Open vs. Closed Adoption

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When it comes to having children, many people opt for adoption as their sole choice. However, there are various options to consider once the decision to pursue adoption is made. It is crucial for all parties involved in the process to possess a comprehensive understanding of the topic. Three primary types of adoptions exist: confidential, mediated, and fully disclosed adoptions. According to Koch (2009), “Around 90% of domestic infant adoptions involve adoptive parents maintaining some level of contact with birth parents. This practice is regarded as optimal because most birth mothers desire updates on the child’s well-being, and the child themselves wish to grasp their family history.”

Open adoptions are preferred over closed adoptions because they allow children to thrive and birth parents to cope better, even if adoptive parents don’t develop a strong bond with the child. Adoption is a legal process monitored by a judge that connects children with new parents. Adoptive parents acquire the same legal rights and responsibilities as birth parents when a child is adopted. Once accepted into the family, the child assumes emotional and social obligations like any other family member.

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During the adoption process, judges frequently use the term “as if born to” (Adoption Media, 1995-2010) to describe the relationship between child and parent. Before finalizing the adoption, a judge will consult with all parties involved to ensure everyone comprehends the upcoming procedure. This involves terminating the biological parents’ rights and granting full parental rights to the adoptive parents. Closed, semi-open, and open adoption are three widely recognized forms of adoption. In a closed adoption, there is no communication between the parties after the adoption.

This is the most traditional form of adoption known as closed adoption. It involves no sharing of identifying information about the birthparents or the adopted child and their new family.
Semi open adoption, on the other hand, includes some exchange of information between the birthparents and adoptive family, facilitated by a mediator like a social worker.
In contrast, open adoption involves full disclosure of all information, including setting up meetings, phone calls, exchanging letters and pictures between both birth and adoptive families.

The most traditional type of adoption is a closed adoption. However, open adoption is becoming more popular as a preferred alternative. A study was conducted with adoptive parents and birthmothers to examine their experiences with open adoption. The results of the study are shown in the following pie graph (Adoption Media, 1995-2010), indicating that parties involved in open adoption have generally had positive experiences.

Birthmothers have expressed a positive view of open adoption, and adoptive parents have recognized the importance of connecting with their child’s birth family when needed. Both birthparents and adoptive families aim to minimize any confusion for the adopted child. It is common for families to start with a closed adoption and then shift towards an open arrangement based on specific circumstances. Mark, an adoptive parent, describes this transition from closed to open adoption: “Initially, our adoption was closed, but it has now become an open one.”

When I first encountered Mary, who is the birth mother of my daughter Lynn, I was unaware of her actual identity or the possible bond we could share. My initial intention was to have a limited relationship in order to avoid any confusion for Lynn. As a result, we spent many years avoiding each other. My underlying concern was that if Lynn and Mary formed a connection, Lynn might end up loving Mary more than us, which I couldn’t bear to take a chance on. However, when Lynnie fell seriously ill and needed medical information, Mary exceeded our expectations by providing substantial support.

Mary possessed knowledge about the experiences of life and death within their family. She had an understanding of Lynn’s biological inheritance. Lynn may have been able to benefit from Mary’s knowledge, potentially saving her life. Mary did not feel disgust or discomfort towards Lynn’s vomit, smell, or blood. She had the strength to endure and assist with what was happening. As it turned out, Lynn had a rare blood disease that had previously affected their family. Eventually, I comprehended the deep connection between Mary and Lynn, without it taking away from our own family. This realization caused my emotions to unravel in a newfound way.

A sense of relaxation and trust has started to grow between Mary and me. It is evident that both of us have a strong love for Lynn, and her presence has become indispensable in our lives. Now, we can openly communicate about our aspirations for the future and recognize the pain from the past. I am profoundly thankful for Mary’s contribution in our lives. (Adoption Media, 1995-2010) Open adoption strives to decrease feelings of loss, pay tribute to the child’s previous family, and prevent any feeling of betrayal. Opting for closed adoption can result in negative consequences for both the child and the birth parents.

During the adoption process, various emotions are experienced by different parties involved. The adoptee may face identity confusion, as they are unable to compare physical traits with their birth family. Moreover, they may have limited access to information such as medical records that others take for granted, leading to a sense of abandonment. In a closed adoption, the birth parents may bear an overwhelming amount of guilt. Choosing an open adoption allows biological parents to have a continued desire to ensure the safety and happiness of their child, something they would not know in a closed adoption. The act of relinquishing a child for adoption profoundly impacts all aspects of a birthmother’s life (Purtuesi, 1995).

