What is Open Adoption?

Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption


One of the most common questions asked about adoption is “What is open adoption?”

The definition of open adoption is that there is no exact definition of what an open adoption is.

Confused? Read on to learn more about open vs. closed adoption in domestic adoption, and how American Adoptions views both types of adoptions.

Open Adoption

Many people believe open adoption is a type of adoption relationship in which the adoptive family and birth parents have personal visits with one another, and the birth mother is able to maintain a relationship with the child. This is an example of open adoption, but not the only example.

Generally, open adoption refers to any adoption relationship between the adoptive family and birth parents in which identifiable information as well as contact are shared between both parties.

Identifiable Information: May include first and last names, address, phone number, personal email address and more.

Contact: May include contact before and after the adoption, including phone calls, emails and visits.

Of course, some open adoptions are more open than others. Some of these adoption relationships do include personal visits agreed upon by both the adoptive family and birth parents prior to them following the same adoption plan. Other open adoptions may just include periodic phone calls on holidays or birthdays.

No two adoptions, and no two open adoptions, ever look quite the same.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoptions are becoming less requested by birth mothers every year – an estimated 1 out of every 10 – unlike adoptions in the past where an overwhelming majority were closed.

Prior to the 1980s, it was common practice to keep adoptions closed. Oftentimes, women facing unexpected pregnancies would temporarily move to another location, have their babies, and return home. The doctor or a child-placing agency would then find an adoptive family, unbeknownst to the birth mother. Clearly, this led to various complications in each of their lives, especially for the adopted child.

Thankfully, as adoptive families, birth mothers, adopted children and child-placing agencies continued to see the negatives of closed adoption and the positives of open adoption, adoption as a whole began to evolve, and for the better. Today, most adoption agencies allow the birth mother to make most of the decision in the adoption, including how much contact she wants with the adoptive family and the child. It is then the adoption agency’s job to find the appropriate adoptive family for each adoption situation.

That said, some birth parents do still request closed adoptions, where very limited contact or identifying information is exchanged. The adoptive family still receives medical records in closed adoptions, but very little else.

Semi-Open Adoption

Now that you understand the differences between an open adoption and closed adoption, what about the types of adoptions that fall somewhere in between?

At American Adoptions, we call these “semi-open adoptions,” and we ask all of our families to be accepting of a semi-open relationship if and when presented an adoption situation.

Semi-open adoptions include the exchange of non-identifiable information and contact mediated through our agency.

Non-Identifiable Information: May include first names, state or region, temporary email address and more.

Mediated Contact: May include conference calls mediated by a social worker, pictures and letters forwarded from the agency to the birth parents, and interaction at the hospital.

Read the following to learn more about a semi-open adoption with American Adoptions.


Keep in mind that adoption relationships are ever evolving. One adoption may be fully open and then the birth mother decides to limit contact, while another adoption may be semi-open and then both the birth parents and adoptive family decide to engage in a more open adoption.

Contact American Adoptions today at 1-800-ADOPTION or request free information to continue to answer the question of what is open adoption.

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