As an expectant parent, you may be beginning your research on the options for you and your baby. You may be wondering about creating an adoption plan for your baby. As you begin this journey, it is important to research as much as you can on adoption and your options. This article will answer the question, “How can I plan for the open adoption experience?”
1. What is An Open Adoption?
The first important thing to understand when asking the question, “How can I plan for the open adoption experience?” is to actually know what an open adoption is. An open adoption can mean different things to different people in the adoption triad and is different in every adoption triad. The adoption triad is a term used to describe the parties of the adoption: the child who is adopted, the adoptive family, and the birth parent or birth parents. The open adoption experience is different for everyone.
The most important thing to know about open adoption is that it an adoption where the adoptive parents and birth parents share both a specified level of open contact and communication with each other during and after the adoption process is completed. An open adoption, regardless of the level and frequency of communication agreed upon, includes sharing identifying information between all members of the adoption triad. Identifying information will include full legal names of the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adopted child; home addresses; emails or phone numbers; and any other identifying information the parties wish to share like family history or medical history of the birth parents.
The open adoption experience will be different for everyone and in every adoption. Some level of agreed-upon open communication between the parties and sharing identifying information between the parties of the adoption triad will be pre-determined. Every other aspect of the open adoption experience is dependent on the adoption relationship. There is no right or wrong way. There is no template for what is normal or what is normal. It is truly up to you as an expectant mother and expectant father what you want in terms of communication. They will determine beforehand with the child’s adoptive family how much information will be shared. Open adoption is a beautiful experience and no two open adoptions are alike. What works for one adoption triad may not work for another. At this point in the process, understanding all of the options is the best way to decide how you can plan for the open adoption experience.
2. Misconceptions About Open Adoption
As you seek to answer the question, “How can I plan for the open adoption experience?” you may come across some misconceptions regarding the open adoption experience. Some expectant parents believe that open adoptions consist of regular in-person visits, frequent phone calls, and constant updates. Now, in some open adoption relationships is absolutely what the birth parents or birth mother would want and what the adoptive family and birth parents agree upon; however, this is not always the case. That is okay. This is one example of what can take place during the open adoption experience, but these are not the only type of open adoptions.
Some open adoptions consist of updates at milestones, a yearly photo album with details of your child’s year, or occasional emails. The level of communication is entirely up to you. However, one thing that is important to remember is that the open adoption experience is not a co-parenting experience. The adoptive parents will be your baby’s parents and they will be the ones making parenting decisions for your child.
3. So How Does the Open Adoption Experience Work?
The open adoption experience, as described above, is different for everyone—no two are alike. However, in thinking about how you can plan for your open adoption experience, there is a basic process for how to establish what the level of communication and relationship between the members of adoption triad could look like.
First, you will work with your adoption agency or adoption attorney to help you finalize an adoption with the hopeful adoptive parents you have met either online through social media, adoption forums, through your house of worship, through friends or family, or through other connections. If you have not already been matched with an adoptive family for your baby, your adoption agency or adoption attorney will help you be matched with prospective adoptive parents for your baby. You will go through adoption profiles, which usually include books of photos, information on the couple or individual hoping to adopt, information on how they met, why they want to adopt, their faith, their values, their community, and their home life. It will also include information on their careers, the area in which they live, what your child’s school would be like, and if they have pets or already have children in the family. Some profiles will share information about the hopeful adoptive family’s journey to adoption and why they want to build their family through adoption. It may be that they feel called to adoption or they may have struggled with infertility for many years.
Once you go through those profiles, your adoption service provider will work with you to narrow the profiles down to a hopeful adoptive family you choose for your baby. You may meet them in person, over the phone, or not at all and the adoption social workers will serve as a liaison.
Once you choose your baby’s hopeful adoptive family, you can begin to truly plan for the details regarding your open adoption experience. As shared before, it is up to the birth parents or expectant mother to decide on the level of communication between the biological family and the adoptive family and the child. Once you have an idea of how much communication you wish to have with the adoptive family and your child, you will begin to draft that plan with your adoption service provider.
