I never knew anything about open adoption, or that it was even a possibility, until I saw the movie Juno. Juno is the story of a high school girl who becomes pregnant and gives up her baby for adoption. She finds the adoptive parents through a newspaper, and they offer to pay for all of the baby’s expenses and ask if she wants an open or closed adoption. Juno wants an old-fashioned closed adoption because she’s only 16 and doesn’t feel responsible enough to take care of a baby or feels that she should be part of its life.
According to child welfare you can have an open adoption, semi-open adoption, or a closed adoption:
- A fully open adoption occurs when both parents, adoptive and birth, contact one another and allow the child to have contact with the birth family with varying degrees of contact.
- A semi-open adoption has someone who the parents go through to communicate so there’s a sense of privacy between the two parties.
- A closed adoption is when the two parents don’t have any contact with one another and the child has no contact with their birth parents.
Open adoption is best according to child welfare, and it allows the birth parents to teach the child about family history and know their child is safe with the adoptive families.
A large benefit of open adoption for the child is knowing why they were placed for adoption. Being adopted comes with a lot of assumptions from other people mostly, the birth parents didn’t love them so they gave them up. That’s not the case in most situations, and it helps to know and have confidence in the birth parent’s decision to place a child for adoption.
Open adoption also helps with health records and possible concerns for the future of the child. Without the knowledge of genetic conditions or the likelihood of different diseases, the adoptive parents make a gamble on if a child will develop certain diseases. This may not be an issue for many adopting families, but it can make a large impact on a child’s life without any knowledge of it.
Both parents can benefit from open adoption because the birth parents can choose who will adopt their baby, they can see the child based off of the agreements, and they can have a greater support system after the child is born. The adoptive parents will have access to biological issues, a greater support system with the biological family, and they can discuss different issues with the biological parents so they are comfortable with they adoptive parents’ choices.
Before the birth mother makes any steps, she needs to make sure the father knows that she wants to place the child for adoption. Many agencies encourage the fathers to be involved, but if not they need his permission to place the baby for adoption. The birth parents may also feel shamed for placing their baby for adoption. It’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re trying to do what’s best for your baby. No matter the reason, it’s good to check out a family who will take care of your child and give them the understanding that they were adopted, there’s no shame in that for either them or you as the birth parent. What matters most is that the child is with a good family who loves them and can give them what they need.
After the birth occurs, the decisions made between the two families become final when the adoption papers are signed. The birth parents may not take back parenting rights, those are relinquished when the paperwork is signed. Before this though, the parents would have discussed any issues they had between visitation, parenting, or other concerns.
Another concern that people have had is whether or not the child will understand who the parental figures will be. Studies show that the child understands the difference between who parents them and who birthed them. The responsibility of clarifying roles is between the parents because they may not agree on different parenting techniques.
If the adoptive parents get a lawyer or go through an agency they need to make sure they do their research. The groups need to follow all protocol and ask many questions. The lawyer or agency needs to make sure initial meetings, the adoption plan, home meeting, and counseling are offered to anyone who needs it.
When the baby is born arrangements need to be made to decidewhether or not the adoptive parents will be in the room, where the child will go after the birth, and determine what kind of contact everyone will have after everything is signed and everyone leaves the hospital. Giving birth is one of the greatest miracles of life, and sometimes mothers want privacy, so she gets to determine whether or not the adoptive parents can be in the room. This can be stressful for the adoptive family, but it is up to the birth mother because it could potentially be important to be able to have alone time with the baby before the adoptive family can take the baby home.
After the baby is born it’s the birth parents decision to proceed with the adoption. The time limits for this decisiondiffer in every state. Parents can change their mind before they sign the documents during this time. If the birth parents still choose to place the baby for adoption, they and the adoptive parents can decide how much contact they want to have with the child. This is included in the legal paperwork, and the contact can change over time as the child ages or for different circumstances like moving homes.
The adoption process is long and can be stressful; there’s a lot of information to learn, and agencies like Adoption Choices will lead you through all of the necessary steps to help you and your family.
Paige Pakkebier is a writing intern with Adoption Choices. Bio to come.