Openness isn’t just a trend in open adoption. It’s a reality. About 95 percent of infant adoptions in the U.S. today involve some degree of openness between birth parents and adoptive parents. And for many expectant parents it’s the deciding factor when choosing parents for their child.
But addressing openness in an adoption profile is no easy task. A large number of adoptive parents are so focused on just getting to the finish line and finding a match that they often don’t think about what comes next. Open adoption, however, isn’t just about getting a baby or becoming a parent. It’s a lifelong process rooted in relationships based on trust and honesty.
Your baby will always have a connection to his or her birth parents, whether or not they play an active role in your life. As a result, it’s in your baby’s interest, and frankly in yours, to get your baby’s birth parents involved and to have some level of openness after your adoption has been finalized.
Openness is a scary and confusing concept, with different meanings for different people. If you’re just starting to write your adoption profile letter or wondering why yours hasn’t received the response you were expecting, you may be asking yourself the following questions: What level of openness am I comfortable with? How do I know if the expectant parents will want the same level of involvement in our relationship as I do? Will offering too much or too little openness in my letter hurt my chances of being chosen by a prospective birth mother? How do I know how much contact I want to have with the expectant parents when I haven’t met them, let alone know who they are?
Here are some examples on how other hopeful parents have tackled the issue of openness in their adoption profile letter that will hopefully provide you with answers and inspiration.
“Our goal is to have an open adoption. We feel that a child will ultimately benefit from having connections to their birth family. Every child has a right to their past. Should questions arise, should medical conditions present themselves, or should they wish to build a relationship with their birth family – the more people to love them the better. We have great relationships with our in-laws and extended family, and everyone is on board to make this work. Our vision of an open adoption is flexible, but we expect it to include visits a few times a year and regular email contact.”
What I like: Your adoption profile should not only give a window into your life, it should describe what kind of relationship you want to have with the expectant parents after you adopt. In other words, what’s in it for them? Given that your thoughts on openness could make or break your chances of becoming a parent, discussing your post-adoption relationship in vague terms or not discussing it all doesn’t do anyone any favors. What I like about this example is that it gets straight to the point and deals with openness on many levels. It touches on the benefits (“every child has a right to their past. Should questions arise, should medical conditions present themselves…), offers specifics (“we expect it to include visits a few times a year and regular email contact”) and leaves no doubt about the value that the hopeful adoptive parents place on family relationships (“we have great relationships with our in-laws and extended family, and everyone is on board to make this work”).
“We also understand that you may choose a closed adoption, or may just want letters and pictures. Please know that whatever you choose, your child will know their roots, that they are loved, and that you will always have a special place in our hearts and in your child’s, as we think it is important that your child knows that you had their best interests in mind when you made an adoption plan, and how eternally grateful we are to be chosen to raise this special child. We look forward to having a chance to get to meet you; get to know you and answering any questions you might have for us.”
What I like: As with the previous example, this one doesn’t make any sweeping promises. It deals with adoption relationships in a respectful and thoughtful manner. At the same time, it’s clear where the hopeful adoptive parents stand on openness and on the importance of explaining their children’s roots. I thought the last line was particularly effective — warm and welcoming while offering the expectant mother a taste of what to expect down the road.
“We are supportive of open adoption and look forward to working together to create a plan that will honor and respect the level of openness you choose for you, your family and your child. We will happily exchange photos and letters, and hope to maintain a connection through visits, telephone calls and emails. Most importantly is that your child know the adoption plan was made with love.”
What I like: Being honest and upfront in your letter is crucial. If you’re wavering about open adoption, talking about exchanging phone calls and visits isn’t just dishonest and misleading. It will create problems for you and your baby in the years to come. What I like about this example is that it gives a good sense of where the hopeful adoptive parents see the expectant parents fitting into their lives and takes a team approach to relationship-building.
“Christina was adopted, and a few years ago she found her birthmother. They made a great connection discovering each other’s resemblance in both looks and personality. Christina felt a sense of peace in knowing and understanding why her birthmother chose to place her for adoption. From this experience we feel more committed than ever that open adoption can help a child embrace his or her story, and help the birth family feel good about the decision to choose adoption.”
What I like: This example caught my attention because of the way it speaks to the benefits of openness on a child’s identity. Anyone can write about openness. This one does so powerfully through the use of a personal example. By sharing her personal story, Christina draws the reader in and gives her letter added credibility.
Since most expectant parents today prefer some level of openness, addressing openness in your adoption profile is a must. But giving it lip service or using it simply as a pitch to get chosen isn’t the way to go. Instead, decide what level of openness you’re comfortable with and then address it as specifically and as honestly as you can in your letter.
Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers. You don’t have to. As with any relationship, the one you have with your baby’s birth parents will change and grow over time. The important thing is to have a solid foundation to build on. What you say in your letter isn’t as important as what you do and how you honor your open adoption relationship after you adopt.
Did you find it difficult to write about openness in your adoption profile? How did you cover it? How much detail did you offer? How important do you think it is to discuss the type of post-adoption relationship you want to have with expectant parents in your letter? Please leave your comments in the space below.