Open vs. Closed Adoption

For many people, adoption is the only choice when it comes to having children. Once someone chooses adoption, however, there is always more than one option available. It is important when choosing adoption that each person involved is educated on the topic. There are three main types of adoption: confidential, mediated, and fully disclosed. “In up to 90% of domestic infant adoptions, adoptive parents maintain some contact with birth parents. It’s considered best practice because most women want to know what happens to the child and the child wants to know family history” (Koch, 2009).

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Even though the adoptive parents may not create a strong bond with the child, an open adoption is better than one that is closed because children respond well to open adoptions and the birth parents cope better. Adoption is a legal process, practiced in front of a judge, which brings together a child or children with new parents. When a child is adopted the adoptive parents receive the same legal rights and responsibilities as if they were the birthparents. Once welcomed into the family the child assumes the emotional and social responsibilities of any other family member.

Most judges will use the phrase, “as if born to” (Adoption Media, 1995-2010) to signify the child/parent relationship. Before the process is finished, a judge will converse with each party involved and verify that everyone understands exactly what is about to take place. The rights of the biological parents are severed and the adoptive parents receive all parental rights. The three most commonly known forms of adoption are closed, semi-open, and open adoption. A closed adoption is when there is absolutely no contact between parties involved once the adoption is finalized.

This is the most traditional type of adoption. There is no identifying information shared about the birthparents or the adopted child and they’re new family. Semi open adoption is when some information is shared between the birthparents and the adoptive family. Usually there is a mediator, such as a social worker, who passes information along to both parties. Finally an open adoption is when all information is shared. There may be meetings arranged, phones calls, letters, and pictures exchanged between the birth and adoptive families.

Out of these three types of adoption, the most traditional type is a closed adoption. Closed adoptions have been the norm for quite some time but people are now starting to see open adoption as a preferred alternative. A study was done with a group of adoptive parents and birthmothers on their experiences with open adoption. The following pie graph depicts the study’s results. (Adoption Media, 1995-2010) As seen from the above pie graph, parties involved in open adoption have had very positive experiences.

Birthmothers have indicated that they view open adoption in a positive light. Adoptive parents have commented that they are appreciative of having the option to approach their child’s birth family if need be. Birthparents and adoptive families want to lessen the confusion among the adopted child. Some families may start out with a closed adoption and then transition into an open one depending on the situation. The following quote from an adoptive family is a good example of a closed adoption to an open adoption transition. Our adoption is open but it started out closed, Mark says.

When I first met Mary, my daughter Lynn’s birth mother, I had no idea who she really was, he admits, or that we could ever be anything to each other. I wanted a closed relationship. I didn’t want Lynn to be confused. We wasted quite a few years playing hide and seek with each other. Deep down, I was so afraid that if they knew each other, Lynn would love Mary better than she loves us, I just couldn’t stand to take the risk. Then Lynnie ended up in the hospital, in intensive care, and we needed Mary’s information. She was more than just there for us.

She was knowledgeable about life and death in their family. Mary knew Lynn’s biological inheritance. Being able to benefit from what she knew may have saved Lynn’s life. Mary wasn’t squeamish about Lynnie’s vomit, or smell, or blood. She had the strength to be able to stand what was happening and to take it and to help. It turned out Lynn had a rare blood disease that had surfaced before in their family. When I finally understood how connected Mary and Lynn would always be to each other without taking anything away from our family, my feelings started untangling in a way that felt new.

I started being able to relax around Mary. I found out I could trust her. I began to understand that her love for Lynn is like mine. Now we can’t imagine not seeing her. We are able to share future dreams and even talk about the sadness of the past. I’m deeply grateful she’s a part of our lives. (Adoption Media, 1995-2010) Minimizing the sense of loss, commemorating the child’s previous family, and eliminating the possibility of the child feeling betrayed are the goals of open adoption for the children. A closed adoption may have a negative effect on the child as well as the birth parents.

Many different emotions are felt through this experience. Identity confusion, not being able to compare physical traits to their birth family, limited access to information that others take for granted such as medical records, and the feeling of abandonment may be experienced by the adoptee. The birth parents may feel an unbearable amount of guilt in a closed adoption. The biological parents may have the urge to know if their child is safe and happy but will have no way of knowing unless open adoption is chosen. The relinquishment of a child for adoption permeates all aspects of a birthmother’s life” (Purtuesi, 1995). The birth parents in an open adoption have a better outlook on life. They feel more in control and content for making a responsible decision pertaining to their child rather than abandoning them. Even though birth parents experience all the steps of grief and loss they end up going through it more quickly in an open adoption. Because of this they tend to have a higher amount of self-esteem and better mental health than birth parents in a closed adoption.

