A heart big enough for two: Navigating an open adoption

Published: Sunday, July 29 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

There are many outlets for support, education, counseling and training that can best guide parents in navigating an open adoption. The Adoption Institute is one of several organizations that has developed a curriculum that offers training for birth and adoptive parents. Here, parents learn to develop a shared understanding between the birth and adoptive parents about expectations regarding the open adoption. This involves mutual respect, honesty, empathy, trust and commitment to maintaining the connection through a collaborative form of communication.

Varner found her adoption agency, Adoptions From The Heart, to be pivotal in facilitating a positive relationship with her daughter's birth family. Pictures and accounts of the child's life can be shared with the birth parent through such an intermediary, and events are held on an annual basis for families to meet.

Support groups can be the best means of helping parents navigating an open adoption, Smith said. Nonprofit organizations such as the Kinship Center in California offer an ongoing support group to help openness. "There's no replacement for support from others who have walked the walk — who understand what it is and can provide support from time to time."

The grief or loss embedded in the experience of adoption cannot be erased by putting an end to secrecy in adoption, the study authors concluded. Openness does, however, provide individuals with information and access that allows them to deal with facts instead of fantasies; it is empowering.

The Varners hope that by eliminating the need for their daughter to search for her birth family for answers, they are laying a groundwork for their child to maintain a relationship with her birth family as she grows.

"Much like everything intertwined in adoption, open or closed," Varner wrote on her blog, "there is a story. A story that will rise above, fall below, and meet the mark in the same breath. A story that starts with a love greater than I will ever understand and filled with love that I could have never imagined nor live without."

email: rlowry@desnews.com

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