Placing a baby in an open adoption usually comes with some kind of post-adoption communication agreement. This means that the adoptive and birth parents agree to have updates, photos, or visits a specific number of times. Some states have legal open-adoption contracts, but most open-adoption communication agreements are based purely on trust.
What Can I Do?
As a birth parent, you can do a few things if your post-adoption communication agreement isn’t kept. If you have a legal contract, you can take it to court. These contracts are very difficult to enforce, but there has been some success in reopening an adoption using the court system. If you don’t have a contract, there’s nothing you can legally do. Once you signed relinquishment, you signed off all rights to any contact with that child.
Whether you have a contract or not, usually the best thing to do is to focus on trying to improve your relationship with your birth child’s adoptive parents. It will be tempting to lash out; you are hurt, and they have broken their promises. But saying anything out of anger will only decrease your chances of the agreement being kept.
How Should I Approach the Situation?
Speak gently. Sometimes the adoptive parents are very busy and have simply forgotten to send you the photo they promised. Tell them how much you appreciate them and that you think they’re great parents. Remind them of their promise, but don’t accuse them.
Sometimes there is something else going on. It’s okay to ask if the adoptive parents have concerns related to the openness of the adoption. Maybe the child is getting confused by visits, or maybe you’ve done something to offend them. These conversations are hard to have, but issues in your relationship should be resolved as soon as possible so your openness can go back to normal.
Be willing to compromise. It doesn’t seem fair: You placed your child with them under the impression that things would be a certain way, and now they’re not. Even though it’s painful, sometimes you have to compromise to maintain any contact at all. Open adoption relationships grow and change over time, and sometimes there’s more contact than at other times. Just because you don’t have as much communication as you’d like right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way. The best thing you can do is be patient, and most of the time they’ll come around.
What If It Still Doesn’t Work Out?
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your communication agreement will not be kept. Maybe your relationship will close off completely. If this happens, find support. An open adoption closing is a traumatic event that you will grieve. Find support through therapy, online or in-person support groups, and relying on family and friends to help you through this time.
For more information about the importance of communication in open adoption, click here.
Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.