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Semi-Open/Mediated Adoption – The Best of Both Worlds

Mediated adoption, or semi-open adoption, is a more restrictive type of open adoption in which most or all communication between adoptive parents and birth parents are facilitated through an adoption professional to preserve identifying information.

Mediated adoption is the most common type of adoption, as an estimated 95 percent of all domestic adoptions share at least some contact with one another through an adoption professional.

Types of contact between the adoptive family and birth parents in a semi-open adoption may include:

  • conference calls through an agency before the adoption
  • email exchange through an agency before and after an adoption
  • personal visits before the adoption with a social worker
  • hospital interacting during the time of placement
  • pictures and letter updates mediated through an agency

Birth mothers often want some type of contact with the adoptive family, but not necessarily an open relationship. Mediated adoption, or semi-open adoption, is perfect for these types of adoption situations and is easily the most requested form of relationship by birth mothers.

How Does Mediated Adoption Work?

1. Looking for a Mediated Adoption Situation

A prospective birth mother who pursues an agency adoption will work with an adoption specialist who will help her find a family interested in a similar amount of contact that she is seeking. Conversely, for adoptive families, many adoption agencies require their adoptive families to be accepting of certain types of contact found in semi-open adoptions.

In independent adoptions, a birth mother and family find each other through networking, online advertising or their community, with a semi-open adoption relationship in mind.

2. Participating in Pre-Placement Contact in a Semi-Open Adoption

A semi-open adoption is often referred to as a “mediated adoption” because the adoption professional serves as a mediator between the birth parents and adoptive family.

It is the adoption professional’s job to ensure no identifying information is exchanged between both parties. For example:

  • many adoption agencies will mediate a conference call, where the birth parents and adoptive family will both call into the agency and speak to each other, with the adoption specialist present on the line.
  • the adoptive family will set up a separate email address solely for the purposes of communicating with the birth mother.
  • after the birth of the baby, the adoptive family will begin to send pictures and letters to the birth mother, through the adoption professional, who will then forward it to the birth mother’s address.

Finally, it is also common for both parties to participate in a pre-placement visit, where they physically meet one another. They can still withhold certain identifying information during these meetings, which each party’s adoption specialist will help them prepare for, or even be there at the visit.

Many of these forms of contact can also be achieved in an independent adoption, either with the use of an adoption attorney as a mediator or through other creative means, such as setting up a P.O. Box, a 1-800 phone number, and more.

3. Interacting at the Hospital in a Semi-Open Adoption

The final part of a semi-open adoption is the interaction at the hospital between the birth parents and adoptive family. At this point, the birth mother will have created her “adoption hospital plan” to ensure everyone, including the adoptive family and hospital workers, understand her wishes during the labor and delivery.

Depending on her comfort level and the amount of contact she wants with the adoptive family will determine how much interaction with her and the baby she wants to have with them during this time.

The family could be in the delivery room with her, they could hold the baby, they could meet her family. It is all up to her, and the adoptive family’s job is to follow her wishes.

4. Sharing Post-Placement Contact in a Mediated Adoption

As previously noted, in a semi-open adoption, pictures and letters of the baby will be mailed to the adoption professional, who will then forward them to the birth mother. This will help maintain identifying information for both parties.

Emails are common in semi-open adoptions because they are an easy and convenient way to stay current in each other’s lives, and to have access to one another if something should occur.

It is possible that future phone calls and visits can also occur, which would mean the relationship is turning into more of an open adoption, especially if more identifiable information is shared.

Because semi-open adoptions are in the middle of the scale of openness, these relationships can increase or decrease in contact. For it to increase, both parties have to agree to it. For it to decrease, that is entirely the birth mother’s decision.

Pros and Cons of Mediated Adoption

Mediated adoption, or semi-open adoption, is by far the most popular type of adoption relationship, for a number of reasons. For most birth parents and adoptive families, it is the perfect balance between an open adoption (which may be too open) and a closed adoption (which may be too limited).