Your preferences for the level of contact and communication in the open adoption experience will be different from any other birth parent’s experience. Though it is common for expectant mothers to want an adoptive family with whom she can have a personal relationship during the adoption process and after the adoption is completed. Though adoption is never really completed, it is a lifelong journey, especially when it is an open adoption experience.
Regardless of your personal preferences on communication, your adoption agency may have a minimum requirement for the level of communication you will have with the adoptive family if you choose to go through with an open adoption. This could include exchanging email addresses or phone numbers, an initial in-person meeting prior to the birth of the baby, and meetings at the hospital after the baby is born. It may include a requirement for photos and letters to be sent to the birth parents for some time (sometimes until the child is 18 years of age). Some adoption agencies and adoption attorneys will have these minimum requirements for the level of contact; some may not. Some may have an even more extensive list, but this gives you an idea of what may be required. It is important to discuss with your adoption agency what they require and what you should expect from adoptive families at a minimum. Most birth parents wish to have more contact or the ability to have more contact such as video calls at various points of the year, the ability to text, and regular photo updates.
It is entirely up to you as the expectant parents to decide the level of communication you are comfortable having with the adoptive parents and child. Once you’ve made some baseline decisions, you’ll begin to wotk with your adoption service provider so they can explain your wishes clearly to the hopeful adoptive parents.
It is also important to remember that, as an expectant parent, you may not have any idea what type or level of communication you would like with your child’s adoptive parents. This is totally normal and understandable. At this point in the process and in your pregnancy, you may not know what you would want in terms of communication a year from now or 18 years from now. However, work with your adoption agency to help you come up with an open adoption plan for you and your baby. You can always make changes later on.
4. Meeting the Hopeful Adoptive Family
Once you have decided on the adoptive parents for your baby and the level of communication you would like to have with them, you will begin the next step in your open adoption experience. You will now meet the hopeful adoptive family and begin to build that relationship which will grow with your communication over time. Sometimes, an expectant parent may have little time to get to know the adoptive family prior to the birth; other times, the expectant mother will have many months to get to know her baby’s adoptive parents prior to the birth. Either way, you will share your desire for the level of communication and what information you will share with them, and what you would like them to share with you regarding your child’s development.
Planning for this part of the open adoption experience is important. It is also important to plan for the level of communication and access the adoptive parents will have when you are in the hospital. Some expectant parents would like the adoptive parents or one of the adoptive parents in the room with them during labor and delivery. Other expectant parents state at what point after the birth they would like the adoptive parents to come in and meet the baby. It is totally up to you as the expectant parent. Your adoption social worker, again, will help you plan for this aspect of the open adoption experience.
After the baby is born, the open adoption experience will continue as it had during the expectant mother’s pregnancy. Your adoption agency or adoption attorney will help you create a post-adoption agreement plan for your open adoption experience. This agreement will include your desire for what level of communication you discussed with your adoption service provider and the hopeful adoptive family. The adoptive parents will agree to the level of communication you requested and the open adoption experience will continue through the rest of your life. Adoption truly is a lifelong journey.
5. How to Personally Plan For the Open Adoption Experience
As the expectant parent, you will want to surround yourself with a support system during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. You will need the help to support you personally in your adoption journey. This can include your licensed counselor, the adoption social worker, friends, family, and your religious leader. It is important to remember that adoption is a lifelong journey. The open adoption experience is ever-evolving. Every open adoption is different and your relationship with your baby and their adoptive parents will look different from every other adoption. The level of communication may be more at some times in your baby’s life and be less in others. You will find a cadence that works for you and your child’s adoptive family. This cadence of communication will be unique to your adoption triad and may change over time and that’s okay. It is important to plan for your open adoption experience at the start of your adoption process so that you agree upon a level of communication you desire knowing you can always have it ebb over time. It may be better to ask for more communication if that is what you think you desire and understand that you can always do less. It is more difficult to want more openness at a later date than it is to want and ask for less. Trust your heart and lean on those who care about you as you take these first steps in planning your open adoption experience.