Open or Closed Adoption: Advantages of Each Type of Adoption

Adoption, in and of itself, is a complicated and confusing process. You have many decisions to make. Will you go through an adoption agency or pursue it independently? What is your adoption plan?

Adding to the complexity, there are several different types of adoption. Open adoptions and closed (or confidential) adoptions are at either end of the spectrum. But mediated or "semi-open" adoptions also are an option. The main difference between open and closed adoptions is the type of adoption relationship between the birth and adoptive families. The type of adoption you choose will depend on your state's adoption laws, your needs, the birth mother's needs, and other factors.

Read on to learn about the pros of open adoption, the benefits of confidential (closed) adoptions, as well as the disadvantages of each type.

The Main Types of Adoption

To decide whether an open or closed adoption or some other form of adoption is the best method for you, you'll want to understand the levels of openness in the adoption process. These are common adoption types:

Confidential (Closed) Adoption

In a closed adoption, there is no contact between the birth parents and adoptive families. A third party (an adoption counselor, social worker, or attorney) provides non-identifying information only. This includes demographic information, such as height and hair color. It also includes medical information, such as medical history and medical records. However, the adoptee does not have access to family history and personal background information.

Mediated (Semi-Open) Adoption

The amount of contact is greater than in confidential adoption but less than in fully open adoption. The social worker or counselor acts as a go-between between the birth parents and the adoptive parents and the child by exchanging information back and forth. The parties do not exchange contact information.

Fully Open Adoption

This adoption type includes direct interaction between birth and adoptive families. They can exchange phone calls, texts, letters, and social media information. There is a straightforward connection between the biological family and the adoptive family. The adoptive parents may even be present during the child's birth.

Open Adoption, Closed Adoption, and Mediated Adoption: Advantages of Each


Closed Adoption Advantages

Mediated (Semi-Open) Adoption Advantages

Open Adoption Advantages

Birth Parents
  • Privacy
  • Some feel this provides a sense of closure and the ability to move on
  • Allows for some information transfer between birth and adoptive parents (and perhaps the child)
  • Some privacy
  • Increased ability to deal with grief and loss
  • Comfort in knowing the child's well-being
  • Potential for a more fully defined role in the child's life
  • Potential to develop a healthy relationship with the child as they grow
  • Less pain and guilt about the decision
  • May make the decision to place the child up for adoption easier (compared to a contested termination of parental rights trial)
Adoptive Parents
  • No need to physically share the child with the birth parents
  • No danger of birth parent interference or co-parenting
  • Increased sense of having the "right" to parent and increased ability for confident parenting
  • Greater sense of control over the process
  • Roles may be more clearly defined than in either confidential or open adoptions
  • Increased sense of entitlement compared to confidential adoptions
  • Enhanced ability to answer the child's questions about his or her history
  • Potential for an authentic relationship with the birth family
  • More understanding of the child's history
  • Increased empathy for birth parents
  • Less fear of birth parents reclaiming the child because they know the parent and their wishes.
Adopted Persons
  • Protection from unstable or emotionally disturbed birth parents

Only applicable if the relationship is "shared" with the adopted child:

  • Direct access to birth parents and history
  • Eliminating the need to search
  • Identity questions are answered (Who do I look like? Why was I placed?)
  • Eases feelings of abandonment
  • Lessening of fantasies: birth parents are "real"
  • Increased circle of supportive adults
  • Increased attachment to the adoptive family (especially if the birth parents support the placement)
  • Preservation of connections (e.g., with siblings and relatives)
  • Lessens loyalty conflicts
  • Exposure to racial and ethnic heritage
  • Ability for an evolving, dynamic, and developmentally appropriate account of the adoption



The Cons of Closed Adoption

  1. Rarity: One of the biggest disadvantages is that closed adoptions are rare. This limits the number of people to choose from. If you're the biological parents, it's more difficult to find suitable parents who want to adopt under these circumstances. If you're an expectant mother, you may not have a choice in picking your child's adoptive family.
  2. Uncertainty: As a birth mom, you will probably worry about your child. You don't get any information about how your child is doing. Your curiosity is not satisfied through this arrangement. There is also a lot of uncertainty for the adopted child. They will likely wonder where they came from because they don't know their family history. They may experience problems with their self-esteem. This can lead to lots of questions with no resolution until they are older. Even then, they may not get the answers that they seek.

The Cons of Open Adoption

Open adoptions do not have many negatives, especially for children. Fully open adoptions serve as a more complete part of the adoption story. This is probably why adoption professionals encourage open adoptions. However, every situation is unique. Here are the open adoption disadvantages:

  • Adoptees: They may feel torn between the parent groups or confused by the arrangement. The presence of their birth family might make it more difficult to relate to their adoptive family.
  • Adoptive parents: The parents might feel pressure to provide updates to the birth parents. It might feel burdensome to them. They could also experience feelings of resentment toward the birth parents.
  • Birth parents: They might feel let down by the interactions and feel that they are not enough. Birth parents may also feel pressure to go through with the adoption because the prospective parents have committed time and money.

Should You Pursue an Open or Closed Adoption? An Attorney Can Help

While it's ultimately a personal decision that will depend on your specific situation, a legal professional will be able to help you understand the benefits of open adoptions. They also can help you understand differences in the degrees of openness. They can also help you explore whether you prefer a closed adoption. Moving forward, consider speaking with an experienced adoption attorney near you to learn more.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • It is a good idea to have an attorney for complex adoptions
  • An attorney can ensure you meet all legal requirements and that your adoption is finalized appropriately
  • An attorney can help protect the best interests of adoptive children, adoptive families, and birth parents
  • For simple adoptions, you may be able to do the paperwork on your own or by using an agency

Get tailored advice at any point in the adoption process. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Adopting a child is an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and make sure your children are provided for. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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