Open adoption covers a spectrum of relationships, ranging from relationships were the the adoptive and birth parents have no contact to ones where they’re considered extended family members.
So it’s not surprising that the understanding of open adoption also varies widely. Here’s our attempt to bridge the gap between the myths and the realities.
Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting. Fact:In open adoption, the line between family members is clearly defined. The adoptive parents and birth parents do not have shared custody. Adoptive parents are legally responsibile for all of decisions relating to their child’s welfare. Birth parents are often involved in the children’s lives, but they do not have legal rights over the child.
Myth: Open adoption is confusing to children. Fact: Children understand the difference between their adoptive parents and their birth parents, and what their roles and responsiblities are. And so do both sets of parents.
Myth: Adopted child grow up hating their birth mothers. Fact: Open adoption allows adopted children to having an ongiong relationship with their birth parents. As a result, they have the ability to ask their birth parents questions surroudning their adoption, making them less likely to have doubts or to feel bitterness towards their parents.
Myth: Adopted child grow up hating their adoptive parent. Fact: Adoptive parents usually introduce their child’s aoption story at a young age. Unlike in the past, it’s not something that is kept from them. Because children know their adoption story, there is less chance of them creating a fantasy about their origins. And also there is no resentment about their adoption since it is something that is openly discussed and a part of their life from an early age.
Myth: Most open adoption relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents eventually break down. Fact: Although some relationships do break down because of disagreements between adoptive parents and birth parents, the vast majority of them are successful. Because most adoption agreements aren’t legally binding, the key is to create last relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. For the sake of their children, birth parents and adoptive parents must be willing to not only acknowledge but honor each other’s role in their relationship.
Myth: When they’re older, adopted children eventually return to live with their birth parents. Fact: For adopted children, home is with their adoptive family. That’s where they were raised, and that’s where they usually live until they’re ready to move out. Adopted child are often interested in finding out more about their birth family, but they usually draw the line there and do not have desire to live with them.
Do you know what an “adoption decree” is? How about “an independent adoption”? And while we’re at it, what’s a “lifebook”?
Never heard of them? Don’t worry, most people who begin the adoption process don’t, either. Adoption comes with its own set of terms and definitions. Here are some of the more common ones you’ll need to know.
Adoptee: person who has been adopted. Adoption: a legal and social process involving the transfer of parental rights from a child’s birth parents to his adoptive parents. Adoption Agency: state-licensed organization that facilitates the placing of children with prospective adoptive individuals or families. Adoption Agreement: document signed by birth parents and adoptive parents that outlines the frequency and level of contact between them after the adoption takes place. Adoption Decree: court document issued to the adoptive parents after an adoption has been finalized. Adoption Facilitator: individual who helps match prospective birth parents and adoptive parents. Adoption Match:process in which adoptive parents connect with prospective parent(s). Adoption Plan: legally non-binding arrangement between birth parents and adoptive parents regarding the placement and rearing of their child. Adoption Records: legal documents pertaining to an adoption. Adoptive Parent: person who legally assumes responsibilities of parenting an adopted child Adoption Profile: autobiographical