Open Adoption

Adoption in the Best Interest of the Child

 
Main Page Domestic Adoption Adoptee Information Planning to Place Planning to Adopt Adoption Reform

Section One
Recommendations for Parents Considering Placement of a Child

After studying the information below use the
Adoption Agency Selection Checklist linked here to select an agency.

The valuable work of  Concerned United Birth Parents (http://www.cubirthparents.org/) includes making available online Heather Lowe's  "What you should KNOW if you're considering adoption for your baby", a CUB booklet in .pdf form (362Kb).  It is strongly recommended that anyone considering adoption study this document before doing anything. Adopting parents who understand these issues the birth parents of their child will face are needed, and all parents considering the placement of their child need to understand each of these issues before they go through the placement process. The children whose parents take the time to study these issues, and the issues outlined below, will be the real winners.

When is the term "Birth Parent" used?
What "Birth Parent Right" is never talked about by Adoption Agencies on the Internet?

What an Open Adoption Should Be:

What Open Adoption is NOT
The Reasons You Want Only a Fully Open Adoption
The Support for Open Adoption Found In Current Research
Why Work With an Adoption Agency?
What is the Main Mission of the Agency, Finding Babies or Finding Families?
How to Search for a Good Open Adoption Agency?

Remember to print out the Adoption Agency Selection Checklist which is one page long and reflects the recommendations given in these pages.

In this section I owe thanks to the many people who have helped provide much of the education I have received on these issues. There are triad members too numerous to mention, and a similar multitude of professional colleagues. I want to say a special thanks to the support groups here on the Internet who, especially during the early 1990's, helped provide the valuable feedback on the ideas that helped launch these web pages. While not everyone in these different groups agrees with everything that is written in these pages, it is certainly hoped that what is written here is a step in the direction of a healthier adoption practice. Comments and questions are always welcome!

Thank you
Bill Betzen LMSW (Emeritus)
bbetzen@openadoption.org
12-27-2005

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When do you use the term Birth Parent?

Please note that until there is an adoption, the person planning adoption is referred to as a parent, mother or father. It is only after the adoption that the term birth parent is used. The adoption process changes your role as a parent. Until then you are a parent in every since of the term. Agencies who make that distinction in working with their maternity clients are recommended. Such a sensitivity to the usage of terms will make it easier for you to realize the truth, the truth that you are a parent. An agency who wants to avoid reminding you of that truth should be watched carefully. Are they also wanting to talk with you about adoption plans only?

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What "Birth Parent Right" (should be "Parent Right") is never talked about
by Adoption Agencies on the Internet?

While there is much information needed by a parent making an adoption plan for a child they are expecting, I have chosen to emphasize this specific topic most because it is so consistently omitted on the home pages of the rapidly growing number of adoption agencies here in the Internet. It appears that only a few of them list any of the rights of families considering placement at all. However, even when a "Bill of Rights" is listed, they always fail to list the legal fact that if a parent has had expenses covered by an agency, they have not lost the right to parent their child, and there is NO requirement to pay back any expenses covered in the adoption process ever! The right to parent, and not pay back expenses for support received, is always left off these listings of "Birth Parent Rights."

If I am wrong I ask that I be given the name and Internet address of the adoption agency on the Internet who fully informs the public and potential clients on the Internet of their full "Bill of Rights". I will gladly print their names here! I would also love to know of a state wherein this is not the law! I feel certain it is universal.

How many children have been placed only because their birth mother was threatened that, if she didn't agree to placement, she would have to repay all the expenses she had incurred?

(You may want to read a paper I wrote for adoptive parents called "Infant Adoption Costs and Related Issues." While it was written for adoptive parents these issues go both ways. You may find it worth your time to read. Again, I welcome your questions on this issue.)

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What an Open Adoption Should Be

The term "Open Adoption" is used and defined VERY differently by different agencies. Do not allow an agency to try to convince you that anything less than a fully open adoption is the best. You should have the full power to select the family you want. You should know their full identity, and meet and know them, and their home. Each of you should make a life long commitment to stay in direct contact with each other with visits at least once a year.

What follows are major components of what I call a fully open, ongoing relation, adoption. This is what you want for your child if you are going to pursue adoption.

