Tuesday, September 11, 2012


There are so many different meanings to the term 'open' in relation to adoption;
As a hopeful Adoptive Parent;
~ You're OPEN to various special needs
~ You're OPEN to different races
~ You're OPEN to a history of drug or substance abuse
~ You're OPEN to a history of phychological disorders
~ You're OPEN to an open adoption
As a First Parent;
~ You're OPEN to letting strangers in to one of the most intimate parts of your life and heart
~ You're OPEN to divulging personal information to strangers (many of them)
~ You're OPEN to a couple who has kids
~ You're OPEN to an older couple
~ You're OPEN to a couple struggling with infertility
~ You're OPEN to a working mom
~ You're OPEN to a long-distance relationship with your child and his/her family
"Not closed."
"Having no means of closing."
"Having the interior exposed."
"Free of obstruction."
"To expand."
When did we turn 'open' into 'let's talk about it'?
And by 'we' I mean US... adoptive parents.

Yep. That hurts.
Joey and I have completed 4 home studies... you could say we're pros. We answered the same questions every other adoptive parents answers and pen didn't touch paper until we had prayerfully considered every single answer.
I'm learning that we're not the *norm*.
Why is that?
Why is it that someone can write 'open' when asked if they would consider a child of a different race but when the baby that was 'supposed' to be white comes out *a different race*,  they walk away?
It happens.
How is it that a couple checks 'open' to a child with CP or MS or Downs but when that baby is in front of them, they 'change their mind'?
(Now, don't get me wrong... a couple who walks away from one of those precious babies doesn't DESERVE that precious baby.)
But it happens.
What makes someone think that checking 'open' when asked what kind of relationship they want with their child's First Family really means 'let us take your baby home and then we'll talk about it'?
It happens.
How can a couple TAKE that baby home, knowing that they checked 'open', knowing the expectation THEY have given their child's First Family for an 'open' relationship, and then turn around and refuse visits and 'forget' to send pictures?
It happens.
It happens too much.
And it's our fault.
It's NOT the birth mom's fault, or the agency's fault, or anyone else's fault... the fault lies with the adoptive parents. They're to blame for the broken heart of their baby's First Mom... the woman who handed her baby to you, trusted you with his/her life, and trusted YOU when you said you'd like an OPEN relationship with her.
Is that you?
It's probably some of you....
"Each situation is different."
"We said we were ok with an open adoption before we met her."
"An open relationship isn't in our child's best interest, after all."
Let's agree that the definition of *open* when used in adoption-lingo has really become, "we'll think about it and let you know."
For some.
Not all.... but some. Too many, actually.
*OPEN* to special needs sounds really good (and easy) on paper...
Until you get 'that' call.
*OPEN* to a history of drug abuse sounds good on paper.
Until you get 'that' call.
*OPEN* to an open adoption sounds good on paper.
Until you know more, or meet her, or bring him home.
But the definition of *OPEN* isn't up for discussion....
it's closed for discussion.
And *OPEN* IS a discussion. It's many discussions... with your baby's First Parents. With your agency. Some might be relatively easy discussions where scenarios presented to you are no-brainers.... but some might not feel very good, where you're forced to dig deep and possibly admit that *that* relationship is outside of your comfort zone.
It's OK to admit that.
It's not ok to fake it.
While *OPEN* might have various sub-categories (monthly letters & pictures, multiple visits per year, texting, email, babysitting, Holidays, Birthdays, etc.), it's definition will always remain the same....
"Not closed."
"Having no means of closing."
"Having the interior exposed."
"Free of obstruction."
"To expand."
We can't do much about the adoptive parents who aren't living out the promises made to their child's First Family... I've realized recently (through the heart-break of too many First Moms I know) that only God can change those hearts.
But we can do something for the HOPEFUL adoptive parents; for the one's who are getting ready to put pen to paper and decide what they're *open* to.
Pray about those check-marks. Consider the best and worst case scenarios. Talk to your agency or attorney or social worker if you have questions or aren't sure.
For most agencies and attorneys, a family profile is shown to a prospective birth mom based SOLELY on those check-marks and how they do or don't apply to that specific mom.
You're messing with lives when your pen hits paper.
You're risking the heart-break of that mom; the one who falls in love with your profile only to learn days later that she can't meet with you because you're not open to an African American child, after all. The mom who entrusts her baby's life to you, only to find out months and years later that you weren't that trustworthy, after all.
you're also risking your child's life.
She may meet her First Mom one day and learn that you were kept from her. She may realize when she's older that she could have known her First Parents when she was young and avoided the painful identity crisis she finds herself in as an adult.
Don't risk it.
Be honest.
Even if that means you're *closed*, after all.
It's ok to be closed and slowly become open...
it's not ok to be open and end up closed.
 * What if a relationship with her/him isn't healthy for our child and us right now? She's making bad decisions and we feel the need to protect our child for now...

