Potential adoptive families often find the idea of open adoption intimidating and scary, but it doesn't need to be. Learning about the benefits of openness, especially for adopted children, can help allay those fears. In addition, every family can define the meaning of openness in their adoption, which can change and evolve over time.
Having access to their birth families' health information can help adoptees complete forms for doctors' offices, school, and health or life insurance applications. This data can give them a heads-up about hereditary diseases or ailments for which they might be at risk, including diabetes, cancer and mental illness. In extreme cases, a birth family member could be the match needed for a life-saving blood, organ or bone-marrow transplant.
Feeling as though they are substantially different than others might negatively affect a child's self-esteem. Adoptees who have contact with their birth families can learn where they got their hazel eyes or perhaps whether their penchant for peanut butter and pickle sandwiches is hereditary, which might give them a deeper sense of belonging. In addition, children who have contact with their birth parents might learn that they were lovingly placed with their adoptive families, not "given up" or unwanted.
According to the American Adoption Congress, 65 percent of adopted adolescents in closed adoptions wanted to meet their birth parents, 72 percent wanted to know why they were placed for adoption and all but 6 percent wanted to discover which birth parent they looked like. Children in open adoptions never need to fantasize or wonder about their birth parents, leaving them free to concentrate on schoolwork, playtime and other childhood endeavors. Likewise, adult adoptees who have contact with their birth families don't have to exhaust time or resources searching for their biological parents.
Depending on the level of openness and the involvement of the extended birth family, an adoptee in an open adoption might benefit from having a broader base of supporters. Whether the adoptee considers the birth family to be acquaintances, close friends or even extended family members, any child or adult can benefit from having additional people in their lives who love and support them.
- Princeton University and the Brookings Institution: The Future of Children: Risks and Benefits of Open Adoption
- Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: Openness in Adoption
- Independent Adoption Center: Benefits of Open Adoption
- American Pregnancy Association: Open Adoption Advantages
- Adoptive Families: Positive Adoption Language
- American Adoption Congress: Reform Myths
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images