Preparing for Adoption

“Open adoption results in being very much like the blended family – a life journey with complexities which must be navigated with sensitivity and cooperation on the part of all those involved.” – Dorner and Silber, from Children of Open Adoption

Adoption is often touted as “just another way to build a family.” While this is true, it is important to recognize that building a family by adoption brings with it a different set of challenges than those families who come together through children born to them. First of all, adopted children “bring with them” another family, the birth family. In their genetic make-up they carry a predisposition to medical conditions and physical characteristics as well as talents, skills and temperaments of their family by birth. The birth family is “present” through the child, whether they have a physical presence or not.

In open adoption, birth family is more than a psychological presence manifest in the child. They are an openly present part of the child’s life. Many people worry that the child will be confused as to who his/her parents are if the birthfamily is involved.

What is Family Culture?

  • How do I define family?
  • How might my child define family?
  • How do I define myself? What do I see as my role in this child’s life?
  • What role do parents (adoptive, foster and birth) play in shaping identity?
  • What role does extended family play in shaping identity?
  • What are the differences between one’s personal identity and a shared family identity ?

Keeping open adoption child-centered.

  • Why it is important for all to see open adoption as a committed relationship.
  • Creating rituals to acknowledge the commitment as well as the change in roles.
  • What happens when commitment is one sided.

What are the child’s needs in infant adoption?

  • The gift of a united front.
  • The importance of consistency and continuity.
  • The myth of the blank slate.

What are the child’s needs in an older child adoption?

  • Necessary and unnecessary losses
  • Open adoption can include all who are “family” to the child.
  • The importance of continuity – my past is connected to my future. Need to integrate.

Relationship Building

  • Talking about adoption – Who, what, where, how
  • Beginning the relationship
  • Vision merging in infant placements
  • Vision merging in older child placements.
  • Maintaining and Changing the Relationship as the Child Grows

Claiming your child and your role.

  • Dealing with birthparent grief.
  • When family and friends are unsupportive.
  • Bonding and attachment.

A matter of trust.

  • Fostering understanding or helping adoptive parents find their “inner birthparent”.
  • Creating realistic boundaries, not artificial ones.
  • Broken promises – The fine line adoptive parents walk between accepting the personal limitations of birthfamily and over protecting their children.

Dealing with Difficult Histories in the Birthfamily

  • Birthparent Issues

The Information Divide.

  • The “educational process” for birthparents.

Grief, loss and shame.

  • What do birthparents lose in open adoption?
  • How grief, loss and shame effect self-esteem and identity.
  • Relationship building through grief.

A matter of trust.

  • Trust in voluntary placement.
  • Trust in involuntary placement.

Family relationships.

  • Spouses
  • Other Children
  • Extended Family
  • Older Child Preparation

The Information Divide.

  • The “educational process” for birthparents.

Grief, loss and shame.

  • What do birthparents lose in open adoption?
  • How grief, loss and shame effect self-esteem and identity.
  • Relationship building through grief.

A matter of trust.

  • Trust in voluntary placement.
  • Trust in involuntary placement.

Family relationships

  • Spouses
  • Other Children
  • Extended Family