While relationships between birth and adoptive parents vary, and each being unique, what is most important is that all participants agree on the amount of and type of contact.
It is important to ask any attorney or agency you work with what their expectation is for the relationship. Some prefer or require a certain level of contact between birth and adoptive parents. Some will allow you to choose the type of contact or relationship with which you are most comfortable. Either way, you should understand the different options and explore your comfort with or without contact.
OPEN relationships typically refer to ones where there is in-person contact between birth and adoptive parents during the pregnancy which continues after the child is placed in the adoptive home. Visits would be arranged either through an attorney, agency, intermediary or directly by the birth and adoptive parents. Birth and adoptive parents often know one another’s full names and addresses. The child would know the identity of the birthparent, with an agreement between birth and adoptive parents as to how the birthparent would be called (i.e. by their first name, as mommy, my first mommy, my birth mommy, etc.). The open relationship allows for the flow of information between the parties at any time during the lifetime of the adoptee.
SEMI-OPEN relationships usually include phone calls and possibly meeting before the birth of a baby or placement of a child, but there are no plans for continued contact after the placement of the child in the adoptive home. Birth and adoptive parents typically know one another’s first names. There may be an agreement to send photos or letters regarding the baby or child’s progress and development through an agency or attorney after the placement. This agreement may be in writing (called a Post Adoption Placement Agreement.) Contact reassures birth and adoptive parents of the other’s identity, as well as making it possible to ask questions or share information. A semi-open relationship allows adoptive parents to share information and to share observations of the birth parent with the child as he or she grows.
CLOSED adoption relationships are less common these days. The match of birth and adoptive parents is done by a third party (i.e. an adoption agency, facilitator in states that allow them to do so, or another disinterested party who is not financially compensated.) There is no contact between the birthmother and the adoptive parent.
There are many types of adoption relationships, and variations within the types. It is important to learn the options, the pros and cons for you, your child and the birth family—prior to making any decisions. Then it is important to discuss your thoughts and feelings with those helping you with your adoption process and be ready to tweak your plan once the match is made between birth and adoptive parents.
Keep in mind, any relationship you establish at the point of custody and placement will not include a child’s wishes and needs (unless adopting an older child). As adoptees grow and mature, they will have their own thoughts on the degree of openness they desire. They will want to decide when and how they get information or interact with their birthparents. Conversations about adoption over the years will assist adoptees as they make their decisions, as well as help the adults in their life know how they are processing information, what they need to know or who they want to see, and when.
It is essential that you keep these channels of communication open.