Open & Closed Adoptions

Open adoption refers a situation where the prospective adoptive parents know the birth mother. They exchange information depending on different factors; mostly it depends on how comfortable they are with each other. In an open adoption today, a birth mother has the privilege of choosing parents for her unborn child. Not only does she get to choose the parents, she also has the choice of actively taking part in the adoption plan. Open adoptions sounds very public, however the details of an open adoption are extremely confidential. Only those involved in the adoption are aware of any details pertaining to an open adoption. Initially information is exchanged only on a first-name basis but as the process progresses and the relationship builds, full names, phone numbers and even addresses are exchanged.

In the past, a closed adoption was the standard method of adopting a child. This process involved secrets and often lies. Information was withheld from the parties involved and when it was offered, it was scarce. Instead of the adoptive parents and the birth mother forming a relationship and going through the adoption process together, in a closed adoption these parties were treated like adversaries and many times hurt and bitterness was created. In a closed adoption in the past, the usual setting involved a birth mother who had a baby out of wedlock. She would be forced to give her baby to a public agency. The agency would then place the newborn with adoptive parents. All documents and court records would be sealed. The child would be totally cut off from his/her birth mother and roots. In a situation such as this, the adopted child would likely find out they were adopted and spend years trying to trace their birth family.

Open adoptions today are so completely opposite. Prospective adoptive parents and the birth mother have opportunities to share with each other. They can contact each other through phone calls, emails and even visits. The details of an open adoption can be worked out between the adoptive parents and the birth mother in one of two ways. The details are usually worked out verbally with a simple handshake or in a formal written agreement. This agreement is not legally binding but when drawing up an agreement in an open adoption, the parties involved should avoid making promises they don’t intend to keep.

In an open adoption the adoptive parents have an advantage. Because the birth mother is actively involved in the adoption process, she is unlikely to change her mind and keep the baby. The birth mother would not be able to say she wasn’t aware of what she was doing because she was involved in the process and built a relationship with the adoptive parents. In open adoptions, children are usually told about their roots and the difference between their birth parents and adoptive parents.

Not everyone is comfortable with an open adoption. Communication is key in this process and it doesn’t always work out. Some adoptive parents are scared that something will go wrong; they may say the wrong thing and the birth mother may change her mind. There is always a risk in an open adoption. It’s imperative that the prospective adoptive parents and birth mother have an open, straightforward, line of communication.