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You are Encouraged to Parent

An adoption cannot be open if you are not first encouraged to parent and you have fully explored those alternatives. There is information regarding parenting alternatives that will be collected in this location to expand on this reality. I ask that others reading these pages, who have such information, share it so that it may be on these pages. Generally, there are many national resources for such information, often through the respected pro-life national hot lines. However, one must always be vigilant against manipulation. It has been said that even some of the alleged pro-life services have induced mothers into placing their children for adoption. While I am certain it is a rare happening, even once is too much. Be very careful.

If you want to locate parenting support services, the best location for finding them in your area is looking in the yellow pages under "abortion alternatives". Again, you are calling this office to find help in setting up your home for your child. If they begin to urge you to consider adoption simply state, "I do not want to consider adoption, even an open adoption." That should give them the clear message that you need help setting up a home. Adoption should not be mentioned again by them. If it is, leave.

To protect against any manipulation I strongly recommend you read the following pages carefully to prepare yourself.

Remember that the family you would want for you child, IF you choose adoption, is the family who will want you to have gone through this preparation. I have never known of an adopting family who did not want the birth mother of their child to be making a free and un-coerced decision for placement, which can only happen after a careful consideration of parenting alternatives.

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Your Choice!

If you want to make an adoption plan, I strongly recommend that you be actively involved in the selection of the family for your child.

You are giving your child a family. You must find and know that family. Therefore I strongly recommend that you look at as many adoptive families as you want before you select one, or a few, to meet. Most often this involves looking at many resumes and what are called "Dear Birth Mother" letters.

This is one of the strong advantages of working with a good open adoption agency. You will have more families to look at and you will have a much greater certainty that the facts they are giving about themselves are correct.

Do not hesitate to ask the agency to get more family resumes from other agencies if you are, for any reason, not comfortable with the families you have seen so far. This is a very personal decision. One only you can make. If you have friends or family whose opinion you value, do not hesitate to consult with them. But the bottom line is this must be your choice.

If, after you begin working with one agency, you become uncomfortable with that agency for any reason, then find another agency. There is never any reason that would prohibit you from moving to another agency.

But never work with two agencies at the same time unless you tell each agency what you are doing. Your honesty is a treasure you must guard so that you continue to be treated with trust yourself. There is often a communication network between the good, nonprofit, agencies so do not play them against each other. Just be honest that you are searching for the best services and the best families to choose from in your adoption planning. By all means tell any agency you move away from why you are changing agencies. That may help the clients that follow you. It is one of the main reasons that all adoption agencies are now increasingly open in their adoption practice. Those agencies that are not changing are closing.

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Not Used to Manipulate: Beware!

Do not begin meeting families until you feel certain (i.e. as certain as you can be at that time) that you are wanting to make an adoption plan. This is part of the role of the counseling process. If you have any doubts, then do not hesitate to wait until after giving birth to select a family. There is nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately, it appears that there are agencies who encourage a mother considering adoption to meet an adopting family as quickly as possible, even without counseling. This helps a personal relationship to begin forming which thereby increases the potential for an adoption. The danger with that from your perspective is, if the desire to parent becomes stronger, it is more difficult to carry out a decision to parent. Do not back yourself into a corner where you may think you must place your baby for adoption.

At the same time there are parents who, from the moment that they know they are pregnant, they know that the only plan for them is an adoption plan. In that case they should reconfirm their decision making process with a counselor as soon as possible. If they remain certain of the desire for an adoption plan, then they should select a family for their child when they are ready. If your decision is "firm" then the time of selection cannot be too early in my opinion. But always remember that even a "firm" decision can change when that beautiful child is in your arms.

I think the ideal situation in an adoption (after counseling has reconfirmed that the decision is as firm as can be before birth) is for there to be time before birth for the both families to become friends. It has become increasingly common for birth and adoptive mothers to make the Doctors appointments together, and then be in the delivery room together. About six years ago, one of our maternity clients challenged the adoptive father when he hesitated saying something like, "Are you scared to be in the delivery room?" At birth that adoptive father cut the umbilical cord and then the birth mother handed them their daughter saying to her, "Here are your new parents." Scenes similar to that have become much more common in current adoption practice.

At the same time scenes like the above can be used by unscruplous adoption promoters to make you feel like you owe your baby to this family. Now, because "you promised," and "the family you selected will be so upset" you should sign the papers to place your child? Be very careful! You must have support in the agency you select to change your mind right up to the last legal minute. Ask them about this. If they are not comfortable taking with you about it, or even question your asking such questions, then find another agency. (I strongly recommend adoptive parents question agencies they are considering on this same issue. Failure to observe such principles can lead to a very legally risky adoption! You do not want to work with such an agency.)