Pros of Mediated Adoption

Birth Parents

It is common for a prospective birth mother to feel that an open relationship with the family and especially her child will be too much to move on with her life. This is why nearly 90 percent of birth mothers choose a semi-open adoption because it provides enough contact for them to stay abreast of their child’s upbringing without personally being involved.

In these types of adoptions, the adoption professional will serve as a mediator for all contact between both parties, before and after the adoption. This may include mediating conference calls, emails and visits before the adoption, and forwarding pictures and letters of the child to the birth mother once or twice a year after the adoption.

Mediated adoption gives birth parents the peace of mind that their child is growing up in a happy and loving home, without being an active part of their lives.

Adoptive Families

Many adoption professionals ask their adoptive families to be accepting of a semi-open adoption because it is in the best interest of everyone involved, including the adoptive family.

These adoptive families are eligible to be matched with more birth mothers, because most are seeking a semi-open relationship. Secondly, being able to interact with the birth mother with the agency’s involvement may allow her to better see the type of life her child will have as part of their family, which can make her feel more confident in her decision.

Possibly the biggest advantages of semi-open adoption for many families is the protection of their identifiable information. While most adoptive families are comfortable with the birth parents knowing their first names and the state they live in, they often don’t want to disclose their last names, home addresses, phone numbers or personal email addresses.

Mediated adoption protects both families’ and birth parents’ identifiable information from one another, as everything is mediated through the adoption agency.

Adopted Child

Semi-open adoption allows adopted children to have access to their parents later in life, which is beneficial for many reasons.

First, it allows the birth parents to contact the adoptive family or child later in his or her life if something comes up, like a newly learned medical condition or death in the family.

Secondly, it allows the child to learn more about his or her biological family’s genetics and history, filling that void so many adopted children feel in their lives without having this contact.

And because his or her birth parents are just a phone call or email away, they always have the option of opening up their relationship as they grow older. Without semi-open adoption, this contact could be severed and it could be difficult to relocate them.

Cons of Mediated Adoption

Mediated adoption is the most popular type of adoption relationship because it offers many of the same benefits as open adoption but without the exchange of identifying information. However, some birth parents and adoptive families still find disadvantages in mediated adoptions, such as the following:

Birth Parents

One of the main features of a mediated adoption is the birth mother receiving pictures and letters of her child after placement with the adoptive family occurs.

Most birth parents enjoy seeing pictures and reading letters about their adopted children. These often help them move past the adoption and on with their lives. However, some women feel quite the opposite, and feel a sense of sadness when receiving these updates. They feel they would rather know their child personally, or not receive updates at all.

Another feature of a mediated adoption is that an adoption agency mediates most of the contact between the birth parents and adoptive parents. Because of this mediation, contact isn’t always instantaneous. If a birth mother has a question for the adoption family, she may have to wait a while until she receives a response.

For these reasons, some women feel more comfortable with either a fully open or fully closed adoption rather than a semi-open adoption.

Adoptive Family

Even though semi-open adoptions are very limited in the amount of contact that is shared, this can still be too much for some adoptive families to feel comfortable with.

In a mediated adoption, adoptive families are required to interact with the birth parents through conference calls, emails and at the hospital. Throughout this process, the adoption agency does its best to maintain the family’s identifiable information, but it isn’t always possible. A hospital worker could accidentally disclose the family’s last name, or the birth mother could stumble upon them on social media.

Another thing for families to remember – If their only contact to the birth mother is through the adoption professional, what happens if they go out of business? What happens to future contact? If something happens in the birth mother’s life that impacts the adopted child, how will they know?

Final Thoughts on Mediated Adoption

Semi-open adoption, or mediated adoption, is often viewed as the “best of both worlds” between open adoption and closed adoption. Most birth parents and adoptive families find this type of contact the most reasonable, providing many of the benefits of an open adoption without disclosing too much privacy or identifiable information.