Placing your baby for adoption is risky because once you sign termination of parental rights, you no longer have any legal right to see your child. Any prior openness agreement you make with the adoptive parents is based entirely on trust. If the adoptive parents choose to close the adoption at any time, it’s within their rights to do so. Many fear that hopeful adoptive parents will promise an open adoption, only to shut off all contact once papers are signed. This doesn’t happen very often—but it can happen. It’s important to choose a family you can trust to keep their promises. Trustworthy hopeful adoptive parents share several traits.
Traits of Trustworthy Hopeful Adoptive Parents
First, they are specific in their promises. If a couple is wishy-washy, saying, “We’ll see how things go,” and not making any concrete promises related to visitation, photos, or updates, don’t count on getting what you want. If they seem uncomfortable and avoid letting you know what you can expect, often it’s because they aren’t sure what they want. If a couple is specific, promising X number of visits or updates per year, it’s more likely they’ve thought things through and are sure what they can do.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Some expectant moms are told the adoption will be wide open, that they can see the child whenever they want and have unlimited photos and updates. This rarely actually happens. This doesn’t make the hopeful adoptive parents heartless, but a promise like that is not really possible for them to keep. Some of them think they can have an adoption that open, but when it really gets to it, they get overwhelmed and shut down the communication. Others are simply so desperate to be parents that they say whatever it takes to be placed with a child, even if they know they can’t follow through.
A good adoptive family will sit down with you and discuss boundaries. If they tell you they aren’t comfortable with certain things and they establish rules, it’s because they intend to keep their word and live by what they promise you. Establishing boundaries isn’t a sign of an adoption closing off; it’s a sign of a good couple who wants to ensure a stable, healthy open adoption relationship.
Follow your gut, and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. If you have matched with a couple and aren’t sure they will follow through with their promises, talk with them about it. If they’re unwilling to discuss it, or if what they say makes you feel uneasy, you have every right to choose another family. Both you and your child deserve a family who will honor and respect you and foster a healthy, trusting relationship.
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.