Adoption mediation is often referred to as open adoption mediation, child welfare mediation or cooperative adoption planning mediation. Each of these terms refer to the process of using a trained neutral third person to help birth families and adoptive families come to decisions about future communication and interaction.
What is open adoption?
Simply defined, open adoption means the birth family and adoptive family directly communicate with each other. Openness is however, much more complex than this. It is birth families and adoptive families making a conscious decision to meet each other, exchange information about one another and to build an ongoing trusting relationship with each other. Open adoption never means custody or shared decision-making.
“If you have reservations about open adoption, you are not alone. Furthermore, your concerns are normal, especially since you have grown up believing adoption should be confidential. Coming around to the benefits of open adoption requires an emotional change-not just a change in your thinking. Moreover, you may be intellectually convinced that open adoption is the best way long before you feel that conviction in your heart. However, through open adoption you can gradually gain a powerful sense of comfort. It is a feeling of relief that comes from grieving for the losses you have experienced a well as for those you are afraid you may experience, and from accepting that these losses are what make adoption different from other ways of forming families.”
– The Open Adoption Experience, Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roskia
What are some of the benefits of open adoption?
- Open adoption helps birth parents know they made a good decision for their child(ren).
- Open adoption helps birth mothers and birth fathers move through their grief process and move forward in life.
- Open adoption helps adoptive parents know they have the support from the birth parents.
- Open adoption helps the adoptive parents have questions answered now and in the future about their children’s medical history and answers for the child about adoption.
- Open adoption helps the child(ren) know that he or she is loved by his/her birth family and adoptive family.
- Open adoption helps the child(ren) feel secure and okay with his/her new family.
- Open adoption helps all the participants work together to be supportive of the child(ren) now and in the future.
How do we get started?
The mediator will begin the mediation with scheduling individual appointments with the participants. This gives the mediator an opportunity to answer questions and from the participants about their concerns, goals, and expectations. If you decide to continue with mediation, the mediator will review an “Agreement to Mediate” with you, which describes the guidelines of the mediation, which includes: mediator neutrality, confidentiality, and that this process is voluntary.
Who is involved in the mediation?
Usually, mediation involves the adopting parent(s), the birth parent(s) and the mediator. In some cases, the children, other siblings or their families, grandparents, and/or other people important to the child(ren) may be a part of the mediation.
As an adopting parent, I have heard and read things about the birth parents that concern me about my safety and my child’s safety.
This is a common fear of many adopting families. The reality is that many children being adopted are in the foster care system because their birth parent(s) may have a history of substance abuse, and/or may have engaged in violent or risky behavior. A birth parent may love his/her child(ren), but recognizes that his/her child(ren) have suffered because of their mistakes. Many adoptive parents find that meeting the birth parent calms their fears by meeting each other; the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) become real people. In the mediation, a plan can be developed to address the issues around safety and privacy.
Mediation is voluntary which means you will never be forced or pressured to partake in mediation. Furthermore, the safety of all the participants is an important aspect of mediation.
I have heard that the birth parent is violent or may be using drugs.
Mediation may not be appropriate if any one of the participants is emotionally or mentally incapacitated or may be actively using drugs or alcohol. In some situations, the mediator may go back and forth between the participants, may put the mediation on hold until the incapacitated person is more stable or may find mediation to not be appropriate.
Will there be anything in writing?
Once you and the other participants have an agreed upon plan, the mediator will draft an agreement for you. Once you have had a chance to review the agreement and everyone is satisfied with it as written, then the mediator will arrange a time for all involved to sign the agreement.