Open Adoption Quick Facts
- 95% of U.S. infant adoptions have some level of openness.
- 55% of adoptions are open or fully disclosed.
- 40% of adoptions are semi-open, meaning they have mediated contact usually through an agency.
- 5% of adoptions are closed or confidential.
- Adoptees, even at a young age, are not confused about who their parents are. They understand the different roles of their birth and adoptive families.
- Adoptees who have contact (in varying levels and forms) with their birth family are more satisfied with their adoption than those who do not.
- Adoptees with higher levels of satisfaction (not the level of contact) had better adjustment rates among adopted adolescents and young adults.
- Birth mothers in open adoptions who are more satisfied with their post-placement communication agreement had less unresolved grief 12-20 years after the placements than those involved in closed adoptions.
- Adoptive parents participating in an open adoption (even with varying levels of communication) are less fearful that the birth parents will reclaim the child because they have had conversations about it. They are also more empathetic towards birth parents and the adoptee.
What is open adoption?
While you have been researching if adoption is right for your family, you’ve most likely heard the term “open adoption.” Openness in adoption refers to the communication birth families, adoptive families, and adoptees have after an adoption placement. There are varying levels of openness in post-placement communication.
- Closed Relationships In a closed or confidential adoption, birth parents and adoptive families do not share contact with one another. They may never even meet.
- Semi-open In a semi-open adoption, very little information is exchanged. You may know each others names, have met at placement and share letters and pictures on a schedule but may not meet face-to-face after placement or have contact through phone/social media. Often any correspondence is mediated and sent through the agency.
- Open Relationships Birth families and adoptive families share photos and letters and have an on-going relationship that can include face-to-face visits, phone calls, texts, and/or contact on social media. Even in open relationships, the specifics can vary greatly.
Is open adoption right for me?
Open adoption requires people to think about adoption in a new way. Rather than “subtracting” children from their birth family and “adding” them to their adoptive family, open adoption means that the family has been transformed and extended to form what we call an “adoptive kinship network.” Family members find themselves entering a more complicated set of relationships, but one that is usually rewarding for everyone (Grotevant, 2015).
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you are considering if open adoption is right for you:
- How often am I willing to share updates with the child’s birth family?
- In what ways am I willing to share updates? (Telephone, Text, Pictures)
- Am I willing to keep my promises of communication/updates with the birth family?
- Do I want my child to have a relationship with their birth family?
- Do I want my child to know what their birth parents look like?
- Am I willing to talk to my child about and help them make meaning of contact with their birth family?
- How might sharing updates or having visits affect me and my child?
- Do I want my child to have ready access to their biological family? Medical information? Biological siblings?
- Do I want my child to be able to ask their birth parents questions about why they chose adoption?
- What do I do if the relationship gets difficult? Am I willing to put the effort into the relationship even if it does get difficult?
- How will I react if my child wants more or less contact as they get older?
- Do I feel like I need my adoption professional to mediate this new relationship?
If you need help thinking through these questions or find yourself wondering “Why?” or “Why not?” as a follow up to the above questions, we encourage you to talk to reach out to us. We can help you work through any concerns or questions you may have about post placement communication. We want to help you create a personalized plan that works for everyone involved, especially the child.
What is the benefit for the child in an open adoption?
Most adoptees–no matter their age or the amount of contact they have with their birth family–will express curiosity about their birth family.
Adoptees in open adoptions:
- Are better adjusted when they are satisfied with the amount of contact they have with their birth families.
- Talk about adoption within their adoptive family more frequently.
- Understand why their birth parents chose adoption.
- Have access to their birth families’ health histories and medical information.
- Know what their birth parents look like and where they live.
- Enjoy a clearer sense of identity.
Nurturing the Open Adoption Relationship
Just like every other meaningful relationship in your life, open adoptions take regular contact, open communication, honesty, forgiveness, and commitment. And just like those other relationships in your life, contact will most likely ebb and flow and need to be reexamined and renegotiated over time.
At AdoptionLife.org we feel very strongly that post placement communication promises should be kept. We work hard with all of our clients to understand what open adoption will really look like and to only agree with openness that they truly feel like they can follow through with. We encourage development of healthy boundaries, just like any other relationship.
We are here to help! Situations will arise that will be uncomfortable. Questions will come up that you will not know how to answer. Let us help you navigate your open adoption. We offer lifelong open adoption support and mediation.
For more in-depth information on open adoption, read The Minnesota / Texas Adoption Research Project which began research on open adoption in the 1980s.