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What's the difference in Open, Semi-open & closed adoptions? How open is your OA?

I tend to associate the words "open adoption" with lots of contact & visits with the mothers who gave birth to their children & then placed them for adoption. But, if I am remembering right, "OPEN' only refers to knowing the identities of both parties. The expectant mom considering adoption & the potential adoptive parents.

If you have an OA (regardless of your place in the triad) how often did you have DIRECT contact with the other mother and/or adoptee? Or was it letters and/or pics? Was it in writing? How is it working for your family?

Answer Question

Asked by doodlebopfan at 1:36 AM on Apr. 13, 2010 in Adoption

Level 20 (9,525 Credits)
Answers (17)
  • Open adoption can mean anything you want it to, from pictures and letters to visits. The problem with open adoption is that no matter what you agree to ahead of time it is not enforceable by law. An adoptive family can promise full contact and then never allow it. A birthmother can cut off all contact, or try to demand too much. It's basically a free for all. You would hope that everyone could agree and live up to their deal, but the time an adoption takes place is highly emotional. You are both counting on the other person in a time of need. You think you know each other and feel a bond, but you really don't know. Feelings change, people change. Something meant to be precious can get ugly fast.


    Answer by BlooBird at 1:46 AM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • Not as open as I would like. Our son's birthmother has our phone number and home address with the invitation to call at any time. We sent pages and pages of detailed letters with tons of pictures with each new development. I'm not sure why but she moved and did not forward an address to us. She often changed her number but eventually we did not have a phone number. I do wonder if in the shuffle of her life she might have lost it. I debate back and forth on what to do - do I hire a detective and find her to give her our contact again? Or do I wait to see what happens? She can get it if she wants it. She gave our number and address to a friend of hers who has called. The other guess is she can't call because she is in jail. She has been there before and it is a real possibility.


    Answer by frogdawg at 11:51 AM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • Over the weekend I went to a friend's house and hung out with her three children. The oldest, a young teen, is the child she placed for adoption many years ago. They are recently in contact again, live less than a hour away from each other, and he now spends many weekends at her house. I watched as the two brothers played and ran around (less than a year apart in age) and the baby (almost two) who identifies both kids as her brothers. Then later we had dinner with my friend's mom, the adoptive parents, the kids - everyone. All the teen's siblings through his adoptive family as well. It was so relaxed and normal. His adoptive parents are really laid back and had contacted my friend to see if she would spend time with him. I was there with my family and it was really neat. I am jealous because I wish it could be that way with us. If we adopt again I have no idea how to ensure that is how it will be.

    Answer by frogdawg at 11:59 AM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • I'm sorry this is long. But I truly wanted an open healthy relationship. So....I guess there is no way to ensure it but I guess if we do adopt we can stress how important it is for us as a family. With my son it is complicated because we want to be open but we have to be careful there is no harm that comes to him due to her current circumstances. By current it doesn't mean that is the way it is now - just how it was last time she did call. And I have hope she can get into a better situation so we can have a truly open situation. I just wonder if it freaks out birthparents when adoptive parents want a truly open relationship - like having dinner together once in awhile. Having the birhmom/family come to soccer games...ect. I do wish I had saved letters and pictures I gave her so my son could see that we did try. But that might be more hurtful, as in why she didn't respond. I feel like I'm damned if I do or don't.

    Answer by frogdawg at 12:06 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • Like frogdawg, we'd hoped for what our agency were call a "semi-open" adoption. They loosely defined "open" as the situation in which all contact information was exchanged directly between the birth and adoptive families. "Semi-open" typically had the agency as the go-between for information or perhaps the two families communicated via e-mail. In any case, not all information was shared. "Closed" was exactly that. No contact. We've been sending letters/pics to our son's BM since he was born in 2007 but discovered around the time he was 1 that the BM had requested the agency no longer forward them. I understand why, but I would really have liked to stay in touch. As others point out, degree of contact isn't legally binding.

    Answer by Anonymous at 3:15 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • The "adoption terminology" is what I am questioning here. Are there standard & universal definitions or is it subjective?

    We adopted thru foster care. Before his was adopted, we knew & met his birth mom, we knew the name & address of his birth dad, however, we have never met him. So is this semi-open adoption? Because we have knowledge of each other's identities & whereabouts thru CPS? After parental rights were terminated, all visits with birth family stopped. Does this make our adoption "closed"? We have now been in contact with his birth mom & grandma over the phone. Is this "open adoption" because we have direct contact? Betwwen AP's & BP's without visiting our son? She brought a birthday gift & an easter basket on 2 occassions a few weeks ago & we've exchanged some photos. Is THIS open adoption? I'm wondering if OA, semi-OA, & closed adoption means different things to different people? How do you define them?

    Answer by doodlebopfan at 5:25 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • Does "open" & "closed" & "semi-open" refer to the INFORMATTION or the FACE TO FACE CONTACT?

    Answer by doodlebopfan at 5:26 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • With my older son, the step-parent adoption (he is my bio child) is very open. My older son talks to his siblings sometimes but, writes more often. I talk to BF and SM through email. No visits recently because we live in different states and since he is 8 I just am not comfy flying him from Houston to Atlanta to visit them. Its coming though. My younger son, long story but, not a bio child to us and went down as a SPA anyways, is semi-open. They call once a month and can visit at our home only with reasonable notice. Phone calls are their choice. Visits are up to us because one of us has to be present while they are here. BM to younger son died and BF is in and out of jail and really has no interest in my son. He was actually very excited that if he terminated his rights he wouldn't have to pay CS. Sorry, so long.

    Answer by matthewscandi at 9:04 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • We had to do a lot of reading when we were going through the adoptive parent training with the agency for our second adoption. I think that semi-open means you have first names with no other identifying info, and you contact each other through an intermediary. Open adoption would be when you have full identifying information, with or without face-to-face visits. With our first adoption, we had actually told the agency we wanted semi-open with first names only. I actually still have a copy of the form where we selected that. The SW ended up giving our last names anyway, but it turned out to be a good thing. The SW told us to wait for her call before we went to the hospital the morning after DD was born because we needed to give bmom some time alone with her. The call never came. About lunchtime R called and said, "Where are you guys? You'd better get down here." (continued)

    Answer by Iamgr8teful at 9:08 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

  • (continued) She told us later that she'd been having a hard time not getting attached, and being alone with her so much wasn't helping. If she hadn't been able to look us up in the phone book with our last name, who knows? (DD happened to be born in the same town we lived in at the time). A week later we got a call that DD needed to be seen by a doctor because a baby that had been with a visitor in the hospital room was diagnosed with whooping cough. She went on antibiotics and never got sick. That was another time we were glad for full identifying info. Our SW said, "Wow! You have a REALLY open adoption!" We were shaken up at first because honestly DH and I were hard sells on the idea, but it has been a great blessing in many ways.

    Our contact with DS's bmom is limited to updates and pics, and the occasional phone call (not our choice). We remain hopeful, though.

    Answer by Iamgr8teful at 9:13 PM on Apr. 13, 2010

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