The Right Foot

open adoption

Open Adoption, Open Heart

If I can give one piece of advice, it is that in all the training you will receive, you may not be taught that starting off the relationship on the right foot can never begin too early. When I say that, it means learning positive adoption language is a big deal. You may learn a few things like to use “created an adoption plan” over the dated version of “giving up for adoption”. There are many other situations though that choosing your words carefully can go a long way. But it really isn’t about just being politically correct, it’s about respect.  It’s about understanding people’s feelings.  It’s about willingness to learn.

Today with open adoption being the more normal route domestic adoptions are taking, starting that relationship off with respect is so important. As adoptive parents we are gaining something that we could not achieve on our own; a child. Imagine the heart ache and loss the expecting mother goes through every day leading up to placing her child and will likely feel every day after the placement. Respecting her as a human and the parent of that child shows you love not just her baby, but her as well. And don’t forget about the father, he may or may not be involved, but until you know otherwise, assume he is.

Remember, positive adoption language is not just about being politically correct, but respecting her. Moving forward in an open adoption requires respect. Respecting her for her decision and not just going after her baby and saying “all the right things” will create a lasting relationship that your future child can respect you for. There are many resources out there to ensure you understand positive adoption language. If it is not offered in your adoption training, seek it out for yourself, you’ll be happy you did.

Part of respecting her, is also respecting her story. Respecting that her story is also your future child’s story. People can be nosey when it comes to adoption. Some are genuinely curious about adoption, some just want to the juicy details. So decide how much you want to share with people and stick to it. People will ask all sorts of questions that you never dreamed of. IE. “Why is she giving him up?” “Is she on drugs?” “Does she know who the father is?” “Why doesn’t she want to keep him?” Etc. Keep in mind that what you share with people now, may get back to your child or give the inquisitive people less respect for the birth mother in the future. While you may have the best intentions of sharing the story with people, they may repeat it back at inconvenient times. If your open adoption ends up being like mine, we invite our son’s birth parents and other biological family over a few times a year for family gatherings. We want everyone to feel comfortable. They are all part of our extended family now. While a person may be at a low moment in life at the time of placement, often the reason for them creating an adoption plan is to not to just give their child a better life, but to also give them the ability to improve their own life.

I think that letting the expecting mother know that you will support her in any decision she makes is very important. It shows a great deal of respect. Yes, of course you want to be a parent and adoption is your goal in having this relationship with her, but her knowing that you will be ok if she decides to parent or picks another family over you, goes a long way in her trust in you as good people. But don’t just say it, MEAN IT! Get yourself in the right frame of mind before entering the relationship.  She is not there to make you a parent.  You are there to parent her child.

Starting off on the right foot with the expecting parents will help you in a lifelong respectful relationship that will be cherished by your child and all members of the adoption triad for years to come.


2 thoughts on “The Right Foot

  1. How interesting that this article comes across my feed today. Today, I am (on the outside) 41 and confident and proud of my successes in life. On the inside, I’m 19 again, worthless, damaged and ashamed of myself because I came face to face earlier with the woman who adopted my son.

    21 years ago, I thought she was the most wonderful thing sliced bread. My son was going to have the best that life could offer, all which I was unable to. Being young and naive, I believed and loved her when she and her husband told me they would allow me to see my son grow up and send me pics. That all stopped when he turned four.

    Fast forward to my son’s freshman year in public high school. They always lived local and I never hid the fact that he was my birth son. Coincidentally, my son was now having pool parties with his blood cousin in attendance and I felt his parents needed to be aware. They always told me he would know he was adopted. She closed me out further.

    On his 16th birthday, we met, without their permission and it was a great day for all of us. He later was severely punished, but he told me it was worth it. After he graduated, he came to live with me. That blood cousin of his, he helped her delivery her first baby.

    My first born may have been given sooo much in life, but I gave him the most important thing a mother can give any child…I gave him a heart and how to foster love.

    I’ve struggled with addiction all my life so I was proud to tell his mother that yes I am finally clean. In the end, she said she forgave me, but not after letting me know countless times how I damaged my child. I will have to live with that.

    But to hear my 21 year old grown son tell me, “no mom, you didn’t screw me up!!! You gave me what I was missing!!”


    • Wow Jenn! First, thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I think that so often in the past, open adoption was so unheard of, or if it was done, people didn’t understand the importance of the relationship. While I am sure your addictions were scary and potentially harmful to your son to see first hand, to punish him for wanting to see you and shaming the relationship is wrong on so many levels. I’m glad that it see things are on the mend and your son has no blame for you. You have nothing to blame yourself for. And while I do not agree with what his parents did, I do think they tried to do their best with the knowledge and adoption education they had. I am so thankful that newer studies show the importance of open adoption and most agencies and home study facilitators educate people better these days. We are all flawed.

      Again, thanks for sharing and congrats on your sobriety and relationship with your son!


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