Are you an expectant mother who has decided to place your baby for adoption? Now, it is time to figure out what you want as far as the type of adoption you prefer. Maybe you have heard of open adoption but do not know much about it?
What is Open Adoption?
In the general sense, open adoption means there is contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents after the baby is placed in their forever home. There are different forms of contact discussed as the adoption process moves along, and, usually, by the time the baby arrives, there is an agreement set in place. Some of the methods used are letters, pictures, visits, and even social media.
One mistake made sometimes is that, in the beginning, as the birth parents are meeting the prospective adoptive parents, there is a verbal contract, but they do not put it in writing. This means that the adoptive parents can easily change their minds after birth and placement and not allow any contact. The best and most efficient way to combat this is by hashing out all terms and having an attorney draw up a contract to cover all bases.
Pros and Cons of Open Adoption
Some of the best things about open adoption are:
- The baby never has to wonder where they came from. They can ask questions whenever the need arises from either their birth parents or adoptive parents, like why they were placed for adoption.
- There are no secrets kept from the child.
- Birth parents know their child is being cared for and given the unconditional love they need.
- Birth parents get to build a relationship with their child, albeit not as their parent but as a friend.
- The adoptive parents know that they are doing what is best for their child by allowing them to have an open relationship with their birth parents.
Some of the negative things about open adoption are:
- There may be issues regarding the boundaries the adoptive parents have set forth. For example, the adoptive family allows one visit every six months, but the birth mother calls often to see if that can be changed because she wants to see the baby. This can cause a rift between the birth mother and the adoptive parents and make the child feel they must choose a side.
- Another negative aspect to open adoption is the possibility of unrealistic expectations. For instance, the adoptive parents have signed a contract stating what visitation or contact they will allow, but then expect the birth mother/parents to give them several weeks’ notice when a week’s notice was placed in the contract.
- The birth parents may have chosen an adoptive family who claims to have the same value system as they do, only to find out later they were not compatible at all in that respect, but by then, it would be too late. The adoption would have been finalized.
Alicia’s Adoptive Mother Open Adoption Story
I always wanted to adopt a child/children. When I got married, my husband already had two children. I was a little bit older, so we only waited six months before trying to get pregnant. We tried for three years without success. We had done various tests and medications, including artificial insemination, but it never took. The next step was in vitro fertilization, and it was so expensive, with only a 30% chance of conception. So, we decided to adopt. We went through LDS Social Services at the time because it was the least expensive option as it was subsidized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We lived in California at the time. To apply for adoption was a lengthy process. We had to become registered foster parents through the foster care system because it was considered foster care until the adoption was final. We made a profile page for birth moms to go through and hopefully choose us. We were told we would probably be waiting a while because we already had children, and we were a military family.
My husband was in a family practice residency program at the time, and everyone he worked with knew we were trying to adopt.
A baby boy was born at the hospital where he was working, and the nurses told the mother about a doctor that worked at the hospital that was trying to adopt. She wanted to meet him. Then, she wanted to meet me. So, in the end, it was a designated adoption because after meeting us, she wanted us to adopt her baby. She contacted LDS Social Services and told them that she wanted us to have her baby.
We had about three days’ notice before we brought him home. We were not prepared to be adopting so soon. Our adoption paperwork had not even been completed yet. We still needed a home visit and one more foster care class. But by the grace of God, our social worker had a cancellation that day and was able to come do the home study the same day.
From the beginning, we knew we wanted him to know his origin. So, from the time he was little, we would tell him his adoption story. He always knew he was adopted. And we have kept in touch with his birth mom. He is 16 now and has contact with his birth sibling and grandma. He lives with his dad, so I do not know how often he talks to them, but I know he has contact.
We would send cards and pictures occasionally. It was never frequent contact.
Open adoption, to me, meant that we knew one another, and when he was old enough, he could seek out a meeting if he wanted. It also meant that I would message his birth mother on his birthdays and send her updates and pictures. It did not mean frequent contact. We did meet up with her once when he was about 18 months old. But for the most part, we were living in separate states, and we lived overseas for six years, so it just was not practical. When we first met his birth mom, we discussed the frequency of contact, and we decided that it was too emotionally draining to do more than a few updates a year. I do know other families that have adopted nieces and nephews and have had frequent contact because they are in the same family. And my best friend adopted six kids from the foster care system and has contact with their biological family a few times a year. But it is mostly just holidays and special events.
