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Redefining family: The mindset of inclusion.
What is a “real family”? Did you grow up in a real family? As an adult did you create a real family? At OA&FS we’ve been challenging the social construct of what a real family looks like since our founding in 1985. At our agency, families are created by bringing together a network of friends and family members that encompasses all of the cherished people in the child’s life. As captured in the following family story, these relationships are mutually beneficial; my connections with my children’s birth families are among the most meaningful in my life. Genuine open adoption is about cultivating a mindset of inclusion that breaks down the walls of biology.
What does it mean to have an OA&FS extended family relationship? This will understandably look different for everyone. Every family, whether formed through adoption or biology, is in a constant state of evolution. In our open adoptions babies are born, siblings are welcomed, marriages/partnerships are formed bringing new extended family members, friendships are encouraged, and there is a place for everyone at the table.
This mindset of inclusion provides a guide for OA&FS adoptions that can be extended to a wide spectrum of circumstances. By being hospitious and focusing on the quality of the individual relationships, adoptive parents can create a welcoming environment for all of the players. Since each family is unique, there’s no “right way” to accomplish this. So, for instance, even if a birthparent is out of touch, there may be other birthfamily members, friends, teachers, or mentors who can fill these essential roles in the child’s life. It’s about being flexible, accepting and open to the possibilities.
The relationships we cultivate will be invaluable to our children as they’re launched and enter adulthood. Adopted kids, especially, need to know who’s on their team as they make their way as an independent person in the world.
Our model teaches kids how to build and expand a support system. This new generation of open adoptees will develop their own network of family and friends based on the mindset of inclusion that they actively participated in throughout their childhood. As adoptee Kaya says in the story inside, their family is, and always will be, as real as any other.
How has our culture’s view of birth families changed over time?
This infographic illustrates the journey from exclusion to greater inclusion through the decades using contemporary popular media examples.