Cons of Each Type of Adoption for the Involved Parties

Confidential Adoptions Mediated (Semi-Open) Open Adoptions

No contact between birth and adoptive families. No identifying information is provided.

Only nonidentifying information (e.g., height, hair color, medical history, etc.) is provided through a third party (e.g., agency or attorney).

Nonidentifying contact is made (via cards, letters, pictures) through a third party (e.g., agency or attorney).

Direct interaction between birth and adoptive families. Identities are known.

Birth Parents

Less grief resolution due to lack of information about the child’s well-being.

May encourage denial of fact that child was born and placed with another family.

Loss of potential for direct relationship with adoptive family (and/or child).

Increased grief in the initial years, less later.

Loss of contact if intermediary changes or leaves (i.e., staff turnover, policy changes, or agency closings).

Birth mother may feel obligated to place child due to the emotional or financial support given by the prospective adoptive parents.

Full responsibility for setting relationship limits and boundaries.

Potential abuse of trust (fewer safeguards).

Potential disappointment if adoptive family cannot meet all expectations or needs.

Birth mother may feel obligated to place child due to the emotional or financial support given by the prospective adoptive parents.

Adoptive Parents

Allows for denial of "adopted family" or fertility status.

Increased fear, less empathy for birth parents.

No access to additional medical information about birth family.

Less control: agency controls information.

Loss of the full relationship with the birth parents.

Lack of ability to have questions answered immediately.

Potentially troubling cards, letters, or pictures.

Full responsibility for setting relationship limits and boundaries.

Potential pressure: accept openness or no child.

Potential difficulty with emotionally disturbed birth parents.

Potential for supporting both child and birth parents (emotionally).

Adopted Persons

Possible adolescent identity confusion (unable to compare physical and emotional traits to their birth families).

Limited access to information that others take for granted.

Potential preoccupation with adoption issues.

Similar to confidential adoptions, if information not shared with the adoptee.

Potential perception that it is unsafe to interact with birth family directly.

No clean break for assimilation into family, which some feel is necessary.

Potential feelings of rejection if contact stops.

Difficulty explaining the relationship to peers.

Potential for playing families against each other.

From the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

SOURCE: FindLaw

Open or Closed Adoption: Pros of Each

Confidential Adoptions Mediated (Semi-Open) Open Adoptions

No contact between birth and adoptive families. No identifying information is provided.

Only nonidentifying information (e.g., height, hair color, medical history, etc.) is provided through a third party (e.g., agency or attorney).

Nonidentifying contact is made (via cards, letters, pictures) through a third party (e.g., agency or attorney).

Direct interaction between birth and adoptive families. Identities are known.

Birth Parents

Provides real choice for birth parents when compared to open adoption.

Privacy.

Some feel this provides a sense of closure and ability to move on with life.

Allows for some information transfer between birth and adoptive parents (and perhaps the child).

Some privacy.

Increased ability to deal with grief and loss.

Comfort in knowing child’s well-being.

Sense of control over decision-making in placement.

Potential for more fully defined role in child’s life.

Potential to develop a healthy relationship with the child as he or she grows.

Less pain and guilt about the decision.

May make the decision to place for adoption easier (compared to a contested termination of parental rights trial).

Adoptive Parents

No need to physically share the child with birth parents.

No danger of birth parent interference or co-parenting.

Greater sense of control over process.

Roles may be more clearly defined than in either confidential or open options.

Increased sense of entitlement compared to confidential adoptions.

Enhanced ability to answer child’s questions about his or her history.

Increased sense of having the "right" to parent and increased ability for confident parenting.

Potential for authentic relationship with the birth family.

More understanding of children’s history.

Increased empathy for birth parents.

Less fear of birth parents reclaiming child because they know the parent and their wishes.

Delight of being "chosen" as a parent.

Adopted Persons

Protection from unstable or emotionally disturbed birth parents.

Only true when relationship is "shared" with the adopted child

Genetic and birth history known.

Birthparents are "real" not "fantasy."

Positive adjustment is promoted in adoptee.

Direct access to birth parents and history.

Need to search is eliminated.

Identity questions are answered (Who do I look like? Why was I placed?).

Eases feelings of abandonment.

Lessening of fantasies: birth parents are "real."

Increased circle of supportive adults.

Increased attachment to adoptive family (especially if the birth parents support the placement).

Preservation of connections (e.g., with siblings, relatives).

Lessens loyalty conflicts (according to recent research).

Exposure to racial and ethnic heritage.

Ability for evolving, dynamic, and developmentally appropriate account of the adoption.

From the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

SOURCE: FindLaw

Openness in Adoption: Fact Sheet

Open, or fully disclosed, adoptions allow adoptive parents, and often the adopted child, to interact directly with birth parents. Family members interact in ways that feel most comfortable to them. Communication may include letters, e-mails, telephone calls, or visits. The frequency of contact is negotiated and can range from every few years to several times a month or more. Contact often changes as a child grows and has more questions about his or her adoption or as families’ needs change. It is important to note that even in an open adoption, the legal relationship between a birth parent and child is severed. The adoptive parents are the legal parents of an adopted child.

