When many people think of adoption, they think only of the adoptions that happened decades ago: when children were not always told they were adopted, when many birth parents did not have a relationship with the adoptive family let alone know where their child was placed, when many adoptive parents only had limited information regarding their child’s biology or history. Times have changed.
Today, the majority of domestic infant adoptions involve some level of openness, meaning the adoptive family and the expectant/birth mother has a relationship to some extent. For many expectant/birth parents, this means choosing and meeting with an adoptive family for their baby. For many families, this means having an ongoing relationship with the birth mother after the adoption takes place (whether through letters, pictures, emails, phone calls, or contact through an adoption agency). Open adoption plans come in all different forms, take shape in many different ways, and will vary depending on a birth mother’s needs and the best interest of the child.
If you are here now, you may be considering an open adoption plan for your baby. You might be weighing the pros and cons of open adoption, wondering if it is the right choice for you long-term. Will it prevent your child from having a “normal” life? Will it prevent you from moving forward with your own life?
On the other hand, you might be a prospective adoptive parent considering open adoption for your family. You may have heard how much openness can benefit the child, but are also concerned that an ongoing relationship might confuse your child.
These concerns are common among those considering open adoption. However, they are not always true. Open adoption, in most cases, benefits all who are touched by it – birth parents, adoptive parents, and especially adopted children. As an open adoption agency, Adoptions With Love often hears from both women and families who say the pros of open adoption far outweigh the cons.
As with any type of adoption, however, there are both pros and cons of open adoption plans. Here, we will walk you through the benefits and challenges to help you decide whether open adoption is right for you and your child.
Pros of Open Adoption for Birth Parents:
- You can choose the perfect family for your baby. Open adoption gives you the opportunity to select a family to raise your child. This is one of the most loving decisions an expectant/birth mom can make for her baby. Through an open adoption agency, you can also meet, speak with, and get to know this family if you wish.
- You can have a continuing relationship with your child as he or she grows. In an open adoption, the adoptive parents and birth parents typically have some ongoing communication with one another. If it is agreed upon, this can also involve direct contact between the child and biological parents. For many birth parents, this brings great peace of mind in knowing that their son or daughter is doing well, and eliminates the unknowns often associated with adoption.
- You can answer your child’s questions about his or her adoption story. Children are naturally and healthily curious. At some point, your child may have questions like, “What is my biological father like?” or “Why was I placed for adoption?” In an open adoption, you will have the ability to answer those questions for your child and explain how adoption was a choice made with love.
Cons of Open Adoption for Birth Parents:
- There is less anonymity in open adoption. In an open adoption arrangement, there is less privacy for birth mothers. Open adoption typically involves an exchange of some identifying information, which can include names, email addresses, or phone numbers.
- If you do not wish to share identifying information with your child’s family, you may opt for a more closed or mediated adoption plan. Your adoption social worker will discuss all your options with you.
- There is less “closure.” Some birth parents expect closure when they place their child for adoption, and this does not always come in an open plan. Open adoption, rather, brings new beginnings for birth parents and adoptive families, including new relationships stemmed from ongoing communication.
- If closure is important to you, you can always choose a closed adoption plan. You may also choose to open communication at a later time.
- Some birth parents feel pressured to keep in touch, even when it is not in their best interest. Sometimes, birth parents initially feel they want fully open plans and later find that they cannot move forward in their lives with the amount of ongoing contact. They may feel pressured to continue communication so as not to offend the adoptive family.
- If you choose to make an open adoption plan, stay true to your heart and comfort level. Be honest with the family or your adoption agency counselor. This is one of the most difficult and loving sacrifices you can make for your child; you deserve all the time you need to heal. An Adoptions With Love counselor can help you adjust the amount of openness in your adoption plan as needed over the years. We are always here for you.
- In some cases, the adoptive family may decide they want less (or more) contact than originally planned. There is the possibility that the adoptive family will express they want to reduce or increase the amount of contact with you after the adoption takes place. Some feel this is in the best interest of their family; some wish for space to bond with the baby.
- When you work with an open adoption agency like Adoptions With Love, you can rest assured that each family has agreed to some level of ongoing contact with the birth mother. This is often done through our ongoing letter and picture program.
Pros of Open Adoption for Adopted Children & Their Families:
- Children have a deeper understanding of who they are and where they came from. Openness is very beneficial for identity formation and self-esteem in adopted children. As they grow older and start to have more questions about their biology, they can get the answers they need to form a stronger sense–of-self and become proud of their background.
- They also can understand their birth parents’ choice. Having the opportunity to ask “Why was I placed for adoption?” and to hear those answers can help alleviate any abandonment issues for adopted children. It can provide them with a sense of security, knowing how much love and selflessness went into their birth parents’ choice.
- There is no need to search for or fantasize about birth parents. In open adoptions, children have the opportunity to speak with or meet their birth parents. This eliminates the “what ifs” that adoptees often have, as they can answer questions like “Do I look like my birth parents?” and “Do I have any birth siblings?” Open adoption often gives adoptees the puzzle pieces they need to become confident in their stories and themselves.
- Open adoption gives adoptive parents access to medical information about their child. In open adoption plans, adoptive parents can ask questions about their child’s health history and family history. Similarly, the birth mother can inform the adoptive parents of any changes in health that occur and may affect the child down the road.
- Open adoption offers a wider circle of family support. In open adoptions, children have the benefit of having their parents, who care for and nurture them endlessly, along with their birth parents, who gave them life and serve as a strong connection to their roots. Both parents love them unconditionally.
Cons of Open Adoption for Adoptive Families:
- Potential boundary issues. Sometimes, a birth parent who just placed her baby for adoption will struggle with knowing how she or he fits within the family and “bigger picture.” At the same time, adoptive families may not know how to accommodate two sets of parents.
- While open adoption does not mean co-parenting, it does mean gaining more than a child – it also means gaining another valuable person in your lives. Speak with your adoption counselor about how you can make your child’s birth parents feel comfortable and valued throughout your adoption journey. When creating an open adoption agreement, ensure that you are comfortable with every aspect of the contract. Establish roles and expectations with your child’s birth parents from the very beginning, so there is no confusion or disappointment down the road. Finally, be sure to communicate exactly what the boundaries are in regards to ongoing communication and meetings.
Whether you are an adoptive parent or expectant/birth parent, the key to an open adoption is putting your child first. For more tips on open adoption, or details about the pros and cons of open adoption, please download our new eBook “The Keys to a Successful Open Adoption” below.
Adoptions With Love is a full-service, non-profit adoption agency offering both open and closed adoption plans. We also facilitate adoption plans that fall in-between, called semi-open adoption plans. If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy or considering adoption for your baby, we can help you create an adoption plan that is completely right for you. Call us at 1-800-722-7731 to learn more about open adoption.