In short, the difference between semi-open and open adoption is the exchange of identifying information (for example: last names, phone numbers, and addresses). With an open adoption, you will more than likely volunteer that information as your relationship progresses with the potential birth family. With semi-open adoption, you would be making the effort to keep that identifying information private, along with potentially communicating through a third party like your agency or attorney.
An example of a semi-open adoption would be the potential birth family choosing the adoptive family, potentially meeting pre-birth, and then communicating a few times a year through the agency or attorney. More than likely, the adoptive family would send photos and updates to the agency and then the agency would pass it along to the birth family.
An example of an open adoption would be the potential birth family choosing the adoptive family, more than likely meeting them more than once pre-birth, and making efforts to build a genuine relationship with the intention of maintaining it after placement. Communication would happen directly between the two families over time. Visits and updates would happen at the discretion of each family. In many open adoptions, it’s common for the families to visit one another in each others’ home and create new traditions, uniting even the extended families.
Confession: reading my description of open adoption just made me nervous.
We actually are blessed with that type of open adoption, and on paper it seems overwhelming. It also makes so much sense. We like each other and enjoy our time together. I didn’t know it was possible to feel wholly my son’s mother while hanging out with the woman who birthed him. Having this type of adoption feels complete, though it also wasn’t necessarily the intention we began with; our relationship formed naturally over time. We had space to grieve, adjust, and heal from the journeys that brought us together in the first place, which I think is one reason that our relationship works. If it had been forced on us, I’m not sure how it would have worked out.
So, if you are reading this to get information or make your decision, save yourself the trouble and just be open to openness. Let go of trying to control a relationship you haven’t even started yet. The level of openness and communication is different in every adoption. It will also change over time. It’s impossible to predict what your relationship with your future child’s birth family will look like.
Err on the side of caution, under-promise, over-deliver, be honest, and have patience. It will all work out in the end.
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