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What is Open Adoption?
Open adoption occurs when the contact information of both the birth mother and potential adoptive parents is shared. No barriers are put up to prevent contact between the parties, either before the adoption is finalized, or afterwards.
Open adoptions may start out as semi-open adoption where the birth parents review anonymized profiles of adoptive parents, and then meet with a selected group of potential adoptive parents. Once a final choice of adoptive parents is made, both parties mutually decide to share contact information and to remain in contact after the adoption is finalized.
In the context of an open adoption, if the birth mother has not yet given birth, the adoptive parents may be invited to participate in preparations for labor and birth. Following the adoption, some form of regular contact is then established between the birth parent and the adoptive family.
The level of contact varies across families. For some, contact may occur in the form of regular e-mail or written letter updates with pictures only, with no in-person contact occurring between the child and birth mother until the child is older. For other families, the birth mother becomes almost a member of the new family and is invited to major gatherings and celebrations.
What is Semi-Open Adoption?
Semi-open adoptions occur when birth mothers are given some choice about which parents will have the opportunity to raise the child. In semi-open adoptions, birth mothers are presented with multiple profiles of potential adoptive families, and they can then choose which family they believe has the most to offer the child. Though profiles contain lots of descriptive information about each potential adoptive family, identifying information (e.g., last names, addresses, etc.) is not provided.
Personal contact between the birth mother and her chosen adoptive parents may or may not occur during the adoption process, depending largely on the preferences of the various parties. Some families choose to contact each another during the period leading up to the birth of the child, and some choose to remain more anonymous. In any event, contacts between the birth and adoptive parents stop following the final placement of the child with the adoptive parents.
What is Closed Adoption?
In contrast, closed adoptions occur when birth parents and adoptive parents have no contact with one another, never meeting and never gaining information about each other. The birth mother surrenders her child to an adoption agency and does not receive information about who adopts the child. All records identifying the birth parents are then sealed by the court. This information is not disclosed to the adoptive parents or to the adopted child, and there is no way for them to learn the identity of the birth mother. Only information about the birth mother’s medical history is shared with the adoptive family and child.
Up until recently, most adoptions were closed. However, this type of adoption has declined in popularity in recent years, largely because the majority of birth mothers now choose to have some say in determining who will ultimately raise the child.
Benefits of an Open Adoption in Houston
While most birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees are now able to keep in touch after placement, this wasn’t always the case. Until recently, the majority of adoptions were closed, meaning that birth parents and adoptive families received very little, if any, information about one another, and exchanged no contact after the adoption took place.
In most cases, these closed adoptions were detrimental to all parties, leading adoption experts to begin promoting more openness in adoption during the 1980s. Since then, open adoption has benefitted all members of the adoption triad in a number of ways:
- For Birth Parents: Whatever type of relationship you want to have with your child after placement, it can become a reality with open or semi-open adoption. Knowing that you can stay in touch with your child may help you feel a sense of closure and process difficult feelings in a healthier way. In addition, open adoption allows you to communicate with your child, explain your adoption decision and remind him or her of your love throughout the years.
- For Adoptive Families: Open adoption makes it easier for adoptive parents to answer their children’s questions and help them develop a positive view of adoption. In addition, these adoptive parents can obtain updated family medical information that could help keep their child safe and healthy in the future.
- For Adopted Children: In closed adoptions, many children have unanswered questions about their adoption stories and their birth parents. Open adoption can help fill this void and promote positive identity development and self-esteem.
There are many open adoption facts and open adoption stories illustrating that these relationships can be rewarding for everyone involved. However, open adoption is not for everyone. As a woman considering adoption, it is up to you to decide how you feel about open vs. closed adoption and to decide what type of relationship you are most comfortable with your circumstances.
Planning Post-Placement Contact with Open Adoption
Today, the vast majority of adoptions are considered “open.” But open adoption can mean many different things for different people. If you are an expectant mother considering adoption, it is important to have legal representation to ensure that your desires for your open adoption are documented and secured. Here, learn how Adoption Choices of Texas can help you create a post-placement contact plan and ensure your wishes for an open, semi-open, or closed adoption are respected long after placement.
The most important definition of open adoption is the one you decide you would like to use. What does open adoption mean to you? As you develop your adoption plan, consider the type and amount of contact you would like to have with your child and the adoptive parents after placement.
What is a post-placement contact agreement?
Once you have determined your desires for a post-placement relationship with the adoptive family, Adoption Choices of Texas can help you document your wishes in a post-adoption contact agreement.
Your post-adoption contact agreement will outline a plan for future communication with your child and the adoptive parents. If you are seeking more privacy, that will be confirmed in writing. If you want wider access for communication and visitation, that will also be included in the contract. When you and the adoptive parents sign the agreement, it becomes a legally enforceable document under Texas law.
While these agreements are permitted in Texas, they are not necessarily legally enforceable. However, it is still helpful to have a written document that explains each party’s expectations for the relationship. Even without a legally binding agreement, most adoptive parents will honor and respect their commitment to you in an open or semi-open adoption.
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