The Difference between Open and Closed Adoptions

The meaning of an open adoption in the United Kingdom is when an adopted child has contact with their biological parent and or other members of their birth family for example siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles. The contact can be indirect in the form letters or cards or direct where the child is able to meet the birth family. A closed adoption however is when there is no form of contact between the birth family and the child.

Life History Book

Before the type of future contact between the child and birth family is considered it is common practice for all prospective adopted children to have a life history book that contains their story from birth and has pictures of family and places that they have lived. Ideally the book should be written with the birth parent in child friendly terms and be available to the child and their adopted parents. In addition a box can be compiled for the child by the birth parent containing such items as the child’s birth bracelet, any gift brought by the birth parent and favorite childhood toys.

Open or Closed Adoption

During the adoption process thought is given as to whether the birth family should have any future contact with their child once the adoption order is granted. Clearly this decision and the type of future contact, if any, is dependant upon a number of factors including the child’s view, any previous abuse exhibited by the birth family, the adult’s attitude toward the adoption and also the prospective adopter’s views.

Indirect Contact

In the England it is common practice for adopted children to have indirect contact with their birth parent or family in the form of birthday and Christmas cards sent to the social worker and redirected to the adopted parent. In return the birth parent may receive a yearly photograph of the child and a brief update of their progress sent by the adopters.

Direct Contact

Direct contact between birth parents and adopted children is less common but can be successful if the birth parent or family member is favorable of adoption and or come to terms with the fact that they cannot care for their child. In addition the adopted child and adopters have to fully support the plans for contact. Direct contact between the adopted child and the birth family can be in the form of visiting the child in the adopted home, taking them out for a treat, attending birthday parties or whatever feels comfortable for the child. Birth family members who are assessed as being physically or emotionally threatening to the child or the adopted parents or who are likely to disrupt the placement would not be considered suitable for direct contact.

Sibling Contact

A more common use of direct contact is between sibling who have been separated and adopted by different families and who don’t have contact with the birth family. In these circumstances every effort is made to maintain a relationship between siblings.

Ongoing Contact

Once the adoption order is granted it is really the responsibility of the birth and adopted parents to ensure that contact arrangements are maintained because post adoption contact is usually by agreement and not legally binding Contact between an adopted child and their birth family has many benefits for the child. However any form of contact has to be within the best interests of the child and not lead to feelings of insecurity confusion and placement disruption.