Adoption Law

Closed Adoptions

Adoption is a long and complicated process. It can also be confusing for people who are unfamiliar with the state-run and private adoption process. Another decision potential adoptive families have to make is whether to do an open or closed adoption.

This page gives general information about closed adoptions, including some pros and cons. Adoption laws vary by state. For information on closed adoptions in your state, talk to a local adoption attorney for legal advice.

What Is a Closed Adoption?

In a closed adoption, the adoptive parents and adopted child don’t have any contact with the birth parents. A closed adoption is also known as a confidential adoption. In an open adoption, the birth mother or birth parents still have some contact with their child. Depending on the level of openness, open adoption can involve sending pictures, providing updates, or making in-person visits.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both kinds of adoption, including for the adoptive parents, adopted child, and birth parents. Sometimes, the families can use a combination in a semi-open adoption. Consider what type of adoption you’re looking for and talk to your adoption lawyer for advice about which option works best for you.

How Does a Closed Adoption Work?

When the prospective adoptive family begins the adoption process, they can decide whether to go forward with a closed adoption. The adoption agency will try to match them with a child for adoption or a prospective birth mother who also wants a closed adoption. There will be no direct contact with the birth parents.

Once the adoption is final, the adoption agency will seal the adoption records. These records are generally unavailable to new parents or the birth child.

Depending on state law, the adoptee can get nonidentifying information about the birth parents. In some states, the adopted child can seek access to identifying information as an adult. Most states allow releasing the information if both sides consent to the release.

What Are the Benefits of Closed Adoptions?

For the adoptive parents, a closed adoption allows them to maintain privacy. They can have uninterrupted time with their child. They don’t have to maintain a relationship with the birth mother or provide updates.

The birth parent can also have privacy. Other people do not need to know the mother had a child. The birth mother may also want a sense of closure after the adoption is final.

What Are the Downsides of a Closed Adoption?

For the adoptive family, there may not be as many birth mothers looking for a strict, closed adoption. This can limit the number of children available for adoption and take longer to get matched. If there are health conditions or medical history concerns, it can be difficult to get medical information about the biological family.

The birth mother may have a change of heart after giving birth and decide they want to know more about their child after the adoption.

Can an Adopted Child Get Information About Their Birth Family in a Closed Adoption?

The adopted child generally doesn’t get a say in whether the adoption is open or closed. For the child, a closed adoption remains an open question. They may have many questions about their birth parents that their adoptive family cannot answer.

When the child gets older, they might be able to get some information about their birth family. In most states, adult adoptees can get nonidentifying information about their birth relatives, including information about the birth, descriptions of the parents, medical history, and reasons for placing the child for adoption.

In most states, adult adoptees can get personal identifying information about their birth family if the birth parents consented to release. Without a release, the adult adoptee can try to get a court order to see the information if there is good cause. Some states also allow birth siblings to share information with mutual consent.

Are There Alternatives to Closed Adoptions?

There are different levels of open adoption. Fully open adoptions may involve direct contact between the adoptive and biological parents, including during pregnancy and labor and after the child’s birth. Parties can negotiate different levels of openness or contact.

A semi-open adoption has less contact but generally involves a third party communicating between the adopted parents and birth parents. An adoption counselor or social worker can mediate between the parties and share information like medical records and other non-identifying information about the child’s life.

How Can an Adoption Lawyer Help Me?

Many people find an adoption attorney helpful to guide them through the adoption process. An adoption professional can prepare you for the adoption journey, inform you about your options, and help you with your adoption plan. If you want to know more about closed adoptions, talk to an adoption attorney about your needs.

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