Many couples have questions about the open adoption model used by Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. They wonder how much will be expected from them when it comes to communicating with another family about their children. How open does an open adoption have to be?

The open adoption model simply gives families the opportunity to stay in contact. How much or what method they use to do that is entirely up to the families themselves. For the Trabun and Smith families, an open adoption means staying in contact through email and sending presents for special occasions.

Stephanie Smith and her husband, Brian, say that the embryo donation program was an answer to their prayers about what to do with their remaining embryos. The open adoption model was an added blessing.

“This idea that we could know something about [the Trabuns] and that they would know something about us, that was extremely appealing,” Stephanie said. “These people truly are in a position of providing these embryos with something that we can’t.”

She said that it is comforting to stay in contact with the Trabuns and see the children growing up. “We touch base, which I’m very grateful for, and to know that [the children] are running around, laughing, playing, reading, and growing, I’m glad they’re open to sharing that with us.”

“I’ve really appreciated the communication we’ve had with the Smiths,” said Christy Trabun, mother of four, three of whom were born from the remaining embryos she and husband Mike adopted through Snowflakes. “I love seeing photos of their children and seeing some of the ways our kids look similar…I think they have a lot of similar personality traits.”

Staying in communication with the Smith family has been beneficial for health reasons, too. When the Smith’s children developed a food sensitivity, they alerted Christy who was able to watch for and diagnose the same sensitivity in their son, Cade. Without an open adoption arrangement, Christy would not have been able to diagnose the allergy so early.

The Trabuns talk openly to their children about where they each came from, including the embryo adoption process. Christy uses pictures and age-appropriate information to help them understand how they became a part of the family and plans on continuing the discussion in the future as they are able to understand more. She and Mike say that being in open communication with their children’s’ biological family has helped prepare her for questions that they will likely have as they get older.

“[An open adoption model] has made us all the more sensitive to our children’s story of how they came to be a part of our family, and better prepares us for the day when they will have more questions about their genetic parents and siblings,” Mike said. “In a closed adoption model, you can easily forget that other lives and another family’s story is connected to our own.”

For now, the families have no plans to meet in person but will continue communication through email. In the future, though, they say they are open to whatever their children want.

“I don’t have any set idea of what may take place in the future,” said Stephanie. “We have to be respectful of their lives and privacy. But I feel comforted knowing that they love the children with all their heart.”

“As our children grow older, I think it will be good for our kids to be able to communicate in their own ways with the Smiths too if all parties are comfortable with that level of interaction,” Christy said. “We’re certainly open to however the future might pan out with regard to our connection to them and their children.”