As you browse adoption websites and blogs, you will undoubtedly see the term “open adoption” used quite frequently. Adoptions with some level of openness have certainly become the most common type of adoption in the United States. But you may also be wondering, what exactly is an open adoption?
The definition of open adoption according to Wikipedia is “a form of adoption in which the biological and adoptive families have access to varying degrees of each other’s personal information and have an option of contact. In Open Adoption, the adoptive parents hold all the rights as the legal parents, yet the individuals of the biological and adoptive families may exercise the option to open the contact in varying forms: from just sending mail and/or photos, to face-to-face visits between birth and adoptive families.”
As you can see, open adoption is a kind of broad, catch-all term for any type of adoption that involves some level of openness. In fact, I often see the terms ‘semi-open adoption’ and ‘open adoption’ used interchangeably these days.
The amount and frequency of openness will vary from adoption to adoption based on the circumstances, needs, wants, feelings, and desires of the individuals participating in the particular open adoption plan. One birthmother may see her child five or six times a year if she lives in the same state as her child, while another birthmother who lives across the country may only be able to see her child in person once a year. (She may of course also come up with other creative options to stay in touch, such as Skype dates with her child.) One birthmother may desire to see her child every few months because it does her good to see her child happy and healthy, while another birthmother may need more time in between visits and contact because it is so hard on her emotionally and it is all that she can handle.
All of the above situations are considered open adoptions. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to have an open adoption. The level and frequency of contact is going to depend on the needs, wants, desires, and emotions of the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adoptee as he/she grows up and begins to express what he/she wants. Over time, the level of openness may change as the needs and wants of all parties evolve.
The reality is that each open adoption is going to be different. Even adopted children in the same family (with different birthparents) may have varying levels of openness. What works for one adoptive family and birth family likely will not work for another. You have to find what is best for you and for all involved and work with that. More on that topic down the road.
For more information, here are some frequently asked questions about open adoption.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll share the reasons why I chose open adoption for my placed son.