letter created by hopeful adoptive parents for prospective birthparents. Adoption Professional: individual providing adoption services. Adoption Triad: three parties involved in an adoption relationship — birthparents, adoptees and adoptive parents. Amended Birth Certificate: birth certificate issued to the adoptive parents after an adoption is finalized. Biracial: person whose parents are of different races. Birthfather: biological father of the child placed for adoption. Birthmother: biological mother of the child placed for adoption. Closed Adoption: adoption in which the adoptive parents and the birth parents have no identifying information about each other or ongoing contact. Consent Form: legal document signed by birth parents that terminates their rights over their child and transfer them to the adoptive parents Criminal Clearance: process used by police or FBI to determine whether the waiting parent has a criminal record. Disrupted Adoption: adoption that fails before finalization. Facilitator: individuals who helps match prospective birth parents and adoptive parents Finalization: legal procedure granting the adoptive parent(s) permission to adopt. Foster Care: temporary placement of a child. Home Study: process carried out by an adoption worker that assesses and prepares prospective adoptive parents for an adoption placement. Hopeful Adoptive Parents: individuals or couple that has been approved to adopt but have not had a child placed with them. Identifying Information: information about adoptive parents or birth parents such as full names and addresses. Independent Adoption: any adoption not overseen by an agency. Infertility: inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. International Adoption: also known as intercountry adoption, refers to any adoption from another country. Lifebook: a scrapbook that tells a child’s pre-adoptive story through words, pictures and memorabilia Networking: outreach efforts by waiting parents to spread the word about their desire to adopt. Open Adoption: adoption where birthparents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information and keep in touch after the adoption. Open Records: accessibility to adoption records. Placement: relocation of a child into a foster or adoptive home. Private Adoption: adoption arranged through a privately-funded licensed agency. Private Adoption Agency: non-government stage-licensed agency that arrange adoptions. Public Adoption: adoption arranged through a publicly funded agency. Public Adoption Agency: government agency that arranges adoptions. Special Needs Child: child who may be physically, mentally and emotionally challenged. Relinquishment Papers: legal documents that terminate birth parents legal rights to their child and transfers them to the adoptive parent(s). Waiting Parent: another term for hopeful adoptive parents.
Adoption isn’t only for celebrities. But that doesn’t mean that celebrities and other famous people don’t have a connection to it.
Movie stars, singers, athletes, even presidents — all have been touched by adoption in one way or another. Here’s a list of the ones we know about. Did we miss anyone? Be sure to let us know.
Edward Albee, Playwright
Rodney Atkins, Singer
John J. Audubon, Naturalist
Mario Balotelli, Soccer player
Michael Bay, Director
Richard Burton, Actor
Linda Carroll, Psychotherapist
Courtney Love’s mother
Dan Chaon, Author
Lynnette Cole, Beauty Queen
Christina Crawford, Author
Rachel Crow, Singer
Sarah Culberson, Actress
Jenefer Curtis, Author
Faith Daniels, Journalist
Ted Danson, Actor
Toby Dawson, Skier
Eric Dickerson, Football Player
Christine Ebersole, Actress
Gerald Ford, US President
Scott Fujita, Football Player
Sarah Gilbert, Actress
Melissa Gilbert, Actress
Newt Gingrich, Politician
Scott Hamilton, Olympic Skater
Debbie Harry, Singer
Jeff Healey, Guitarist
Katherine Heigl, Actress
Faith Hill, Singer
Herbert Hoover, US President
Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Apple Computer
Curtis “Cujo” Joseph, NHL Goalie
Jesse Jackson, Civil Rights Leader
Colin Kaepernick, Football player
Jackie Kay, Poet
Keegan-Michael Key, Actor
Charlotte Anne Lopez, Beauty Queen
