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What is the difference between an open and a closed adoption?

Most readers are aware that adoption is the process by which a legal parent-child relationship is established between the child, who is being adopted, and the adoptive parents. Once finalized, this creates a legal relationship that is equal to that of the relationship between biological parents and their child. According to an annual report by the U.S. State Department, in 2012, the last year for which statistics were available, U.S. families adopted over 7,000 children. With each child, who is put up for adoption, the birth mother must also decide whether the adoption will be open or closed. In the state of Florida, this is largely done through Florida's Adoption Reunion Registry, which is a state registry for people, who are affected by an adoption, to list their information in order to allow for reunions.

In the past, the majority of adoptions were what is known as, closed adoptions. In this type of adoption, an agency, or some other third-party intermediary, typically handles everything and there is no contact between the birth mother and the adoptive family. All of the legal records and files associated with this type of adoption are generally sealed and the birth mother does not make her information available through the Registry. This means that a child cannot find out who his or her birth parents are. Often times, birth parents in these cases are also unable to find out where and with whom their child was placed.

More and more, people are choosing an open adoption process. In an open adoption, the birth mother and adoptive parents may meet prior to the child's birth. Often, the birth mother participates in selecting a potential adoptive family for the child. The records and files associated with these types of adoptions are unsealed, and are made available to the public. Not only will the birth mother have her information listed on the Registry, but also, there is often continued contact between the child's birth and adoptive families after the adoption has been finalized. This can include exchanging letters, pictures and cards, as well as phone calls. In some cases, there may even be occasional, or regular, visitation. 

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