What is the difference between open, closed and semi-open adoptions?
While every adoption professional has a different interpretation of what an open, closed or semi-open adoption entails, the following is a description of how American Adoptions defines each type of adoption.
While many adoption professionals have varying definitions of what an open adoption is, it typically means that the birth parents and the adoptive family speak prior to and even after the child is born. This may include phone calls and face-to-face visits. Some adoptions of this nature are very open, with the adoptive family and birth parents exchanging contact information and agreeing to periodic visits by the birth parents as the child grows. It is also common in open adoptions for the adoptive family to mail pictures and letters to the birth parents.
When many people think about adoption, they envision a closed adoption in which the adoptive family and birth mother remain confidential, with no contact prior to or after the placement of the child. For many generations, it was common practice to keep adoptions closed. However, in the early 1980s, adoption began to shift toward more openness. Today, some people believe closed adoptions to be "safer," mainly out of a fear that if the birth parents know where the adoptive family lives, that they will "take back" the child. While this fear has largely been perpetuated by television movies and sensationalized media reports, this is not true. Today's adoption laws are very clear - once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive family is recognized as the child's legal family.
Semi-open adoptions fall in between open and closed adoptions. The adoptive family and birth parents usually will know basic information about each other, such as their first names and state of residence. Complete contact information, such as phone numbers and addresses, are not shared. While adoptive families and birth parents may speak to one another prior to the birth of the child, some confidentiality is maintained. Once the child has been placed with the adoptive family, the birth parents may still stay in contact with the family via letters and pictures, however this correspondence is handled by a third party, such as the adoption agency. American Adoptions handles all correspondence between our birth parents and adoptive families in a semi-open adoption. Our agency maintains the current contact information for each party - if the birth parents or adoptive family wishes to send a letter or pictures to the other party, they simply mail it to the agency. We then repackage the letter so there is no identifying information (such as mailing address) and forward it on to the recipient.
A majority of the adoptions conducted through our agency are semi-open in nature. Closed adoptions are rare at American Adoptions. We ask that waiting families agree at a minimum to provide pictures and letters at periodic intervals to the birth parents, if it is requested by them. Our agency will be responsible for routing all correspondence to ensure confidentiality.
Many adoptive families find that although at first they prefer a more closed or semi-open adoption, once they meet the birth parents and connect with them, they find the relationship evolves into a more open adoption. Such was the case for a recent American Adoptions family, Matt and Nora, whose story describes the benefits that open adoption can have on a family.