Adoption is when an adult formally becomes the legal guardian of a child and gains the rights and responsibilities of a parent. When a child is legally adopted by an adult, that child becomes the adult’s legal heir, and the adoption terminates any legal rights the child’s natural (or “biological”) parents may have.

Adoption is a very important decision for both the adults and the child involved, and will require deciding whether to pursue an open adoption or a closed adoption.

What is an Open Adoption?

An open adoption encourages communication between the biological and adoptive parents. Usually in an open adoption, the biological parents have had a measure of choice in determining who will adopt the child.

The adults are allowed to communicate freely with one another before, during, and after the adoption. Depending on the state, biological parents may also be allowed to have ongoing contact with the child, including visitation, telephone calls, and exchanging messages and photos.

However, it does not mean that the biological parent has right to make important decisions regarding medical care, schooling, or anything else that a parent with formal parental rights would. Instead, the relationship between the biological parent and the adopted child is one that is regulated by the adoptive parents.

The level of information exchanged and the level of contact between the biological parents and the child depends on the comfort level of the people involved.

Are There Disadvantages to an Open Adoption?

The advantages and disadvantages to an open adoption really depend upon the situation and the people involved. Some people see it as a great opportunity for the child to know their biological parents and keep the lines of communication for the best interests of the child.

However, some adoptive parents may see the openness as a threat to their authority and their interest in the child. They may have concerns or fears that the biological parents will attempt to intrude on their parenting rules and their connection with the child. There may also be concern that the child may be confused over who their “real” parents are.

In an open adoption, it is very important to maintain open communication between the adults, and to set clear expectations when it comes to interacting and communicating with the child.

This includes any situations or issues that result in the biological parent losing privileges like visitation or contact with the adopted child. The adopting parents and the biological parents should make it very clear as to the limits and parameters of the relationship before creating this life-long bond.

What is a Closed Adoption?

A closed adoption is very different from the style of an open adoption. The biological parents give up all rights they have to the child, and an administrative agency conducts the adoption process. The biological parents have little to no input in the placement of the child.

There is no contact between the adoptive and biological parents at any stage of the adoption process, and all contact information for the parties is withheld. The adoptive parents receive some information regarding the biological parents’ medical history in order to help with the child’s current or future medical treatment, but there is no other communication in the process.

The parents of the adopted child will not be able to tell the child anything more than what was supplied by the adoption agency. In many cases, the biological parent purposefully leaves behind little to no information to prevent contact, even by the child in the future.

Are There Disadvantages to a Closed Adoption?

Again, the disadvantages can vary depending on the situation. While in an open adoption there may be concern about having too much contact between the biological parents and the child, there is no such contact in a closed adoption.

The child may grow up wanting to know more about their biological parents. The biological parents may want to know their child, yet be unable to contact them. The adoptive parents may want to know more about the biological parents.

Sometimes, when children get older, they may have questions about their biological parents. Under a closed adoption, the adoptive parents will most likely be unable to answer these questions due to the closed nature of the proceedings.

What is a Semi-Open Adoption?

A semi-open adoption is pretty much what it sounds like—a hybrid option, a blend between open and closed adoptions. In a semi-open adoption, the biological parents may have some say in the placement of the child. Both sets of parents are allowed to exchange information about one another, but no other identifying information is included. The information usually includes the first names of the parents and the state or states where they live. This will most likely mean that the adoptive parents and biological parents will not interact in person or at least, will not keep in touch on a regular basis.

Adoptive parents may choose to provide the biological parents with information about the child as they grow up, but the information usually goes through the intermediary adoption agency, and not directly between the parties.

Of course, this is a flexible process and certain limits can be set based on the desires of the parties involved. It is important that the adults involved are realistic about the situation and that they keep the future and happiness of the child as the top priority.

The Adoption Process for Open and Closed Adoptions

Regardless of which type of adoption works best for your family, every adoption case goes through a certain procedure in the court system before the adoption becomes final. The adoptive parents will need to submit a petition for adoption with the court, pay the required filing fees, and go through a hearing before a judge.

The purpose of the hearing is to verify that the adoptive parents meet all of requirements under state law. If you have gathered the necessary information when putting together your adoption petition and throughout the adoption process, the hearing should not be a complicated matter.

The judge will likely ask the adoptive parents if they understand the impact of the adoption, including their rights and responsibilities when it comes to raising a child. If the court finds that the adoption is in the best interests of the child, the adoption will be finalized.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About an Open or Closed Adoption?

If you are thinking about adopting a child, or about giving up a child for adoption, then it is in your (and the child’s) best interests to consult an experienced family law attorney who will be able to explain your options to you and help you navigate the adoption process.