Open adoption stories from all perspectives.
I can’t imagine not knowing my birth family. They love me, and it’s always fun to see them. People who think open adoption is confusing don’t understand that it’s not confusing for the kid. I’ve always known who my birthparents are and who my mom and dad are. I think it would be sad to have a closed adoption.
Open adoption stories from points all around the constellation.
Learn what open adoption is about from the people living it! Read first-person adoption stories by open adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents and birth grandparents in our blog. See photo galleries of families who embody hospitality as they build child-centered relationships.
Have a story you’d like to share? Please contact Marketing & Development Director Sally Shuey at email@example.com. She’d love to hear from you.
OA&FS adoptee Charley with birthmother Aunna.
Hear what OA&FS adoptees have to say in these exclusive videos.
Now that the first generation of open adoptees are young adults, we gave them the mic!
We’ve asked OA&FS adoptees to share their adoption experiences via video diaries. This way we can all hear in their own words what this experience has been like for them, and how they would like to see the future of adoption evolve. Their overarching message was how grateful they are that this form of open adoption exists, enabling their birthparents to hand select a family for them and still stay in their lives.
We’re so appreciative to the open adoptees who volunteered to share their perspectives and experiences. To learn how openness in adoption can benefit the children of open adoption, please check out the resources on our site. If your teen or young adult adoptee would like to participate in this video project, please email Marketing and Development Director Sally Shuey firstname.lastname@example.org, and she’ll get you set up!
This outgoing, hilarious high school student has a love of acting and speaks highly of his open adoption, “My adoptive parents have a great relationship with my birthparents. They are all awesome people. ” View video.
Brianna is a marching band aficionado with a desire to write like her journalist parents. “My adoptive parents are very understanding of the fact that I want to be a part of my birth family’s life and they want that, too.” View video.
A college graduate who majored in anthropology and Spanish, Claire thrives on the sense of connection she gets from visits with her birth family: “I love to talk about my open adoption. It’s made me who I am.” View video.
This graduate-level math major has a quick wit and deep family ties. “I don’t have a memory of finding out that I was adopted or being shocked or anything like that. I’m very happy that I have an open adoption.” View video.
An accomplished author, journalist and college student, Gabrielle’s writing a children’s book on adoption. “My adoption helped to shape me into who I am today and it means a lot to me to share my story.” View video.
Nathan is a warm young man with a love of writing and wry sense of humor. He’s deeply inspired by his adoptive and birth parents. “Open adoption turned out fantastically for me. I hope it can turn out just as well for others.” View video.
Taylor is a college student with a love of travel, language and learning about other cultures. “Having an open adoption means that there’s not a part of you that’s missing. I have all my pieces. I’m not missing anything.” View video.
Paige relates her love of family, bike hikes and what it’s like to live in an open adoption. “My birthparents are so appreciative of my parents, my parents are so appreciative of my birthparents, it’s really cool.” View video.
Christine was adopted through OA&FS at age 3; she is now an engaging and thoughtful young woman. Before her placement she lived with her birthparents, who struggled with addiction, and then in a foster home for 10 months.View video.
Our open adoptee Bill of Rights.
We believe that you’re entitled to …
A 360-degree view of adoption.
OA&FS open adoptee Ariel, her adoptive parents and birthparents provide a window into their various perspectives that provides a view of open adoption from all sides and voices. Thanks to the entire family for this important contribution to our understanding of the open adoption experience.
What it’s like to grow up in an open adoption.
by Ariel, OA&FS Adoptee
People often want to know what it’s like growing up in an open adoption. I find that people are fascinated by my story and I like to talk about it. I hope that by sharing my story as an open adoptee, people can see how great open adoption is. I hope that other adoptees embrace their open adoption and are proud of it. I have so many people that care about me!
My parents told me about my adoption when I was very young, so I have always known. My adoptive parents really tried to ensure that my birthparents were part of my life. They are comfortable with them being in my life. They scheduled times for me to see my birthparents while I was growing up. Now that I have a car, I can go see Sara and Jason on my own.
I have a close relationship with each of my birthparents. I see them on all the holidays and on birthdays. Now that I am away at college, I see them less, but we are still in touch. We are friends on Facebook.