Be very careful with an agency who will not let you see every family resume they have available of families within 300 miles of your home. The closer to your home the better. Some agencies take the "profile" of the family you want and then they select four or five families for you to consider. I recommend that you ask for more families. I have watched a process wherein mothers were allowed to see "The Book" which had every resume of the 25-30 families available with an agency. She could consider any family. That system works well. I recommend agencies who allow the mother such a broad selection of families.

At the same time, never hesitate to ask to see the families of other agencies if for any reason you are hesitant about the families your agency shows you. This is a VERY important decision, one your child must live with the rest of her/his life. It is your most crucial choice after the decision for adoption itself.

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Be Able to Change Your Mind

Please be aware that this is a very emotional time for the adopting family as well as yourself. While it is easy to recommend that you should not begin calling and meeting families until you are fairly sure of your plan, the reality is that many mothers select families feeling certian about their adoption plans. Then the baby is born and everything changes. Birth can change everything! Remember that, if you decide to parent after birth, that is fine. You do NOT owe anyone your child!

Be respectful of the adopting parents just as you want them to respect you. By all means meet with them to tell them of your final decision if you want to parent. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of in deciding to parent! Hopefully the family, and of course the agency and staff you are working with, will be very understanding and supportive of you in your parenting decision. On those rare occasions wherein an adopting family is not supportive of a mother in her parenting decision, then she has very good reason to know that an authentic friendship would never have been formed with that family. She will know that she definitely made the right decision!

This is a very big decision. Unless you are free to say no, you are not free to say yes. For open adoption to work you need to be matched with a family who will support you fully in whatever decision you make for your child, adoption or parenting. The adoption and parenting decisions made within such an environment are the best decisions that can be made. An adoption especially is not a good one unless it can pass this type of test for a free and well informed decision.

In the same way you must be free to select another family if you become aware of information that makes you uncomfortable with the first family you selected. This is often difficult to do unless you have a supportive counselor working with you, and an agency with many more families available from which you can select. It is not an uncommon process for a need to develop to change families. It can happen from the adopting parent's side, or from the mother's side. Selecting another family needs to be encouraged if there are any feelings that way from either party. If there are any problems with the relationship this early, then there will almost certainly be problems after placement. Do not hesitate to act immediately if, for any reason, you are hesitant about the family you have selected. It is important that all parties are comfortable with each other.

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If Your Child has Special Needs or is African American

In the area of special needs and African American adoption, it is rather common for even open adoption agencies to not require an open adoption because they need families for children with medical problems, and families for African American infants. In these situations the agency, who usually requires open adoption, may be more flexible. If you are expecting an African American child, or a child who may have medical problems, you can certainly have an open adoption if you call the right agency. Just be patient. With work you will find a good, open adoption family, who lives in your own town or nearby.

If a child is ever placed outside his culture of birth, then an open adoption is even more critical than ever. There are times that the connection through the open adoption will be the only connection that your birth child may have with his or her culture. I have made Anglo families very angry with this requirement. I strongly believe that cross cultural placements require fully open adoption more than any other type of placement.

This question about the willingness of an agency to serve the minority community will tell you much about what is really the main goal of the agency you are calling. Do they see their job as that of finding babies for families, or of finding families for babies? That is the most basic question you can ask about an agency. It is explored more below in the section by that name.

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Families From Which You Are Selecting Should All PREFER an Open Adoption

Some agencies are what you may call "Open-adoption-if-that-is-the-only-way-we-can-have-an-adoption" agencies. That is not the type of agency you want. You want an agency that has families who all emphatically want a fully open adoption for their child. They understand the value of a fully open adoption for their child and they expect a fully open adoption.

The good news is that more and more agencies every year are fully open adoption agencies wherein the birth mother can look at the resume of every family the agency has awaiting adoption. All resumes will be fully identified, not only with pictures but with full names, addresses, and home phone numbers you may call to talk with the families if you want. All of the families want and expect a fully open, ongoing relationship, adoption. Many of the resumes will be of families in our own area. That is the kind of agency you want to look for.

Be very cautious with your expenses during the adoption process. While this is an area that several of my friends in adoption do not agree with me on, I strongly prefer the type of agency adoption wherein the agency assumes your expenses and not the adopting family. That way, if you decide to parent after giving birth, the adopting family you have selected, a family you probably like very much, will not also lose money. That fact will help you to feel more free in your decision. If you select adoption, it will not be because you feel guilty about any money you may not be able to pay back to an adopting family you like.

