Open vs. Closed Adoption

Adopting a child is a momentous occasion in your life. As you prepare for this, it’s important to know the differences between open and closed adoptions. An open adoption allows for consistent communication with the birth parents, while a closed adoption cuts off most of this communication. There are benefits and challenges to each type of adoption, so you should carefully consider which is going to be best for you.

Open Adoption

An open adoption keeps birth parents and adoptive families in regular contact. These types of adoptions typically include:

  • An exchange of information once the adoptive family and birth mother are matched. They can then trade identifying information like last names, personal email addresses and any other information that will keep them in contact.
  • There will be pre-placement contact before the baby is born. The birth mother and adoptive family will correspond over email and have at least one conversation over the phone. The adoptive family will usually travel to the birth mother’s location for a visit in-person.
  • As they communicate, the birth mother and adoptive family will come to an agreement on the type of relationship the birth mother will have with the child and how often they’ll communicate.

Open adoption benefits the adoptive family, the child and the birth mother. The open communication is good for the child, who can contact their birth mother whenever questions arise. Adoptive parents should treat an open adoption as a promise to the birth parents. Parents should do their best to honor the contract agreement as time passes.

There are many cases when adoptive families develop strong relationships with birth parents. An open adoption allows birth parents to take charge of their adoption plans instead of wondering whether they chose the right family or how their child is doing.

Closed Adoption

A closed adoption, or confidential adoption, cut off most communication. Closed adoption involves the following:

  • Closed adoption involves little to no exchange of identifying information. In some closed adoptions, a birth mother and adoptive family will communicate briefly, but no identifying information will be shared.
  • There is the protection of privacy on both sides of an adoption. Any communication or exchange of information, like medical records, is mediated by an adoption specialist to ensure that the birth mother and adoptive family’s information is confidential.
  • After the child’s birth, there is no contact. There are no visits, communication, or exchange of pictures or letters. In some cases, adoption agencies will hold onto pictures or letters if the birth mother wants to access them later.

Some families prefer the idea of closed adoption because it eliminates a complicated relationship with a birth mother. These parents may believe that the presence of a birth family will confuse their child, or that the birth mother will take her child back. While this type of adoption eliminates rocky relationships, it also eliminates the possibility of a positive relationship.

Birth mothers cannot legally reclaim their children under any circumstance. Furthermore, an open adoption can prevent a child from feeling upset and confused because they can ask their birth mother questions. Birth mothers might choose a closed adoption to gain a sense of closure or avoid the emotional pain of watching someone else raise their child. However, if an adoption is closed and a birth mother wants more contact, she’ll have to arrange this with the adoptive family and potentially with legal counsel. Choosing a closed adoption needs to be a finite decision.