How Does Open Adoption Work (and How Do You Make It Work)?

Are you pregnant and considering adoption for your baby? Making an adoption plan is a positive choice for women who are not yet ready to become parents. It enables you to give your child a forever family and a wonderful, stable life. Of course, adoption is also a very difficult decision to make. As an expectant/birth mother, it is important to research your options carefully and understand the different types of adoption plans, as well as the services, available to you.

Right now, you may be considering an open adoption plan for your baby. You may have heard that an open adoption plan will allow you to stay in touch with your child’s family over the years. You may have heard that you can choose an adoptive family for your baby, and even meet them in person. What does that mean, exactly? How does open adoption work? More importantly, how can you make it work?

Before you can understand what makes open adoption work, you must first understand what open adoption is. In its simplest sense, open adoption is a form of adoption that allows birth parents to know and have contact with the adoptive family. Depending on your state laws and the adoption agency you work with, you may hear open adoption defined differently. In fact, most everyone – even those who have placed their baby or adopted a child – will have their own definition of open adoption. This is because every open adoption plan is unique. No two adoptions are the same. At Adoptions With Love, we allow you to define what “openness” will mean for you and your child.

Generally speaking, in an open adoption:

  • Expectant mothers are given the option to choose a family to raise their child. They can talk with them, meet them in-person, and have them at the hospital if they wish.
  • Birth parents have some level of on-going contact or relationship with the adoptive parents and the adopted child, depending on what feels comfortable for everyone.
  • Children know they have been adopted and may have relationships with their birth parent(s).
  • Ongoing communication takes place between the birth parents and adoptive family, whether directly or mediated through an agency. Contact may involve letters, pictures, phone calls, emails, and occasionally in-person visits, whichever is most comfortable for everyone involved. (Some open adoptions involve just the exchange of letters and pictures. Some families celebrate holidays together. The level of contact is typically defined first by the expectant/birth mother and her adoption agency, then with the adoptive family).

The way open adoption works largely depends on the level of openness. At Adoptions With Love, you will have the option to choose a fully open adoption (having direct contact with the adoptive family) or a semi-open adoption (in which our adoption agency will mediate contact, so that you can maintain privacy). Most domestic adoptions today are mediated, but still maintain some level of openness. For example, most birth mothers will choose a family for their baby. Many will also choose to meet the family before placement, and find peace of mind in knowing the parents who will raise their child. All of the families at Adoptions With Love agree to at least a semi-open adoption plan. Some families are fully open to direct contact, as well.

The way a fully open adoption works is through open, honest, and direct communication between an adoptive family and the birth parents. If you choose a fully open adoption, you and the adoptive family you choose will have identifying information about one another (phone numbers, email addresses, names, etc.). You will have a relationship with the adoptive family, and together will establish expectations for ongoing contact. For example, you may want the adoptive parents to send you letters and pictures of your child each year. Or, you may wish to have ongoing conversations via the phone, email, Skype, texting, or FaceTime. In a fully open adoption, it is important to remain flexible, as your needs and the needs and wishes of your child may change over time.

You still may be wondering, “What makes open adoption work well?” This is a very important question to ask as you consider open adoption, and is exactly what we discussed in our recent eBook, “The Keys to a Successful Open Adoption.” We will give you the short answer here. A successful open adoption is founded on a mutual love for the child and a focus on his or her best interests. It requires trusting, open-minded, and respectful relationships between both families. You can make open adoption work by:

  • Keeping your child’s needs and best interest a top priority
  • Establishing clear roles and expectations with the adoptive family in the very beginning
  • Pursuing ongoing counseling to ensure your emotional stability
  • Maintaining respect for everyone involved in the adoption, including yourself
  • Preserving trust in your adoption relationships
  • Always keeping communication open, honest, and consistent
  • Staying open-minded and flexible as needs and feelings change
  • Making your open adoption plan with an experienced, trusted, non-profit adoption agency who will be there for you both now and in the future (see how to choose an adoption agency here)

There is no right or wrong way to make an open adoption plan. There are, however, steps you can take to ensure your adoption plan is a positive and successful one. How does adoption work, and how can you make it work? Find out more in our new guide, “The Keys to a Successful Open Adoption,” which you can download for free below.

You may also contact Adoptions With Love to get started on your open adoption plan, or to learn more about our open adoption agency. We are available any time of day, any day of the week, to speak with you. Call us toll-free at 800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 617-777-0072.


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