It is illegal is every state I know for you to be required to pay back such money if you decide to parent. However, that doesn't mean you won't feel guilty, nor that the agency won't try to use that guilt to help bring about an adoption.

Be careful of agencies who very readily give you money, or worse yet encourage their adopting families to give you money, for expenses and then never require you to be in an active counseling relationship with one of their staff.. Even though the law protects you, there appear to be agencies who work to make people feel guilty if they do not relinquish their child and then cannot pay back the money used to cover their expenses. Do not get backed into one of those corners. You must remain free to parent.

Your placement decision needs to be as free a decision as is humanly possible. It needs to be one you can be proud of because you have searched and found a loving family nearby, a family you are getting to know well and will give to your child. A child is not given, a family is. The child should be the center of this process. All the adults involved are only there for the child's best interest.

Please be sensitive to the fact that there is a very, very, small minority of women who will pretend to be planning an adoption just to get their expenses covered. It is a sad fact that agencies, and families in independent adoption, must make every effort to protect themselves from such manipulation. Please be sensitive to that reality as you go through your adoption process. Hopefully expenses will not be a major issue for your individual adoption. That quickly eliminates this issue and it will be easier for you to decide to parent once you see that wonderful child.

A greater danger for you will be families who will promise an open adoption and then disappear as soon as the adoption is legally final. That appears to be much more common than the dishonest parents pretending to be planning adoption mentioned in the above paragraph. Please be very careful. Work with an adoption agency to help lessen the danger of your child's open adoption one day closing.

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Why You Should Select a Family in Your Area

Another major caution I want to repeat is to select a family nearby. You do not need to go 500+ miles away. There are open adoption agencies and families in every section of North America. You need to be able to easily visit the family you select. You should not be dependent on them for a plane ticket. Hopefully they are nearby and less than an hour away. Just be very careful. Be extra careful if the family you select is not nearby.

Check your local yellow pages to find a local agency, but do not necessarily go with the biggest ad. There are many agencies who only invest money in yellow page ads and have not invested in experienced staff for the open adoption program that is needed. Often the best agencies have the smallest investment in yellow page advertisement but the greatest investment in adoption expertise and the most open adoption experience. Make a copy of the checklist made from the issues discussed on these pages, and call every ad in your local yellow pages that is of a local agency. If for some reason you do not have a local agency that is a fully open adoption agency then you may have to look in nearby cities for such an agency. If for some reason you cannot find an open adoption agency nearby, e-mail me and I will find one for you.

Occasionally agencies a long distance away will have a family in your area. However if they try to convince you to place far away, take that as a danger signal. Obviously solid adoptions do happen long distance, but you must be careful. Search for a nearby family first so it is easier to form that relationship that is so important for open adoption to work.

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What Open Adoption is NOT

In considering a fully open, ongoing relationship, adoption, please know that this will not mean that you will be seen as a parent by your child. Yes, you will always be the birth parent. But the family you select will fully be "Mom" and "Dad." Open adoption does NOT mean "co-parenting." There is only one set of parents and you must be willing to fully give up that role. A birth parent often comes into a role something like a favorite aunt. It is another relative, a very important relative, but not "Mom" nor "Dad". If you do not want to give up that role in your child's life, please do not make an adoption plan.

Most importantly, open adoption will not eliminate the pain of losing your child. Yes, it is not as bad as the pain of a closed adoption, but there is still an intense loss that will never be regained. You are no longer a parent to your child.

In open adoption there is NEVER any guarantee that the adopting family will keep their side of the agreement to stay in contact. In several states there are some elements in the adoption reform movement who are working for legally enforceable open adoption agreements. I am not comfortable with legally enforcible open adoptions because I am concerned that it will be used to "sell adoption." The reality is that once a case gets into court everyone has lost, and most probably the birth family has lost the most. They often may not have the funds for a court fight. If for any reason you are hesitant to fully trust the adopting family, then do not choose adoption. This is another good reason to work with an agency. The agency is there to help you. While it is very rare there is a problem in this area, even once is too often.