Greg Louganis, Olympic Diver
Nimmy March, Actress
Darryl McDaniels a.k.a. DMC, Rapper
Frances McDormand, Actress
Sarah McLachlan, Singer
James Michener, Author
Tom Monaghan, Founder, Domino’s Pizza
Dan O’Brien, Athlete
Michael Oher, Football Player
Jim Palmer, Pitcher
Liz Phair, Singer
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Author
Dana Plato, Actress
Edgar Allen Poe, Author
Penny Priddy, Politician
Nancy Reagan, US First Lady
Nicole Ritchie, Actress
Ginger Rogers, Actress
Buffy Sainte-Marie, Singer
Amanda Smith, Kennedy Niece
Dame Kiri TeKanawa, Opera Singer
Charlize Theron, Actress
Dave Thomas, Founder, Wendy’s
Leo Tolstoy, Author
KT Tunstall, Singer
Mike Tyson, Boxer
Jenna Ushkowitz, Actress
Notable Adoptive Parents
Brooke Adams, Actress
Woody Allen, Actor
Kirstie Alley, Actress
Loni Anderson, Actress
Julie Andrews, Singer
Deny Arcand, Director
Josephine Baker, Singer
Harry Belafonte, Singer
Jack Benny, Comedian
Charles Bronson, Actor
Art Buchwald, Humorist
Sandra Bullock, Actress
George Burns, Comedian
Kirk Cameron, Actor
Kate Capshaw, Actress
Nell Carter, Actress
Connie Chung, TV Host
Ethan Coen, Director
Joan Crawford, Actress
Sheryl Crow, Singer
Tom Cruise, Actor
John Cryer, Actor
Jamie Lee Curtis, Actress
Ted Danson, Actor
Bette Davis, Actress
Sammy Davis Jr., Singer
John De La Orena, Entrepeneur
Oscar de la Renta, Designer
John Denver, Singer
Joan Didion, Author
Stephane Dion, Politician
Walt Disney, Walt Disney Founder
Patty Duke, Actress
John Gregory Dunn, Author
Christine Ebersole, Actress
Mary Jo Eustace, TV Host
Edie Falco, Actress
Mia Farrow, Actress
Jules Feiffer, Cartoonist
Joely Fisher, Actress
Calista Flockhart, Actress
Henry Fonda, Actress
Joan Fontaine, Actress
Robert Fulghum, Author
Deborah Lee Furness, Actress
Ron Galotti, Publisher
Teri Garr, Actress
Willie Garson, Actor
Martha Gellhorn, Author
Sir Christopher Guest, Actor
Cathy Guisewaite, Cartoonist
Valerie Harper, Actress
Katherine Heigl, Actress
Tony Hillerman, Author
Bob Hope, Comedian
Hugh Jackman, Actor
Kate Jackson, Actress
Tama Janowitz, Author
Angelina Jolie, Actress
Magic Johnson, Basketball Player
Diane Keaton, Actress
David Kelley, Producer
Nicole Kidman, Actress
Jill Krementz, Photographer
Patti Labelle, Singer
Madeleine L’Engle, Author
Jerry Lewis, Actor
Ann-Marie MacDonald, Author/Actress
George Lucas, Director
Dan Marino, Football Player
Willie Mays, Baseball Player
John McCain, US Senator
Darryl McDaniels, aka D.M.C., Rapper
Frances McDormand, Actress
Ewan McGregor, Actor
Ed McMahon, TV Personality
Glenn Miller, Band Leader
Donna Mills, Actress
Lorrie Moore, Author
Robert Munsch, Children’s Author
Paul Newman, Actor
Carroll O’Connor, Actor
Rosie O’Donnell, Actress
Ozzie Osbourne, Singer
Marie Osmond, Singer
Michelle Pfeiffer, Actress
Brad Pitt, Actor
Maury Povich, Journalist
Andre Previn, Conductor
Kirby Puckett, Baseball Player
Sally Jesse Raphael, TV Host
Ronald Reagan, US President
Jason Reitman, Director
Burt Reynolds, Actor
Duke and Duchess of Richmond, Aristocrats
Guy Ritchie, Director
Lionel Ritchie, Singer
John Roberts, U.S. Chief Supreme Court Justice
Al Roker, Newscaster
Linda Ronstadt, Singer
Isabella Rossellini, Actress
Dan Savage, Columnist
Gerhard Schroeder, German Chancellor
Ben Stein, TV Personality
Phil Spector, Music Producer
Steven Spielberg, Director
Parker Stevenson, Actor
Sharon Stone, Actress
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Publisher
Gloria Swanson, Actress
Elizabeth Taylor, Actress
Billy Bob Thornton, Actor
P.L. Travers, Children’s Author
Gloria Vanderbilt, Fashion Designer
Nia Vardalos, Actress
Kurt Vonnegut, Author
Barbara Walters, TV Host
DeMarcus Ware, Football Player
Hayley Wickenheiser, Hockey Player
Diane Wiest, Actress
Jo Beth Williams, Actress
Brian Wilson, Singer/Songwriter
Notable Birth Parents
Roseanne Barr, Actress
Rachel Coleman, Singer
David Crosby, Singer
Andy Kaufman, Comedian
Joni Mitchell, Singer
Kate Mulgrew, Actress
Mercedes Ruehl, Actress
Rod Stewart, Singer
1. What is open adoption? In open adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information about each other and have ongoing contact after the baby is placed for adoption.
