When an adoptive family decides to take a leap of faith and pursue a domestic infant adoption, they will inevitably be faced with a steep learning curve. They will learn about home studies, transracial adoption, fingerprints and post-placement reports and will find themselves growing as they face each new issue. Arguably, one of the most important issues they will consider is the level of openness in adoption.

Because the history of domestic adoption is rooted in secrecy, negative stereotypes and a lack of communication, openness has only recently become a norm in the United States. Today, we define openness in adoption as varying levels of contact between biological families and adoptive families. Essentially, if an adoption is open, the terms of communication between the two families can be anything that both parties agree to, and Upbring staff will act as a mediator between parties as needed. In our history conducting domestic adoptions at Upbring, we have seen many interpretations of open adoption; everything from weekly visits to annual photo updates to a lifetime of silence, but knowing that the door is open should any member of the adoption triad (the adoptee, adoptive family and biological family) want to contact the other that is key.

As our profession has followed the trajectory of openness in adoption, we have learned a great deal. By 1999, we learned that two-thirds of domestic adoptions were open and by 2012, U.S. agencies reported that 95% of adoptions fell somewhere on the continuum of openness. Research shows that all members of the adoption triad benefit from openness in adoption. For example, adoptees report feeling a greater sense of identity and peace with their adoption story. They have access to vital medical and psychological information and report having healthier relationships with their adoptive families, among other things.

It is important to remember and consider that openness in adoption is not always possible or advisable. At Upbring, we do everything we can to educate adoptive families and biological families on the nature of both open and closed adoptions. There are circumstances where closed adoption is the appropriate choice, and we work to support our clients in identifying and following the path that is right for them. If the families choose a closed adoption, it is just that, communication between the involved parties ends at the time of placement, and there is no recourse later in life.

Upbring is honored to assist both adoptive and biological families as they consider the possibilities for openness for the life of their adoption and support both parties along the way. If you’re interested in learning more about the adoption process through Upbring, please visit Upbring.org/Adoption or call 1-833-80ADOPT to speak to an adoption specialist.


Erin Patterson, LMSW

Director of Adoption

Erin Patterson is the Director of Adoption at Upbring where she supervises international adoption, domestic infant adoption and post-adoption support services. Erin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Masters of Social Work with a concentration on Community Administration and Leadership and holds the certification of Licensed Master of Social Work. An Upbring employee of nearly 10 years, Erin has a background in disaster relief and adoption services in their various forms. Erin has been fortunate enough to work and travel in countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Haiti, granting a deeper understanding of the realities of adoption in developing countries. Erin now lives in Austin with her husband and two children and spends her free time cooking for a crowd.

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