Until the latter part of the 20th century, adoption often carried a stigma, with the perception that most adoptees were illegitimate children. Accordingly, most adoption proceedings were fairly secretive, and it was common practice that the birth-mother had no contact with or knowledge of the adoptive parents. As the stigma has faded, and as mental health and child welfare professionals have come to understand the potential benefits to the child of understanding his or her heritage, the option of “open adoption” has been embraced by many participants.
In an open adoption, the birth parents and the adoptive parents get contact information from each other and usually meet before the adoption takes place. Often, the birth mother will be at some stage of pregnancy, having made the decision to give the child up for adoption after birth. The parties can mutually decide how much interaction they want to have, both before and after the birth of the child. It is not uncommon for the parents to decide that the birth mother will have visitation of some sort, either on the child’s birthday or more frequently.
Many adoptive parents, however, fear that a continued relationship with the birth mother will be confusing to the child, and may lead the child to perceive that he or she doesn’t really belong anywhere. Open adoption proceedings are not mandatory in any state. The adoptive parents can choose to have all communications handled through an intermediary, and to have all information about the birth parent sealed. As a general rule, a closed adoption must be facilitated by an adoption agency.
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