Is open adoption good for the child?
It is a question on which people may disagree, and each child and their circumstances should be considered on an individual level. It is well established that children do better when adoption is explained to them at a relatively early age.
In the past, children would not learn they were adopted until they were teenagers, or even older. This would often lead to an identity crisis for the young adult. When a child is told early on in their life, it is more easily accepted as just one, unique fact about who they are, much like ethnic heritage or nationality.
We also know that about half of all adopted children will want to meet their birth parents at some point in their lives. Maintaining even minimal contact between the adoptive parents and birth parents keeps this meeting process from becoming unnecessarily stressful or overly difficult to accomplish.
I always recommend that my clients keep at least the physical address and e-mail address of the birth parents. If they send an annual picture and note, then they are more likely to maintain contact, and no one will forget to inform the other if there is a move and change of addresses.
As to actual meetings between the birth parents and the child, I don't believe this is for everyone. As in all types of cases involving children, it is important to put the best interests of the child above the desires of the adults involved.
For example, if a birth mother comes to a family gathering and is identified as a family friend, it's hard to see how this could possibly hurt the child. But if the birth mother insists on telling the child something like, "I'm your real mommy," then the child will almost certainly be confused, hurt and possibly even traumatized.
There are many excellent books written for children that help adoptive parents explain what it means to be adopted. Some adoptive parents keep a book much like a "baby book" in which they have a picture of the birth parents and some basic information about them. It may even include a note written to the child by the birth mother explaining her decision. This can be a useful tool for the adoptive parents to have, and also gives the child a sense of their history, personal story, and identity as they grow up.
If you have further questions about open adoption, please contact me at [email protected], or call 703-361-5051 to schedule a consultation. Adoption consultations are free and can be held in person in my Manassas or Fairfax office, or conducted over the phone.