Communication After Placement
Heart to Heart Adoptions is committed to supporting communication with the Birth Parents, Adoptive Parents, and Adoptees. Each adoptive family and birth parent that has been brought together through adoption has a unique relationship and situation that will dictate a different type of relationship. Birth parents and adoptive families should educate themselves about open, closed and semi-open adoption agreements and evaluate how comfortable they feel with each type of adoption. We generally encourage a Semi-Open Adoption with the agency available to assist in information transfer unless all parties are comfortable with something else. While every adoption professional has a different interpretation of what a closed, open or semi-open adoption entails, the following is a description of how Heart to Heart defines each type of adoption.
When many people think about adoption, they envision a closed adoption in which the adoptive family and birth mother remain confidential, with no contact prior to or after the placement of the child. For many generations, it was common practice to keep adoptions closed. However, in the early 1980s, adoption began to shift toward more openness. Today, some people believe closed adoptions to be “safer,” mainly out of a fear that if the birth parents know where the adoptive family lives, that they will “take back” the child. While this fear has largely been perpetuated by television movies and sensationalized media reports, this is not true. Today’s adoption laws are very clear – once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive family is recognized as the child’s legal family.
While many adoption professionals have varying definitions of what an “open” adoption is, it typically means that the birth parents and the adoptive family speak prior to and even after the child is born. This may include phone calls and face-to-face visits. Some adoptions of this nature are very open, with the adoptive family and birth parents exchanging contact information and agreeing to periodic visits by the birth parents as the child grows. It is also common in open adoptions for the adoptive family to mail pictures and letters to the birth parents.
Semi-open adoptions fall in between open and closed adoptions. The adoptive family and birth parents usually will know basic information about each other, such as their first names and state of residence. Complete contact information, such as phone numbers and addresses, are not shared. While adoptive families and birth parents may speak to one another prior to the birth of the child, some confidentiality is maintained. Once the child has been placed with the adoptive family, the birth parents may still stay in contact with the family via letters and pictures, however this correspondence is handled by a third party, such as the adoption agency. Heart to Heart Adoptions handles all correspondence between our birth parents and adoptive families in a semi-open adoption. Our agency maintains the current contact information for each party – if the birth parents or adoptive family wishes to send a letter or pictures to the other party, they simply mail it to the agency. We then repackage the letter so there is no identifying information (such as mailing address) and forward it on to the recipient.
A majority of the adoptions conducted through our agency are semi-open in nature. Closed adoptions are rare at Heart to Heart. We ask that waiting families agree at a minimum to provide pictures and letters at periodic intervals to the birth parents, if it is requested by them. Our agency will be responsible for routing all correspondence to ensure confidentiality.
Many adoptive families find that although at first they prefer a more closed or semi-open adoption, once they meet the birth parents and connect with them, they find the relationship evolves into a more open adoption.
Some Books that may be helpful in deciding what kind of openness is right for you:
Children of Open Adoption by Patricia Martinez Domer (1998, R-Squared Press). This book gives guidance to adoptive parents, birth parents and adoption professionals in how to navigate more inclusive relationships.
Lifegivers: Framing the Birth Parent Experience in Open Adoption by James L. Gritter (2000, CWLA Press). This book examines the ways birth parents are marginalized. The author makes the point that adopted children are best served when birth parents and adoptive parents work together to ensure that birth parents remain in children’s lives.
The Open Adoption Experience by Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia (1993, HarperPerennial). This complete guide for adoptive and birth parents touches on almost every aspect of open adoption.
The Spirit of Open Adoption by Jim Gritter (1997, CWLA Press). This book gives a realistic look at the joys and pains of open adoption for birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents.
What is Open Adoption? by Brenda Romanchik (1999, R-Squared Press). Written from the perspective of a birth mother in an open adoption, this pocket guide provides concise information and resources.