An open adoption is when some contact exists between the adoptee and the biological parents. There are various degrees of openness. A limited degree is when the biological parents have contact through the placing agency or a mediator. Complete openness allows constant contact with the birth parent and adoptee. The birth parent is truly a part of the adoptee's life. Open adoptions affect all parties involved: the adoptee, the birth parents and the adoptive parents.
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Limited openness can start early in the adoption process. For birth parents who have the opportunity to choose the adoptive family, they obtain limited information when they review nonidentifying profiles of potential families. The profiles, though nonidentifying, provide the birth parents with a wealth of information about the prospective adoptive family. Limited openness also involves contact by either the placing agency or a mediator. The birth parents can send seasonal cards, photos, letters and gifts to the adoptee. The adoptive parents examine the cards, gifts and letter to determine whether they are suitable. Limited contact, if the child is 3 years old or younger, is nonthreatening to the adoptive parents, as they have control. It provides a baseline for possible introduction in the future. If the contents from the birth parents are appropriate, they may help the adoptive parent explain to the adoptee why she was adopted and reduce the fears and unknowns for the adoptee.
Moderate openness refers to contact that allows face-to-face visits with the child in a controlled environment. These visits, usually facilitated by a mediator, involve strategic planning to prevent the biological parents from learning the identity and address of the adoptive parents. Moderate openness is ideal for adoptees who have memory of their biological parents and extended biological family. It can be a positive experience for the adoptee who needs to know how members of his biological family are doing. Moderate openness is considered when the adoptee understands his background and has made the decision to move on with his life. Moderate openness allows the biological family the opportunity to witness the child as he grows, and can help both the child and birth parents heal.
Completely Open Adoptions
Completely open adoptions provide the adoptive family, adoptee and birth parents with the opportunity to work together for the best interest of the child. In healthy relationships, the birth parent can provide the adoptive family with birth parent history, such as information on other children and family members, and medical history. The child gets to know where she came from, thus resolving many of the issues associated with adoption. The adoptive family, in private adoptions, feels good about having been chosen, and the birth parents can take comfort in knowing they made a good decision in placing the child.
When considering openness in adoption, the adoptive parents need to look at the long-term ramifications. They need to consider the mental and emotional health of the biological parents, in addition to that of the child. Are the child and biological parents mentally prepared? What are the biological parents' motives? The age of the child is crucial in determining the degree of openness. This is especially pertinent with older children who remember living with their birth parents. By the same token, contact that involves older children in many cases helps them settle and begin to bond. Adoptive parents who consider an open adoption must always remember to consider the best interest of their child.
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