What is open adoption, and what does it mean for birth parents and adoptive families?
The answers to these questions can vary depending on who you ask — every adoption relationship is unique, and different people may find different meanings in their open adoption relationships. As you research open adoption, the most important thing to understand is what it means to you, and what you want your adoption relationship to look like.
Here are some questions and answers that may assist you as you consider the type of relationship you want to have with your child and his or her adoptive family.
What is an Open Adoption?
Open adoptions can come in all different shapes and sizes. To be considered “open,” an adoption simply needs to involve some level of pre- and post-placement contact between the birth parents and adoptive family. You might define open adoption in one of two ways:
- Fully open adoption: an adoption in which you have direct contact with the adoptive parents and your child and openly exchange identifying information, like last names and personal contact information
- Semi-open adoption: an adoption in which contact is mediated by an adoption professional to protect privacy and identifying information
Depending on a number of factors, each open adoption definition leaves room for various types of contact, including pictures and letters (most common in semi-open adoption), as well as phone calls, emails, video chats, text messages, and even in-person visits.
How Does Open Adoption Work?
In semi-open and open adoption, families and birth parents typically share contact throughout the adoption process, at the hospital, and after placement. If you choose open adoption, here’s how that communication will work:
- Pre-placement contact: when you select an adoptive family you would like to work with, you will have an opportunity to get to know them through pre-placement contact, which may include mediated conference calls, in-person visits, the exchange of non-identifying email, and more.
- Hospital interaction: you may choose to include the adoptive family at the hospital when your baby is born. It will be up to you to determine when the adoptive family will arrive at the hospital, how much time you will spend with them, and more.
- Post-placement contact: Prior to and during the matching process, you should discuss your expectations for your post-placement relationship with the adoptive family and your adoption professional. Whether you would like to exchange periodic picture and letter updates, or have a more open adoption with additional phone calls and visits, your adoption professional can help you find an adoptive family who wants a similar relationship with you.
If you work with an agency during the adoption process, your adoption specialist will likely provide the open adoption and contact mediation services you need. However, as your adoption attorney, Ken Nelson can also help coordinate and facilitate your relationship with the adoptive parents and your child.
Based on the type of relationship you want to have with your baby after the adoption, Ken can work with you and the adoptive parents to come to a post-placement contact agreement. While these agreements are not legally enforceable in Iowa, they can help ensure that you and the adoptive parents both have clear expectations for your relationship going forward.
What Does Open Adoption Mean for Birth Parents, Children and Adoptive Families?
Open adoption can mean something different to every birth parent, adoptive parent, and child who is part of one. For the birth mother, open adoption often means:
- an opportunity to make an adoption plan while still being able to communicate with her child for years to come.
- a chance to meet and get to know adoptive parents before the adoption, which offers the reassurance she needs to feel more confident in her adoption decision.
- the ability to remind her child of her love and explain her adoption decision in her own words.
- the peace of mind that her child is growing up to be happy and healthy.
- and more.
Open adoption offers countless benefits for adoptive parents as well. For these families, openness in adoption can mean:
- an improved ability to answer their child’s adoption questions and tell their complete adoption story.
- access to important updated family medical information that can help keep their child healthy and safe.
- meaningful, lifelong relationships with the birth mother and other members of her family.
- a more complete understanding of adoption.
Most importantly, open adoption often means a great deal to adopted children. For them, it may mean a more complete understanding of their adoption story, a stronger sense of identity, improved self-esteem, fewer unanswered adoption questions, and ultimately, more people who love them.
However, open adoption is not right for everyone. Some birth parents may feel that an ongoing relationship with their child may make it more difficult to find closure and heal. While Ken encourages all of his clients to consider some level of post-placement contact, he also understands if you feel that a closed adoption would be best for you and your baby.
Whatever type of relationship you want to have with the adoptive parents and your child, Ken is committed to helping you make that a reality. To learn more about adoption relationships, or to discuss your feelings about open vs. closed adoption, you can contact Ken at any time for free, zero-obligation adoption information.