2. What’s the difference between open adoption and closed adoption? In closed adoption, adoptive parents and birthparents don’t share their names or contact address and have no ongoing contact after the born is born.
3. Are there different degrees of openness in open adoption? Yes, it all depends on the couples’ wants and needs. Open adoption relationships range from semi-open (exchanging identifying information before the placement but having limited contact afterwards) to fully open (exchanging identifying information prior to the birth of the child and exchanging phone calls, emails and visits afterwards).
4. How do we know how much openness to have in our adoption? Each case is different. The nature and degree of contact depends on you. Your adoption worker can give you more advice and guidance.
5. Who decides how much openness to have — the birthparents or the adoptive parents? The adoptive parents and birth parents do together, based on the interests of the child and their own comfort zone.
6. Is there such a thing as having too much openness in open adoption? Again, it’s up to the two parties to lay out the parameters. Those parameters can change over time, depending on the individual situation and the individuals involved. One thing open adoption isn’t is co-parenting.
7. What’s the advantage of open adoption? Studies show that there are huge benefits for all members of the triad, especially to the adopted child. Openness allows adoptees to know who they are and where they came from, giving them self-esteem and a strong sense of identity.
8. What are the advantages for prospective birth parents and adoptive parents? Open adoption gives prospective birth parents and adoptive parents control over the selection process and the chance to have a personal relationship after the birth of the child.
9. What are the disadvantages of open adoption? As in any family, each party will have its own ideas about the best way to raise a child, and about the frequency and level of contact that is best between the child and his or her birth parents.
10. What happens if the birthparents and adoptive parents want to change an open adoption agreement after the baby is born? In most states, open adoption agreements are non-binding so it’s really up to the two parties to come to a consensus based on the interests of their child.
11. Why do birth parents choose open adoption? The reasons vary from one birth parent to the next. As a rule, most birth parents opt for open adoption because it lets them create an adoption plan for their baby, choose their baby’s parents and be part of his or her life as he or she gets older.
12. Why do adoptive parents choose open adoption? Again, each situation is different. In general, most adoptive parents choose open adoption because it gives them more control over the matching process, offers them the chance to parent a child from birth, and allows them to have more detailed information about their child’s family and medical history.
13. How much does open adoption cost? The fees range, depending on the circumstances. For adoptive parents, the fees range from $15,000 to $30,000. There is no fee for birth parents. In fact, depending on which state they live in, prospective birth parents may be eligible for pregnancy-related financial assistance.
14. How long does the process take? Each case is different. It depends on how quickly the two sides can complete their paperwork and go through the placement process. In general, placements usually occur shortly after the birth of the baby.
15. How old are the children that are placed in open adoptions? Most of the children in open adoption are newborns or infants.
16. Who gets to name the baby in open adoption? The birth parents and the adoptive parents often choose one together. After the placement, adoptive parents will get a new birth certificate issued with their child’s name on it.
17. What are the advantages of staying in touch with the birthparents after the baby is born?
Adoption is a lifelong journey. A child will always have a connection to his birth parents, even if they aren’t directly involved in raising him directly. Keeping in touch is one way to honor and celebrate that connection and to deal with any questions your child may have as he or she grows up.
