On Tuesday nights you can find me in front of the television watching the new hit show on NBC, This Is Us. An emotional family drama, This Is Us has been the perfect solution for my post-Parenthood withdrawals. Relatable characters, heart warming family dynamics, and the crazy plot twists? I’m in!
As an adoptive parent myself, I’ve been particularly intrigued by the show’s transracial adoption plot line. In the most recent episode (SPOILERS AHEAD!!), Randall told his mom that he had found his biological father. When the two parents met, the audience realized that it wasn’t for the first time. Rebecca (Randall’s mom) had tracked down and confronted him when Randall was a baby, but always kept their meeting a secret. I teared up when Rebecca told Randall’s biological father, “He will have your blood and the blanket you wrapped him up in. That’s it.”
(OK. Spoilers over!)
Are you ready for a quick adoption terminology lesson? Closed adoption is when little to no contact or identifying information is exchanged between biological and adoptive parents. While closed adoption used to be more the norm, today it accounts for a very small percentage of domestic infant adoptions. Open adoption is when contact and identifying information is shared between biological and adoptive parents, although the degree to which this happens varies greatly. Generally, semi-open adoption is when non-identifying information is shared using an attorney or agency as an intermediary.
So, why open adoption?
- Perhaps most importantly, studies tell us that some degree of openness in adoption is in the best interest of the child.
- Access to valuable family medical information.
- Biological parents can be comforted to see that their child is loved and cared for.
- The child can have answers to big questions, like “Who do I look like?” and “Why was I placed for adoption?”
Those are only a few reasons why openness in adoption can be a good thing. Still, it is common to have initial fears and even some misconceptions of what an open adoption really means. One might worry that open adoption is co-parenting, and that a relationship with birth family will be confusing to the child. You might worry about boundaries and how everyone will find their own role. There might be a valid concern about health and safety due to issues such as drug use or domestic violence. It’s OK to have questions and name those fears!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, that’s some good info. But what does an open adoption actually look like?” I’ll tell you how it looks for our family!
- Texting. When I started writing this blog, I texted our son’s birth mom to tell her. I stay in touch with my friends via text on a daily or near-daily basis, and that includes our children’s birth families. I’ll send cute photos and videos, because who else besides your spouse is just as obsessed with your kids as you are?! Their birth moms!
- Get togethers. We know where they live, and they know where we do (gasp!). We hang out at each other’s homes, sometimes spontaneously! Birthday parties, going out to eat, swimming, and more recently the pumpkin patch – those are a few of the things we’ve gotten to do together recently.
- Social media. It’s not a good fit for everyone, but for us, Facebook and Instagram are great ways to stay in touch and share photos, especially those unscripted every day moments!
What I’m describing above probably doesn’t sound much different than the relationships you have with your friends and family. And it shouldn’t! We didn’t really choose open adoption. Open adoption chose us. It feels natural and yet it can be hard and takes work, just like any other close relationship. My kiddos (and yours, if you have adopted) come from a family of origin. They were adopted into our family, their forever family. These two realities coexist together – it is not an either/or situation, but a both/and situation. I love my children fiercely, and because I love them, I love all of them – and this includes where they came from. We hope to raise our kids to not feel like they have to choose, to feel whole, and to have access to the full picture of their identity.
We want our daughter to know that she wrinkles her nose like her birth mom, and our son to know that his blue eyes match his birth Grandma’s. One day when they have hard questions about their birth, and about why adoption was chosen for them – I want them to have access to the source, to the person who loves them so much that she made that difficult decision.
I’m so thankful that our little family has grown this way. There’s no such thing as too many people to love our kids!