What is an Open Adoption? Is It Right For You?
One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “What is open adoption?” Many women prefer open adoption because it gives them control over the entire process. To get a quick overview of open adoption and the choices it provides, you can watch this short video:
What is an Open Adoption?
What does open adoption mean, and how does it work? Basically, it’s an adoption where the adoptive parents and birth family share identifying information with each other and remain in contact throughout the adoption process.
However, there are many variations of open adoption. Since every open adoption is different, the meaning of open adoption for one family could differ significantly from its meaning for another. Call or text Lifetime Adoption at 1-800-923-6784 to learn more about open adoption, how it works, and what it could look like for you.
Unlike other types of adoption, open adoption allows birth parents choice throughout the process. With open adoption, you can:
• Choose your child’s adoptive parents
• Decide how you want things to go at the hospital
• Receive counseling and support
• Remain in contact with your child and the adoptive family in the future
Open adoption is not co-parenting. It’s not the type of relationship in which the adoptive and birth parents have regular in-person visits with each other. They aren’t talking or texting constantly, and the adoptive parents don’t contact the birth mother for advice on every parenting decision.
Rather, open adoption varies widely in the types and amount of contact shared. It depends on what the birth parents request and what the adoptive family agrees to.
How Does Open Adoption Work?
How an open adoption works and looks in real life depends on the people involved. In most open adoptions, birth parents and adoptive families meet prior to placement. They get to know each other through phone calls, emails, and, sometimes, an in-person visit. After placement, adoptive and birth parents continue to stay in contact through a variety of methods, such as phone calls, emails, picture and letter exchanges, text messages, video calls, and in-person visits.
Open adoptions allow for birth parents to choose the adoptive parents. They can speak with and meet them as they decide if adoption is right for them and their baby. Through open or semi-open adoption, birth parents may decide on the amount of contact they wish to have in the future after the adoption takes place.
We have so many wonderful adoption stories that share the benefits of the open adoption experience. Of course, every open adoption is different. For example, some open adoptions have continuous contact between birth and adoptive parents, perhaps through social media, texting, phone calls, and email. Others get together once or twice a year. Still others maintain contact only on holidays or via letters and postcards. These are all forms of open adoptions. There is no standard open adoption definition.
Open adoption arrangements are flexible and something that is discussed and agreed upon prior to the adoption. An open adoption contact agreement can be drawn up and signed by everyone if desired.
“Adoption is a decision that changes lives forever, but it can be one of the most amazing ways to bring people together. It has been a way for mothers to find peace, knowing that a loving family will provide for their child. With open adoption, birth mothers and adoptive families alike can be just as involved in creating the best life for the child.”
An excerpt from the book So I Was Thinking About Adoption by adoption expert Mardie Caldwell.
In fact, research has shown that birth mothers in an open adoption had lower levels of grief post-placement. The findings indicated that seeing their child happy and thriving helps birth mothers better process their grief.
Open Adoption Definition vs. Closed Adoption Definition
Open adoptions are a relatively new advancement in the adoption process. For decades, the adoptions were closed. This means that no contact occurs between the biological parents and those adopting the child. In many cases, there’s also no contact prior to the adoption. It’s a closed adoption. Nobody on either side of the adoption process knows or has contact with the other.
Modern open adoptions, including those made possible by Lifetime Adoption, provide direct phone calls, the exchange of personal information, and openness in the adoption relationship that provides wonderful benefits to the child. Thankfully, open adoptions are “the new norm,” as 95% of adoptions are open in some way.
As an adoption best practice, we like to see families and children maintain contact with biological family members — if, of course, both parties agree. Otherwise, we can maintain confidentiality and limit the release of identifiable information about the adopted child and their birth parents.
Lifetime helps birth parents and prospective adoptive parents in the United States discover an adoption plan that best meets their needs. (We don’t work with international adoptions, with the occasional exception of military members serving overseas.)
How Do I Know If Open Adoption Is Right for Me?
Lifetime Adoption can help you create an adoption plan that’s right for you. Lifetime is staffed 24 hours a day by caring coordinators who are adoption experts. In addition to their own knowledge and years of experience, they have access to the best resources nationwide to help you get the help you need as you create your customized adoption plan.
ChildWelfare.gov provides a helpful checklist for women considering open adoption. Ask yourself the following questions, they recommend. If you answer “yes” to any of them, you may want to look a little closer at open adoptions. The questions include:
- Do I want to have a say in who raises my child?
- Would it matter if you didn’t know whether or not your child was safe and healthy?
- Would I prefer to keep tabs on my child through photos, telephone calls, letters, or visits?
- Is it important to be able to tell your child about their family background?
We would add another: Do you want to be able to inform your child’s adoptive parents or the child about histories of illness in the family?
Open adoption continues to be popular, and for a good reason: it gives you the chance to have a say in your child’s future. So, as you consider whether adoption is the right choice for you, remember that with open adoption, you’ll have the wonderful reassurance of seeing your child grow up.
Lifetime helps with the connection and contact between birth mothers and adoptive families. In fact, when Lifetime began back in 1986, we were a pioneer in the open adoption process. We will continue to assist with adoptions as long as babies and children need good homes and birth parents want to make this loving decision.
As our Founder, Mardie Caldwell, puts it, “With a Lifetime adoption, you can have contact with your child afterward. It’s a safe adoption; kids aren’t confused. They know who their birth parents are, and they know who their adoptive parents are. Open adoption is a win-win situation. The children aren’t confused, and they have more peace about it because they know they’re loved by their birth parents. They don’t hate their birth parents, which is one of the things that people worry about.”
If you prefer, Lifetime can choose adoptive parents for you. Birth mothers can still choose their own level of contact both during and after the adoption process. In fact, our wide variety of adoption services means that birth parents have many options available to them.
At Lifetime Adoption, we’ve supported birth parents in learning about and choosing open adoption for over 35 years. We look forward to continuing our work and our mission.
That mission? To help birth parents and adoptive families come together to create an open adoption through our nationwide network of resources. As one of the most successful adoption agencies in the United States, we pioneered the use of the Internet to provide information about adoptions, including providing a way for women to learn about waiting families across the country. Today, we are still committed to all women and families who place their trust in us.
How Do I Get Started?
If you have any questions about the adoption process itself or the open adoption definition, please call or text us anytime at 1-800-923-6784. We can answer your questions, tell you how adoption works, and discuss the various types of adoption assistance available.
Remember: All services are free of charge to birth mothers at Lifetime Adoption.
Lifetime Adoption, Inc. is a Licensed Florida Child Placing Agency. (License #100084254)
Lifetime Adoption Center is a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating
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