What can I expect with a closed adoption?

closed adoption expectationsI decided to write about closed adoption pros and cons because not only is there a lot to think about, but the decisions you make for your baby now last for a lifetime.  Here are some important things to know about open and closed adoption.

It used to be that all adoptions were closed.  Here’s how it worked.  A woman would deliver her baby at the hospital, and immediately after delivery, the baby was taken away.  Many women never saw their babies.  The birth mother would sign paperwork relinquishing the baby to an adoption agency.  Then the baby was placed with a family of the agency’s choosing.  The birth certificate and paperwork were then sealed by the courts.

Today, open adoptions are much more common than closed adoptions.  There are many possible reasons for this.  One: studies show that everyone moves forward in a healthier way when the adoption is open.  This is true for the birth parent, the adoptee, and the adoptive family. Two: openness has become much more the norm, and so the fears that originally surrounded the concept have lessened.

When I chose adoption for my son, I never considered a closed adoption.  I wanted to choose my son’s parents and get to know them before they took him home.  I wasn’t sure how much contact I wanted, but it was important to me to have options.  Finally, I didn’t know what type of relationship I would want with my son in the future.  So, I chose an open adoption to keep my options open, too.

The goal of this article is to provide clarity around open and closed adoption.  With this information, you can better make the best choice for you and your baby.

Pros of a closed adoption

Pros of closed adoptionBe sure to understand that the pros and cons of closed adoption are very dependent on your situation.  Choose the option that will give you the type of relationship you want with your baby long-term.

Here is what I consider the pros of a closed adoption:

  • Confidentiality:  Your child likely won’t be able to find you or your extended family members in the future.
  • Permanence:  You won’t have to decide later if you want to meet your child.  Knowing this might make it easier for you to move on.
  • ProtectionL  There is no chance a family member or the baby’s father will parent the child.

Here are some reasons why you might consider a closed adoption:

  • You don’t want your child reaching out to you or your family members in the future.
  • The thought of meeting your child in the future makes you uncomfortable.  You know you will not ever want such a meeting to take place.
  • The father of your baby is a violent or dangerous person who might want to cause harm to your or your child.

In certain circumstances, like these, a closed adoption might be something to consider.

Cons of a closed adoption

I believe these are some of the key downsides to a closed adoption:

  • You can’t change your mind about seeing your child again.
  • If you are worried or just curious about how your child is doing, you won’t be able to get information or photos.
  • Your child won’t have information about her or his heritage or medical history.

Unfortunately, these are difficult choices to make within a very short period of time.  Some women choose open or closed adoption at a very young age or in a crisis situation.  Talk with a trusted friend or counselor or your doctor.  Talking about adoption and finding emotional support can be very helpful as you make these choices.

Finding an agency

There are many agencies that work on closed adoptions.  Check with your doctor or talk with a social worker at your medical facility.  Some agencies are religiously based and others are not.  If you find an agency online, make sure you research the agency.  There are many out there that are not reputable.

The one way to be certain your adoption will be closed is to safe-surrender your baby at the hospital, a police station, or fire department.  Many states, like California, have safe surrender laws which explain how to do this.  These laws protect you from liability for abandoning your child.

Hospital labor and delivery

labor and delivery in closed adoptionWhen you choose closed adoption for your baby, it’s important to plan how you want things to go to the hospital when you deliver.  Decide if you want to see or hold your baby.  You may even name the baby if you want to.  You will also decide if you want the adoptive parents to come to the hospital after you are discharged.  All of these choices are in your control whether you choose open or closed adoption.

Relationship with my baby

It’s important to remember that you will not have a relationship with your baby or the adoptive parents in a closed adoption.  Do not choose closed adoption if you think you might want some contact, no matter how little, with your child and her adoptive parents in the future.

Other adoption terms

Open Adoption

In an open adoption, the birth mother chooses the family who will adopt her baby.  In most cases, the birth mother and prospective adoptive parents get to know each other before the baby is born.  Sometimes, the birth mother will want the adoptive mother in the delivery room for the birth.  Frequently, everyone spends time together with the baby at the hospital.  They might take turns holding the baby, taking pictures, and continuing to get to know each other.  After the baby goes home with the adoptive family, the birth parents and adoptive parents will stay in touch.  The adoptive parents continue to provide photos and updates on how the baby is doing.  How often they provide updates is something everyone agrees on ahead of time.  There might also be visits planned for the future.

Semi-open and semi-closed adoption

In contrast, a semi-open or closed adoption is a combination of both open and closed.  Semi-open and closed adoption are not legal terms.  They simply describe an adoption in which the birth parents or the adoptive parents put strict limits on the amount of contact they have.  They might also put strict limits on the amount of information that is shared.

Birth father’s consent

As you think about adoption,  you might be concerned about the birth father’s rights.  Every state’s laws are different.  However, a legal father must consent to the adoption.  A legal father is the husband of the birth mother or the man whose name appears on the child’s birth certificate.  An adoption cannot move forward without a legal father’s consent.  An alleged, or putative father, is a man who is not a legal father.  Generally speaking, his consent to the adoption is not required.  However, in most states like California, an alleged or putative father is entitled to notice of the adoption plan.

What I believe about adoption

Adoption is not an easy choice.  I have been through it myself and know just how challenging and overwhelming it can be.  Personally, I believe open adoption is best for everyone involved.  No matter what you choose, open or closed, I’m here to help.

I also encourage you to take a look at open vs closed adoption, and my advice column on closed adoptions becoming open.  I hope you will find this helpful or contact me with any questions you have.