How it works

Adoptions are arranged in one of two ways: independently or through an agency. Most states allow birth mothers a set period of time after delivery to finalize their adoption plan. Laws specifying that amount vary in each state.

Independent (Private) Adoption. Private adoptions are arranged without an agency. Prospective birth parents and adoptive parents find each other through attorneys, physicians, advertisements, or other facilitators (where legal).

Agency Adoption. Two types of agencies handle adoptions.
Private Agency Adoption: Private agencies are licensed by the state, but funded privately. They assist in all types of adoptions and serve prospective birth parents, adoptive parents, and children simultaneously.

Public Agency Adoption: Public agencies are licensed by the regional or state government and operate on public funds. They primarily facilitate adoptions from foster care.

*Approximately 75 to 80 percent of adoptions are independent (private or direct), in which the parties locate each other without the assistance of a child-placing agency.

Adoption Types

Different types of adoptions are distinguished by the level of contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child. As a birth parent, you have considerable control over what adoption type you choose. You will choose a type of adoption based on what level of contact you want, what your state allows, and what agency or facilitator you select.

Open adoption. An open adoption allows for an open level of direct contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child. This type of adoption plan includes exchanging letters and pictures, and visiting with the child depending on what the birth mother and adoptive parents agree to. Birth parents and adoptive parents can have direct contact before and after the adoption. An open adoption can be handled through an agency or independent attorney, depending on state law.

Key outcomes for the birth mother:
• Greater control over the adoption process
• Potential for a role in the child’s life
• Comfort in knowing about the child’s well-being

Mediated adoption (or “Semi-open adoption”). A mediated adoption is a variation of open adoption. Prior to placement, the potential birth parents and adoptive parents exchange mostly non-identifying information. Once the child is placed in the adoptive home, the adopted child may have contact with the birth family that involves pictures, letters, and other forms of communication sent through the adoption agency or the attorney who assisted with the placement.

Key outcomes for the birth mother:
• Some privacy for all parties
• The ability for all parties to have contact
• Comfort in knowing about the child’s well-being

Confidential adoption (“Closed adoption,” “Traditional adoption”). A confidential adoption allows for no direct contact between the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child. The birth mother (or birth parents) may be given some non-identifying information about the adoptive parents, such as their ages and occupations. The adoptive parents are given information that will help them take care of the child, such as medical or family history. Specific information, including names and addresses, are not revealed to either party. A confidential adoption is not as widely used today as it has been in years past. Confidential adoptions can be handled through an agency or an independent attorney, depending on state law.

Key outcomes for the birth mother:
• Privacy for all parties
• Possible sense of isolation between the child and the birth parents

 Compare & Contrast Adoption Types

Confidential Adoptions Mediated (Semi-Open) Adoptions Open Adoptions
Birth Parents
  • Provides a more closed option of contact between all parties when compared to open adoption
  • Some feel this provides a sense of closure and ability to move on with life
  • Privacy
  • Allows for some information transfer between the birth parents and the adoptive parents (and perhaps the child)
  • Some privacy

 

  • May make the decision to place the child for adoption easier (compared to a contested termination of parental rights trial)
  • Sense of control over the decision-making in the placement of the child
  • Increased ability to deal with any forms of grief or loss
  • Less pain and guilt about the decision
  • Comfort in knowing the child’s well-being
  • Potential for a more fully defined role in the child’s life
  • Potential to develop a healthy relationship with the child as they grow
Adoptive Parents
  • No contact with the birth parent for you or the child
  • Greater sense of control over the adoption process
  • Your roles may be more clearly defined compared to confidential or open adoption types
  • Increased sense of entitlement compared to confidential adoptions
  • Enhanced ability to answer the child’s questions about their history

 

  • Increased sense of having the “right” to parent the child, and the ability for confident parenting
  • Potential for an authentic relationship with the birth family
  • More understanding of the child’s history
  • Increased empathy for the birth parents
  • Less fear of the birth parents reclaiming the child because they know the child’s parent and their wishes
  • Delight of being “chosen” as the parent of the child
Adopted Persons
  • No contact with the birth parent
  • Increased knowledge about your history
  • Increased knowledge about your birth parents
  • Privacy and distance if needed
  • A chance at an open relationship with your birth parents
  • More understanding of your history