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The Role of the Birth Parents in an Adoption

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Although we have previously mentioned the increasing frequency of open adoptions, we have not discussed the ramifications of this arrangement, which is that the birth parents will remain, in some form, a part of the child’s life after he or she has been adopted. The issue of post-adoption contact with birth parents is worth discussing even when adoption has been closed in nature, because so many adopted children are motivated to seek out their birth parents.

Ongoing Contact

During the open adoption process, the adoption agency works with both the adoptive and birth parents to define the amount and type of contact that will be allowed between birth parents and adopted children. The rules surrounding such contact between birth parents and adopted children should be determined and agreed upon ahead of time, before the adoption is finalized. These rules might be subject to change in the future depending on the child's desires, as well as the impact that visits or contact are having on the family and the child. In no event should the contact be allowed to become substantial enough to undermine the primacy or security of the adoptive parents' relationship with their child.

In the case of open adoption, there are only a few absolutes governing how much contact birth parents may have with the adoptive family.

In some cases, the adopted child may know his birth parents' names, contact information, and basic information about their lives, but not really have any direct contact with them. In other cases, families arrange for the birth parents to send birthday cards and occasional letters, but not to have direct visits. Still other families invite the birth parents to become almost an extension of their own family. In such cases, the birth parents might be physically present for major holidays and celebrations. Ultimately, it is up to the adoptive parents to determine what amount of contact works best for their family and what is in the best interests of their child.