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Closed Adoption – Going Your Separate Ways

In a closed adoption, little, if any, contact is shared between the adoptive parents and the birth parents in an effort to maintain privacy.

Closed adoption is the least popular type of adoption relationship because most women considering adoption only go through with their adoption plan if they know they will have at least some contact with the adoptive family and her child – usually future pictures and letters.

In a closed adoption, the birth mother may still choose:

  • The Adoptive Family – How does she envision her child’s life? Lots of brothers and sisters or an only child? Growing up in the city or in the country? Or she may decide not to choose a family at all and let the adoption professional find one for her.
  • The Hospital Plan – How does she envision the hospital stay going? Who will be in the delivery room with her? Does she want to hold the baby first or does she want the adoptive parents to hold the baby first?
  • Future Contact – If the birth mother originally decides she wants a closed adoption, but later in the adoption process decides she wants to receive pictures and letters, most adoptive families will agree to her request.

How Does Closed Adoption Work?

While most prospective birth mothers want some form of contact with the adoptive family and child, not all of them are comfortable with these types of open adoption.

For women who want to place their baby for adoption and move on from this chapter of their lives, there is closed adoption. Here is how closed adoption works:

1. Finding a Family Interested in Closed Adoption

Even though open adoption and semi-open adoption offer many benefits to adoptive families, most are also willing to participate in a closed adoption with the birth parents.

In an agency adoption, a birth mother will work with her adoption specialist, who will help her find a family interested in a closed adoption. If she is interested in choosing the family, the birth mother will be shown families’ adoption profiles, but will not be provided any of their identifying information.

If a birth mother wants to find a family on her own through an independent adoption, maintaining identifying information can be a little more challenging. However, once the family is found, either through networking, online advertising or an adoption attorney, a closed adoption can then be achieved.

2. Limiting Pre-Placement Contact in a Closed Adoption

The birth mother and adoptive family will not have any direct interaction with one another, but in an agency adoption, their adoption specialists will still remain very involved. Each party’s adoption specialist will keep them up to date and current on anything happening in the other’s lives.

For example, if the birth mother’s expected due date is pushed up a few weeks, the adoptive family will be informed by their adoption specialist.

In an independent adoption, there must be a mediator (such as an adoption attorney), 1-800 number, P.O. Box or private email account to ensure the birth mother and adoptive family have access to one another, yet maintain the closed nature of their adoption relationship.

3. Going to the Hospital in a Closed Adoption

The birth mother will have set up her own “hospital adoption plan” with the help of her adoption specialist. In a closed adoption, the family will likely either have their own hospital room – depending on the hospital and its vacancies – or will visit the baby in the nursery or another guest room.

Once the birth mother is legally able to consent to the adoption, the adoptive family will receive physical custody of the child.

4. Limiting Post-Placement Contact in a Closed Adoption

Even in closed adoptions, it is still important for birth parents and adoptive families to have access to one another.
For example, if a birth mother finds out she has a medical condition later in life, she can contact the adoption agency, which will then forward this information to the adoptive family for the child’s wellbeing.

In an independent adoption, this can be achieved with the aforementioned email address, 1-800 number or P.O. Box that can be set up in case of emergencies.

Pros and Cons of Closed Adoption

Today, most adoption professionals wouldn’t recommend that birth parents and adoptive families pursue a closed adoption, but there are certain circumstances where this type of adoption may be best.

The following are the pros and cons of closed adoption:

Pros of Closed Adoption

Birth Parents

Closed adoption ultimately comes down to how a birth mother envisions her life after the adoption. Is the adoptive family included in it? Does she have a relationship with her child? If so, how much, or how little?

Only the birth mother knows what’s best for her and her child. And in some situations, she may choose to have no contact and move on with her life.

Closed adoptions allow for the most privacy and may provide some birth mothers with that sense of closure many are seeking.

Adoptive Families

Adoptive families who are matched with the rare birth mother looking for a closed adoption will have the most privacy out of all three types of adoption.

While this privacy comes with its share of disadvantages, many families view it positively. They will not have to remember to send picture and letter updates periodically throughout the year. They will not interact with either of the birth parents at the hospital. They will not talk on the phone or exchange emails with the birth parents.

For some families, these are benefits of closed adoption, where for others, they are huge disadvantages.

Adopted Children

There are rarely any benefits of closed adoption for the child.

It’s difficult to talk about the benefits of closed adoption without talking about its disadvantages. For a clearer understanding of closed adoption, please read the disadvantages of closed adoption as well as how closed adoption works.

Cons of Closed Adoption

Birth Mothers

While birth mothers have every right to not have a relationship with the adoptive family and their child, they are missing out on a lot if they pursue a closed adoption.

First, a birth mother will not receive any updates about how her child is growing up with the adoptive parents. She will never know if her child is happy, nor what he or she looks like. All of these contribute to the uncertainty a birth mother will likely feel later in her life and may wonder, “Did I make the right decision?”

This is one of the main reasons a woman considers a semi-open adoption – to help her answer that question and find acceptance in her adoption decision.

Adoptive Families

Because most birth mothers are seeking a semi-open adoption, adoptive families who are only interested in closed adoption severely limit themselves to the number of birth mothers they may be matched with.

Those few adoptive families who do find a closed adoption may feel a sense of relief of not having to get to know or have a future relationship with the birth parents. However, these families will also find some disadvantages of their closed adoption.

First, updated medical information of the birth parents could be difficult or impossible to obtain. The information received during the adoption is just a snapshot into the birth parents’ and families’ medical histories, which is why having some contact to receive updates on newly discovered medical conditions is so important to the adopted child.

Secondly, not having any contact with the birth mother actually can raise the uncertainty level in the adoptive family. For example, families who get to know the birth parents, even on a limited basis, will know why they chose adoption, what’s going on in their lives, and why they chose them to raise her child. Families without this contact may have these questions in their minds that they can never fully answer.

Adopted Child

The child will always have lots of questions about his or her birth mother: “What did she look like?” “Why did she choose adoption for me?” “Did she not love me?” In a closed adoption, the child may never find the answers to those questions, and may feel a large piece missing in his or her life.

To answer these questions, the child will have to wait until he or she is old enough to search for her. And even then, there are no guarantees the child will find the answers to the questions he or she is looking for.

Final Thoughts on Closed Adoption

Closed adoption was once the most common type of adoption, but now after decades of research, nearly all adoption professionals agree that closed adoption is the least beneficial of all the types of adoption relationships. Only in necessary situations will a closed adoption be recommended for a birth mother, and adoptive families should always be open to at least a semi-open adoption.