Openness (or open adoption) describes the level of contact between the adoptive family and someone significant to the child's life prior to his adoption. This usually refers to a child's birth parents, but may also include biological siblings, other relatives, or foster family. Openness can also mean sharing information in an age-appropriate way about a child's history and the way that he joined his adoptive family. 

Openness in adoption does not mean shared parenting. It is about maintaining positive, child-centred relationships. No matter where a child is adopted from, these relationships are part of a child's identity. Open adoption allows you to know your child better and gives him a better understand of self.

Many birth and adoptive parents worry that ongoing contact will be painful and confusing for all parties. While there is undeniably grief and loss in adoption, research has shown that openness lessens confusion and anxiety for both children and parents.

There are different levels of openness. The level and frequency of contact change depending on your child's needs as he grows.

Open adoption involves ongoing contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents. Openness often includes other birth family members or foster parents.

Semi-open adoption involves some level of communication between birth and adoptive families, either with or without identifying information. Agencies and MCFD provide a letterbox exchange so that written correspondence and photographs may be shared without providing identifying information.

No contact adoption means there is no transfer of information or contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents. Adoptive parents share openness through stories and information with their child as they are able. No contact adoptions occur occasionally locally and in some international adoptions.

An important aspect regardless of the level of openness is psychological openness. This refers to how the adoptive family communicates with their child about adoption and about their birth family. By connecting the child’s physical attributes, talents, and personality to positive traits of the birth family, the adoptive parents honour the biological connection and help build a positive identity in the child.

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Stories of openness

Search our article database for stories of adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents experiences with openness.