When crafting her adoption plan, you have a very important decision to make about your future. Where do you fit in your child’s life? It can be difficult looking that far into the future, but there are generally three options to consider: Open Adoption, Semi-Open Adoption, or Closed Adoption. Ultimately, the choice is up to the birth mothers (or birth parents).
- Open Adoption – Both parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information about each other and have ongoing contact. “Type of contact can include the exchange of pictures or gifts; communication via email, letters, Skype, or telephone; and face-to-face meetings,” says researchers Harold D. Grotevant et al.
- Semi-Open Adoption – Most or all communications between the adoptive parents and birth parents is facilitated by an adoption agency to preserve identifying information.
- Closed Adoption – Birth parents and adoptive parents do not meet and do not share any identifying information.
Today, 95 percent of adoptions today are either open or semi-open, according to Jennifer Fairfax LLC. “The confidentiality that once defined adoption is no longer the norm,” says Eliza Newlin Carney, Adoptive Families.
Why Would I Choose Open Adoption?
When both birth parents and adoptive parents completely buy-in, open adoption can be a wonderful experience for all involved, especially the child. Research shows that “openness appears to help kids understand adoption, relieve the fears of adoptive parents, and help birth mothers resolve their grief,” according to researchers Harold D. Grotevant and Ruth G. McRoy.
- Children in open adoptions receive the benefit of a larger support network. There can be great benefit to a child knowing that so many people love and care about him or her.
- For adoptive parents, an open adoption removes the layer of secrecy that sometimes shrouds the adoption process. It allows for honesty with the child about his or her birth parents.
- Birth parents receive the peace of mind that comes with knowing their child is being cared for in a safe and loving home. They have the opportunity to watch the child grow up and play a role in their life by meeting with the adoptive family or staying connected in other ways.
Just remember to be flexible. Adoption openness is a dynamic process. “Expect an evolving relationship,” says Gina Shaw, WebMD. “You may have established a plan in advance about how that relationship will work – how many letters, whether or not there will be phone calls or visits, and so on. But remember that it’s not set in stone.” Birth parents and adoptive parents should be receptive to the child’s needs and be willing to modify plans as the child grows. “Some adoptive families may maintain or even increase contact with birth family members over time, while in other families contact may decline or cease completely,” says Anne Marie Mclaughlin, The University of Calgary. It is important to listen to the child and ensure that their feelings are being considered. Adoption openness rests on relationship building and requires ongoing effort and even future negotiation.
Here are some tips to help adoptive parents navigate this delicate relationship:
- Work with your adoption counselor to outline a mutually-beneficial communication plan.
- Every good open adoption starts with a good plan, but be flexible.
- Setting and maintaining boundaries is a critical component of any good relationship.
- ALWAYS put the child’s best interests first.
- Positive Adoption Language, first created in 1979, is the preferred language used by Adoption Makes Family. Positive Adoption Language encourages respect for the emotions of all parties. For example, rather than referring to the biological mother as “first mother” or “natural mother,” we refer to the biological mother as the “birth mother.” This indicates the role of the birth mother as the individual who gave birth, which is an integral part of the adoption process. Terms like “first mother” and “natural mother” insinuated that the adoptive mother is “second” or “unnatural.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Adoption counselors are trained to mediate tricky adoption situations.
Do You Have Questions?
Adoption Makes Family is here for you. We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. Our experienced professionals can help walk you through the adoption process and answer any questions you may have.
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If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- Grotevant, Harold D., et al. “Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families: Perspectives From the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project.” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 7, no. 3, Dec. 2013, pp. 193–198., doi:10.1111/cdep.12039.
- Mclaughlin, Anne Marie. “Negotiating Openness: A Qualitative Study of Adoptive Parents’ Experience of Contact in Open Adoption.” Canadian Social Work Review, vol. 30, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 5–23.