A Look Into Open, Semi-Open, and Closed Adoptions

A Guide Through Adoptions

closed adoptions
Image Source: Freepik

When considering adoption there are many terms that often get thrown around by “seasoned” adoption folks that can leave newcomers in a tangled state of confusion. Yes, even adoptions have a sort of lingo that comes with the territory that sometimes takes a little exploring to figure out what they mean.

One thing we learned pretty quickly is that all adoptions are definitely NOT the same. One of the biggest differences is whether you choose a closed, semi-open, or open adoption. What works for one family may not work for the next, and that is ok. Since this will be your forever family, you and your family will need to weigh it out. Have some long discussions, ask hard questions, and seek counsel from those assisting you in your adoption or other adoptive parents to determine what you and your family are really comfortable with. I will discuss these three types of adoption and what I see as their pros and cons of them as well. Again, please understand what worked for our family may be totally different than what works for you!

Closed Adoptions

In a closed adoption, there is little if any information given to either the birth parents or the adoptive parents or child. There are stories out there literally of women giving birth to a baby, the baby being whisked away after delivery and that is it. No goodbyes, no closure, and no clue what happens from there. While this was the way almost all adoptions were done in years gone by, it has quickly become far less common of the three. Personally, I am not a fan of closed adoptions for either the birth parents or the child.

I once heard a story of a lady who had a child adopted through a closed adoption. She was fortunate enough to know it was a boy and what city he was going to for his new home but literally, that was it. She often wondered what came of the child, how he was doing etc. Then came the day 12 years later when she read a newspaper article about a 12-year-old boy in the town her birth son had gone to that was brutally murdered. Instantly, her heart sank and her mind filled with questions with no recourse to find out if this was the child she had given birth to 12 years earlier. Imagine that burden. That is a weight I would not want anyone to carry.

For the child, as adoption becomes part of their story, there will come a day they will want to know why. They will have natural questions about what their birth parents look like or were there any other siblings. In a closed adoption situation, the adoptive parents are going to be left trying to answer a HUGE question with only “I don’t know.” For some children, this will lead them to a lifelong pursuit to find their birth parents, sometimes to no avail.

Semi-Open Adoptions

This is the next level of passing information. While detailed or most personal information may not be shared, things like names, cities, medical information, and maybe photos may be exchanged. This will at least give the birth mom some idea of who the child will be going to live with. It will also in many cases provide basic information for the adoptive parents when those questions finally come. Still, with semi-open adoptions, any hopes of ongoing communication are vanquished.

Semi-Open adoptions are hit or miss with the medical information given. Not all the time do the birth parents get asked detailed questions. Instead, the social worker simply has to go off of just the information they know. Information can get lost in the process.

Open Adoptions

In this scenario, not only are photos and personal information shared but in many cases, the birth parents and adoptive parents will meet before the child is ever born. I know it sounds nuts. It did to me too the first time we went through the adoption process, but I can tell you I truly value the relationships we have built with the birth moms of our boys.

Yes, in some ways, no doubt it makes adoption a little harder initially on the adoptive parents. While we were thrilled with the births of both of our sons, both my husband’s and my heart aches for these two young ladies that we had grown to love.

closed adoption
Us with our youngest son’s Birthmom in Chicago. We brought her for a high school graduation gift! Our adoptions may be more open than most would feel comfortable but it works for us!

Yet after the initial adjustment, in many ways, I believe it makes things much easier. Imagine the peace of mind it gives to a birth mom to be able to keep up with and watch their birth child grow up through periodic updates or even through some type of social media.

Then, consider how much help it can bring to the child as they grow up. For example, as my oldest son came into his teenage years, he began to have a few more questions about the whys of his adoption, while I tried to answer it the best I could since he analyzes everything, I could tell his wheels were still turning, and that my answers had not quite bought him the closure he was looking for. So what did we do? We picked up the phone, called his birth mom and we walked through an honest conversation that allowed my son to get the answers he needed that validated our honesty with him.

It also can be an asset to the adoptive parents. One of the biggest illustrations I could use is medical information that a birth parent can provide. Without a doubt, many medical conditions, whether big or small, are passed from generation to generation. Now, imagine being in a doctor’s office with a sick child when the doctor comes in and begins to ask questions about family history. As an adoptive mom that had been through that very scenario, being able to give some family history instead of a bunch of “I don’t know” has been extremely beneficial. Another benefit of open adoption would not be possible in other scenarios. 

It takes a special person to truly consider adoption. I appreciate your heart and encourage you to look at multiple avenues, different scenarios, and possible options and figure out which situation works best for you and your future family!

National Adoption Month…

This month, come back each day to read a little more about adoption. I will be sharing stories about our experiences and even have some guest writers who have experienced adoption from all different aspects and emotions! I hope to not only bring you “stories” but I hope that you can walk away saying that you are far more educated about adoption. Please be respectful of any comments made below. Remember that not every story is the same and there ARE some out there hurting because of adoption.  

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