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What is the difference between an open and a closed adoption?

California parents wishing to adopt a child have a lot to consider with regards to both the adoption process and beyond. One issue they may face is whether to have an open adoption or a closed adoption. Let's explore the differences between open and closed adoptions in general.

It used to be the case that closed adoptions were the norm, and in general they still are in the case of international adoptions. In the past, adoptive parents usually employed the help of an agency to adopt a newborn. The adoptive parents would be put on a list, and then a social worker would pare the adoptive parents up with a child. The adoptive parents may not be made aware of where the child was born or the identities of the child's biological parents, and even if they did, they did not keep in contact after the adoption process was completed. The child him or herself might not even know that he or she was adopted or who his or her biological parents were. Closed adoption files may be sealed physically, although states may have laws allowing a closed adoption to be opened in some circumstances.

These days, open adoptions are becoming more common. In an open adoption, the adoptive parents meet the child's biological parents and keep in communication with them. Adoption agencies these days may encourage adoptive parents to engage in some form of openness with the child's biological parents. In an open adoption, the child's biological parents may have a say in who the child's adoptive parents will be. In some open adoptions, where the child is not born yet, the adoptive parents may meet up with the biological parents during the mother's pregnancy, and may even be able to attend the child's birth. In an open adoption, the two families may keep in contact via the adoption agency, particularly during important life events, and may even eventually develop a friendly relationship with each other.

Deciding whether to have an open or closed adoption is a very important and personal decision, with many pros and cons which will not be covered by this post. In the end, what is ultimately important is that an adoptive child is made part of a loving family. A family law attorney may be able to explain more about the adoption process to California parents wishing to adopt.

Source: FindLaw, "Open vs. Closed Adoption," accessed May 30, 2016

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