What You Need To Know About “Open” Adoptions

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,

Laurie Timmons


Is International Adoption Really Best For the Child?

Do you wonder if  international adoption “really” is the best option for the orphaned child?

My answer? No. It is not the best option.  The best option is that they are reunified with their biological family and the family is able to care for them appropriately.

Now, I say appropriately, because our standards in the Western world of providing for a child looks very different from the standards of a culture in the developing world.  In our world, if our children do not have an abundance of new, stylish clothes, plenty of new toys, Xbox and latest games, trampolines, let alone their excellence in participation in multiple sports and activities, we feel like we are falling short of our parenting role, thus not parenting appropriately.

We tend to view the world through our own experiences and beliefs which then shapes our judgement of others.  When we see a child in torn clothes, outside of a brick box shaped hut with a tray of corn mash, we immediately feel sorry for that child and want to give him “a better life” and we have a lot of love to give and the financial stability to do so.

Here is the reality bomb.  In that community, that brick hut is that child’s home and it is the same as all of the other children’s homes and they most likely are a part of a tribe that lives in a remote area.  The homes are brick because they are more practical to protect from the weather.  The child is in torn clothes, because that is his play clothes.  He also has school uniforms and formal wear for church service and special events.  He plays with sticks and old tires because his family, who loves him very much, are most likely local craftsman or laborers and all their wages go to food, shelter and the child’s education. Things like, Xbox 360’s, are not a priority.

In this same community there is an orphanage.  It is brick, but has many brick buildings connected together.  There are many children living there.  The only difference between these children and the other children is that they typically only have one parent or no parents.  Some parents died in war, some died from disease, some died in child birth, some are subjected to alcohol or drugs.  Single fathers rarely raise their children on their own and single mothers typically have other children and not enough income to go around.  These children live in the orphanage.  They are Social Orphans, (one or more living parent who cannot provide for them) or True Orphans (no parents alive or have willingly relinquished their parental rights).

Most of the children in the homes I work with are Social Orphans, although there are many True Orphans.  The Social Orphans tend to go home to visit family during school breaks, if the parent/family is not abusive.  They love their families and they focus on their education so that they can someday change their families situation of poverty.  The True Orphans, love their families too.  They typically have siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  They also focus on their education in hopes of changing the future for their family and community.  The home Directors and caretakers love these children and the children consider them their family.

We have many orphaned children who have gone on to be nurses, bankers, social workers, tradesman, craftsman and more.

So when is it in the child’s best interest to be adopted internationally, taken from their culture, everything they have ever known?

Living on both sides of the fence here, personally and professionally,  I believe it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted internationally, only if domestic adoption is not an option, the child has been a True Orphan for some time with no relatives coming forward, and/or there are special medical needs that need attention and are critical to the child’s survival.

If you are looking into adopting internationally and are concerned about the background and history of the child referred to you, speak openly with your agency about your concerns.  If you do not have an agency selected and would like to talk about this issue, feel free to contact me.

Best wishes to you and yours,

Laurie Timmons

Co Founder Orphans Lifeline International, TheAdoptionHub.org

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Adopting a Child vs. Sponsoring a Child

Believe it or not, I get this question asked to me quite frequently.  “Is it better to adopt a child and take them away from what they know or sponsor a child and help them to thrive in their own country?”

This is my perspective on the question, based on 16 years of operating an international orphan aid charity as well as 5 years of operating an adoption agency that focused on international adoption and 16 years of adoption consulting.  And, yes, some personal experience as well, since I adopted internationally myself 16 years ago.

Growing up in a family with parents, perhaps siblings and extended family gives the child the best case scenario for experiencing personal love and bonding and the ability to express the same back to the family.  Children in families are safer and their needs are met in a more personal manner as they receive individualized attention.

The hard part for the child, is being taken away from everything that is familiar to them.  Culture, community, language, extended family, friends etc.   It can take years for the child to adjust, although the younger they are at time of placement, the sooner they adapt into their new life.

