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Birth Parents: How to Negotiate Openness (Open Adoption vs Closed Adoption)

Adoption OpennessConsidering the degree of openness in adoption is important for both birth and adoptive families

“Perhaps the most important thing to consider when envisioning your child’s life is where you fit,” says Haley Kirkpatrick, If you decide that adoption is the right choice, where do you fit in? Do you see yourself directly involved in his or her life? Do you speak on the phone regularly? Do you only communicate through letters? Do you even communicate at all?

“Type of contact can include the exchange of pictures or gifts; communication via e-mail, letters, Skype, or telephone; and face-to-face meetings,” says researchers Harold D. Grotevant et al. An adoption plan will not only help streamline the adoption process and subsequent communication, but will also lead to a better overall relationship.

“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.

What Are My Options?

“One of the hardest decisions you can make in your adoption will be what the future may look like for you and your child,” says Lita Jordan, an adoption professional.

Open Adoption

In an Open Adoption, both birth parents and adoptive parents exchange identifying information about each other and have ongoing contact. 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.

However, “open adoption is certainly not an option in every situation,” say Jordan.

Semi-Open Adoption (Mediated Adoption)

If you choose 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. Types of contact most often include:

  • Conference calls
  • Email exchanges
  • Pictures and letter updates

Closed Adoption

A Closed Adoption usually means that 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.

Pre-Adoption Counseling Can Help

Whether a birth parent or adoptive parent, pre-adoption counseling is a great way to explore your feelings in a safe and constructive environment. Adoption Makes Family is a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. Adoption Makes Family will provide you with counseling throughout the adoption process. And this relationship does not end on the day of discharge from the hospital.

“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.

Negotiating Openness in Adoption

Once you know your options and have explored your feelings, it is time to discuss your wishes with your adoption agency and, depending on choices, negotiate openness with the opposite party. Some of the key processes to discuss in open and semi-open adoptions include attitudes, contact, boundaries, intimacy, extended family, and family support. During these negotiations, adoption agencies are vital as mediators, explains Anne Marie Mclaughlin, The University of Calgary.

It is also important to note that adoption openness is a dynamic process, says Mclaughlin. “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.” Open adoption rests on relationship building and requires ongoing effort and even future negotiation.

“Negotiation is a skill that may require support to develop,” says Mclaughlin. “Our findings

support the need for ongoing post adoption supports.”

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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