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What Open Door Adoption Looks Like in Real Life


In an open adoption, you choose how much contact you’d like to have with your child’s adoptive family.

Is an open adoption right for me? Many an uncertain birth mother has considered these words as she debates whether she’d like to create an adoption plan. While closed adoptions were common in past decades, open adoptions have become much more common in recent years. What does an open adoption look like in real life? It’s less intimidating and more diverse than you might think.

The History of Open Adoption

For many decades from the early 1900s onward, closed adoption was the most common type of adoption. In a closed adoption, the birth parents’ information is sealed and is not available to the adoptee. Over time, many adoptees began to search for their birth parents. Motivated by an interest in their medical, genetic, cultural, and family history, they tried to understand where they’d come from. In the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond, open adoption has become more common as people now realize that if possible, it’s important for adoptees to have contact with their birth family.

What is Open Adoption?

When you think of open adoption, what do you see? You might think that you’ll need to meet with your child frequently and have a relationship with the adoptive parents. If you’ve decided not to have contact with the birth father, you might worry that your child will try to find their birth father.

Open adoption is actually much more diverse than many people believe. In essence, it keeps the lines of communication open between you, your child, and the adoptive family. It’s a way of ensuring that your child has the ability to learn about his or her past and connect with you if you are both interested.


In an open adoption, you have the option of meeting with your child, but you can also choose to receive photos or have other forms of contact with the adoptive family.

What Does Open Adoption Look Like in Real Life?

In real life, open adoption looks different for every family. Some birth mothers might choose to keep the lines of communication open, but they aren’t able to meet with the family on an ongoing basis or may not choose to do so. Others choose to get information about their child over time. Photos and email updates can help a birth mother keep track of what’s going on in her child’s life. Other birth mothers choose to stay very involved. A birth mother might meet regularly with the adoptive family and child and provide information and insights to the adoptive family.

Any of these options is an open adoption, and none of them are mandatory. What open adoption looks like is unique to each birth mother and adoptive family, and it’s important to consider what you’d like your own relationship to look like. Is one option better than the other? The option that works well for you and the adoptive family is your best option, and it’s up to you to define what open adoption looks like for you.

Creating an Adoption Plan

When you’re thinking about open adoption, it’s important to create an adoption plan. An adoption plan is not only a plan for your pregnancy and birth, it’s also a plan for what happens after. Would you like to have ongoing visits with your child, or would you prefer to see photographs? Any of these questions about the future can be placed into your adoption plan. You can use this plan as you choose or meet with prospective adoptive parents so that you can choose adoptive parents who are comfortable with your plans for the future.
Images Courtesy of Family Formation: Client photos printed with permission.

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Are you pregnant and thinking about adoption for your baby? I can help. You can send me your questions about adoption or ask me to send you more information. Your communication with me is always confidential, and you’re never under any obligation to do an adoption. I’m here to help, not to pressure you or tell you what to do.


Megan Cohen, Birth Attorney

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