5 Little Known Facts About Open Adoption

Open adoption has been gaining popularity and frequency since the 1980's, but what is it exactly? There are so many misconceptions about adoption in general, but especially about open adoption. Here are some helpful facts about open adoption to give you a better idea about what it is all about.

Fact #1: Open adoption does not mean everyone will feel close to each other.

The level of openness is every adoption is different...and changes over time. Some open adoptions involve regular contact (telephone calls, social media, visits, etc...) with birth family, and some open adoptions have absolutely none. Wait. How can an adoption be open with no contact?

The reality is that families built by adoption are just like any other family.

Some families are close. Some families are not. Sometimes you have family members that you just "click" with more than others. Sometimes you have family members you really never see because of differing life style choices or any other number of reasons. Open adoption is like that, too.

Furthermore, it is not unusual for open adoptions to have long periods of no contact. Perhaps a birth parent "disappears" for a while. Perhaps someone moves away geographically. Or maybe the feelings about the adoption are just too intense for a while.

Open adoptions are not defined by how much (if any) contact that occurs. Instead, they are defined by an openness to accept what is. Rather than keeping the adoption a big dirty secret or shaming parties for being involved, open adoption allows people to be open about how their family was formed...to themselves and to the world, if they so choose. Sometimes that means accepting that distance is a part of the relationship. Many times, it means accepting the pain of adoption along with the benefits.

Fact #2: Adopted children are 11% more likely to be in therapy.

This might not feel like such an unknown fact. Many people assume adopted children are worse off than other children. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone tell me what a "saint" I am for adopting my "poor children" and giving them a better life. (Please pardon me while I roll my eyes... First, I am no saint, and second, my "poor children" were loved from the second they were conceived.) null

So, while it may not be breaking news that adopted children are more likely to be in therapy, it might be surprising to learn why. Overwhelmingly, it is because adopted parents are more likely to make this choice. Adopted parents tend to be more financially secure. Adoption is expensive most of the time, so this automatically seems to put them into a higher tax bracket.

Second, adopted parents tend to be more likely to ask for help. Think about it. They've already made the choice to ask for help in forming their family. Finally, many adoptive parents go through an educational process as part of their adoption journey. We learn about attachment and how adoption can impact early neurological development. We spend so much time waiting and planning our families that we tend to err on the side of over analyzing everything. It can be really hard to know what is normal kid developmental growing pains and what is rooted in adoption issues. So, if anything, adoptive parents tend to turn towards therapy too quickly.

Now, I am not saying that adoptive kids do not have special issues and do not need therapy. However...

Fact #3: 90% of adopted kids have positive feelings about being adopted.*

Do they also have negative feelings? Of course! Much has been written about the primal wound...the feeling of absence and pain that comes from an early separation from the first mother. We know that kids who have been adopted tend to struggle with identity issues and might need extra help learning to deal with their feelings, particularly as teenagers.

While these issues are real and significant, I also think it is important to recognize that adoption also brings positive feelings. As an adoptive parent myself (who tends towards over analyzing everything...sigh...), it is really important for me to embrace both of these truths.

If open adoption is about accepting what is, it is important to get okay with opposite feelings taking place at the same time.

Fact #4: Seven states legally enforce open adoption.

This was a surprising fact for me to learn. Perhaps naively, when I was first getting involved in my own open adoptions, it never occurred to me that people would make an agreement about openness and then not honor it. However, unfortunately, this does sometimes happen. So, in California, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, they have written laws to help enforce open adoption agreements.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am happy for birth family members to have rights towards a level of openness. Otherwise, they are completely at the mercy of adoptive parents, which creates a power and control dynamic that can be unhealthy. On the other hand, what I know about open adoption is that contact naturally changes over time. It is such a complex issue that a blanket law might overly complicate things rather than really help the situation.

What I do think might be helpful in these situations is access to mediation and/or counseling. Most often, families just need some help understanding the other person's perspective. So, in coaching and therapy sessions, I encourage families to be honest with themselves and their adoptive counterparts about their needs and boundaries.

When everyone is clear, direct and respectful of each other, reaching an agreement becomes so much easier.

Fact #5: Overall, adopted children turn out happier and more socially successful than their non-adopted peers.

It is true that adopted teenagers tend to have an increased amount of suicidal thoughts. However, once they are adults, research shows that adopted persons are more socially successful, less likely to live in poverty, have better jobs, and more likely to have stable marriages than those raised in single parent households.

So, while open adoption is not the simplest way to grow up or form a family, it is not the worst way either. If you are involved in an open adoption and want to know more facts about open adoption, I would be happy to help. Whether you are looking for an adoption therapist in Austin, Texas or want to explore distance counseling, you do not have to do this alone. Give me a call and we'll see if it feels like a good fit for you.

surprising open adoption facts

References:

Unknown. "Adoption Facts - Top 14 Facts about Adoption." Facts. Facts.Net, 20 Sept. 2016. Web 11 Apr. 2017.

U.S. Department of Health's 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP)

Traci W. Pirri, LCSW

Traci W. Pirri, LCSW is a top anxiety therapist, depression counselor, and adoption therapist in Austin, Texas. She is also licensed in North Carolina. She is passionate about working with people whose lives or professions have caused them to struggle, but still desire a life worth living. She helps people find the connections they want with their relationships and daily lives.

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