What is Open Adoption?

“Open Adoption” simply means that the birth family and the adoptive family have some degree of contact with each other. The birthparents choose which adoptive family seems best to love and raise their child. The birthparents are able to keep in touch with the child and his/her adoptive family through the years.

“Open Adoption is about a birthfamily and adoptive family creating an extended family relationship. In practical terms it means that contact through letters and pictures, e-mail, phone calls and visits exist in the same way they do in any extended family relationship.”


The frequency and type of continued contact you maintain with the adoptive family varies from adoption to adoption. There is a wide spectrum of variation in adoption relationships just as there are differences in relationships between acquaintances, friends, or extended family members. Sharon Kaplan-Roszia and Lois Melina state in their book, The Open Adoption Experience, “In practice, the relationship in open adoption is…comparable to that between in-laws.” And as with in-law relationships, adoptive relationships can develop into close friendships while others may remain more distant.

The most important consideration in an open adoption relationship is placing importance on the needs of the adopted child. After all, it was seeing the needs of the child that prompted the move toward openness of adoption in the first place. While the child is an infant, the adults work through the awkwardness that a new, uncharted relationship brings. But as the adopted child grows up, the adults must be sensitive and take their cues from the child. He or she may go through periods of not wanting to talk much about their adoption or have contact with their birth family. He or she may go through other periods of needing more contact. The adults’ needs may not always coincide with the child’s needs.

For open adoption to work best, birthparents and adoptive parents see their involvement with each other as a commitment they make for the sake of the child.

Who Benefits in Open Adoption?

The Child

  • A sense of identity
  • A complete history
  • The knowledge that they are loved by their birth family
  • A ready source of medical information and support

The Birthparents

  • Active participation in the placement process
  • Encourages healthy grieving
  • The joy of seeing that your child is loved and cared for
  • The potential of developing a special relationship with the child

The Adoptive Parents

  • Ability to answer their child’s questions
  • No fear of the unknown
  • Ability to see in their child what is “nature” and what is “nurture”