looking back at the story we can now tell, there is no doubt in my mind that we made the right choice for Ariel and all of us.

We believe that you're entitled to ...

  • Receive a child-centered open adoption, in which your needs are honored.
  • Have your birthparents carefully choose your adoptive parents after reviewing their homestudy and a detailed family book.
  • Be entrusted to your adoptive parents by your birthparents in an entrustment ceremony.
  • Have parents who will honor your history and nurture a relationship with your birth family.
  • Have your birth and adoptive parents receive relationship building resources, tools and guidance.
  • Have an adoption guided by a legally enforceable contract for ongoing visits with your birth family.
  • Have access to your birth siblings, especially if they were placed with another adoptive family.
  • Feel at home in your family; to feel valued, welcomed and accepted.
  • Have access to your story.
  • Have access to all known information about you.
  • Be a constellation member with a unique voice and opinion.
  • Have access to our open adoption community, including other adoptees.
  • Have access to lifelong consultation and guidance from the agency.

"When hospitality works, people feel at home. When adoption works children feel at home".

This quote from Jim Gritter, author of Hospitious Adoption, perfectly captures what we at OA&FS strive for in connecting families via open adoption. Our goal is to provide birthparents and adoptive parents with the tools and guidance to create a truly fulfilling open adoption relationship. We are deeply committed to planning open adoptions where the adopted child’s needs for information have not only been met, but exceeded. In our adoptions the child’s optimal needs for validation, endorsement and support are the primary focus.

Learn more about Building An Open Adoption Relationship.