There are many myths about adoption. A rumor starts and spreads over the internet or in a chat room, and everyone thinks it’s the truth because it’s in print. Most people, unless they have adopted very recently, aren’t aware of the way adoption has changed in the past decade or even the past few years.
By Tina Fisher
While most agencies offer the expectant or birth parent(s) the choice of "closed vs. open" adoption, it is important to remember two things about "openness" in adoption.
1) Openness is really more of a spectrum than an algorithm. Openness refers to the types and frequency of contact between birth and adoptive families. As such it's more of a question of how much, when, and through what means are we going to keep in contact rather than x = open adoption.
2) There is really no such thing as a truly closed adoption anymore. ("Closed" means zero contact and zero knowledge about adoption for the adoptee.)
One big reason why adoption cannot truly be closed is due to the increased availability of search and reunion possibilities. In years past, records were sealed if the birth mother requested that (for whatever reason) and that was that. In recent years, some states have passed laws to create a process for adoptees to request their original birth record or original birth certificate (OBC). Beyond that, we have search engines and records on line.We have DNA and ancestry sites and there are really no secrets.
My older brother was adopted. I knew nothing about him until I was 19 and found a mystery picture and asked. My father explained that he was conceived during WWII and he didn’t know until he returned from war that he even existed. We never even knew his name or his birth date. Just that he was adopted and was not listed under our father’s name.
I searched for 30 years. I started searching after my father had passed unexpectedly. All I had was the maiden name of the mother. I would search for a while and give up and then get a renewed energy to keep looking. Finally, I joined ancestry.com and did DNA. I thought that might lead to him, but that’s not what eventually got me there. It was a long road. I found him through a website called Find a Grave. I assumed his mother may have passed and so I looked for her – the one name I had. She hadn’t, but her husband had, and her name was on a gravestone, as if she was waiting for us to find her. I called the cemetery, the funeral home, and eventually found my brother’s name on a list of funeral attendees. His was the only name on the list who shared the same surname as his mother. I took a chance and called information and he had a landline in the same town. I found my brother with only his mother’s maiden name. He wasn’t looking for me because he didn’t know I existed.
My point is, there is no closed adoption with today’s internet. You can find anything and anyone with perseverance. The fact is, with social media, face book, e-mail, ancestry, DNA, and other search modes, in today’s world, secrecy is not only not a good option - it never really was - it's not an option at all.
Open adoption is what you make it. It can be as little as just knowing the parties involved or as much as periodic visits with “extended family”, or anything in-between. It’s generally good for the birth mother, good for the child, and ultimately good for the adoptive family. Adopted children will always have curiosity about their birth families. Every adopted child, whether they search or not, wants to know why. It comes down to who they are and how they relate to the world. If they are told who they are while growing up, it becomes much less urgent for them to search or look for answers. There is no “big moment” where they are told they are adopted. They will know from the start. If birth parents and adoptive parents are in touch and communicating, there will be no surprises for either and the adoptee can get on with the identity formation process we all have to go through without the added unknowns.
Are you seeking an open adoption? If you are looking for an adoptive family take a look at some of our approved families on the Waiting Families page.