Top Three Reasons to Learn More about Openness in Adoption
Openness is a common aspect of the adoption experience today with research showing that over 95 percent of agencies offer some form of open adoption. In many ways, the relationships that are developed through open adoption are no different than other types of modern family arrangements today such as blended families, families headed by LGBTQ parents, step-parenting, and those that come together through assisted reproduction technologies such as donor origins. The new normal of today’s family brings with it the beauty of diversity while also presenting certain challenges as individuals navigate new relationships in their lives.
Openness in adoption provides many benefits that a secret and closed adoption system could not offer; it assists the entire family with identity development, it allows people to know the truth of their origins, and it creates a more authentic family dynamic. Moving beyond the antiquated notion of the “as if” family that ignored the presence of a birth family, today’s adoptions in many ways provide families with the freedom to embrace all the people that make them who they are as a family.
This doesn’t mean openness is always easy! In fact, just like in other types of families, it comes with challenges that can be difficult to navigate without the right supports and education. This is why The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) launched our online curriculum Openness in Adoption: What a Concept! The curriculum is rich with information that can help families with some of the common questions about openness, address concerns, and also provide tools to work through some of the challenges that may arise.
If you haven’t taken advantage of this resource yet, here are the top three reasons learning more about openness in adoption can benefit your family:
- Facts are Friends
Often times, families are inundated with information from various media outlets that don’t paint an accurate picture of what this experience is really like. You may have seen this in the movie of the week or as a headline that dramatizes an adoption experience gone awry. Unfortunately, adoption is often depicted as an either/or experience… either very good OR very bad. The reality is that adoption is a layered experience with family dynamics that contain strengths and challenges (just like any other family on the block). Learning the facts about openness in adoption, including what the research says about the impact of openness, will ease any anxieties that naturally arise when information comes from questionable sources. DAI’s online curriculum provides an overview of the major research in this area in a way that is easy to understand and can build confidence as you make fact-based decisions about what’s right for your family.
- Communication is Critical
In any relationship, difficulties and disagreements can arise. We all bring our unique personalities, histories, opinions, ideas, traumas and values when we build relationships with other people. Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships with individuals that come from very different backgrounds than what we are used to. In adoption, this may happen as this is an experience that frequently blends differences in areas such as race, religion, class and culture. This may lead to instances where the going can get a little tough. What you want to remember though is the relationship between birth and adoptive families is one that requires commitment because these are relationships that benefit the most important person in the family — the child. When the going gets tough, it’s important to tough it out and have the hard conversations that are needed to maintain this commitment. Remember, a child who is adopted has two families that will contribute to their identity development — a family of birth and a family of experience. When one of these families is cut off, that can make identity development all the more difficult for the adopted person. Learning the skills necessary to communicate — particularly in difficult times — is crucial in order to make decisions that are in a child’s best interest rather than those that solely serve the interests of adults. DAI’s curriculum provides examples of some challenges that may arise as well as practice opportunities to brainstorm solutions. Although every adoption experience will be nuanced, developing a toolkit can help a family feel prepared and self-assured in communicating concerns and creating solutions that serve the family and most especially the child.
- Real Relationships
Openness in Adoption: What a Concept! is a curriculum that is designed to help emphasize that adoption is the blending of families. Adoption does not replace one family with another; rather it extends families in different ways. All family members are important and need to be acknowledged. In some situations, family members may prove more challenging than others. What’s key though is viewing these relationships as hardly different as other types of relationships we have in our lives and making decisions about the nature of the relationships in a way that serves a child. We always consider what is safe and appropriate for a child as the priority. As adults, we must challenge ourselves to make sure that those decisions are not based on adult needs and fears but rather what is truly in the best interest of the child. It is also important to remember that although some extended family members may not be appropriate for direct contact, there are almost always other families that are. This is the reality of developing authentic family relationships in any type of family. In adoption, when we work to maintain connections, we can best help a child fully integrate the unique experience of being born to one family and raised by another. All children deserve to be raised in a way that they can feel healthy about whatever their unique family situation is. As adults, we have a wonderful opportunity to work together in making sure the best interest of children is at the heart of any decision made in adoption.
Learn more about DAI’s Openness in Adoption: What a Concept! curriculum. Contact us for more information about additional resources for professionals who support families. Providing education and support to families in adoption is something all of us have to engage in. Strong families build strong communities and strong communities make a better world for all of us.