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The Reasons You Want Only a Fully Open Adoption

  • 1) You search for and select the family for your child. You check them out yourself.
  • 2) You hopefully become friends with the adoptive mother and father. You continue to be in personal contact (not just letters and pictures through an agency) as your birth child grows.
  • 3) You are there as your birth child grows and has questions that only you can answer.
  • 4) You are there to help with any needed family research if there are genetically related health questions that develop.
  • 5) Your birth child will always be able to give a full medical history in the doctors office.
  • 6) Your birth child will always know of your love and that you simply wanted a family that you yourself could not provide at that time in your life.

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The Support for Open Adoption Found In Current Research

There are many other reasons to select open adoption that are rooted in the research that has been completed over the past 6 years:

1) Dr. Ruth McRoy of the University of Texas in Austin has reported that in their five year study of over 500 triad members, that children of open adoptions have a more positive image of their birth mother. My question is "What does that indicate about a child's self image, especially when compared with a child in a closed adoption?"

2) Adoptive parents with fully open adoptions are less fearful of the stability of their adoption, and more comfortable talking about adoption, than closed adoption parents. In an article published in "Family Process", a professional journal, the June 1994 issue (pp 141-142), it was reported from this same research by Dr. McRoy that:

"The strong general pattern is that parents in fully disclosed adoptions demonstrate higher degrees of empathy about adoption, talk about it more openly with their children, and are less fearful that the birth mother might try to reclaim her child than are parents in confidential adoptions. The sense of permanence in the relationship with their adopted child also followed this pattern..."

3) Dr. Marianne Berry reports from the California Longitudinal Study on Adoption (an ongoing study of 1300 people started in 1988) that children of open adoptions are reported to have fewer behavioral problems than children of closed adoptions.

3) Dr. Anu Sharma of the Search Institute in Minneapolis (a 35 year old non-profit family research center) reports that information issues are a major preoccupation for adolescent adoptees from closed adoptions. This was found in the process of preparing survey instruments for a national study of adolescent adoptee mental health. (This is a $1,000,000 National Institute of Mental Health study summarized online at www.search-institute.org/archives/gua.htm.) In asking open ended questions as to the adoption related issues that concerned them most, both adoptees and their parents listed the lack of information as issues that concerned them the most. In this study 65% of adoptees wanted to meet their birth mother.

This was found to be true of the adolescents in this study even though adoption search experts report that the desire to search usually is not presented and acted upon until much later in life. What will happen to this 65% within the next 10 years? In 10 years will 95% of these same adoptees want to meet their birth mothers? And how many will act on that desire?

4) All major national adoption conferences in the U.S. are presenting open adoption practice as the healthiest adoption method for the sake of the adoptee.

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Why Work With an Adoption Agency?

The value of working with an adoption agency is only present if you find a good open adoption agency to work with using the checklist recommended in the following section. There are many profit centered agencies who are less than fully honest in their adoption practice. Please know that while an agency may be listed as "non-profit" legally, that does not mean that they are in reality most interested in finding families for children.

You want to work with a good open adoption agency for the following reasons:

  • They will not disappear after your placement. They can be found and can be held liable legally for dishonest and unethical practices.
  • They will have a greater selection of families from which you may select with the resulting greater possibility of a good match.
  • You should be able to have more confidence in the truth of what the adopting family is telling you about themselves. The agency should step in if a family ever tells you anything that is not the truth. They should know the family and have already verified most of what you are being told.
  • They should be able to support you with a parenting decision if that happens after birth. You will need all the support you can get if that happens. If you are in a private adoption a parenting decision is especially difficult unless your own family and friends are very supportive.
  • They should have a core of open adoption staff with years of experience from which you can benefit. Hopefully the agency is an established agency with a history going back many years and an active post adoption program.
  • As a licensed agency they must meet minimum standards from the state, with whom you can file a complaint if you are in any way mistreated.
  • If after placement there are problems, you can go back to an agency for help, usually at no cost.
  • Usually an established agency is less likely to rapidly give you money for "living expenses" unless there is an authentic need. I consider this a big plus. Nobody wants to "sell" their baby and have that thought follow them for the rest of their life. That is happening far too often due to liberal "living expense" policies that are being followed in many states.
To find the best agency possible it is recommended that you use the checklist that is mentioned below. You want to work with the open adoption agency that will come out with the highest score using this check list.

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What is the Major Mission of the Agency?
Finding Babies for Families, or Finding Families for Babies?

While this issue relates to the above topic by the title of "If Your Child has Special Needs or is African American," it also says very much about an agency in a multitude of other areas.

