Question: My husband and I are very interested in adopting a child. We're wrestling with whether to make it an "open" or a "closed" arrangement. Do you have any insights or rec?
Jim: Both closed and open adoption arrangements have advantages -- and disadvantages.
On one hand, open records may prove very helpful to the adopted child once he or she reaches adolescence and young adulthood. At that stage of his or her life, he or she is likely to be grappling with questions about his or her own identity, origins and direction in life. There are also practical matters to consider, such as the child having at least some access to the birth parents' medical history.
On the other hand, while open adoption may be advantageous in certain circumstances, some families have legitimate reasons of their own to be concerned about it. For example, while an open arrangement may be beneficial during the latter part of a child's growth and development, it can also be extremely harmful earlier on -- if, say, the birth mother has unhealthy or unrealistic expectations. There's strong potential for emotional damage to a young child who is establishing one parental relationship, while simultaneously being influenced and affected by the presence of another "mother" on the scene. Much conflict and confusion can be avoided if the book is left closed until later in the child's life.
Even if an open relationship has been agreed to, it's critical that birth parents understand and respect that the adoptive parents reserve ALL parental rights to do what they believe to be in the child's best interests.
For further insight into the pros and cons of this debate, I'd encourage you to get a copy of "Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family" by David Sanford. I'd also invite you to contact us for a free consultation with one of our counseling professionals; you can call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Question: We have stricter rules than most parents on our street about where our grade-school children are allowed to go. One result is that nearly every kid on the block hangs out at our house! I'm glad they feel comfortable at our home, but sometimes it's a bit overwhelming. What can we do?
Dr. Danny Huerta, vice president, Parenting & Youth: It's wise to be cautious and intentional. Through two decades of counseling families, I've heard many stories of neighborhood interactions -- some very good and, unfortunately, some very bad. Positive experiences are built on familiarity. As you get to know other families on your street, you can teach your children ways to be assertive and aware without needing to be fearful.
Keep in mind that it's good to model boundaries by saying "no" when it makes sense. While it's great that your house is currently "the home" in the neighborhood, you need to determine what you can and cannot do. For example, if you don't have the budget to feed the whole neighborhood, talk to the other kids about bringing their own snacks. On the other hand, if you can afford at least some "friend food," consider factoring a reasonable amount into your household budget as a relational investment.
Make sure to clearly communicate with other kids (and parents) about the behavioral rules in your home. It's also OK to establish time limits and "take a break" days. I especially suggest having ALL the visiting kids help with cleaning up before they leave. This helps teach respect and responsibility to everyone -- your kids and their friends.
Realistically, this will be a relatively short season where you have a window of opportunity to pursue relationships with your neighbors. Stick to the boundaries that make sense for your home, so you'll have the energy and margins for this kind of visiting traffic.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.