Open Adoption and Post-Placement Requirements for Adoptive Families
When completing our Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ) and becoming an active adoptive family with our agency, you’ll learn about our open adoption requirements. These requirements state that you must be open to a minimum level of post-adoption contact with your child’s birth mother. We strongly encourage adoptive families to go above and beyond the minimum requirement. But first, let’s break down what that minimum requirement for post-adoption contact looks like:
Erin, an Adoptive Family Specialist, sat down for a Q & A to discuss APQs, the minimum requirements adoptive families must agree to and the benefit of having an open relationship with the birth family post-adoption.
What are the minimum requirements for post-adoption contact?
We require phone calls and emails directly with the birth parents. The frequency will vary but it often just provides security for birth parents knowing that they have contact info for the family, even if ongoing contact is not regular or they do not use it.
We also require the exchange of pictures and letters. If birth parents would like pictures and updates mailed to them, then the family can mail them directly. However, a lot of families and birth parents are keeping in touch electronically through a private social media or photo-sharing account instead of mail nowadays.
If the birth parent requests it, adoptive families must agree to a visit within the first five years of the child’s life, at a mutually agreed-upon time and date. The adoptive family is typically traveling to the birth parents for this visit unless the birth parents decide they are willing to travel instead.
What is the benefit of requiring adoptive families to agree to a post-adoption visit?
It’s honestly so great that we require families now to be open to at least one visit within the first five years of the child’s life. We didn’t require this before and it’s really difficult trying to explain to a birth mother later on that a family is not open to doing visits in the future. I think most adoptions have evolved into being more open because of social media and other technology where it’s easier to stay connected.
Sometimes a birth parent just needs those updates to know that their child is doing well, and the visits might not be a mandatory piece for them to have later on. Obviously, there are times where a birth parent definitely wants future visits and it’s important to them that a family can maintain that. My best advice for families:
Don’t promise anything you cannot commit to, or do not promise something to a birth parent and then go back on it. Trust is key in order to maintain a healthy relationship in the future.
How do you talk to families about being open to post-adoption visits?
It’s great when a family is open to having yearly visits with the birth mother and child but we would not want a family to mark “Yes” for that choice unless they can truly commit to doing visits every year, no matter where the birth mother lives.
During this section of the APQ review, we talk with families about their readiness and flexibility when it comes to having additional visits. I think most families are open to doing their best to set them up in the future, but they want to be able to make that decision based on where the birth mother is and other logistics before fully committing to it.
If a family is more hesitant when it comes to visits because of fears and how the child may feel later, then we provide education and resources to show them how beneficial open adoption can be for the child. Typically, in a situation where a family is fearful, it helps to provide resources and educate them or connect them with another family that has been through it already.
Why is it important for adoptive families to be flexible with their APQ?
I think that it’s really important for families to be flexible when it comes to having a relationship and openness with the birth parents. The relationship might ebb and flow like any other relationship in your life. It’s hard to put a specific frequency or timeline on exchanging text messages, emails, phone calls, etc., but it’s great for birth parents to know that the door is always open to reach out when they are ready.
Of course, there need to be healthy boundaries and we are here to help with anything difficult in the future when it comes to navigating that relationship. Ultimately, it’s in the best interests of the child as well and we want to ensure that the contact and any visits are appropriate for everyone.
Learn more about open adoption here.
Read stories from families who have an open adoption with their child’s birth family here.
Watch more open adoption stories from American Adoptions birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees here.