I once received a phone call from a young expectant mother crying because she said "nobody wanted" her child. She had called the "baby wanted" classifieds, and then had called several of the agencies from the yellow pages. Everyone had told her either, "I am sorry but we are waiting for a white child" or "I am sorry but we have no families for your child." That was said by the people she called after they found out from her that she was expecting an African Amercian child.

There are times that I think the best way to test an agency is to call asking for maternty services. Ask them if they would have any families available for you to select from if you were expecting an African American child. Ask if the same services are available to you in that situation, or are services denied to you all together. That happens far too often. Why are those agencies not working in the recruitment and preparation of families for ALL children? Are those agencies only there for the children for whom they can charge the $15,000+ fee?

Such a denial of services by an agency very clearly tells you that they are not an agency dedicated to finding families for babies. They are dedicated to finding babies for families. What will that tell you about the type of counseling and other services that a maternity client will receive from them? It says very clearly that those services will be adoption-centered and will not encourage you to go beyond a minimal coverage of parenting alternatives. What will it tell you about the open adoption philosophy of the agency? Would it lead you to believe that they are an open-adoption-if-that-is-the-only-way-we-can-have-an-adoption agency?

This is one of the easiest measures of the kind of agency you want to avoid. They are not there for your child first, but for the adoptive family first, and the money those families represent.

An agency may have another mission statement in writing. But you need to pay attention to the "body language" of the agency. See if the finding of homes for babies is really their main mission.

Will your child be proud of having had his/her adoption handled through that agency once he/she is an adult and looks back?

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How to Search for a Good Open Adoption Agency?

Many agencies claim to be open adoption agencies, but how open are they? A few simple questions over the phone may help you to find out. I would recommend that you not volunteer your own knowledge of open adoption, but simply call and ask about the adoption services available through that agency. If they volunteer nothing about fully open adoption then go elsewhere. If they had been an authentic open adoption agency who prefers to do only open adoptions, they would have shared those alternatives with you without your asking about them. It would have been part of the normal service provided.

If they simply say that open adoption is one alternative, but they do not encourage you to have an open adoption, or if in any other way they discourage you from a fully open adoption, find another agency.

If "open adoption" only means an occasional face to face meeting arranged by the agency, and letters and pictures passed through the agency, then again you need to find another agency. What does such a semi-open adoption say about the ability of the family to trust you? You have trusted them with your child and this is how they trust you? Healthy adoption can only be built on full trust. The research is in and open adoption is the healthiest for all parties involved.

Ask how many of their adoptions last year were fully open, ongoing relationship, adoptions? Hopefully it was over 50% of all adoptions. There are agencies now with over 90% of all adoptions falling into this category of excellence!

Another good test is to call to get a copy of the information an agency mails out to adopting parents. If the agency will readily accept families not wanting a fully open adoption, or even a semi-open adoption, then find another agency.

I strongly recommend that you call many adoption agencies in your area to find a fully open agency, one that will encourage you to have a fully open adoption. You should know the adopting family and they should know you.You should visit each others' homes and hopefully you will not live too far from each other. The ideal is that the birth and adoptive mothers become good friends, as well as the birth and adoptive fathers if possible. All parties will be joined by an intense interest in the child.

I strongly recommend that you also read the sections I have written for adopting parents in these web pages. Those issues will also affect you. You will note that I recommend that adopting parents network in a manner similar to private adoption networking. You may ask why I do not recommend private adoption for parents considering adoption. The reason for that is there are too many dangers. You have no assurance that what the family is telling you is the truth. At least with an agency there is an organization you can file a lawsuit against if you are lied to by them and you can document the lies. A family from 500+ miles away, who can suddenly disappear with a change of their phone number, does not offer you the type of security you deserve.

Again, selecting a family who lives 500+ miles away and going through a private adoption, is fully your choice. If the family you select is a family you know well and they will pay for you to receive independent third party counseling from someone very knowledgeable of and supportive of open adoption, and they themselves receive good preparation for open adoption, then things can work out fine. However, since I strongly recommend that you take as few chances as possible for the sake of your child and yourself, I strongly recommend you work with an agency in your adoption plans.

I have made a checklist that you may print out for your use in calling agencies. It is made from the items covered above. There may be other items to add to this list so I again welcome your input and comments. These issues are very important. The decisions made will affect people for a lifetime.

You comments are valuable. Please send them, or questions you may have, to bbetzen@openadoption.org.

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Bill Betzen, LMSW (Emeritus), Webauthor
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