Imagine a relationship so important to you that you’d do whatever you could to protect it. Put yourself in the scene where you constantly worry about upsetting the relationship. Am I coming on too strong? Am I not participating enough? Will I say something wrong? Too honest? Not honest enough? Should I ask for more out of the relationship? What if they don’t want that? One false move, and poof, it is gone. Does that sound stressful to you? Birth Mothers in open adoption go through this all the time. Why does she suffer this stress? Fear of adoption jail.

What is adoption jail? It is the state of worrying about doing something, anything at all, to cause the adoptive family or birth child to end contact with you. Open adoption can be such a rewarding relationship for everyone involved, but there are plenty of them that needlessly end. This situation sends Birth Mothers reeling, feeling as though they are now forever in adoption jail, helplessly relegated to the place where their relationship died. What can a Birth Mother do to avoid adoption jail? What can Adoptive Parents do to help prevent this situation with their child’s Birth Mother?


Adoption Jail Happens Because Of Poor Communication

If there is one thing that puts Birth Mothers in adoption jail faster than a speeding locomotive, it is poor communication. But the responsibility doesn’t just begin and end with her. It is up to both the Birth Parent(s) and the Adoptive Parents to set the right tone on how their relationship will progress. Failure to do so puts the train headed in the wrong direction and fast.

For all parties involved in an open adoption to feel safe, the right expectations must be set. This can be more challenging than it appears when emotions run high in the final phases of the Expectant Mother’s pregnancy, and everyone feels like they have a lot to lose if things don’t go right with the relationship they’ve barely built. Everyone makes a lot of effort and puts their best feet forward in a new relationship. Think about marrying someone possibly within 90 days of knowing them. That is what it is like to be an Expectant Mother in the final weeks of pregnancy. It is easy to want to put off the hard conversations in favor of staying in the honeymoon moments of waiting for the baby to arrive. Setting the right expectations for an open adoption relationship should not be avoided; for everyone to be comfortable in the relationship, they must know what to expect. Helping Birth Mothers prevent adoption jail means you are honest with her about how you see this relationship, mostly the communication plan, going.


Difficulties Need To Be Dealt With When They Arise

Like any other relationship, it takes work and grace between the involved parties. No doubt, where humans are involved, someone’s feelings may be hurt at some point. Other times, careless words are expressed, leaving the other party wounded. It happens. But when these situations arise in an open adoption, they must be dealt with quickly. Open is the critical word in open adoption. Open requires receiving words that sound like, “You hurt me.” Open also needs to say, “That doesn’t work for me.” Setting clear expectations in a relationship means also reminding others that the expectations were agreed to. That doesn’t mean they can’t change over time, but it does mean that they need to be mutually agreed upon again so that everyone still feels comfortable in the relationship. Avoiding adoption jail means being vulnerable but firm on boundaries and expectations for a mutually beneficial relationship.


Open Adoption Is A Commitment To Be Honored

Whether you are a Birth Parent, an Expectant Mother looking to make an adoption plan, or an Adoptive Parent, the ask is the same. You need to make up your mind that your communication plan as a member of the adoption triad is a commitment you agree to. For a commitment to be honored, it must be clear what you agree to and why. You are pledging to be a committed member of this child’s family, regardless of what that role looks like. Keep in mind the well-being of the child over your feelings. Adoption jail is avoidable in most cases. If you have found yourself in a broken adoption, reach out to an adoption mediator for assistance. The commitment to open adoption is well worth it in the end.