Should I Choose an Open, Semi-open, or Closed Adoption?

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If you are an expectant mother who is choosing an adoption plan for her unborn child, it may be hard to know what type of adoption plan fits your needs. It may also limit the number of profiles you view, as some hopeful families may only be willing to accommodate certain types of plans.

One thing you would need to think about as an expectant parent is whether or not your state recognizes open adoption plans. Some states do not recognize open or semi-open adoption contracts, and therefore, these types of agreements are not enforceable agreements. The agreement would be a “good faith” type of agreement based on trust, and not able to be enforced by law.

What is the Difference Between These Types of Adoption?

If you choose a closed adoption, you are choosing to have little to no information about the family adopting your child. You would not be permitted any information that would help you to locate them, or the child you place with them. Last name, addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information would be withheld. There would be no direct contact between the expectant mother and the hopeful adoptive family. There would be very little information, if any, shared to either party involved.

In a closed adoption, you will not be able to contact the family or child during their childhood. If you desire any contact, you would have to wait for that child to seek you out (or you search for them) when they become an adult. You would agree that you had no intention of contact, photos, letters, or visitations throughout their childhood.

Closed adoptions are becoming less common, as adoption is becoming less stigmatized and secretive. In the past, adoption was something that took place quietly and without much support to those involved. Today, adoption is more openly talked about, and it is often celebrated as a display of strength and courage for all those involved in the process.

Semi-closed adoptions allow for the expectant mother to see profiles and perhaps photos of the family who is hoping to adopt their child. Some basic, but non-identifying, information may be provided. It may allow an expectant mother to be able to make some decisions regarding where her child is placed and may help in her healing process. Even as this may give some comfort to the expectant mother that she is able to make some decisions, it may also help to maintain privacy for both sides of the adoption. Any questions or interactions may occur with a third party (agency or attorney), and therefore, there may not be a fear of unwanted or unnecessary contact.

Semi-open adoption is an adoption in which you are able to share some information between the expectant mother and the hopeful adoptive parents, while still keeping contact information restricted and confidential. For instance, if you are placing your child in a semi-closed adoption, you may be able to receive letters or photos of the child. However, these letters and photos would likely be sent to a third party (usually the agency or social worker) in order to keep the family information private. There may even be the option to arrange an occasional visit with the child if agreed upon, likely facilitated by a social worker with your agency. Not all semi-open adoptions include visits, nor do they all include letters, cards, or photos. These are all just possible things that you can request in your adoption plan, and search for a family willing to accommodate these requests.

In a semi-open relationship, a birth mother is able to have some information on how the child is doing and can be reassured that the child is happy and well. Having these updates may make placing the child less difficult, and it may help in the healing and mourning process for the birth mother.

In an open adoption, the expectant mother and the adoptive family share information openly. In an open adoption agreement, it should not be assumed that contact is guaranteed. This is something both sides would want to discuss and agree upon. With open adoption, there may be the sharing of full names, as well as addresses and phone numbers. The parties involved may be comfortable enough to contact each other with questions. The contact allowed in an open adoption may refer to contact prior to the birth of the child as well as contact after the birth of the child. Open adoptions can vary on the degree of openness. Some plans may allow for phone calls or visits around holidays. Others may allow for monthly contact in the form of emails, letters, photos, or visits. Some may offer a once a year communication between the families, without any in-person visitations. Open adoption plans vary greatly and should be made with both sides coming together to agree to terms on their comfort level. Every adoption is unique, and every open adoption should be treated individually.

I have heard of social media sites helping to keep open adoptions simple and somewhat private, with sharing being done online. It is possible to create a private group for just family on both sides of the adoption to be able to see updates and posted photos of the adoptee. This allows those involved to have an outlet to use to send messages and photos and to be able to find what they seek in one easily accessible place. It creates a place to share without feeling like there is an invasion of privacy or disruption to anyone’s daily schedules.

Pros and Cons

Now that you have a better understanding of the options, how do you know what is right for you? It is time to think of the pros and cons of each type of adoption.

Pros of a closed adoption would include a sense of closure for all involved. There would be an official end to the relationship and mourning of the loss can occur. The ending of the relationship could also count as the con of closed adoption.

If you are the birth family, in a closed adoption, the ending of the relationship may be the closure you need in order to make adoption work for you. Some find it too difficult to be updated or reminded of the child they are not parenting. For some, closure is the way they cope. However, in other cases, after years of not knowing what the child looks like or how they are doing, the closed adoption may become a burden.

