Openness in adoption can seem like a confusing and scary concept as my husband and I were considering various ways to build our family this was one of the aspects of adoption that scared me the most. It didn’t help that my only references were from movies and television, which can be very inaccurate portrayals. After going through PRIDE training, I was still nervous about openness but I felt as though I better understood what openness could look like and why it was so important and beneficial for the children and families involved. We learned that openness could be anything from an update once a year in the form of a letter or it could look like having a personal relationship with members of the birth family (and anything in between).
As we entered into the adoption of our daughter we weren’t really sure what our version of openness would look like, there were various family members in the situation. Our daughters’ birth parents were not in the healthiest of situations and were fairly inaccessible to us – the first several months our daughter was with us we had no contact with them. Our daughter, however, had been living with cousins before she came home and they were a very healthy and positive influence in her life. We knew from the moment we met them that we wanted to keep in contact with them regularly as we could see how much they loved her, how much they had done for her and how much it would mean to them. We started out connecting through email, then texting and then visiting – they have since become family to us and we are the best of friends. We are so blessed to have them as a source of information on her early days and because they know birth parents and have provided us with photos of them through their lives (so special for our children to have). Through these cousins we have been blessed to be able to meet Aunts, Uncles and cousins of our daughters as well, we know this isn’t always the case and we feel lucky to be able to have these relationships with them. When our son (our daughter's biological brother) was born four months later our openness with birth Mom began to change. This situation was foster to adopt and so we started contact with Mom as notes back and forth on visit days, then we were able to meet her once at our son’s goodbye visit with her. Although we were apprehensive going into that visit, it went really well and it was able to bring her some peace about who the children were living with. Since then we began writing letters back and forth with her every few months, we would always include photos of the children. Birth dad has been a bit more of a distant relationship, but we have sent him a few photos and updates as well. Birth Mom’s situation has changed recently and we are able to have more direct contact with her through Facebook (we set up a separate Facebook account and email address for this purpose – it is separate from our personal accounts for privacy and safety reasons). We were really excited about this at first but it very quickly led to some issues and so we have had to take a step back for now. I really don’t know what the future holds for our relationship with her but we hope to be able to maintain contact through the years.
Although openness still scares and worries me sometimes – I know how lucky we are to be able to have so much information about our children’s past and that is such an important part of their story. There are certainly voids in the information that bother me often, but we have to take comfort in what we do know and focus on our children and what they will take value in one day. All the information, keepsakes, letters and contact we have we hope brings them comfort one day – their story belongs to them and we are doing our best to provide them with as much of it as we can.