In an open adoption, birth parents have a more positive outlook on life. They experience a greater sense of control and contentment as they make a responsible decision regarding their child’s future instead of abandoning them. Although birth parents in both types of adoptions go through the stages of grief and loss, those in an open adoption tend to progress through them more rapidly. As a result, they generally exhibit higher levels of self-esteem and better mental health than birth parents in closed adoptions.

In an open adoption, adoptive parents maintain contact with the biological parents of their child, enabling them to develop a genuine understanding of the birth parents. This relationship fosters trust and understanding between both families. Conversely, in a closed adoption, adoptive parents may experience feelings of insecurity stemming from a constant fear that their children will be taken away. Such concerns are not present in an open adoption since the birth parents are accessible to reassure the adoptive parents that they are the true mother and father.

Open adoptions provide children with access to all the necessary information. Their biological and adoptive parents can answer their questions, allowing them to understand their origins and how they became a family. In contrast, closed adoptions only share minimal medical information, while open adoptions give children full access to their medical history and records. They generally do not feel unloved because they know that their biological parents chose adoption out of love for them, wanting them to have a better family. Open adoption helps foster a positive perspective on their origins and current family, preventing feelings of abandonment often seen in closed adoptions. Explaining the concepts of “birth mother” and “adoption” can be difficult for young children adopted through closed adoptions.

According to Silber (2008), when the adoptee is in an open adoption, explaining becomes easier because all parties are present. In this type of adoption, the child has concrete information and the birthmother is a concrete reality in their life. Some prospective adoptive parents may feel unsure or fearful about open adoption. Adoption Support and Consultation Services (2007) provides a chart that answers important questions birthparents might have, helping families choose the level of adoption that suits them best. Personal preference plays a crucial role in determining the degree of openness in adoption. It is essential for each individual to select the most suitable adoption option for themselves. Adoptive parents can experience reduced stress during the process through open adoption as both adoptive and birth parents can have better control by being involved. The primary concern for adoptive parents is having excessive openness in their adoption.

The adoptive parents have concerns that the birth parents may try to regain custody of the adoptee if they are too involved. Here are some facts about open adoption from the Child Welfare Information Gateway to address any misunderstandings related to open adoption:

  • Parties involved in open (fully disclosed) adoptions are clear about their parenting rights and responsibilities.
  • Birthmothers do not make efforts to “reclaim” their children.
  • Children in open (fully disclosed) adoptions know who their parents are and are not confused.

Adolescents understand the unique roles of both their adoptive and birth parents. The level of openness in the adoption process does not impact how adolescents identify themselves or how preoccupied they are with being adopted. Openness in adoption does not harm an adoptee’s self-esteem. Adoptive parents who have open adoptions do not feel like they lack control; instead, they feel a stronger sense of permanence in their relationship with their child. Open adoption does not hinder adoptive parents’ entitlement or perception of their right to parent their adopted child.

According to researchers at Hillside Family of Agencies (2003), birth mothers in open and ongoing mediated adoptions exhibit better grief resolution compared to those in closed adoptions. However, birth mothers in time-limited mediated adoptions, where contact had ceased, experienced more challenges in resolving grief during the initial interview of the study when the children were between 4 and 12 years old. It is worth noting that opting for an open adoption requires significant effort, adaptability, and a lifelong dedication; nevertheless, it also offers a sense of pride and reassurance.

Current research suggests that birth parents perceive open adoption as positive, while adoptive children in open adoptions possess a stronger sense of personal identity and elevated self-esteem compared to children in closed adoptions. The ultimate goal for the future is to eliminate the distinction between open and closed adoption, making openness the standard practice for all adoptions.

References: Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Adoptive family structure. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from Adoption Media (Ed.). (1995-2010). Adoption Statistics: Open Adoptions.

Retrieved March 07, 2010, from www. statistics. adoption. com Adoption Support and Consultation Services.

(2007). Types of Adoption. Retrieved March 07, 2010, from www. ascsadopt. org

Berry, M. (1993). Risks and benefits of open adoption. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from http://www. jstor. org

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2003). Openness in Adoption: A Fact Sheet for Families. Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www. childwelfare. gov

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2004). Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons: A Factsheet for Families. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from http://www. hildwelfare. gov

Hillside Family of Agencies. (2003). Open vs. Closed Adoption. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from www. hillside. com

Koch, W. (2009, May 19). Struggling families look at adoption – USATODAY. com. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from www. usatoday. com

Purtuesi, D. R. (1995). Silent Voices Heard Impact of the Birthmother’s Experience Then and Now -. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://library. adoption. com/articles/silent-voices-heard-impact-of-the-birthmothers-experience-then-and-now.html

Silber, K. (2008). Benefits of Open Adoption. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from www.

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Open vs. Closed Adoption. (2018, Jun 12). Retrieved from

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