Growing up in a family style children’s home (orphanage) is better than being on the streets, or living with parents/family who are ill, abusive or non existent in the home.  Family style children’s homes are much like our youth group homes here in the USA. At least the ones supported by our parent organization www.orphanslifelineofhope.org are.  These children receive everything they need as we would give our own children, within their culture.  Although they do lack the individualized love and bonding that comes from an actualized family, we are seeing these children grow into loving, caring young adults who desire to seek careers that give back and help their communities, especially the other orphans.

The true answer to the question lies within you.  If you have a desire to parent and raise children through adoption then that is what you should do!  If you are unsure if the commitment of adopting a child into your family and life is for you, then sponsoring is the best option for you!

Feel free to contact me for a free, private consultation on adoption and/or sponsoring options.


me 2Laurie Timmons, Co-Founder



Why does it take so long to adopt Internationally?

We are asked this question a lot and rightly so.  It does not seem fair to the children or adopting families that the adoption process should be so hard, cost so much and take so darned long.

Unfortunately there is no “simple” answer to the question.  Yet, there are answers.  Some are general to the world of adoption and some are unique to the country, process or other.

The clock starts with you…

How long it takes you to have your Home Study completed, US Immigration Approval, and all legal, notarized and apostilled documents to your Placing Agency factors in the length of your overall adoption.  Now, I say that, but.  You could hustle and have it all done and sent in 4 months and then wait…years, or not.

Back in my day…

I adopted in 2000, from Russia, the other side of the world,  right around the beginning of the International Adoption boom. My process took just a little over a year from start to finish.  Not bad eh?  We were the last family to squeeze into court in Far East Russia, just before a several month moratorium.  Other families who were there at the same time, went home, with no children and waited.

Moratoriums (or “holds”) are put on International Adoption processes either by the foreign country the child resides in our by US Immigration and has to do with changes in policies, or working to adhere to correct policies.  These moratoriums can last 6 months or years and years.

In 2000 Russia put on a moratorium on foreign adoptions while they worked to gain control of the many (hundreds) of foreign adoption agencies and independent professionals, hiring local “facilitators” who connected them with orphaned, adoptable children for their 1,000’s of waiting adopting parents.  Russia decided that all foreign placing entities needed accreditation by them and they did not make it easy.  This lasted several months and placements resumed but would be problematic between both Russia and US until the final halt of foreign adoptions by Russia altogether.

I have seen it all by now…

During my time as the founder of Lifeline of Hope Adoptions, I saw many foreign adoption programs go on hold, moratorium or stop altogether.  Oh how excited we would be when a “new” program opened up!

And then it would halt.

Most times, it boils down to appropriate background status and/or documentation on the children themselves.  Unfortunately, foreign adoptions brought economy into impoverished areas of the world and children became commodities.  Like anything good, there is also a bad. When the bad is exposed, like falsified documents, which constitutes as trafficking, US Immigration will put a screeching halt on the process until balance is restored.  This balance may mean, policies and procedures that is not a priority for the foreign officials. Some will close altogether, some will revamp the system and then have a backlog of court dates. We saw this with China, Guatemala, Ethiopia and now Haiti, Uganda and Congo.  I do not disagree with this mind you and feel terribly sorry for the families affected by unethical placement procedures.

Hope for sunshine but take an umbrella…

Just like credit and loans were so easy to obtain a few years back, so was foreign adoption as easy as 18 months.  Well, balance has to be in place for anything to thrive and be healthy.

We now know, without a doubt, most foreign adoptions are going to take about 2 years, maybe longer and if we are able to actually complete the process sooner then we can celebrate that and just be happy that we have given at least one more orphaned child a loving home.

With a little perseverance and a whole lot of faith, foreign adoptions are still happening and little ones are being brought home every day!

Contact us for a free adoption consultation.


Laurie Timmons

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