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 nine out of every ten 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 a certain degree of contact with their child’s birth mother, which is called “open adoption.” At American Adoptions, all prospective adoptive families must be comfortable with these aspects of an open adoption:
Phone Calls (Pre-Placement) – An introductory call between you and a pregnant mother (and birth father, if involved) will take place soon after she chooses you for an adoption opportunity. An adoption specialist will typically 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.
After your initial conference call, you will be asked to provide a phone number to the prospective birth parent(s) for ongoing communication, if that is something they have requested. This type of direct, ongoing contact is a great way for you to get to know each other better and start building a relationship prior to placement.
Email Exchange (Pre- and Post-Placement) – This is another common, non-invasive way for prospective birth and adoptive parents to stay in touch and provide one another with updates, allowing each party to respond at a time that’s convenient for them. All of American Adoptions’ families are asked to be open to sharing their email address with the prospective birth parents when presented with an adoption opportunity. 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 prospective birth mother, as long as the phone number and email address you choose will continue to be accessible to the birth parents after placement.
Hospital Meeting (Placement) – Most adoptive families will have interaction with the prospective birth parents and possibly other family members while at the hospital. You will be informed about the prospective 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 with you, and more.
This can be an incredibly emotional time for everyone involved, but your adoption specialist will help prepare you for what to expect at the hospital and will be available to provide guidance and support when the big day arrives.
Post-Placement Contact – After placement, adoptive parents must be comfortable continuing direct contact with the prospective birth parent(s). The types and frequency of post-adoption contact will be completely up to you and your child’s birth parent(s), but it often includes ongoing phone and email communication. At minimum, most birth mothers request picture and letter updates (whether through mail or email) at set intervals until the child turns 18. However, there are so many ways to stay in touch, and you and your child’s birth parent(s) can communicate in whatever ways work best for you — from text messages to video calls to photo-sharing apps, the possibilities are endless. Keep in mind that as your relationship grows and as technology changes over time, your post-adoption contact can change, as well.
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. Of course, you may have more meetings if you and your child’s birth parent(s) are comfortable doing that.
For many adoptive parents, the idea of open adoption can seem overwhelming at first. But it’s important to remember how beneficial this relationship is for your child — and you may be surprised to find how rewarding it is for you, too.
Remember, not all pregnant mothers request each type of contact, and some are even seeking a closed adoption, in which very little, if any, contact is shared. This means you may be chosen by a prospective birth mother who wants less contact than the standards you have agreed to.
However, more than 90 percent of pregnant mothers are looking for an open adoption with the communication standards we require, so our requirements will increase the likelihood that a prospective birth mother chooses you. By requiring prospective adoptive parents to be comfortable with a certain degree of openness in their adoption, American Adoptions increases your chance of finding an adoption opportunity.
Why Should We Get to Know the Prospective 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 contact with birth parents can provide to the adoption and to your lives after placement.
Helps Birth Mothers’ Grief and Loss – Imagine being in a birth mother’s shoes as she kissed her baby goodbye for the last time, knowing that she would never know what her child would look like one day, what his or her laugh would sound like, or if he or she would grow up happy. For a long time, this was the reality for most of the brave women who chose adoption for their babies.
As you can imagine, these birth mothers in closed adoptions often struggled with unanswered questions; many spent the rest of their lives wondering and worrying about the children they placed, and it made it extremely difficult for them to make peace with adoption.
Conversely, imagine a birth mother kissing her baby goodbye, knowing she will receive pictures and letter updates, emails and phone calls from you (the adoptive parents), as well as visits in the future, depending on her preferences. This often makes the difference for a birth mother in being committed to her adoption decision and being able to move forward in a healthy way.
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 adoptive parents 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 them with the answers they need.
Updated Medical Information – American Adoptions will present you with the prospective 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. 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 resist this type of contact with the prospective 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 prospective 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 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 child at the center of the adoption triad.
Establishing Trust in Your Relationship with Prospective Birth Parents
There is a section in your Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ) where you will choose the types of contact you are comfortable sharing with the prospective 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 prospective 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 process, birth parents often learn an adoptive family’s last name 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 prospective 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 prospective birth parents. The more that prospective 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 prospective birth parents prior to the hospital stay and 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 chosen for an adoption opportunity more quickly.
However, it’s also important to be honest about your comfort level and what you can realistically commit to. Whatever post-adoption contact you agree to have with your child’s birth family, it’s extremely important to honor that commitment and follow through on all promises made.
Many times, this comes naturally for adoptive parents; as they get to know their child’s prospective birth parents throughout this process, they often find that they are eager to maintain a relationship after placement. This open contact and ongoing dialogue can be incredibly beneficial in helping all parties establish boundaries, understand their roles in each other’s lives and eliminate their fears about open adoption.
Remember that contact with the parents is in no way coparenting. Your child is 100 percent yours. Contact with the prospective birth parents is one of the essential components of making sure everyone meets their goals in the adoption and that after placement everyone moves forward in a healthy way.
You likely have many more questions about building a relationship with prospective birth parents. Contact us today for free adoption information or call us at 1-800-ADOPTION.
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