Child Centered Open Adoption

We recently finished reading a book on Open Adoption called “Making Room in Our Hearts: Keeping Family Ties Through Open Adoption” by Mix Duxbury. This book is excellent!

It contains personal accounts from birth mothers, birth fathers, adoptive parents, extended family members and of course, adoptees. I recommend this book to everyone who is considering adoption. A word of warning…it might make you cry. Happy tears though! If you are a sensitive person…if you have hormones getting all wacky on you (like me – perimenopausal)…I recommend reading this book with a box of tissues. I kept trying to read it during my lunch breaks at work, and then had people asking me, “What’s wrong?!” “Are you ok?!” Ha! Eventually, I finished reading the book while at home. But it’s a good book…very educational…a real eye-opener. We found it at our local library, maybe you can too!

While reading this book, I kept finding excerpts that I thought were great and wanted to share. I marked them with post-its to come back to. Below are several of the really good ones:

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Chapter 5 is called “Becoming Extended Family”:  ….. An adoptive parent might say, “What? Extended family? I want to adopt a baby, I don’t want to adopt another family. A birth mother might not be able to imagine contact with the adoptive family without experiencing emotional pain. The fact is, no matter what the type of frequency of contact is, no matter how intimate or distant from each other they may become, birth and adoptive families will always be related to each other through their ties to the child. …… We would never accept the proposition that when we get married, we must cut off all ties to our family of origin to join our partners’ family. Why would we ask that of our adopted children? (Shari Levine-director of open adoption and family services)

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Lisa, a birth mother of Josh
My advice to adoptive and birth parents would be the same: kids deserve to know who they are and where they came from. It can be painful and complicated in the beginning, but it gets easier. Adoptive parents need to remember that birth parents don’t want to parent. We made a choice, and it was not made lightly. We can provide guidance, be a confidante, a close and special friend, but we are not parents.

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Josh, 21
The greatest advantage to open adoption is that I have someone I can identify with.

People always ask me when I speak at conferences, “Doesn’t this make you confused?” And I always respond: “Kids aren’t stupid. I think I would be confused if my birth mother wasn’t in my life. There would be so many unanswered questions.”

My advice to adoptive and birth parents would be to put yourself in our shoes. If it were you, you would probably want to know all about who you are.

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Child centered open adoption is just that: all those who are concerned with an adoption, whether they are the birth parents, adoptive parents, or adoption agency personnel, consider that the child’s current and future needs are at the very center of the adoption process. It is for the child that an adoption decision was made, and it is for the child’s identity that relationships are developed and maintained. Child-centered adoption means keeping family ties when they are appropriate, and creating healthy boundaries between birth and adoptive families in order to maintain those ties.

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Although birth parents were not ready to parent, they have a vital role to play in helping their child know that she was loved then and is loved now by those who gave her life.

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Open adoption is not co-parenting, but it is a sharing of the history and the love for our children.

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The best advice I would give to adoptive and birth parents is to remember why you are doing this. It’s not just a matter of making sure you comfortable. Insecurities will come up, but it is important to see if you can stretch outside of your comfort zone for the benefit of the child. You have to try to remember that this isn’t all about us.

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…at the very heart of open adoption: the ability to see and experience the concept of family through a different lens.

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