Knowing my birthparents has absolutely helped me to know myself better. Knowing my medical history is important, but more important is that I know that side of me. I’m lucky because I have two sets of parents and all four have taught me things about life.
It was the right answer to a difficult decision … also the best.
by Sara, Ariel’s Birthmother
From her birth to when she left for college, I have been a part of Ariel’s life. Through her open adoption, her birthfather and I gave Ariel amazing parents who offered her more than I could have imagined. Seeing who she is now is proof of what an incredible job they did. I’m very proud of the decision I made those many years ago.
A few months into my junior year, I had dropped out of high school. I was working full-time and in my very naive 16-year-old mind, I thought I had a plan. In January, I found myself pregnant. I continued to work full-time throughout my pregnancy and slowly began to prepare. I bought a crib, baby clothes and other things.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was living with my Mom and one morning it clicked. I snapped or maybe I just woke up: I didn’t want to be a welfare case. I didn’t want my baby to struggle with a Mom who didn’t really have a plan in place to be a successful parent. I questioned how much additional help and support my family would really be able to provide. My Dad loved me, but helping raise my baby wasn’t going to happen. I knew my Mom would be there to help, and that she would insist I apply for every state resource out there for a teenage Mom.
I got out the phonebook, found Open Adoption & Family Services, and made a call. It was the right answer to the most difficult decision of my life. It was also the best decision I’ve ever made. I couldn’t see how I could go wrong: I could pick the parents. That gave me the chance to find the best match for my baby. Reading the full homestudies of adoptive parents was helpful. Getting a glimpse into someone’s life so you know what they do for a living, what their hobbies are, or how long have they been married are all things that give you peace and let you feel a connection to them even before you meet
Over the years, the adoption went exactly like it should have. We talk. We get together. It’s an extension of family that I’m very grateful to have. Laura and Nick kept me caught up on Ariel’s life through pictures, letters, e-mails and by arranging times we could get together. Even so, there was a length of time when I didn’t want to intrude. It wasn’t based on any feeling given off by Laura or Nick. For some reason, I felt I should give them space and not push too much of myself into Ariel’s life. Looking back now, that feeling was… completely stupid. When I planned my wedding six years ago, I really wanted Ariel to be a bridesmaid, but I convinced myself that it would have been asking too much from her. Ariel came to wedding and I regret 100% not asking her to be in it. I wish I would’ve at least given her the chance to make that decision.
What I want people to know about open adoption is don’t hesitate. Embrace it for exactly what is: a unique opportunity to share a wonderful part of your life with others. Open adoption has been the best of both worlds for me as I was given the very fortunate opportunity to watch Ariel grow up and still be connected with her. As Ariel grew older, it’s made it easier for us to keep in touch one on one. E-mail and Facebook are awesome for that!
The coolest part of our adoption — how well we all got along.
by Jason, Ariel’s Birthfather
Our open adoption has been a good story! In an open adoption, everyone gets to stay on board. It’s been a great experience for me to see Ariel grow up. If I had become a father at a very young age, I don’t know if I would have done as great a job. Nick and Laura weren’t able to have a child. That they were able to raise Ariel and that they did such a great job makes me feel really good.
Back then, Sara and I were really young. We weren’t sure for about six or seven months into the pregnancy what we should do. I felt it was ultimately Sara’s decision and my job was to support her choice. When Sara made the decision to explore adoption, we went to two agencies and decided to work with Open Adoption & Family Services. It made sense at that time in our lives and I’m glad it worked out the way it did. Absolutely every turn that Ariel’s life has taken since then has been for the better for her.
We read through a lot of intro letters and several families’ homestudies until we found the perfect match. When we found them, it became like a fairy tale situation. When we first began to get to know Nick and Laura, we just clicked. We have a lot of common interests so we became comfortable together as friends. That made it even easier to connect.
Kids can read so well what’s happening around them. For a child to see her birthparents and adoptive parents getting along so well is important. That’s the coolest part of how our adoption process went: how well we all got along. We started out with regular visits. I can’t recall, but think we agreed to four visits a year in our open adoption agreement. In the beginning, they seemed unsure how much to open up their lives to us and likewise, we weren’t exactly sure how involved we should be either. After the first couple of visits, it never felt uncomfortable or awkward. After a couple of years, we left the formalities behind and became more like an extended family.
