There are basically two kinds of adoption. The first
is called a closed adoption. In this case, birth parents of the
adoptee and the adoptive couple have no contact with each other.
The second kind of adoption is called an open adoption. In this
case, the adoptive couple and the birth family maintain current
addresses. They may exchange letters, have telephone and/or e-mail
A Cooperative or fully open adoption allows for both families to
visit each other, spend time together, sometimes during a holiday.
The adoptee spends time with birth mother, any other birth siblings,
birth grandparents, and sometimes birth father. They maintain an
ongoing relationship, most similar to that of an aunt or an uncle.
The adoptive couple takes care of the day-to-day parenting and financial
Many countries allow open adoption as a matter of course. The United
States has attempted closed adoption hoping to conceal the fact
that a birth mother was an "unwed" mother that an adoptee
was an "illegitimate child" and the adoptive couple "was
infertile." This secrecy denied the truth, and left the adoptee
without critical medical, psychological, and historical information
needed to grow up and consolidate a sense of self.
In place of an open adoption, many adoptive couples work very hard
to provide a perfect home, hoping that this will result in an absence
of adoption issues. Unfortunately a perfect home does not erase
the fact that an adoptee has already faced the trauma of relinquishment
by biological mother and father. Therefore, some adoptive couples
find the courage to reach out to birth family so that the adoptee
can learn critical information about relinquishment, and the birth
family can be reassured that the adoptee is doing well with the
In a carefully conducted open adoption:
- The adoptee doesn't have to worry and guess a thousand times
about what they did wrong to get relinquished,
- The adoptee can have an honest explanation from birth mother
that is the same each time the adoptee asks, about why the adoptee
- The adoptee can see who s/he is and who s/he will become by
knowing the genes, strengths, vulnerabilities, personalities,
talents, physical appearance, psychological health, and addiction
history, so that they can understand what they may have inherited,
and be proactive.
- The adoptee can have the information to consolidate a sense
of self in the teen years, so they aren't one of the 20-40% of
adolescents in psychiatric hospitals or residential placement.
- The adoptee can enjoy a holiday with adoptive family without
feeling like there is an important party going on somewhere with
birth family that is fun, and they are not invited.
- The adoptee doesn't have to wonder whether their birth parents
were a prince, princess, homeless, or in prison.
- The adoptee doesn't have to be distracted in school wondering
whether the math teacher with the same eye and hair color as the
adoptee might be a birth mother.
- The adoptee doesn't have to worry about whether the boy she
is attracted to with the same physical features is a birth family
member, and therefore going out with him would be incest.
- The adoptee doesn't have to always be scanning the horizon
for a birth parent.
- The adoptee can feel the love from birth family that has been
there since conception.
- The adoptee can know the details about medical problems within
the family so that the adoptee can practice appropriate preventative
- The adoptee can file application forms without having to write
"I don't know"
a thousand times.
- The adoptee can heal the trauma reactions (acting out and over
behavior) related to relinquishment.
- The adoptee can reduce the fear of being relinquished again,
especially when they turn 18.
- The adoptee doesn't have to relinquish themselves from others
because they feel inferior.
- The adoptee doesn't have to be either "very bad"
or "very good" to test if they can stay with loved ones.
- The adoptee learns that a birth mother's "I love you"
means 'I wish you could stay with me" rather than "Please
go away to someone else to get what you need."
- The adoptee gets to acquire a truthful birth story, and doesn't
have to get pregnant and give up the baby as the only way to find
out what her birth mother feels.
- The adoptee can have a birth mother to talk who knows what's
going on, when the adoptee is pregnant.
- The adoptee create a complete coherent narrative which is the
best predictor for good parenting of an adoptee's own children.
An open adoption requires love beyond the usual love for all members
of the adoption triangle (adoptee, adoptive couple, and birth family).
Loss is a corner stone of this relationship. The birth family has
to love and relinquish, then love in silent pain, and love again
if a reunion is achieved. The adoptee has to be able to love two
families that are very different. The adoptive couple has to face
the loss of infertility, love an adoptee who may be very different,
and often love beyond that to help with any special needs related
to adoption issues and learning difficulties.
Open adoption with love beyond love, is not for everybody. Sometimes
it is painful, messy and confusing. However, if achieved, it produces
a special kind of depth and humility within each person.