Adoption is filled with choices.
One of the first things you must decide is whether you want to pursue open, semi-open, or closed adoption. Your choice depends on the relationship you want to have (and you ultimately want your child to have) with your child’s birth family over time.
So how do you choose? First, be honest with yourself. Discuss your concerns, questions, and fears with your adoption agency or professional to help you find the clarity you need. Then, make the choice that’s right for everyone involved.
Here’s a basic definition for open, semi-open, and closed adoption—
1. Open Adoption
With open adoption, you would likely meet your child’s birth parent(s) before your child is born. This could include phone calls, e-mail, and/or visits. You and your child’s birth parent(s) would exchange whatever contact information you each are comfortable with. And you would agree to the level of contact you will pursue as the child grows. Periodic, previously-agreed-upon visits as well as exchanging letters and pictures are common. Every open adoption is unique, built around the needs of the child, the birth parent(s), and the adoptive parents.
In the U.S., open adoption is the most common type of domestic adoption.
2. Semi-open Adoption
With semi-open adoption, you and your child’s birth parent(s) know basic, non-identifying information about each other—first names, state of residence, basic facts, etc. Often, communication—such as letters, updates, and photos—are sent to and facilitated by a third-party adoption agency or professional who can help maintain the desired level of openness and privacy over years. A semi-open adoption provides the child and the birth parent(s) with the peace of mind that all is well.
Semi-open adoption is the second most common type of domestic adoption in the U.S.
3. Closed Adoption
With closed adoption, you and your child’s birth parent(s) would not exchange identifying information. Your name would be put on a list of waiting families, and then your adoption professional or agency would match you with a child. You would not stay in touch with your child’s birth family as your child grows. (Though sometimes non-identifying information may be shared with the third-party adoption agency who can make that information available to you if you choose.) When an adoption is closed, the child’s files are usually physically sealed. Many states have specific rules about when an adoptee can access his or her personal file.
Closed adoption is rare in the U.S., but it is still common in international adoption.
There are upsides and downsides to each adoption choice, and you must decide what you’re most comfortable with and what you believe will best serve the birth parents and the child you all love.
The good news?—If you need wisdom, all you have to do is ask for it (James 1:5) and God says He’ll give it to you generously.
Further reading: 5 Dangerous Myths About Adoption