They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ve found this to be true in multiple facets of my life. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan for 13 months shortly after we got married. I missed him so much and upon his return, my heart and love for him had grown stronger than it was before he left. Another instance in my own life is when my son was born 10 years ago. I got very sick several days after we got home from the hospital with him. I ultimately went back to the hospital and he stayed home with family. I felt the distance to my core every second I was apart from him. No matter our backgrounds, I’m sure we can all think of instances where this has played out in our own lives.  


As an adoptee of almost 40 years and also as an adoptive mother, I tend to view things thru a slightly different lens than others. When I think about family dynamics in adoption and what that looks like from my perspective, I have to pause a little. Does it ever look like a traditional family unit? No, not in my experience anyways. The reality is that no matter the level of open or closed adoption, there will always be two families as the foundation. There are birth parents and then there are also adoptive parents. Sometimes you’ve got siblings, and grandparents in the mix as well. Different backgrounds, different beliefs, different experiences and lifestyles, yet a shared child at the center of it all.


Family Dynamics in Adoption Change Over Time


When I was adopted in the 80’s, open adoption was still considered pretty taboo. Less than 1/3 of adoption agencies even offered open adoption as an option until the early 90’s when the tide finally started to shift towards open plans. It was at this point that open adoption was recognized as a better option overall for birth mothers and adoptee outcomes alike. Today, nearly 95% of adoptions are open plans. While most adoptive families currently can speak about what this looks like for their family dynamics and what conflict/resolution looks like inside of this, unfortunately I cannot.


Because I am part of the 80’s statistics and my son happens to be apart of the 5% of closed today, I can only speak to the absence of openness and communication in the family dynamics in adoption surrounding my family. As an adult, I understand the why behind my closed adoption as well as that of my sons but I also remember the years I didn’t understand, the years I remember having more questions than answers, I vividly remember the years of identity struggles and the feelings of abandonment I couldn’t shake. The absence was loud and my heart couldn’t have longed more for connection. I cannot even begin to comprehend the feelings my birth mother felt. Thankfully the Lord has healed my heart and while the opportunity to have any openness with my birth mother isn’t an option now for me as she passed away before I could lock eyes with her again after my birth.


Understanding Family Dynamics In Adoption To Do Better


I long for the opportunity for my son to one day have a relationship with his birth family. While there isn’t ever a one size fits all adoption plan, and while I also recognize open adoption isn’t always healthy or safe, I truly believe that there is healing in openness. In my case, and many other adult adoptees, we can lean on the fact that absence will still always makes the heart grow fonder. Our heart knows we have more people to love and be loved by. We won’t always have the opportunity to have the tangible relationship but my prayer is that we see family dynamics in adoption continue to move in the direction where every member of the triad can find healing and restoration.