An open adoption is one in which there is direct contact between the birth family and the adoptive family. While it is not appropriate for all situations of adoption, there can be many benefits for all those involved.>
The clearest benefits are for the adopted children; in an open adoption, the children know that they have been adopted and do not have to search for their birth family. They may have direct access to not only their birth mother, but also the wider family, such as siblings, grandparents and cousins. They are able to ask and receive answers to questions about their family history and many of the questions that bother adopted children, such as, "Who do I look like?" and often most importantly, "Why was I given up?" Children who have contact with their birth families are not subject to fantasies about who their birth parents are, and in general do not feel a conflicted loyalty, since the relationship between the birth and adoptive families is above board. In the case of inter-racial adoption, open adoption gives the child access to his or her cultural and racial background.
Birth families often find open adoptions to be better for them too, as they do not have to sever all contact with the child and are not left wondering what happened their baby -- is she healthy? Is he happy? Does he look or act like us? How is she growing up? They feel they have more control over the situation and therefore less regret about giving up their child.
Adoptive parents are often wary of contact with their adopted children's birth family, but when an open adoption is agreed on, many adoptive parents are happy with the outcome. They are not concerned about their right as parents, or that the birth family will want the child back, since the relationship is open. They may develop empathy for the birth family, and they are able to be open about the child's background and history.