The goals of open adoption are:

  • To minimize the child’s loss of relationships.
  • To maintain and celebrate the adopted child’s connections with all the important people in his or her life.
  • To allow the child to resolve losses with truth, rather than the fantasy adopted children often create when no information or contact with their birth family is available.

Is Open Adoption Right for Your Family?

Open adoption is just one of several openness options available to families, ranging from confidential, to semi-open (or mediated), to fully open adoption. In semi-open or mediated adoptions, contact between birth and adoptive families is made through a mediator (e.g., an agency caseworker or attorney) rather than directly. In confidential adoptions no contact takes place and no identifying information is exchanged.

Making an open adoption work requires flexibility and a commitment to ongoing relationships, despite their ups and downs. While this type of adoption is not right for every family, open adoption can work well if everyone wants it and if there is good communication, flexibility, commitment to the process, respect for all parties involved, and commitment to the child’s needs above all.

What Questions Should Your Family Consider in Open Adoption

In open adoptions, families need to consider when and how much to tell a child about his or her birth family, and then if and how to involve him or her in that relationship. An adoption professional can help you address some of these issues. Some of the questions you may want to consider include:

  • At what age should a child be included in contact with his or her birth family?
  • What happens if one party decides to break off all contact?
  • What will the birth parents’ role be in the child’s life?
  • How will your child explain his or her relationship with birth relatives to his or her peers?
  • How will you handle other adopted siblings who have different levels of openness in their adoptions?

From the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

SOURCE: FindLaw

Open vs. Closed Adoption

Decades ago, virtually all adoptions were closed. A closed adoption means that there is no contact whatsoever between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and child after the adoption takes place. In fact, there may be no contact before the adoption.But nowadays, the trend in adoptions in the United States is toward open adoptions, in which all the parties to an adoption meet and often remain in each other’s lives.

Closed Adoptions

Closed adoptions are rare, but were the norm in adoptions in the past, when families usually used an agency to adopt a newborn. The prospective adoptive family would put their name on a list, and wait for the social worker to make a match. The adoptive parents didn’t know where the child came from, or who his or her birthparents were. The child might not have even known that he or she came into the family through adoption. When adoptions are closed, the files are usually physically sealed. Even if the adoptive parents and birthparents know of each other at the time of the adoption, they do not stay in touch after the adoption takes place. The child often will not know who his or her birthparents are, especially before turning 18. Closed adoption continues to be common in international adoptions.

Open Adoptions

Increasingly common nowadays is the "open" adoption process, in which the adoptive parents actually meet and usually stay in touch with the birthparents. Most adoption agencies now encourage some degree of openness. As a general matter, these days the birthparents have a voice in choosing their child’s adoptive parents. Commonly, the agency gives the birthparents biographies of prospective adoptive parents, and the birthparents pick the family they are most comfortable with. The birthparents and adoptive parents meet, and might be in touch frequently during the pregnancy. Many times the adoptive parents are able to witness their child’s birth. Some families stay in touch through their adoption agency, especially on birthdays and holidays. Others become and remain friends.

Open Adoption Pros and Cons

For both birth parents and adoptive parents, the open adoption process can remove the mystery from the adoption process, and can permit a greater degree of control in the decision-making process. The open adoption process also allows adoptive parents to better answer their children’s questions about who their birthparents were, and why they were adopted. Open adoptions can also help the child come to terms with being adopted, because the child’s concerns can be addressed directly by everyone who was involved in the adoption process.

There can be downsides to open adoption. Many adoptive parents find the degree of openness to be a threat, fearing that the birthparents will intrude upon their lives after the adoption is over, or even seek to have the child returned to them. Adoptive parent may worry that the child will be confused over who his or her "real" parents are.

SOURCE: FindLaw

One child, four parents

Looking at supermarket tabloids, it seems like celebrities pick up an adopted child as easily as we grab a bag of groceries. But it’s not so simple for the nonfamous to add another member to our families.

Stricter laws governing adoptions from places like China and Romania are sending families who want to adopt back to the U.S., where birth parents play an important — and increasingly vocal — role.

A growing number of adoptions in the United States are open, meaning biological parents help choose adoptive parents and negotiate how much involvement they will have in the kids’ lives. A generation ago, virtually all adoptions in the United States were closed — and often kept secret from the adoptive children. Now, most adoptions are at least semi-open, with parents having some information about each other, and many seeing each other at family holidays.

Adoption experts say a degree of openness is good for both children and parents. When open adoption works, it can be a positive and loving experiment in collaborative parenting. When it doesn’t, it can be heartbreaking.

The relationships between birth parents and adoptive families can be extremely difficult, as both the birth parents and adoptive parents can struggle with jealousy, anger and disappointment.

At age 19, Kateri McCann gave up her daughter, Elizabeth, for adoption. She sought an open adoption — one that would allow her to have a relationship with her daughter but still give her all the things McCann couldn’t provide like a house in the suburbs and private school.

Nine years later, she is still working through her feelings of grief and betrayal. Hear from McCann and others in this asap podcast.

SOURCE: AJC.com