open adoption

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An open adoption is an arrangement in which biological parents are allowed to have some form of contact with their child and the child’s adoptive parents. Today, this is the predominant adoption arrangement, as opposed to closed adoptions where the biological and adoptive families have no contact and no personal information is shared.

As stated on the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s website, open adoptions can be either fully open or semi-open. Fully open adoptions allow biological parents or even other biological family members to have direct contact with the adoptive family and child. In this arrangement, all parties know each other’s identities and may even have continuous visitation between the biological and adoptive families. Semi-open adoptions have some sort of mediator that messages or photos are passed through, allowing parties to maintain privacy and some level of anonymity.

Even in a fully open adoption, biological parents’ rights are completely terminated once the adoption is finalized. In the case of arrangements made for prior to a child’s birth, an adoption cannot be finalized until the child has been born. Until that point and for a period of time afterwards, the arrangement can be revoked. This period of time varies from state to state. At the point of finalization, adoptive parents gain full legal rights over their children.

[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]