How to Adopt
Open Adoption Versus Closed Adoption
I am a birth father and an adoptive father. Perhaps this gives me a unique position on how adoptions work. In my personal and professional life I have been on just about every side of an adoption. As a birth parent I know the joys and tribulations of raising a child from the natural process. I also know the anxiety which comes from an adoption. I personally participated in failed adoptions as an adoptive parent and also participated in the run-up to the adoption process by participating in medical treatments to conceive. Everything was difficult and painful. So, believe me, I know what being in a position of wanting to be a parent and being unable to fulfill that role can mean to finding a sense of completion.
As a birth father I know what it means to have the joy of being a parent and being there when your child is born. For that reason I know what special people birth parents are and understand what the difficult decision means to them.
Any adoption can be made an open adoption. An open adoption is one where the birth parents have some knowledge of where the the child has been placed. Generally an adoption is a closed affair – meaning that birth parents have no knowledge of where the child has been placed. It is up to the birth parents to require that an adoption is an open adoption. A closed adoption means that the birth parents do not know where the child will be placed.
When a couple seeking a child goes to an adoption agency they usually pay a fe to place their name on an adoption list for the purposes of locating a child.These adoptions are usually closed adoptions This means that strict rules of confidentiality are followed. All statutory rules that relate to the typical adoption follow this model. Everything is handled confidentially and neither the birth parents nor the adoptive parents know of each other’s location, existence or particulars. In my experience birth parents typically want to know where their child is going.
Let’s face it, adoption is a confusing and difficult process and contains many pitfalls along the way. Ultimately, it is my belief that the law has a balanced approach to forming a family in this rather unique way. It balances the interests of the birth parents for support and the desire of the adoptive parents to provide support. It also protects the birth mother by giving her the ability to renounce or consent in the legal ways provided under the law. None of the legal protections are done away with in an open adoption. The net effect is that the law protects all parties to the adoption process. None of these protections are compromised by the open adoption process. The real benefit is that all parties to an adoption have some sense of compassion and humanness toward each other for the best interest of the child. It is a beautiful thing to experience adults functioning in this way. It does make the process easier and in some sense more natural.
Many people initially are apprehensive of the prospect of an open adoption, but what does an open adoption mean?
In my experience the open adoption meets the expectations of the birth mother in a way that closed adoptions do not. Meeting these expectations may go a long way in helping the birth mother make the decision to go forward with an adoption. In an open adoption the birth mother may place the child where she wants and with whom. The court will still direct a home study and the parties can exchange whatever information they find necessary to be comfortable with the process. The court will still direct and control the adoption according to the adoption statutes.
How does it work?
When a birth mother contacts me regarding an adoption I make an attempt to find suitable adoptive parents. I normally keep the list in my office of couples who want to adopt. I do not charge a fee for keeping those names on file. Some lawyers do. The more people that are interested in adopting a child the easier it is for the birth mother to make a decision. In an open adoption the birth mother has the opportunity to select the adoptive parents from those that may have provided me with their names and other information. I believe that the ultimate choice for placement should be the birth mother’s and that she should be able to know where her child or children ar going to be.
I have had several open adoptions take place where the adoptive mother is actually in the birth room with the birth mother. In those instances the birth mother wanted the adoptive mother to bond with the child at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile the adoptive father was in the waiting room with the birth father. Again this appears to be a very natural way for adults to deal with a difficult process. This is probably the biggest gain that comes from an open adoption. It is the sense that everyone is functioning for the best interest of the child. It also increases the prospect that adoption will be completed.
But make no mistake about an open adoption. Adoptive parents want a child to be part of their family. They do not wish to have the birth parents engage in raising the child they seek to adopt. How open the adoption process is up to the adults involved. I make it explicitly clear in the process of an open adoption. That being said, birth parents usually desire to receive occasional photos of the child but they do not engage in ongoing correspondence or continue contact with the adoptive parents after the adoption process is complete. But having a child and providing those pictures can be a small trade-off for actually having the child as your own. In effect, being adopted will only prove you can buy what a nickel buys, that is if you have a nickel. In other words, being adopted does not mean you have to feel adopted or less loved. For my part, there is no difference for the love of a child in the adoptive parents heart or that of a natural parent. I am both. You still feel you love your child no matter what side of the adoption process you are on.
Birth parents love their children enough to sacrifice their heart and themselves for that love. Adoptive parents love their children enough to sacrifice their heart and themselves for that love. That is why I do what I do. It is one of the most meaningful things that I do as a lawyer.
So what kind of support can the adoptive parents be called upon to provide? The adoptive parents can provide maintenance and support to the birth mother in any amount that the court approves. But the limits of the support must be approved by the court. These payments must be reasonable in their nature. The court will review the payments prior to anyone making them. It will be reduced to writing and must be reasonably related to the care and welfare of the birth mother. It can include rent, food, and education. I can discuss the safeguards that the law provides.
The point is no one can change the law. The court is at the crossroads of adoption. It remains there to safeguard the rights of all.
If you believe you would consider an open adoption either as a birth mother or as an adoptive couple do not hesitate to contact me.