Semi-open adoption

Semi-open adoption is the practice in which information, generally non-identifying information, is shared between adopting parents and placing parents. Usually semi-open adoption consists of the exchange of letters, photos and possibly emails, either directly or through an agency or third party. Often, adopting parents will set up a post office box which letters, cards and photos can be sent and received. Unlike closed adoption, it is more common for placing parents to choose the adopting family for their child prior to birth. It is also not unheard of to have some pre-birth face-to-face meetings or for the placing and adopting families to spend time together at the hospital during and after the birth.
As adoption has evolved over the course of the last decade, adoption practitioners are finding more and more semi-open adoption arrangements in situations that routinely would have been closed, such as international and foster care adoptions. Semi-open adoption doesn't usually involve any post-placement face-to-face visitation. The children involved don't normally have any direct communication with their biological parents. Like closed adoption, once a child reaches the age of majority in their state, they have the option of searching for or being searched for by their biological family. However, unlike closed adoption, those involved in a semi-open adoption usually have access to some basic information which can assist in the search process.


Closed Adoption

Closed adoption, not to be confused with sealed records, is an adoption in which the adopting parents and the placing parents never meet and know nothing or very little about one another. With the advent of open adoption, closed adoptions have become the exception in domestic adoption rather than the rule. Most international adoptions are considered closed adoptions, though it is not uncommon for adopting parents to have some very basic information about the birth parents such as medical history, ethnicity and cultural information. Although things have started to change over the course of the last few years, children adopted from the foster care system are generally involved in closed adoptions. 
The term closed adoption is most often used in relation to post-adoption contact, whereas the term sealed records is related to the access of legal documentation surrounding the birth and placement of the adopted child once the adoption has become final. It is entirely possible to have a closed adoption and unsealed records or an open adoption with sealed records. The two practices are not mutually exclusive. 

In closed adoption, the adoption professionals involved will usually choose the adopting parents for the child. This is generally true regardless of whether the adoption is domestic, foster care or international. Also, depending on the state you live in and the associated laws, post-adoption contact agreements may or may not be legally binding, regardless of whether the adoption is open or closed. It is important when researching adoption, as either an expectant parent considering placement or a potential adoptive parent considering adoption, that you become familiar with the laws and statutes of your state or the state in which the child will be born. This research will help you know what to expect regarding the process itself. 

It is important to remember that having a closed adoption does not guarantee that once a child reaches the age of majority in your state he or she will not seek out and reunite with their biological families or that the biological family will not seek and reunite with the child that was placed. The closed or open adoption agreements made between the parties of an adoption at the time of the child's birth only stay in force until the child reaches the legal age in which he or she can make decisions for him or herself. 

Open Adoption: Advantages for Birth Parents

The open adoption experience differs with each individual. Some of the possible advantages of open adoption include:
  • Sense of control – Having the ability to review, interview, and select parents for your child can provide birth parents a sense of empowerment, security and control.
  • Reduced uncertainty -Most birth parents feel reassured and comforted from knowing about the child’s well-being through regular interactions with the adoptive family.
  • Improved mourning – The ability to communicate with the adoptive family and the adopted child often helps increase the ability of birth parents to deal with grief associated with the sense of loss.
  • Reduced fear – When there is regular communication with the adoptive family both prior to the birth and after the adoption, it tends to diminish concerns about the well-being of the child.
  • Relationship with the child – With an open adoption, there is the potential to develop and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the child as he or she matures.
  • Relationship with the adoptive family – There is an opportunity to develop a positive relationship with the adoptive family. For some birth families the adoptive family becomes like part of their own extended family.
  • Reduced guilt – With an on-going relationship and the opportunity for regular communication with the adoptive family, birth parents often have less of a struggle with guilt about their decision to put their child up for adoption.

Open Adoption: Advantages for Adoptive Family

The open adoption experience differs with each family. For adoptive families, some possible advantages of open adoption include:

  • Reduced fear – When there is on-going communication with the birthmother or birth families prior to the birth of the child and after the adoption, there tends to be less concern about the birthmother’s intentions.
  • Medically informed – The need to provide a medical history is a normal requirement in the adoption process. However, open adoption offers the additional opportunity to obtain new medical information over the course of time.
  • Relationship with the birth families – There is an opportunity to develop an on-going relationship with the birthmother or birth families. For some adoptive families, the birthmother or birth family becomes like part of their own extended family.
  • Affirmation – An adoptive family often experiences an extra measure of encouragement from knowing that they were hand-picked to become the adoptive family.
  • Understanding and confidence – Open adoption provides a child with the opportunity to learn more about his or her personal history. This can make it easier for the child to answer questions such as“Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?”