The Benefits of Contact with the Birth Parents
And What's Required in an Open Adoption
Contact with the birth parents is a key component of any successful adoption. In fact, more than 9 out of every 10 women who choose adoption request some form of contact with the adoptive parents.
For this reason, American Adoptions requires adoptive families to be accepting of close contact with a birth mother, which we call an “open adoption.” At American Adoptions, all prospective adoptive families must be comfortable with these aspects of an open adoption:
Conference Call (Pre-Placement) – An introductory call between you and a pregnant mother (and birth father if involved) that takes place soon after she chooses you to pursue the same adoption plan. An Adoption Specialist will be on the phone with you to keep the conversation moving, and you will have plenty of preparation before the call to understand the things to talk and ask about.
Email Exchange (Pre-Placement) – A non-invasive way of staying in touch and providing updates with one another, allowing for you and her to respond to one another at a more convenient time. You have the choice of using your personal email and phone number, or you may choose to set up a separate email and phone number specifically for your communication with the birth mother.
Hospital Meeting (Placement) – Interaction with the birth parents and possibly other family members while at the hospital. You will be prepared about the birth mother’s hospital plan, so you will know whether she wants you in the delivery room, who she wants to hold the baby first, how much time she wants to spend with the baby, and more.
Pictures and Letters (Post-Placement) – Correspondence mailed directly to the birth parents or to American Adoptions and forwarded to the birth mother for up to 18 years. Nearly all women request pictures and letters to see that their child is happy and healthy. Read the following to learn more about how American Adoptions mediates the picture and letter agreement.
One In-Person Visit (Post-Placement) – If a birth mother requests it, an adoptive family will be required to have at least one in-person visit with her within the first five years after placement. The birth mother (and father, if applicable) and the adoptive family will mutually agree on a time and place. You, of course, may have more meetings if you and your child’s birth parent are comfortable doing that.
* Remember, not all pregnant mothers request each type of contact, and some are even seeking a closed adoption. However, by requiring prospective adoptive parents to be comfortable with a certain degree of openness in a future adoption, American Adoptions increases your chance of a match. Most pregnant mothers are looking for a dedicated open adoption with the communication standards we require, so our requirements will increase the likelihood that a prospective birth mother chooses you. You may also be matched with a mother who wants less contact. Therefore, it’s important that you’re prepared for any kind of adoption communication but especially our common open adoption standards.
Why Should We Get to Know the Birth Parents?
Some families are excited to get to know the birth parents of their adopted child, while others are a little more leery of this relationship.
If your feelings are more toward the latter, you may be wondering why we highly encourage building this relationship. Please know that it is completely normal to feel this way at this stage.
The following are some of the invaluable benefits that something as simple as non-identifiable, minimal contact with the birth parents can provide to the adoption and to your lives after placement.
Helps Birth Mother’s Grief and Loss – Imagine being in a birth mother’s shoes as she kisses her baby goodbye for the last time, knowing that she will never know what her child will look like one day, what his or her laugh sounds like, or if he or she is happy. For some birth parents, this could be too much to go through with the adoption. Conversely, imagine a birth mother kissing her baby goodbye, knowing she will receive pictures and letter updates and visits, depending on her preferences. This is often the difference in a birth mother being committed to her adoption decision.
Fills the Void in the Child’s Life – While it’s sometimes difficult for adoptive parents to understand, adopted children who have no contact with their birth parents often have the feeling that something is missing in their lives. This is particularly common later in their teenage or young adult years. While their adoptive parents are and will always be their parents, there are certain things they simply can’t answer: Where does my hair color come from? What were my relatives like? Why did my birth parents place me for adoption? A relationship with the birth parents will help fill this void in your child’s life, and provide him or her an avenue of meeting them one day in the future.
Updated Medical Information – American Adoptions will present you with the birth mother’s self-disclosed medical background and family’s medical background, as well as her and the baby’s hospital records. However, this is just a snapshot in time because everyone’s health and family’s medical backgrounds change over time. Staying in touch with the birth parents allows you receive updates on your child’s family medical history, which will be important for him or her in the future.
Receive More Adoption Opportunities – Because so many pregnant mothers seek open contact, families who resists this contact with the birth parents will not be eligible for most adoption opportunities and will not be able to work with our agency. The more flexible you are to a greater degree of open contact with the birth parents, the more adoption opportunities you will be presented.
As you can see, open adoption is beneficial for all involved — but especially for the child at the center of the adoption. This is why American Adoptions requires our prospective adoptive families to be open to communication with a birth mother. In the thousands of families we have helped to create, we’ve seen firsthand how open adoptions can benefit adoptive parents, birth parents and the adopted child. While requiring open adoption will help you find an adoption opportunity more quickly, ultimately, we recommend this kind of adoption because of how successful it is in creating positive adoption experiences for everyone, especially the adopted child.
How Does Semi-Open Adoption Work?
There is a section in your Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ) where you will choose the types of contact you are comfortable sharing with the birth parents.
As previously stated, “open adoption” will already be selected because you are required to participate in a conference call, email and phone number exchange, meeting at time of placement, pictures and letters correspondence, and an in-person meeting after placement.
While American Adoptions will never disclose your identifying information without your permission, you should know that many birth parents end up discovering the last name of adoptive parents at some point in the adoption process — and you should be comfortable with a prospective birth parent knowing your last name. Because adoption is such an intimate processes, birth parents often learn an adoptive family’s last name at some point during the hospital stay or legal proceedings. In addition, with the prevalence of social media and today’s technological advances, it is increasingly easy for birth parents and adoptive families to find each other’s full names on their own.
When birth parents want to know an adoptive family’s last name, it’s not intended to violate their privacy; instead, it’s a natural parental curiosity to know who they are placing their child with and how they can stay in touch for years to come. When you choose to share your last name with them willingly, your choice helps establish a strong, trusting relationship with the birth parents. The more that birth parents feel they are trusted by you, the more secure they will be in your relationship and the more successful your adoption will be. In addition, open adoptions are rarely successful if the parties involved keep information secret from each other, and being comfortable sharing your last name will logistically and emotionally make your open adoption easier for all involved.
Remember, unless you’re comfortable with us doing so, last names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or any other identifiable information are never shared by our agency. However, given the nature of today’s open adoptions, we do ask that all our adoptive families be prepared for and comfortable with prospective birth parents knowing their last name.
There are additional types of contact you may agree to, including visiting with the birth parents prior to the hospital stay and being open to annual (or more frequent) visits after placement. Many prospective adoptive parents who are open to this increased communication find themselves presented to more prospective birth parents and may be matched more quickly. When you choose to create a direct open adoption like this, your contact will not be mediated by our agency.
Remember that contact with the parents is in no way co-parenting. Your child is 100 percent yours. Contact with the birth parents is one of the essential components of making sure everyone meets their goals in the adoption, and after placement everyone moves on from the adoption in a healthy way.
You likely have many more questions about contact with the birth parents and semi-open adoption. Contact us today for free adoption information or call us at 1-800-ADOPTION.
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