~ Send your letters and photos to your agency. Let them be the one's to determine when/ if to send those updates. Maybe it's not possible to maintain the level of openness that you first agreed upon.... but in this case, it IS her decision and yes, you ARE protecting your child. BUT... you still have an obligation to do what you can to be *open*. She may call that agency one day and want/need to know more about her baby.... and the agency will have that information to give her; from you.

* What if she's the one who has stopped contact with us? She isn't responding to us anymore... what are we supposed to do?

~ Has she asked you to stop contacting her? Then keep sending your emails, letters, texts, photos, etc. You send them *until*.

* We didn't specify the boundaries in our relationship before we brought our baby home. How do we know what and how much we are supposed to do to maintain a relationship with her?

~ Ask. Ask her. Ask your agency. Your attorney. Someone. And if no one has the answers you need, send letters and emails and photos on a regular basis... be predictible. A letter and photos once a month, twice a year, every Holiday... you choose but stick to it.

Nope. I'm NOT the best at always keeping in touch with Hannah's birth-parents. I try. I try hard! And life does get in the way, sometimes. This responsibility almost always lies mainly with the Mama.... and well, so do a lot of other responsibilities. When those *things* distract me from something THIS important, I never ignore the urge to text, or email, or send a picture... yep, I could do it more. But I do it. We promised we would... and we do; AT LEAST that much. We said we were *open* and we are.

Are you?

If you aren't, for whatever reason, please explore the 'other side'. Maybe it won't end up truly *open* but for your child's sake and for the sake of his or her first parents, please explore. Talk to another adoptive family, email ME (I have LOTS to share soon about my family's adoption experiences... we cover them ALL!), talk to a counselor, a social worker, somone... just promise to at least be *open* to being truly OPEN!

If you're a hopeful adoptive parent and you checked that box, the one that said *open*, are you ready and willing and excited to be somewhat exposed, not closed, and ready to consider what might feel *out of the box*?

If not, uncheck that box. Please. Let's not be responsible for this hurtful definition of *open* anymore.

If you are in an open adoption, adoptive parent or first parent, would you mind sharing the *level of openness* you agreed upon and the relationship you currently have? It's ok to be annonymous but I think it would help so many if we could share the various ways we can be open!



  1. This is so refreshing. I know your words reach thousands of people and im so thankful for your honesty. I wish this had been required reading for the families i looked through in choosing one for my son.

    * K

  2. Our daughter's birth mom wanted a closed adoption in the beginning. But when our baby was about 6 weeks old, her birth mom changed her mind. She wanted to meet us and see our Peanut. We were elated. We met and signed open adoption papers. We did not set parameters but agreed we would like to text and see each other some during the year. Our daughter is 17 months old, and we have met with both her birth parents three times. The third time was on our daughter's first birthday and that was actually at our home. When we are together, we let them hold Peanut as much as they want and we take a TON of pictures. What a treasure for our daughter to have those when she is older! I send every month a letter with a big pile of photos. We always let her know we look forward to seeing her again, and ask her to let us know when she is ready. We send birthday, Mother's Day, and Christmas gifts (have sent Father's Day gifts too). I don't do it perfectly. Peanut is our 4th daughter, we homeschool, I make soap to sell to fundraise for friends' various needs, I have a mother with M.S. whose disease has progressed significantly, and many ministries I serve in. So sometimes I am overwhelmed and get things out later than I would like. But I can say that our birth mom is so important to me that when Peanut was just 2 weeks old and our home was damaged by a tornado, and we had been living in a rental house for 2 weeks, keeping our heads above water with home repairs and insurance and just new baby fatigue, living somewhere that took us out of our comfortable routine, I still got a Mother's Day package to her in the nick of time. That was a week or two before she decided she wanted an open adoption with us. Sorry for the novel. :) and this was typed on my Kindle so I apologize for any typos I did not catch!


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