What You Didn’t Know About Open Adoption

When you adopt a child, one aspect you have to consider is whether you want the adoption to be open or closed. In the past, most adoptions were closed, meaning that the birth parents and adoptive parents had no information about each other at all. Now that adoption has come out of the shadows, the vast majority of private adoptions are open. In fact, The Kinship Center reports that 95% of adoptions in the United States are open to some degree. But most people don't really understand what open adoption means. There are many levels of openness when it comes to an adoption. Here are some examples. 

Information Only

Today's adoptions often begin with the birth parents creating a profile of themselves for birth parents to see. Birth parents are then able to look through the information and can meet with potential adoptive families. 

Usually, the birth parents and adoptive parents have some communication either by telephone or face-to-face. They may check in with each other during the pregnancy and adoptive process. 

After the adoption, each party knows something about the other. Birth parents will know the names of the adoptive family, generally where they live, and details like how many other children they have. The adoptive parents will know the names of the birth parents and may also have some information about their medical histories, likes and dislikes, and lifestyle. Once the adoption is complete, the two parties do not communicate again. 

Agency Mediated

With an agency mediated adoption, the birth parents choose the adoptive family by looking through profiles and will know the names of the adoptive parents and have general information about them. They may communicate or even meet before the child is born. 

After the adoption is complete, the agency agrees to facilitate communication between the two parties. If the birth parents have something to express to the adoptive parents or to the child, they can write a letter that the adoption agency will forward to the adoptive family. 

The adoptive family may also send communication like letters or pictures of the child getting older. These also go through the agency. Neither party knows where the other lives or any specific details about their lives other than what they learned during the pregnancy. 

Some Contact

Many adoptions involve some level of contact between birth families and adoptive families. This situation is discussed and the details are decided before the adoption takes place. The birth parents and adoptive parents usually meet several times during the pregnancy and keep in touch through phone calls. The adoptive parents may even attend doctor's appointments with the birth parents. 

The adoptive parents and birth parents know each other's addresses and may have visited each other's homes and met each other's extended families. 

After the child is born, letters and phone calls are directly exchanged. The birth parents may visit the child in the adoptive parent's home, or the parties may meet for an outing. This level of communication continues throughout the child's life. 

Totally Open

In a totally open adoption, the birth parents and adoptive parents become part of each other's lives. The adoptive parents are very much involved in the pregnancy and may even invite the birth mother to live with them until the child is born. 

The child is encouraged to see both parties as family. The birth parents may have extended visits and may attend birthday parties or holiday gatherings. 

In this case, the adoptive parents often become mentors for the birth parents, especially if the birth parents are much younger. 

There is a huge range of levels of openness in an adoption. It is up to the birth parents and the adoptive parents to determine what is acceptable to them and then make an agreement that satisfies both parties. Potential adoptive parents shouldn't be afraid of open adoption but instead give some thought to what is best for their future child and the family.