Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption: Which is Right for You?

Unplanned pregnancy often brings about a whirlwind of emotions and many big decisions that follow.  If you are here, you may have already made the courageous choice to place your baby for adoption.  Or perhaps you are still considering adoption as an option for you and your baby.  Before you make a decision, however, you first want to understand the difference between an open adoption and closed adoption plan.  You want to know which type of adoption plan is right for you and your child.

The open vs. closed adoption conversation is an important one to have with your adoption counselor.  On one hand, you can talk about your situation, your hopes, and your needs in a safe and confidential environment.  Then together, you can talk about the best possible options for ongoing communication.  Your adoption counselor should listen to you closely and guide you in choosing the type of relationship you wish to have with your child and his or her adoptive family long-term.  If you know you want to be a part of your child’s life, but are not emotionally prepared at the moment, your adoption counselor can help you design an adoption plan that you are comfortable with at every step of the way.

Closed Adoption:

A closed adoption plan means that there is no contact between the birth and adoptive families after an adoption takes place.  In many cases, no contact takes place prior to the adoption, either.  In a closed adoption, no identifying information about either family is revealed.  Only non-identifying information, such as the birth parents’ ages, medical histories, and reasons for adoption, is shared before the placement is finalized.  Depending on local law, these non-identifying records may become available to the adopted child when he or she reaches 21 years old.  However, the process and extent of this access can be limited and will vary state to state.

Adoption is undoubtedly an emotional, sensitive experience.  At Adoptions With Love, we understand that many expectant/birth parents are not ready to choose an adoptive family for their baby or meet prospective parents in person.  We understand that these connections may be too overwhelming at the time.  For this reason, we extend the option of ‘closed adoption’ plans.  Here, your closed adoption plan will be placed in the hands of an experienced, trustworthy, and licensed adoption professional.

If you choose to make a closed adoption plan at Adoptions With Love, you will have the option to adjust your plan later down the road.  Right now, you may feel you do not want to receive letters or pictures from your child’s adoptive family.  In a year or two, however, you may want to check in to see how your child has grown.  Through our letter and picture program, we will keep these updates of your child on file, so that you can access them if and when you are ready.

Closed adoption was once the norm.  In the past, the majority of adopted children did not know who their birth parents were or what they looked like.  Adoptees did not have many clues into their backgrounds, culture, or medical histories, and could not contact their birth parents for answers.  There were a lot of unknowns in adoption and in the identities of many adoptees.

Today, only about 5 percent of adoptions are completely closed.  This is because many birth parents want their children to have access to important, self-identifying information.  In many cases, birth parents also want to remain a part of their child’s life in some way.  About 90 percent of expectant/birth mothers considering adoption desire some level of contact with their child’s adoptive family.

Open Adoption:

There is no single, universal definition of open adoption.  This is because “open adoption” means something different to everyone touched by it.  For some expectant/birth parents, open adoption may mean selecting an adoptive family for their child and speaking with them before the adoption takes place.  Many women who have established an open relationship with the adoptive family will also invite them to be at the hospital or in the birthing room.  On the other hand, some birth parents will desire an open adoption plan that involves more ongoing communication over the years.  Sometimes this contact between families will involve phone calls or emails, texting or Skype.  Sometimes it will involve letters through an adoption agency.  Now and then, it can mean in-person visits.

Generally speaking, there are a few main components that describe an open adoption plan:

  • An exchange of identifying information (such as last names, phone numbers, and email addresses) between families
  • Pre-placement contact with an adoptive family. If you would like to meet the adoptive family in person, they will travel to you, wherever you are, before your baby is born.
  • Post-placement contact arrangements for ongoing communication. Open adoption agreements outline the type of communication you are comfortable with (phone calls, letters, emails, visits), as well as how much communication you desire (regularly, every month, once a year).

There is no right or wrong way to make an adoption plan.  At Adoptions With Love, YOU can decide how open or closed your adoption plan will be.  You may choose to get together with the adoptive family every year.  Or, you may decide to exchange letters and pictures with the adoptive family, but never meet in person.  Perhaps you would only like the adoptive family to reach you through a private, anonymous email account.  Maybe you desire open, ongoing communication, but wish to keep the adoption relationship off social media.  All this can be arranged in an open or semi-open plan.

Today, about 55 percent of adoptions are completely open and about 40 percent are semi-open.  Ultimately, the plan you choose will come down to two considerations: your own individual wants and needs as a birth parent, and the very best interests of your child.  Which adoption plan will you be most comfortable with down the road?  Which plan will be most beneficial for your child as he or she grows?

Many expectant/birth parents find great peace of mind in open adoption arrangements.  If you choose to have some level of ongoing contact with the adoptive family, you will have the comfort of knowing your child is loved and safe.  Through letters and pictures, you will constantly be reminded of the wonderful life you chose for your baby.  Your child will also benefit.  By having contact with you, your child will have a better sense of who he or she is.  Your child will not have to carry burning questions about where he or she came from, or fantasize about who you are.

Open vs. closed adoption, there is no one-size-fits-all plan.  At Adoptions With Love, you will have the option to define your adoption plan, whether open or closed, and adjust it as the years go on.  If you desire to make an open adoption plan with us, rest assured that all the waiting families at Adoptions With Love are open to some “openness” with the birth family.

To learn more about making an adoption plan, you may call Adoptions With Love at 1-800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 1-617-777-0072.  We are available 24/7 to answer your call.  If you would like more information about open vs. closed adoption, please download our free Guide to Open Adoption.


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