New to adoption? You’ve likely heard the term “open adoption” being thrown around a lot. What exactly is it? In today’s post, we’ve created a beginner’s guide to open adoption.
Basically an open adoption is a form of adoption that allows for the adoptive parents and the birth mother (and possibly the birth father) to have some form of contact, directly, or through an agency or lawyer. As many as 70% of adoptions today are open to some degree, and the popularity of this form of adoption is growing.
The growth of open adoption has been credited to the fact that many birth mothers want the ability to have some say in who adopts their child, and adoptive parents also want to know more about the birth mother and her family background.
The level of openness varies between situations and even agencies. What one agency calls open adoption; another may call semi-open adoption. Most open adoptions lie somewhere in the middle, and may involve exchanging letters, emails, pictures, video calls, and phone calls, and having face-to-face meetings once or twice a year.
Here are some definitions of the different degrees of openness:
Open Adoption – This is where contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents and child is maintained on a regular basis with the exchange of letters, pictures, and video as well as arranged visits.
Semi-Open Adoption – Here visits are not usually practiced, but letters and pictures are exchanged a few times a year through either an attorney or the adoption agency. Usually names are withheld.
Closed Adoption– Though this is not as popular as it once was, it is still practiced if the birth mother requests this type of adoption. The birth mother leaves the baby at the hospital and a social worker picks the child up. The birth mother does not see the child again and there is no contact between the birthmother and adoptive parents.
Open adoption is really for the advantage of the child: it takes the mystery away. They know where they came from, and why their birth parents chose adoption. It gives children the chance for connections, for information, and to feel that they are loved by their birth families.
Entering into an open adoption is a commitment for both adoptive families and birth parents, and it also requires that they have realistic expectations. Adoptive parents must ask themselves if they can feel as comfortable about contact with the birth parents years down the road as they are at the beginning. Birth parents must also ask themselves the same question.
Life situations may change and could cause the open adoption arrangement to become either more difficult or easier; it is impossible to know. But, for it to work it will require dedication from both sides. Always remember, this open adoption situation is for the benefit of a child.