Talking About Repairing Family Relationships

5 Tips for Protecting Your Rights in an Open Adoption

by Connie Mitchell

Open adoptions are becoming more common in the United States. Currently, 60%–70% of US adoptions contain some degree of openness, but it is important to note that the amount of communication and visitation in open or semi-open adoptions varies greatly and depends on both the birth parents and the adoptive parents. If you want to have an open adoption, it is important that you understand how to protect your visitation or communication rights. 

Be Clear about Your Desired Level of Openness from the Beginning of the Process

It is natural to not know exactly what type of adoption you want to pursue when you first decide to give your baby up for adoption. However, if you think that you may want an open adoption, it is important to let the adoption agency you are working with know your desires. As your preferences form and you make decisions about the level of contact you will prefer with your child once they are adopted, you should continue to let your adoption agency know. If your preferences change, you should let your agent know immediately.  

The more you communicate with your adoption agent, the better they will be able to match you with an adoptive family who desires the same level of openness as you. This will help prevent problems maintaining openness throughout the entire adoption. 

Know Your State's Laws 

Each state has a different set of laws regarding postadoption contact agreements. Most states allow open adoptions, but a few do not. Even if an open adoption is allowed and recognized in your state, only California, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington currently enforce open adoptions. In other states, if the adoptive parents or the birth parents wish to close the open adoption, they will be able to do so legally. 

To find out your state's laws regarding open adoptions, go to and search for "Postadoption Contact Agreements between Birth and Adoptive Families" in your state. 

Consider Adoptive Parents in States Where Open Adoptions Are Enforceable by Law 

While the laws in your state are important during an adoption, the laws in the state where the adoptive parents live are also important. This is because the Interstate Compact on Placement of Children requires both the sending and receiving state to approve an interstate adoption. If both your state and the receiving state have enforceable open adoptions, your postadoption contact agreement will be most easily protected. However, even if only the receiving state has enforceable open adoptions, you may be more protected than you would be if the receiving state either does not allow open adoptions or does not enforce them. 

Work with an Adoption Agency Experienced in Facilitating Open Adoptions

Because open adoptions are becoming more popular, many adoption agencies have experience arranging open adoptions. Your adoption agent should be able to tell you about the various kinds of open adoptions that are available as well as the success rate of different types of open adoptions. For example, they can let you know whether it is a better idea in your case to have information exchanged through the agency or to exchange information independently. 

Follow Through on Your Part of the Agreement

If you have an open adoption, it is important to follow through on your part of the agreement. For example, if you agree to write monthly letters to the adoptive family, you should do so around the same time each month. This provides consistency in your child's life and gives the adoptive family more of a reason to continue honoring their end of the agreement. 

If you want to pursue an open adoption, it is best to discuss your rights and potential issues with both an adoption agent, like one from A Child's Dream, and a lawyer before you begin the adoption process.