Every family touched by adoption has a different story, and it’s important to recognize that everyone’s journey to adoption is unique. Nevertheless, experts have come to agree that open adoptions tend to be more beneficial to adopted children and families as opposed to closed adoptions, which were the norm in previous generations.
Open adoption gives adopted children some degree of access to their biological family. This is done primarily through open communication and ongoing contact between the birth and adoptive families. Open adoption also often includes setting up visits, exchanging pictures and letters, and other forms of communication such as phone calls or emails. In this blog we will discuss five of the major benefits of an open adoption.
What About Closed Adoptions?
First, however, it is important to understand why open adoptions are considered beneficial as opposed to closed adoptions. Closed adoptions required that there be no communication or contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents. Identifying information about each party involved is kept confidential and only shared with authorized individuals or agencies. In some cases, the adoption itself is kept a secret from the child.
This type of adoption was intended to protect everyone involved from experiencing any emotional distress associated with the adoption process during a time when adoption was heavily stigmatized. While this form of adoption has been around for some time, it can in fact be emotionally harmful for all parties involved due to a lack of connection and understanding regarding their roles in one another's lives.
Over time, adoption experts have realized that the lack of communication and contact that characterizes closed adoptions often leads to feelings of confusion, guilt, shame, and rejection. For adopted children especially, not having access to information about their biological family or any form of contact with them can be especially difficult since it deprives them of an important connection with their past that could help shape who they become as adults. Additionally, closed adoptions often prevent adopted children from forming meaningful relationships with members of their biological families later in life if they choose to do so.
Types of Open Adoptions
Because of this, open adoptions have become the norm in the United States, including in Texas. Today, over 90% of adoptions are open to some degree and fully closed adoptions are very rare. There are two primary types of open adoptions:
- Semi-open adoptions or mediated adoptions
- Fully open adoptions
Semi-open or mediated adoptions usually involve less direct contact between the birth family and adoptive family, and such contact that does exist will often be mediated by an agency, caseworker, or an attorney.
A fully open adoption, on the other hand, will involve direct contact, often including visits, letters, and phone calls. In truth, however, these two types of adoptions indicate points on a scale rather than distinct poles. Birth parents and adoptive parents can choose where on that scale of openness they feel comfortable.
No matter where they fall on the scale, these adoptions acknowledge the many benefits of open adoption. Here are just 5 of those benefits:
#1. Clarity About the Child’s Adoption
Adopted children will likely be curious about their own story at some point in their life. This curiosity is understandable and, in fact, not limited to adopted children; most of us want to know about where we come from as part of understanding who we are in the wider world. By allowing the adopted child an ongoing connection to their birth family, adoptive parents make it possible for their child to know and understand their own story.
In fact, adoption experts have discovered that closed adoptions tended to create feelings of shame for adopted children by reinforcing an idea that being adopted was something negative. It also contributed to heightened feelings of abandonment on the part of adopted children who lacked clarity around why they were put up for adoption in the first place. Open adoptions, on the other hand, help to prevent these kind of negative feelings from taking root in a child’s psyche.
#2. Connection to the Child’s Heritage
The popularity of the show “Finding Your Roots,” which tracks the genealogical record of celebrities, indicates the extent to which our biological ancestry strikes a chord for many people. An adoptee’s curiosity about their biological history doesn’t diminish their love for and connection to their adoptive parents and family. Instead, it simply means that they want to understand a different but still important aspect of themselves and their origins.
Open adoptions allow this biological history to be out in the open, accessible to the child whenever they might desire answers to questions about their ancestry. Instead of experiencing shame or worrying about betraying their adoptive family by their natural curiosity, the adoptee in an open adoption can simply feel as free to explore their roots as any other person might.
#3. Ongoing Relationship with Birth Family
Although this aspect of an open adoption might vary from family to family, an ongoing relationship with a child’s birth family can provide additional security and support to the adopted child and their family. This relationship can facilitate an exchange of love and understanding that can help to heal the grief that birth parents might experience and support the ongoing healthy development of the adopted child. It can also give the child an opportunity to know their biological siblings and extended family members, creating a larger support network for everyone connected to the child.
#4. Access to Medical History
Having access to a child’s medical history is one of the most important aspects of open adoption. Knowing and understanding a child’s medical background can help adoptive families make informed decisions about their health care needs, as well as provide essential information for future generations. It also helps adopted children understand any potential risks or conditions they may have inherited from their birth family, allowing them to take proactive steps toward managing their own health.
Additionally, having access to this information can help adoptees gain an understanding of how genetics play a role in determining certain physical and mental traits that are passed down from generation to generation. Ultimately, having access to a child’s medical history through open adoption provides invaluable insight into an adoptee's past which can be used to shape healthier futures for the adoptee and their eventual offspring.
#5. More Positive Self-Identity
Ultimately, a sense of openness and honesty around adoption helps contribute to a child’s positive sense of self-worth. Rather than surrounding a child’s adoption with secrecy and silence, open adoptions allow for families to share knowledge, support, love, and understanding. In so doing, the adults involved in the open adoption help the adopted child thrive as they grow and develop into confident and productive adults.
How Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C. Can Help
Navigating an open adoption can be a complex process and having the right attorney on your side is key to making sure that the adoption is both successful and conducted in a way that protects the best interests of the child. Attorney Cynthia B. Tracy can provide you with legal advice and support throughout the entire adoption process, helping to ensure that everything is done in accordance with Texas laws and regulations.
She can also help guide you through any potential issues or conflicts that may arise during the course of the proceedings. With over 30 years of family law experience, she is prepared to support you through every step of the adoption process.
If you are considering an open adoption in Texas and are looking for a compassionate and knowledgeable adoption attorney, contact us online or call (281) 612-5443 today to schedule a consultation.