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How a Birth Mother Can Choose Adoption Openness

young girl hugging her birth father.As a birth mother, one of the biggest decisions you make after choosing adoption “when envisioning your child’s life is where you fit,” says Haley Kirkpatrick, Do you see yourself in contact with your child? Do you meet in person? Do you send letters? Do you talk on the phone? Do you even communicate at all? Considering the degree of openness in adoption is important for both your short-term and longterm wellbeing.

“Birth mothers who were more satisfied with their contact arrangements, regardless of level of contact, had less unresolved grief 12 to 20 years after placement,” says researchers Harold D. Grotevant et al.

Levels of Adoption Openness

  1. In an Open Adoption, both birth parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information about each other and have ongoing contact. “Type of contact can include the exchange of pictures or gifts; communication via email, letters, Skype, or telephone; and face-to-face meetings,” says researchers Harold D. Grotevant et al. The birth parents and adoptive parents arrange their communications and determine how much involvement they want to have in each other’s lives all on their own. 

  2. In a Semi-Open (Mediated) Adoption, your adoption agency will help facilitate the ongoing relationship between birth and adoptive families. In this type of adoption, most or all communications between the adoptive parents and birth parents is facilitated by an adoption agency to preserve identifying information. 

  3. In a Closed Adoption birth parents and adoptive parents do not meet. They do not share any identifying information about each other. They do not have any contact whatsoever, before or after the birth. They may not know anything about one another. 

It is also important to note that adoption openness is a dynamic process, says Anne Marie Mclaughlin, The University of Calgary. “Some adoptive families may maintain or even increase contact with birth family members over time, while in other families contact may decline or cease completely.” Adoption openness rests on relationship building and requires ongoing effort and even future negotiation.

How to Choose Adoption Openness

When trying to decide where you fit in your child’s life, pre-adoption counseling can really help you explore your feelings in a safe and constructive environment. Adoption Makes Family is a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency, and we will provide you with counseling throughout the adoption process – pre- and post-placement. 

“Counseling is a necessary component of infant adoption, not just prior to placement but, in many cases, after placement as well,” explain Chuck Johnson and Kris Faasse. 

Once you have thoroughly explored your feelings, it is time to discuss your wishes with your adoption agency and, depending on choices, negotiate openness with the adoptive parents. Some of the topics of discussion will include contact, boundaries, intimacy, extended family, and family support. During these negotiations, adoption agencies are vital as mediators, explains Mclaughlin. 

Adoption Makes Family is Here to Help!

Adoption Makes Family is here to listen, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our experienced professionals can help and counsel you so that you make the best decisions for your and your child.

If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at or use our online contact form.


  1. Grotevant, Harold D., et al. “Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families: Perspectives From the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project.” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 7, no. 3, Dec. 2013, pp. 193–198., doi:10.1111/cdep.12039.

  2. Mclaughlin, Anne Marie. “Negotiating Openness: A Qualitative Study of Adoptive Parents’ Experience of Contact in Open Adoption.”  Canadian Social Work Review, vol. 30, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 5–23.

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