Womens Health

Adoption 101: Closed versus Open Adoption

If you're considering adopting a child, it's important to assess what kind of adoption policy best suits your family: open or closed. What are the advantages and disadvantages of these adoption policies and which policy better suits your family?

There is a wide range of adoption: confidential (closed); semi open (mediated) and open. A confidential adoption is one in which files about the birth parents are physically sealed; semi open adoptions in which contact between birth parents and adoptive parents is regulated through a mediator such as an attorney or case worker; and open, in which both sets of parents and the adopted child have direct contact information.

Up until a few decades ago, all adoptions were closed. However, in recent years open adoptions have become increasingly popular in the United States because birth parents are increasingly interested in playing a role in choosing the type of home in which their child will be raised.

Open Adoptions

The advantages of an open adoption (which is also known as a fully disclosed adoption) are that both sets of parents have greater control over the adoption process; there is less mystery about the origins of the child and parents can answer his questions about the process candidly.

Also in an open adoption, the child feels like she hasn't experienced a loss of a relationship; the child's family—both of them—is celebrated.

However, adoptive parents sometimes feel threatened in fully disclosed adoptions. They fear that the birth parents might change their minds about the adoption, or even try to take the child away from them.

A child is also more likely to ask questions about his parents if the adoption is open and might want to establish a connection with them, which again could threaten the adoptive parents' sense of security. Open relationships also often result in the adoptive parents feeling ambivalent about their role as parents. In this situation, communication is key to build trust and honesty between the two sets of parents.

Another disadvantage of open adoption is that it can be difficult to maintain relationships between both sets of parents, especially if there are conflicts in values (how the child should be raised, for example), as well as religious or ethnic differences. It can be hard to balance the child's two heritages without overwhelming her or creating a confused sense of identity.

Closed Adoptions

Closed adoptions also have pros and cons. One possible advantage is that because there is no contact in this type of adoption (the name of the birth parents are not revealed), the adoptive parents may feel more secure about their role as parents.

However, the adopted child may feel rejected because of the lack of information about their birth parents, and this can raise serious questions about her identity, as well as cause self-esteem issues and other emotional problems. The child might also worry about his parents' well-being and whether or not they are still alive. Indeed, closed adoptions are more likely to be problematic because, paradoxically, the lack of contact between child and birth parents can negatively affect the bond developed between child and adoptive parent.

Another adoption route that's becoming increasingly popular is international adoption. While this form of adoption has its own drawbacks, notably the high cost and long waiting time, in 2003, American families adopted over 20 thousand foreign-born children, above all from China.

When considering adoption it's important to weigh the pros and cons of each process. Find out what's right for your family, and don't feel pressured into taking a certain path. Accept the disadvantages of whatever process you choose, but don't overemphasize them, as that will only cause unnecessary stress. Remember that above all adoption is about giving a child a wonderful home he may not have otherwise had; it's about giving a child a life.

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