Adoption, and open adoption, may not be the first option that comes to mind when you’re looking for a solution to an unplanned pregnancy. But once you find out a little more about it, you may surprised by what open adoption has to offer and how different it is from what you may have thought.
Adoption has undergone a sea change over the years. Unlike closed adoptions of the past, where women with an unplanned pregnancy had no say in the process, today you can be as involved as you want to be in the time leading up to your baby’s birth.
About 95 percent of domestic adoptions are considered open nowadays, meaning that you not only share identifying information with the adoptive parents, you can keep in touch with them and your child as he grows up.
Here are seven ways that open adoption puts you in the driver’s seat as you make a decision about your baby’s future.
You initiate the process
Once upon a time, back when adoption was still a dirty little secret, women with an unplanned pregnancy played a passive role and had no input or involvement in the selection process. To escape the shame and stigma of single motherhood, they were forced to give up their babies without ever knowing what happened to them.
Today, it’s a different story. With open adoption, nothing begins until you say so. You initiate the process and have a hand’s-on role in the decision-making until your baby is born.
Tip: Although you can begin the adoption process at any time, you can’t place your baby until he’s born. Until then, make sure you get all the information you need in order to make an informed choice.
You choose the adoptive parents
One of the ways that open adoption gives you more control over the process is by letting you choose your baby’s adoptive family. You can do it through an agency or by yourself on an online adoptive parent profiles site like ours.
First, you need to decide what kind of parents you want for your baby. Then it’s up to you to go through the profiles and pick out the one that best matches your wish list.
Tip: If you don’t find a family the first time around, don’t give up. There are hundreds of hopeful adoptive parents from all walks of life to choose from so you’re bound to find the one that’s right for you.
You can speak to them
If you’re not sure whether the family you select is right for you or you have questions about them, open adoption gives you the opportunity to contact them directly and get your questions answered.
Although reading a profile of an adoptive family is a good starting point, it will only give you a small glimpse into their life. Speaking to them can help you build your trust and make you feel more confident about your decision.
Tip: As you read their profile, put together a list of questions and make sure the hopeful parents answer all of them to your satisfaction before you move to the next phase of your relationship.
You can meet them
Choosing parents for your baby is a huge decision, and a profile or a conversation won’t tell you everything you need to know. Meeting them face to face and spending time with them will give you a more complete picture.
If you’re nervous about meeting them or don’t know what to talk about, bring along your adoption worker or a third party and do it in a neutral public space such as a park or restaurant. If you are having doubts about your adoption plan or about the couple you’ve chosen, nothing will reassure you more than meeting them in person.
Tip: Having a face-to-face meeting with your baby’s adoptive parents will take your relationship to a new level so make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities before you get deeper into the process.
You can have an ongoing relationship with them and your child
In adoptions of the past, women who gave up their babies for adoption were expected to go on with her lives as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile, the adoptive parents were told to raise the child as if he were their own.
Today, with open adoption, everything is out in the open. Before an adoption is finalized you and the adoptive parents will get together and hammer out an agreement about your future relationship. You will both specify what kind of contact you want to have and the frequency of your exchanges.
Tip: Be realistic about how much openness you want to have and make sure that you’re comfortable with your agreement since in some states it’s not legally enforceable.
You can get free professional advice
Many open adoption agencies offer free counseling from a licensed worker, whether you go ahead with your plan or not. Among other things, an adoption worker can help you explore your options, including parenting; give you support; and generally assist you in making a decision that’s right for you and your baby.
Depending on the state you live in, you can also get help with your living and medical expenses. Keep in mind that nobody can force you to make a decision without your informed consent. In fact, adoptions can be legally overturned if they’re shown to have been made through the use of coercion, incentives or fraud.
Tip: Adoption laws vary by state so be sure that you have a good grasp of how they work where you live — and where the adoptive parents live if the adoption takes place out of state.
You can change your mind at any time before you sign the adoption papers
Adoption is a life-changing decision. And sometimes you may make an plan without knowing all of the facts or your circumstances may change. For instance, you may discover that the father of your child is interested in being a parent. Or your family may step forward and offer you financial or emotional support you didn’t have earlier.
If you decide to parent, the way most women with an unplanned pregnancy do, you can change your mind at any time before the birth of your child. And you can even revoke your consent during a small window of time afterwards, depending on the laws of your state.
Tip: If you’re leaning toward parenting, don’t select an adoptive family until after you’ve made your decision. It isn’t fair to the hopeful family and it will only create additional complications for you if you undergo a change of heart.
Placing a baby in an open adoption can be a rewarding decision for the right person. And having an open relationship with your child and his adoptive parents can help reduce a lot of the uncertainty, fear and pain that comes with the process. To find out if open adoption is right for you, arm yourself with the facts as quickly as you can and don’t make any plans until you’re ready to do so.