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Closed adoption is a type of adoption where there is no contact or exchange of information between the birth parents and the adoptive family after the adoption process is finalized. This means that records of the biological parents are kept confidential, and the child's birth certificate is amended to include the adoptive parents' names. Historically, closed adoptions were the norm to maintain privacy, but the trend has shifted towards more open arrangements in recent years. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, fewer than 5% of infant adoptions in the United States now involve a closed adoption.
The preference for closed adoption may vary based on individual circumstances and desires for privacy. It can provide emotional closure for birth parents and a sense of security for adoptive parents. However, it can also lead to challenges later in life, as the adopted child may have questions about their heritage and medical history. Despite its declining prevalence, closed adoption remains a significant part of the adoption landscape, offering a path for those who choose it for personal, cultural, or privacy reasons.
Closed adoption is an adoption in which the records of the adoption are kept sealed, creating a situation in which the birth parent is not involved with the adoptee's life. You may also hear closed adoption referred to as “secret” or “traditional” adoption, although it is not, in fact, traditional at all. Closed adoption largely arose in the 20th century, in response to changing social values about adoption. The opposite of a closed adoption is an open adoption, in which the records are left open, creating the potential for contact between the birth parent and the adoptive family.
In a classic closed adoption, the birth parents decide to give their child up for adoption during the pregnancy and they contact an adoption agency, which handles the placement. Once the child is born, the birth mother surrenders the baby, and he or she is given to the adoptive family. The child's birth certificate may be changed to reflect the adoption, and the birth mother is not given any information about the adoptive family.
There are advantages and disadvantages to closed adoption. Some birth parents feel that it offers closure, allowing them to move on after the birth, and some also value the secrecy, especially if they were having an extramarital affair or they fear criticism for being unwed mothers. Adoptive families sometimes appreciate the simplicity of closed adoption, as it precludes an attempt to take the child back, or confusion about coparenting, and it also protects the child from unstable birth families.
However, some people feel that closed adoption is extremely problematic. It sets up a situation where a child may never be informed about his or her adoptive status, which could cause problems later in the child's life, especially if the adoptive child's birth parents have family histories of health problems. It also cuts the child off from his or her heritage, and it can make adopted children feel like their birth parents didn't want them, as it offers no opportunity for birth parents to communicate about the reasons behind the choice to give the child up for adoption. Some people also feel that closed adoption creates feelings of shame around the topic of adoption.
Several organizations facilitate contact between birth parents and adoptees who are interested in connecting later in life. These groups provide records searches or offer registries of people who are seeking each other out. In a situation where a child or birth mother wants to get in touch, a letter will typically be sent by a third-party intermediary, indicating that contact is desired and leaving the decision up to the recipient of the letter.