Closed Adoption

Choosing adoption is rarely an easy choice for couples. It can be especially difficult if you and your partner have been pursuing fertility treatments for a long time. However, adoption can offer both you and your partner the opportunity to extend your family and welcome a child into a loving and happy home. When considering adoption, it is important that you and your partner decide which type of adoption you would like to pursue. Closed adoption is one type of adoption that some couples investigate. Once very popular, closed adoptions are now becoming more rare, however, they can be effective in certain situations.

What is Closed Adoption?
Closed adoption is recognized as the traditional type of adoption. In closed adoption, complete confidentiality for both the birth and adoptive parents is maintained. There is no contact between the birth and adoptive parents, either before or after adoption. Typically, an agency chooses appropriate adoptive parents on behalf of the birth mother and/or father. No identifying information is passed between the birth and adoptive parents and the adoption records are sealed as soon as the adoption takes place. There is no contact between the birth parents and adoptive child after the adoption placement.

History of Closed Adoption
Closed adoptions began in the late 19th century and remained popular until the early 1980s. They grew out of a need to protect birth mothers and adoptive parents from the social stigma that surrounded adoption at the time.

Birth mothers who needed to pursue adoption were often seen as social outcasts by society. Many adoptive parents were also seen as outcasts due to their inability to bear their own children. For this reason, closed adoptions, which protected the identities of both birth and adoptive parents, skyrocketed in popularity. However, in the 1980s, pressure from social groups and organizations who believed in the importance of open adoption led to a decline in the number of closed adoptions.

Why Choose Closed Adoption?
Closed adoption is often a popular alternative when confidentiality is of the utmost importance. Closed adoption can also provide both birth and adoptive parents with a sense of closure and privacy. Closed adoption is most often chosen in international adoptions, when open adoption is impossible.

Types of Closed Adoption
Like open adoptions, closed adoptions actually vary, depending upon the birth parents and agency involved. There are two types of closed adoption:


  • Fully Closed: A fully closed adoption maintains complete confidentiality of both the birth and adoptive parents. No identifying information is passed between the parents and the birth and adoptive parents never meet. The birthparents do not select the adoptive parents.
  • Semi-Closed: A semi-closed adoption maintains partial confidentiality of the adoptive and birth parents. The birth parents select the adoptive parents from a number of profiles provided by an agency. There is no contact between the birth and adoptive parents after placement.


How Common is Closed Adoption?
Closed adoption is relatively uncommon today, at least in domestic adoptions. Most private adoption agencies prefer to set up open adoptions, so that birth and adoptive families can develop lasting bonds or relationships. Closed adoptions are possible in some situations, however. Closed adoptions are often pursued:


  • if the birth parents are incarcerated
  • if the birth parents are physically or emotionally abusive
  • if the birth parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • if it is an international adoption


The Role of the Birth Parents
In closed adoptions, the role of the birth parents is very limited. Birth parents may or may not choose the adoptive parents, depending upon the degree of closure in the adoption. If they do choose the adoptive parents, this choice is based on a file of information provided by the adoption agency. The birth parents will provide any non-identifying information about their child’s history, including medical and social records. The birth parents may receive non-identifying information about their chosen adoptive family, including physical characteristics.

The birth parents will not meet with the adoptive parents before the placement occurs. After placement, the birth parents will have no role in the adoptive child’s life and will be unable to contact the adoptive parents. The birth parents may be contacted if the adoptive child chooses to do so once he has become of legal age. At this point, contact information and adoption records may be released by the adoption agency.

The Role of the Adoptive Parents
In a closed adoption, the adoptive parents will receive little information about the birth parents of their adopted child. Only non-identifying information, such as medical records, will be passed along at the time of adoption. Upon adoption, all parental rights are relinquished by the birth parents and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal guardians. The adoptive parents will not engage in any contact with the birth parents and do not need to pass any information on to their child about his birth parents until he turns of legal age.

How Do You Pursue a Closed Adoption?
Closed adoptions are typically pursued through public adoption agencies. These are agencies that are run by your local or state government and often involve children in foster care. Closed adoptions can also be pursued independently, however, this is much more difficult. Independent closed adoptions necessitate the use of an intermediary (usually an adoption lawyer) who will locate birth parents and complete the legal adoption process.

Closed Adoption: The Debate
Closed child adoption is a highly debated subject, and it has many opponents. A number of social organizations and adoption agencies refuse to provide closed adoptions because it limits a child’s opportunity to develop a relationship with her birth parents. Over the past two decades, numerous studies have been conducted regarding closed adoption. Many of the results illustrate that closed adoption only has a negative impact on children, preventing them from exploring their own family histories and backgrounds. For this reason, closed adoption is rarely pursued nowadays, except in extenuating circumstances.


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