Adoption Choices: Why Open?

Following up from my recent post on why we chose international adoption, today I’ll discuss why we chose open adoption.

When it comes to the amount of contact adoptive family will have with the birth mother/family, there is essentially one choice to be made.

Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption

Open adoptions mean that at the time of choosing placement the birth family and adoptive family both provide information regarding their medical history and their personalities.  We are matched by what we as the adoptive parents indicate for preferences.  The matching process is pretty simple – we select a bunch of criteria and build a profile book.  A data base (think dating website) matches birth mom’s and adoptive parents.  The birth mother chooses us based on our profile book and we in turn choose her back based on her medical profile. Hence, a “match” is made.

By the nature of being open, there is potential for contact between the adoptive parents (and the child) and the birth mother/family.  Although, contact is not guaranteed.  The birth family may not want contact beyond choosing who will raise the child. Or they may only want emails and pictures. Alternatively, they may want frequent visits. And to complicate things further, just as with any legal guardian/parent, an adoptive parent has the right to choose who their child will interact with. So the adoptive parents can say no to contact at any point should they want to.

Closed adoption means that the adoptive family does not have any information on the child’s family or child’s medical history.  And no ability to contact their family. Closed adoption seems to be the way of the past.  In my part of the world, there seems to be 2 ways to do a closed adoption. The first type of closed adoptions occur through the foster system where children have been removed from their families by the government usually due to a lack of care and/or safety. The second type of closed adoptions is the typical international adoption (as opposed to our international adoption from the USA).   I will be honest, I don’t know a lot about the foster system so I really cannot answer questions about the foster system. However; we do know that closed adoptions through the foster system are almost always older children. In addition these adoptions are often children from orphanages in countries in Asia, Africa, or Eastern Europe.

So, why did we decide to pursue an open adoption?

  1. The academic research on adoption is very clear that children in open adoption’s grow with less questions about who they are and where they came from, than those in closed adoption.  (Note, as we did the research over a year ago I don’t have anything to cite, but if anyone is really interested I can try to find it again). We decided that it was impossible to overlook the research.  At the end of the end of the day, a critical part of our decision to adopt was to raise a healthy child, and promoting a sense of understanding of who they are is critical to that their long term well being.
  2. We were not interested in knowingly signing up for the unknowns related to adopting from the foster system or from an orphanage with a more standard international adoption.  We really value the matching approach used in the open adoption system.   We want to know as much about our child’s heritage and where they came from, just as we hope the birth parents would want to know as much about who we are. We felt that being honest about our lifestyle, our abilities and our desires for our child and our lives, is the best approach to building our family. We also hope that through this system we will have a relationship with the birth mother/family, should she want it.

Simply, everything we read pointed towards open adoption as being best for our family.

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19 Comments on “Adoption Choices: Why Open?

  1. These are very clear thoughts — I love that you’re sharing the reasoning behind your adoption choices with us! My adult cousin (currently 28 years old) was an open adoptee as an infant, and it’s been very healthy for her, I think. She has a great relationship with her biological brother, a good relationship with her sister, and a complicated relationship with their biological mom. Growing up, she never had any confusion about who her “real” parents were, which is something that I think a lot of adoptive parents worry about. And maybe it’s not PC of me to say this, but I think that seeing how her dysfunctional birth family worked made her appreciate our slightly less dysfunctional family more — that’s not to say that she never had questions or feelings of loss, just that I think there were positive aspects to her knowing her birth family, because she never had to wonder who they were or why they gave her up for adoption. It’s good to read that the studies back up what I’ve always intuitively thought based on watching my cousin grow up, namely that open adoption is healthier for everyone involved.

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  2. Great post. This is on my list of things to blog about too! I remember being super nervous at the idea of open adoption at first but the stuff I read in research was very eye opening! Open adoption ftw!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Mrs.MPB! I don’t want to be “that” person but I wanted to respectfully make a couple corrections if I may. In an open adoption, whatever opened you agree to is enforceable by law. Be it pictures, letters, phone calls, and especially visits. This means that if your birth parents were to become involved in drugs or other non-wholesome activities, you are still legally bound to the openness in your agreement. There are a few states that don’t enforce it, but most expectant mothers will travel to a different state that DOES enforce the agreement to give birth. Is it crazy that you still would need to take your child to a mandatory visit with someone who may be tripping balls? Hell yes. But the only way to alter it is to retain a lawyer and force the issue in court. To be honest I don’t know how this applies legally after you go back home to Canada. I just don’t want you to get blindsided after you’re well into the process. The US takes open adoption agreements seriously and the agency you use will go after you if you don’t honor it. Even if it’s clearly in the very best interest of the child to NOT have contact at that time, you can’t make the call as the legal adoptive parents without legally changing the contract.