18. Do children find open adoption confusing?
No, in fact the opposite is true. Children understand clearly the difference between the parents who gave them birth and those who raised them. In open adoption, a child not only knows why he or she was placed for adoption, he or she has the ability to speak to his birthparents directly about their decision.
19. Do adopted children want to live with their birthparents when they grow up?
No, most adoptees have no desire to live with their birthparents. And most birthparents have no interest in interfering in the raising of their child. The relationship that adoptees and adoptive parents have with birthparents is simliar to the kind you would have with a close or extended family member.
20. Can birthparents change their minds after the placement?
Unless they can show that the adoption was made as a result of fraud or under duress, a relinquishment is irrevocable.
21. What’s the key to success in an open adoption?
The most successful adoptions are those where the adoptive parents and birth parents put their child’s interest before their own and maintain an open and honest relationship.
It’s not easy being a birth mother (or a prospective birth mother, for that matter).
Prior to placing their baby for adoption, birth mothers are showered with attention and told that they’re selfless. After the placement, however, they’re depicted as selfish and are frowned upon.
There’s no middle ground: they’re either sinners or saints. But the truth is a lot more complicated than that.
Myth: Birth mothers give up their babies. Fact:They don’t give up their babies. They place them for adoption. There is a difference. “Giving up” suggests that there decision is made without thought or regard for their baby’s welfare. In fact, most birth parents choose adoption because they want to give their child a better future than they can provide.
Myth: Birth mothers are unwed teenagers. Fact: Although it’s hard to get exact statistics, it appears the opposite is true. Anedotal evidence suggests that the younger the expectant mother is, the greater the odds she’ll want to parent her child herself. Younger women tend to glamourize motherhood. But older ones know the reality and better understand the sacrifices it entails.
Myth: Birth mothers are drug addicts and homeless. Fact: Birth mothers come from all walks of life. The main reason most birthparnets place their baby for adoption is because they lack the financial or emotional resources to raise a child. Some birth mothers may have substance abuse problems and some may be homeless, but they represent the minority.
Myth: Placing a baby for adoption is “the easy way out” for a woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Fact: Placing a baby for adoption isn’t one decision, but rather a series of decisions made over time by an expectant mother. It involves weighing a number of difficult issues that have both immediate and long-term repercussions. At the end of the day, it involves putting the interests of the expectant mother’s child before her own.
Myth: Expectant mothers change their mind about adoption because they want to hurt the adoptive parents. Fact: Expectant parents change their minds for all kinds of reasons. But the reality is it often has nothing to do with the hopeful adoptive parents. It could be because their situation has changed — the expectant father or their parents are willing to give them support or they decide that they are in a position to parent after all. Whatever the reason, all expectant parents not only have the option, but also the legal right, to change their minds any time before relinquishing their baby without consequence.
Myth: Years after relinquishing their children, birthmothers come back to reclaim them. Fact: Adoption is an irrevocable decision. Once it’s made, it can’t be reversed. Birth mothers understand that. The last thing they want to do, after carefully choosing a loving home for their baby, is disrupt it. In many cases, the birth parents actually take a step back in an effort to move on with their lives.
Myth: Birth mothers get over their decision. Fact: Adoption is a permanent decision that involves pain and loss. Each birth parent experiences it differently. Over time the pain may fade, but it never goes away. On birthdays, family celebrations, and life’s milestones, it tends to get more acute. That’s why it’s important for birth parents to get the counselling and time they need to grieve their losses and to include them in their child’s life in a way that works for everyone.
As far as birth mother myths go, these are just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Listing them all could fill an entire website — and there are many sites devoted to the topic. Check them out. But more importantly, next time you meet a birth mother, keep an open mind and be sure to treat her with the dignity and respect she deserves.
