What is real the difference between open and closed adoptions?

Tell the world, tell no one. There are as many interpretations of open and closed adoptions as those who choose them. I am going to give you two extreme examples and a with a few options in between.  The main thing you need to realize is that you have the ability to choose a situation that works best for you but you also need to consider what is best for your family, your child, 10 or 20 years from now. Many people start this conversation with, “I am not comfortable with the birth parents having input on how we parent our adopted child.” Here is what commonly will happen.  The birth parents make an adoption plan and discuss the frequency of contact. For example, it may consist of a birthday letter exchange and visit once a year. I have had adoptive parents express their distress when the birth parents only participated for the first year and then were very random in their birthday letters and no visit. The birth parents expressed that the adoption plan was made because a child didn’t fit into their life and therefore they moved forward after the initial grieving period and once they knew their child was in a great family, they moved on.

The difference between open and closed from another angle is to consider the perspective of the birth parents. If I am considering an adoption plan do I feel more comfortable placing my child in an adoptive family that will let me know that my child is cared for and is growing and developing in a stable environment? Do I want to place my child with parents that keep the birth parents a secret and I might have a stranger on my doorstep 18 years from now with a load of questions?

Open and closed adoptions has been around long enough for there to be a considerable amount of research on the pros and cons of each for all parties involved. I highly recommend you at least review the findings before making a final decision. Another suggestion is to attend a local support group that includes all members of the adoption triad and hear their experiences 10 or 20 years later. It is eye opening to hear the story of the adopted adult who is searching for his or her biological parents or the birth parent that relinquished a child and tells their story of loss and grief because of the lack of information after that final day. It is heartbreaking to hear the adoptive mother grieve her decision of a closed adoption years later with no options to reach out to the birth mother. There is so much to be learned from the other side. Adoption Discovery helps you not only with the fact and logic of adoption but we want you to explore the emotional decisions made during the process from many different views. Adoption Discovery has a list of support groups in each state that will help you locate one near you.

Real Life Story

Patricia had decided long before she met her husband that she wanted to adopt. They discussed it while dating and Gary agreed. It was a deal breaker for Patricia. A few years after they were married they were ready to begin this adoption journey together. Their local library had an Adoption Discovery group meeting weekly so they decided this would be a good starting point. They had always assumed that they would not want to know the birth parents of their adopted child. Patricia made comments to Gary about how it was going to be hard enough to be united on their parenting styles and philosophies as a couple without adding anyone else into the equation. Gary said to her one night, who says, if we know them they will be giving us any input on parenting? What if they live in another state or country? They began to discuss the pros and cons of this situation and then they learned more about what open and closed really meant. They realized through their education that at the end of the day after the adoption was final they would be the ones solely responsible for making the parenting style decisions and that open adoption wasn’t really about that. Gary was feeling that a closed adoption seemed too “final” with no going back if they changed their mind or needed medical information later. It was after Patricia spoke to a woman at her church who had decided to do a closed adoption the first time around and then an open one with her second and third adoptions that she really understood. Her friend explained that a few months after her first adoption she was overwhelmed with grief because she was now unable to express to the birth mother so many things she felt “woman to woman” she really wanted her to know. She was so grateful for this gift and realized the sacrifice this woman had made. She never met her, had no idea how to find her as she was in another country and the orphanage had no records of any kind. She had made the choice that this was the way she would feel most comfortable “doing adoption” but now she was heavyhearted and had to find a way to make peace with her decision for her and her child. She knew the questions were coming and she had no answers for her child and that was the hardest part of all.
Patricia discussed all that she had learned with Gary and they spent many weeks going back and forth about this big decision but once they decided what level of openness they were comfortable with they moved forward and felt really great about their decision. Years later they still reflect on how hard it was to get through that decision but in retrospect they knew that open adoption was the right decision for their whole family. Gary talks about how he never knew the positives that would come from that one decision. They are adopting again and the decision was easy for them this time around.

Watch It

Below is a link one of our interview videos with a birth mother and her parents about her decision process to make an adoption plan for two of her children. It is great to hear different perspectives before making a decision.

Click Here to Get the Video

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