In keeping with our promise to post on “preliminary decisions” of the adoption process, I’d like to introduce the concept of “openness.” At some point during the adoption process, a family will have to choose the amount of contact and information exchange they would like to have between birth family and adoptive family. It may be helpful to resolve feelings on openness early in order to find a match that is right.

Until recently, most adoptions were kept “closed,” which means no identifying information was provided between families. Many feel this has caused difficulty for those on all sides of adoption. Birth mothers may not have been extended a choice for contact with or information about her baby. Adoptees may have experienced restricted access to their own person information held by others. Adoptive parents missed the experience of seeing their child touched by more openness. But, now, open adoption presents the opportunity to handle adoption relations differently.
The concept of openness might be met with some discomfort in the beginning. Birth mothers may initially feel that contact may be too painful, disruptive, or otherwise difficult. Adoptive parents may initially fear the influence of birth parents as they hope to build a cohesive family. However, some recent stories reflect decisions made in the interest of the child and have been positively touched by openness.

Arranging the level of openness is not an “either / or” question. A minimal amount of openness might include the exchange of names, photographs, or descriptions that allow the birth parents to choose the adoptive families and vice versa. The greatest level of openness may include established relationships and ongoing contact of birth parents in the life of the child to some extent. Between these two extremes lies a spectrum of possibilities. Adoption agencies offer support in matching families with similar wishes and may help facilitate an arrangement that is enriching for adoptive parents, birth parents, and child.