It’s hard to give a specific open adoption definition, because open adoption looks different in every adoption scenario. In essence, though, an open adoption is an adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive parents remain in contact after placement. To do so, both parties share identifying information and don’t require an adoption professional to help facilitate contact.
The methods of communication in an open adoption can vary. Some birth moms choose to have periodic in-person visits, while others prefer to exchange phone calls or emails to receive updates on their babies’ lives. Every adoptive relationship is different, so the amount of contact you have with your child and his or her adoptive parents as well as how that communication takes place is completely up to you.
As you can imagine, a closed adoption is the opposite of an open adoption. It’s easier to give a closed adoption definition; it’s an adoptive relationship in which little or no contact or identifying information is exchanged. In closed adoptions, the adoptive family will receive medical records from the birth mother and possibly the birth father as well, but that’s about it.
A semi-open adoption falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between open adoptions and closed adoptions. Like an open adoption, the exact way in which a semi-open adoption works depends on the parties involved. Generally, the adoptive family and birth parents exchange non-identifying information and contact is mediated by an adoption professional.
Before a baby is placed, this might mean that a social worker facilitates conference calls so that a pregnant woman can get to know adoptive parents and update them on her pregnancy. After placement, this typically involves adoptive parents sending pictures, letters and other updates about the child to the birth parents through their adoption professional.
Before an adoption is completed, both the birth parents and the adoptive parents decide what information to share and how. Open adoptions in Missouri are not legally enforceable. That is to say, Post Adoption Contact Agreements, which are binding in some states, are not in Missouri. The court, for the most part, stays out of it; adoptive parents and birth parents are free to come to their own contact agreements, and their relationships can evolve over time as they wish.
Because these contact agreements are not legally enforceable in Missouri, it’s helpful to get to know the adoptive family before placement. This will allow you to communicate what you want in a post-placement relationship and build trust to believe that they will maintain their end of the agreement. Most adoptive families want to have contact with you, too, so being open and honest about how much contact you want is the best policy. Your adoption specialist will be available to help facilitate your relationship and ensure adoptive parents are following through on their post-placement commitment to you.
American Adoptions almost always encourages open adoption in Missouri. That’s why we require that all adoptive families we work with be open to sending regular photo and letter updates, exchanging phone numbers and email addresses, and having an in-person visit after placement — at the very minimum. Why? Some degree of communication and openness benefits everyone in the adoptive triad, particularly the child. Adoptions used to be closed, secretive affairs, frequently coming with a sense of shame for both the birth mother and the adoptee. The women who placed their children for adoption frequently never knew what happened to them, and the adoptee usually didn’t have access to information about his or her biological family. It was not beneficial to anyone involved.
We believe adoption is a beautiful thing, and while those who are uneducated about the process may still make assumptions, the negative stigmas are becoming a thing of the past. To help you understand the benefits of an open adoption, we’ve compared some facets of an open adoption vs. closed adoption.
Allow for children to know their adoption stories. To normalize an adoption, a child has to hear about it and be able to ask questions. Secrecy can lead a child to believe that adoption is shameful, when really it’s something to be proud of!
Allow for a pregnant woman to choose her baby’s adoptive family. This means that you’re free to get to know them before placement to ensure they’re the right fit for your child.
Allow the birth parents to remain involved, or at least updated, on their child’s life. You don’t have to wonder how they’re doing and hope that you made the right decision; you can verify that you did whenever you need to.
Allow for additional medical information to be exchanged after placement in the event that something comes up. For example, if a child is struggling with a health issue, it could be helpful to know if this is something his biological parents have experienced. On the other hand, if a health issue arises with a birth parent that may be hereditary, this allows them to notify the adoptive family that they may want to watch for symptoms.
Mean that adopted children will have little to no information about their birth family. They may never understand why they were placed for adoption, and this can lead to trouble with adoption feeling shameful. It can also be difficult to form a strong sense of identity when you feel that a piece of your history is missing.
Mean that birth mothers will not be able to see how their child is doing. This can make it much harder to find closure after an adoption.
Means that adoptive families have no access to their child’s birth parents in case additional medical information is needed.
Every family is different, but we do encourage open adoptions whenever possible. For more information about what open adoption in Missouri could look like for you, call 1-800-ADOPTION, or request free information here.
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