I’m passionate about open adoption.

It embodies many of the positive qualities that humans are capable of: trust, candor, compassion and inclusion. People bring their best selves to these relationship and I find that abundantly inspiring. I’ve dedicated my life, both personally and professionally, to ensuring the needs of all of the participants are met. Done well, this experience is transformative.

Biography: Executive Director Shari Levine

I’m the Executive Director of Open Adoption & Family Services and have been with the agency since 1992. OA&FS is a non-profit agency serving expectant parents across the country. We are very unique in that we’re pro-choice and not religiously affiliated. We provide free in depth all-options pregnancy counseling to hundreds of women/couples annually. Over the past 30 years we’ve also placed over 1,500 children in open adoption families and become the experts in open adoption in the Northwest and nationwide.

We’ve redefined what adoption can, and should be: a process of entrustment that holds the child’s needs at its center. Our high-integrity open adoptions are an ideal national model. In our open adoptions, the expectant parents and adoptive parents and form a close and lasting friendship that looks a lot like an extended family relationship. This heartfelt open adoption process replaces secrecy with transparency, separation with lifelong relationships and shame with transformation. This is the model for the next chapter of adoption.

I feel these tenets are imperative in a high-quality open adoption:

  • Expectant parents are empowered, respected and honored from the beginning. They receive in depth non-judgmental, non-coercive all options pregnancy counseling from master’s level counselors. They review extensive info about the prospective adoptive parents so they can truly making an informed choice.
  • The pool of families is diverse and includes LGBTQ families. The families receive intensive training on creating an open adoption relationship. They also receive guidance in uncovering and processing their infertility grief.
  • Expectant and adoptive parents receive the skills and tools they’ll need to form a lifelong friendship. They receive guidance as they complete a legally enforceable agreement for ongoing visits and create an extended family relationship.
  • Expectant parents design their own adoption vision, and only sign informed consents when they’re ready.
  • After the placement, expectant parents receive ongoing counseling and all parties receive lifelong relationship guidance. They are welcomed into a thriving open adoption community.

My profound interest in adoption reform extends to many facets of adoption: from re-examining the state adoption practices, to creating pre- and post-education and counseling for families formed by surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology, to creating open adoptions that meet the lifelong needs of the participants, especially the child.

Both of my kids were born and raised in open adoptions.

We have very close relationships with their birthmoms and we just re-found my daughter’s birth father. My son is now in his 20s and I can see how much it’s meant to him to have his birthmom and her children in his life. As he ventures out into the world, his sense of identity is intact. That brings me immense satisfaction as his mom.

During my career, I’ve participated on the Oregon Law Commission Adoption Work Group (we created SB 623, the Oregon landmark bill that allows adoptees and their birthparents access to the adoption file when the adoptee is 18); I’ve served as the president of the Coalition of Oregon Adoption Agencies for numerous years, and the chair of their Ethics and Legislative committees; I’ve been a Backline Advisory Board Member and served on several county commissions that oversee services to pregnant and parenting teens.

Connect with Shari.