Open Adoption

Open Adoption
Open Adoption
Full Overview Of Open Adoption

Adoption is a life-altering decision for everyone involved, including the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Among the different types of adoption, open adoption has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique approach and the potential benefits it offers to all parties. This comprehensive overview aims to provide insight into open adoption, discussing its principles, benefits, challenges, and legal considerations.

What is Open Adoption?

Open adoption is an arrangement that permits varying degrees of direct contact between the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the adopted child. This contact can include exchanging letters and photographs or even having regular in-person visits.

Unlike closed adoption, where all identifying information is sealed and there is no contact between the birth and adoptive families, open adoption encourages ongoing relationships and transparency.

The Principles of Open Adoption

The core principle of open adoption is the belief that maintaining some form of contact with the birth family is in the best interest of the child. This concept is founded on several key ideas:

  1. Identity and Heritage: Open adoption allows children to maintain a connection with their biological roots, providing them with a clearer sense of identity and heritage.
  2. Transparency: Open adoption fosters honesty and openness, reducing the likelihood of secrets that can cause confusion or distress later in life.
  3. Emotional Support: Birth parents can gain reassurance by knowing their child is well and loved, while adoptive parents can receive support and insight from those who share the child’s history.

Benefits of Open Adoption

Open adoption offers a range of benefits, which can vary depending on the nature of the contact and the individuals involved.

For the Child

  1. Sense of Identity: Access to their birth family can help children understand their background and heritage, promoting a stronger sense of self.
  2. Answers to Questions: Children can directly ask birth parents questions about their adoption, alleviating potential feelings of abandonment or confusion.
  3. Emotional Security: Knowing their birth parents made a loving choice can help children feel more secure and valued.

For the Birth Parents

  1. Peace of Mind: Open adoption allows birth parents to see that their child is healthy, happy, and thriving in their new family.
  2. Continued Relationship: Birth parents can maintain a meaningful connection with their child, albeit in a different role.
  3. Healing and Closure: Ongoing contact can help birth parents process their decision and find closure, knowing they are still a part of their child’s life.

For the Adoptive Parents

  1. Comprehensive Background Information: Having access to the birth family allows adoptive parents to gather important medical and familial history.
  2. Support Network: Birth parents can provide additional emotional and social support, contributing to the child’s well-being.
  3. Reduced Fear of Unknowns: Knowing the birth parents and maintaining contact can reduce anxiety and fear about the child’s past and future.

Challenges of Open Adoption

While open adoption has many benefits, it is not without its challenges. Each relationship is unique, and maintaining a healthy balance requires effort and understanding from all parties.

For the Child

  1. Complex Relationships: Navigating relationships with both birth and adoptive families can be complex and sometimes confusing for children.
  2. Emotional Conflict: Children may experience conflicting feelings of loyalty or identity, especially during adolescence.
  3. Adjustment Period: Adjusting to open adoption dynamics can take time and patience, requiring guidance and support from both sets of parents.

For the Birth Parents

  1. Emotional Strain: Seeing their child in another family can be emotionally challenging for birth parents, especially if their circumstances change.
  2. Boundary Setting: Establishing and respecting boundaries is crucial but can be difficult, especially when emotions run high.
  3. Ongoing Grief: Birth parents may continue to experience feelings of loss and grief, even with ongoing contact.

For the Adoptive Parents

  1. Navigating Relationships: Balancing the relationship with the birth parents while establishing their own role can be challenging for adoptive parents.
  2. Insecurity and Jealousy: Adoptive parents may sometimes feel insecure or jealous of the birth parents, which can strain relationships.
  3. Boundary Enforcement: Ensuring boundaries are respected while maintaining a positive relationship requires clear communication and mutual respect.

Open adoption involves specific legal considerations that differ from closed adoption. Understanding these aspects is essential for ensuring a smooth and legally compliant process.

Consent and Termination of Parental Rights

In the UK, birth parents must give their consent for the adoption, and their parental rights must be legally terminated for the adoption to proceed. This process is overseen by the courts to ensure it is conducted fairly and ethically.

