Every year in the United States, over 135,000 adoptions take place internationally and domestically through various avenues. While many of these adoptions also include Foster Care Adoptions, a significant amount are open domestic infant adoptions where the biological family remains involved in the child’s life in some form.
During the beginning of the 20th century, an evolution began to take place which started shifting the focus on open adoptions as compared to the often times traumatic closed adoptions as were well known throughout History, starting in the United States with the infamous “Orphan Trains.” Prior to the open adoption movement beginning in the 1980’s, closed adoptions were commonly practiced meaning infants, children and teens were privately adopted to families followed by sealed records and no access to information. While Adoption For My Child firmly believes in a mother’s right to choose the path that is best for her and her baby, we also encourage women to explore the concept of semi-open adoption in juxtaposition to closed adoptions so the open remains open to explore connecting later when she has had more time to process. We advise truly considering all options in an adoption plan before making any decision and to ponder a closed adoption having happened twenty years from now.
Over time, research has shown open adoptions contribute to less feelings of guilt following placement as birth mothers have the option to have a connection with their child throughout it’s upbringing, in addition to greater feelings of self-worth in first mothers when the open adoption experience is a positive one for both she and her child. Children who receive open emotional support surrounding the adoption feel a greater sense of identity and are better prepared for self-actualization when they are aware of their beginnings, where they came from, and are granted age appropriate honesty surrounding the decision for adoption. Adoptees feel a stronger sense of security from knowing their birth family loves and cares for them, verses the identity questions that arise from finding out later they were adopted. Open adoptions promote a healthier and more positive adoption experience for adoptive families, first families and adoptees alike.
According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute via a report released in 2012, 95% of agencies report giving the option for an open adoption, at least 95% of those adoptions are open on some level. Modern times have moved the industry further from closed adoptions.
Open adoptions are not necessarily what is always in the best interest of the mother or the child as each situation and mother has a unique story and set of needs. Sometimes relationships with birth parents can do more harm than good. In instances of addiction and mental illness, lifestyle and behavioral choices may be unsafe for the child to be exposed to. When biological parents are trapped in continual cycles of relapse, they may be unable to maintain a healthy relationship or respect boundaries put in place to protect the child’s well-being. Child psychologists agree that a child has been exposed to mental, sexual, physical or any other type of abuse to any degree, the child should never have to be exposed to the trauma associated with their abuser.
When it comes to contact changes, abiding by contracts, overcoming trust issues, and more; open adoption presents with its own challenges that must be addressed. These challenges are typically overcame by birth parents and adoptive parents by encouraging honest conversations within open communication, providing education for better understanding on an empathetic level, establishing written expectations as well as boundaries, and offering supportive services that center on the child as the core of the adoption journey. When situations arise that warrant a mediator, the help of a neutral third-party person can be beneficial in establishing modified stipulations that can be reshaped as the child and their needs change.
No matter the obstacles that arise later as time changes everyone’s situations, ultimately what is important is continually allowing space for the child’s needs to be the focal point of the entire adoption process as this is imperative for their growth and identity as an adoptee.