Closed Adoption: How Does It Work, Facts, & Pros And Cons

What To Know About Closed Adoption If It’s An Option You’re Considering

April 6, 2020 Updated May 20, 2021

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Bonnie Kittle/Unsplash

If you’re looking for more info on other types of adoption, you can find our guides to embryo, open, baby, foster care, private, adult, international, transracialstep parent, military, single parent, Jewish, Christian, and same-sex adoption

If you’re looking to start a family either by yourself or with a partner, you want to make sure you take the time to think about all the different possible routes to get you there. This is a big decision, after all. For those considering adoption, there are two major types to look into: open adoption and closed adoption.

When some people look to adopt a baby or child, they want the opportunity to get to know the birth parents and maybe even the rest of their family in the process, and perhaps forge some type of relationship between their adopted child and their birth parents. This is called an open adoption. But others would prefer not to find out any identifying information about the birth parents or their family. If that’s the case for you, you may be better off with a closed adoption. Even so, you might have more questions about closed adoptions to figure out if it’s the right choice for you and your family.

With that in mind, Scary Mommy has gone ahead and answered some of the more frequently asked questions about closed adoption. You’re not alone in your query. In fact, according to the latest search data available to us, closed adoption is searched for nearly 1,600 times per month. However, if you feel you need more information, or help deciding between adopting a baby or an older child, consult with a social worker who can answer specific queries and put you in touch with necessary contacts or organizations. 

Open vs. Closed Adoption

What do you need to know about open adoption versus closed adoption? In an open adoption, the birth parents are typically presented with several people who are potentially interested in adopting the child, and ultimately get to decide on the adoptive parents. Both the birth parents and adoptive parents know each other’s identities, and usually maintain some level of contact throughout the pregnancy and then once the child is born. This could include everything from cards, phone calls or visits, or — in the case of a semi-open adoption — there could be limited contact through a third party like the adoption agency or an attorney.

Unlike open adoption, the identities of the birth mother or parents and adoptive parents are not shared with each other in a closed adoption. There is also no interaction of any kind between the birth and adoptive parents, or the adopted child and their birth parents, though non-identifying features — like physical traits and medical history — are sometimes shared with the adoptive parents. 

Facts about Closed Adoption

Though closed adoptions used to be the norm, they are now relatively rare in the United States, accounting for only around five percent of all adoptions. Closed adoptions are, however, still common in America when it comes to adopting babies or children from other countries. Typical costs for a closed adoption of a child from the states can range from $20,000 to $40,000, while an international closed adoption could cost between $25,000 and $50,000, plus other expenses like travel, accommodations when you get to the destination, etc. 

So why might some adoptive parents opt for a closed adoption? Per the American Pregnancy Association, this type of adoption may give a stronger sense of closure once the adoption has taken place, or reduce anxiety related to concerns with how much and what to share with the birth parents over the years. From then on, any communication between the birth and adoptive parents is done through their agency or attorney. Similarly, both birth and adoptive parents may feel as though they have less control over the situation in a closed adoption: birth parents don’t know exactly who their child is placed with, and adoptive parents don’t know as much about their new child’s family. This may also mean that the adopted child grows up to have questions about their identity that their parents aren’t really able to answer.

Can you open a closed adoption?

The straightforward answer to this is no, you can’t easily turn a closed adoption into an open one. However, it is not a completely hopeless situation if an adopted child or adoptive parents want to find some identifying information about the biological parents.

In most closed adoption cases, once the adoption is complete a new birth certificate for the child is drawn up with the adoptive parents’ name on the document. The original birth certificate with the biological parents’ names are sealed along with the adoption documents.

Sometimes, however, some agencies and states leave this public at the request of the biological parents. Typically in these situations, only the adopted person, parents, and biological parents can access the sealed documents. Access to sealed adoption documents may differ state to state so your best bet is to hire an adoption attorney to read and traverse through the legalese for you.

To learn more about the experiences of birth and adoptive parents, as well as adopted children, read some of the personal stories people have shared with Scary Mommy. You may also want to reach out to a social worker who can help answer any additional questions you might have about the process. Regardless of what you choose to do, taking the time to understand the various types of adoptions, and their pros and cons, can help you make an informed decision that is right for your family.