We use the term 'open adoption' to describe ongoing contact between adoptive and birth families.
To understand open adoption, it is useful to start with the definition of 'closed adoption'. In a closed adoption, the information that is exchanged between the parties is non-identifying and there is no ongoing contact after the adoption. In "open adoption" the information that is exchanged may or may not be identifying but there is ongoing contact after the adoption.
The Range of Possibilities
In a fully open adoption, the families exchange identifying information and establish a significant ongoing relationship. In other cases, openness may mean the occasional visit or phone call, and the exchange of letters, pictures and progress notes. In some cases there is no ongoing contact.
What Do Most Birth Parents Choose?
No one size fits all. When considering openness, we hope you will think about your needs and your child’s needs in the short term, in the mid-term, and in the long term. Your counsellor will help you figure out what level of openness is right for you. Some women initially feel that ongoing contact will be too painful and difficult while other birth mothers know they want ongoing contact with the family from the beginning. Our experience is that birth mother’s feelings change over time, so we will help you consider all of the possibilities.
What does that look like?
Ideally, openness should be discussed before the birth of the baby, to identify and clarify expectations. However, relationships grow and change over time, and openness usually evolves over time. Sometimes the relationship between the adopting parents and the birth parents grows during the pregnancy and by the time the baby is born everyone is comfortable with ongoing direct communication. There are circumstances when the time frame between meeting each other and the birth of the baby is not long enough to establish a relationship; in this case, we can help you build your relationship with the family after the birth of the baby.