Pros and Cons of Open Adoption: Things to Consider

Before you choose what type of adoption you want, you will first need to research your options. One may ask themselves, what are the pros and cons of open adoption?

A pro of open adoption could be that the birth mother and the adopted child can stay in touch if that is something all parties involved feel comfortable with. A con of an open adoption could be that birth parents may become a bit too comfortable with contact, in turn creating a boundary issue.

Open adoption is when an adoptive family and a birth family stay in contact for the benefit of the child. This, however, can present some challenges that go along with the possible benefits.

Before we dive into the pros and cons of open adoption, let’s first take a look at the differences between open and closed adoption. You may also be interested in reading What is Open Adoption: Advantages of Open Adoption.

Young parents outside with their very small child.

The Difference Between an Open and Closed Adoption

Nowadays, open adoptions are the norm due to the proven benefits to the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the adopted children. But before we get into the details of open adoption, it is important to understand the meaning of a closed adoption.

Closed adoptions used to be the norm when adoptions were more hush-hush. In a closed adoption, there is generally no contact between the adoptive parents and the birth parents.

Personal information about both the adoptive parents and the birth parents is also generally not shared.

There was a time when single-parent and teenage pregnancy was frowned upon. Unplanned pregnancies of this kind experienced enormous stigmas, and the attempts to hide them were great.

It was common for a pregnant woman or young girl to leave town to have her baby, and then return after the birth of the baby. Hiding this type of pregnancy was of utmost importance to even close family and friends.

Closed adoptions involved such in-depth secrecy, that birth parents would never know if their birth child was alright. There was no way to ever know what happened to the child they put up for adoption.

Adoptees would grow up to eventually learn they were adopted and would have a natural longing to know who their birth parents were. There was no way to know where they came from or how to get in touch with their birth families.

Even today with the change of times, adoptees from the older era who were children of a closed adoption have very difficult times accessing their adoption records.

Open adoptions are most common these days, but most of those closed adoption records from a while back remain closed today.

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It is estimated only about 5% of modern adoptions today are closed adoptions.

Contrary to a closed adoption, open adoptions take the secrecy and curiosity out of the adoption process. In an open adoption, birth parents do not have to wonder if the child they put up for adoption is okay, where they are, or how they are doing.

The adopted child does not have to wonder where they came from and who their biological parents are.

And the adoptive parents have the peace of mind knowing the open adoption they chose is benefiting all involved.

What do you do, though, if the idea of an open adoption makes you as the adoptive parent feel a bit uncomfortable? Maybe even a bit insecure?

To address these natural and very common concerns, we will take a look at the perceived pros and cons of open adoption.

Pros of Open Adoption for Birth Parents

  • Birth parents get to choose who the adoptive parents for the child are.
  • Having had the opportunity to meet with and interview the prospective adoptive parents, the birth parents end up feeling more comfortable knowing they chose whom their birth child will be raised.
  • Open adoptions allow birth parents more information and access to how their birth child is doing. This in turn can help the birth parents to find closure knowing their decision to seek adoption was met with a good outcome.
  • Depending on the mutual boundaries established by both the adoptive and birth parents, the birth parents may possibly have an opportunity to receive photos of the child while growing up, as well as even possibly meet up a time or two with the adoptive family.

A birth mother may naturally have a difficult time letting go of her baby, even when she knows it’s the right decision for her and her baby. But can a birth mother change her mind?

Pros of Open Adoption for Adoptive Parents

  • Knowing you were personally chosen by the birth mother to raise her child is a wonderful feeling for the adoptive parents and adds a level of self-confidence knowing they were perceived as desirable enough to be selected as the parents of the adopted child.
  • Even with open adoption, it is up to the adoptive parents to decide when to share with their child that they are adopted.

    Adoptive parents can feel confident knowing that because of the openness that can be shared with all involved, the child will not grow up secretly wondering who their birth parents are. As humans, we naturally want what we cannot or do not have.

    With all information about a child’s birth parents out in the open, the adoptive parents can feel more secure knowing that their adopted child will have no reason to secretly obsess about where they came from.
  • Adoptive parents are more apt to know the medical history of their adopted child, which is a tremendous advantage.

Pros of Open Adoption for the Adopted Child

  • One of the biggest pros of open adoption for the adopted child is having the opportunity to not only know they were adopted but do not have to wonder who their birth parents are.

    It is natural for an adopted child to wonder and even obsess about who their birth parents are. They may be wondering, what do my birth mom and dad look like?

    Do I have any biological siblings? Depending on the kind of open adoption that has been mutually agreed upon between both the adoptive parents and the birth parents, these natural curiosities can be things the adopted child knows upfront from the very beginning.
  • Being an adopted child in a closed adoption and not knowing why you were put up for adoption may cause unnecessary grief, sadness, and lead to low self-esteem.

    In open adoptions, there is no wonder and only the feeling of knowing the adoption was done out of love and in their best interest.
  • If the adopted child has any questions about their birth parents or their birth family, they know they are welcome to give their birth parents a call or send them a text or email.

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Cons of Open Adoption for Birth Parents

  • Depending on a birth parent’s level of comfort, open adoption may leave a birth mother feeling a bit exposed with less anonymity than what a closed adoption provides.

    An open adoption typically involves the exchange of information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and names.
  • Some birth parents wish to find some sense of closure after their adoption, yet an open adoption may prove to be a challenge in accomplishing that expectation.

    Perhaps in an open adoption, there can be ground rules set that respect those reservations.
  • There may be times when the adoptive parents help the birth mother financially and may expect things in return that make the birth mother feel uncomfortable.

    With this said, a birth mother should never feel obligated in any way to agree to anything that makes her uncomfortable.

Cons of Open Adoption for Adoptive Parents

  • There is always the natural fear that the birth parents and your adopted child will become very close making you feel like an outsider.

    What is worse, however, is when your adopted child does not know who their biological parents are.

    They then obsessed with finding and establishing a relationship with them. At least if your adopted child knows upfront who their biological parents are, there is no longing or obsession to find them.
  • Boundaries are a thing, and an open adoption stands the chance of creating a monster if there are no mutually established boundaries.

    What you do and do not feel comfortable with needs to be established from the very beginning.

    The adoptive parent’s feelings on what they are comfortable with may change as they begin to realize the threat they initially perceived is not as they once imagined.

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Cons of Open Adoption for the Adopted Child

  • Depending on the openness of the adoption agreement, the adopted child may experience challenges acclimating to one family or the other.

    The idea of open adoption is wonderful, yet having such an open experience may contribute to confusion about which family one truly belongs to.
  • An adopted child of open adoption may experience the awkwardness of having to explain his or her adoption status to friends.
  • Just like children play one parent against the other in traditional families, an adopted child may play his biological family against his adoptive family when it makes sense for them to do so.
  • There may be identity confusion as the child gets older regarding family history and his or her genealogy.
Trina Greenfield - Adoption Author

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.