Maddison’s Birth Mother Open Adoption Story
At the age of 14, most young ladies are trying to find out who they are. Some are learning how to apply make-up and shopping at the mall for the newest style of clothes, while others perform on stage or a field or arena floor. Unfortunately, I was not a typical 14-year-old.
The year was 2002, and it was the day before Thanksgiving. I was visiting my mother’s side of the family because both sides of my family come to town over the Thanksgiving holiday. I was with my mother and aunt as we stood in the bathroom anxiously awaiting the results [of a pregnancy test]. When the two pink lines appeared, my eyesight became foggy, and tears ran down my face. I couldn’t tell you what was being said to me at this time by my mother and my aunt. I knew they were going to call my father, and I knew he was not going to be happy. So, I curled up on the couch crying and wishing I could go to sleep and never wake up as they called him and told him the news.
I cried for about a week, during which my father and stepmother went through my room and trashed everything; photos, letters, and my radio. As far as I was concerned, my life was completely over. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and scared. I felt alone, sad, and confused all at once. There were so many questions yet to be answered. What was I going to do next? Who was going to help me?
My family wanted nothing to do with me and would call me names and say things a child should never hear come out of a parent’s mouth. A week after the news broke, my father came to me with a packet and told me they were sending me away to a place called the Gladney Center for Adoption. There was nothing I could say or do except obey their wishes.
Terrified and still feeling very alone, I toured the facility with my father. As we walked into the building, I was bombarded with lots of information. Embarrassed, I waited patiently until a young lady came out and called my name. I followed her back to a small room with a TV and a couple of chairs. The young woman explained the purpose behind Gladney. She asked personal questions that I was ashamed to answer. She handed me a book and asked that I read it before I decided on whether this was what I wanted to do. Even though I knew in the back of my head this was the only choice I had, I took the information, took a tour of the dorms before I went home, and told my parents that I loved it. That was a lie because I was frightened to face this pregnancy and live in a dorm away from family and friends.
I do not remember much about the day I moved in. I do remember where the other young girls like me took the time to make me a card with a butterfly on it. Most of them said sweet things and were very nice to me. The center allowed me the opportunity to experience ballgames, Disney on Ice, shopping trips, dining in on Fridays, unlimited pantry, and many visitors. It was like I lived with a bunch of sisters, and we all loved each other, and all had a story.
I was there for about five months of my pregnancy, which is a longer stay than usual, so I saw lots of girls come and go. Some decided to keep their child while others placed their babies up for adoption and never heard anything about them ever again. That was just the name of the game while I lived there. None of us knew how we were going to react when our child was born, and we made sure to support one another through the heartache and pain.
My day finally came, and I waited until 8 am to wake up the house mom after my contractions were five to seven minutes apart. I was taken to the hospital, and it turned out it was false labor. Yet, I was still in pain and was given a sleeping pill. But the contractions became stronger and grew closer together, so that night, we headed back into the hospital. They kept me overnight and gave me medicine to help deliver him faster. My family came to see me at the hospital. It was awkward having them around, and we never talked about the baby. I was under heavy medicine and faded in and out of consciousness while my grandmother brushed my hair, and nurses came in and out to check on me.
The time finally arrived to push my baby out! In a flash, he was here, and his cry was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. He had the most beautiful long black hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. He was healthy and content in my arms against my chest. I sang to him, and we posed for pictures. I couldn’t believe he was mine. I couldn’t sleep, eat, or stop thinking about him. I never knew love until this day. When he was born, the adoptive parents sent me a sunflower set of cookies with the words “you are my sunshine.” I called them to tell them that he was here and was beautiful and that I couldn’t wait for them to meet him. When I called, she answered, and she was almost crying. She was so happy, and I immediately started to cry. I could not fathom placing him with them because he would no longer be mine. I couldn’t stop crying and had to hand the phone over to my father, who was there. He talked to them, and I just talked to my new baby and cried, staring at him. Over the next three days, we bonded and took videos, long walks down the halls, and laughed until the last day came. He had to stay in the hospital due to his breathing problems while I was discharged.
Getting ready to leave him was the hardest thing and longest day of my entire life. Even after all this time, I still get choked up thinking about it. As the nurse wheeled me with my empty arms out to my father’s car, the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I had to leave my firstborn son in the care of strangers.
