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Adoption Options: Closed, Semi-Open, and Open Adoptions

When pursuing domestic adoption, there are numerous aspects to consider. People often have varying definitions of what an open or closed adoption means, but here is a general idea of what each entails:


With closed adoptions, the adoptive family and birth family do not have contact before, during, or after the adoption process. All of their contact information and identities are held as confidential. Still, it is generally true that adoptive families will receive some information about the birth parents, including family medical history when possible, but all names and contact information are hidden. In closed adoption, birth parents will also at times ask that the adoption agency choose the adoptive family.

A closed adoption can be a help to the birth parents if they wish to keep the pregnancy or their identities private. For the child, however, it can often make it more difficult to obtain information about medical history, birth heritage or the natural aptitudes/gifts of the members of their birth family. In a closed adoption, there is the potential to move toward more openness if the adoptive family feels it is in the best interest of the child, but the birth parents would have to be in agreement with this change.


A semi-open adoption allows families to know basic information about each other, like first name and in which state they live, but there is no complete exchange of identities or contact information. Families may communicate some before the birth, but after the placement is finalized, a third party, like the adoption agency will mediate all communication. Letters and pictures will be sent from the agency to the families, not through their personal addresses.

As the child grows, the adoptive family has access to updated information through the third party. Communication may be slow since it’s not directly between the birth and adoptive families.


In an open adoption, the biological and adoptive parents are free to communicate before, during, and after the adoption process with no restrictions. Their communication may consist of phone calls, in-person meetings, letters and photos. The families can choose to share their full identity and all contact information. The birth parents may even be able to continue to meet with the child and adoptive family periodically throughout the child’s life.

Ideally, families will naturally develop an ongoing relationship and build trust over time. It’s important that both the biological and adoptive parents agree completely about their roles in the child’s life. Open adoptions allow for easy communication because there is no third-party involved and no withholding of information. As the child grows, he/she may have questions about her personal history. In an open adoption, the answers are more easily accessible because of the direct connection with the child’s biological family.

For more information about different types of adoption and how to begin the process, visit our “How to Adopt” website at!

Based on the type of adoption you’ve entered into, what are some ways you’ve found that make it a positive experience for your child?

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