What is an Open Adoption?

Today is the 12th day of November, and the 12th day of National Adoption Month!
See the previous adoption-related posts here.

Each day this week I’ll be posting answers to seven adoption-related questions!

One of the questions, by far, we get asked the most about is details about our adoption’s “openness”.

Our son’s adoption is “open”, which basically means that we’ve met his birthmom and she’s met us, and we have agreed to communicate and meet up, and she with us.  Every adoption is different, and everyone’s definition of openness is different too.  We have met some families who go on vacation with their child’s birth family, and we’ve met some families that communicate only through letters sent to the adoption agency and forwarded on (most would call that arrangement “semi-open”).  It depends on the comfort of the adoptive parents, the biological parents, and the adoptee; the mental and physical health of the biological parents; the location of the adoptive parents and the biological parents

The opposite of this would be a closed adoption; these were more common before the 1980s or in some cases of international adoption.  In these types of adoptions, an agency does all the go-between work and the information about the parties involved are closed/sealed or unknown.

When we first started talking seriously about adoption, we were 100% sure we wanted a closed adoption.  Then we started talking to people, hearing from other adoptive families, watching documentaries like the one I talked about last week, and reading books like the one I talked about last week.  It became clear to us that, when possible, open adoption is almost always the best option for the adoptee, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents.

The adoptee feels less sense of loss or abandonment. They have knowledge of continuing medical history. They have more people in their life who care about them. They have the ability to ask questions at some point about origin, decision to adopt, etc.  They don’t spend their life wondering about strangers “could that be my birthmom?”.  Adoptive parents benefit from seeing their children enjoy the benefits of a relationship with their birth parents.  Birth parents’ sense of loss is lessened. They have the ability to see that they made the right choice for their life and their child’s life.  They don’t have the sense that they are completely cut off.  They get the joy of watching their child grow up and getting to know them!

I am waaaaaaaayyyyy over-simplifying things and making huge generalizations, but do you kind of get the gist?

This diagram from consideringadoption.com has more detail and is better-written than me!  Check it out if you’re interested.

For us, in our adoption plan, we committed to our son’s birth parents that we would get together in person at least once a year and send a letter with pictures every six months for the first five years and every year after that until he turns 18.  (There are a few other stipulations for the in-person meetings, like that it’s pending healthy life choices and that it has to be within Washington State or Portland but even then we would potentially meet at the agency with supervision or travel to them, respectively.).  We also said in the commitment that while that’s what we committed to at minimum, we hoped that we could have a relationship where there is more communication than that.

I’ll talk in a later post about what that actually looks like for us but I can give you a preview in telling you that we are so glad that’s the commitment we made!

People usually follow up their openness questions with a question that has something to do with the made-for-tv-movie scenario of a birth parent coming to snatch their child from their soccer game, etc.  That is something that basically doesn’t really happen.  The “horror stories” you hear about kids being taken, or birth parents changing their minds and coming back for them, really just doesn’t happen, especially when you have a positive open relationship.  In some cases where the children are removed from the home by the state (foster care or foster-to-adopt) there is an issue, and it can be a real one, but for our private open adoption that has not and will not be a relevant issue.

We are just so grateful to Anthony’s birth parents for choosing us to be his family, and for Anthony’s opportunity in his life to know them and be known by them. ♥

Filed under: Adoption, November 2017