Types of Adoption

Open vs Closed Adoption

LifeLong Adoptions supports three types of adoption: open adoption, semi-open adoption, and closed adoption. Each birthmother chooses the type of adoption she would like to have. We then ensure she is matched with an adoptive family that is interested in the same type of adoption. Though you may prefer a specific adoption type, it is beneficial to remain open minded in case the birthmother who choses you prefers a different arrangement.

Open Adoption

Open adoption is now the most widely practiced form of adoption in the United States. In an open adoption, identifying information is shared, including names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Additionally, an open adoption includes varying degrees of openness after the adoption process is finalized. This typically includes the exchange of emails, letters, pictures, and phone calls. A fully open adoption also includes in-person visits. Fully open adoptions can also include extended family members, such as birthgrandparents and siblings.

In every adoption with any degree of openness, it is important that birthparents and adoptive families have the same understanding of what “open” means and that they remain committed to meeting the needs of the child throughout the child's life.

Semi-Open Adoption

Semi-open adoption is the practice in which information, generally non-identifying, is shared between adoptive families and birthmothers. Usually semi-open adoption consists of the exchange of letters, photos, and emails, either directly or through a third party. It is not unheard of to have some pre-birth, face-to-face meetings or for the birthparents and adoptive parents to spend time together at the hospital during and after the birth.

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 birthparents. Like closed adoption, once a child reaches the age of majority in his or her state, they have the option of searching for or being searched for by their biological family. Unlike a closed adoption, those involved in a semi-open adoption usually have access to some basic information that can assist in the search process.

Closed Adoption

Closed adoption, not to be confused with sealed records, is an adoption in which the adoptive family and the birthmother 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. 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 is 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 a closed adoption, the adoption professionals involved will usually choose the adoptive family for the child. 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 adopted. 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 his or her own self.

How to Decide Between Open and Closed Adoption

In recent years, the trend has been toward having more openness in adoption. If you want a closed adoption, you might be struggling with whether to consider agreeing to a semi-open or open adoption instead. Here are some things to consider when choosing between an open adoption and a closed adoption.

  • Think why you are reluctant to enter into an open adoption.

    Many hopeful adoptive parents initially want a closed adoption because that is the only type of adoption with which they are familiar. Explore your reasons for not wanting to have more openness in your relationship with your child’s birthmother after the adoption.

  • Consider the reasons that open adoption has become the trend.

    When all adoptions were closed, adoptive families did not know why their adopted child was put up for adoption. They also did not have access to a family medical history. Understanding the reasons behind open adoption can make that option seem less daunting.

  • In most open adoptions, the adoptive family sends the birthmother pictures and letters on a regular schedule, such as annually or semi-annually.

    Your adoption coordinator might also have you meet the birthmother — on a first-name basis only — before the baby is born.

  • Ask yourself if you would be willing to follow through on promises to the birthmother.

    Some hopeful adoptive parents will promise whatever they need to in order to entice an expecting mother to choose them; but, this is unethical. If you are not willing to follow through with sending pictures and letters to the birthmother, then choose a closed adoption.

  • Think about whether an open adoption or closed adoption would be best for your adopted child.

    Do you think that your adopted child would appreciate knowing that his or her birthmother cared enough to want to know how he or she is doing? Or do you think that it is in the best interest of an adopted child to have no contact with his or her birthmother?

  • Ask yourself if you are willing to wait longer for a closed adoption.

    Because the trend is having some level of openness in an adoption, it generally takes longer to find an expecting mother who wants a closed adoption.