• MAY 31, 2022

Closed vs Open Adoption: What’s the Difference?

One of the most important stages of the adoption process is choosing a family for your baby. After you start down the infant adoption path and create your adoption plan, the next step is finding a home for your baby. Deciding on open vs closed adoption and finding an adoptive family are some of the biggest choices you’ll make during the adoption process.

Understanding of what types of adoptions are out there is one of the best ways to prepare for the process. Whether you think you want an open adoption or have no idea what your choices are, we can help make your options clear. 

What is a Closed Adoption?

Closed adoptions used to be the most common adoptions, but recently they are not as popular. In a closed adoption, the process stays as anonymous as possible. Very little information is shared about the birth family or the adoptive family. There’s usually no contact between the birth mother and the adoptive family after the adoption.

Many times in closed adoptions the files are kept private, making it hard for people to access them after the adoption happens. In some states, adopted children who had a closed adoption can see their records when they turn 18. Overall, closed adoptions offer a more private option than other adoptions since they stay mostly private. 

Why choose a closed adoption?

Closed adoptions are great for expectant mothers and families who want privacy. These adoptions have clear boundaries that keep you separate from the adoptive family and the baby. They keep you separate from the baby’s life so they can grow up immersed in their adoptive family. If you don’t want to know about the baby’s life after birth, closed adoption is the best way to go.

Some expectant mothers choose a closed adoption because of their home or family situation. Closed adoptions can help give the baby a fresh start, separate from the birth family. Expectant mothers who choose adoption to give their baby a better life often choose closed adoptions for this reason. 

Most expectant mothers who want a closed adoption are looking for a clean start after the process. Since they’re the most private and confidential way to adopt, many women can move ahead and put this stage of their lives behind them. Closed adoptions can be a way to find closure for expectant mothers. 

What are the pros of a closed adoption?

Closed adoptions are appealing to many expectant mothers for a few reasons, even if they’re not as popular as they used to be.

Privacy: The most appealing part of a closed adoption is the privacy. Many women choose closed adoptions so they can remain anonymous and still know their baby is in a better situation. It can be more reassuring to know that your baby can’t find you in the future and the adoptive family won’t try to involve you in raising the baby.

Closure: Closed adoptions are also great for finding closure. When you don’t have contact with the adoptive family, it’s easier to move ahead with your life. Closed adoptions can help you get to a better place than when you started your adoption journey.

Safety: Some expectant mothers have unsafe home lives, and closed adoptions protect the babies from those situations. Closed adoptions prevent family members from learning about the adoption and interfering with the baby’s new life. This is also appealing to adoptive parents who know that nobody from the baby’s past will want to come into the picture.

What are the cons of a closed adoption?

These days, people find more cons than pros to closed adoption, that’s why open adoptions are becoming more popular. 

Staying private: Technology, social media, and at-home DNA tests make it easier than ever for adopted children to find their birth parents. Even though closed adoptions are intended to keep the adoption private and confidential, it doesn’t always end up that way. It’s possible that you, the adoptive family, or the child can find workarounds to learn more about each other.

No updates: When you agree to a closed adoption, you’re agreeing to never knowing about your baby’s life. You won’t get updates on life milestones or learn about what they’re up to as they grow up. While that can be a positive for many mothers, some don’t want to completely give up chances to learn about their child.

Medical history: Closed adoptions only provide the least amount of information necessary to place a child in a family. Many times important health records and family health history aren’t recorded. That can make taking care of the baby difficult when family medical history and genetics aren’t easy to access. 

Emotions: Both birth mothers and adopted children can feel like they’re missing out with a closed adoption. For adopted children, they may wonder about who their birth parents are for years. Closed adoptions can be challenging for children as they try to figure out who they are and where they come from.

What is an Open Adoption?

Open adoptions let the birth mother and the adoptive family stay in touch. The most common open adoptions have regular contact between birth mothers and adoptive families. In these situations, birth mothers can be involved in the child’s life as they grow up. While open adoptions are more hands-on than closed adoptions, there are many different types of open adoptions. They are more personalized than closed adoptions. You can decide how much contact you want, but the expectation is that the adoptive family and the birth mother will keep in touch.

Why choose an open adoption?

Open adoptions have become more popular in recent years. One of the biggest benefits of these adoptions is that there is a greater chance for everyone to get to know each other and share information. The child can grow up knowing both their adoptive family and their birth family, if you choose a very open adoption. 

These types of adoptions can also help birth mothers cope with the adoption process. It can be difficult to go through the stages of pregnancy and decide to go through with an adoption. Open adoptions give a chance for you to get updates on your baby’s life and see them grow up. If you create a very open adoption plan, you might have the opportunity to see your baby again through visits. You can see the impact of choosing adoption and finding a loving home for your baby.

Pros of an open adoption

Many birth mothers are finding that the pros of an open adoption outweigh the cons.

Openness: You’ll be able to get updates on your child’s life and developments through open contact with the adoptive family. With open adoptions, your child will grow up understanding their situation better. Openness with the adoptive family and your child will benefit them as they grow up in this unique situation. It also helps adoptive parents get the family medical history that they need to make sure the child lives a healthy life.

Choose a family: With open adoptions, it’s more common to meet or talk with an adoptive family before the adoption is finalized. It gives you the option to get to know them better and make sure their family is the right fit for your baby. You can also have the chance to pick a family that you get along with and can build a strong relationship with.

Your choice: Open adoptions can be customized, so you can get the ideal situation that you want. It makes it easier to find an adoptive family when you know what kind of adoption you want. You can decide with the family how you want to talk and how often you want to get updates.

Chances of Success: Open adoptions tend to be more successful than closed adoptions. When everyone knows who’s involved in the process, it makes it easier on everyone. With closed adoptions, you might not have the chance to really get to know the adoptive parents, but in open adoptions you can meet with them before. 

Cons of an open adoption

There are a few things to keep in mind that might make open adoptions less appealing.

Difficulty separating: Knowing about your child’s life after the adoption can be a great gift, it can be hard to deal with the separation. Having contact with the adoptive parents might make it harder for you to completely let your child go. Sometimes the open communication can prevent adoptions from being successful.

What is a Personalized Adoption?

Personalized adoptions, or semi-open adoptions, give birth mothers more control over the adoption. It works best for birth mothers who want to stay updated with their child’s life, but don’t want to be heavily involved. If you have a very specific situation in mind, a personalized adoption might be right for you.

In these cases, birth mothers and adoptive parents can work together to find an arrangement that works. These types of plans can be arranged by adoption agencies or third party mediators, depending on how you want to design your adoption plan. 

These adoptions can provide more structure than open or closed adoptions because post adoption communication is more clearly outlined and can help everyone feel like they are on the same page.


The choice between open vs closed adoptions can be hard, but it’s easier when you have all the facts. Understanding the pros and the cons of each type of adoption is a great starting point.

With over 30 years of infant adoption experience, A Baby Step Adoption can support you no matter where you are in the process. If you’re wondering what type of adoption is best for you, get in touch with our caring case workers!