Open Adoption

What exactly is an open adoption?

In an open adoption, a woman who is considering adoption for her child can choose the family she wants to raise her child, from our list of approved families. She may wish to meet with the family and perhaps arrange for ongoing contact with them through the support of Adoption Options. Open adoption also means that there will be a complete exchange of identifying information. In the best of open adoptions, birthfamily becomes like extended family to the adoptive family. They are relatives to the child with a unified purpose of always having the child's best interest.

What does the ongoing contact look like?

The type and frequency of the contact or to use more positive adoption language, the relationship, can vary greatly, depending on the wishes of both the birthmother and the adoptive parents. We have found that most birthmothers will meet with a chosen family prior to the birth, and continue to develop a relationship afterwards. Some birthparents want to visit the family they have chosen on an ongoing basis after the placement, and other birthparents visit the family a few times and then receive pictures and updates. This is something you will discuss with the family once you get to know them.

Do I have to agree to ongoing contact?

It is up to you to decide the amount of openness that you are comfortable with. If you do not wish to meet the adoptive parents you do not have to. Some birthparents choose just to receive updates and pictures through the years. However, we believe that open adoption, as opposed to closed, is a healthier situation for all the parties involved.

What does the agreement for contact look like?

An agreement is made between birthparents and prospective adoptive parents regarding letters, pictures and visiting which is usually a verbal agreement although sometimes is in writing. The agreement is not considered legally binding but we impress upon families that it is morally and ethically binding.

Information Sharing 

What is the adoptive family allowed to know about me?

As much as possible. You will be filling out our Social and Medical History forms and that information is intended for the adoptive family. We believe a child needs to know their roots and thrives best with knowing as much information as possible about themselves. Information should always be shared in a positive and age appropriate manner.

How much does the adoptive family usually want to know about me?

As much information as possible. One of the social workers will go over a social and medical history as part of the counselling process. We work with birthparents from all different backgrounds and lifestyles and are not here to judge. We only want to ensure we have all necessary information to best support the child's longterm needs with an appropriate and capable adoptive family. We understand that women face unplanned pregnancies and therefore may not learn of their pregnancy for several months. Adoption Options is here to talk, support and help.

Will my child be able to get information about me if he/she desires?

Yes, that is what open adoption is all about. Our adoptive parents are educated on the importance of instilling pride in the child about their roots and adoption story in age appropriate and postive ways. The child will know they joined their family through adoption as his / her birthparent loved them so much that she wanted the best life possible for her child.

May I have a picture of my baby?

Yes, you can always take your own at the hospital and will be making an agreement with the adoptive parents to receive more through the years.

May I send gifts, letters, books, etc. with my child?

Yes, adoptive parents welcome such keepsakes for their child.

May I write the adoptive parents a letter explaining to them the reasons for placing my child for adoption, and will I have the assurance they will receive and read it?

Yes, definitely! You may write a letter and it has been our experience that these letters are highly valued by the adoptive parents and kept to give to the child someday.

How much will I know about the adoptive parents? (occupation, address, ages, etc.)

You will know as much information about the adoptive parents as you want to, for example, their occupations, education, ethnic origin, ages, religious affiliation, location of family, number of children in the family, etc. At some point during the selection process, you will have access to their homestudy report. This is a complete report about the prospective adoptive family completed by a social worker.

Expenses

If the adoption agency and/or the adoptive parents help with my expenses, what would that include?

Nothing. It is illegal to give or receive or even offer to give or receive payment to procure a child.

Will my medical costs be covered by either the agency or the adoptive parents or both?

Alberta Health Care covers all your prenatal care and hospital stay. Adoptive parents can pay for the cost of a private room (if available at the hospital), which we recommend you get.

The Selection Process

What control do I have in selecting a family and what will I see about them?

You have complete control in choosing the family for your child. You may specify age, religion, lifestyle, number of children in the family, location or any other factors which are important to you. Families have provided pictures, a "Dear Birthparent" letter and relevant background information, all of which are available as well as the homestudy report.

What "qualifications" must a couple meet before they are accepted as clients in your agency? (financial, emotional stability, unable to have children, age, etc.)

