What Does an Open Adoption Mean?

Open Adoption

If you’re pregnant and looking at your options or considering adopting a child, you may have heard the term “open adoption” and wonder what that means. Let’s explore what open adoption is—and isn’t.

Open Adoption: Shining a Light and Making Connections

For many of us, the word “adoption” conjures up the idea of a dark, mysterious process. For many adoptees who grew up in even the most loving families, there was a sense of disconnection: a piece of their origin story shrouded in mystery.

So, what does an open adoption mean? It means making connections and giving adoptees the opportunity to fully know who they are.

How Open Adoption Works

In a fully open adoption, both the birth mother and adoptive family have identifying information about each other. When an open adoption occurs through an ethical agency, the mother is allowed to choose her child’s adoptive family from the agency’s book of pre-screened families.

The birth mother (and possibly other family members) and adoptive family meet and have direct contact with each other. This may start prior to the child’s birth and continue throughout the adopted child’s life.

In an open adoption, the birth mother chooses how much contact she wants with the adoptive family after her child is placed. Some birth parents play a vital role in the child’s life, while others choose limited or no contact.

The birth and adoption records are open, giving the adoptee and their family important access to family history, should there be a need for genetic or health information.

Things to Consider When Considering Adoption

There are valid reasons why a birth mother may choose a closed adoption over an open one. She may be escaping an abusive relationship or requires privacy for other reasons.

But an open adoption is most often the healthiest choice for the birth mother/family, the child, and the adoptive family.

For the Child: A Sense of Wholeness

No matter how secure and loving their home is, an adopted child often struggles with questions about their birth parents and why they were “given up” for adoption. An open adoption provides an essential link for the adopted child to their family of origin. Besides family medical history, they can have a better understanding of their ethnic origin and culture.

For the Birth Mother: Peace of Mind

When a birth mother can’t parent their child, an open adoption is a loving choice that can give her peace of mind. She has a voice in her child’s future, choosing a family that shares her values and hopes for her baby. And when a birth mother works with an ethical agency, she has access to ongoing emotional support after her child is placed.

For Adoptive Families: Connection

When you’ve made a choice to open your heart to a child through open adoption, you create connections that will enrich your adopted child’s life as well as your own.

And you have the peace of mind knowing a birth mother made the loving decision to trust your family with her child’s lifelong wellbeing.

Open Adoption: A Win-Win-Win Option

If you’ve made the decision to place your baby for adoption, or if you’re a hopeful family ready to welcome a child to your home, an open adoption is a healthy, loving option, and talking with your local adoption agency is a wonderful first step. It creates a connection between families and gives the adopted child a loving, supportive home and an important link to their full family history and culture.


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