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Open versus Closed Adoptions: What is the difference?

Deciding to adopt a child is very likely to be the most consequential and important decision that you ever make. There is so much to think about, so much to plan for and in the balance is another person’s life that you are signing up to be a caretaker for. On top of that, not only will you be caring for another person, but you will be the primary caretaker, nurturer, provider, and defender of this young life. For many children, your adoption is the moment in time that he or she has been waiting for. Opening your life to another person is a bold and loving decision to make, without a doubt. 

Adoption is not without options. I didn’t necessarily mean that to be a pun or a play on words, but it does work out that way. You can’t spell “adoption” without “option.” Being able to decide which path to take to arrive at the child that you were supposed to end up with all along is challenging. The process is just that- a process. However, this process is designed to match you up with a child for whom you will become their parent. Being able to manage those expectations and not have the whole experience turn into a glorified “car shopping” trip can seem to be a challenge. You don’t want to turn the whole thing into a chore but with so many options, hurdles, and logistics to work out, I can't say that I blame you for feeling this way. 

We hear so many terms thrown out regarding adoption that I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog post on them. Open adoptions and closed adoptions are two buzzwords that we hear a lot about when it comes to the world of adoptions. In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we are going to discuss the difference between a closed and open adoption. On top of that, we are going to try and help you gain an understanding of what type of adoption is best for you and for the child that you will be adopting. Having options is a good thing in life. However, not being able to decide between options because you lack information is not a good thing. It can be beyond frustrating to feel like you don't know what direction to turn when it comes to deciding what kind of adoption to pursue in your situation. 

Paralysis by analysis is how I've heard this phenomenon referred to. You can take so much time reviewing your options and ultimately deciding which to choose that you don't feel comfortable doing anything at all. What you are left with is a feeling of unease and discomfort to the point where you do nothing. You decide that you couldn't possibly decide what to do because you have too much information being made available to you. It's like drinking water from a firehose. It all comes at you too fast. You moved on from an opportunity to build a life with a  child because you weren’t confident that you could make the best decision possible for that child and yourself. 

If nothing else, please allow this blog post to be a place where you can decide that it is completely possible for you to make wise decisions and to end up in the best possible position for yourself and a little child. Why not schedule a free-of-charge consultation today with an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan? When you do that, you can learn even more about the world of adoption law and how your family can be impacted by the decisions that are made in connection with an adoption. One of our licensed family law attorneys can answer your questions and give you information based on your specific circumstances. That is the sweet spot where you no longer feel overwhelmed, but rather, you feel empowered to make good decisions for yourself and for the child that you will be adopting. 

Open adoption in Texas

An open adoption means that the child you will be adopting will be able to continue to be in contact with his or her biological parents moving forward even after the adoption is complete. Allowing the biological parent to participate in the process allows you to learn more about where the child comes from as far as their biological family is concerned. It also helps to be able to strengthen the bond between you and the child even before the adoption can take place. You can contact the family of the child before the adoption takes place to ask questions or discuss whatever you would like. 

Part of the expectation surrounding an open adoption is that you will be willing to allow the child's biological parents (or at least the mother) to be able to continue to remain in the life of the child moving forward. This carries with it some consequences that you should think critically about. If you are not comfortable with having someone like this in your life after the adoption is over then you may want to consider another option when it comes to adoption. However, if you want your child to feel a connection to their past and their biological roots then an open adoption may be exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Open adoptions may seem awkward to some people at first glance. Ending the parent-child relationship with one parent and beginning the parent-child relationship with you is not how most families are formed. However, that doesn't mean that your new family unit is any less legitimate or based on love. Additionally, open adoptions are becoming more popular over time. Here are some of the benefits of open adoption in terms of its effect on you and your child. 

Once you are matched with a  prospective family you can contact them to initiate a conversation and begin getting to know one another. The nice part about the open adoption process is that it puts the ball in your court as far as how much or how little you want to initiate a relationship. It is always a good thing when the two sides of adoption don't view one another as being on different teams or having different goals. From my experience, the people participating in an open adoption see themselves as teammates with the same goal for one another- to look out for the best interests of a child and to do so in an efficient manner. You and the family will be able to coordinate your efforts when it comes to the daily life of a child, learn more about adoption together and eventually move forward with adoption if that is what you would like to do. 

The foundation that can be established between your family and the biological family of the adoptive child can be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. People who have gone through open adoptions have noted that they could see from the beginning how the biological family would still be able to play a crucial role in the life of the adopted child. It is an incredible advantage for many families to be able to rely upon the adoptive family for support for a child who is adopted. Without a doubt, this arrangement may not be for everyone but for families who are interested in adding to their family beyond an adopted child, an open adoption may be exactly what they are looking for. If you like what you are hearing about open adoption, then read on to learn more about the process. 