Couples and single applicants must provide criminal record checks, child abuse registry checks, medicals, references, and legal documents, eg. marriage certificate. If a couple, they must have been common-law or married for a minimum of 2 years. All applicants must participate in an intense "training" weekend about open adoption and following that will have a homestudy done. This involves 8-12 hours of interviewing in their home by a qualified social worker during which he/she is assessing their suitability to be adoptive parents.

Am I permitted to know how long the couple has been waiting for a child, and why they wait?

Yes, you are permitted to know, and if the reason is known, then you will be made aware. It is the birthparent(s)who selects the adoptive parents, not the agency, so some couples wait longer than others.

Does the agency ever deal with couples who are out of this province, or must they live in the province where the agency is?

Adoption Options only deals with prospective adoptive parents that reside in Alberta. As every province has their own adoption legislation, Alberta mandates that adoptions can only be facilitated through a licensed agency with only Alberta residents.

May I select what religion I wish the couple to be?

Certainly! We are not a religious-based organization. As a result we have families from all the major religions as well as families who do not practice a religion.

Can I be assured that my child will be brought up in that religion?

If you want your child to be raised as a Catholic, for example, and you choose a Catholic family for your child, then in all likelihood your wishes will be met. It would not be realistic to expect a family to raise your child in a different religion from their own. There can be no guarantees that people might not change their religion at some point.

What information, if any, is needed from the baby’s father?

The same information as the birthmother provides, i.e., the social and medical history of the birthfather if it is known and available. This is one-half of the baby’s background and important information for the child and the adoptive parents.

What are the birthfather’s rights?

By law in Alberta the child’s birthfather will, in many cases, be a guardian and therefore his consent to the adoption is required. Guardianship is determined under the Family Law Act. The law also requires that the birthfather be informed by the agency of your plans to place and to be notified when it is time to finalize the adoption. There are several situations where the birthfather is not considered a legal guardian or we are able to obtain an 'exparte order' (dispensing with the birthfather's consent). A social worker with Adoption Options will guide you through the process as every case and situation is unique.

Are there any exceptions to this?

Sometimes the young women we work with do not know the birthfather’s full name or his whereabouts or have very real concerns about their safety should he find out about the pregnancy. When there are very good reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t get his consent, the courts usually agree to dispense with a birthfather’s right to consent.

When the Baby is Born 

Will I be able to see my baby in the hospital?

Yes, we strongly encourage you to spend time with your baby and get to know him/her before you say goodbye. Most birthparents have their baby with them in their hospital room. However, it is your choice.

Are my parents, friends, father of the baby, etc. allowed to see the baby?

Yes, it is your choice, you are the legal guardian until you sign the consent to adoption forms. You are completely in charge of the time in hospital. Hospitals do have their own rules and regulations about visitors. But remember it is a very short time and it might be better for you to have quiet time with your baby and a few close people than having a constant stream of visitors. Again, our social workers will work closely with you as you begin to make plans for your hospital stay.

Can I name my baby, and will the adoptive parents keep the name I pick?

Yes, you can name the child, however, the adoptive couple may or may not keep this name. In many cases, the birthmother and adoptive parents have jointly selected names, and in other cases the adoptive parents have agreed to keep names already chosen. Sometimes birthmothers use the name the adoptive parents have chosen.

What happens if my baby is born with a handicap? Will the adoptive parents still want to adopt my baby?

This is a difficult situation for all involved. Adoption Options would make sure that the child's needs are assessed by the appropriate medical professionals and this information is thoroughly shared with you and the prospective adoptive parents. Everyone would then be given the time they need to make a decision in the best interests of the child. If the needs of the child are too significant for the adoptive parents initially chosen by you, then Adoption Options would do everything possible to try and locate an appropriate family able and skilled to meet the needs of the child.

Can I change my mind after the baby is born?

Yes, as committed as you are about placing your child for adoption, you can change your mind after childbirth. You may decide to keep and parent your child. If you are wavering in your decision and require more time to consider, say so before you place the baby. The possibility that you might change your mind is a risk that adoptive parents must accept when entering into an adoption arrangement. Your social worker with Adoption Options will be checking in with you and would only want you to sign the consent to adoption when you are ready to do so.

