A few months ago, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, on the maternity floor, waiting for a young woman to give birth to her baby..
What was different about this birth was the fact that this woman was planning to place her child with the adoptive parents that she had hand-picked, and met over dinner. The birth father of her child was supporting her through both the adoption process, and the delivery of the child.
While the birth mom was in delivery, the adoptive parents were patiently sitting with me in the waiting room. While we were awaiting the arrival of the baby, I received a phone call. I stepped out of the room for a couple of minutes..
While I was in the hallway, the birth father of the child walked into the waiting room to talk to the prospective adoptive parents..
A nurse walked by and saw the birth father speaking to the prospective adoptive parents.. She immediately rushed over to me and asked me with much agitation in her voice if I knew that the father of the baby was in the same room as the adoptive parents.. I nodded my head to indicate that this was okay and said “Don’t worry.” She told me again that the father of the baby was TALKING to the adoptive parents, with a tone that was sure that I had not heard her clearly the first time. I calmly told her again “It’s okay, don’t worry” and then I finished my telephone conversation and joined them.
These two families were waiting for the same child to be born – one family was giving birth to a baby and one family was waiting for the baby to join their family through adoption. Why is it so surprising that these two parents, the birth parents and the adoptive parents, were talking with each other?
These two families had agreed to what is called an open adoption..
In this case, the birth parents had met with the adoptive parents several times before the baby was born.
Their first meeting occurred in a restaurant, where the purpose was to introduce each couple to one another, to ask questions, and to determine whether the birth parents believed that the prospective adoptive parents were a good fit for their child. At this time, the birth parents were also considering whether or not they wanted the prospective parents to keep in contact with them through sending pictures, letters or the opportunity to visit the child after the adoption.
The second meeting was another chance for the two families to meet together for a meal and then together then went to a doctor's appointment (the birth mother wanted her Doctor to meet the adoptive parents).
In this case, both sets of parents were involved in the adoption process that was going to affect this child forever.
Their communication was more than appropriate.
The third meeting occurred at the hospital the day the baby was born. The presence of the prospective adoptive parents at the hospital was at the request of the birth parents. The birth parents wanted the prospective adoptive parents to be a part of the birth of the child. Family Connections was respecting their choice and their plan. This communication is what is called an open adoption. This adoption plan can be practical and natural, as well as emotionally satisfying for both the birth parent and the adoptive parent. It forms the basis for any post adoption relationship the two families agreed and planned for together.
How does this work?
The initial introduction of the prospective adoptive parents is done by Family Connections, the adoption agency. The agency will begin the process by showing the birth parents the profiles of prospective adoptive parents that are a fit for this child. The profile will include pictures and general information regarding these qualified adoptive families. The agency will then arrange for and participate in the meetings between the birth family and one or several adoptive families so that the birth parents can make a well-informed decision regarding which family they wish to make an adoption plan with. These meeting normally occur over a nice meal together.
After birth parents choose an adoptive family, they have the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with these prospective adoptive parents. The birth parents will decide throughout this time what sort of communication and contact that they wish to have with the child and the prospective birth parents. The birth parents may wish to exchange pictures and letters regarding the child, share an annual visit, or have on-going contact. In an open adoption, the agreement for post adoption communication and contact will be honored via a court enforceable contract. Family Connections helps the birth parents to negotiate the level and type of post-adoption contact they wish and then has an attorney draw up the legal document (Post Adoption Contact Agreement). The Post Adoption Contact Agreement becomes a part of the final order of adoption and the adoptive parents are required to comply with the agreement.
Why choose an open adoption?
Choosing to place your child in a hand-selected adoptive home, knowing the type of family that your child will be embrace by, and having the opportunity to get to know the adoptive parents for yourself can bring birth parents comfort and peace.
It may be hard to imagine having a relationship with the people you choose to adopt your child.. However having the opportunities to meet with prospective adoptive parents, being able to make a personal connection with them, and being able to get a clear picture of who the parents are as people and the lives that they lead may help to bring peace and comfort to these decisions.
These connections can evolve into relationships that can be as close as you choose.
The degree of openness is up to you.
The birth mother I spoke of earlier came to the office, a couple days ago, to see the pictures that the parents who had adopted her child sent to the agency. As she looked through all the happy pictures and saw the child and family’s joy, she smiled and commented on how comforted she felt by seeing the love that surrounded her birth child. We reminded the birth mother that the adoptive parents were still open to any meetings if she decided that she would like to meet the child. At this point in her life, she wasn’t ready to plan a visit but she was comforted to know that she had the option. The father of the baby is not yet ready to view any pictures but he knows we have them when he is ready.
The respect, love and gratitude that these families feel towards each other is beautiful and will always be apart of the child's adoption story.
If you are a birth mother or father considering adoption, please contact us at Family Connections, Inc. to learn about your options. You can also learn more about our agency and view waiting adoptive families at www.adoptfamilyconnections.org. Please contact us at 1-800 536-5556 or firstname.lastname@example.org so we may help you design an adoption plan that works for you and honors and protects the choices you make.
Written by: Anita F. Stevens, is the Executive Director of Family Connections, Inc., a New York State authorized adoption agency located in Cortland, New York and providing adoption services throughout all of New York State. Anita has been working in the adoption field for over twenty years.