Whether an adoption is open, closed, or somewhere in between is determined by the amount of information everyone wants to share with one another. Open adoptions have a full disclosure of identifying information and usually have lots of contact between the birth mother (and, father if he wishes to be involved) and the adoptive family. In a closed adoption, in contrast, the birth parents remain completely anonymous.
Open adoptions typically involve contact between the birth family and the adoptive family before and after the child is born. Prior to birth they get to know each other, usually by exchanging photos and letters. Many also choose to talk via telephone or through video chat services (such as Skype or Google Hangouts) or visit in person.
After the child is born and placed with his or her adoptive family, the birth parent(s) stay in contact with the adoptee and their adoptive family. They may send emails, have regular phone calls, or even visit one another face-to-face. The adoptee grows up knowing that he or she has both a birth family and an adoptive family, each of which loves them very much.
The openness of an adoption is customized to the wishes of the birth parent(s), the adoptive parents, and the child being adopted (if they are old enough). Typically, birth mothers work with adoption coordinators to develop an adoption plan with the level of communication that she wants to have with the adoptive family before and after giving birth. The adoption coordinator then puts together profiles of families who are looking to adopt with a similar wishes. This way everyone agrees in advance about the amount and types of contact they want.
Open adoption is the most common type of adoption in the United States today. According to a 2012 report from the Donaldson Adoption Institute, 55% of infant adoptions are now completely open. Practically every adoption service allows for open adoptions.
There are a lot of benefits to having an open adoption. Birth parents are allowed closure in their decision to place their child for adoption and get to be present in their life. Adoptive parents are reminded of the privilege and responsibility they have in raising their child. Further, adoptive parents have confidence in knowing the biological family of their child, rather than fearing them because they don’t know anything about them.
The adopted child benefits most of all from an open adoption. By knowing their birth parents and their adoptive parents, adoptees have a better sense of their biological and cultural origins. They have access to better medical histories for themselves and any children they may have. They also know more about who they are and where they fit into the world.
Voluntary adoptions are always arranged according to the wishes of the birth mother. More and more, birth mothers are choosing to stay in contact with their children and their adoptive families. This choice has benefits for everyone involved: the birth family, the adoptive family, and the adoptee. In an open adoption, a new partnership is formed between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, united by their common love and concern for their child.