Closed, Open or Fully Disclosed? These are the options in a traditional Domestic Adoption and the most asked question during my consultations.
On the adoptive parent side, they typically want to know what each one of them means and what their choices are.
On the birth parent side, they typically just want to know that they will have a connection as to the well being of their child after placement.
Here is the reality bomb.
There is what you “want” and what is “legally binding”.
First, we will get to the definitions, as found in the Domestic Adoption section of my website, www.theadoptionhub.org.
Closed Adoption: The adoptive family receives a non-identifying medical and social history of the birth parent/s and their family. No identifying information is shared between the adopting parents and the birth families. No communication or contact between the parties is expected. The birth parent/s may participate in selecting the adoptive family through non-identifying adoptive family profiles. There is no communication between parties. In some states, the adopted child can access the adoption file at adulthood.
Semi-Open Adoption: The adoptive family receives non-identifying information. Both birthparents and adoptive parents maintain contact with each other after the adoption finalizes, through a third party, such as adoption agency or attorney. This typically includes pictures and/or letters to each other. The birth parent/s agree to maintain a current address with the agency and update the agency and adoptive family with any pertinent information, such as medical information. Direct contact may occasionally occur, usually at the agency or pre-arranged meeting place. Anonymity is typically maintained.
Fully Disclosed-Full disclosure of identifying information between parties occurs. Contact between birth and adoptive family is direct, without the agency as the intermediary. No two fully disclosed adoptions are the same. Contact between members of the adoption circle may be spontaneous and initiated by either party at any time. Some contact agreements may be determined by a previously developed agreement of scheduled contact/visits, phone calls, and letters or pictures. Parties may re-negotiate contact over time.
Placing Agencies will typically match birth parents with adoptive parents based on the desired future communication regarding the child. This is best practice and usually followed unless there is a threat of some sort, to the child due to further contact with the birth family.
Post Adoption Contact Agreements are a fairly new item added to the adoption process and will state amount and level of communication and contact between adoptive parents, child and birth parents.
But they are not legally binding.
The reality is, that once the adoption in finalized in the court of law, the adoptive parents have 100% legal say on any communication or activity in regards to the child and others. Same rights as if they gave birth to the child. It is basically, a handshake deal.
Most adoptive parents do honor the agreement, as they believe it is in the best interest of the child to have knowledge of their birth parent/s well-being. Some even go as far as routine physical contact. Some adoptive parents back out of the agreement and offer no communication as they believe it is confusing to younger children and/or threatens their role as the parent.
On the same token, some birth parents maintain continued communication and involvement in the child’s life, where some back out for a variety of reasons.
Best advice is that if openness is desired in the placement, both parties should spend some time getting to know each other first hand and develop the relationship from the beginning. Talk to your placing agency about arranging meetings and establishing communication before placement occurs.
Learn more about Post Adoption Contract Agreements at Child Welfare.gov
All the best,