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% of all adoptions completed today, and many experts and adoption professionals agree that they are in the best interest of all involved.
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.
When you choose open adoption, 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.
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.
The Legal Process for Open Adoption
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 enforceable through the Courts. 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 to make sure each party agrees before the adoption goes forward.
Even if the state laws of the adoptive family’s location do not allow your PACA to be legally binding, we recommend drafting this document anyway because 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.
Based on your contact preferences, we will draft a post-adoption contact agreement and send it to the adoptive family’s legal representation. If the document can be legally binding, after it’s signed it will be presented to 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 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
Open adoption is not the only way to place your child for adoption. Closed adoption is still an option for prospective birth parents. 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. Before you take this path, it’s important you understand the realities of this decision.
In a closed adoption, you will have little to no contact with the prospective adoptive family. You likely 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 your attorney will manage any communication during the adoption process.
When you first meet with adoption attorney Heather Strickland, she can help you determine what kind of adoption might be best for your situation. However, you are the only one who can decide what’s right for your child, so here are some things to consider:
- 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 will 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.