Years ago, most adoptions in the US were considered closed adoptions, which means no identifying information was exchanged between the biological parents and the adoptive family. Only agencies and the courts retained the personal records. Fortunately, over time and especially in the last few years, adoption has evolved and open adoptions are now the norm. These days, in 99% of adoptions through ANA, everyone meets each other; names, phone numbers and email addresses are shared. It is only a closed adoption if this is what the birthmother requests and, again, that is very rare!
Every Open Adoption Is Different
There are many variations to the term open adoption. Sometimes it means the birthmother wants to choose and meet the adoptive family but doesn’t want contact after the birth. However, in most cases, a birthmother does want some form of ongoing contact. This could be through periodic sharing of photos and updates to witness how her child is progressing; or, it could involve ongoing phone and email contact, much like the contact that was in place prior to the baby’s birth. For some, a visit in the early years may also be desired. The level of contact is what all involved decide they are most comfortable with and what you think is best for the child you all love.
When a birthmother chooses the adoptive family, initial contact is made via the phone. After that, we arrange for all to meet prior to the birth (and definitely before the mom is in labor and in the middle of a contraction!). Most birthmothers request that the adoptive couple be with her at the time of delivery, sometimes allowing one or both of them in the delivery room to witness the birth and even cut the cord. Sometimes, she asks for the adoptive couple to wait outside her door until she’s had private time with the baby immediately after birth. Almost always, the adoptive family and birth family spend a lot of time together at the hospital, sharing responsibilities until the time of discharge. While this may be a time of first goodbyes, most often all will get together again before the adoptive couple travels back to their home. This allows for a relaxed time of sharing and goodbyes when additional pictures can be taken. It is a time of hugs and prayers and tears but also a time of new beginnings.
Once the baby is born, there is generally a formal or informal contact agreement in place that everyone is comfortable with. This usually addresses the level and frequency of contact. The degree of openness is decided upon by all and always with the baby’s best interests in mind.
The Benefits of Open Adoption
Earlier this week, a birthmother who made an adoption plan for her child almost ten years ago called ANA. One of her younger children was just diagnosed with a rare blood disorder. She asked us to get in touch with the adoptive family—which we immediately did. When you share email addresses and a phone number, communication remains open and important information can be shared directly. It is a direct lifeline! In all the years that we have been involved in adoption, no one has ever crossed that line but rather shown ultimate respect and love for one another. Open adoption benefits the child, the child’s birthparents, and the adoptive parents. Adoption is not a secret, it is a miracle that everyone should feel proud and privileged to be a part of.