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Navigating the challenges of open adoption

Although open adoptions are the new standard for adoptions, there are still misconceptions about how the process works. In open adoptions, the birth parent and adoptive parent have varying levels of contact leading up to and after the placement of the child. The contact may be mediated by an attorney, with the exchange of occasional letters and photos, or fully open and include periodic phone calls and visits.

Creating safe boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is paramount for both the birth parent and the adoptive parent and starts with a clear understanding of open adoption. Open adoption is based on a child centered focus that allows the child to know more about their family history and the reasons that contributed to the adoption.

The process allows the child to have a loving relationship with the birth parent. However, open adoption should not be confused with coparenting. Birth parents do not have any rights to the child and are not able to make any decisions regarding the child after the placement.

Fears leading to complications

Often adoptive parents fear having a relationship with the birth parent thinking it will dilute or undermine their relationship with the child. Pre-adoptive parents may even fear the child will be taken away if the birth parent knows where the child is. On the flipside, birth parents worry that ongoing contact with the child and adoptive parents will prevent them from moving on with their life.

Developing a comfortable level of openness will be unique to each adoption and the parties involved. All parents should focus on the best interest of the child and be willing to adjust their roles, within reason, as the child’s needs and wants change. Negotiating both a pre and post adoption agreement is useful to curtail unrealistic expectations and set initial boundaries before the child is placed.

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