Your child will know who he or she is throughout their life. Every adoptive family handles the question of when I tell my child about the adoption differently. Some families tell the child very early on, while others wait until the child is an adolescent or teenager. Still, other families do not tell the child at all. You can find countless opinions about the correct course to take regarding this subject. Certainly, the adoptive parents and the specific circumstances of the adoption and the family will influence how and when this information is provided to the child. However, whatever the circumstances are the conversation is rarely an easy one to have. 

One of the reasons why this is almost always a difficult conversation is because it is one of those rare times in a person's life when he or she may lose touch with who they truly are and what their life has been about. This may sound dramatic if you are telling a five-year-old about adoption, for example. However, any parent of a five-year-old can tell you that he or she already has some well-established concepts of who he or she is as a person. Most of this is based on your family and specifically you and your spouse. Remember- your child's world is much smaller than yours. Your child defines themselves based on the people in their "universe." If your child's universe consists of you and your spouse plus their siblings, the news of adoption can be enough to significantly alter their worldview. 

As a result, you need to be careful about how you approach this subject. It is an important enough topic that you will probably spend a fair bit of time going over your options and deciding when that “perfect” moment will be to tell your child about the adoption and where he or she comes from. You should be prepared to answer some difficult questions and even to be greeted with anger or hostility about the adoption. Your child is just that- a child, after all. He or she cannot regulate their emotions like an adult. It may be surprising to you to see your child become upset about something like this. 

What an open adoption does to mitigate these circumstances is to help your child to maintain some degree of contact with their past. Their identity is something that can be lost during an adoption. Even if their current circumstances with you are lightyears better than what they had with their biological family, adoption can be traumatic to learn about for children of a certain age. Trust may be temporarily lost. However, many families view this as a necessary step to be able to develop and strengthen the bond between parent and child. Adoption does not have to be the defining characteristic between you and your child. Being able to help your child maintain some contact with their past can be especially helpful in that time when your child has begun to ask questions about their biological family. 

One of the most common questions for children to ask of you and your spouse once the adoption has taken place and the children are either made aware of the adoption later or are old enough to understand what has happened is where are their biological parents. The search for a child's biological parents is a common theme or motif in movies and television shows. This longing for our past to discover who we are as people is not uncommon for children to experience. This is true even if your child is otherwise happy with their life. 

We all want to understand ourselves better and know who we are deep down. People search for this answer in all different sorts of places. It is hard enough to be able to find ourselves in a typical family environment. However, if your child asks questions about their family or past then an open adoption will hopefully be an answer to your and your child's questions. Your child will be able to know exactly where they came from and can talk to their biological parents about the decisions that went into the adoption process and why you and your spouse ended up adopting him or her. Along the way, you can learn and develop valuable tools to help your child further transition to be a part of your family. 

Another aspect of this discussion is related to your child’s medical history. Being a part of a nuclear family means that children are probably aware of their dad's bad heart or mom's breast cancer diagnosis. This is not only important from the standpoint of helping the children to understand why you or your spouse experience the issues that you do, but it can also help your children to learn how to prepare for their health issues by learning about them from an early age. You can receive help from your children around the house or in other areas, as well. 

The problem that your children will encounter is that they will have questions about their origins after adoption but would not otherwise know about any health issues of their biological family but for the open adoption process. Going to the doctor's office with your child can be made much simpler by knowing the medical history of their biological parents. In a closed adoption, you may know nothing about the biological parent's medical history. This not only can be harmful to your child but can be harmful to you as a potential adoptive parent. You may not be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for a child who has a significant medical history or whose parents have a significant medical history. You can learn a lot about what you are signing up for in adoption by speaking to the child’s parents to learn if there are any latent physical or mental issues in their family that you may need to keep track of. 

Why an open adoption may not be right for you

There are some downsides to an open adoption such as the need for you and your spouse to share your child's time with people other than yourselves. Imagine having a long week at work only to remember that this weekend you had agreed to drive to your child's biological parent's home for dinner on Friday night. While you are happy to facilitate this sort of arrangement, you can't be blamed for wanting to have a quiet evening with your wife and child at home. An open adoption allows your child's biological parents to remain in their life- for better or worse. Don't be surprised if the parents want to stay in the life of the child well beyond the period immediately following the adoption. Your child may be confused about who their "parents" are- especially if he or she is young. You can spend a great deal of time and energy trying to help your child understand the nature of their relationship with their biological parents, but that won’t necessarily stop your child from feeling conflicted in having a relationship with their biological parents. 

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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