Modern open adoption has many benefits for everyone in the adoption triad. For example, prior to the adoption, adoptive and birth parents can work together to decide how much contact they will have in the future after the adoption is complete.
Adoptive families sometimes have concerns about what contact with the birth mother will be like. Some worry that she will want to co-parent. Others are concerned that the birth mother will show up unannounced at their house demanding her child back. The truth is, most birth mothers work countless hours creating an adoption plan so that their child’s transition to their new family is as smooth as possible. The last thing they want is to come back and disrupt what they’ve created.
Open adoption is an agreement between people who have never met until they came together through the miracle that is adoption. And it is defined by the common love and care of a child.
In short: It can be intimidating and scary — as you contemplate a future relationship with the birth parents, people you’ve never met and don’t know. But it doesn’t have to be! And with Lifetime Adoption’s compassionate and experienced adoption experts by your side, you will have the preparation, education, and assistance you need at every step of the way. In fact, the relationship you develop with your child’s birth parents may be one of the warmest and most extraordinary surprises in your adoption journey.
Benefits of Open Adoption
Contact with birth parents after the adoption has been shown to improve a child’s sense of happiness and well-being. This study has shown that 84% of adoptees reported high levels of satisfaction when maintaining ongoing contact with their birth parents. That same study also reported that adoptees in open adoption situations had positive feelings for their birth parents.
We have seen this to be the case for more than 30 years now. Lifetime Adoption is a pioneer in the open adoption process. We know firsthand how happy a birth mother and birth father can be when they not just know their child is taken care of, but can also be a part of the child’s life.
Through this ongoing contact with birth families, everyone wins. The birth mother (and any other members of the birth family involved in the ongoing contact) have the reassurance that the child is growing up safe and happy. The adoptive parents have the opportunity to gather important medical information or other information, should needs arise. And the child is able to know for certain where he or she came from and be able to ask the questions needed to establish a strong sense of self, living in the truth.
As a birth mother, Tina, puts it, “Open adoption is a beautifully complicated process that is filled with profound hope and loss. It is anything but simple, but can provide birth parents, adoptive families and adopted individuals with a bright future filled with possibilities that otherwise may have been unimaginable. In this way, adoption leads to more: more opportunity, more connection and more love.” (from her guest column for the Calgary Herald.)
Modern Open Adoption
Open adoption means that the birth family — typically the birth mother — and the adoptive family meet prior to the adoption. They can exchange information and make plans for how the relationships between the adoptive family and birth family will go.
Some women may not want or need contact with the adoptive family. The biological mother (or both biological parents) may also choose to maintain lots of contact with their adopted children and the adoptive parents.
Adoptive and birth families will have time to work this out before the adoption. Adoption, child welfare and happiness, having adoptive parents agree — these are far more common than many seem to believe.
With this open communication and the potential for flexibility, there can be good relationships all around. This helps provide a warm, loving, and nurturing relationship for everyone involved.
Birth moms choose the adoptive parents in an open adoption. She can discuss with them how much contact with her child she wants. As you begin your adoption journey, it can help to hear things from the birth mother’s point of view.
In this webinar, you’ll hear from Rebecca, a birth mother who chose adoption for her newborn daughter. Living with open adoption and a beautiful friendship with her daughter’s adoptive parents, Rebecca shares insights from her personal experience and answers questions from the audience mixed of prospective birth mothers and adopting parents. Rebecca’s heartfelt answers will touch you and help you see the potential open adoption offers a mother, a family, and a child.
When both the adoptive parents and birth parents can create an agreed-upon Post Adoption Contract Agreement (PACA) before the adoption, expectations are clear and established. It can serve as a guidebook of sorts in their relationship. Some relationships click, and it is a feeling of an extended family right away. Others remain more distant, with contact in line with the agreement.
In some states, these agreements may not be legally binding. Regardless, these are moral commitments that you, as the adoptive parents, are making to the birth parents. They are choosing you because you agree to future contact. These agreements are always made with the assistance of your coordinator and adoption attorneys.
We always encourage honest and open conversations about contact with birth parents before and after adoption. Honest dialogue is the best way to find what works for everybody. This can help make sure that everyone’s interests are expressed and understood.
Finally, we also encourage pregnant women concerned about contact with the adoptive parents after adoption to talk with their coordinator. If the expectant mom is hesitant to speak up, her coordinator will help her voice her desires and work with all parties on a written contact plan.
Expectant moms can also speak with a counselor and receive peer support regularly as often as they wish. Or she can choose to check in with the therapist occasionally or only when she needs support.
Because of how the Lifetime program works, we always work with the birth mother to discuss the type of contact she is looking for in the future. We then present her with families who are open to what she desires. Prioritizing her wishes is a key to a safe, successful adoption.
A Closed Adoption Reunion Story
American Idol contestant McKenna Breinholt grew up knowing she was adopted, but she never got to meet or speak with her birth mother. She was always musically talented and wondered where she got it from. When she turned 21, McKenna asked her adoptive parents to share more about her biological family, and she discovered the source of her musical talents.
McKenna’s birth mother was in a folk duo called “Nowhere Man and A Whisky Girl.” After listening to a few of their songs, McKenna discovered her voice is a carbon copy of her birth mother’s. Unfortunately, McKenna never got to meet her birth mother before her death because it was a closed adoption.
Extensive research has demonstrated the positive impact of open adoption on everyone involved, including adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. By maintaining a relationship with their birth parents, adoptees can gain a better understanding of their background and identity.
McKenna got in touch with other members of her biological family and was blessed to have an adoption reunion with them right on the set of American Idol! Watch as McKenna embraces her newfound family and then sings one of her birth mom’s songs:
Lifetime Adoption is a domestic American adoption agency. We provide direct adoption services, support, and adoption referrals for legal and home studies.
All our adoption services are provided at no cost to our birth mothers.
We’ve been in business since 1986. Our founder is Mardie Caldwell, who struggled through seven pregnancy losses and decided to start an organization to work with other couples who were experiencing similar challenges to becoming parents.
Since then, we’ve become a top domestic adoption agency, and we were one of the first to establish an online presence.
Our mission remains the same: help connect birth parents with adoptive families.
We are very successful; on average, we complete between 8 and 15 adoptions each month. If you’d like to begin your journey to a Lifetime Adoption, our application is always free. We look forward to speaking with you!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 16, 2020, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.