Maintaining a relationship with your child as he or she gets older
The ability to directly answer questions your child may have about why he or she was placed for adoption
Feeling less uncertainty about the future, knowing that your child is loved and cared for
For adoptive parents, the advantages are:
Having a say in the matching process
The ability to talk and meet with your child’s birth parents
A feeling of validation from being chosen by your child’s birth parents
A heightened sense of security from knowing about your child’s birth parents and why they chose adoption
Having access to medical information about your child in the case of serious illness
The ability to answer questions your child may have about his adoption
The support and encouragement from your child’s birth parents in your child-rearing decisions
For adoptees, the advantages are:
A deeper understanding who you are and where you came from
An explanation as to why he was placed for adoption by his birth parents
The ability to have a relationship with his birth family over the years
The No need to search for or fantasize about his birth parents
Most open adoptions are successful. But that doesn’t mean they’re problem-free. As with any relationship, they still require a lot of work. And have their share of disadvantages as well.
Forbirth parents, the disadvantages are:
The possibility that the family they choose to raise their child will change their minds before the placement
The possibility that the family they choose may be working with another prospective birth family at the same time
Pressure to stick with the family they’ve chosen because they’re worried that changing their minds about them will hurt their feelings
The possibility that adoptive parents may want more or less contact than outlined in their agreement
The cons of open adoption for adoptive parents are:
The possibility that they may not be chosen by prospective birth parents
The possibility that the prospective birth parents may change their minds prior to signing the relinquishment papers
The possibility that the birth parents could withhold important key personal or medical information about them
The possibility that the birth parents could want more or less contact than agreed upon
The cons of open adoption for the child:
Depending on the circumstances and individuals involved, he or she still have unanswered questions about his adoption
He may not ask question for fear of hurting his adoptive or birth parents
He may still have fears about abandonment
He or she may feel forced to choose sides in a disagreement between his two sets of parents
He may worry that spending time with or showing his support for one set of parents will upset the other one
As with any adoption arrangement, open adoption is far from simple. It has its share of benefits and risks. Having two sets of parents can be complicated even at the best of times. But by keeping things real, adoptive parents and birth parents have the ability to work together and give their child a loving and secure future.
When it comes to finding a match through open adoption, agencies play an important role.
In fact, they could be the game-changer. A good agency not only brings together waiting adoptive parents and birth parents. It can guide them through every step of the process.
If you’ve looked online, you’ve probably noticed there are hundreds of agencies out there to choose from. And all of them promise more or less the same things: a successful adoption. So how do you know which one is right for you?
Finding the right agency is almost as as big a challenge as finding the right match. For waiting adoptive parents, here are some things you’ll need to consider:
Record of success
Number of clients
Range of services
Education and counselling
For their part, here are some important considerations for prospective birth mothers:
Pre- and post-placement counselling services
Professional and experienced workers
Level of accessibility and transparency
Number of waiting parents they work with
No matter whether you’re a prospective adoptive parent or birthparents, choosing the right agencies usually boils down to asking a few key questions.
What’s your philosophy? Open adoption means different things to different agencies. What does it mean to the one you’re considering? What’s their approach, and do their actions match their words? Always look for an agency where the child’s interests — rather than the parents — come first.
Do I feel comfortable with them? Adoption is anything but simple. Because of that, and the fact that you’ll be working closely with your adoption professionals, it’s important to find an agency that makes you feel good — that’s not pushy or adds extra pressure. Chemistry is key.
How accessible are they? Because adoption is complicated, chances are you’ll have a whole bunch of questions. How easy is it to get answers? When you contact an agency, how quickly do they get to you? What are their hours? Is someone available around the clock? Adoption isn’t a 9-5 job. Be sure you can reach their workers when you need them.
How established are they? Adoption is about trust. And it’s a lot easier to trust an agency that’s been around for years, especially if it has with a solid track record. But that will only tell you part of the story. For the other part, be sure to speak to recent clients to see what they have to say about the services.
