It’s normal to wonder how open adoption works, if you’ve never been a part of one.
It’s been said that a picture’s worth a thousand words. So take a long look at the family photo* that’s posted above. It’s not a stock photo. These people are for real.
What you can see is a large, happy family enjoying time together. (Which is exactly what this is.)
What you can’t see is that all these people are truly relatives, thanks to open adoption.
That’s because one child in this picture is biologically linked to two parents in this picture who aren’t the parents in this photo who are raising him. This is all because he’s a beloved AbrazoKid who was once placed for adoption, as a newborn. (And yes, he knows it, too.)
You can’t see from this photos that all the kids in this picture have always known this truth. But adoption hasn’t altered the fact that they’re still all siblings. (It just changed one child’s last name and address.)
And it also gave all the kids another set of trusted adults in their lives, because all their parents know and trust each other, too. That, in a nutshell, is how open adoption works.
(*Special thanks to the forever family in this photo, for allowing us to share it here.)
How Open Adoption Works (& What It Isn’t)
An open adoption is like any other adoption– just without the secrets. The placing parents get to choose where they want their child to go, and they get to know the adoptive parents personally before entrusting their child/ren to them. The child/ren being adopted permanently join the adoptive family. And the two sets of parents voluntarily agree to keep in touch, so the adopted child/ren grow/s up knowing the truth about who all of them are.
At first blush, open adoption might look like joint custody, but that’s definitely incorrect. Because in order for a child to be adopted in Texas, the birthparents must first surrender parental rights so that all the custodial rights can ultimately belong to the adoptive parents. There can (and should) be updates and even visits after placement, but that’s a privilege, not a legal right.
Open adoption isn’t a co-parenting arrangement, either. Any legal adoption permanently relieves birthparents of all of the rights and responsibilities of parenting. The voluntary open adoption agreement parents make to maintain direct contact in the years after adoption is a matter of trust, made between them. After placement, the adoptive parents are required by law to decide what’s best for the adoptee, until the adoptee is grown and can decide for their self what contact they may wish to continue.
How Children Understand All of This
These days, kids grow up understanding there are lots of different kinds of parents and families. Some kids have one parent. Others have two parents of the same sex. Some kids are adopted, so they have a birthmom and a birthdad, as well as a mom and a dad. Sometimes, siblings all live under the same roof, but other times, they grow up in different homes. Open adoption can often seem less confusing for children than adults.
Most of the birthparents who place babies for adoption through Abrazo have other children they are parenting, so open adoption is an important tool in enabling the continuity of sibling relationships. Even if the birthparents or adoptive parents unions should fail, the parents are all committed to honoring the adopted child’s connections with the birthsiblings, so there are never any secrets nor lies.
(Abrazo makes every effort to counsel placing parents about the importance of sibling connections, even if a subsequent birth or placement should come up in the future. However, agencies cannot require any parent to keep in touch nor do a sibling placement against their will, of course.)
In the photo above, there are now actually two children who have been lovingly placed through Abrazo. Each is blest to get to grow up with two adoptive parents who truly love their birthparents, and who are committed to their children’s birthsiblings, as well. That’s how open adoption works. This is what having extended family is all about. This is open adoption at its best.
Plan Your Open Adoption Here
At Abrazo, we believe that the benefits of fully-open adoption truly serve the best interests of adoptees as well as their parents. Open adoption isn’t easy– it takes ongoing effort to keep any relationship healthy. Yet it’s definitely worth it, because how open adoption works enables adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents to take pride in and be at peace with their adoption relationships.
Unfortunately, the voluntary agreements made in open adoptions are still not legally enforceable in Texas. (This means that while it’s perfectly “legal” to enter into an open adoption arrangement, the courts here won’t mediate any disagreements. So it’s essential that the parties be fully transparent with each other about their needs and expectations.) Communication is key, as are written agreements. And having an ethical, licensed adoption agency involved is essential, too, so all parties have support before and after any open adoption is done.
If you still have questions about how open adoption works, Abrazo has answers to share, so let us help you plan an adoption that works for everyone involved.