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Adoption has greatly evolved over the years. In the past, closed adoptions were pretty much the norm. A birth parent would place a child up for adoption and ties would, essentially, be severed. Through the years, this has left adoptees with many questions that will often go unanswered. Especially troubling can be the fact that adoptees in closed adoptions will have limited to no access to their family medical history. Because of some of the central issues that can be tied up in closed adoptions, more and more adoption advocates have been pushing for open adoption to become the norm. What, however, is an open adoption and what does it mean for all parties involved? We will talk more about that here.

What Is an Open Adoption?

This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to adoption. It is a good one too because it really goes to the heart of an adoption, to its very foundation. An open adoption is, in the most basic sense, is where the adoptive family and the birth family share identifying and contact information with each other either during the adoption proceeding, after the proceedings have wrapped up, or both.

The level of information sharing between the adoptive family and the birth family can vary depending on the preferences of the families, the adoptive family in particular. Identifying information that is shared may include both first and last names as well as the phone numbers and email addresses of the parties involved. Contact information may be provided before the adoption and include phone numbers, emails, and information and parameters on contact and visits.

As you can see, while an open adoption means that the adoptive family and the birth family will know each other, at some level. The details, however, can greatly vary and no two open adoptions will look the same. The level of disclosure and interaction between the adoptive family and the birth family will depend on comfort levels as well as preference levels. Oftentimes, prospective adoptive families and birth families will get to know each other prior to adoption proceedings. This can happen through a variety of correspondence methods. It may be limited to emails or phone calls, but sometimes the families get together to meet in person.

Once an adoption is finalized, the relationship between the birth family and adoptive family can proceed according to the terms of the open adoption. Perhaps the families want contact limited to phone or email, or simply just letters and picture exchanges. Other times, the families may be open to a wider scope of the post-adoption relationship. In setting forth the terms of the open adoption, the birth family and birth mother in particular, will guide the parameters. The birth mother may want to establish firm boundaries starting right from the birth of the child. The birth mother may want no interaction with the adoptive family at the hospital or she may want them in the room with her. After the birth, the birth family and the adoptive family will proceed in developing a relationship according to the pre-set terms of the adoption.

Any family matter can have its own unique set of complications and open adoptions are no different. There can be boundary issues that arise in an open adoption and there may be some unfounded expectations for how the relationship between the birth family and adoptive family will play out. The benefits of open adoption, however, can be vast. In an open adoption, the lingering unanswered questions confronted by so many adoptees can be answered. Furthermore, they have the ability to remain connected to their heritage, access to medical history, and a broader family circle than most.

Family Law Attorneys

Do you have adoption questions? Talk to the knowledgeable team at Navarrete & Schwartz can help. We a