I was not ready to face the other girls in the dorm, but I did. It was a long night, but I would get to see him one more time before I went home. I stayed up crying not only in physical pain but in emotional agony as well. For a whole nine months, he was a part of me, and now he was gone. I tried to come up with a plan to keep him, but I knew that wasn’t what God or myself wanted. I wanted to be selfish, and he was so perfect. I took as many pain pills as I could to try to hush my mind and my aching heart. The next day I got to see him before he went away with the transitional family, and over the next six weeks, I could see my baby Monday- Friday for three hours a day. This helped me get through the long legal process required for adoption. Over the time we shared, my sweet, beautiful baby boy smiled his first smile and never cried. Needless to say, I was in awe of what God allowed me to make.
The day I had to sign the final papers, I prepared myself to become very upset. I wanted someone to be there with me, but everyone was too busy and couldn’t make it. By now, I was used to being alone and signed my papers. I felt as if the weight of wanting to keep him or place him was lifted the moment I was done. It just felt right. I was happy with my choice even though it hurt my heart. Placement day was not far after the relinquishment of my rights, and my father, grandmother, and sister were able to come. I bought this beautiful blue outfit, with cute sailor socks. We covered his curly hair and wrapped him in a warm blanket. I fought back tears as I walked the long hallways. We arrived at a room with two big doors that opened [while] the family was waiting. I handed him off to his new mother, and the family all went around him. The adoptive father gave me a gift in return. A bracelet that read in Hawaiian “beautiful” and an angel that was hugging a heart. This day was filled with love, silence, photos, hugs, kisses, and lots and lots of tears. But I did not cry; I just felt numb.
Over the next year, I received new pictures every month of the major milestones I had missed. My family redesigned my room and got me new furniture to get my mind off my pain. I joined a church to meet new friends and occupy my mind, so I didn’t have to think about my baby and just get back to being a kid again.
After his [first] birthday went by, not talking about it to anyone got lonely. I tried to go to God, but I was miserable, and I felt He had left me as well. I felt alone, scared, and was in a dark, unpleasant place. I found some new friends and a new boyfriend to fill my void. I found a drug and sex to void the hurt and pain I was feeling. I got pregnant again and thought, “good, now, I can fill that void in my heart!”
Little did I know that there was no way to fix this void. I had my son Ethan, and I started to parent him as a teen mom with little to no support. My parents told me if I didn’t choose adoption again that I was on my own. I lived with several friends, and their parents kind of took us in. I found a boyfriend and his family who did treat us like their own. Unfortunately, he was very abusive verbally, and I left that situation and found a high school sweetheart with whom I fell quickly in love.
We never dated in school, but now we were in love. He took to Ethan quickly, and we were set to be married before we found out that I was pregnant and due with another boy a few months before we said I do. He cheated on our relationship and family a lot. We ended things as well, so by the age of 23, I had two boys and was living on my own with the help of him and his family.
These next few years were filled with schoolwork and parties and had gotten further and further away from God. It wasn’t until the age of 28 when I found the actual love of my life and married him in 2017. We now parent four beautiful boys, 14, 11, 18 months, and 7 months.
The son I placed for adoption in 2003 is a beautiful, bright, and happy 16-year-old who has a bright future in football and other sports. I still talk to his mother through Facebook messenger. She sends me good news, and I do the same with her. I have not seen or talked to him since he was born, but I know soon the day will come. I will be waiting. I cannot wait for the day to have all my boys around and have dinner on the beach before we play in the sand. Or we could simply just sit around a table or bonfire, reminisce, and discover what things we have in common.
I’m not perfect neither is my story, but it is who I am and is my story to share.
Open adoption, as you can see from the two stories shared, one by a birth mother and one from an adoptive mother, had very different outcomes, but both accomplished what was in the best interest of the children involved.
DISCLAIMER: This article on open adoption is to aid those, either birth mother/parents or adoptive parents, in learning what open adoption is, but should not take the place of speaking with an adoption agency or an adoption attorney.Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.
Jenn Martin-Wright is a cowboy, jean-wearing, country music and rock-loving cowgirl who loves books and jewelry. She was born three months too early with a disability that should have taken any semblance of a normal life from her. Her mom made sure Jenn did everything she was capable of. Coming from a big family, it was either keep up or get left in the dust. Jenn graduated high school, then went on to getting married, having kids, and receiving a BS in Social Work. Jenn lives in Idaho with her kids and a Maltese named Oakley who has become her writing helper as she writes novels under an alias of different genres.