Adoptive parents in an open adoption have contact with their child’s biological parents which will allow the adoptive parents to have a “real image” of the birth parents. As a relationship develops between both families trust and understanding is formed. Adoptive parents in a closed adoption may have feelings of insecurity because they constantly worry that their children will be taken away. These feelings are not an issue in an open adoption because the birth parents are available to reassure the adoptive parents that they are the real mother and father.

Children in an open adoption have all the information they will ever need at their fingertips. Any questions they may have can and will be answered by their mother and father or biological parents. Instead of lying to a child the adoptive parents can tell them the truth about how they came together and became a family. Medical history and records are also fully available to the child and adoptive parents unlike in a closed adoption where only minimal medical information is shared. Children in an open adoption do not usually experience a lack of love. They know that the reason they were dopted was because their biological parents loved them enough to know that another family would be a better fit. The adoptee can feel good about where he or she came from and the family they are currently a part of. A feeling of abandonment is commonly felt among closed adoption adoptees but in an open adoption those feelings are obsolete. When a child is adopted at a very young age it can be extremely difficult to explain to them the concepts of a “birth mother” and “adoption”. A child coming from a closed adoption has an even harder time understanding these concepts.

When the adoptee is in an open adoption, however, it is much easier to explain because all of the people involved are present. “In open adoption, the child has concrete information, and the birthmother is a concrete reality in his life. ” (Silber, 2008) Many prospective adoptive parents are apprehensive to the idea of an open adoption or just don’t know what to expect. Families struggle when it comes to deciding on which degree of adoption to choose. The following chart answers some important questions many birthparents may have. Adoption Support and Consultation Services, 2007) There are many different forms of adoption and the degree of openness can be determined by personal preference. It is important that each person chooses the best form of adoption for themselves. An open adoption can lessen the stress felt by the adoptive parents during the process of an adoption. Both the adoptive and birth parents may feel a better sense of control in an open adoption when everyone is involved. The main quandary that adoptive parents face is the fear of having too much “openness” in their adoption.

The adoptive parents feel that if the birth parents are too involved they may attempt to take back custody of the adoptee. Below is a list of facts about open adoption from the Child Welfare Information Gateway with the intention of clarifying any misconceptions pertaining to open adoption. Facts about open adoption Parties in open (fully disclosed) adoptions are NOT confused about their parenting rights and responsibilities. Birthmothers do NOT attempt to “reclaim” their children. Children in open (fully disclosed) adoptions are NOT confused about who their parents are.

They do understand the different roles of adoptive and birth parents in their lives. Differences in adolescent adoptive identity or degree of preoccupation with adoption are NOT related to the level of openness in the adoption. Adoptive openness does NOT appear to influence an adoptee’s self-esteem in any negative way. Adoptive parents in open adoptions do NOT feel less in control and, in fact, have a greater sense of permanence in their relationship with their child. Open adoption does NOT interfere with adoptive parents’ sense of entitlement or sense that they have the right to parent their adopted child.

Birth mothers in open and ongoing mediated adoptions do NOT have more problems with grief resolution; in fact, they show better grief resolution than those in closed adoptions. Researchers did find that birth mothers in time-limited mediated adoptions (where contact had stopped) had more difficulty resolving grief at the first interview of the study (when the children were between 4 and 12 years old). (Hillside Family of Agencies, 2003) Making the choice to have an open adoption takes great work, flexibility, and a lifelong commitment but can also provide great pride and assurance.

Current research shows that birth parents view open adoption as positive and that adoptive children in an open adoption have a better sense of personal identity and higher self esteem than children in closed adoptions. The hope for the future is that open and closed adoption will no longer exist. The term “openness” will be the norm and open adoption will just be adoption. References Administration for Children and Families. (2006). Adoptive family structure. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from http://www. acf. hhs. gov Adoption Media (Ed. ). (1995-2010). Adoption Statistics: Open Adoptions.

Retrieved March 07, 2010, from www. statistics. adoption. com Adoption Support and Consultation Services. (2007). Types of Adoption. Retrieved March 07, 2010, from www. ascsadopt. org Berry, M. (1993). Risks and benefits of open adoption. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from http://www. jstor. org Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2003). Openness in Adoption: A Fact Sheet for Families. Retrieved February 21, 2010, from http://www. childwelfare. gov Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2004). Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons: A Factsheet for Families. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from http://www. hildwelfare. gov Hillside Family of Agencies. (2003). Open vs. Closed Adoption. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from www. hillside. com Koch, W. (2009, May 19). Struggling families look at adoption – USATODAY. com. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from www. usatoday. com Purtuesi, D. R. (1995). Silent Voices Heard Impact of the Birthmother’s Experience Then and Now -. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from http://library. adoption. com/articles/silent-voices-heard-impact-of-the-birthmothers-experience-then-and-now. html Silber, K. (2008). Benefits of Open Adoption. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from www. adoptionhelp. org

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