How experienced are their workers? Being comfortable with your adoption workers is one thing. Having confidence in them is another. Find out what their credentials are, how long they’ve worked in the field, and how many situations they’ve been involved with. So much of adoption isn’t black and white. When you get into a grey area, it helps to have an experienced hand to steer you in the right direction.
What services they offer? Not all adoption agencies are equal. Some offer lots of services; others offer just a few. For adoptive parents, it’s good to choose an agency that offers a wide range of services. That way you don’t have to worry about restarting the process, with different professionals, at every stage. In the long run, it will cost you less as well. For birth parents, education and counselling is the key to having a successful adoption. For that reason, it’s important to find an agency that offers post-placement counselling as well as pre-placement help. Even if you don’t think you need it, it’s a nice thing to have in your back pocket just in case you change your mind.
What are their credentials? Make sure that the agency you choose is licensed and in good standing. One way to do that is to run their name through your local Better Business Bureau. Check discussion boards, adoption lists or blogs for information, referrals and recommendations. Or just contact your state department of social services for a directory. If things sound too good to be true, they probably are.
How much do they cost? This doesn’t pertain to prospective birthparents because the process is free for you. For waiting parents, on the other hand, it’s important to get a clear picture of what the agencies costs are. Get a copy of their fee schedule so that you know exactly what’s expected and when. Some agencies will give you a break for a failed adoption. Does the one you’re looking at have a refund policy, and if so, how does it work?
How big a net do they cast? Adoptions don’t happen overnight. So if you’re an adoptive parents who are looking for ways to cut down your wait time and perhaps save money at the same time, you may want to go with an agency that has offices across the country. More offices means more chances of being shown and more chances of being shown means more chances of finding a match. The other benefit, especially for people who don’t want to live in the same town or city as their child’s other set of parents, is that it puts distance between the two parties.
Whatever situation you’re in, don’t settle for the first agency you come across. Find the facts. Speaking to their works. Interview their clients. Finding the right agency could be the difference between an adoption that’s successful and one that’s not.
Adoptive parents face all kinds of challenges in their efforts to build a family through adoption. Dealing with society’s misperceptions about them is one of them.
Most people don’t mean any harm. It’s hard to really understand adoption until you go through it. Here are some facts about hopeful adoptive parents to set the record straight and explain what they are — and are not.
Myth: You have to be rich to adopt. Fact: Adoption isn’t cheap, and although it helps to be well off you don’t have to be rich to adopt. In fact, in adoption, your emotional resources count for a lot more important than your financial ones. As long as you have enough money to raise a child, you won’t be turned away from adopting.
Myth: Hopeful adoptive parents will say anything in order to get expectant parents to choose them. Fact:Waiting parents know how hard it is to create a connection with expectant parents. But they also know if an expectant parent has doubts about something they said, it could jeopardize or even sink their chances of finding a match. That’s why it’s important for them to be upfront and honest from the start and to be able to back up everything they say.
Myth: Prospective adoptive parents have no interest in the expectant parents, only in getting their baby. Fact:Adoption is a package deal. When you adopt a child, you also adopt the child’s family. Whether they want to acknowledge it or not — and they always should — an adopted child will always have another family and a lifelong connection to it. In their education courses, that’s one of the things waiting parents learn about. And they also learn about ways to honor it, through words and actions that include anything from exchanging photos to phone calls to visits.
Myth: Adoptive parents don’t love their adopted child as much as their biological one. Fact:Blended families are a way of life today, and adoptive families are no exception. Parenting an adopted child isn’t better or worse than adopting a biological one. Just ask any of the thousands of parents out there who have done it. It’s just different. Couples and singles choose open adoption first and foremost because they want to be parents. The fact that the child has no biological connection to them is irrelevant. Nor does it mean they love the child any less than “their own.”