Adoption Agreements

In open adoption, an adoption agreement is often created to outline the terms of contact between the birth and adoptive families. This agreement is not legally binding but serves as a framework for the ongoing relationship. It typically includes:

  • Frequency and type of contact (e.g., visits, letters, phone calls).
  • Boundaries and expectations for all parties.
  • Provisions for modifying the agreement as the child grows.

Legal Status of Open Adoption Agreements

While adoption agreements provide a structured approach to open adoption, they are not legally enforceable in the UK. This means that if one party fails to uphold their end of the agreement, there is no legal recourse. Therefore, the success of open adoption relies heavily on trust, cooperation, and mutual respect.

Confidentiality and Privacy

Despite the openness, confidentiality and privacy must be maintained. Sensitive information should be handled carefully to protect the identities and personal details of all involved. This is particularly important in the digital age, where information can easily be shared online.

Preparing for Open Adoption

Successful open adoption requires careful preparation and ongoing effort from all parties. Here are some critical steps to consider:

Education and Counselling

Both birth and adoptive parents should seek education and counselling to understand the complexities of open adoption. Professional guidance can help them prepare for this arrangement’s emotional and practical aspects.

Establishing Boundaries

Clear boundaries should be established early in the process. Both parties must agree on the level and type of contact, and these boundaries should be respected to ensure a healthy relationship.

Building Trust

Trust is the foundation of open adoption. Both birth and adoptive parents need to work on building and maintaining trust through honest communication and mutual respect.

Flexibility and Adaptability

As the child grows, their needs and feelings about the adoption may change. Both sets of parents must be flexible and willing to adapt the terms of the adoption agreement to suit the child’s evolving needs.


Open adoption is an innovative approach that offers significant benefits to children, birth parents, and adoptive parents. It encourages honesty, openness, and ongoing relationships, creating a supportive environment for the child’s development. However, it also presents challenges that require careful handling and a commitment to maintaining healthy boundaries and communication.

As lawyers specialising in probate and family law, we comprehend the complexities of open adoption. We are here to offer legal advice, support, and guidance to ensure that the process is conducted ethically and in the best interests of all parties. Whether you are contemplating adoption or already involved in an open adoption arrangement, our team is committed to helping you achieve a positive and fulfilling outcome.

If you have any questions or need further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to assist you throughout this extraordinary journey.

Open Adoption FAQ'S

Open adoption is an adoption arrangement where the birth parents and the adoptive parents maintain some form of contact, ranging from the exchange of letters and photos to in-person visits, after the adoption is finalised.

While the concept of open adoption is recognised and practised, UK law does not enforce contact agreements between birth and adoptive parents. Any contact arrangements are typically made voluntarily and can be informal or formalised through a contact agreement.

An open adoption agreement is usually created through discussions and mutual consent between the birth parents and adoptive parents, often facilitated by an adoption agency or social worker. The agreement outlines the type and frequency of contact.

Open adoption agreements in the UK are not legally binding. They rely on the goodwill and cooperation of both birth and adoptive parents. However, they can be included in court orders or through mediation to provide some structure.

Common types of contact in open adoptions include exchanging letters, photos, emails, phone calls, and scheduled in-person visits. The level of contact varies based on what is agreed upon by both parties.

Yes, open adoption agreements can be modified if both parties agree to the changes. This is often necessary as circumstances change over time. Mediation can help facilitate these changes if needed.

Since open adoption agreements are not legally binding, either party can choose to end contact. However, it is recommended to seek mediation or counseling to address any concerns before making such a decision.

Open adoption can provide the child with a sense of identity and connection to their birth family, which can be beneficial for their emotional and psychological well-being. However, the impact varies for each child and depends on the quality of relationships and communication.

Risks can include potential boundary issues, conflicting expectations, and emotional challenges for all parties involved. It is crucial to have clear, agreed-upon terms and to maintain open communication to mitigate these risks.

Adoptive parents can prepare for open adoption by educating themselves about the process, attending counseling or support groups, establishing clear communication with the birth parents, and setting realistic expectations for the relationship.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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