What is: Open Adoption?

I once thought adoption was simple, even easy. I once was ignorant and I was wrong. I never looked beyond the term to see the person, and failed to appreciate the incredible selflessness, courage, and strength a birthmom must have to place their baby in the arms of another family and let them go.

A young girl just passed my office window on her way to receive an ultrasound. Her tennis shoed feet shuffled across the floor, arms crossed over her T-shirt, almost hiding the logo of her high school; she couldn’t be more than fifteen-years-old. She tried to use her expression to hide her fear, but her eyes gave her away. This child was with child. As a pregnant teen she has three options, and none of them are easy. Last year I would have said, “Just give the baby up for adoption; there are plenty of families that would love to have your child.” I just didn’t understand what I was saying.

Mark Schultz’s mom made the selfless choice to place him in the arms of another. He’s a father now, also a songwriter who wrote the song “Everything to Me” as a proclamation of gratitude to his mother.

I must have felt your tears
When they took me from your arms
I’m sure I must have heard you say goodbye
Lonely and afraid had you made a big mistake
Could an ocean even hold the tears you cried

I just didn’t understand.

The young girl is going to hear someone from our team share the concept of an Open Adoption. I imagine she’s like me and doesn’t know much about adoption at all, much less Open Adoption. Let’s learn about it together.

Adoption is the legal process by which permanent custody of a child is transferred from the birthparents to adoptive parents. For a pregnant woman, choosing adoption means voluntarily making a plan for her baby to be raised by other parents.

There are some key ideas in that definition, so let’s make sure we understand it completely.

That’s what adoption is. Open adoption speaks to the relationship between the birthparents and the adoptive parents, and it’s the type of adoption we encourage at the PHI Center.

Open adoption means the birthparents and the adoptive family exchange contact information, and can have ongoing contact. There was a time when all adoptions were closed, meaning the child never met his biological parents and the birthparents and adoptive parents never met. We’ve learned from history and heartache, and now open adoption is the most common method used in America.

If the mother getting her ultrasound today decided to make an adoption plan for her son or daughter we would walk with her as she went through the process. We would encourage her, affirm her, and support her all throughout her pregnancy and help her with her plan along the way. Eventually, we would connect her to an adoption agency.

The adoption agency serves birthparents and adoptive parents by taking care of all the legal stuff that goes into an adoption plan as well as making sure the adoptive parents are good, strong families that are prepared to care for new babies. We would invite the agency to come to our building to meet our birthmom and talk through all the details of making the plan happen. All throughout the process we would be right beside the birthmom, giving her all the support she desires.

The representative from the agency would eventually show the girl a “Life Book.” These are scrapbooks where potential adoptive parents place their picture and their story on a page so the birthmom can begin to get to know them. Maybe she’ll see a family she connects to, maybe not. If not, we’ll keep looking. These Life Books are the beginning of a new set of relationships. “Most birthparents and adoptive families tell us that they not only trust each other, but see each other as extended family. Like any other relationship, it may take effort to make sure the relationship works, but everyone benefits when you have a respectful and trusting relationship.”

At some point during the pregnancy, the birthmom and the adoptive parents would get to meet face to face. The young mom who walked in today would sit and talk with the couple she selected about their relationship and the new baby. Open adoption provides that opportunity. Our birthparents can become friends, assuming they want to, with the adoptive parents. They can talk about getting updates and pictures, scheduling visits, and how a birthmom, if she so desires, can be a part of her child’s life.

When the day comes for the birthmom to deliver her child and then place him with the adoptive parents there will be many tears; tears of gratitude and respect from the adoptive parents, and tears flowing from the broken heart of our birthmom. She’s doing something that takes more courage and selflessness than most people could ever understand. This is what I didn’t understand, but now I’m beginning to. Developing a plan and placing a child in the loving arms of another family is a difficult choice to make, but many times it’s the best one.

Please take a few minutes to listen to Mark’s song about his adoption and his deep love and respect for his birthmom. Then watch the second video to hear the story about how the song came to be. You’ll be glad you did.


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