Myth: Adoptive parenting is no different than biological parenting. Fact: Although there are many similarities between adoptive and biological parenting — for instance, comforting your child after a fall or taking pride in your child’s achievements at school — there are many differences. For instance, biolological children don’t have questions who their parents are or why they live in a different family from their brother or sister. All parenting is a challenge. Adoptive parenting — particularly if your child is of a different race or color than you — adds a few more challenges to the mix that adoptive parents need to address openly and honestly with their child.
Myth: Adoptive parents always break their openness agreements with their child’s birth parents. Fact: It’s true that not every adoption agreement goes as smoothly as planned. Sometimes it’s becuase of the adoptive parents, and sometimes it’s because of the birth parents. Before the adoption is approved, prospective birth parents have more control over the matching process than adoptive parents. But afterwards, control shifts to the adoptive parents. To prevent adoptive parents from going back on their word, it’s important for both sides to mutually respect one another and to let what’s best for their child to guide their actions.
Myth: Gays aren’t as good parents as heterosexual ones. Fact: Studies show that children of gay parents show no significant differences compared to children in heterosexual homes in regards to adjustment and social development. In fact, children in gay families scored higher than kids in straight families in certain things like self-esteem and confidence and even did better in school. Part of the reason is because children in gay families tend to be exposed to more complicated topics like tolerance and diversity more frequently and earlier on in life.
Myth: For hopeful adoptive parents, adoption is second best to having children on their own. Fact: Many wait parents come to adoption after unsuccessfully undergoing infertility treatments. And while it’s true that their first choice may have been to have biological children, it doesn’t mean that adoption is second best. It simply means that adoption was their second choice. But once they become parents, any distinctions between the two quickly slip away.
Once upon a time–we’re talking about the years up to the early ’80s-–secrecy and lies was the name of the game in adoption.
This is how it worked: Expectant parents who had “out-of-wedlock” babies were forced to give them away and then told to go on with their lives without knowing what became of their children.
Adoptive parents were expected to raise the children “as their own” without ever mentioning where they came from. And the children themselves had no idea about anything until the truth would accidentally slip out. Sometimes it would come directly from the adoption record. Other times it would come out as part of their parents’ deathbed confession.
Finally, they would have answers to the questions that gnawed at them their entire lives:
Why don’t I look like my parents?
Why am I so different from the rest of my family?
Why are my parents so uncomfortable about talking about my birth?
That was then, under the closed adoption system. Today, thanks to open adoption, the pendulum has swung in the other direction–towards greater transparency, openness and honesty. Nowaways, adoptive parents and birth parents not only have the option of sharing identifying information about each other, including their names, addresses and phone numbers
They can talk to each other
Meet each other face-to-face
Have an ongoing relationship after the adoption as well.
All because they realize that openness is in the best interests of their child, the litmus test for any adoption. By letting a child know where he or she came from and who his or her parents are, open adoption helps build a strong sense of identity, security and self-esteem.
As with so much of the process, the exact definition of open adoption is open to interpretation. Different people live and experience it in different ways. Open adoption covers a wide spectrum of practises. So wide that it can be broken down into two categories.
Open adoption: The birth parents and adoptive exchange identifying information about each other and keep in contact — through emails, phone calls or face-to-face meetings — before and after the placement of the child.
Semi-open adoption: The birth parents and adoptive parents share basic information, such as first names and/or the name of their city or state. Prior to the placement, some interaction by phone or in person may take place. After the placement, a third party — an adoption agency or attorney — is usually responsible for handling the interactions between them.
Today, the vast majority of open adoptions in the U.S. are considered semi-open. Birth parents prefer them because they give them more of a say in the selection process and lets them have a future connection with their child. For their part, adoptive parents favor them because they allow their child to have a connection to his birth family. Plus, open adoption gives them a voice in the selection process and, in some cases, shorten the wait to become a parent.
The decision about how much openness to have is a mutual one, made by the adoptive parents and the birth parents before the adoption. Navigating an open adoption relationships can be tricky, especially at the outset. But most are successful. In fact, in some cases, they’re so successful that they include frequent visits and shared vacations.