Sara and I stayed together for about a year after Ariel was born and then our lives changed. We both moved and grew apart. After that, we each developed our own relationship with Ariel. Ariel’s the glue of our family. She’s full of stories and it was always fun to hear everything she’d done since we last talked. We also developed very close relationships with Ariel’s parents. When I call to talk with Ariel, I check in to see how Nick and Laura are doing, too. I learned a lot from them over the past years. When I needed it, I felt I could ask them for advice. My Dad passed away when I was quite young, so I really appreciated my relationship with them. It’s been great to have them in my life and an amazing experience to be there as Ariel became who she is today.
Ariel’s open adoption enhanced all of our lives.
by Laura, Ariel’s Adoptive Mother
When Ariel’s dad and I first considered adopting in 1990, open adoption practices had just begun to catch on in Oregon. We could find no adult adoptees or even teenagers we could talk to about their open adoption experience. By chance, I came across a news column about a radio personality in Portland who had been adopted in the 1950s.
Though it wasn’t common at the time, the adoptive couple stayed in touch with the birthparents, so Iris, the adoptee, grew up knowing both families. The gist of the story was she was very close to and tied to her birthparents, which in no way undermined her devotion to and closeness with her adoptive parents throughout her life. In the article, Iris acknowledged she was thankful to her birthparents for allowing her adoptive parents to have her. She also shared how grateful she was to her adoptive parents for enabling her relationship with her birthparents.
The article was a revelation for us. It was the first time I’d encountered an actual instance of an open adoption and clearly, the adoptee had thrived. At the time, many believed only damage or heartbreak would result from an open relationship. I have a sibling from a closed adoption who grew up with scant information about her birth family. In my sister’s case, my sense was that the secrecy brought no blessings to her life and may have contributed to her issues with anxiety and low self esteem.
We chose open adoption. Thankfully, Ariel hasn’t had to deal with identity issues to the same degree as my sister. Ariel knows her birthparents, and with that, she knows a lot more about herself. She knows who she looks like and her inherited medical history. Most importantly, she knows why she was given for adoption and that Sara and Jason love her. She also gets to be a part of her birth siblings’ lives as they grow up, and that has been priceless.
Maintaining a good relationship and staying in contact with Ariel’s birthparents has been important to me. It is essential that Ariel feel comfortable with her adoption and perceive her birthparents as positive, wonderful factors in her life. Sara and Jason are also important to me because I’m incredibly indebted to them.
I can’t imagine adopting any other way. I believe Ariel’s open adoption has enhanced all of our lives. When people unfamiliar with open adoption have asked how Ariel could love more than one mother, I usually respond by saying, “How does a mother love more than one child? It’s no more confusing than that.”
There is no doubt in my mind that we made the right choice.
by Nick, Ariel’s Adoptive Father
My child’s birthparents are important to me because they have given me a great gift. Their baby was very important to them. Sara proved that by the care she took to assure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. They both proved that by the care they took in making an incredibly difficult decision about how to give their baby the most promising future they possibly could. I immensely respect the strong character Sara and Jason showed.
Jason and Sara have given Ariel a great gift. They provided her the opportunity for a future that they could not have provided when they were in high school. By remaining close, they have provided Ariel with continuity. She knows who her birth parents are. She knows they love her and she knows they made a great sacrifice for her benefit. To me, the mutual trust and respect that we all have for each other has helped us create a strong relationship.
My advice for those who are just going into the adoption process is to be very honest. Be clear in your reasons and purpose in pursuing adoption. Clarity of purpose will help you evaluate when you have a strong match between you and the birth parents. Be patient and respect your intuition. I’m a big believer in karma, fate, “you reap what you sow,” and relying on intuition to evaluate character.
With Ariel, Sara and Jason, we hit the “adoption jackpot.” That’s the way you’re supposed to feel and I have talked to many parents who share that same feeling. With determination, patience and luck, we all have a very happy story. Ultimately, isn’t that what you’re trying to achieve?
In a closed adoption, you face the prospect of keeping a secret and lying to your child about his or her origin. That violates the most basic relationship between a parent and child: TRUST! As we considered adoption options and our goals, open adoption was the only alternative that made sense to Laura and me. That was in 1990. Looking back at the story we can now tell, there is no doubt in my mind that we made the right choice for Ariel and all of us.
