Opting for an open adoption is a good way to maintain contact with adoptive parents and receive information about how your child is getting along. Unfortunately, some potential parents will agree to an open adoption during the process but change their minds and close all channels of communication after the paperwork has been finalized. Here are a few things you can do to prevent this situation from manifesting in your adoption case.

Recognize the Signs

The first thing you should do is to select adoptive parents who are truly committed to the idea of open adoption. This can be challenging because some potential parents become so desperate for a child that they will make promises they don't intend to keep to ensure the adoption goes through. One thing that can help you make the right choice is to become attuned to some of the signs the potential parents you're considering may not truly be interesting in open adoption.

Some of the red flags you should look for include the following:

  • Their profile doesn't contain any statements about open adoption or indications they are interested in that option
  • They don't seem interested in meeting or communicating with you
  • Their entire focus is on the baby (e.g. only want to talk to you about how your pregnancy is progressing)
  • They concede to all your requests, even those that may go against their beliefs and values (they may just be saying things to ensure the adoption goes through)
  • The potential parents appear to disapprove of you or your lifestyle (they may not be willing to let the child have a relationship with you as a result)
  • They don't behave as though they want to have an open adoption (e.g. reluctant to discuss the issue or exchange contact information)
  • They've already gone through a failed adoption

You should also listen to your intuition. If you have a gut feeling that something isn't quite right about a particular couple or if what they're saying to you doesn't make sense, then it may be best to pass them up in favor of someone else you feel better about.

Be Upfront About Expectations

Some potential couples do go into the adoption process with the sincere desire to maintain a degree of openness with the birthmother. However, they change their minds after a period of time and decide to cut off communication. There are a few reasons why this may occur such as the following:

  • There's a change in their lifestyle (e.g. they become religious)
  • There's a change in the birthmother's lifestyle (e.g. she becomes an alcoholic)
  • They feel the birthmother is too demanding
  • They feel the birthmother's contact with the child is negatively affecting their relationship with him or her
  • The birthmother's presence is hurting the child in some way

You can prevent some of these issues from manifesting in your relationship with the adoptive parents by having a frank discussion with them regarding your mutual expectations. For instance, if you expect to be able to visit your child once a year but the adoptive parents would prefer that you didn't, you need to come to some agreement about that issue before proceeding further with the adoption.

It's also a good idea to determine how you and the adoptive family will handle disputes that may arise, whether that's meeting over dinner to discuss things or sitting down with a counselor who can help you work through the problem.

Make It Legally Binding

Open adoption is an informal arrangement that is not legally binding in most states. In the few states where it is legally binding, you may have to make note of the terms of the agreement in the adoption paperwork before the courts can or will enforce it. However, legalizing your open adoption agreement when possible will provide you with some leverage to prevent the adoptive parents from cutting you off in the future, so you should take time to research the issue on your own or consult with an attorney.

You can find information about the specific statutes in your state regarding post-adoption contacts and the enforceability of agreements regarding that issue by visiting the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

For more information about or assistance with protecting your open adoption, contact a counselor at an adoption center, such as A Child's Dream.

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