Openness in Adoption: What It Means, How It Works

Adoptive parents are usually aware that these days most domestic infant adoptions have some degree of openness. According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute only 5% are closed adoptions, meanwhile 55% are open and the remaining 40% are mediated – meaning the birth and adoptive parents have contact, but communicate through an agency or lawyer.

When I talk to people who are considering international adoption or some other form of family building, what I most often hear from them is discomfort about birth parents. They don’t know what their relationship with their child’s birth family will look like, or they are concerned that the parents will want to take the child back.

When birth families are asked about why they want to have visits or see pictures, they say that they just want to know that the child is doing OK. Seeing you and the baby happy makes them happy and reinforces that they made a good decision. It can also ease the pain of the loss.

While it’s true that some birth families and adoptive families go on vacations together, or the birthmother babysits for the adoptive parents, those cases are VERY unusual. It’s more likely that the adoptive parents will send letters or pictures – by mail, email or secure website. Some birthparents and adoptive parents text each other. In-person visits once a year – or more – are nice ways to stay in touch if the families live near each other. One key to success is to establish patterns early in your relationship, so you make it a habit.

Regardless of what your open adoption looks like now, remember that it can evolve over time. And that is a normal part of the process.