OA&FS Process Videos
Your window into the world of our progressive, pro-choice agency.
If adoption is the choice, we empower them to realize their vision. OA&FS adoptions are fully open — our adoptive parents genuinely want to create a lifelong relationship with the birth family, much like an extended family.
These innovative videos show you each stage of the process. Learn about our program from the people living it!
With our all-options pregnancy counseling, pregnant and parenting women and couples receive support, information and referrals in a safe environment as they explore their options: parenting, abortion and adoption. View video.
I Chose Open Adoption
In this video, birth and adoptive parents recount their hospital experiences. Their retelling conveys the rich emotion that forms the foundation of their relationship and the mutual trust, respect and compassion each demonstrates. View video.
Hear from Birthmoms
A roundtable of OA&FS birthmothers share what you may not know about open adoption, and commonly held stereotypes. All have long-term adoptions in which they’ve formed a friendship with the adoptive family, and remain in their child’s life. View video.
At OA&FS, Birthfathers are welcomed to participate in the pregnancy options counseling and open adoption process. All services we offer to birthmothers are available to birthfathers. We’ll help you form a lifelong relationship with your child. View video.
Planning an Open Adoption
Birthparents share their stories of how they were empowered to make their open adoption vision become a reality by working with OA&FS. They chose parents from a diverse pool of adoptive families who genuinely wanted a lifelong relationship with them. View video.
Placement and Entrustment
In this video, birth and adoptive parents recount their hospital experiences. Their retelling conveys the rich emotion that forms the foundation of their relationship and the mutual trust, respect and compassion each demonstrates. View video.
Creating an Open Adoption Relationship
Birth and adoptive parents recall the things they have in common that brought them together; the lasting bond they formed; and the services they received from OA&FS as they cultivated their open adoption relationship. View video.
Open Adoption Over the Years
This birth and adoptive family have a natural, comfortable extended family relationship. They share stories of how they welcome and value each other and honor the needs of the children. They are part of the open adoption community. View video.
Open Adoption: an Alternative to Foster Care
Angela, an at-risk mom, chose to pro-actively plan an open adoption for her children rather than face the involuntary termination of her parental rights. This is a viable path for public health professionals to share with the pregnant women they serve . View video.
Read Rain or Shine, our childrens’ book.
“Rain or Shine” is written by adoptive mom Hilary Horder Hippely and illustrated by former OA&FS counselor Margaret Godfrey. In this story, Finn has a happy life with his mother and father. Every summer he looks forward to the birthday celebration that will reunite him with his rich extended family, particularly his birthmother, Lisa. But when clouds threaten, Finn wonders how his much-loved birthday traditions can continue. With love and honesty, “Rain or Shine” celebrates the possibilities of life, love, and family.
“Rain or Shine is a lovely children’s book that I have just started reading to my school aged adoptees and their families, as a way to open the topic of extended families, in a non-threatening way. I especially like the way Rain or Shine normalizes the gaps in contact that often occur in open-adoptions. The simple, yet powerful page at the end of the book highlighting child-centered adoptions completes the message. Rain or Shine illustrates open-heartedness in open adoption.”
– Leslie Foge, MA, MFT, Co-Author of The Third Choice: A Woman’s Guide to Placing a Child for Adoption
Pictures of Open Adoption
“Charley and her birthmom, Aunna, have a relationship that goes far beyond any contract. They spend time together with every visit, send video messages and chat via Facetime. We love and adore Aunna and her family. We enjoy their company and find ways to involve them in our lives as well … birthdays, holidays, vacations and random excuses to reunite. Together, with Charley we talk about her birth family frequently and she proudly announces that “Naunna is my birthmom” as we include her name in our bedtime song. Aunna has a beautiful spirit and loving way about her. Time with her is treasured. We are blessed to call her family.” – Jen & Matt, Adoptive Parents
Pictures of Open Adoption
OA&FS adoptee Juliana is surrounded by love and her adoptive family, which includes parents Sonja and Stuart, her big sis plus grandparents and cousins to play with!
