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Open Adoption: Myths vs. Reality

The term “open adoption” provokes different thoughts for different people. Until the mid-1970s, most adoptions were closed and private. It was quite rare for the birth parents to meet the adoptive parents, let alone get to know them on a personal level. Records were often sealed, and adopted children were rarely given access to information about themselves.
But the secrecy that once defined adoption is no longer the norm. Domestic adoptions frequently involve contact between the adoptive parents and the birth parents, either through an agency or directly. For those not directly involved, open adoption can be confusing and worrisome. Let’s set the record straight on common myths about open adoption.

Myth: Open adoption is confusing to children.

Truth: There is no research to support this myth, yet much research supports the opposite. Children can understand open adoption better because there are fewer secrets and severed ties. Children know who their adoptive parents are. They also understand the role their birth parents have played in their lives.

Myth: Open adoption is a form of co-parenting.

Truth: With the help of an adoption agency or lawyer, a clearly-defined agreement can be drafted before the child is born. All decisions are made in the best interest of the child, with specific roles for the birth parents and adoptive parents. Adoptive parents are legally responsible for all decisions regarding their child’s welfare.

Myth: Most adoptive parents end up regretting the decision of having an open adoption, wishing for less involvement on the part of the birth parents.

Truth: For parents who entered open adoption with some trepidation, they begin to value the openness after some time has passed. Their worries are curtailed by the value of the experience, especially when a relationship is formed, all for the good of the child that both families care about deeply.

Myth: Most relationships between adoptive families and birth families eventually fall apart.

Truth: While this may happen from time to time, most solid relationships are built on mutual trust and respect. Again, an adoption agreement will help define roles, but these are not legally binding in most states. If the admiration and belief in each other are present, the relationship can be lasting.

Myth: Adoptees will feel they must choose between birth parents and adoptive parents.

Truth: If the adoptive parents and birth parents are working together to keep the child’s best interests in mind, there won’t be competition between the families. All decisions will be made for the child’s benefit. This doesn’t mean that conflict won’t arise. When it does, however, parents that communicate openly and honestly with each other will be able to work through the difficulties.