Understanding Open Adoption

Today we live in a world full of choices with the freedom to choose everything from your lunch to your hair color. Years ago, there were no choices when it came to adopting a child; the child adoption agency would complete a closed adoption. Now adoptive couples have the choice of an open adoption, and many agencies believe this is a healthier and better option for everyone involved. Let’s take a closer look at open adoptions.

happy kid on swing

What Is an Open Adoption?

An open adoption means that once a child is adopted, they may still have some contact with their birth parents. The degree of contact between the child and birth parents is settled between the adoptive couple and the birth parents with the help of the adoption agency. In some cases, the parents may have a great relationship and the child may grow up knowing his or her birth parents. In other cases, they may have more limited interactions. This is up to the parents.

Why the Shift From Closed to Open?

In the past, families that were interested in adopting a child would contact an adoption agency and they would in turn find the birth parents in private. In such a closed adoption, most children who were adopted very young never knew their birth parents. Once the adoption process was completed all of their files were sealed.

In modern adoptions, most agencies have found that this is not the healthiest arrangement. If the adopted family cannot find out any information about their child’s birth parents, they may be missing vital information about the family’s medical history.

SEE ALSO:  The Valuable Role of Medical History in Child Adoption

Additionally, and often more importantly, the child may grown up feeling lost or resentful of his birth parents without ever being able to find out who they were and why they chose to place him for adoption. Closed adoptions tend to aggravate negative stereotypes about adoptions, as if an adoption is something to be kept secret. By opening adoptions and allowing the families to have more transparency adoption agencies have made the process something to be proud of, never ashamed.

Advantages for Birth Mothers in an Open Adoption

– More Opportunities: A young woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has many challenges ahead of her. Many of these women are still in high school; they are not mentally, emotionally or financially prepared to support a child and will more than likely have to drop out of school to take care of the baby.

If instead the mother chooses to place the baby with a trusted adoption agency, she has the opportunity to continue her education and be successful. In the case of an open adoption, the birth mother usually gets to meet the adoptive parents ahead of time to make sure she is placing her baby with a good family. In a closed adoption she is not given this opportunity, which could make the ultimate decision that much harder.

– Knowing Your Child is Safe: After placing the baby for adoption, the birth mother is going to feel a range of emotions from relief to remorse. In a closed adoption, the birth mother will never know what kind of life her child has after that. In an open adoption, the birth mother can receive updates from the adoptive family. Sometimes families will send the birth mother letters and pictures. Sometimes the child will want to meet his birth mother in person. Though this will vary from case-to-case, an open adoption provides much more opportunity to the birth mother. She can feel good about her decision to place the baby for adoption if she knows he is leading a happy and healthy life with a family that was able to provide what she could not.

Advantages for Adopted Children in an Open Adoption

– Access to Information: At some point in time an adopted child will probably want to know more about their origins. They may not feel the need to meet or get in touch with their birth parents, but they might want to know where they were from or what their heritage is. In a closed adoption parents may not ever know this information, and the child is left with a lot of questions and no answers.

In an open adoption the parents know the answers to these questions, and the answer to the big question that most adopted children ask – why was I placed for adoption? Parents in this situation need to be prepared and open to this conversation, so the child does not feel embarrassed to talk about it. It’s also important to keep in mind that asking these questions is perfectly normal; they just want to know more about their background. It does not mean that they do not feel loved and happy in their new family. In fact, the more honest the parents are, the more love and trust they will build.

Advantages for Adoptive Families in an Open Adoption

father and child on dock– Better Relationship with the Child: As we said earlier, it is not uncommon for an adopted child, especially a young child, to feel angry, confused or hurt when he finds out he is adopted. Often children feel as though their birth parents abandoned them. As adults we know it is much more complicated, but it’s hard for children to understand this. And unfortunately as the child grapples with these emotions sometimes they end up feeling angry with their adoptive parents too.

In an open adoption, the adoptive parents can give the child much more information and help him navigate these feelings more easily. This can help build a stronger bond between the child and his adopted parents.

– Better Information: An adopted child isn’t the only one who will want to know about his background. It’s also important for the adoptive parents to know something about the birth family. If the family has a history of certain illnesses or hereditary diseases, this is vital information for the adoptive parents. In and open adoption, the adoption agency will collect this information from the birth mother and give it to the adoptive family.

Ultimately it is up to the adoptive parents to decide how open their adoption will be. Fortunately today they have that choice. There are advantages and disadvantages to how much contact the child has with the birth parents, and these vary from case to case. The most important thing to consider is what is going to be best for the child and make the decision with that in mind.

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