What is Open Adoption?

Establishing an Open Adoption with the Adoptive Family

My open adoption is like fairytale. I get to speak with my son, lay my eyes upon him, give him gifts, and am treated with respect in my relationship with him. We speak on the phone over holidays. He sends me care packages and I reciprocate. We visit with each other at least once a year. All of this is possible because of how amazing his parents are. All of this is possible because I have an open adoption.

What Is an Open Adoption?

When making the decision to choose adoption, one of the most important questions to consider is what type of long-term and ongoing relationship you desire to have with your child. There are many degrees of communication available when it comes to open adoption. If you desire to have an ongoing relationship with your child after placing him or her for adoption, then know that it can be a reality.

As a prospective birth parent, you will have the opportunity to choose the types and frequency of contact you are comfortable having with your child and the adoptive parents after placement. Your adoption professional will use this information to help you find the perfect adoptive family who wants the same type of open adoption relationship with you.

In My Experience

My son is coming to visit soon. His parents have scheduled the trip and surprised me with the timing. I had the opportunity to tell my dear friend on the phone that I get all the benefits of enjoying my child with an open adoption that I would never get with a closed adoption. I couldn’t imagine not having a relationship with my son, especially since I placed him for adoption when he was six months old. My son and I have an unbreakable birth mother-son bond that is honored by my son’s parents.

My Son’s Parents

The bond my son shares with his parents is amazing. He loves them, trusts them and respects them. They are his parents. No matter what happens to my relationship with my son, as it ebbs and flows, he will always have his parents. I respect that relationship and honor it. I tell my son his parents are amazing when we talk, and always show respect to that special relationship. In reciprocity, my son’s parents do the same for my relationship with him. I will always be his birth mother, and that relationship is unique and special.

What Does Open Adoption Mean?

So how did we get here? How is it that seven years later, after being a mother for six months and going through horrendous heartbreak, I have this incredible relationship with my son? Well, I trusted my gut when I chose his parents. Or should I say, I trusted God when He led my son’s parents to me. I knew I wanted an open adoption when I made my adoption decision, and found a couple who wanted to reciprocate that relationship with a birth mother. Fast forward seven years later, and the relationship I share with my son and his parents is something I cherish more than anything else in my life.

Open Adoption Definition

Open adoption is when there is communication, regardless of frequency or type, between a birth mother and her child throughout the child’s upbringing. Open adoption can mean something as simple as yearly letter updates, or go as far as in-person visits. There are various degrees of open adoption, from semi-open to very open. The desired degree of open adoption should be decided before placement, and adjustments can be made throughout the life of the child between a birth mother and the child’s parents.

Semi Open Adoption

A semi-open adoption is when the adoptive family updates the birth mother on the life of the child as he or she grows up. There can be yearly or periodic updates sent to the birth mother. The adoptive family can send pictures and letters via mail or over the internet, and contact may be mediated by an adoption professional to protect certain identifying information. This type of open adoption may or may not include communication between the birth mother and the child, but she can see what is happening with her child throughout his or her life. While there may be no communication beyond the agreed-upon picture and letter updates, this is still considered a semi-open adoption instead of closed because there is some level of communication after placement.

Types of Open Adoption Contact

If there is open communication between a birth mother and her child, regardless of the degree of that communication, this is considered an open adoption. An open adoption is when communication continues after placement between a birth mother and the adoptive family. Open adoptions can range from a yearly phone call to communication throughout the year. The following outline the different types of communication available throughout the life of a child in an open adoption:

In-Person Visits

I have an open adoption in which I see my son about once per year. Usually I go visit him, but from time to time, my son’s parents will bring him to visit me. The important thing to remember regarding in-person visits is making sure boundaries are established before the visit. For example, if a family member wants to join the visit, make sure to get permission before bringing someone else on the visit. Also, it is important to consider how much time you are able and willing to spend with the child. A birth mother may only be able to handle a one or two-hour visit, while other birth mothers may want to spend a whole day with the child, or even longer depending on the desires and boundaries of both the adoptive parents and the birth mother. It is important to make sure visit boundaries are established before the visit to avoid there being any issues during the visit.


I receive updates from my son’s mother about twice per year. We have a website that allows us to share pictures with only each other, and she will upload the update pictures and email me when they are ready to be viewed. I also receive updates about once per year in the form of a photo book. The photo books are my favorite update. I get to see the life of my child with a photo album every year. I love seeing his smile, his friends, his family, his pets, his life. He is so happy, and every time I receive an update, I feel so full of joy that my son is living such a wonderful life.


I send care packages to my son, and his parents send gifts to me as well. I have received jewelry, photos, coloring pages, letters, and other unique gifts from them. I have sent age-appropriate toys, items that hold value to me, fun care packages, and cards. For example, this past Mother’s Day, my son and his parents had a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates delivered to me. I’m tearing up just thinking about how loved I feel by them!

Phone Calls

I speak with my son on holidays and randomly when one of us feels the need to talk to the other throughout the year. Our conversations range from five minutes to fifteen minutes. Depending on my mood, I may chat longer or cut it short. I make sure that no matter how emotional I may get, I don’t reveal to my young child that I may be feeling down because I miss him. I always tell him I love him, I miss him, and I’m so very proud of him. I never say anything that may confuse him regarding our relationship or his relationship with his parents.


All the above ways to communicate can range as frequently or infrequently as all parties decide upon together. Adoptive parents or a birth mother may feel that more or less communication is better for their relationship. Regardless of the frequency, it is important to stay open with each other about needs and boundaries.

Adjust Accordingly

Adjustments can be made at any point throughout the life of the child if it is determined by the parents, or even the birth mother, that it would be better for the child if communication was re-examined. There have been ebbs and flows in my relationship with my son and his parents. There have been points in time when we have relaxed on communication and given each other space. There have been times, especially over the holidays, when communication is much more frequent. Whatever the needs are, adjustments can always be made to increase or decrease communication and levels of openness.


Open adoption is an amazing and beautiful thing. Please make sure, for both birth parents and adoptive parents, to keep in mind the following: This relationship will adjust, and that is normal. Do not be afraid to lay out boundaries when necessary, and respect boundaries when they are laid out. Do not be afraid to communicate needs, and try to respect those needs. Always keep the child’s best interests first. No matter how parents or birth parents are feeling, the child comes first.

Have you considered open adoption?

About the Author

Lindsay Arielle has been a proud birth mother since placing her son for adoption in 2011. Her post-placement agreement has always been an open adoption. She loves the time she gets to spend with her son and his parents during visits. Lindsay truly believes that for herself and her family, adoption has been a blessing, and she enjoys writing about spiritual healing for birth mothers.

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