Deciding Whether Open Adoption Is Right for Your Family
This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway
There is no one type of adoption or single arrangement that is right for everyone. Every adoption is unique and every family has its own set of circumstances. Important questions to consider and resources to help think through related issues are discussed below.
Questions to Consider
In exploring open adoption, it is important to thoroughly consider what is best for your child and family and to think not just about current needs and preferences but also those that may emerge in the future. For an adoption to be truly open, the relationship with the birth family must be shared with the adopted child. As such, an adoptive parent must consider how and when this relationship will be shared with the child or youth and how it may change as the child gets older.
Some of the questions that adoptive parents may want to consider include:
- What would contact between our family and our child’s birth family mean to our child?
- Do I want my child to know about his or her family background and related information?
- What forms of communication (letters, emails, videos, Facebook, phone calls, visits) am I comfortable with?
- At what age should our child be included in contact with his or her birth family?
- What role will our child’s birth parents (and/or other birth relatives) play in our child’s life?
- How will openness with one child’s birth family affect adopted siblings who have different levels of openness in their adoptions?
- How will we react if we choose a closed adoption and our child and birth parents later establish contact through social media or other avenues?
Resources to Help Explore Open Adoption
Adoptive parents can gain a better understanding of openness by:
- Talking with professionals who handle adoption
- Meeting with a counselor or therapist with knowledge and experience in open adoption (see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Selecting and Working With a Therapist Skilled in Adoption, available from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_therapist.pdf)
- Exploring the Internet, including websites that provide information and research as well as blogs that relay personal experiences (see the resource list on at the end of this factsheet)
- Reading articles and books about open adoption (see abstracts listed under Library Search, Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.gov/adoption/birth/for/connections.cfm)
Common Openness Fears and Myths (and What the Research Says)
Myth: Adopted children will become confused about who their “real parents” are and suffer identify issues. 6
Reality: Adopted children and youth are not confused about who their parents are. They understand the different roles adoptive and birth parents play in their lives. They recognize who gave them life and who cares for them on a daily basis. Open relationships and conversations about adoption often help strengthen the adopted youth’s sense of identity.
Myth: Birth parents will try to “reclaim” their children.
Reality: There is no evidence that birth mothers try to take back their children in an open adoption. In some studies, ongoing contact with birth parents has led to increased comfort levels and helped adoptive parents ease such fears. (It is important to remember that birth parents have terminated parental rights and can’t decide after several years to take back their children.)
Myth: Birth parents will interfere in the adoptive families’ lives, and parents will be confused about their rights and responsibilities.
Reality: Participants in open adoption are generally not confused about their parenting rights and responsibilities. In fact, some adoptive parents in open relationships report feeling a greater sense of entitlement to parent their adopted child.
Return to Adoption Parenting
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Openness in adoption: Building relationships between adoptive and birth families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.