As we release the 2ND SNEAK PEEK into the information gathered in our survey of 281 adult adoptees about open adoption, once again I am reminded that there is no cookie cutter formula for open adoption. Open adoptions are as different as all the people involved in them.
While the top three words used by our survey group were the same whether their adoptions had always been open or were closed and later became open, we also found that the majority of these folks used a mix of positive, negative and neutral words to describe contact. For example:
One participant who was adopted at birth and whose adoption was closed but became open when they were a young adult chose, “enjoyable, easy, difficult, interesting, safe, exciting, informative, healthy, stressful, fun, loving, respectful and a pleasure” to describe contact.
Another individual who had contact with birth family members while growing up described it as, “enjoyable, difficult, interesting, exciting, sporadic, uncomfortable, normal, unusual, strained, stressful and fun”.
This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, how many people can you describe in only positives or negatives? In fact, it’s hard to imagine that one would even bother to have a relationship with a person if there were only neutral feelings about them!
The question is, what does this mean for adoptive parents who have the opportunity to facilitate an open adoption with their child’s birth family members?
It helps set realistic expectations. As parents our natural inclination is (or should be!) to jump to protect our kids from negative things. However, if adoptive parents know that there are likely to also be positives to be gained, then they can weigh those positives and negatives to make a more informed, measured decision as to what is best for their child.
It’s a reminder that birthparents/birth family members are real people. I believe that the adoption community and our society tends to paint birth parents in extremes. Angel or devil… hero or villain… saint or sinner…? But, at the end of the day “birthparent” is only a person just like the rest of us and I suspect that if they were given a list like this one and asked to describe the adoptive parents they would have a mixed response, too! Furthermore, if we are really talking in a real way, let’s remember that not all adoptees are perfect, either! 🙂
It reminds us that relationships ebb and flow. I don’t think it’s an accident that both “normal” and “unusual” were selected by the same person. The quality of relationships can change. Beyond that, an adoptee may describe their contact with different family members in different ways.
Next, we will look at what benefits they see in open adoption.