    The second part is I’m thrilled to tell you that in closed adoptions, while you obviously don’t know the identity of the birth parents you do get a complete and thorough medical history as well as detailed physical descriptions (hair/eye color, general origin of ethnicity even if baby is Caucasian, height/weight, etc. Basically everything you need to know to be able to answer the basic questions a child will have down the road. The agencies do this because it’s such valuable information and they can provide it without revealing the birth parents identity. That being said, in instances where a baby is surrendered under the safe haven law, or abandoned elsewhere, or things like that, of course there is no info because there are no parents present at the scene.

    I just wanted to share this with you because we also were pursuing an open adoption. But when we got the call, it was for a rare closed adoption. I was glad I had researched both.

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    • I appreciate your comment today. However, I will say that it’s different everywhere and clearly it is different between where you live and where I live. Because, there are no laws that enforce us to do anything with our open adoption. And even though we are adopting out of the USA, we wont have such agreements because of our international component of our adoption. Should we want to, we could never contact the birth parents again. That’s not at all what we want, but it is our right and our choice and adoptive parents in Canada.
      As for closed adoption, here the only way you can do one locally is through the government foster system and as I stated in my post, I don’t know a lot about them. To my knowledge there are no agencies local to me that do private closed adoption. But I do know from my brief research here, through the foster system, you don’t necessarily get any information about the bio parents or the child’s own medical history.
      I think with all things adoption, everything is different depending on your country and your state/province. I actually find it fascinating to learn about all the differences.

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      • wow…. it all seems to be thoroughly confusing and must take a hell of a lot of reading and understanding to come to a decision about open v closed. Every angle and every scenario has to be considered. Much kudos to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I also agree with the comments above, open adoption done well is an ideal situation for the baby. No mystery about your background, less chance of struggling with your identity. Plus a baby can never be loved by too many people!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m really loving these posts. Not only am I learning a lot, I think you’re clarifying how complex the adoption issue is. Of the many infuriating things folks say to infertile couples, the “just adopt” one always annoyed me. It isn’t like picking a baby up a K-Mart.

    Keep ’em coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love that you keep teaching us about the system through sharing how you came to your decisions. I admit I know nothing about adoption, except whatever I have seen in movies or on TV about it. I’m sure those things probably really aren’t accurate at all. So interesting to learn all the ins and outs of it!

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  7. Once again, I leaned so much! I didn’t realize there was such a range of offering within an open adoption. I naively thought that it meant continued communication whereas closed was no communication. Getting the family and medical info that comes with an open adoption also makes the most sense to me. At what point do you negotiate the contact terms? And do you have the right to change them once the adoption has legally passed? (I know that doesn’t sound nice but let’s say the Mom turns out to be a real crazy one)

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    • Yes, open vs. closed means so much more then what I first thought too! As for negotiating the contact terms – here that doesn’t really happen as a negotiation. Some places it’s an actual contract that can be enforced. What we will do is talk to BM and work with her. She may not want any contact. Or she may want lots. Of course, because we are going international, it’s pretty obvious that we wont see her weekly or even monthly. We are hoping for emails, pictures and visits every few years.
      And, as for if she’s a crazy we have full right to cut her out, just as you can remove your son from someone who is crazy. In every single way we will have the exact same rights and responsibilities as you do to your son. But again, that’s not always the case depending on where the adoption is happening.

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  8. This is such a tough decision to make and it’s so awesome that both you and the Mr. are on the same page. Callie and I really had to talk in depth about the pro’s and con’s of an open/closed adoption when it came to Mary. We know what is best for her, and what is best for our family, and those two things were very different. We decided that if/when her mother’s rights get terminated we will proceed with a closed adoption. It’s the age of technology and kids these days are a lot more tech savvy than we are! If and when she wants to find her mom, she will, but we don’t think it’s the best decision, now, in her adolescence to have her mom as an influence, considering the type of impact her mom’s behavior has had on Mary. But every situation is different. We also, don’t really get on well with her birth mom. We did have a placement where the child was reunified with her family and we STILL keep in touch with them. If that would have ever gone to adoption, there is no doubt it would have been an open one. But what a great way to look at it, and i’m certain they have loads of statistics on the benefits of open adoption…identity being one of them…good on you guys!

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  9. If you do find that research again,I’d be very interested. We’re doing egg donation and in our clinic both open and closed options are available. We didn’t choose,just said we’ll take whichever donor comes first. But we’re having second thoughts and struggling. (when was infertility NOT an endless struggle 😉)

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  10. I will say that not all international adoptions are closed as described. A common misconception is that the term “orphan” means both child’s parents are deceased, when often it’s either one parent deceased or that the parents just can no longer afford to care for their child and give the child up in hopes that another family will be able to provide a better life for it. In Ethiopia, the PAIR process has the investigators ensuring the child is legally adoptable which does not rely on the orphanage, but actually goes to those who gave the child up for adoption, whether it be a surviving parent or family. Often you can learn at least something about the child’s background and sometimes a family member will be in court at the same time during the proceedings. It just depends on the situation.

    As we are adopting from Ethiopia, we are very much hoping that we will be able to meet someone from our little girl’s family if they are open/willing not just to know them but, like you said, give them the chance to see that we are going to give her a good and loving home. 🙂

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