Open Adoption: What Is It? Open vs Closed Adoption, Pros & Cons, & Cost

Open Adoption Pros And Cons To Guide You On Your Adoption Journey

April 6, 2020 Updated September 29, 2020

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Guillaume de Germain/Unsplash

If you’re looking for more info on other types of adoption, you can find our guides to embryo, closed, baby, foster care, private, adult, international, transracialstep parent, military, single parent, Jewish, Christian, and same-sex adoption

People consider adoption for many reasons. Perhaps they can’t have biological children of their own because of infertility issues or being a same-sex couple, or single person. Others would prefer to be the parents of a child that already exists in the world, and do so through fostering or adoption. If you fall into the latter category, you may be wondering what kind of options there are out there for you to grow your family. When it comes to adoption, it could either be an open adoption, semi-open adoption, or a closed adoption, with open adoption being the most common form in the U.S. But before deciding how you’d like to expand your family, it’s a good idea to get the facts. You’re not alone in your query, according to the latest search data available to us, open adoption is searched for nearly 4,400 times per month. 

With that in mind, we’ve gone ahead and answered some of the more commonly asked questions related to open adoption to arm you with all the information you may need to start your journey. But if you feel you need more information, or want to decide between adopting a baby or an older child, consult with a social worker or a therapist who can answer more specific queries and put you in touch with necessary contacts.

What is an open adoption?

In an open adoption, the birth mothers (or families) and prospective adoptive person or parents know each other’s identities, and have some type of personal interaction with each other. This could include everything from yearly email updates, celebrating birthdays together, keeping in touch via phone or text, or potentially, even visits between the adopted child and their birth parents. Also, in open adoptions, the birth parents select the adoptive parents.

What is the difference between open adoption and closed adoption?

Well, unlike open adoption, the identities of the birth mother/parents and adoptive parents are not shared with each other in a closed adoption. There is also no interaction of any kind between the birth and adoptive parents, or the adopted child and their birth parent. 

There is also a third option: a semi-open adoption. In this type, there is some contact between the birth parent and the adoptive child and parent, though it is very limited, and typically done through a third party, like the adoption agency or an adoption attorney. In most semi-open adoptions, the interaction between the birth parents and adopted child occurs mostly through cards and letters without any identifying information. 

Open adoption facts

Though closed adoptions used to be the norm, 95 percent of adoptions in America now have some level of openness, with about 55 percent of them being fully open (everybody knows everybody!). Navigating any type of family experience can be a challenge, so being open and honest throughout the open adoption process — both for the birth and adoptive parents — is important for everyone moving forward. The costs of open adoptions vary, usually ranging from around $15,000 to $30,000 for the adoptive parents — there is no cost to the birth parents.

Open adoption rules, pros and cons

Each open adoption is different, so there is no set rulebook to follow. Because of that, communication between birth parents and adoptive parents — usually facilitated by the adoption agency and attorneys — is so important. Everyone is coming in with their own expectations, and in order for those to be met realistically, everyone has to express what they’re looking to get out of the adoption. 

Like most other major life decisions, The American Pregnancy Association points out there are advantages and disadvantages to open adoption. For example, the birth parents may change their mind, or have feelings of obligation towards the adoptive child and their family, given how much time, financial, and emotional investment they have already put into the arrangement. The adoptive family may also feel additional pressure to keep up with the requests of the birth parents, or may feel as though they are obligated to provide support for their child’s birth parents. 

There are also many advantages of open adoption. For instance, it can give birth parents more of a sense of control over an already stressful situation, and potentially feel less guilty about putting their child up for adoption. There’s also the major advantage of getting to have a relationship with their biological child, if they decide that’s what they want. For adoptive parents, open adoption allows them to share information with their child about their birth families, and answer the inevitable questions about their background.

Can you close an open adoption?

The short answer to this is yes. However, there are a few factors to consider before you go ahead and do so. There are many advantages to open adoptions to the child, the biological, and adoptive parents. Closing an open adoption might impede the healing process for the biological parent and might cut off a necessary source of information about family history and idtendity to the adopted child.
It’s also important to know you have options other than closing adoption in cases where the child’s safety is a concern. By making an open adoption and semi-open one you leave the door ajar for contact through the adoption agency or attorney. This allows the biological parents the peace of mind in knowing the adopted child is doing well via getting regular updates, and allows the child and adoptive parents some sort of portal of contact with the biological parents.

 

Want to learn more about open adoptions? Reading people’s personal stories about their adoptions is a good way to find out what it’s really like. A good place to start is Open Adoption & Family Services, which has an entire section of its website dedicated to personal stories. And, of course, you can count on Scary Mommy for all the information and personal experiences you need to help you through the process. 

What are some resources for prospective parents seeking adoption?

Knowing where to start is the most important first step in any big decision, and that may not always be clear when it comes to adoption. With that in mind, we’ve gone ahead and provided some links to organizations that can be your jumping off point. As with anything, doing extra research into the respective programs is imperative and will help determine if it aligns with your values and expectations.

Open Adoption & Family Services

Human Rights Campaign (Open Adoption)

Beautiful Quotes About Adoption

“Every child deserves a home and love. Period.” — Dave Thomas

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.” — Robert A. Heinlein

“Adoption is the most intentional process on Earth.” — Jody Cantrell Dyer

“It’s important to realize that we adopt not because we are rescuers. No. We adopt because we are rescued.” — David Platt