Semi-Open Matching Process

When you opt for private infant adoption, your process may be a little different than if you were going through international placement or placement from foster care, but the emotional roll-a-coaster effect is still present. In foster care placement as well as international placement, after you have qualified, had your home study, processed all of the paperwork, then usually a child will be ‘referred’ to you for placement. Naturally, you have the right to refuse a referral, but the average person doesn’t. In private infant adoption, the birth mother and/or birth father choose the adoptive family.

Today, almost all birth mothers want a semi-open or open adoption rather than a closed adoption with the adoptive family. Because of today’s recommended best practices, almost all agencies allow the birth mother to choose the family she wants as parents for her baby. Studies by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in Washington D.C. have shown that the more open the adoption, the better it is for the adoptee, the birth family and the adoptive parents as well. That is a hard concept to get your mind around when you are rebounding from years of failed infertility treatments and you have watched too many ‘adoption stories’ on the Lifetime Channel. But it is true.

Most adoptions are completed without any problems and the adoptive family and birth family forge a real bond and a lifelong relationship. However, you don’t know how your process will proceed when you begin this challenging and emotional experience. I recommend that you opt for a semi-open adoption to begin with and leave the door open for a more open adoption if it is possible. A semi-open adoption is one in which you meet the birth family and are given an opportunity to develop a close bond and relationship with each other and attend the birth of your child. This type of relationship may include your extended family as well as the birth family’s extended family. The difference in this type of adoption and a fully open adoption is no identifying information is exchanged by the parties. I hope and pray that you will wind up with an open adoption in which you and the birth family have exchanged identifying information and are contacting each other directly and maybe even meeting periodically so your child and any siblings can learn about each other. But you don’t know if that is possible in the beginning of the relationship. The openness of your adoption can be increased as time goes on.

In our agency, a full 25% of our adoptive families and birth families have opened their adoption to include the exchange of last names and identifying information by the actual birth of the child. In most of those cases, the birth mother puts the name the adoptive family has chosen for the child as well as their last name on the baby’s birth certificate. In many cases, the adoptive family and their extended family members as well as the birth family and their extended family members are present at the birth and spend hours or days together making memories for the sake of the child they all love.

Even if they don’t have a fully open adoption from birth, another 20% of our adoptive families are able to grow their relationship with the birth family into a fully open relationship within the first two or three years. So our anecdotal experience is that roughly ½ of our placements are fully open eventually. This is not perfect, but we feel that it respects the needs and wishes of all parties involved.

If a mother matches with a family and is unable to make that attachment and bond with them for some reason, she may ask for a rematch. Also, we have families who for one reason or another have agreed to a match under circumstances in which they find impossible to continue and have asked for a rematch. Our agency believes that you and the birth mother are the only people who have a right to make decisions about what type of an adoption you want. Occasionally, a mismatch will happen. That is fine. We will be glad to rematch both parties, because this adoption is about them and the baby, not our agency or our time line constraints or our cash flow or our ego. It’s about you as the parents, both biological and adoptive, and most importantly the child.

The scenario I have described is a wonderful process to watch from the outside as well as to live from the inside. The only way to achieve this type of adoption is to take time with the decision making process. Don’t be rushed into a decision and don’t be afraid to voice concerns about the situation. My experience tells me that if you are having concerns about the birth mother and the openness of the adoption, then she is too. When both parties are participating in the type of adoption and placement that they need and want, then very little else can go wrong.

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