What an Open Adoption Should Be
The term "Open Adoption" is used and defined VERY differently by different
agencies. Do not allow an agency to try to convince you that anything less than a fully open
adoption is the best. You should have the full power to select the family you want. You should
know their full identity, and meet and know them, and their home. Each of you should make a life
long commitment to stay in direct contact with each other with visits at least once a year.
What follows are major components of what I call a fully open, ongoing relation, adoption. This
is what you want for your child if you are going to pursue adoption.
You are Encouraged to Parent
An adoption cannot be open if you are not first encouraged to parent and you have fully explored
those alternatives. There is information regarding parenting alternatives that will be collected in
this location to expand on this reality. I ask that others reading
these pages, who have such information, share it so that it may be on these pages. Generally,
there are many national resources for such information, often through the respected pro-life
national hot lines. However, one must always be vigilant against manipulation. It has been said
that even some of the alleged pro-life services have induced mothers into placing their children for
adoption. While I am certain it is a rare happening, even once is too much. Be very careful.
If you want to locate parenting support services, the best location for finding them in your area is
looking in the yellow pages under "abortion alternatives". Again, you are calling this office to
find help in setting up your home for your child. If they begin to urge you to consider adoption
simply state, "I do not want to consider adoption, even an open adoption." That should give
them the clear message that you need help setting up a home. Adoption should not be mentioned
again by them. If it is, leave.
To protect against any manipulation I strongly recommend you read the
following pages carefully to prepare yourself.
Remember that the family you would want for you child, IF you choose adoption, is the family
who will want you to have gone through this preparation. I have never known of an adopting
family who did not want the birth mother of their child to be making a free and un-coerced
decision for placement, which can only happen after a careful consideration of parenting
If you want to make an adoption plan, I strongly recommend that you be actively
involved in the selection of the family for your child.
You are giving your child a family. You must find and know that family. Therefore I strongly
recommend that you look at as many adoptive families as you want before you select one, or a
few, to meet. Most often this involves looking at many resumes and what are called "Dear Birth
This is one of the strong advantages of working with a good open adoption agency. You will have
more families to look at and you will have a much greater certainty that the facts they are giving
about themselves are correct.
Do not hesitate to ask the agency to get more family resumes from other
agencies if you are, for any reason, not comfortable with the families you have seen so far. This is
a very personal decision. One only you can make. If you have friends or family whose opinion you
value, do not hesitate to consult with them. But the bottom line is this must be your choice.
If, after you begin working with one agency, you become uncomfortable with that agency for any
reason, then find another agency. There is never any reason that would prohibit you from moving
to another agency.
But never work with two agencies at the same time unless you tell each agency what you are
doing. Your honesty is a treasure you must guard so that you continue to be treated with trust
yourself. There is often a communication network between the good, nonprofit, agencies so do
play them against each other. Just be honest that you are searching for the best services and the
families to choose from in your adoption planning. By all means tell any agency you move away
from why you are changing agencies. That may help the clients that follow you. It is one of the
main reasons that all adoption agencies are now increasingly open in their adoption practice.
Those agencies that are not changing are closing.
Not Used to Manipulate: Beware!
Do not begin meeting families until you feel certain (i.e. as certain as you can be at that time)
that you are wanting to make an adoption plan. This is part of the role of the counseling process.
If you have any doubts, then do not hesitate to wait until after giving birth to select a family.
nothing wrong with that.
Unfortunately, it appears that there are agencies who encourage a mother considering adoption to
meet an adopting family as quickly as possible, even without counseling. This helps a personal
relationship to begin forming which thereby increases the potential for an adoption. The danger
with that from your perspective is, if the desire to parent becomes stronger, it is more difficult
to carry out a decision to parent. Do not back yourself into a corner where you may think
you must place your baby for adoption.
At the same time there are parents who, from the moment that they know they are pregnant,
they know that the only plan for them is an adoption plan. In that case they should reconfirm their
decision making process with a counselor as soon as possible. If they remain certain of the desire
an adoption plan, then they should select a family for their child when they are ready. If your
is "firm" then the time of selection cannot be too early in my opinion. But always remember that
a "firm" decision can change when that beautiful child is in your arms.
I think the ideal situation in an adoption (after counseling has reconfirmed that the decision is as
firm as can be before birth) is for there to be time before birth for the both families to
become friends. It has become increasingly common for birth and adoptive mothers to make the
Doctors appointments together, and then be in the delivery room together. About six years ago,
one of our maternity clients challenged the adoptive father when he hesitated saying something
like, "Are you scared to be in the delivery room?" At birth that adoptive father cut the umbilical
cord and then the birth mother handed them their daughter saying to her, "Here are your new
parents." Scenes similar to that have become much more common in current adoption practice.
At the same time scenes like the above can be used by unscruplous adoption promoters to make
feel like you owe your baby to this family. Now, because "you promised," and "the family you
selected will be so upset" you should sign the papers to place your child? Be very careful! You
have support in the agency you select to change your mind right up to the last legal minute. Ask
about this. If they are not comfortable taking with you about it, or even question your asking
questions, then find another agency. (I strongly recommend adoptive parents question agencies
are considering on this same issue. Failure to observe such principles can lead to a very legally
adoption! You do not want to work with such an agency.)
Be very careful with an agency who will not let you see every family resume they have available of
families within 300 miles of your home. The closer to your home the better. Some agencies take
the "profile" of the family you want and then they select four or five families for you to consider.
I recommend that you ask for more families. I have watched a process wherein mothers were
allowed to see "The Book" which had every resume of the 25-30 families available with an
agency. She could consider any family. That system works well. I recommend agencies who
allow the mother such a broad selection of families.
