“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” – Simone Weil.
Adoption is a word that can connote many feelings; a sense of family, love, and fulfillment, and also grief, fear, questioning, and secrecy. Where we come from is often a central component of our sense of identity, helping explain who we are and to whom we are connected. When we don’t know where we come from, or we wonder about an unknown past, this can lead to feelings of uncertainty about our place in our families and in the larger world, especially when we don’t have a way to seek out this information. Open adoption as a process empowers birth parents, children and adoptive parents to know each other’s stories, to ask of each other the big questions, and to foster lifelong connections that lead to a sense of security and belonging. In our agency’s process each parent, expectant and adoptive, has had an honest and authentic opportunity to reflect on their choice to parent or not, and to be supported through this process with dignity, resources and ultimately respect for their chosen role in a child’s life.
Open adoption is mindful, inclusive, respectful.
In contemplating the value of open adoption, one is often most struck by the positive intentionality of loving relationships that this process strives to create. Family is not a word with a singular definition; it is both where we come from and where we choose to be in human relationships. In the case of open adoption, each extended family creates, and then recreate throughout their lives, a sense of love, commitment, and respect for each other and most of all for the child (or children) who hasve brought them together. In an ideal world, this would be true of all families, no matter their origins. With open adoption, an opportunity is created to be mindful, inclusive and respectful in one of the most central human relationships we have.
For birth parents, open adoption facilitates an ongoing connection to a person they have created and nurtured into this world. In choosing to place a baby in an adoption, birth parents are acknowledging their choice to not parent at this time in their lives, and open adoption allows for a path to knowing who this child will become, and also to be known to this child in an ongoing way. This means the growth of, rather than the severing of a relationship. Birth parents can continue to love their child, and can hopefully move past the grief by letting go of what might have been, to embrace a broader experience of acceptance into a new extended family that they have helped to create. Birth parents can respond to their child’s questions with reassurance and honesty, helping them feel secure in a family that loves them completely. They can feel strength in knowing they have played and will continue to play an integral role in taking care of their child’s needs in the best ways they can.
For adoptive parents, open adoption also allows for a sense of connection to where their child comes from, and helps them provide honest answers to their child’s questions as they arise. Having a structured relationship with birth parents can also support a sense of security in adoptive parents, of their primary role in parenting their child while collaborating in nurturing them as they grow up. During more challenging times in parenting, adoptive parents have the ability to respond from a shared understanding of how their child came to be adopted, because it has been a transparent process. Adoptive parents can experience security themselves in bearing witness to the relationship their child has with their birth parents, rather than fearing betrayal or anger about an unknown parent or a secret past. They contribute to meeting their child’s deepest emotional needs in this way. They can play an integral role in supporting their child in having honored, mutually meaningful relationships with their birth families as they grow and learn to experience trust, love and commitment within the context of family.
For the child, open adoption reinforces a true sense being cherished, accepted and supported by many loving adults, including their adoptive and birth parents, and ideally by even larger extended families on all sides. This supports healthy attachments to their adoptive parents, with a shared understanding of each person’s role in the child’s life. As questions arise about where they came from and what it means to be adopted, they have the ability to ask these questions directly, and with support when needed, to hear honest responses. While this may not always be a smooth path, children learn to feel respected and worthy of trust when their past is not a secret, and when they are honored with transparency and truth from their family. When children have meaningful connections with birth parents that are supported and genuinely respected by adoptive parents, they can feel safe in creating and nurturing their own sense of understanding about who they are. Ultimately, this contributes to their overall sense of self-worth, security and belonging.
Expectant parents are empowered to make informed decisions.
Beyond the individuals involved in each open adoption experience, the philosophy itself supports values integral to healthy communities. This includes empowering people to make informed and respected decisions about whether and when to parent, with access to the support they need to know that they are making the best decision for themselves and for their child. It also includes fostering genuine relationships that are based on mutual respect, transparency, and honesty, especially in times of intense vulnerability. Modeling this for children supports strong communication skills and emotional intelligence, both of which contribute to healthy interactions and relationships throughout their lives. Open adoption supports a broad and evolving definition of the word family, and always includes the right of children to feel loved, completely welcomed, and accepted by their families, whoever they may include, which makes its value immeasurable.