Open, Semi-Open, and Closed Adoption: Choices for Parents

There are many choices to make once you decide to pursue adoption as a way to build or enlarge your family. Each of these decisions will have an everlasting impact on your family and should be made after careful deliberation. Relationships between birth and Adoptive Parents are a critical piece of the adoption process. Read on for information about choosing open adoption vs closed adoption, or something in-between.
Closed Adoption
In this day and age, closed adoptions, in which information is shared by attorneys or adoption agencies with no contact between birth and Adoptive Parents, are very rare. Most adoptive and birth parents share a semi-open or open adoption. The difference between an open and semi-open adoption is the type and timing of contact, and the information shared.
Semi-Open Adoption
In a semi-open adoption, first names, phone, email and texts are shared. Most often these contacts take place during the pregnancy and at the time of the transfer of custody. After the placement, there may be a short period of time where the Adoptive Parents provide photos and letters describing how the child is doing. They can also be provided later on to the birth parents if they ask for them. Contact between birth parents and Adoptive Parents provides the birth parents insight into who will be raising their child and allows them to directly ask questions and provide information. Adoptive Parents are able to gain personal information about the birth parent to share with their child at a later date and are often reassured by the fact that the birth parent has chosen them.
Open Adoption
In an open adoption, full names and contact information are shared, and in person meetings between birth and Adoptive Parents take place. This relationship may continue after the transfer of custody, with the birth family and adoptive family staying in touch through phone, email, texts and periodic meetings. Many Adoptive Parents are fearful of this type of relationship worrying it will lead to co-parenting. The fact is, roles are established with the adoptive parent being the primary caretaker and legally responsible parent, and the birth parent being an extended family member. In these relationships the child is aware of who the birth parent is and there is direct access to any information the child or adoptive parent may need.
Post Adoption Contract Agreements
Contact does not necessarily end at the time of the adoption finalization. Post Adoption Contract Agreements (PACA), which are mandated in some adoptions, lay out the future relationship between birth and Adoptive Parents, and birth parents and the child. Each PACA is unique, It includes the type and frequency of contact and is written with the child’s best interests in mind. However, regardless of whether a PACA is executed, each child will have his or her own desire for information and contact with the birth family. Regardless of what you decide or create now, as your child grows they will have their own thoughts on openness in the adoption and may want more or less contact. You will also need to base any interactions not only on your child’s wants and needs, as well as your own and the birth parents.
Some who wanted an open adoption might need to adjust to a birth parent’s desire for more privacy. Some Adoptive Parents create a more open adoption than they had planned, based on the wishes of their child and on the comfort of interaction with birth parents. Since these relationships can be fluid, it is important to understand your options for openness before contact with a birth parent. There are social workers and counselors who can help you understand the impact of open adoption vs closed adoption and sort through the options.