How Open is Open Adoption?

We know there are a lot of questions about adoption, and we wanted to share the information we’ve learned. Some of you have asked us questions you have, and we’ve done our best to answer them directly. We know that others may have the same questions, so we are also sharing here. We’re tagging these posts as “Information Series” in hopes it will be easier for everyone to find.

Another common adoption question we have received is about open adoption, but it’s sometimes worded, “Do you want a closed adoption?” Opened? Closed? Wait, what?

All the adoption terminology can become overwhelming pretty quick, but let’s give it a try.

Closed or traditional adoptions are not very common in today’s domestic adoptions. In the past, closed adoptions were the norm and were more times than not enforced by third parties rather than birth or adoptive families. Families knew very little, if anything, about one another (hence the phrase: closed adoption). They do still occur but to a much lesser degree. Closed adoptions usually only occur when expectant parents choose an closed adoption plan. One interesting point to make is an adoption that starts closed doesn’t have to remain closed. We aren’t sure how often this occurs, but it is a possibility. A greater level of openness is much more common in modern adoptions.

In open adoption, there is no one set criteria. People use the phrase “open adoption” loosely and what it means varies from one family to another. For one family, they may meet yearly with the birth family at an agency or get-together facilitated by the agency. Many families send pictures and letters throughout the year, regardless of contact. The agency acts as the go-between for these meetings and packages. This is sometimes called semi-open adoption.

For another family, they may have each other’s information, including full names, phone numbers, emails, addresses, etc. These adoption plans are completely open. Families may meet throughout the year at a a variety of activities in addition to sending letters and pictures. These meetings are NOT facilitated by an agency but instead mutually agreed upon. We have heard several adoptive families describe their relationship with their child’s birth family as the relationship they have with their extended family. Everyone becomes a big family. As we have said before, no two adoptions are the same. We aspire to be like these families, but we will have to wait and see how our family grows.

Our position on open adoption has changed through our learning process. Unknowns can be scary. No one can ever be fully prepared for what life has in store. Adoption is just an extension of that. We’ve come to understand how important a child’s relationship is to their first family – to at least know where they came from. Likewise, a birth family may have unanswered questions about their child’s life and achievements with a closed adoption. Those are connections lost if it weren’t for some form of open adoption. Open adoption allows a child to see just how many people love him or her. That is an amazing opportunity. With that said, there is no right or wrong. We will have to get to know expectant parents and vice versa. Our adoption plan we’ll be mutually agreed upon and tailored as much as possible to all our hopes, our relationships, and most importantly our child. We cannot predict the future, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Side note: Everything we have described has been primarily with domestic adoption in mind. International adoption is a whole other ball game. Most of these are inherently closed. We don’t plan to pursue international adoption at this time, so for the most part, we won’t be going into the ins and outs of international adoption in our posts. If you have questions about international adoption, we’re happy to share other adoption bloggers who have adopted internationally.

There’s no two ways about it. There is a lot of information with adoption. We’ve spent a year learning and absorbing as much information as we can. There are a number of great resources online and in our communities. We hope that we have been able to break the information down and provide it in a simple, underwhelming format, but if something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to give us a shout out. We are here to learn and educate. Adoption will be part of our lives forever, and we want to share with you.

As one holiday ends and another begins, we wish everyone a Happy Holidays.

BW Chris and Jess Heart Signature

3 thoughts on “How Open is Open Adoption?

  1. Coincidentally, my scheduled post for tomorrow is this very subject and how it looks for our family! Every situation is so different that the definition of an open adoption varies widely. We wanted a semi-open adoption when we started our journey but now have ongoing contact with both of our children’s birth mother’s and their extended families. I could not imagine it otherwise. It is perfect for us! Best of luck for your journey!


    1. I’m kicking myself. I really thought I replied to your comment earlier, Amanda. So sorry for leaving you hanging. We just reblogged your open adoption post. Thank you for the well wishes. We appreciate your blog so much. ~Jess


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