Open adoption has engendered a huge shift in how I move through life …. Living from my heart requires me to just. be. present.Lori Holden: Adoptive Mom, Author and Open Adoption Advocate
Pictures of Open Adoption
Life with three kids is nonstop for Brady and Peter from the moment they get up until the moment they go to bed. “We have a very active household. They’re always running around and energetic and jumping. We live on a farm, so they explore outside a lot and play with the animals. The children understand Sharene’s their birth mom, and refer to her as ‘Mommy Sharene’. Open adoption is an ongoing journey, like parenting. It’s never ending and you never have all the answers, so you just figure it out as you go along. It seems to always turn out for the best. No matter what the struggles are they always work themselves out” – Brady & Peter, Adoptive Parents
Birthmother Sharene’s Story
“They’re the best Daddies ever”.
We first started working with Sharene in 2010, when she reached out to OA&FS as part of our collaborative relationship with Oregon Department of Human Services. She had – and continues to have – a strong vision for her childrens’ lives. Because of this, she was featured in our video “Open Adoption: An Alternative to Foster Care”, which chronicles the early stages of Finn’s adoption.
We’ve kept in touch since then, and are so grateful to Sharene for continuing to share her experiences. So often in adoption the focus is on the moment the baby is placed. Now that her son Finn is four, Sharene, along with Finn’s Dads Peter and Brady, have a more evolved open adoption story to tell.
Dads Brady & Peter’s Story
“We want our kids to know their birthparents”.
Brady and Peter are two remarkable adoptive dads who have opened their hearts to Finn and his big sisters Sophia and Joanie, and Sharene their birthmother. They adopted Finn as a newborn, and three years later welcomed his sisters into their family. “Sharene is wonderful, we have a really good relationship with her. She’s like our family. She has three visits a year at least where she sees all three kids. And she talks on the phone with them and texts and sends pictures. It’s just a very honest and open and loving relationship. If there are issues or concerns – even though they might be difficult – we bring them up with her and she does likewise with us.”
Pictures of Open Adoption
An OA&FS Family
For the child, open adoption reinforces a true sense of being supported by many loving adults, including their adoptive and birth parentsDelphine, OA&FS Counselor
Adoptee Finn’s parents share their open adoption experience.
OA&FS adoptee Finn with birthmother Alleia and adoptive parents Sarah and Scobie.
“This agency’s dedication to openness and respect for all parties to an adoption is simply some of the finest and most humane social thinking-in-action that I’ve ever encountered.”Scobie, OA&FS Adoptive Parent
Ten years ago my husband and I began searching for ways to become parents, knowing that a traditional pregnancy wasn’t possible. As soon as we discovered OA&FS, we knew we had a way forward that would work for us, our child-to-be, and his or her birth family. We first went to the short evening informational session offered by OA&FS, and found that all of our questions were answered in the most humane, thoughtful, child-centered way. Each time we wondered about why the agency’s practices operated a certain way, the answer always came back to what was best for the child, first and foremost, and also what would be most supportive of the birth parents.
So we began the process of preparing for adoption, which with OA&FS meant reading several very good books about the ethics, issues, and possibilities that can arise in an open adoption. Then we attended their intensive 3-day preparatory seminar, which continued to develop our understanding and answer our questions. Next we completed all of the paperwork to get “in the pool” as a prospective adoptive family, including photo collages, auto-biographies, a home study by the agency, and a “Dear Birthparent” letter meant to aid parents considering adoption in choosing the right adoptive family for their child. To my mind, this is one of the most powerful aspects of the open adoption process facilitated by OA&FS: that the birth family selects an adoptive family to parent their child, and thereby knows that they are making a positive and proactive choice for their child’s life.
Throughout the application process we were well supported by counselors at the agency, and when our counselor came to our home to complete the home study, it was clear she was there not only to confirm that our home was a safe and nurturing place for a child, but also to get to know us well so she could continue to support us through the process. Once we were “in the pool” and waiting, we began attending the agency’s monthly meeting for waiting families, which offered both moral support and critical information. In the couple of “screening calls” from possibly interested birth families that we received, we felt well-informed and caringly treated by any OA&FS counselor we spoke with. Thanks to OA&FS, that year of waiting was painless, and actually helped prepare us for the arrival of our son.
