What is Open Adoption Like for Adoptive Parents?

For decades, adoption was a secretive process in which many children were placed with new families who were given little to no information about their birth parents and personal background. As these children grew up, questions about their personal identity and history went unanswered. Meanwhile, the parents who placed their children for adoption were always left wondering how their children were really faring.

Fortunately, the growth of open adoption within the last few decades has brought about a more celebrated, honest adoption process where all members of the adoption triad can feel comfortable, have their questions answered, and even be in contact during and after the adoption process.

Every open adoption in California is different, just like every adoption itself. The availability of an open adoption will vary based on the type of adoption being completed, and prospective adoptive parents should take this into account when selecting the adoption process that’s right for them.

Our professionals at FCCA can explain what open adoption is like in our different adoption programs. We will take into account your strengths and need to help you find your best family-building path. You can always contact our offices for more detailed information; meanwhile, in this article, we’ve provided some basics of what an open adoption may look like in different adoption situations.

First: What is Open Adoption?

Open adoption, at its simplest, is any communication between adoptive parents and birth parents during any part of the adoption process. What an open adoption looks like will vary based on the preferences of the people involved, but it can include:

As a prospective adoptive parent, it’s important to consider what kind of open adoption communication you’re comfortable with moving forward — as it will impact the adoption process you wish to pursue. Open adoptions are more common in certain types of adoption than others (see below). Your adoption professionals should inform you of what to expect before you commit to any given adoption process.

You may have also heard of the term semi-open” adoption. This is just a variation of open adoption, typically involving contact between birth parents and adoptive parents that is mediated by their adoption professional, rather than completed directly. To say it another way, semi-open adoption falls somewhere in the middle of a completely open adoption, with direct access and in person contact, and a closed adoption with no contact or communication at all. However, remember that there is no singular open adoption definition — the definition and terms depend on the individuals participating in each case.

Open adoption in California will look different based on which FCCA adoption process you choose to pursue:

Private Domestic Infant Adoption

Open adoption is perhaps most common in private infant adoption. Because the mother is voluntarily placing her child for adoption, the promise of future contact is a significant motivation to go through with the adoption placement. Every prospective birth mother has the right to choose an open adoption based on her preferences, so if you choose to adopt an infant in this manner, you can usually expect some sort of open adoption requirements if you want the birth mother to select your family for placement.

Occasionally prospective birth mothers want a completely closed adoption, and some want a completely open one. Most others fall somewhere in between. It’s important that you are matched with a prospective birth mother that has the same open adoption preferences as you. A good adoption agency such as FCCA can help you find an adoption opportunity. Our adoption professionals will assist the parties with reaching an open adoption agreement, and will also mediate contact between you and your child’s birth mother, if desired.

Why is open adoption so common in private infant adoptions today? As mentioned, this future contact is a huge motivation for women making the decision to place their children for adoption, because they’ll receive reassurance that their child is growing up happy and healthy. It’s also equally important for the adoptee and adoptive parents, because open adoption allows you to receive important medical history and answers to your child’s questions as the child grows up and develops an identity as an adoptee. Open adoption provides many benefits for those who complete an infant adoption, which is why the majority of adoptions completed today have some degree of openness.

If you’re excited about and ready for future contact with your child’s birth parents, a private infant adoption is likely the right path for you. There are many positive open adoption stories you can find to help you visualize what your open adoption may look like.

Foster Care Adoption

Open adoption is less common in foster care adoption, although not impossible. Children who are adopted from foster care have likely experienced trauma in their childhood, and some of that trauma may be related to memories of their birth parents. When foster children are adopted by new parents, therefore, the court may forbid contact with their birth parents as a matter of safety and well-being.

When you adopt a child from foster care, it’s highly likely that you will not have to manage future contact and relationships with your child’s birth parents (that’s usually reserved for foster parents working on reunification plans). However, every adoption situation is different, and some foster children will benefit from continuing relationships with some healthy and safe birth family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or most commonly, birth siblings who are placed in other homes. Your adoption professional will inform you of these situations as you’re finding a child to adopt, as well as what you may expect from an open adoption of this kind.

International Adoption

Open adoptions are very rare in international adoptions. Most internationally adopted children are orphans or have been abandoned because of special needs, whether medical or developmental. Even healthy children available to be adopted internationally are often placed in an orphanage with little background information or history.

It’s this lack of information that makes open adoptions all but impossible in international adoptions. In most cases, when you adopt a child from another country, you will receive very little medical history or other background information about the child’s life prior to the orphanage. Children adopted from other countries often don’t know their birth parents’ identities, and thus do not have contact with them as they grow up. This can cause certain challenges for an adoptee as the child develops a personal identity; adoptive parents must be willing to be sensitive to these issues and empathetic with the child’s feelings of not knowing his or her family origins.

Your international child-placing agency can tell you more about the post-adoption birth family contact that might be available when adopting a child from another country. If you are interested in adopting a special needs from Hong Kong, our FCCA professionals can describe our direct placement program in more detail.

Is Open Adoption Right for You?

Open adoption and communication with your child’s birth parents can seem intimidating at the beginning of the process, but know that thousands of families have successfully completed open adoptions in California and throughout the U.S. for years. With the proper preparation, understanding and coordination, you too can have a successful open adoption.

To learn more about open adoption, we encourage you to speak to our adoption professionals. As part of FCCA’s education process, we will connect you with other adoptive families who have experienced the type of adoption you are considering. Remember, you will always have the ability to choose what you’re most comfortable with, and a thorough understanding of the process is the first step towards making the best choices for your family.