Open adoptions consist of a spectrum of contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. Open adoptions are in contrast with closed adoptions, in which there is no contact with the birth family. In a closed adoption, the identities of the birth family and adoptive family are not revealed to each other.
Some families choose to exchange pictures and/or letters through an agency. Other families have direct contact, which may include phone calls, video calls with the birth parents, travelling across county to visit birth siblings, and/or ongoing relationships with birth grandparents.
Post-adoption contact agreements are not legally enforceable in Tennessee, but they do allow families to think about and articulate their desires and enter into a good faith written agreement. The highest moral commitment is always to the best interest of the child. As the child develops and forms their own opinions about spending time with their birth family, this will be taken into consideration. Often families have more contact when the child is little, but emotional and logistical barriers arise as the child gets older, and contact may decrease.
Today in the United States, approximately 90% of domestic infant adoptions have some degree of openness. Sometimes prospective adoptive parents will request that their last name or city of residence not be shared with the birth mother. At the Adoption Law Center, we both educate clients about openness and honor our clients’ requests to the extent possible.
Agencies are often able to serve as a liaison between the birth parents and the adoptive family, since the agency receives guardianship from the court pending finalization. However, in independent adoptions, it is impossible to guarantee that the birth parents will not discover the identity of the adoptive parents due to the extensive paperwork requirements and the many individuals involved.
Hard data is difficult to come by, but researchers generally recommend ongoing, meaningful contact between the birth parents and adoptive parents both during pregnancy and after birth. The old days of hiding the child’s background and then dealing with feelings of betrayal have been replaced with varying degrees of openness and better outcomes for all members of the adoption triad.
Check out this article about open adoption written from the perspective of a birth mother: https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/images/stories/documents/ncfa_adoption_advocate_no41.pdf
We’d love to chat with you about your experience with adoption! Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!