An open adoption is one where there is ongoing contact between the birthmother (and sometimes the whole birth family) and the adoptive family.
The contact in an open adoption is unmediated, meaning that the birthmother and adoptive family communicate directly and not through another person or organization, such as an attorney or adoption agency.
Being part of an open adoption means that your personal contact information is shared with the other members of the adoption triad (birthmother, adoptive parents, and adoptee).
The adoption process for an open adoption is similar to the basic process for a closed or semi-open adoption.
Really the only thing that distinguishes an open adoption is the addition communication between the birthmother and the adoptive family.
Prior to the baby’s birth, they may exchange photos, letters, and/or phone calls. Some choose to meet in person.
The birthmother may permit or even prefer that the adoptive parents be present at the hospital for the birth (they usually stay in the waiting room, not in the delivery room). This all depends on the birthmother’s wishes.
After the baby is placed with the adoptive parents, everyone stays in contact according to their preferences. This often involves photos, letters, phone calls, and occasional visits.
There are many advantages to open adoption.
The overwhelming majority of scientific research shows that in most cases the more open an adoption is, the better off the birthmother, adoptive parents, and adoptee are.
Adopted children who stay in contact with their birth family typically are better adjusted and suffer from fewer identity issues than children in closed adoptions.
There is also the major health benefit of having an up-to-date family medical history for the adoptee, especially since many genetically-linked diseases can appear later in life.
There can be sometimes be a few disadvantages to having an open adoption.
It is often feared that members of the birth family may be a bad influence on the adoptee. It’s important to remember that the contact that adopted child has, at least while they are under 18, is still under the supervision and guidance of their adoptive parents.
Another potential problem is the adoptive parents may not follow through with the open adoption plan after the adoption is finalized. This is not so much a flaw in open adoption, but a flaw in following through with it. When selecting adoptive parents for her child, birthmothers should take special care to make an assessment of the character and integrity of the people they consider.
Adoption practices have changed dramatically in the past few decades. Open adoption is now considered the preferred choice.
A recent survey of adoption services showed that about 55% of infant adoptions are now open and 40% were semi-open.
Only 5% of infant adoptions are closed.
Another major study showed that openness in an adoption decreases stress and increases satisfaction for both birth parents and adoptive parents.
Indeed, the study above showed that staying in contact with her child’s adoptive family improves a birthmother’s general well-being after the adoption.