If you are the adopting family, a closed adoption will mean that you will not have to connect with the birth family again after the adoption. For some, this is their ideal scenario. For others, it isn’t. The hard part of a closed adoption is that later you may have questions you want to ask the birth family. Medical questions are one of the biggest challenges of having a closed adoption. While most places require that the birth family fill out a medical questionnaire, there will inevitably be things that will come up that you wish you could ask.

In a semi-open adoption, a benefit would be that these questions can be asked and answered through a third party. The hard part is that the communication may be delayed, and information may take a while to receive. Waiting for the next scheduled interaction, or for the third party to transfer information, may feel a bit overwhelming when you have questions.

If you are the birth family, waiting for updates may feel incredibly difficult. While you are happy to receive them, you may wish you had more frequent updates. On the other hand, frequent updates may make you feel sad that you are missing being a part of the child’s life, and may make the adoption harder to cope with.

As the adoptive family, if you need to wait for months for information that you need regarding health concerns, due to the agreement, then the communication agreement may feel hard to deal with. On the other hand, when it is time to send updates or holiday exchanges, you may find yourself feeling a bit stubborn, wishing to have these moments to yourself, and not having to share them.

In an open adoption, there are also pros and cons.

If you are the birth family, it may make the adoption easier to cope with if you can receive frequent updates and see current photos often. Some families find this more difficult though too, as they may question if they could be raising the child day to day, now that some time has passed. They may question if they made the right choice and find that they don’t feel closure in their decision.

Some birth families find it easier to accept the adoption in an open relationship. They are able to see the child is well, and growing up, and know what type of home they live in. Being able to know how the child is doing may help them cope with their decision not to parent.

For adoptive families, it can be hard at times to have open contact with birth families. Even the most secure person will have insecurities at times about their parenting. These insecurities can be magnified when seeing a child interact with their birth family.

It can also feel wonderful to be the adoptive family and be able to allow your child to maintain connections to their birth family. In a safe and loving environment, we all love to see children being loved. This is no exception. There is never too much love, am I right? So being open enough to allow the birth family to be able to show love to the child is a great advantage in open adoption.

What About an Adoptee’s Perspective?

Which type of adoption is best for the adoptee?

Just as each adoption is unique, so is each adoptee. When the adoptee is adopted as an infant, it is impossible to know what type of adoption they would wish for. As parents, we have to choose what we feel is best and hope the decision is the right one.

But what if the child grows up and is unhappy with your choice? If you chose a closed adoption but the child feels they are missing something, wants to know their birth family, and wants to know the situations that led to their adoption, how do you help?

Or if you have a semi-closed adoption, and the child wishes for direct contact, are they able to change the arrangement?

In an open adoption, if the birth family is too overwhelming for the child, or pressures the child about their connection, or lack of connection, are you able to dial back the relationship? Or if the situation becomes unsafe, how do you protect your child, while still honoring their relationship and the agreement you made?

As a mother who has adopted, if my child would want more or less interaction with their birth families then I would do my best to follow their wishes. I would take their age, the situation, and safety into consideration. Then, I would try to decide what is best and how to make the situation comfortable for my child.

At the end of the day, our job as parents is to care for our children. I think that means putting aside our insecurities, our feelings, and putting our children first. It is important to make all decisions based on a child’s best interest and not just what you want. This applies to any decision as a parent. For example, if you want to teach your child to be an all-star football player, but they are terrified of the game, then it is in their best interest to not play the sport. You may feel disappointed, but it is unfair to force them to do something they find terrifying. Similarly, if your child wishes to know more about their birth family, you may feel hurt, but it may be what they need to feel whole, to accept who they are, and to understand their life. Or if your child is feeling conflicted with seeing birth family too often and is uncomfortable with them, you may need to help them with those feelings. This may include less frequent interaction with the birth family. And this may make you feel guilty, or make them feel upset. However, the child is the most important piece of the adoption and doing what is best for them takes priority over what the adults may want.

I hope this helps you understand the types of adoption, and helps you to make the choice of what you believe is best for your children easier.

There are plenty of support groups that can answer your questions or that can give you advice from those navigating these types of relationships. If you are in an adoption relationship, you may even be able to help someone else with their journey!

 

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Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children’s classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.


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