Transition Away from Closed Adoption
Adoption workers began to acknowledge that this "closed" confidential system of adoption was not always healthy for the adopted persons, the adoptive family or the birthfamily. A small number of adoption workers in the 70's and 80's became vocal and began to work for change in America's traditionally closed adoption practices.
Since that time we have seen, and continue to see, a revolution of philosophy and practice in the world of adoption. The idea of increasing openness in adoption is infiltrating many agencies and adoption workers' practices today.
In experimenting with change from the traditional/closed system, workers first tested the waters with semi-open adoption. In this model, birthfamilies and adoptive families could know about each other and in some cases, have face to face contact. However, any information which totally identified the other party was withheld. The parties did not know the last names, addresses, etc. of the other. A third party intermediary, usually an attorney or adoption agency, provided the avenue through which the birth and adoptive families could communicate.
By way of example, a birthmother (let's call her Susan) contacts an adoption agency. After getting to know her, counseling with her, and getting the impression that she is serious in her consideration of adoption for her child, the agency provides profiles about potential adoptive couples for her to read. A profile is a set of pictures and letters that the adoptive couple puts together to tell the birthparents about themselves.
In this example, Susan reads all the profiles and feels especially drawn to one couple (let's call them Joe and Karen.) She is given the opportunity to meet them face to face at a location arranged by the agency. After getting to know one another, talking about likes and dislikes, etc. she feels that Joe and Karen are definitely the ones she wants to raise her baby.
Throughout the remaining steps in the adoption process, the adoption worker is careful not to mention anyone's last names or mention which city they live in. The potential adoptive couple remain known only as "Joe and Karen." The birthmother's name is only spoken as "Susan."
After the birth, Joe and Karen adopt the baby. They agree to send pictures to the adoption agency or lawyer periodically. The third party receives the pictures and in turn, removes any information that might give away the identity of the adoptive couple, such as return address, post marks, or last names. Susan may also send letters and pictures to the family via the agency. Any contact Susan has with her child will always be mediated through the agency or some other third party.
Semi-open adoption was a positive first step in moving away from the closed system. Some birthparents and adoptive parents felt security in the distance that the third party put between them. In some circumstances this may still be necessary. However, in most circumstances it is not. Semi-openess allows for the exchange of information, however, secrets in identity infer to the child and others around him that there must be something to hide and leaves little room for anyone to grasp and enjoy the beauty of adoption. Mechanically timed contacts leave little room for growth, spontaneity or change in relationships. Some prefer to call this "Semi-closed" adoption rather than "Semi-open."
To learn more, see: Open Adoption