Adoption is not the closed, secretive affair that it once was. Instead of sweeping a child’s heritage and history under the rug, most adoption professionals now recommend that families maintain some degree of contact with the child’s birth parents if at all possible. The more access a child has to his or her story and to all of the love that led to adoption, the better off he or she will be! Read on to learn more about that communication and the benefits of working with an agency that values open adoption.
What is open adoption?
An open adoption is an adoption situation in which the adoptive family and child develop and maintain a relationship with the child’s birth family. In this type of relationship, identifying information is shared and an adoption professional isn’t needed to continuously mediate contact.
The exact degree of contact in an open adoption varies. It can include regular visits with birth parents, or it may mean scheduled letters, emails or phone calls. As with any relationship, one that stems from an adoption can evolve and change over time. In the beginning, you may decide with your child’s birth mom that you’re both only comfortable with a monthly phone call to catch up on each other’s lives. As time passes, however, you may decide that you’d both like the birth parents to be more involved with your child. As long as it’s mutually agreed upon, an open relationship can really mean anything you want it to mean.
What are open adoption agencies?
Open adoption agencies, then, are agencies that understand and emphasize the importance of maintaining a relationship with a child’s birth parents after placement. Ideally, this should apply to most agencies that specialize in private domestic adoption, which is the placement of an infant born in the United States with an adoptive family. In a private domestic adoption, a pregnant woman (and potentially her partner) chooses a family she feels will be right for her baby, and it may be important for all members of the adoption triad to make sure she knows she made the right decision as the child grows up.
Some agencies, like American Adoptions, also help to facilitate semi-open adoptions. In a semi-open adoption, the adoptive family and birth family maintain contact with the help of a social worker acting as a mediator. The social worker, in this instance, would help you to arrange:
- Conference calls before placement to meet each other
- Email exchanges pre-placement to stay in touch and receive updates on the baby
- A meeting at the hospital when the baby is born, which could include being present for delivery if the birth mom wishes
- Pictures and letters after placement that go through the agency for up to 18 years
In fact, these are all of the same services American Adoptions offers for families who prefer open adoption as well. The difference in that scenario would be that after the hospital visit, the birth parents and adoptive parents will coordinate communication amongst the two parties with no help from a social worker — unless, of course, you find that it’s needed.
What are the pros and cons of open adoption?
There’s a lot to think about when deciding what you want your adoptive relationship to look like. And while we recommend that an adoption be as open as possible, that doesn’t mean it’s not right for everyone. Like most situations, open adoption can be associated with both benefits and potential obstacles.
Pros of Open Adoption
- An open adoption may help a birth mother be confident in her adoption decision because she knows she’ll be able to watch her child grow up and ensure that he or she is safe and loved
- An adoptive family may also be a source of comfort to a birth mother as she continues to grow and evolve
- Families open to an open adoption may have a shorter wait time, because they’ll be shown to pregnant women who also prefer open adoption
- An open adoption plan leads to better chances of a successful adoption
- Adoptive families can stay current on their child’s biological and medical histories
- Children won’t be faced with wondering who their birth parents were or how they’re doing
- Children won’t have to wonder about where they came from
- Children will eventually grow to understand their birth mothers and realize the extent of the sacrifice they made
Cons of Open Adoption
- Some birth moms find that regular contact with their children and their adoptive families can actually be more painful
- In most states, there are no laws that require adoptive families to follow up on their agreed-upon amount of contact, which means they could leave the birth mother out if they wished to
- Some adoptive families worry that the birth mom will attempt to “co-parent,” and while an open adoption is certainly not co-parenting, it can be uncomfortable
- Rarely (but occasionally) birth parents will want more contact than initially agreed upon, which can lead to conflict
- If adoption isn’t explained at a young age, a child could get confused about the difference between his or her birth parents and adoptive parents
- There may come a time when the child doesn’t wish to speak to the birth parents, which can put the adoptive family in an awkward position
What kinds of families work with open adoption agencies?
People who choose to work with open adoption agencies have decided that the pros of maintaining a relationship with their child’s birth parents outweigh the cons. These parents understand that, like an assistant professor at the University of Missouri said, “Adoptive parents are the gatekeepers to the relationship with the birth parent.”
Adoptive parents who choose open adoption understand that ultimately, they are always in control of the situation, and allowing a child to have a relationship with his or her birth parents is only going to benefit the child.
How much does open adoption cost?
An open adoption shouldn’t cost more than any other type of adoption. For an open private domestic adoption, the price could be anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000, since the services that adoption agencies provide can vary so much. For more information about those potential services, click here.