What is openness in adoption?
When we talk about openness in adoption, it’s important to discuss the difference between openness and contact. The traditional narrative of open adoption is when adoptees have physical contact with their biological parents. The contact is typically either dictated by an open adoption agreement (OAA) or advised by the adoption agency. Openness is the spirit in which you enter into your relationship with your child where you strive to be emotionally present as they process their adoptedness. We believe that even when physical contact isn’t available your family can still achieve a spirit of openness.
Here is an example of engaging with a spirit of openness when contact is not possible:
Michael was adopted from foster care when he was 9 months old. His birth father is deceased and the whereabouts of his birth mother are unknown. Michael has a few pictures of his birth parents that his adoptive parents framed and hung next to his bed. Michael is quite a talented athlete and has amazing balance and coordination. He and his adoptive dad have had many conversations wondering if his birth parents were also good at sports. Michael also loves spicy foods, and as he and his adoptive mom prepare meals, they typically have a lighthearted conversation about whether his love of spicy food comes from his birth mom or birth dad.
Why is openness in adoption important and how will embracing openness impact your child?
What we know from hearing the stories of adult adoptees is that fully embracing a spirit of openness will strengthen your children’s sense of identity and decrease their sense of abandonment, which many adoptees feel by their birth/first families. Additionally, embracing a spirit of openness will increase adoptees’ attachment to their adoptive parents (Lowe et al. 1999).
How does Amara help adoptive families achieve a spirit of openness?
At Amara, we utilize the Inclusive Family Support Model (IFSM) which was developed by Angela Tucker (former Director of Post Adoption Services at Amara) and Dr. JaeRan Kim (Professor at the University of Washington Tacoma). The IFSM model was published in 2020 in the Child and Family Social Work Journal. This model incorporates three main theoretical approaches including: family systems theory, the transtheoretical model of change and ambiguous loss which is defined as a loss that remains unclear (Boss 2007).
Building upon the Inclusive Family Support Model, Amara has created an openness assessment which serves as a tool for adoptive parents to examine their level of openness about their child’s adoption and maintaining connections with their birth family. Our post adoption program can support you in achieving a spirit of openness for your family. The development of the openness assessment tool was created by Amara in partnership with Angela Tucker and Lori Holden. This work was funded by Best Starts for Kids, a King County Washington voter approved initiative.
To determine your family’s level of openness we invite you watch our short animation explaining IFSM, then take our adoption openness assessment. You can also learn more about the Inclusive Family Support Model by watching this conversation with the creators of the adoption openness assessment tool. For more information or support from our Post-Adoption team, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lowe, N., Murch, M., Borkowski, M., Weaver, A., Beckford, V., & Thomas, C. (1999). Supporting adoption: Reframing the approach. London, UK: British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering.
Boss, P. (2007). Ambiguous loss theory: Challenges for scholars and practitioners. Family Relations, 56(2), 105–111. https://doi.org/10.1111/ j.1741‐3729.2007.00444.x Bowen, M. (1966).