Adoption creates a split between a child’s biography and her biology. Openness is an effective way to heal that split and help your child grow up whole.
In a well-functioning open adoption, neither set of parents is less than the other. While both sides may be grateful to the other, neither side is beholden. There is no winner and no loser, no scale favoring one over the other. Instead, there is mutual respect, mutual trust, and a striving for equal footing.
The word “equal” can bring about some angst. Are we saying that all four of the child’s parents are equally involved in raising that child? Are we expecting that a committee will convene each time a decision is made for the child? That there is an equal say and an equal do through the child’s lifetime?
No, no and no. Open adoption does not mean co-parenting. It means that in the eyes of the child, both sets of parents have significant value. Both sets of parents have a legitimate claim on the child, and the child is able to claim both sets of parents as his own.
— Chapter 3: The parents (first- and adoptive-) in an open adoption
In the days of closed adoption, the birth family was to disappear, never to be seen, heard from or wondered about again. Both families were to proceed as if there were not an easily apparent seam in the fabric of their lives.
In the open era, however, we know the seam is there — for both families. The birth parents have experienced a child-ectomy. But instead of a hidden, festering sore, the healing happens in the open. The adoptive parent(s) have grafted a family member onto their tree, one related by love rather than biology, much like a marriage. We are not ashamed that there is a seam. Why would we be?
Others may still rather avert their eyes or speak from the days of secrecy and shame, and here is where we become teachers, ambassadors. Here is where we vanquish the shame and fear that used to go along with adoption.
— Chapter 4: Guideposts from families who have traveled the path
We do a disservice to the adopted person when we try to establish a hierarchy between nature and nurture. If our own insecurities require us to assert that nurture is more important than nature, then perhaps we should dissolve those insecurities rather than discount a person’s biology.
— Chapter 5: Openness and the adoptee
We adoptive parents continually walk a fine line. We don’t want to dwell on adoption and assign every growing-up difficulty to it, yet we also don’t want to deny its effects and not see/hear/know when something adoption-related is going on. To walk this line requires us to cultivate mindfulness, clarity and inner calm, to tune in to ourselves and our child, especially during moments of stress, and be responsive rather than reactive.
— Chapter 7: Reality check: it’s not always easy
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