The vast majority of open adoptions take place between couples and biological parents that did not know each other before they came in contact through the adoption process. Whether there was no contact between biological and adoptive couples until the hospital, or there were a handful of months between first contact and the actual birth, it’s hard to fully understand and know what to expect in a post-birth relationship.
Before the child is born, all of the decision making power belongs to the biological parents. If at any point the biological parents decide not to go through with the adoption, even if there is a verbal agreement, the adoptive couple has no legal rights to push for the adoption to go through.
Once placement has occurred and the child is in the new adoptive home, the decision making power shifts to the hands of the adoptive couple. Once everything is legally finalized, even if there was a verbal agreement, there is no legal obligation keeping open contact between biological and adoptive couples.
From a legal standpoint, this shift in power may make it seem like a disaster waiting to happen. It may seem like adoptive parents will say or do whatever it takes to get the birth parents to choose adoption, but will quickly shut the door once placement and legal dealings are finished. That’s not usually the case, however.
Closing an adoption after it began open is not as common as some may think since all parties involved go into the relationship wanting to make it work. As the years go by and people become more and more educated about the aspects of open adoption, the better all parties involved are at making the right types of promises.
Making promises in an open adoption can be stressful and risky. Sometimes adoptive parents are asked to sign an agreement about the level of openness and sometimes agreements are made verbally. While it’s clearly understandable that all people involved want to know what they can expect with the new relationship, it’s important to note that the relationships almost always change after placement.
Whether it happens quickly or slowly, biological parents will need to come to a point in their life when they need to move on emotionally and mentally from the stress of placement. It’s often difficult for biological parents to know before placement how quickly they will want to move on since adoption isn’t likely to be something they have ever experienced before.
Right along with birth parents not knowing how they will react to the months and years after placement, it’s tough for adoptive parents to know how they will respond to the relationship of open adoption as well. The relationships that occur are unique to any other relationships in life and thus can be difficult to predict. Even if the adoption is not the first for an adoptive couple, every adoption and every open adoption relationship is different.
It’s important for everyone involved in the adoption triad to be open to the idea of change. It’s common for birth parents to want more contact at one point and less contact at another. It’s the same for adoptive parents, desiring more or less contact at different times in their life. If all parties involved are willing to take into consideration the feelings and needs of the others involved, the relationship can build and become strong, benefiting everyone in the adoption triad.
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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.