Open adoption options are becoming more prevalent in recent years. But are they really better for the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive family?
Here at Origins, we believe that open adoptions are indeed healthier for everyone involved.
Open Adoption is the Best Kind of Adoption Quicklinks
Our advocacy of open adoption may seem a bit strange on the surface, given that we specialize in helping adult adoptees from closed adoptions to find their birth parents.
However, our co-founder, Jenny Wallentine, is herself the product of a closed adoption and has spoken often about the difficulty of finding her birth mother and father.
So when we claim that open adoptions are better, we’re speaking from personal experience, as well as from our direct experiences working with our clients and helping them reunite with biological siblings, parents, and other family members.
Read on to learn all about open adoption and its many benefits.
Types of Adoption
Adoption falls into different categories based on the degree of openness. By “openness,” we mean the degree to which the adoptee knows her adoption status and has a relationship with her biological parents.
Adoptions can be:
While closed adoption used to be the norm, open and semi-open options are becoming more prevalent in recent years.
Domestic vs International Adoption
Adoption can also be domestic or international. Domestic adoption means that the child is from the same country as the adoptive parents. International adoption, as the name suggests, involves future parents adopting a child from another country.
Waiting families can also choose to adopt a child of their own ethnicity, or from another ethnicity than their own. When adoptive parents adopt a child of a different ethnicity, such an adoption is typically called a transracial adoption.
What is Open Adoption?
Open adoption is a form of child adoption where birth parents share certain identifying information with the adoptive family. That information usually includes the first and last name of the birth mother and birth father and their phone numbers. Additionally, birth parents can opt to share their address or an email.
During an open adoption process, birth parents have contact with the adoptive couple. They have the option to choose a family the child will go to and oversee the whole adoption process.
The biological parents can also choose to have an ongoing relationship with the adoptive child, and they often do so in agreement with the adoptive parents. Therefore, an open adoption agreement also includes the frequency of contact between the birth parents and the child, whether that be in person or via pictures and emails.
Although the definition of open adoption seems simple enough, no two open adoption cases are the same. The level of openness varies greatly from one adoption plan to another depending on the wishes of the birth family and potential adoptive families, and even the adoption agency can sometimes influence the course of the adoption process.
The Benefits of Open Adoption
There are plenty of open adoption benefits for the whole adoption triad—birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee. Let’s take a look at how this form of adoption can benefit each of them.
Open Adoption Benefits for Birth Parents
Placing a child for adoption isn’t an easy choice. Although biological parents may have experienced an unplanned pregnancy and don’t have the means to take care of the child, not knowing where their child will end up can be anxiety-inducing.
One of the many benefits of open adoption is that it allows birth parents to be involved in the adoption process. Birth fathers and mothers can look at the family profile of the potential adoptive family and even spend some time with them. That way, they can ensure that, although they are putting their baby up for adoption, it is going to the best family.
Another major benefit of open adoption is the fact that birth parents get to watch the child grow up. Not knowing who is going to raise your child is a frightening feeling, and birth parents that choose an open adoption believe themselves to be lucky that they don’t have to wonder how their child turned out.
Open Adoption Benefits for Adoptive Parents
Adoptive parents are often afraid of the challenges that may arise if they choose open adoption. However, there are many benefits to an adoption that has high levels of openness.
For one, learning about the birth family’s medical history can help you if your child ever needs medical attention. Additionally, talking about adoption with your child can be quite beneficial for their happiness, and it’s much easier to share information with them if you have it yourself.
Also, although the thought of your kid knowing their birth parents may be scary, it’s ultimately the right choice for the child. As they grow up, the adoptee will start to have questions about their upbringing. Staying in contact with the birth parents will enable you to answer those questions more easily and truthfully.
Open Adoption Benefits for Adopted Children
Although there are numerous benefits of open adoption for birth and adoptive parents, adoptees certainly experience the biggest advantages. An open adoption makes finding your birth mom, dad, or sibling much easier.
If the adoptee wishes to locate their biological father in a closed adoption, for example, they are going to run into a number of problems. Adoption searches are much easier if you have some information to start with.
In an open adoption, the adoptee will likely know their father already. Therefore, even if they don’t have a steady relationship, the adoptee will have the crucial information they need to start the search.
