Openness in Adoption

Types of Adoption

Years ago, all adoptions were closed. Today’s adoptions fall somewhere in the Continuum of Openness. Many people call an adoption ‘open’ if there is, or was, any level of openness at all. At Nightlight we find it helpful to use these definitions below.

The Continuum of Openness in Adoption


Closed       Semi-Open/Facilitated       Open       Fully Open

The Continuum of Adoption illustrates that there is a range of possible options in adoption where birth mothers and the adoptive family customize an adoption plan that meets their needs.

An adoption plan may include contact through selection, pre-birth meeting(s), exchange of communications, including pictures, letters, e-mail, blogs, phone calls, and/or visits. The vast majority of adoptions today include some, or all, of these types of contact.


Open or Fully Disclosed Open Adoption

An adoption where the birth mother selects and meets the adoptive family; identifying information is exchanged and there are plans for ongoing contact without agency involvement. Both the birthmother and adoptive parents are open to contact prior to, and subsequent to, the placement. Contact information is exchanged. Communication and contact varies adoption to adoption, birth family to adoptive family. Contact can take various forms such as pictures, letters, blogs, emails, visits, and/or phone calls. The vast majority of our adoption are open and include pictures, letters, emails and/or texts or phone calls, and visits.

Semi-Open or Facilitated Open Adoption

An adoption where the birthmother selects and meets the adoptive family. Non identifying information is exchanged and there are plans for contact post placement, facilitated by a third party, usually the adoption agency. Communication is passed through the third party and any visits are facilitated by the third party.

In time-limited semi-open mediated adoptions, information would be shared through an agency caseworker but would stop at a pre-determined time, with no plans to resume sharing.

In ongoing mediated adoptions, ongoing information/contact is exchanged and mediated by the agency.

Closed or Confidential Adoption

An adoption where there is no contact between the birthmother and the adoptive family. The adoption agency selects the adoptive family at the request of the birthmother. No identifying information is shared between the birth family and adoptive family. These are less common today and are at the request of the birthmother.

Agency Adoption

A private adoption agency provides services to both the birth family and the adoptive family and facilitates the adoption planning and placement.

Private Adoption

Often attorney-facilitated and arranged directly between the parties.

Designated Adoption

An agency, or attorney, facilitated adoption where the birth family and adoptive family meet and decide on an adoption plan without having worked with an agency first.

Transitional Care Families

Newborns may be able to go home directly with the adoptive family. However, on a few occasions the newborn will go to one of Nightlight’s licensed and loving “Cradle Care” families if there is a legal risk situation. Stays may vary from 2 days – 2 months depending upon the legal situation of the child.