When I first started out in my adoption journey, I automatically assumed I would want a closed adoption. Not only is that what I knew from a historical standpoint, but I also feared the unknown. When I started learning that the adoption agencies encouraged open adoption, I remember thinking, “Well I guess we could check the box for semi-open.” I was hesitant and afraid. I heard horror stories of mothers changing their mind. I had people in my ear asking questions like “aren’t you afraid she’ll want him back?” I wondered if open adoption would mean co-parenting. I feared that I would have to “share” this child that I waited so long for.
For children in open adoptions, the toughest challenge may come when a birth parent who’s been visiting or calling suddenly vanishes or drifts away. The trigger can be a move to a new job, a marriage, or a personal problem, such as drugs or alcohol. In some cases, a birth mother may not feel worthy of contact, or she may get the message from the adoptive parents that she’s not welcome.
Although open adoptions are thought to be a relatively new phenomenon, most adoptions in the United States until the twentieth century were open. Until the 1930s, most adoptive parents and biological parents had contact at least during the adoption process. In many cases, adoption was seen as a social support: young children were adopted out not only to help their parents (by reducing the number of children they had to support) but also to help another family by providing an apprentice.