Open Adoption

What is Open Adoption?

An open adoption refers to any adoption where the birth parents and the adoptive family know each other and have committed to an ongoing relationship for the benefit of the child. This type of adoption is most often arranged in private domestic adoptions where birth parents choose the adoptive family on their own or from an adoption agency’s list of approved families. There are many different types of ‘open’ adoption arrangements. Some open adoption arrangements include just photos and e-mails whereas others visit with each other a few times a year. There also some open adoptions where the families blend together and see and talk to each other on a regular basis.

What are the benefits of open adoption?
Open adoption benefits the child, the birth family and the adoptive parents. Children of open adoption grow up knowing their biological families and there is never any unanswered questions about where they came from, why they were adopted, their culture and even who they look like. Another important issue is medical history and with an open adoption, families can readily exchange information. An open adoption also eliminates worries that adoptees have about reunions and whether or not birth families will welcome their contact one day.

Birth families also benefit from open adoption because it allows them to still be part of and share in the child’s life. For adoptive parents, an open adoption provides them with the opportunity to get to know the child’s birth families as well as to obtain and exchange information.

Are open adoptions legally binding?
No. Open adoptions and the terms of an open adoption agreement are not legally binding in Canada. An open adoption relationship is based on trust and honesty and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Most private agencies will work with birth families and adoptive parents prior to the adoption and the topic of openness will be discussed. Many families will make an ‘adoption covenant’ or ‘agreement’ that outlines the type of contact they want to have over the years. This adoption covenant may be in written or verbal form. While an open adoption agreement cannot be enforced, adoptive parents should never agree to the adoption if they have no plans of staying in contact with the birth parents. Not only is it unfair to the birth parent(s) but as well, the child.

Do all birth parents want open adoption?
No. Open adoption is a relatively new concept to most people and like many adoptive parents, expectant parents may have concerns about openness in adoption. Some expectant parents feel that staying in contact with the child will be to painful for them or that it will cause the child to be confused. Others are very overwhelmed with an unplanned pregnancy and may be dealing with too much in their lives to enter into new relationships. The expectant parent may not feel ready to have a lot of contact but may request photos and letters or they may request openness in the future when they’re ready.