Open Adoption: Pros and Cons to Consider
Years ago, adoptions were completed and viewed very differently than they are today. Oftentimes, birth parents would never see or hear from their child or the adoptive parents after placement. The child would grow up with many questions and thoughts on who their birth parents may be.
Adoptions have since progressed to become much more socially accepted and openly discussed. Because adoption, and the understanding of it, is constantly evolving, these days, it is highly recommended that the adoptive family and the prospective birth parents consider pursuing some form of an open adoption.
Although suggested, it’s natural for prospective birth and adoptive parents to have some hesitation or concern about whether this is the right choice for them. You will want to weigh the pros and cons of open adoption to determine if it aligns with your adoptive goals.
As a prospective birth parent, you are in control of the type of relationship you have with the adoptive parents and your baby. Before making any decisions, you will want to fully understand the different levels of open, semi open and closed adoption and how they can relate to your specific adoption situation.
What are Open, Semi-Open and Closed Adoption?
Before we can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of open adoption, we need to explain the differences in the various types of adoption relationships.
Although there is no specific definition of an open adoption, it is best described as a continued relationship with the adoptive family and baby after placement has occurred. The level of mutually agreed upon “openness” can vary from updates via email, letters and photos, to phone calls, in-person visits and more. Open adoptions allow the birth parents the opportunity to remain informed and potentially directly involved in their baby’s life.
Semi-open adoption shares the same principal of open adoption, but generally has increased restrictions on interaction and the frequency or type of updates birth parents may receive. Much like open adoption, the amount of openness and communication will be established during the adoption plan and agreed upon prior to placement. In some situations, there is no direct contact or communication between the birth parents and the child and all updates are from the adoptive family, often mediated by a third party, like an adoption agency.
Although open and semi-open adoptions are becoming increasingly more common, there are still some birth parents and adoptive families who prefer to have a closed adoption. Closed adoption means there is no communication or contact between the two parties after placement has occurred.
To help you consider your options, we have compiled some of the most common pros and cons of open adoption that you may or may not have considered.
Benefits of open adoption
One of the most common concerns prospective birth parents face when considering adoption for their baby is not knowing if they will ever see their baby again. Deciding to pursue an open adoption will put an end that concern, as it guarantees you will at minimum, receive updates from the adoptive family about your baby. This is just one of the numerous benefits of open adoption. Some others include:
- Having a relationship with the adoptive family and your child, allowing you to remain involved in their life as they continue to grow.
- Various types of updates and interactions throughout your child’s life.
- Availability to answer any questions that may occur about medical or family history from either the adoptive family or your child.
- Continuous contact with the adoptive family will ensure you that your child is being taken care of and loved to the fullest.
- Easier to explain the adoption to your child as opposed to them attempting to find out through the difficult process of search and reunion or opening their adoption records when they get older.
- Open adoption helps ease the emotions and grief involved with the adoption process, specifically placement.
Many prospective birth parents share the same sense of doubt that they are making the right decision when choosing adoption or the adoptive family to place their child with. Open adoption not only allows you to get to know the adoptive family on a deeper level, it also gives you the opportunity to have a relationship with them throughout the course of your child's life.
During your adoption plan, you will work with your adoption specialist to determine your preferred adoption outcome and discuss the level of openness you hope to have after placement. This will help narrow down the candidates as you search for the adoptive family that is perfect for your baby.
You are in complete control of the level of communication or contact that you wish to occur.
This can range from brief updates, to in-person visits, to nothing at all. Whatever your preferences are, your adoption specialist will provide you with the chance to review adoptive profiles from families who share similar interest. These are just some of the benefits of open adoption.
The pros and cons of open adoption will vary during each individual adoption situation. If you are hoping to stay up to date in your child’s life, or to be by their side as part of their support system, talk to your adoption professional about how an open adoption may be right for you.
Disadvantages of Open Adoption
Although we listed many different benefits of open adoption, we realize it may not be the right path for everyone, and we support those prospective birth mothers who wish to pursue a closed adoption.
Just as the advantages of open adoption are different for each adoption situation, the disadvantages will be unique as well. You may want to consider the following disadvantages of open adoption before making any decisions.
- Some women consider the emotional toll too high if they were to remain in contact with the adoptive family and their child; these women may prefer a closed adoption and feel that this arrangement makes it easier for them to move forward after placement.
- Failure from either the birth parents or the adoptive family to meet the expectations set in place prior to placement can lead to tension in the relationship.
- Sharing personal information with the adoptive family or your child can create privacy issues and a potential lack of boundaries if everyone does not clearly communicate their expectations.
- Oftentimes, women prefer to find a sense of closure when it comes to adoption and fear this will not occur if they are involved in an open adoption.
- With open adoption, some women may worry that there is a risk of becoming attached and potentially regretting the decision to place their baby for adoption. However, most women find reassurance seeing their child growing up happy and loved.
With open adoption being based around communication, planning and a mutual agreement between the adoptive family and birth parents, failing to reach a common ground can lead to open adoption problems. This, as well as the fear of the adoptive family and birth parents potentially not seeing eye-to-eye or having different personalities, also contributes to the disadvantages of open adoption.
We need to reiterate the fact that you are in control of how much communication or contact you want to have with the adoptive family and your child after placement occurs. Your adoption specialist will be able to answer any questions or talk you through any concerns you may have about the potential cons of open adoption.
Common Questions About Open and Closed Adoption
We have listed several different advantages and disadvantages of open adoption, but there are still other thoughts to consider before making a decision on what is best for your situation.
- If I do not choose to have an open adoption, can I change my mind later? - Technically, the answer is yes, but it is not that simple. When your adoption specialist helps you search for adoptive families, they filter families that have similar adoptive goals as you do. If you initially are not wanting to have an open adoption, you will be looking for families who prefer a closed adoption as well. Changing your mind after placement may cause confusion and frustration for the adoptive family, or they may simply decline the option all together. So, although it is possible, it can be very difficult to do so.
The same can be said about choosing an open adoption, but wanting to change to a closed. Although it is possible, it means you are going against your initial agreement and potentially causing confusion and concern for the adoptive family and your child.
- What if I don’t want a fully open nor closed adoption? - If you’re looking to share only a small amount of information about yourself, but still remain in your child’s life, there is a great option for you — a semi-open adoption. With this option, an adoption professional can help you mediate your pictures and letters agreement, contact with the adoptive family, and so much more.
- If I do not choose open adoption, can my child find me later in life? – In this day and age, with the technology and social media available, odds are, if your child wants to find you, they will be able to. A closed adoption makes it harder for them to do so and protects you to a certain extent, but, if the adoptive family or your child wants to find you, this is still a possibility.
- What if I choose open adoption, but am unable to handle it? —This is a common and reasonable concern. The best answer is that we encourage you to be honest with yourself and the adoptive family. There are many unknowns with open adoption, so it is constantly a learning process. Certain things may trigger different emotions, and there will be likes and dislikes throughout. Keeping an open line of communication with the adoptive family will help you express your thoughts and concerns as you proceed through the journey.
It’s important to think about your options and to weigh all of the pros and cons of an open adoption before you decide which type of adoption is best for you. If you need help, you can always contact us to speak with an expert who will be available to answer any questions you may have.