Today’s adoption finalization was a beautiful reminder of what open adoption means.
Google “what open adoption means” and you’ll find plenty of different explanations.
What open adoption means in its simplest form is just that birthparents and adoptive parents have some level of information about &/or access to each other.
Yet in reality, when done properly, what open adoption means is so much more than that.
What Open Adoption Means: Hospitiousness
Adoption expert Jim Gritter refers to open adoption instead as “hospitious adoption” because in his view, all the parents in an open adoption are both hosts and guests in the life of the adoptee. They welcome not just the child but also the child’s other parents in their lives, and behave with the good manners of a gracious guest, knowing ultimately that it is their privilege to be included in the adoptee’s life.
Just over a year ago, at Abrazo’s August 2018 orientation, we met a new local couple who had explored several adoption agencies before choosing to join Abrazo. They understood the basic concept of open adoption and its importance. The couple was hopeful about becoming first-time parents, but had no idea that the mother of their future child was already pregnant and living close by.
Certainly, they had lots of questions about how open adoption would work, yet being people of faith, they trusted they were being led to open their hearts and their lives to whatever mother and baby would need them most. They were ready to welcome a birthfamily and child into their lives for a lifetime, knowing that adopted children need both roots and wings to thrive.
And Open Adoption Means Honesty
A couple months later, a pregnant woman came to Abrazo, with a private adoption plan already in place. Within days, however, the people she’d planned to give her baby to had changed their minds, so this mother needed to find another home for the baby due in a few weeks. She chose Abrazo’s new local couple, and after a few phone calls, they had an awkward first meeting.
It was awkward only because they were all new to each other. The pregnant mom saw the adopting couple as having “perfect lives” yet she was truthful with them about the ways in which hers seemed to be so much less than that. The adopting parents honestly wanted to “be there” for her in any way they could, and yet they were aware that she needed to control the extent to which she chose to “let them in” so they led her take the lead.
They didn’t hear from her as often as they might have hoped, but there was the foundation of a basic trust between them because they all had her baby’s best interests at heart. And when she went into labor, they were the first people she called. She placed him with them on Christmas Eve and her decision was final when she signed the relinquishment paperwork.
Plus Open Adoption Requires Heart
The baby they forever share has now been with the adoptive parents for as long as his birthmother was pregnant with him. He is a happy, healthy child. His birthmother’s full name is as available to him as their home address is to her. He is not anyone’s secret, nor is his existence a source of shame for anybody. He is truly loved beyond measure.
The adoptive parents invited his birthmom to the their adoption finalization hearing because they wanted to, not because they had to. Still, they knew this day would not have been possible were it not for her, and she was happy to be included.
Their contact going forward will be the same: a voluntary exchange of ongoing updates, calls and visits throughout each year. This will continue not because it’s legally-required, but because their hearts are forever joined by their mutual love for this sweet boy. They’re forever family, all because of him.
And that, in essence, is the perfect definition of what open adoption means… may the precious son they share always know how truly loved he is, by all of them.