At the same time, never hesitate to ask to see the families of other agencies if for any reason you
are hesitant about the families your agency shows you. This is a VERY important decision, one
your child must live with the rest of her/his life. It is your most crucial choice after the decision
for adoption itself.
Be Able to Change Your Mind
Please be aware that this is a very emotional time for the adopting family as well as yourself.
While it is easy to recommend that you should not begin calling and meeting families until you are
fairly sure of your plan, the reality is that many mothers select families feeling certian about their
adoption plans. Then the baby is born and everything changes. Birth can change everything!
Remember that, if you decide to parent after birth, that is fine. You do NOT owe anyone your
Be respectful of the adopting parents just as you want them to respect you. By all means meet
with them to tell them of your final decision if you want to parent. You have NOTHING to be
ashamed of in deciding to parent! Hopefully the family, and of course the agency and staff you
working with, will be very understanding and supportive of you in your parenting decision. On
rare occasions wherein an adopting family is not supportive of a mother in her parenting decision,
she has very good reason to know that an authentic friendship would never have been formed
that family. She will know that she definitely made the right decision!
This is a very big decision. Unless you are free to say no, you are not free to say yes.
For open adoption to work you need to be matched with a family who will support you fully in
whatever decision you make for your child, adoption or parenting. The adoption and parenting
decisions made within such an environment are the best decisions that can be made. An adoption
especially is not a good one unless it can pass this type of test for a free and well informed
In the same way you must be free to select another family if you become aware of information
that makes you uncomfortable with the first family you selected. This is often difficult to do
unless you have a supportive counselor working with you, and an agency with many more families
available from which you can select. It is not an uncommon process for a need to develop to
change families. It can happen from the adopting parent's side, or from the mother's side.
Selecting another family needs to be encouraged if there are any feelings that way from either
party. If there are any problems with the relationship this early, then there will almost certainly be
problems after placement. Do not hesitate to act immediately if, for any reason, you are hesitant
about the family you have selected. It is important that all parties are comfortable with each other.
If Your Child has Special Needs or is African American
In the area of
special needs and African American adoption, it is rather common for even open adoption
agencies to not require an open adoption because they need families for children with medical
problems, and families for African American infants. In these situations the agency, who usually
requires open adoption, may be more flexible. If you are expecting an African American child, or
a child who may have medical problems, you can certainly have an open adoption if you call the
right agency. Just be patient. With work you will find a good, open adoption family, who lives in
your own town or nearby.
If a child is ever placed outside his culture of birth, then an open adoption is even more critical
than ever. There are times that the connection through the open adoption will be the only
connection that your birth child may have with his or her culture. I have made Anglo families very
angry with this requirement. I strongly believe that cross cultural placements require fully open
adoption more than any other type of placement.
This question about the willingness of an agency to serve the minority community will tell you
much about what is really the main goal of the agency you are calling. Do they see their job as
that of finding babies for families, or of finding families for babies? That is the most basic
question you can ask about an agency. It is explored more below in the section by that name.
Families From Which You Are Selecting Should All PREFER an Open
Some agencies are what you may call
"Open-adoption-if-that-is-the-only-way-we-can-have-an-adoption" agencies. That is not the type
of agency you want. You want an agency that has families who all emphatically want a fully open
adoption for their child. They understand the value of a fully open adoption for their child and
they expect a fully open adoption.
The good news is that more and more agencies every year are fully open
adoption agencies wherein the birth mother can look at the resume of every family the agency has
awaiting adoption. All resumes will be fully identified, not only with pictures but with full names,
addresses, and home phone numbers you may call to talk with the families if you want. All of the
families want and expect a fully open, ongoing relationship, adoption. Many of the resumes will
be of families in our own area. That is the kind of agency you want to look for.
Be very cautious with your expenses during the adoption process. While this is an area that
several of my friends in adoption do not agree with me on, I strongly prefer the type of agency
adoption wherein the agency assumes your expenses and not the adopting family. That way, if
you decide to parent after giving birth, the adopting family you have selected, a family you
probably like very much, will not also lose money. That fact will help you to feel more free in
your decision. If you select adoption, it will not be because you feel guilty about any money you
may not be able to pay back to an adopting family you like.
It is illegal is every state I know for you to be required to pay back such money if you decide
to parent. However, that doesn't mean you won't feel guilty, nor that the agency won't try
to use that guilt to help bring about an adoption.
Be careful of agencies who very readily give you money, or worse yet encourage their adopting
families to give you money, for expenses and then never require you to be in an active counseling
relationship with one of their staff.. Even though the law protects you, there appear to be agencies
who work to make people feel guilty if they do not relinquish their child and then cannot pay back
the money used to cover their expenses. Do not get backed into one of those corners. You must
remain free to parent.
Your placement decision needs to be as free a decision as is humanly possible. It needs to be one
you can be proud of because you have searched and found a loving family nearby, a family
you are getting to know well and will give to your child. A child is not given, a family is. The
child should be the center of this process. All the adults involved are only there for the child's
Please be sensitive to the fact that there is a very, very, small minority of women who will
pretend to be planning an adoption just to get their expenses covered. It is a sad fact that
agencies, and families in independent adoption, must make every effort to protect themselves from
such manipulation. Please be sensitive to that reality as you go through your adoption process.
Hopefully expenses will not be a major issue for your individual adoption. That quickly eliminates
this issue and it will be easier for you to decide to parent once you see that wonderful child.
A greater danger for you will be families who will promise an open adoption and then disappear
as soon as the adoption is legally final. That appears to be much more common than the dishonest
parents pretending to be planning adoption mentioned in the above paragraph. Please be very
careful. Work with an adoption agency to help lessen the danger of your child's open adoption
one day closing.