Learn About Open, Semi-Open and Closed Adoption

The terms open adoption, semi-open adoption, and closed adoption are familiar terms in the field. However they tend to hold varying definitions depending on whom you talk to. There is no one formula that dictates whether an adoption is open or closed as there is a beautiful array of options where both adoptive parents and birth parents can tailor an adoption that is comfortable for them and in the best interest of the child. Adoption STAR has briefly outlined the broad definitions for each of the terms below. Allow yourself to learn more about these options.

Open Adoption

An open adoption represents the joining of two families based on love and trust. Open Adoption means that birth families and adoptive families will maintain significant ongoing contact after a placement. In some cases this takes the form of sharing non-identifying information and sometimes it means the full exchange of identifying information between birth and adoptive families. This contact may include phone calls, visiting with each other and the child, sharing photos and letters or corresponding via e-mail.

Open adoption can sound overwhelming to many potential adoptive parents or birth parents. During the beginning stages of your adoption process you will be provided with education and the opportunity to discuss your feelings and to eliminate any lingering doubts you may have about this type of adoption.

Open adoption benefits all members of the adoption triad. Open adoption provides the adoptive parents with the unique opportunity to “get to know” the birth parents of their child, enabling them to answer questions that their child might pose to them as s/he grows. The fear of an unknown birth parent returning to claim a child is gone. Birth parents become real people. Open adoption is not co-parenting; the adoptive parents are irreplaceable as Mom and Dad in the life of their child. Open adoption also allows birth parents the peace of mind they can only get by meeting the family who will raise their child into adulthood. They are given the proper respect for themselves, their decision, and the important role they play in their child’s life. Most importantly, open adoption provides adopted children with the understanding of “why” they were placed for adoption and the ability to be able to contact their birth parents, should they want to. This helps with identity issues—knowing whom s/he looks like and having a sense of connectedness with biological family members. The child has a direct ongoing source of medical and other important information. And most importantly, the child knows that an adoption plan was made out of love, not rejection.

Semi-Open Adoption

Semi-open is similar to an open adoption but the relationship does not include the sharing of identifying information and typically involves the agency as an intermediary for ongoing contact. After child placement, many semi-open adoptions include mailing photos and letters between adoptive families and birth families, with the agency being the “mail service” to preserve confidentiality.

Semi-open adoption has many of the same benefits as an open adoption as keeping in touch allows all parties the ability to get to know one another and to share future medical information should that be necessary. Semi-open adoptions can later become an open adoption if all parties are comfortable.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoption is not as rare as some believe. Even in a closed adoption, Adoption STAR requires the adoptive family to share pictures and letters on a scheduled basis after placement. Historically, adoptions have been closed however studies show that incorporating some type of openness in adoption is healthiest for all those involved in an adoption plan. Today more adoptions range from semi-open to open adoption. If a birth parent selects a closed adoption plan for her child, Adoption STAR will encourage her to still share her preferences for an adoptive family and leave the door open to receive photos and updates of the child.