What is the Difference Between Open and Closed Adoption?

A “closed adoption,” often referred to as a confidential adoption, is one where the birth parent and adoptive parents choose to exchange very limited, non-identifying information only, choose not to meet, and choose not to have continuing contact with each other.

An “open adoption” can take on many forms, and involves some degree of exchange of more information and may involve different forms of contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. Generally, the birth parents and adoptive parents will choose the nature and extent of the relationship between them and the child.  This can range from just having an initial meeting between the birth parents and the adoptive parents (with or without exchanging identifying information), to exchanging letters/pictures throughout the child’s life, to having continued personal contact (telephone, email, or family visits) throughout the child’s life.  It is important that the families discuss what they expect of each other and are in agreement as to what is best for the child.

It is best to outline this in writing so that everyone understands clearly the expectations.  That being said, it is important to note that in Pennsylvania, agreements for “open adoptions” are not legally binding unless the parties enter into a written agreement (“Post Adoption Contact Agreement”) that specifically follows the Pennsylvania law (Act 101 of 2010), has the requisite statutory language, and is signed by the Court.

A Post Adoption Contact Agreement (23 Pa. C.S.A. Sections 2731-2742) must have all of the requirements set forth in this statute before a court will sign an order approving it, which will make it legally enforceable.  The agreement can be between the Birthparent(s), certain family members of the Birthparent’s family as set forth in the law, the Adoptive Parents and the Child being adopted.

It is important that the birth parents and adoptive parents are honest with each other as to the level of “openness” that they each are comfortable with, and that they at all times keep the child’s “best interests” as the priority.