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A closed adoption describes a situation in which a woman places her child for adoption without having contact with the child or the adoptive family. The identities of everyone in the adoption are kept confidential, and the birth mother can even request that her adoption professional chooses the family that will raise her child. While this arrangement used to be the norm, it is now the least common type of adoption relationship.

To learn more about pursuing a closed adoption, read the following sections on the history, process, benefits, and drawbacks of closed adoption.

A History of Closed Adoption

Following the advent of social work as a profession in the early 1900s, children who were adopted would have their original birth certificates sealed and have new birth certificates issued to them, a process called a “legal rebirth.” This was intended to protect the adoptive parents and the child from having an “illegitimate birth” on record. The sealing of records in this manner was the beginning of closed adoption as it is recognized today. For several decades, adoptions were carried out in this way. The birth parents and the adoptive parents did not know one another, and the original birth certificates of the children were permanently sealed.

In the 1970s, as the stigma surrounding single parents began to disappear, expecting mothers began to have more control over their adoption decisions, and adult adoptees began to demand more information about their births. Women who placed their children for adoption did not want to do so in secrecy, and adopted children did not want to spend their lives wondering what information was in their original birth certificates. (You can learn more about adoptees’ access to birth records at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.)

The solution to these issues was open adoption. In the last few decades, more and more people have pursued open or semi-open adoptions, in which the birth parents and the adoptive parents know one another and have some degree of contact. These kinds of adoptions now make up the majority, with closed adoption being the least common option for birth parents.

How Does Closed Adoption Work?

If you choose a closed adoption for your child, you may still choose the adoptive family by viewing family profiles, or you can allow your adoption professional to select a family for you. Once you have found a family, they will not be able to contact you or obtain any of your identifying information unless you let them.

Usually, you and the family will not interact before the baby is born. If you are working with an adoption agency, you will each have your own adoption specialists, who will communicate any necessary information to each other. Through your specialists, the adoptive family will be able to know how you want to proceed with the adoption, who you want in the hospital with you, and any other wishes you have.

After you give birth, the baby will be placed with the adoptive family. If you have a note or token that you would like your baby to have, you can give it to your adoption specialist to deliver to the family. From that point onward, you will not have contact with the baby or the family, and they will be unable to contact you without your consent.

Should I Choose Closed Adoption?

Like all adoption relationships, closed adoption has its own advantages and disadvantages, some of which have been outlined below:

Benefits of Closed Adoption:
  • Privacy – In a closed adoption, the adoptive family will not have any identifying information about you and will be unable to locate you without your consent.
  • Protection of the child – Sometimes, a woman may choose a closed adoption because she doesn’t want to expose him or her to a negative or unstable environment.
  • Protection of the mother – For some women, it is simply too hard to watch their child grow up with another family, and they decide a closed adoption may help them to move on.
Drawbacks to Closed Adoption:
  • Lack of closure – While some women may find it difficult to see their child with another family, others believe it would be worse to always wonder if their child is happy.
  • Effects on the child – Adopted children who do not know their birth parents often struggle with issues of identity and self-esteem. They often have questions about their birth families that can never be answered in a closed adoption.
  • No shared information – Today’s closed adoptions allow the adoptive family to have access to medical information at the time of birth, but if any new information arises, the family and child may not be able to obtain it.

Despite the increasing frequency of open adoptions, you can still opt for a closed adoption if you believe it suits your situation. Your adoption plan is unique to you, and only you can decide what type of adoption relationship fits your needs.