NACAC believes that openness is in the best interest of adopted persons. Open adoptions are one effective way to reduce the complications that adoptees face. By definition, adopted children are connected to both the family into which they were born and the family into which they have been adopted. Since those two families now belong to an extended family kinship network, open adoptions provide a greater potential for the families to work as allies on behalf of the well-being of the children.
Openness in adoption includes a range of options from no contact (confidential) to mediated (sharing non-identifying information through an agency intermediary) to ongoing fully disclosed adoptions (direct, identified contact) between birth and adoptive families. Examples of openness in this range include:
- social, health, and cultural information is shared
- pictures, ongoing information, or gifts are shared through an intermediary
- contact is maintained through electronic means
- birth and adoptive parents have met but plan no ongoing visits
- adopted child visits with siblings or extended family relatives
- adopted child maintains some form of contact with foster families and other significant people
- adoptive family maintains phone or mail contact with birth family
- adopted child visits with birth parents (either in neutral locations or in one another’s homes)
- child has been legally adopted, but the child’s parental rights are not terminated and contact continues
NACAC recommends that agencies and families pursue as much openness as possible, taking into consideration the best interests of each child on a case-by-case basis. Considerations for limiting openness should focus primarily on the child’s safety and well-being.
Research demonstrates that openness is most successful when all parties involved believe in the value of the connection. As a result, agencies and workers should work with birth and adoptive parents and the adopted person to explain the value of openness and to work out the most helpful adoption arrangement that is as open as possible.