Openness in adoption is becoming more common in both local and intercountry adoption. Openness is the level of contact between a child's birth family and adoptive family. It can take many forms, including the semi-openness of sharing non-identifying information and annual letters and pictures though an intermediary, to a fully open adoption, where the child develops a one-on-one relationship with his or her birth parents or extended birth family. The term is also used to refer to contact between the child's foster family, siblings, and extended family, and the new adoptive family.
Openness in adoption does NOT mean shared parenting. It is about creating positive relationships between the birth family and adoptive family for the benefit of the child. Open adoption allows parents to know their child or children better and their children to better understand him or herself.
While many people feel that ongoing contact for an adoped child with hir or her birth family might be painful and confusing, research has shown that openness acutally creates less confusion and and anxiety for children and parents.
Openness can range from having no exchange of names and addresses but sharing some letters and pictures forwarded through the adoption agency, to full disclosure of personal information and frequent visits between the birth family and the adoptive family. In between these two points are as many variations as are necessary for the families involved.
An openness agreement is a written agreement that defines the context of the openness between the birth family and the adoptive family. It generally includes the frequency and type of contact, who the parties to the agreement are, the length of the agreement, and the method for resolution if a disagreement arises. These agreements are usually drafted and signed by the adoptive and birth family at the time of the child's placement. These agreements are also designed to meet the needs of the child, birth family, and adoptive family and take into account the need for flexibility and change over time. They are morally, but not legally, binding.