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The Fascination with the ‘Open Adoption Gone Wrong’ Narrative

You see the adoption horror stories all the time on your favorite daytime talk shows: A “crazed” birth mother demands her baby back from the adoptive family. 

Stories like these are incredibly rare compared to the vast number of successful open adoptions. So why does it seem like ‘open adoption gone wrong’ stories are always making headlines?

The simple answer is sensationalism. The headline “Adoption Gone Wrong” is more likely to pull someone in than a headline along the lines of “Birth Mother Retains Healthy Relationship with Child’s Adoptive Family.” When tragedy occurs, its human nature to be curious about what went wrong.

Media specialists and tabloids know this and are more likely to run a story depicting a devastating event rather than a story that has a happier ending.  

Due to what’s known as negativity bias, our brains are wired to pay attention to negative news. This psychological trait that once kept us safe by making us more aware of nearby danger, now makes us more predisposed to latching onto negative headlines.

So while these open adoption horror stories rarely ever happen, they are easy for people to remember and fixate on.

5 Open Adoption Myths and Misconceptions

With so much misinformation and sensationalized media at our disposal, it’s easy to feel discouraged or nervous about pursuing an open adoption.

Below are 5 common open adoption myths and the facts debunking them:

Myth 1: The birth parents can take their baby back.

This is one of the most common myths surrounding open adoption that generates a lot of fear in prospective adoptive parents. Once the adoption is finalized and the birth parent relinquishes their parental rights to their baby and the revocation period passes, there is no going back. The myth of the birth parents coming to reclaim the baby is just that: A myth. It's not legally possible.

The birth mother can change her mind about adoption at any point before then, but since adoption is meant to give the child a sense of permanence, there are rarely any plausible circumstances that would allow for the birth mother to regain custody.

Myth 2: The birth parents will stalk you.

Just as with many of these ‘open adoption gone wrong’ scenarios, this one rarely happens. As the adoptive parents, you will not be required to share any personal information you don’t want to with the birth parents. The sort of post-placement contact arrangements that will be in place after the adoption has been finalized will be up to you and the birth parent to discuss. You don’t have to agree to anything if you feel it is not right for you.

Open adoptions have been proven to be beneficial for the whole adoption triad. It allows the birth parent to know that their child is healthy and happy, the child never has to wonder where they came from, and the adoptive parents will have peace of mind knowing that the birth parent chose them to raise their child.

Myth 3: The birth parent will regret their decision.

This one goes hand in hand with the fear that the birth parents will try to take their baby back. By the time a birth parent has relinquished t heir parental rights, they will have given their decision a lot of thought. Adoption is never a choice that is made lightly. While birth mothers often experience normal feelings of grief and loss, she knows that she is making the right choice for her and her baby.

Myth 4: The child will grow up hating their adoptive parents.

Unlike in the past where a child might be “shielded” from the fact that they were adopted, 97% of adopted children over the age of 5 today know their adoption story. There is less likely to be resentment when their adoption is something that can be discussed openly and honestly.

Myth 5: The child will grow up hating their birth parents.

Open adoption allows for the child to stay in touch with their birth parents, so they never have questions about where they came from or why they were placed for adoption. Children who have some amount of openness with their birth parents have been shown to have more positive feelings about their adoption.

Open Adoption

Open adoptions have become more popular in recent decades with 95 percent of today’s adoptions being open to some degree. Open adoptions are generally the healthiest option for everyone involved.

 Listed below are just a few of the benefits of open adoptions.

  • The birth parents will find comfort knowing that their child is happy and thriving with their new adoptive family.
  • The adoptive family will have better access to their child’s medical history.
  • The adoptive family will feel encouraged that the birth parent picked them specifically to raise their child.
  • When birth parents are able to communicate with the adoptive family and their child, they are less likely to experience feelings of guilt and doubt.
  • The adopted child will have a better sense of identity and will never have to wonder about where they came from.

Closed Adoption

While closed adoptions do still exist, they are less popular due to them not being as beneficial to those involved as open adoptions. The disadvantages that you could face in a closed adoption include:

  • The birth parents may feel guilty if they do not have the opportunity to explain to their child their reason for making their decision to place them for adoption.
  • Not knowing how their child is doing could make the birth parent depressed or anxious.
  • The adopted child may feel unwanted if they don’t know their birth mother’s reason for placing them for adoption.
  • It may be harder for the birth parent to experience closure without information about their child.
  • The adoptive family will have limited medical history on their child if new medical concerns develop.
  • The adopted child may struggle with their own identity and wonder about who they are.

If you’re new to the world of adoption, you may be overwhelmed and not sure what to expect. An open adoption allows for both the birth parents and adoptive family to have some clarity as they move through the adoption process. Reach out to an adoption professional today to get more answers to your open adoption questions.

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