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What is an open adoption?

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What is an open adoption?
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Adoption Council of Ontario
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

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What is an open adoption?
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Reviewed: 
September 30, 2016
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We are reviewing this content because of changes to the law. Updated content will be available soon. Please contact us if you have any questions.

An “open” adoption is when an adopted child or their adoptive parent continues to have some contact with a birth parent, birth relative, or a non-relative who was important to the child before the adoption.

This contact can happen in many ways. For example, it can be just sharing information or it can include telephone calls or in person visits.

An adoption can be open through either:

  • an openness agreement, which is an out-of-court agreement between the adoptive parents and the child’s birth parent, relative, or other person
  • an openness order, which is a court order that says the child must have contact with their birth parent, relative, or other person

In the past, adoptions were always “closed”. This meant that an adopted child and their adoptive parents had no contact with the birth parents, relatives, or other people who were important to the child before adoption. This included, for example, foster parents who had previously cared for the child.

An open adoption does not mean shared custody. The adoptive parents make all decisions about the child.

Adoption records

In Ontario, adoption records are “open” whether the adoption is “open” or “closed”. This means that after an adopted child turns 18, they can ask for information about their adoption from the government.

The birth parents have to wait until the child turns 19 before they can ask for information about the adoption.

“Open” adoption records does not mean that the child and their birth parents can automatically contact each other when the child is an adult. In some cases, adopted children and birth parents can ask for their records not to be shared or that they don’t want to be contacted.

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