Open Adoptions FAQ

 If you are considering open adoption, having a clear and concise source of information on this type of adoption is quite valuable.

Open adoption is complex and emotionally charged, filled with concerns and specific considerations for all parties involved.

This article will shed light on some of the most common questions asked about open adoptions. Find the answers to frequently asked questions about open adoptions below.

What Are Open Adoptions?

Open adoptions are an adoption arrangement where there is communication and interaction between the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the adopted child. Open adoptions occur when the birth and adoptive parents agree that the arrangement would be in the child's best interests.

Despite the cooperative contact between the parties, the parental rights of the birth parents and the extended biological family end when the adoption is final. The adoptive family has permanent, legal parental rights.

Is There More Than One Type of Open Adoption?

Yes. There are two types of open adoptions:

  1. Fully open adoptions
  2. Semi-open adoptions (sometimes called mediated adoption)

In a fully open adoption, the birth mother has direct contact with the adoptive family. They may meet in person. This means the parties have identifying information about one another. Names, addresses, letters, and phone calls are exchanged in a fully open adoption. The birth father may also have contact with the adoptive family. Other members of the birth family may also have contact with the child and adoptive parents.

In a semi-open adoption, an agency caseworker or an attorney passes along information between the birth family and the adoptive family. This information can include letters, photos, and family and medical history information. Identifying information such as names and addresses is not shared. The two families do not meet in person.

What Is the Difference Between Open and Closed Adoptions?

Open adoptions are different from closed adoptions. In a closed adoption, the birth mother or birth family chooses not to have any contact with the adoptive family. But nonidentifying information about the birth family may be provided, including background and medical information.

Domestic adoptions are often a form of open adoption. According to a report issued by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, more than half — 55% — of domestic infant adoptions are fully open. Semi-open or mediated adoptions comprise almost half — 40% — of adoptions. Closed adoptions make up only 5% of adoptions.

Increasingly, women who face unplanned pregnancies seek open adoptions. On the other hand, international adoptions are almost always closed adoptions.

Are There Advantages To Open Adoptions?

There are several potential benefits to open adoptions. For example, it can reduce the anxiety of birth parents to see their child in a safe and loving home.

Open adoptions can offer benefits to the child as well. It can give the adoptee a clearer understanding of their personal history. An open adoption allows them to ask questions about their birth family's background as they age. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, research has shown that children do better in open adoptions because it allows them to understand their background and adoption story.

Are There Disadvantages To Open Adoptions?

There are challenges associated with open adoptions. One significant concern arises when the relationship between the birth parents and adoptive parents deteriorates post-adoption. This could result in the adoptive parents revoking visitation with birth family members. Even if an agreement about such third-party visitation is in the legal adoption documents, the biological parents have little to no legal recourse to continue their visits to the child under the family law of many states.

How Can I Get an Open Adoption?

Generally, there are three ways to get an open adoption.

  • The first is through an agency adoption. You can partner with an agency that offers open adoptions. Most agencies explain their adoption programs on their websites.
  • The second approach is to consider an independent adoption. An independent adoption does not involve an agency. The adoption process requires the services of an adoption attorney. This route is expensive because it may involve advertising to find birth parents who have decided to put their child up for adoption. Once you have found birth parents open to an independent adoption, the attorney can help you with the paperwork and court filings necessary to finalize the adoption.
  • The third approach is to adopt a child through foster care.

What Are the Costs of an Open Adoption?

Open adoption can occur through various types of adoption, whether from foster care, through a private agency, or through independent adoption. As a result, costs for prospective adoptive parents vary.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, adoption through foster care has few, if any, costs. A private adoption will cost between $30,000 to $60,000, and an independent adoption can cost between $25,000 to $45,000.

Adoptive parents in private agencies and independent adoptions pay for several services. The adoption process fees include:

  • Home study
  • Agency, court, and legal fees
  • Pre-adoption and post-adoption counseling for birth parents
  • Birth parent medical and legal expenses
  • Adoptive parent training
  • Social worker services

There is financial help for open adoption. There are state and federal adoption tax credits. Some employers offer adoption subsidies. Some organizations offer grants.

Who Pays for the Birth Mother's Hospital/Birth Expenses in an Open Adoption?

Under most state laws, adoptive parents can pay “customary and reasonable expenses" incurred by the birth mother. Customary and reasonable expenses can include legal expenses, adoption agency expenses, medical and hospital expenses related to the pregnancy, and living expenses. Courts may review and question the expenses.

Is a Home Study Required in an Open Adoption?

Yes. A home study is necessary for open adoption, even with birth parent involvement. State adoption laws require a home study.

An adoption services provider or a licensed social worker will conduct the home study. The study reviews the prospective adoptive parents and their home for suitability for adoption. The process usually involves interviewing the adoptive family, checking the parents' home for safety, checking family and friend referrals, and background checks. Background checks typically include a look at the adoptive parent's criminal history, income, and medical history.

The home study concludes with the caseworker's recommendation of the children you can adopt. For example, the social worker might approve you to adopt one child younger than 5. In another instance, the caseworker might approve an adoption plan allowing you to adopt two children under 10.

Home studies generally cost between $1,500 and $3,000. The fee varies depending on the type of adoption, the adoption agency, and the state where you live.

There might be financial help for home studies. Adoption tax credits can help defray the cost. According to the Internal Revenue Service, adoptive parents can claim home studies as a legitimate adoption expense.

What Are the Legal Rights of Birth Parents in an Open Adoption?

After the adoption is final, the adoptive parent has permanent and legal parental rights over the adopted child for the child's life. The birth parents' legal parental rights are extinguished. But an adoption relationship between the adoptive family and the birth parents can continue if all agree.

Is an Agreement for Contact Between Birth Parents and the Adoptive Family Legally Enforceable?

Post-adoption contact agreements detail the type and frequency of contact between a child's adoptive family and birth family. The agreement continues the adoption relationship. These open adoption agreements range from informal understandings to written, formal contracts. The enforceability of post-adoption agreements can be an issue in open adoptions.

Laws about enforcement vary among the states. Some state laws specifically mention that the agreements are non-binding and non-enforceable. Other states allow enforcement of post-adoption agreements when the adoption court has approved them. Generally, states allow adoptive parents to put aside the agreement if doing so is in the best interests of the child.

What Kind of Support is Available for Adoptive and Birth Parents in an Open Adoption?

Support is available for adoptive and birth parents. Adoption agencies often provide counseling. Counseling can include access to support groups and resources for managing relationships in an open adoption. In an independent adoption, prospective adoptive parents usually pay counseling costs.

Counseling is important if you are considering adoption, especially open adoption. Open adoption can have a significant emotional impact on family members. Counseling can help parents understand the emotional dynamics unique to open adoption. You might not encounter these issues in a traditional closed or semi-closed adoption.

Still Have Questions on Open Adoptions? Get Professional Guidance

Open adoptions are becoming the norm. The paperwork and clearances must be carefully prepared. An adoption attorney can make sure that everything goes smoothly. Contact a local adoption attorney to discuss the details of your adoption case.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 Find a local attorney

Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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