closed adoption disadvantages

Oliver, adopted 2016

For many years, closed adoption was the norm.  People didn’t really talk about adoption openly.  Many adopted children did not know their birth parents. Today, popular culture has changed and people discuss and embrace adoption, especially on social media.  With these changes, attitudes toward closed adoptions have changed as well. What used to be a common practice is now much less common, as people have recognized that open adoption can be a healthy for birth parents and adopted children.

In this post I’ll answer:

  • What is a closed adoption?
  • What are the challenges a birth mother faces in a closed adoption?
  • Is there an impact on  the adoptee in a closed adoption?
  • Should I  consider open adoption?

I am a birth mother who placed my son in an open adoption in 1988 (read my story here). Open adoption has worked well for me, my son, his parents, and my own family.  This option may not be right for you, but before you decide, consider the disadvantages to a closed adoption.

What is closed adoption?

In a closed adoption, the birth mother’s parental rights are terminated.  She allows an agency to choose the best adoptive parents for her child. Even if she meets the adoptive family, the birth mother chooses to have no ongoing contact with the child.  Her child, the adoptee, will not have a lot of information about his or her biological family. Sometimes, closed adoptions occur because the birth mother does not want the birth father or other family members or friends to know about the child’s birth.  In some situations, a woman wants to have closure on this part of her life, and moving forward feels easier with a closed adoption.

What are the challenges a birth mother faces in closed adoption?

While this type of adoption might seem easier for the birth mother at the time of delivery, it isn’t necessarily easier when moving on with her life.  It  doesn’t mean you can deny or pretend the birth didn’t happen.  You can try, but it will be difficult.  It might also come back to haunt you later in  life.  Giving birth to a child is hard to deny or forget; it is part of your life experience.  While you may not raise that child yourself, your pregnancy and the existence of that child will always be a part of you.  Even if you want to forget and move on with your life, this can be a challenge.  The reason it’s challenging is that there’s always the mystery of how your baby is doing.  Where does she live?  Is she thriving?  Do her parents love her?

Is there an impact on the adoptee in a closed adoption?

family history in closed adoption

Tiana, adopted 2018

Adoptees also experience challenges due to closed adoption. When a child is adopted, the adoptive family receive a court order naming them as the legal parents of that child. However, the child does have a history, and the birth parents are part of that history.  The child’s history is part of her identity. The adoptee may be of a different racial or cultural background than his or her adoptive parents, and he may be curious about what this means to his development as a person. He may have an entire extended birth family who would love to get to know him. Closed adoption cuts off those interactions that could satisfy the child’s desire to learn about his history and opportunities to meet and get to know his extended birth family.

Also, the adoptive family and the child may not have all of the current information about the nuances of the birth family’s health and about chronic illnesses or other health issues that could impact the child’s health as well.  This can be valuable information when a doctor diagnoses illness.  It can also be valuable throughout the child’s life as she grows and evolves. When the adoptive parents know about specifics, such as mental illness or addiction, they can be on the lookout for this.  In many cases, preventative measures and proactive treatment are really helpful.

Should I consider open adoption?

If you’re thinking about open adoption but you’re concerned about setting boundaries with the adoptive family, remember that you set the parameters.  Set the boundaries that feel right to you.  An open adoption doesn’t mean that you need to visit weekly, monthly, or even yearly. It simply means that you can have open communication between you and the adoptive family, communication at your comfort level.  An open adoption should suit everyone’s needs.  It doesn’t have to involve frequent contact between the birth mother and the adoptive family and the adopted child.  You decide.

In summary, there are disadvantages to closed adoption.  It can be challenging for a birth mother to move forward with her life because of  lingering questions she might have about her child’s well-being.  It also has an impact on the adoptee because she or he won’t have information about family history, both medical and social.  If you aren’t sure thta closed adoption is right for you, consider an open adoption.