The three main categories of adoption are open, semi-open, and closed. When choosing to make an adoption plan, there are a variety of options when it comes to levels of openness a birth family can have with the adoptive family post-placement. Starting with closed, let’s take a look at what each means and how it can vary within that category.


A closed adoption generally means that you have no plan to continue contact after placing the child and that you do not share identifying characteristics with each other. This sort of adoption was the only option for a very long time. Essentially, no names, addresses, phone numbers, or further identifying information was shared so that a person could not be contacted at any time. As adoption and the world of social media have changed, an adoption can still be closed upon either party’s wish, but it is increasingly more difficult as information is so easily obtained due to the Internet.


A semi-open adoption is an adoption where some identifying characteristics are shared (such as first name, area where adoptive family lives, etc.) but still maintains elements of a closed adoption and a barrier to contact. Some contact usually occurs in a semi-open adoption such as an adoptive family sending updates or pictures to the birth family, whether that be through an agency, facilitator, or through a private email account. Semi-open adoptions usually do not have visits, phone calls, Skype, or another form of continuing, constant contact.


An open adoption is the plan to have continual, regular contact between the birth family and adoptive family. Full names are shared between parties as well as other identifying characteristics such as addresses, phone numbers, emails, social media pages, etc. Most in open adoptions have a plan for communication, which could be in the form of phone calls between the parties, sending pictures or email updates, etc. Some open adoptions even plan regular visits, either in public or at one of the adult parties’ houses. Open adoptions have become increasingly common in the last decade or so as many agree that the child having a regular connection their birth family in a healthy way helps to ease trauma or questions that may arise.

In my own life, I have experience with open adoption. When I was pregnant and making an adoption plan for my son, it was the only way I felt I could proceed with placing him for adoption. I wanted to ensure that I chose the right family to meet his needs, that he was happy, healthy, and well-taken care of, and that I could answer any questions that he may have as he grows and learns about his adoption. In almost three years since his birth, the relationship I have with his adoptive family has blossomed into something wonderful and beyond any dream I could have imagined. I consider his adoptive mother to be one of my best friends, and our visits are more like taking a trip to a friend’s house to hang out for the weekend.

Every adoption situation has different needs and different desires. As an expectant parent creating an adoption plan, it is important to consider what type of relationship, open, semi-open, or closed, you would like to continue with your child and the adoptive family. As a hopeful adoptive parent, it is important to consider your limitations and what type of relationship you would like to have with your future child’s birth family. As an adoptive or birth parent, it is important to be open and honest about expectations, to be respectful of the other person’s feelings, and to not make any promises which you cannot or do not plan to follow through on. There is no one right way to go about an adoption, but the best one–I feel–takes everyone’s feelings into consideration and does what is in the best interest of the child.

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Written by Samantha Alkire