Because every adoption involves different people and different situations, the arrangements of every adoption will be different. With regard to sharing personal information and communication between birth families and adoptive families, there is a whole range of options. Generally speaking, though, these options can be broken up into a few major categories: open adoptions, semi-open and semi-closed adoptions, and closed adoptions.
These are the most common type of adoption today. In an open adoption, the plan is for the birth family to continue to be a part of the adopted child’s life as much as possible. Before the adoption, the birth mother (and father, if he’s involved) and the adoptive parents usually get to know each other through mediated conversations through letters, emails, phone calls, and in some cases visits. After the adoption, full contact information can be exchanged between the birth family and adoptive family. The adopted child grows up knowing his or her birth family.
Closed Adoptions were very common from 1940 to 1980, but they are not as popular today. In a closed adoption, no identifying information is shared between the birth family and the adoptive family. Prior to the adoption, the birth parent(s) will select an adoptive family by looking at different profiles with the names removed or have the adoption service choose for them. The adoptive family chosen typically receives a anonymized medical history of the birth mother (and birth father, if possible) and, in some cases, a very general bio of the birth parent(s), such as, “The birth mother is an unwed college student in the St. Louis area….”
Most adoption services will still facilitate closed adoptions if that is the wish of the birth mother or father, but the practice is normally discouraged. This is because in the majority of cases some greater level of contact is beneficial to everyone involved.
These fall in between open and closed adoptions. Semi-open adoptions have communication between the birth parent(s) and the adoptive family before and after the adoption is finalized. Closed adoptions have communication only before. In both cases, the contact is typically more limited than in an open adoption. It usually takes place through an intermediary, such as the adoption service or an attorney. Only first names are given, so someone still can’t be contacted directly if they don’t want.
Every adoption is tailored to the needs of the people involved. An experienced adoption coordinator can help birth mothers and adoptive parents figure out what kind of adoptions are best for their situation.