If you’re considering adoption as a pregnant woman, one of the things you’re likely considering is what kind of role you’ll play in your child’s life should you place them for adoption. What will their adoptive parents tell them about you? Will you be able to visit your child? Do you want to have a relationship with your child after the adoption is completed?  Do you want pictures and updates as your child grows?

Adoption doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your child forever; there is a way you can stay in contact with your child throughout his or her life. This is known as open adoption.

With open adoption today, you have the chance to not only choose an adoptive family for your baby and get to know them, but you can also stay in contact with your child’s adoptive parents as the years go by. Open adoptions make up 95 percent of all adoptions completed today, and many experts and adoption professionals agree that they are for the best interest of all involved.

At MyersStrickland, we can help you understand what your open adoption might look like, if this is something you’re considering. You can call us today at 520-327-6041 to discuss your individual situation with our professionals, for free and with no obligation to choose adoption until you’re sure it’s right for you.

When you’re deciding if adoption is right for you, it’s important to understand the difference between open adoption and closed adoption. Here’s what you should know:

What is Open Adoption?

Generally speaking, open adoption is any adoption where the prospective birth parents and adoptive parents have contact. However, there are many different variations of open adoption; how much and what kind of contact people have is tailored to each unique adoption.

Typically, an open adoption is arranged so a prospective birth mother can meet and get to know an adoptive family before making her decision. After the adoption is complete, a birth mother can remain in communication with the adoptive family and know her child is healthy and happy as they grow up. The shared contact can include anything from letters and pictures sent every couple of months, to phone calls and social media contact, to in-person visits every year. What your open adoption will look like will depend on what you’re most comfortable with.

You might have also heard the term “semi-open adoption,” or mediated adoption. This is just a kind of open adoption with less contact than a “fully open” adoption, where a birth mother and adoptive family stay in direct contact. A semi-open adoption in Arizona is usually mediated by an adoption professional.

Is there a Legal Process for Open Adoption?

At MyersStrickland, we believe that no matter your open adoption preferences, we can help you find an adoptive family who shares your communication goals. When we help match you with a prospective adoptive family, your agreement on open adoption communication is one of the most important parts of the match process.

Depending on the state laws of the adoptive family you match with, you may be able to create a legally binding post-adoption contact agreement (PACA). Arizona is one of the states that allows for a legally binding PACA, so if you choose an adoptive family in Arizona, your PACA will be legally binding. This document is a way for you and the prospective adoptive family (with the help of legal counsel) to decide what your open adoption will look like and make sure each party is in agreement before the adoption goes forward.

No matter whether state laws allow your PACA to be legally binding or not, we recommend drafting this document anyway — as it can clear up any confusion about future contact, set out everyone’s expectations and provide a written reminder of contact expectations as the years go by.

Attorney Heather Strickland will handle all the legal steps to create a PACA that you are comfortable with. Based on your contact preferences (which a prospective adoptive family will have already agreed to in the match), we’ll draft a contact agreement and send it to the family’s legal representation. If the document can be legally binding, after it’s signed, we’ll present it in front of a court to finalize its legality. Then, if a party breaks the contact agreement in the future, you can seek help in the courts and ask for the agreement to be legally enforced.

Even if you sign a PACA before you give birth to your child, you are not obligated to choose adoption for your baby until you’re confident in your decision. An open adoption may help you decide that adoption is right for you, but you will retain the right to change your mind until you sign your adoption consent after the baby’s birth.

Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption

While it’s the more popular choice, open adoption is not the only way to place your child for adoption. Closed adoption is still an option for prospective birth parents, but before you take this path, it’s important you understand the realities of this decision.

In a closed adoption, you will likely have no contact at all with the prospective adoptive family — you won’t meet them before or after the baby is born, and you will not have contact with your child in the future. You may still have the chance to choose an adoptive family and determine the kind of life your child will have, but an adoption professional will manage any communication during the adoption process.

While many women prefer the ongoing contact and flexibility of an open adoption, some prospective birth mothers feel that a closed adoption provides the closure they desire following the adoption process.

When you first meet with attorney Heather Strickland, she can help you determine what kind of adoption might be best for your situation. However, the only one who can decide what’s right for your child is you, so here are some things to consider:

  • Updated medical records or sibling information: In a closed adoption, your identity will likely be in sealed documents. This prevents a birth mother from being identified if she doesn’t want to be, but it also makes it difficult for an adopted child to know if there is any change in their medical history or if additional siblings are born. An open adoption gives the adoptive family a chance to receive their child’s biological family members’ updated medical information and to know about a new sibling or half sibling throughout the child’s life.
  • Unanswered questions: For the birth mother, adoptive family and adopted child, a closed adoption will likely make it difficult to answer any questions that arise later in life. Whether those are questions the birth mother has about her child’s life and health or an adopted child’s interest in where they came from, closed adoption records can make it difficult to form a complete understanding of a child’s adoption story.
  • Potential for future change: When you choose an open adoption, you will likely be able to change your communication preferences as you discover what you do or don’t want in your open adoption. A closed adoption, on the other hand, makes it much more difficult to increase your communication later if you decide that’s what you want. Increasing communication after time has passed is much more complicated than decreasing it, so it’s important that you’re confident in your decision if you choose a closed adoption.

These are just a few of the issues you’ll need to consider when deciding between an open and closed adoption. When you first meet with us, we can help provide the information you need to determine what might be the right choice for you, even if it doesn’t end up being adoption. We will not sway you one way or the other — we just want you to choose what’s best for you.

How to Prepare for Open Adoption

When you choose open adoption, there are some steps you can take to ensure it’s successful. Perhaps the most important step is building a solid relationship with the adoptive parents. In many cases, open adoption creates lifelong friendships for birth parents and adoptive parents, so it’s important that you start your relationship off strong. Take time to get to know the adoptive parents; use your first meetings or phone calls as a chance to find out more about each other, as you would on a first date.

If you’ve decided that open adoption is the best choice for you and your unborn baby, attorney Heather Strickland will help create a contact agreement with your chosen prospective adoptive parents. This contact agreement will set out everyone’s expectations and provide a written reminder of contact expectations as the years go by. You’ll also want to prepare for the day that your child starts asking questions about you, where they came from and, eventually, why you chose adoption. In a conversation with the adoptive parents, decide who will answer those questions — and what kind of information you both are comfortable giving the child.