One of the biggest hurdles facing those interested in adoption is learning the complicated adoption system. The process is this way for the protection of children, but may be so arduous as to be discouraging to those attempting to navigate it. There are many steps including selecting an agency, completing a family assessment, and searching for a child, with lots of waiting in between. Before all of this, though, you need to decide what type of adoption you want to proceed with.
Understand that when you are adopting a child, the birth mother has already informed the adoption agency of her wishes. Different birth mothers have different preferences when deciding whether to disclose their identities to the adoptive family. Several types of adoption vary depending primarily on how the birth mother has determined she wants to handle contact with the child being placed going forward. Understanding the difference between open, semi-open, and closed adoptions can inform you on which option is best for you.
This is the most common type of adoption. Birth parents have the right to restrict some of the information they give about themselves to the adoptive family. They can withhold all identifying information but are usually obligated to provide non-identifying information such as medical records, education, and reasons for placing their child.
There is limited to no contact between birth parents and adoptive parents in this type. There may be an initial exchange of photos and letters, but no personal meeting and no communication following placement. Records and identifying information of the birth parents kept confidential by the agency or state. These can only be accessed by request of the child on turning age 18 (or 21, depending on the state). Rights of the birth parents to contact the child are forfeited, and reunions are only possible when the child comes of age.
Although much less common than closed adoptions currently, open adoptions are increasing in popularity. Here, the birth family and adoptive family can speak directly with personal meetings and share identifying information with each other. Communication may be in-person visitations or phone calls, email, or letters. Prior to placement, the families agree to what will be appropriate communication with the child. Although the birth parents have forfeited their parental rights, they still have the opportunity for visitations and other forms of communication.
This option still allows for communication between the birth and adoptive family, although only through an intermediary and neither family can disclose identifying information. The intermediary is usually the state or adoption agency. Semi-open adoptions retain the anonymity of the birth family, but still allow for updates and questions between the families.
Which Type is Best for You?
The biggest difference between these kinds of adoption are the degree of contact between birth parents and adoptive parents. You will need to consider what kind of relationship you would like to have with the birth parents, and what kind of relationship your child will have with their birth parents. Deciding which is best for you can help you know what your expectations are throughout the rest of the adoption process.