What is an open adoption?

There are different degrees of open adoption, but generally it means the birth family has some contact with the child and his or her new family.

Adoption is a popular way for couples in Arizona and across the country to expand their families. In a single year, there were 69,350 unrelated domestic adoptions in the country according to the National Council for Adoption. This simply means that the child and the adoptive parents were not related and were from the same country. Traditionally, adoptions were closed, which means the birth parents had no contact with the child or the adoptive parents. Today, however, things are increasingly trending toward being open.

Lines of communication are maintained

After an adoption is finalized, the birth family, which could include the mother, father, grandparents, aunts or uncles, has the opportunity for some level of communication. There is no universal definition for an open arrangement, which means the communication and contact can vary from one situation to the next. Common open agreements include the following communication:

  • Adoptive parents send the birth family monthly updates and pictures via email.
  • The birth mother spends major holidays with the adoptive family of the child.
  • Biological family members call the parents and the child once a month.
  • The child has playdates with the birth mother and father twice a year.

The exact setup for an open adoption will depend on what the birth and adoptive parents are comfortable with. In some cases, all communication is done through a third party, so the two sets of parents never actually meet.

Decisions of parenthood are one-sided

Even though the birth family may have some contact with the child and his or her parents, open adoption does not mean the two sets of parents will share parenting duties. The adoptive parents still have the legal right to make all decisions on their own. This means the birth mother has no say in education, healthcare, discipline or religion for the child. In other words, a birth mother may get to know the child, but she has no parental rights.

Roles of meeting prospective parents are shared

Because the process of legally taking on another person's child is complex and full of legal nuances, most birth and adoptive parents work with an adoption agency or lawyer. Some agencies may pick out the prospective parents without the help of the birth mother. However, one common benefit of an open adoption is that the birth mother and father can have a say in who will raise the baby. This could mean both an agency representative and the young mom talk with couples looking to adopt in order to find the family that is the best fit for the child.

Many adoptions in Arizona are trending toward being open, which means the birth child has the opportunity to learn more about his or her biological family. It is a good idea to work with a knowledgeable lawyer whether trying to complete an open or closed adoption.