Friday, February 10, 2012

Semi-Open versus Open?

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When I first placed, I thought there were only 2 types of adoption: open or closed.  Though closed doesn’t leave much room for interpretation, there are many different versions of open. 

If you’ve been involved with adoption for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “semi-open.”  I’m not certain, however, that I’d use that term at all.  Just as there are many different relationships out there, there are at least as many different types of open adoption.

When I placed my daughter, we had what might’ve fallen into the “semi-open” category.  We didn’t know their last name, their home address, or have their phone numbers.  However, we agreed upon visits and update letters.  I would still consider that an open adoption.  To call it “semi-open” almost seems too picky.  It seems too critical of a relationship.  Just as most of the birth moms I’ve spoken with hate to be lumped into a box that tells them what they’re “supposed” to do after placement, to quickly make a judgment call about the kind of relationship a birth mom has with her child and his or her parents seems just as negative.

I’m certain many of us have experienced a dating relationship that didn’t fall within typical expectations of what a dating relationship should be.  It might have worked and turned into a long-term relationship or it might not have and ended.  What worked for one couple might not work for a different couple because there are different people and personalities involved.  Different people are comfortable with different boundaries.  The same is true when speaking of adoption.

For instance, I know a mom who has 2 daughters from different birth moms.  Her oldest daughter’s birth mom lives several states away, and her youngest daughter’s birth mom lives about an hour away.  Due to necessity, the contact is different for both.  Obviously the birth mom that lives farther away can’t see her daughter as often in person simply because traveling all the time would be cost and time prohibitive.  Though I’ve not talked personally to either birth mom, I can imagine each birth mom feels differently about the relationship though each is included in their daughter’s lives quite often.  However, I doubt that the birth mom who can only see her daughter in person (though they are able to Skype fairly frequently) once a year feels that her adoption is any less open than a birth mom who sees her child in person a lot more often.

Though Nick and I still don’t know our daughter’s last name, her address or have their phone numbers, I now consider us simply in an open adoption versus a semi-open one.  The relationship has continued to grow and her parents have continued to make efforts to include us in their lives.  I think that’s the key.  No matter how the contact is facilitated, if efforts are made on both sides to continue the relationship then there is openness.  There doesn’t have to be a specific label on the relationship to consider it a working one.

What do you think?  Do you agree or do you think that there should be more lines drawn defining a particular type of adoption relationship?


  1. I agree that each relationship is different and will work differently, but I think it would help emoms and aparents to have the open adoption- semi-open adoption range of possibilities conversation before placement. Some people explain open adoption as the pictures and letters and then the bmom discovers later that there is so much more to open adoption...

  2. Thanks for sharing Monika. Labels always have away of complicating things as much as they simplify them. The adoption related labels are open to much interpretation since it is such a personal & unique experience. (Atleast each open adoption seems there much variation in closed adoptions?)
    For our oldest, we do tend to use the term semi-open. Birthmom gets letters & pictures (we have confirmation that she gets them), but has never responded back. She is invited to things, but has never attended. When we 1st met, she explained to us why she expected & envisioned the relationship to develop that we are not surprised. We still leave her the option of more contact if she wishes. (She is only about 30 miles from us, so it could easily happen if she likes.)
    Our second daughter's adoption is more open. We have exchanged last names. We have visits in addition to letters & pictures, all facilitated through the agency we worked with. It could be more open though...we don't have each other's address or phone number. Still we look at it as "open". I always find it interesting to see how the relationship develops in different settings/ & people.

  3. "Though Nick and I still don’t know our daughter’s last name, her address or have their phone numbers, I now consider us simply in an open adoption versus a semi-open one."

    Not knowing your child's parents last name shows a lack of trust from them in my view. You've given them your flesh and blood and they don't even think you deserve to know who they are.

    You seem like a nice lady so what have they got to fear from you?

  4. JJ - While I appreciate your point of view, it's actually not my daughter's parents that want it this way. They're doing it out of respect for their parents (they're both very close to both sets of their parents). Both sets of my daughter's grandparents grew up with open adoptions not being an option at all, and they still have a cautious view of open adoptions in general. Since only my daughter's mother's mom has met us (and that was only once), it will still take a while for them to realize that open adoption will not only benefit their children (my daughter's parents), but their granddaughter as well. I have faith that it will happen eventually, and until then I'm happy with the way things are. :)

  5. Hi Monika. I'm glad it wasn't their decision. I have a bmom friend who said when she chose adoption, she specifically wanted parents who were prepared to share their basic details with her (like name, address, phone no etc).

    Hopefully, one day the grandparents will meet you and realise that you are a perfectly nice ordinary woman and nothing to be scared of.