Closed Vs. Open Adoptions

When adopting a child, there are many factors to consider. In the past generally all adoptions were considered closed adoptions. Now, most adoptions in the United States are labeled open adoptions. What do these classifications mean and what implications will they have on your future family? 

Closed Adoptions 

A closed adoption is when the file of an adopted child is literally sealed until the child or family members petition to have the file opened. The file is rarely opened before the adopted child becomes a legal adult at the age of 18. 

In closed adoptions, the birth parents will notify a social worker or agency of the need to give their child up for adoption. They will have no contact with the child once that child has been matched to a family. The adoptive parents are not given any information about the biological mother or father. Even if on rare occasions the birth parents and adoptive parents know each other, they are not allowed to contact them. If the child or family members ever want to have the case file opened, many states require a court order in order to reveal any information. 

Many people see the benefits of having a closed adoption. Not knowing information about the birth parents can potentially prevent any challenging situations that involve the birth parents wanting to get to know their biological child. Many closed adoptions can result in the child not knowing they were even adopted until their adoptive parents choose to tell them. Closed adoptions also have its challenges. The lack of information about their birth parents can leave adoptive children wondering who they are, where their biological family comes from, and any genetic conditions they may have.

While in the past closed adoptions were used in the United States in cases of newborn adoption, now they are primarily used in cases of international adoption. 

Open Adoptions

Open adoptions are more and more common in the United States. An open adoption is where the birth parents are able to keep in touch with their biological child. Many agencies allow the birth mother to choose the adoptive parents of her child by giving her biographies and photographs of the prospective couples. Oftentimes, the adoptive parents actually meet the birth mother during her pregnancy. 

Throughout the child’s life, the birth mother may remain in contact with her child. Some adoptive parents allow the birth mother to visit the child and give them birthday cards or holiday gifts. Some adoptive parents stay friends with the birth mother and give her regular updates on the child. 

An open adoption can remove a lot of questions the child may have about their biological family or why they were adopted. It allows the child to ask their birth parents questions and get to know them. However, many adoptive parents see open adoptions as a threat. They worry that having access to the child may hinder their ability to be parents – that the birth parents may undermine their authority when it comes to making decisions regarding the child, or worse, try to take the child away from them. 

There are pros and cons to both closed and open adoptions. Adopting a child is a huge, life-changing decision. It’s one that should be carefully thought out. If you are considering adoption, it’s important that you reach out to a family attorney who can help you decide which type of adoption is best for your situation. If this information resonates with what you are going through, you may want to call a lawyer promptly, such as a family lawyer at Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols.