As a birth parent who is already navigating creating an adoption plan, it can be difficult to know what type of openness you see occurring. This is an important decision and there are adoption professionals willing to help you think this through.
What is an open adoption?
There are three levels of openness in adoption. A closed adoption is when there is no contact between an adopted child and his or her birth parents. Though this was more common in the past when adoption wasn’t discussed like it is today, it’s becoming less and less common. A semi-open adoption is when there is some sort of contact between a child and their birth parents, but it is likely to be written communication that is either shared through an adoption agency, or via email or social media. An open adoption is an agreement made between birth parents and adoptive parents that allows the birth family the opportunity to still have contact with their child once he or she has been adopted.
Open adoptions may include regular visits, phone calls, etc. depending on the wishes and availability of the birth family. Open adoptions are typically encouraged by adoption professionals as long as it is safe for the child. In some situations, open adoptions can’t occur if a child is adopted from foster care in a harmful situation.
How do you choose your level of openness in an adoption?
This can be a difficult decision and is usually a conversation to have with an adoption professional. One of the things that dictates this is the type of adoption. If a child is removed from an unsafe environment, a judge may determine that there be no contact with the birth parents. Some birth parents choose a semi-open adoption because they don’t live in the same state as their child. And some don’t feel emotionally able to maintain a relationship. This is a very hard decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, so finding someone to discuss it with that you trust is key.
How does an open adoption affect a child who is adopted?
The benefits to open adoption are plentiful. Birth parents can ensure that their child is being cared for in the way that they had hoped. It allows them to also have confidence in the adoption process and the opportunity to have a relationship with adoptive parents. Open adoptions are also extremely beneficial for children who were placed for adoption. They have an opportunity to learn more about their family, have a relationship with any biological siblings that they may have, and have a better sense of their own story.
For more of the benefits of open adoption, read this document from childwelfare.gov.
What kinds of contact can you have in open adoption?
Typically, birth and adoptive parents will work with a social worker, adoption professional, and in some instances, a lawyer, to reach an agreement about the level of communication and contact that you are comfortable with. Sometimes, people will decide to meet at different levels of frequency or alternate means of communication as time goes on. It is important for both parties to discuss things that they feel that they can adhere to. Consistency is in the best interest of children, if you agree to monthly visits or phone calls, it’s important that you honor those commitments. Learn more about open adoption agreements here.
Can adoptive parents stop allowing communication with birth parents?
In some open adoption contracts, there may be verbiage that says that adoptive parents can terminate the agreement should the situation become unsafe for the child. Some states have laws that mean that adoption agreements and contracts are legally binding, but others do not. Though 30 states have some sort of ability to enforce open adoption agreements, 20 states have no laws in place about these contracts. It should also be noted that seven of the states that claim they enforce the contracts, will only do so under certain circumstances. There do seem to be some legal loopholes for adoptive parents to terminate these adoption contracts, even when the agreements are deemed “enforceable.” This is a great resource to learn more about what states’ policies are regarding open adoptions.
If you have additional questions about open adoptions, contact Adoption Choice, Inc.