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Types of Adoptions: Open vs Semi-Open Vs Closed

This chapter is about the three types of IVF embryo adoption plans you and the donor will make, what each type of adoption means and how your decision regarding this important part of your journey will impact you, the donors and your future child.

All adoptions are either Open, Semi-Open or Closed. It is vital to understand what each means, their pros and cons and some of the factors you need to consider when making your decision. As you explore the different types of adoptions and what you feel most comfortable with, it is important to understand that the genetic couple with whom you have connected with is most likely going to want either an open or semi-open embryo donation adoption. The embryos that you will be adopting already have genetic siblings; prior to placing their embryos for adoption the genetic parents gave birth to children who are the genetic siblings to your future child. Studies have shown when children are adopted, maintaining an open line of communication between the genetic and adoptive parents is beneficial to the child especially as they get older and seek information about where they came from, who they look like, or in relation to medical and developmental aspects. Although no two pregnancies are alike, because the adoptive and genetic mothers will have carried genetically related children, it might be helpful to share information regarding the pregnancy and delivery. Generally, in almost all embryos available for adoptions the child does not have the same looks or talents, etc. of their adopted parents and the same is true of adopted embryos who will not carry those components; however, the child who has genetic siblings may benefit in knowing people who carry the same genetics. For all concerned, it appears an open or semi-open adoption plan is best. Another important factor to consider is if the adoptive parents choose having a closed adoption, then they might find it more difficult to be matched with a donor; most donors prefer to have open or semi-open adoption plan. The more open the perimeters of the IVF embryo transfer plan, the easier it is to be matched. It is important to note, this is NOT about co-parenting; this is about maintaining an open line of communication and how open the plan will be is up to everyone involved.


Open adoption can mean both the donor and the adoptive families exchange non-identifying information, and it can also sometimes mean identifying information is shared. It depends what agreement the adoptive family has made with the donors. The contact between both parties might come in form of letters, emails, phone calls, sharing photographs and sometimes even visitations.

Open adoption gives the adoptive parents a unique opportunity to get to know their donors before they adopt an embryo. This type of adoption also gives donors peace of mind; they can see and get to know the family who will be raising their genetic child. In many cases it also gives the child some more information about their biological tendencies and heritage as well. Open adoption is becoming increasingly common, largely because many experts say open adoptions are the best for the child. To go for donated embryos available, it is important for both the donor and the adoptive families to set clear boundaries and maintain a healthy relationship. Regardless of what your specific open adoption plan is, it can be emotional and challenging for both parties. In open adoption as with any relationship, good communication with the ability to express feelings and discuss the agreement at any point in the child’s life is vital and boundaries must be always respected. In all discussions and in all decisions, the child must be the number one priority. One of the wonderful aspects of open adoptions is the child having the information to understand where they came from. Most adopted children often wonder about their heritage, who they resemble, where they got certain traits from, etc. and by having an open adoption the confusion and questions can be addressed. In most open embryo donation, donors are happy in knowing their child will be growing up happy, healthy and loved; an open adoption can provide this sense of closure, reaffirming that they made the right decision for their child. It is important to note; if either the donor or adoptive parents overstep their boundaries or break the agreement this can harm the child and their relationships. At the start of making the adoption plan, regarding visits or phone calls, both parties need to agree upon the details regarding making and maintaining contact be it phone, emails, texts, or visits. Keeping in mind that everyone has different parenting styles and this must be respected by both the donors and adoptive families. It is imperative to remember that the donors waived their rights to parenting and the adoptive parents are the child’s legal guardians. Maintaining a healthy open IVF embryo adoption relationship is about maintaining communication and building trust.Top of FormBottom of Form


