Other than completely open adoptions and completely closed adoptions, there are what are called semi-open adoptions and semi-closed adoptions. These form a middle ground, where limited contact occurs, but everyone is able to maintain the level of privacy they are comfortable with.
In a semi-open adoption, the birth mother (and birth father, if he wishes) and the adoptive family typically share limited contact information. They usually communicate anonymously with each other before the adoption and continue to do so after the adoption is complete. They may exchange letters, emails, phone calls, and/or pictures. Contact may occur directly, but it usually happens through an intermediary.
What distinguishes a semi-open adoption from an open adoption is that there complete contact information is not shared, so communication only occurs through the agreed upon means. Most often there are no plan for in-person visits after the adoption is made final.
In some cases, the communication is only one way. A birth mother might ask for occasional pictures or letters, but not send anything herself. It can also work the other way, where the birth mother sends letters to her child and their adoptive family, but asks not to be sent any information. These types of arrangements are worth considering if more open options seem undesirable in a particular situation.
Semi-open adoptions can be flexible. Since the lines of communication remain in place, it’s easy to make a semi-open adoption completely open if everyone later decides that is what they want. Often all that is required is for everyone to exchange more detailed contact information. Conversely, if some form of contact ends up being troublesome, everyone can agree to use another kind of communication instead. For example, if it gets to be difficult for everyone to be available at the same time for a phone call, they could decide to exchange emails instead, if everyone agrees.
A semi-closed adoption has contact occurring before the adoption only: there is no agreement to stay in contact after the adoption is finalized. Birth mothers may speak to the adoptive parents they’ve chosen over the phone or through emails, but they don’t give their full names. After the baby is adopted, the communication stops.
It’s possible for a semi-closed adoption to be changed to a semi-open or open adoption, but it’s usually more difficult that making a semi-open adoption completely open. If the birth mother wants to contact her child and their adoptive family (or vice versa) she can try to initiate communication through the adoption service she used or through a lawyer. Some states maintain registries of birth parents and adoptees (and their families) who are open to being contacted.
Generally, the more communication that takes place between birth parents and adoptive families, the better. Semi-open and semi-closed adoptions are good options for birth mothers who are concerned about their privacy. Adoption coordinators can answer questions about specific situations and will help birth mothers understand what each kind of adoption would be like in their situation.