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Adoption Myth No. 3


a blog by Ellen Glazer, October 21, 2010

“Open Adoption.”

These very words set off an alarm in people going through infertility and beginning to contemplate adoption. There is the worry that if they move on to adoption, they will never be “real” parents. Instead, they fear, they will be forever sharing parenthood with the birth parents.

Before I surprise you by saying that in my experience, most adoptive parents wish their adoptions were more open than they are, I’d better explain what is meant when people say “Open Adoption.”

What Open Adoption Means

“Open Adoption” refers to those adoptions in which birth and adoptive parents have full contact information about each other. They remain in touch by phone, e-mail and/or in-person visits. In the 30 years that I have been working in adoption, I have known very few people who have had fully open adoptions.

The vast majority of my clients have had what is often referred to as “semi-open,” an odd term but one that refers to adoptions in which birth and adoptive parents meet at the time of placement, but do not have full identifying information about each other.

I have found that most adoptions begin as “semi-open” and that a few of these become “open” because that is what both families want. However, far more often are the “semi-open” adoptions in which the birth parents withdraw following placement and seem to distance themselves from the situation. Most adoptive parents understand this withdrawal as an indication of the birth parents’ need to protect themselves from too much sadness. Still, the adoptive parents are often disappointed — they have come to like and appreciate the birth parents and to want to remain in touch with them.

Remaining Open to Possibilities

In talking with people preparing to adopt, I encourage the future parents to remain open to possibilities. Their adoption may turn out to be open, but if it does, it will most likely be because this is something they want. Their adoption may turn out to be more “closed” than they anticipated, but this, too, may change with time.

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Comments (2)

Hi, Ellen.

My experience is the opposite. We adopted both our children, and at the beginning had only one of their birth parents in the picture. Over the past 7 years, however, we have added the other three. We now have 2 fully open adoptions.

I know of many other bloggers who are raising their children in open adoptions. Sure, there are bumps in the road, as there are with any parenting journey.

Here's a list of some people writing about open adoption (complied by Heather or Production, Not Reproduction) in case your readers want to see examples from those in all 3 parts of the triad:

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