A semi-open adoption is like an open adoption; the difference is that the donor and adoptive parents exchange information, but only through an intermediary; typically, a facilitator, attorney or an agency. Photographs and letters are often exchanged, but no identifying information is ever disclosed. The advantage of open adoptions as stated earlier is that both parties can get to know the other and keep in touch, and answering any potential questions the child has is less difficult. That is also true in a semi-open adoption; however, the privacy and personal information of both parties is maintained. Over time, if everyone is comfortable with changing the plan a semi-open adoption can become an open one. semi-open adoptions are specific to negotiating and setting the terms between the donor and the adoptive parents. If you are an adoptive parent who prefers to maintain some distance then semi-open adoption is the choice for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to semi-open adoptions. The most unique thing about semi-open adoptions is that they have the space to take on characteristics of both closed and open adoptions. This type of IVF with embryo donation is specifically made to fit your needs and comfort zone. For example, a donor who wants to maintain a sense of privacy and anonymity between them and the adoptive parents can do so. There is room to keep interactions or contact to the minimum or to the maximum as much as necessary. This can also work in favor of the adoptive parents because they can deliberate and discuss what exactly that limited or unlimited interaction will look like. Regarding the child, having a semi-open adoption, donors can choose whether they would like the child to know about their genetic family history or not. If so, they can choose what exactly can and will be shared when they feel the time is right if it agrees with what the adoptive family feels is appropriate for their child. Communication is of the utmost importance in any donor embryo adoption, but in semi-open it is truly the glue that holds it all safely together. The downside to a semi open adoption is the donor does not have complete anonymity from the adoptive parents; there is some degree of identification and family or medical history is generally exchanged. If full confidentiality is required then semi-open adoption may not be the best adoption plan for you. There is also the possibility of a heightened sense of grief in a semi-open adoption that donors may find themselves feeling. Because of communication with the adoptive family and child not being fully open or closed, a donor may find themselves feeling frustrated or saddened by it. Navigating and feeling out what is best for you is imperative to creating the best adoption plan.


In a closed adoption, the donor and adoptive families have little to no contact with one another and there is no exchange of identifying information. There are very clear non-crossable boundaries in a closed adoption. This eliminates complications that may arise such as interference in parenting, protecting a child from unstable situations that may include extended family. Although there is no contact between the parties, sometimes there is an agreement to sharing photos or writing letters annually which is filtered through a third party such as a facilitator, attorney or agency. Ever since adoption as infertility solutions began, closed adoptions predominated mostly due to the social stigma regarding single parenting, unplanned pregnancy and maintaining the woman and her family’s privacy. Historically, women were often ‘sent away’ during their pregnancy to deliver away from home where their baby would be placed for adoption without any input from the birth mother. Because of the secrecy that used to exist in adoption, many children grew up never knowing they were adopted and birth parents never knew what happened to the children they placed. This caused a lot of issues for all parties which could have easily been avoided by open communication and the sharing of information. Adoptions and how they are viewed in our current society has drastically changed over time and the confidential nature of closed adoptions is no longer popular. Even if a donor wishes to have a closed adoption, they are still in charge of their adoption plan by the embryos fertility clinic. If they wish, they can still choose their child’s adoptive family and may even decide to have some contact with them as they make their adoption decisions. For some donors, an open adoption might be too painful to pursue and may feel that a closed adoption will provide a better sense of closure for them. For donors and adoptive families, if maintaining their privacy is a priority then a closed adoption will make it easier for them to do so. Not having a relationship between the donor and adoptive family will require less effort such as no contact schedule to adhere to and no agreement to maintain. If you decide not to have a relationship with your child’s donor, you will not have the opportunity to know the people who made the selfless decision to give you the greatest gift in life; becoming a parent through pregnancy. Many donor and adoptive families end up creating a unique, life-long and strong bond and this opportunity is lost in a closed adoption. Closed adoptions through IVF embryo transfer are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain due to social media and at home DNA tests which makes it easy to quickly discover the identities of biological relatives and connect with them whether they wish to be found. Challenges can arise from a lack of a relationship such as a lack of medical or social history which will make it difficult for the child and adoptive parents to diagnose health problems, no knowledge of where they inherited some genetic physical or personality traits, struggles with self-esteem and identity as the child grows up which can lead to emotional challenges such as feeling rejected, abandoned, unwanted or unloved. Over time, it is not uncommon for donor and/or adoptive parents to wish to open their closed relationship. However, when the initial arrangement was a closed adoption, it can be difficult to make this happen. Similarly, many adult adoptees in closed adoptions eventually choose to conduct a search for their donors before they go for the donated embryos available which can be emotionally challenging and difficult. If you decide on a closed adoption, you may have a very difficult time trying to find a prospective donor who is also looking for a closed adoption; most donors are interested in developing a meaningful relationship with the adoptive family and the child. If you are only interested in pursuing a closed adoption you may end up waiting for a very long time to find an adoption opportunity.

As you go through the process and embryos available for adoption please reach out to your social worker, therapist, or program coordinator for support and to process your feelings and they will help you to make the plan that you are most comfortable with; there are no right or wrongs in any of the types of adoption.


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