Which finally happened, on Valentine’s Day, with a call from our counselor: “You’ve been picked! He’s a healthy baby boy, born yesterday morning. How soon can you be in Oregon?” Hours later we were in a birthing suite, hugging our new son, his birth mom, many members of her family, and our OA&FS counselor.
Now our boy is a fast and funny first-grader, who just lost his third tooth. Over the past years our relationship to his birth family has deepened and expanded, and we love them just as we do all our relatives, including learning to appreciate each others’ gifts and quirks! We talk on the phone, send e-mails and photos, and visit each other for birthdays, holidays, or just for fun. Our connection to OA&FS has continued as well: agency picnics and parties are ways to reconnect with our beloved counselors and meet other birth and adoptive families. And whenever we have questions, as our son grows up, the counselors have been there and ready to help us answer them.
Our son’s birth mom occupies a very special place in his life and heart…he knows in ways both small and profound that he is deeply loved by her, and by us.This is the true gift of open adoption, and the goal that all of the skilled and dedicated OA&FS counselors are working towards: that children like our boy will never doubt that they were wanted, never wonder where they came from, and always know that they are loved. – Sarah
I’m under no illusion that adoption situations are simple or easy, or that any agency taking on those complications on a daily basis could be perfect. But when my adopted son’s birth mom was looking for help with the adoption she had in mind, she contacted several agencies, and OA&FS were the only ones who, from the first word, treated her with respect, kindness, and without any assumption that she would ultimately choose to follow through with an adoption. She knew that they were the right people to work with because no one else she contacted even came close.
But wait…why do I know this? Because 7 years later, my son’s birth mom is a beloved part of our family and has been since the crucible moment that she asked my wife and I to be her son’s parents… which is the same moment we made the most profound promise of our lives by saying we would. She and my wife and I have all been a part of sharing my son’s adoption story with him since before he could speak. My son is not confused. He knows and loves his birth mom, understands who she is for him, and has a profound and loving connection to her. And he knows just as surely that my wife and I are his parents. The unbelievably dedicated counselors at OA&FS provided the foundation for this success right from our first contact with the agency.
As an adoptive dad in a genuinely open adoption, OA&FS has made a profound and positive difference in my life. As if the privilege of being a parent in this world were not enough, I’ve also gained an extended family. We’re close and loving with whole swaths of my son’s family of origin. We’ve been to weddings. They’ve come to birthdays. I can solidly say I would rather be a part of this open adoption than to be the biological father of a son. Again, it was the OA&FS counselors that created this possibility alongside us through their careful, brave, and heartfelt work. Though I’m sure this all sounds blissful –and it is– our adoption was not free of difficult circumstances. Putting it together took a phenomenal amount of heart and trust from everyone involved, and OA&FS was there at every turn. What’s more, in the intervening years we’ve availed ourselves of the agency’s free life-long counseling policy, to be sure that we we continue to make good choices for everyone as our son grows up.
The pre-adoption education and preparation that OA&FS provides to adoptive parents is thorough, necessary, and powerful. It is so important for adoptive parents to enter an adoption feeling honored rather than entitled. And it is so critical for mothers considering adoption as an option (and their partners and families, if involved) to feel respected and not pressured, no matter what path they choose. This is the path through adoption that OA&FS strives for every day. What’s more, –and this is truly the mark of a dedicated and humble institution– they have been willing to constantly re-examine their process and improve it. They never assume that they have all the answers or have found the one true way. If it can be made yet more caring and more respectful, they will make changes in order to achieve that. Very few, if any other agencies can match this level of self-reflection and openness to change.
But wait…how could I know this? Because, as a high school teacher at an independent school in Seattle, I’ve created a social studies course about adoption. My class brings in guests from every part of the adoption constellation: birth parents, adoptive parents, adopted people, people searching for families of origin, independent adoption lawyers, and adoption counselors. When the counselors from OA&FS have visited my class, I’m always impressed to learn about the changes they’ve made in their process, outreach, communication, and even in the fundamental language they use for adoption. Invariably, these shifts are put in place to make the inherently challenging process of adoption more child-centered, more humane, and more acknowledging for everyone involved.
As part of the class, my students and I research adoption agencies from across the country. We’ve yet to find one that truly compares to OA&FS in terms of policies centered on kindness, self-reflection, dedication to openness, and respect for parents and families considering planning an adoption for their child.” – Scobie