Open Adoption: A Modern Approach to Adoption with Growing Support

Open adoption, a relatively modern approach to adoption, has evolved significantly in recent decades. It stands in contrast to closed adoption, where identifying information and contact between birth and adoptive families are typically limited or absent. In open adoption, varying degrees of information are shared, and contact between the families can range from letters and photos to regular visits.

Defining Open Adoption:

  • Shared information: Open adoption involves sharing identifying information between birth and adoptive families, allowing them to know more about each other’s lives. This can include names, addresses, photos, and medical history.
  • Option for contact: Open adoption provides the opportunity for contact between birth and adoptive families. The nature of this contact can vary greatly, from occasional letters and photos to frequent visits and open communication.
  • Spectrum of openness: There is no single definition of “open adoption.” The degree of openness can range from minimal contact and information sharing to ongoing relationships and complete transparency.
  • Collaborative decision-making: In open adoption, birth parents often play a more active role in the adoption process, having a say in choosing the adoptive family and deciding the level of openness they desire.

Research on Open Adoption:

Numerous studies have explored the long-term effects of open adoption for birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children. Here are some key findings:

  • Improved psychological well-being: Research suggests that open adoption can lead to better emotional outcomes, with reduced anxiety and depression, compared to closed adoption. [1]
  • Enhanced sense of identity: Open adoption can provide adopted children with a clearer understanding of their origins and a greater sense of belonging. [2]
  • Stronger parent-child relationships: Open adoption can foster strong and supportive relationships between adoptive parents and adopted children, as well as facilitate positive contact between adopted children and their biological families. [3]
  • Positive birth parent experiences: Open adoption can empower birth parents and allow them to feel more involved in their child’s life, even though they are not actively raising them. [4]

Challenges of Open Adoption:

  • Establishing and maintaining boundaries: Open adoption requires careful consideration of boundaries and communication between the families involved.
  • Managing expectations: It is important to manage expectations and understand that open adoption is not a guarantee of a perfect relationship between all parties.
  • Navigating complex emotions: Open adoption can stir up complex emotions for all involved, and it is important to have support systems in place to navigate these emotions effectively.
  • Cultural and social stigma: Although becoming more accepted, open adoption still faces some cultural and social stigma, which can be challenging for families involved.


Open adoption represents a significant shift in the adoption landscape, offering a more open and transparent approach to building families. While not without its challenges, open adoption has the potential to create positive and lasting relationships for all involved, contributing to the well-being of adopted children, birth parents, and adoptive families.