What's the Difference Between Open Adoption and Closed Adoption?

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on May 09, 2022
5 min read

Adoption is a great way to grow your family. But, there are many types of adoption from which to choose. If you consider adoption, you can go for a closed or open adoption. Here’s all you need to know about closed vs. open adoption.

A closed adoption is when the family that adopts the child, or adoptive family, has no contact with the biological or birth parents of the child. The adoptive parents get little or no personal information about the birth parents. A closed adoption maintains the privacy of both the biological and adoptive parents.

In this type of adoption, the biological parents no longer stay in contact or play an active part in their child’s life. The adoptive parents gain legal parenthood of the child.

In a closed adoption, the family that adopts the child doesn’t get personal details about the birth parents of the child. It is when the birth parents or adoptive parents choose to remain unidentified and maintain your privacy. 

If you go for a closed adoption, you’ll only be given non-identifying information about the child and birth parents before adoption. You won’t be given their identifying details, last name, or contact details. Also, the biological parents won’t get any specific details about you. In short, no information is shared between you and the biological family. 

The closed adoption process involves registering with a public or private adoption agency. You can even talk to an adoption lawyer. They’ll help you find a child for adoption. However, no information about the birth parents or the child will be disclosed to you. 

Once you finalize the adoption, the records are sealed. Depending on the laws of your state, the adoption records may not be available for viewing until the adopted child becomes an adult. 

Open adoption is the opposite of a closed adoption. It is a type of adoption that allows contact between the biological parents and adoptive parents. The adoptive parents have legal parental rights over the adopted child. But, the biological parents can play an active part in their child’s adoption and continue to stay in touch even after adoption.

There are two types of open adoption:

Fully open adoption. In a fully open adoption, there’s direct contact among the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child.

Semi-open adoption. In a semi-open adoption, an agency caseworker, lawyer, or other mediators will pass information like photos, letters, and so on between the birth parents and the adoptive family. This type of adoption lets birth parents and adoptive parents communicate and share information while keeping their privacy.

The levels of openness between birth parents and the child can change with time. However, you’ll need to comply with your end of the adoption agreement. 

Open adoption allows some form of contact among the biological parents, adoptive parents, and the adopted child. It includes sharing identifying information and contact details. Birth parents and adoptive parents can share pictures or letters and medical information. Open adoption also allows phone calls or video calls and visits for open contact among the child, birth parents, and adoptive parents. However, this can vary with each family. 

The open adoption process involves registering with a public or private adoption agency. They’ll help you find a child and adopt them. You may also choose to adopt through an independent party like an adoption lawyer instead of an agency. The records and contact details of both sets of parents are open for viewing by the families and the child. 

Open adoptions allow birth parents to remain a part of their child’s life. Birth parents may not be able to be there or provide for their children. But through the adoptive family, they can give their children a better life.

The main difference between an open and closed adoption is the amount of contact allowed and information shared among the families. Apart from this, their pros and cons distinguish them apart.

Pros of a closed adoption. A closed adoption is safer than an open one. It maintains the privacy of the birth parents and adoptive parents. Both can remain unidentified before and after the adoption process. 

A closed adoption is useful for birth parents who wish to move on from the guilt of giving their child for adoption. This also gives the adoptive family and the child a clean slate to start a new life. It also helps the adoptive parents remain unknown and protected if the birth parents have a suspicious background. 

Cons of a closed adoption. A closed adoption can be difficult for the adopted child. It can affect the child’s emotional health and sense of identity. They may want to know their family history. They may feel abandoned, hopeless, or stressed. Because the adoption records are sealed, it can be difficult to find any information or contact the birth parents.

Pros of open adoption. People may prefer an open adoption to a closed one. This is because open adoptions help the child emotionally, keeping their sense of identity and family history intact. In an open adoption, the child can benefit from the love and care of both their biological and adoptive parents. 

Open adoptions are better for older children, as they already have information about their birth parents. Open adoptions also help adopted children stay in touch with their siblings.

Cons of open adoption. There's no privacy in an open adoption. All information is shared between birth parents and adoptive parents. When the biological parents stay in touch with your adopted child, you may feel like you're sharing your child. 

As the child grows older, birth parents may pull away from their life. Some may become too involved in their child's life. Such situations may cause conflicts among the adoptive parents, birth parents, and the child.

Choose an open adoption if you don’t mind staying in contact with the birth parents of your adopted child. If you wish to have minimal contact, then a semi-open adoption is a great option. However, if you want to maintain your privacy, consider a closed adoption. 

The adoption laws may differ from state to state. So, check with your local adoption agency or an adoption lawyer to know what’s best for you.