Happy couple pose with their infant son outsideQ: I’ve heard a lot about open adoption, but I don’t really understand how it works. Who decides what level of openness or contact there will be? How do I reach an agreement with the birthmother?

A:What is Open Adoption?

Most private adoptions today are open adoptions in one form or another. Open adoption is defined as a type of adoption in which the birth and adoptive families have access to varying degrees of each other’s personal information and have an option of contact. This means that there are different “levels” of openness, which could include pre-birth contact and sharing of information, sharing of information but no in-person contact, and frequent, ongoing contact, just to name a few.

Who Decides/How Do We Agree?

The birth and adoptive parents work together to come to an agreement about the level of openness they would like to have. Some birthmothers say right up front when they begin working with an adoption agency what they would or would not like, and then select adoptive parents based on this desire. Others have only a vague idea and are willing to discuss with the adoptive parents how things will look in the future.

Lifetime supports some degree of openness in all adoptions. Using our 30 years of experience, our adoption coordinators are able to help families think of creative means of staying in touch, both now and in the future. In fact, experience has shown that there are as many open adoption options as there are open adoptions! For some birth and adoptive families, a fully open relationship including annual visits as well as updates via text, Facebook, email, or letters may be just what they are seeking.  For others, any variation of that works.  Really, there is no wrong way to live out your open adoption.

Learning More

A good resource for learning more is What is Open Adoption Like?, by Mardie Caldwell. This audio file features a birth and adoptive mother speaking in depth about their open adoption experiences.

If you still have more questions about how open adoption works, or you simply want to learn even more, you can find real life stories of open adoption on the Lifetime website. Here are a few to get you started:

Open Adoption: Strangers Who Trust in Each Other for the Sake of a Child

Consider the Blessing of Open Adoption

Harrison and Rebekah’s Adoption Story

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
Written by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).

Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.

“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!

Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.

I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.

It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”

Read More About Mardie Caldwell

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