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Disadvantages of Each Type of Adoption

Adoption is a legal process. The adoption journey is also a decision with lifetime ramifications. So it's important to do your homework before deciding on an adoption plan, whether you use an adoption agency or an adoption attorney (also called independent adoption). After deciding on your plan, you'll want to consider which type of adoption is best for you and your family, from open to semi-open or closed.

The biggest difference between open and closed adoptions is the amount of contact between the adoptive and birth families after the adoptive placement.

Read on to learn about the disadvantages of each type of adoption. A discussion of the advantages of each type of adoption is available here.

Three Main Types of Domestic Adoption

There are three main types of domestic adoption:

  1. Closed adoptions (also called "confidential adoption")
  2. Semi-open adoption (also called "mediated adoption" because of the involvement of an adoption services professional such as a social worker in sharing information)
  3. Open adoption

We covered foster care adoption, adult adoption, and stepparent adoption elsewhere.

Types of Adoption at a Glance

  • Closed Adoptions: Closed adoptions are sometimes called "confidential adoptions." Once the child is in the adoptive home, there is no contact between the biological parents and the adoptive family. Identifying information is not shared. An adoption professional often shares and provides nonidentifying information, such as a family member's medical history. Biological parents lose their legal rights to the child.
  • Semi-Open Adoptions: There is ongoing contact in a semi-open adoption. Parents share information in a manner that does not identify the birth parents. For example, cards and letters are exchanged. This happens through an adoption agency or adoption professional — a mediator.
  • Open Adoptions: There is direct interaction between the birth family, especially the biological mother, and adoptive families. Identities are known. The adoptive parents may be present at the child's birth. Contact may last for the child's life. Despite the interaction, the biological parents lose their parental rights.

Disadvantages of Each Type of Adoption

Below is a comparison of the various disadvantages of the main types of adoption. To better understand which type is best for you, you may also want to review FindLaw's summary of the advantages of each type of adoption.



  Confidential Adoptions Mediated (Semi-Open) Adoptions Open Adoptions
Birth Parents
  • Less grief resolution due to lack of information about the child's well-being.
  • It may encourage denial that the child was born and placed with another family.
  • Loss of potential for direct relationship with adoptive family (and child).
  • Increased grief in the initial years, less later.
  • Loss of contact if intermediary changes or leaves (i.e., staff turnover, policy changes, or agency closings).
  • Birth mother may feel obligated to place child due to the emotional or financial support the prospective adoptive parents give.
  • Full responsibility for setting relationship limits and boundaries.
  • Potential abuse of trust (fewer safeguards).
  • Potential disappointment if adoptive family cannot meet all expectations or needs.
  • Birth mother may feel obligated to place child due to the emotional or financial support the prospective adoptive parents give.
Adoptive Parents
  • Allows for denial of "adopted family" or fertility status.
  • Increased fear, less empathy for birth parents.
  • No access to additional medical information about birth family.
  • Less control: agency controls information.
  • Loss of the full relationship with the birth parents.
  • Lack of ability to have questions answered immediately.
  • Potentially troubling cards, letters, or pictures.
  • Full responsibility for setting relationship limits and boundaries.
  • Potential pressure: accept openness or no child.
  • Potential difficulty with emotionally disturbed birth parents.
  • Potential for supporting child and birth parents (emotionally).
Adopted Persons
  • Possible adolescent identity confusion (unable to compare physical and emotional traits to their birth families).
  • Limited access to information that others take for granted.
  • Potential preoccupation with adoption issues.
  • Like confidential adoptions, if information not shared with the adoptee.
  • Potential perception that it is unsafe to interact with birth family directly.
  • No clean break for assimilation into family, which some feel is necessary.
  • Potential feelings of rejection if contact stops.
  • Difficulty explaining the relationship to peers.
  • Potential for playing families against each other.

Adoption in General

The adoption process for all three types of adoptions is the same.

  • Choose an adoption agency or adoption law firm
  • Get an adoption home study completed by a social worker or someone affiliated with a licensed adoption agency
  • Choose a child or get chosen by a birth parent
  • Birth of the child
  • Birth parents consent to the adoption
  • Revocation period. State laws on revoking consent vary.
  • Birth parent relinquishment of the adoptee
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Get a court order finalizing the adoption. The court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
  • Original birth certificate sealed. A revised birth certificate issued
  • Adoptive parents become the legal parents of the adopted child

Get More Information About the Types of Adoption From an Attorney

Adoption is a great way to give a child a stable home, but if you're considering adoption, make sure you make the right choice for everyone involved. An experienced local adoption attorney can give you legal advice on family law matters. An adoption lawyer can help you make the right decisions while ensuring compliance with laws and processes.

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