Open Adoption Statistics
The taboo that used to surround adoption back in the day is not as prevalent anymore. Nowadays, adoptees and adoptive families are much more willing to share their adoption stories. Additionally, adoption home studies have become more common. Here are 4 enlightening studies and statistics on open adoption.
Open Adoptions are More Common Today than Closed Adoptions
Whereas in the past closed adoption was the norm, the tables have turned. Today, open adoption is far more commonplace than closed adoption.
According to the Minnesota Adoption Research Project, only 5% of contemporary infant adoptions are closed. The remaining 95% have varying levels of openness, with a little over half being fully open.
Post Adoption Contact is Beneficial for Adoptive Families and Adoptees
A 2021 study on the effects of open adoption on those involved in the process came to an interesting conclusion. Although some surveyed adoptees reported feeling overwhelmed at times, a large majority thought that the contact with their birth family was beneficial.
Of those surveyed, 93% had some sort of contact with birth family members, while around 56% had communicated with a birth family member multiple times.
Open Adoption Can Help Birth Parents Deal with Grief
When an unplanned pregnancy occurs, often the pregnant woman faces no good options. Even if adoption seems to be her first choice, choosing adoption is still hard.
Although closed adoption may seem to provide closure and lack of entanglement, the data on adoption suggests that closed adoptions bring a higher emotional burden. A study examined grief experiences for birth mothers that put a child up for adoption.
Results show that birth parents that went through an open adoption process experienced less grief than those who opted for a closed adoption.
Still, every adoption story is different, and each set of birth and adoptive parents needs to customize their adoption agreement to whatever level of openness suits them.
Adoptees Report Feeling More Satisfied with an Open Adoption
Not all adoptees want to find their birth mother or father. However, adoption professionals should keep in mind that having the option to do so seems to have a positive influence on the adoptee. A home study on the effects of open adoption on adolescents came to an interesting conclusion.
The adolescents, who were placed for adoption as children, reported feeling more satisfied with their adoption process if it was open.
Open adoption provides adoptive parents and adoptees with the possibility of an ongoing relationship with the birth parents, leading to higher levels of satisfaction for everyone involved.
What is a Semi-Open Adoption?
Expectant parents that choose adoption may not want to stay in contact with the adoptive family. However, they still may want to share crucial information, such as family medical history.
Under those circumstances, birth parents can opt for a semi-closed adoption. In this type of adoption, the contact between adoptive parents and a birth family happens through a social worker or an adoption agency.
Semi-open adoptions sit somewhere in between open and closed adoptions. However, there is no clear divide between these three types of adoption. What one might call an open adoption, others may refer to as semi-open, and vice versa.
What is an Open Adoption Agreement?
An open adoption agreement is a formal contract that outlines the boundaries of contact between the birth and adoptive family. The agreement may include the information birth parents wish to share, such as family history, birth certificates, and medical information.
The document may also include the amount of time birth parents and their extended family wishes to spend with the child, as well as whether they want to receive updates from the adoptive family.
Do You Want to Locate Your Birth Family?
The search for and reunion with your birth family can be difficult. If you want to locate a sibling that was adopted or are yourself an adoptee learning how to find biological parents, we are here to help you. At Origins Genealogy, our main goal is to help you achieve what our co-founder, Jenny Wallentine herself did years ago—unite with your birth family and learn about your family history on your terms.
Genetic Genealogy Resources
Open Adoption FAQ
The US National Adoption Month is November, while the National Adoption Day falls on the day before Thanksgiving every year. If you want to learn more about National Adoption Day, we have a handy adoption terms and definitions glossary you can check out.
Adoption costs vary greatly depending on the type of adoption. For example, if foster parents choose to adopt from foster care, they likely won’t have to pay for it. However, if you plan on adopting through a private agency, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5000 to $40000.
Unfortunately, the price is often dependent on the gender and skin color of the child, with white babies being the most expensive. In some instances, same-sex adoption may also cost more than it does for heterosexual couples.
If getting pregnant wasn’t in your plans and you want to give your child up for adoption, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, start your prenatal care regimen as soon as you get the positive pregnancy test.
Once you’re sure about adoption, start looking into adoption resources and get in touch with an agency. Maintain your pregnancy health and make sure to use a pregnancy due date calculator and share any relevant information with the agency.
Adoption attorneys are lawyers who specialize in adoption law. Their job is to protect the legal rights of both adoptive and birth parents by making sure the adoption process goes according to federal and state laws.