I know that open adoption isn’t for everyone. But for our family, our kids, our specific situation, it’s working for now. There is so much to consider when deciding whether open adoption is something you can and want to do, like safety (yours and the child’s), how it will affect the child emotionally, whether the parent is mentally stable, whether the parent is actively using drugs, how the parent will respond to your rules and boundaries, the desire your child has or might have in the future to know their birth family, etc. There are several reasons why we chose open adoption.
First, our kids have been asking to talk to and/or see their mom since they came to live with us. They love her and by the way they talk about her, we can tell she loved them well. She may not have been able to care for them well, and yes she made some bad choices, but she loves them in her own way, and in our opinion, that isn’t reason enough to deserve to lose all contact with your kids. I also firmly believe we’re all one step away – one bad choice, one bad friendship, one bad night – away from being someone entirely different than we are. “There but the grace of God go I” is frequently said around this house. We acknowledge that it is by God’s grace, and ONLY His grace, that we are who we are and where we are. And we want to extend that same grace to our kids’ birth mom, despite her choices.
Also, their birth mom is in a safe, stable place in her life right now. She is doing really well, and we want to soak up this time with her while we have it. The reality of the situation is that I don’t know what the future holds for her. We hope and pray she will continue to do well! We really, really do. But if not, I want our kids to get as much time as they can with her before anything changes.
We also considered our kids’ emotional health when making this decision. These kids are crazy resilient and surprisingly well-adjusted for what they’ve been through in their short lives. They get it. They really do. Their CPS caseworker was so good about being open and honest with them about the CPS process both of the times they were in foster care (to the extent that was age appropriate) so they really understood what was going on, and I think that really helped them get to a healthy point of accepting their circumstances. They understand that adults need to be able to keep kids safe and that if they can’t then other adults will step in and help keep the kids safe. Also, we’ve openly and freely talked about their birth parents and life before us since they came to live with us. We know their past is a huge part of who they are so we don’t shy away from talking about all of it – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We fully encourage them to talk about all of it. I think that has really helped them process the situation as well. Additionally, we started with weekly phone contact to see how they would handle it. They loved talking on the phone with her, but when they hung up they easily moved on with their lives and didn’t bring her up until the next phone date. The phone contact didn’t create any emotional turmoil for them, and so we felt like they could handle face-to-face contact. Obviously if any of this were to change, we would adjust our visitation.
Note that we haven’t chosen open adoption with their birth dad, only their birth mom. Their birth dad just isn’t someone we want our kids around, not now, and maybe not ever. The possible pros of that relationship do not outweigh the cons, for a variety of reasons. The kids don’t ask to contact him, we don’t believe he’s a healthy person for them to be around, and we don’t feel confident it would be safe. So while birth mom is a yes, birth dad is a no. Each situation is different, and even your decision regarding each parent in the same situation can be different. That’s how it is for us.
Another reason we chose open adoption is because we want to be in control of their relationship with their birth mom. We don’t want them to go hunting for her on their own when they’re surly teenagers who think their parents are just the worst. I don’t ever want them to view their first years of life, or their birth mom, with rose-colored glasses. We want this to just be normal for them, for them to know her and have a right perspective of the reality of the situation, and we think that contact with her now, while they are little, is a good way to facilitate that.
We also want our kids to know where they came from. Again, I don’t want them to have to go hunting for something that we can easily give to them now. They can get to know their birth mom while under our care and not have to wonder about it in the future. She holds so much of their past – she knows their birth stories, when they got their first tooth, they learned to crawl, what their first word was. I don’t know any of those things, but I really want to, for me and for them. I was able to get baby pictures of each of them from her – what a gift! I don’t want them to miss out on having those precious memories.
The most significant reason we chose open adoption is because we might be the only connection to the Lord that their birth mom has. Do you feel the weight of that like I do? Whew. But you know what? We want to be that, praise the Lord. We want to promote healing and reconciliation where division and bitterness could so easily grow in the hope that God’s deep love for us and the redemption that comes through Jesus would be made evident. The greatest prayers of our hearts is that God would use us to make Himself known. We pray that He would use us and this situation to turn her heart towards Him. And we want to walk alongside her in life, whatever that looks like.
People often ask us “what if’s.” What if they hate that we changed their names? Well I say, if we hadn’t, what if they hated that we didn’t? People ask what if this open adoption goes badly? What if they want to go back to her? What if they want to go live with her when they get older? What if they like her better than you? What if, what if, what if. There are so many, and honestly? I can’t do anything about those what if’s. We’ve made this decision to have an open adoption for now. If things change, our decision may change. If she’s unstable or it in any way affects the kids negatively, we’ll reevaluate. If they like her better than me, that’s ok with me. This isn’t about me, and I know that. If they want to go live with her right now, that’s an obvious no. Kids need permanency and stability, and we’re their parents now. If they want to go live with her when they’re older, then there’s nothing I can do about that. We’re not going to hide them away from her and rob them of that relationship right now because of a fear we have for the future. We made this decision by considering all the information and wisdom we currently have, and we trust the Lord with the rest.
We know open adoption can be messy. We know the risks. But we also see the benefits, and right now we want our kids and their birth mom to be able to have each other in their lives. If you’re an adoptive mama, I encourage you to consider if open adoption is right for you and your family. Adoption always begins with brokenness, but adoption itself is redemption, and sometimes not just for the kids.