What is an Open Adoption? Advantages of Open Adoption

Open adoption is one of the most common types of adoption today. If you are considering adoption, you may be wondering what is an open adoption?

Open adoption is defined as adoption in which both the birth parents and the adoptive parents share contact information to a level at which they feel comfortable. Continued contact after the adoption is common, and only to a degree that all parties involved consent and feel respected.

Open adoption can mean different things to different people. This is because open adoptions leave room for flexibility for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

The openness of adoption is only to a level in which both parties feel comfortable, so each open adoption is customized to fit everyone’s degree of comfort.

Let’s take a look at some common aspects of open adoptions that are often asked by prospective adoptive parents considering adoption.

Father and teen son sitting on the ground outside of a tent reading something.

How Does Open Adoption Work?

If you are researching open adoption, then you will be asking yourself how does open adoption work?

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. Contrary to a closed adoption, open adoptions take the secrecy and curiosity out of the adoption process.

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.

What Are the Benefits of Open Adoption?

Most adoptions today are open, and there are proven benefits of this type of adoption. What are the benefits of open adoption?

1. Birth parents choose the adoptive parents
2. More closure knowing the child is doing well
3. Photo exchanges and updates are optional
4. Personally chosen by birth mother
5. Adoptive parents are in control of contact
6. Apt to know child’s medical history
7. Child won’t obsess about who birth parents are
8. Child will know the adoption was done out of love
9. The child has the option to contact the birth parents

With so many advantages of open adoption, it is no wonder that closed adoptions have become a thing of the past.

There are so many people who still to this day do not know who their birth parents are, and many do not have access to that information.

Birth Parents – Possible Benefits of Open Adoption

Birth parents get to choose who the adoptive parents of 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 birthing 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 have an opportunity to receive photos of the child while growing up, as well as even possibly meet with the adoptive family.

Adoptive Parents – Possible Benefits of Open Adoption

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.

Adopted Child – Possible Benefits of Open Adoption

One of the biggest pros of open adoption for the adopted child is having the opportunity to not only know they were adopted but 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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What Are the Disadvantages of Open Adoption?

As with everything in life, nothing is perfect. Some may consider there to be disadvantages of open adoption. So, what are the disadvantages of open adoption?

1. Birth mothers have less anonymity
2. Less of a sense of closure for birth parents
3. Contact may feel like an obligation
4. Natural fear of child and birth parents bonding
5. Boundaries may be pushed to uncomfortable levels
6. A child may feel confused juggling two families
7. Awkward for child explaining family to friends
8. A child may have identity confusion
9. A child may play both sets of parents against each other

These possible disadvantages are all subjective and mean different things to different people. One disadvantage could be viewed as an advantage to others.

Despite any perceived disadvantages, open adoption also has a multitude of benefits that may far outweigh any possible disadvantages.

Birth Parents: Possible Disadvantages of Open Adoption

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. Not everyone may feel comfortable providing this information.

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.

As a side note, an adoptive parent must also be emotionally prepared, too, that a birth mother may change her mind about the adoption altogether, even down to the very last minute.

Adoptive Parents: Possible Disadvantages of Open Adoption

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 obsess about 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.

Adopted Child: Possible Disadvantages of Open Adoption

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 the confusion of 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.

Open Adoption vs Closed Adoption

Many years ago, closed adoptions were the only type of adoption there was. Today, adoptions have evolved and are mostly all open adoptions. What is an open adoption vs. a closed adoption?

A closed adoption is defined as an adoption where no contact information is shared between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. Open adoption is defined as an adoption where contact information is shared, but only at a level at which both parties feel comfortable.

Open adoptions are more common today, where information is more easily accessible for the adoptee, the birth parents, and the adoptive parents. In the earlier days when closed adoptions were more common, many of those records were sealed.

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.

In the older era, adoptions were closed and information kept private, as adoption was often viewed as secretive and shameful.

Adopted children of closed adoptions may request unsealing of the adoption records, but this process is never easy. If you live in a state where they provide adoption records, then you will have a much easier time with your research.

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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.