Signing the Papers

Do my parents need to sign papers in order for me to place my child for adoption?

No, if you are a minor parent under 18 years of age, you are treated as if you had attained the age of 18. Under Alberta's law you and the baby’s father are the guardians and only your consents are required. However, it is best to include your parents in your adoption plans.

When do I have to sign the adoption consent?

Following the birth of the baby. You sign the adoption consent when you are ready but before the child is placed with the adopting parents. This will depend on hospital discharge plans and hospital stays are now usually about 24 - 36 hours. It especially depends on your readiness to sign.

Once I sign the adoption consent, can I change my mind?

Yes, you have 10 days after the date you signed the consent forms to revoke the consent by providing both written and verbal notice to the government and the adoption agency.

How long after I sign papers will the adoption be finalized?

The adoption isn’t official until it is granted in court. This should happen about 6 months after placement of your child. You will be served with notice that the adoption is going to court unless you choose to waive this.

Will I have to go to court?

No, in 99% of adoptions there is no actual court date. A judge reviews the adoption application in his/ her office and grants the adoption. Afterwards the adoptive family gets their Adoption Order in the mail and we send you a letter so that you know it has been granted.

Going Home

How soon after the baby is born can the child be placed in its new home?

This is up to the birthparent. Usually, once the child and the birthmother are ready for discharge from the hospital, the baby is placed with the adoptive parents. This is a little different for everyone and generally is a very emotional and difficult time for all involved. A social worker will be available to support the birthparent throughout this time. A plan for the placement will be made with the birthmother and shared with all involved. Many people value doing an Entrustment Ceremony at time of placement and we would work with everyone to help faciliate this.

What are Entrustment Ceremonies?

Missing Answer

Contact After Placement

If I decide not to have contact at this time, will the child be able to search for me in the future? Will the agency contact me before my child does?

Because our adoptions are open and adoptive parents will know who you are and may remain in touch with you, we assume they will provide this information to their child. In the unlikely event that one of our adoptees had to come to us for information, we would attempt to contact you before giving information to your now grown-up child.

With open adoption, it is quite easy for the adoptive family to find the child's birthparents however most parents are respectful of the birthparent's wishes for contact. All adoptions in Alberta are registered with the Post Adoption Registry. When your child reaches 18½ years of age, he/she can apply to the Post Adoption Registry and be given his/her adoption records. Keep in mind this is usually not necessary in open adoptions unless both parties have lost contact with each other over the years.

Agency Contact & Files 

After the adoption is finalized, will I need to have any further contact with the agency? If so, under what circumstances?

It is entirely your choice; however, we strongly encourage you to participate in our post-placement counselling services. There is no limit as to ongoing counselling and there is a monthly support group meeting held at the agency. You are more than welcome to be a participant on a monthly basis and you are encouraged to continue with one-on-one counselling through the grieving process.

What exactly do the adoption agency's files contain?

Any paperwork that is completed with the agency in regards to the adoption matter, such as social and medical history forms and consent to release of information forms, copies of our letters to you, the birthfather, etc.

Who has access to my file with the adoption agency?

Only the staff at the agency.

What are sealed records?

Sealed records refers to the practice by the courts and Alberta Human Services of making adoption records inaccessible to the parties involved once the adoption is finalized. However, in open adoption all parties have complete identifying information on each other and therefore already know the information contained in the sealed records.

Can I request that the adoption files be sealed until my child is eighteen?

The court records are still being sealed in Alberta. However, all adoptions can be opened when that child turns 18 years plus six months. So either you or your child could obtain the information at that point unless a veto has been filed.

Other Questions 

If an accident were to result in the child's adoptive parents being killed, will I then be responsible for the child and would I have that option if I so desired?

No, you will not be responsible for the child. If you desired to be considered a guardian upon the death of the adoptive parents, then this matter should be discussed at the time you are making adoption plans with the couple. Remember that in the very unlikely event that this happens, your child would probably have siblings and an extended adoptive family who he would consider his family. If the adoptive parents’ deaths happened prior to the adoption being finalized, you would be informed by us.