How ACI Views Open Adoption

Placing a child for adoption is one of the hardest things to consider. There are many factors weighing on the decision. One of the first questions most biological parents ask us is “Do you offer open adoption?” The simple answer is yes. ACI recognizes the answer to this question also has meaning, thoughtfulness, and impact behind it. At ACI, we strive to help adoptive and biological families build healthy relationships that last a lifetime. Every adoption is different, and ACI’s goal is to help everyone understand their options and choose the adoption plan that works best for their family.

Open adoption vs. Closed adoption

When people think about adoption relationships, they often think of stereotypes from the past. Adoption relationships have come a long way since then and modern adoption communication gives everyone much more flexibility. “Open adoption” and “Closed adoption” are two broad terms that are often used to describe post placement communication options.  ACI believes these terms are far too broad to truly describe the relationships that are built between biological and adoptive families. 

Closed adoptions

Closed adoptions typically have little to no communication between the biological family and the adoptive family. While closed adoptions used to be the norm, they have lost popularity as the negative stigma surrounding adoption has faded. People have become better educated about biological parent and adoptee experiences.  The most common reason today for a closed adoption is by choice of biological parents for a variety of reasons.

Open adoptions 

What is an open adoption? The truth is that this term means and looks different for everyone. Open adoption has some level of communication between the biological parents and the adoptive family before, during and after an adoption is finalized. This could include sharing basic information and photos to having regular visits and updates. During the adoption planning process, the biological family and adoptive family will discuss and decide what that communication will look like for them and how often it will take place.

Building an Extended Family Network

ACI was created with two fundamental beliefs. That people are able to determine what is best for themselves and that anyone connected to a child becomes a part of a larger extended family network. There is no standard level of communication  that is right or wrong for every adoption relationship. It is only the biological parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee that can decide what is best for them.   Regardless of the level of communication, there is always a tie between an adoptee and their biological family. 

At ACI, we like to think of “open adoption” and “closed adoption” as bookends on a very wide spectrum. On one end, open adoption, biological parents and adoptive families have independent contact that consist of sharing photos, updates, and visits. On the other end, closed adoption, the families decide to have very limited information shared before, during and after an adoption. However, post adoption contact is much more than just an agreement. It’s about acknowledging the innate connection between an adoptee and their biological family. The goal of having post communication is to build a life long relationship that can support a child’s sense of belonging and identity. Just like most relationships in our lives, a relationship between biological parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees can change over time. 

If you think about a family network, there are many members outside of the immediate family that play an important role in a person’s sense of belonging. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins comprise these roles. These family members are special even though they may not be involved in the child’s day to day life. These extended family relationships help to support a child and give them a wider understanding of family. In an open adoption, the biological parents can play a similar role and become part of an extended family network. The traditional view of adoption puts the child in the middle of their two families- biological family VS adoptive family. This extended family network approach ensures the child is surrounded and supported by all family members- biological AND adoptive.  

Openness in Adoption Relationships

When ACI discusses open adoption and post placement communication, we express the importance of always keeping an “open” mind to what the future holds for everyone.  Relationships are fluid and can go through many different phases.  There can be periods of silence where there isn’t much communication being exchanged.  Then, communication opens and visits or numerous exchanges of communication happen. Just like every other relationship in a person’s life, the biggest hurdle can be recognizing that relationships have phases.  This does not mean that the love fades or falls apart during those quiet phases. It’s important to remember, every relationship needs to be nourished with honest communication, respect and love.

Watch a video of Jennifer, a birth mom,  talk of open adoption

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03.01.21 by Pam Brown, ACI Expectant Parent Counselor

Pam joined Adoption Center of Illinois in July of 1991. She graduated from the University of Iowa where she earned her bachelor’s degree focusing on psychology, child development and counseling. Pam counsels expectant parents in northern, central and southern Illinois and says that after many years with the agency she still loves her job.