Therapists Discuss Open & Triad Adoption: When Birth Mother Stays Involved
“Open Adoption” refers to situations in which the biological family of a child remains in their life, to some degree, after the adoption. This is also sometimes called a “triad adoption” – to signify the three-way relationship between the adoptive parents, the child, and the birth parent(s).
People unfamiliar with this idea are often concerned that it will be confusing or awkward for the child to have “two sets of parents”. However, studies by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report that the greater the level of openness, the more satisfied adoptive families and adopted children remain.
While statistics vary, it is estimated that as many as 9 out of 10 infant adoptions in the U.S. involve some level of ongoing contact with the birth family. And, overall, 36 percent of all children adopted in the US – including internationally, domestically and through foster care – have some direct contact with their birth families.
Types of Open Adoption
The recent report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, claims that in 55 percent of U.S. infant adoptions the birth family remains in direct contact with the birth family. While an additional 40 percent of US infant adoptions involve mediated contact – where the adoption agency or adoption attorney conducts ongoing communication between the two families.
In open adoptions, the adoption agency, adoption attorney(s), adoptive family and birth family work out either a formal or informal agreement as to how often and by what means contact will be made. This agreement often changes, as the circumstances of the birth parent(s) and the adoptive family change over time.
Advantages of Open Adoption
An adoptive parent wants and needs information about their child’s history: biological issues, family medical risks, etc. When there is an open adoption relationship, the adoptive family can easily access this crucial information whenever it is needed.
Additionally, all adopted children wonder about their birth families. This is completely natural and normal – and is in no way a reflection upon their relationship with their adoptive parents. In an open adoption, a child’s questions are easily answered about their birth family because they are in contact with them.
Further, when adopted children “lose” their biological parent completely, it is very natural for them to experience intense grieving. In an open adoption they do not have to suffer the intense grief of having completely lost their birth parents.
Drawbacks of Open Adoption
While experts and adoption therapists agree that some level of involvement by the child’s birth parent is psychologically healthy – and far outweighs any pitfalls – challenges can arise.
Feelings of insecurity can arise in adoptive parents – wondering sometimes who their child “loves more”. And for the birth mother, contact might be very painful – seeing the beautiful child that she had to give up, or witnessing the “happy family” that she was unable to provide.
Both of these reactions are very normal. An experienced adoption therapist can help both the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents understand and put aside their own insecurities for the sake of the child’s wellbeing.
In some cases, a birth mother may have problems with alcohol, substance abuse, criminal behavior or a destructive personal life. In these cases, the adoptive parents will need to reconsider how much contact or communication will be allowed with their child.
In other instances, birthparents may become unreasonably demanding of the adoptive parents, insisting on excessive contact or making ultimatums about how the child should be raised.
In such cases, boundaries need to be established. The adoptive parents need to gently & tactfully – but very firmly – communicate that they have their own lives, a right to privacy, and the need to be able to raise their child in their way.
Whatever the issue, adoptive parents must make it clear that they are the parent with the ultimate and final say over the childrearing and that – while they welcome communication – this is not a co-parenting arrangement.
Detroit Area Therapist for Triad & Open Adoptions
Negotiating all of the issues that arise in an open adoption is an ongoing and long-term process. Identifying the best solution(s), and making sure all parties understand what their rights and responsibilities are can be overwhelming.
Seeking an experienced adoption therapist to help everyone understand and address the complex relationships involved may be necessary. An adoption therapist can help parents understand the emotional and psychological implications of the open or triad adoption – and can help them manage their relationship with their child’s birth-mother or birth family, while ensuring that the adopted child’s needs are met in the best possible way.
As an experienced Detroit area adoption therapist, I have assisted many families as they navigate an open adoption. With a warm, thoughtful, and caring approach I will be happy to help you and your adopted child through this process.