Open vs. Closed Adoption
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Nicole Prebeck, Esq. | Last reviewed November 14, 2022
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When considering whether to adopt, it's important to know about the options of closed adoptions versus open adoptions.
After a closed adoption, there is no contact whatsoever between the birthparents and the adoptive parents and the child. In a closed adoption, there may also be no contact before the adoption, as well.
In an open adoption, all the parties remain in one another's lives after the adoption.
Keep reading to learn more about open vs. closed adoptions and which could be a better fit for your situation.
Closed adoptions remain common in international adoption processes. They are also particularly common in situations where families use an agency to adopt a newborn. The prospective adoptive family places their name on a list, and that family waits for the social worker to make a match. Typically, the adoptive parents remain unaware of where the child comes from or who the child's birth parents are. The child may not even ever know that they came into the family through adoption.
Even if the adoptive parents and birthparents know of each other at the time of the adoption, they do not stay in touch after the adoption takes place. The child often will not know who their birth parents are, especially before turning 18.
When adoptions are closed, the files are usually physically sealed. Nevertheless, most states have created procedures through which family members seeking to "open" a closed adoption may be able to access information about the other parties. However, such processes vary widely from state to state. Some states, for example, require a court order to reveal information that can be used to identify a party to an adoption.
Increasingly common nowadays is the "open" adoption process, in which the adoptive parents actually meet and usually stay in touch with the birth parents. Each adoption is a unique experience, and the degree to which there is openness and interaction between adoptive parents and birth parents varies. It depends on how comfortable all of the parties are with the process and circumstances. However, most adoption agencies now encourage some degree of openness.
In cases of private adoptions or adoptions where agencies are used, the birthparents typically have a voice in choosing their child's adoptive parents. Commonly, the agency gives the birthparents biographies of prospective adoptive parents, and the birthparents pick the family with which they are most comfortable.
In open adoptions, the birth parents and adoptive parents often meet. They may also be in touch frequently during the pregnancy. Many times, the adoptive parents are able to witness their child's birth. Some families stay in touch through their adoption agency, especially on birthdays and holidays. Others become and remain friends.
Open Adoption: Pros and Cons
For both birth parents and adoptive parents, the open adoption process can remove the mystery from the adoption process and can permit a greater degree of control in the decision-making process. The open adoption process also allows adoptive parents to better answer their children's questions about who their birth parents were and why they were adopted. Open adoptions can also help the child come to terms with being adopted because the child's concerns can be addressed directly by everyone who was involved in the adoption process.
There can be downsides to open adoption. Many adoptive parents find the degree of openness to be a threat, fearing that the birthparents will intrude upon their lives after the adoption is over or even seek to have the child returned to them. Adoptive parents may worry that the child will experience confusion over who their "real" parents really are.
Open or Closed Adoption? Let an Attorney Help You Make the Right Choice
Choosing an open or closed adoption is just one question among many that you'll face in the adoption process. There are also important legal questions that will arise as you take on the custody and care of an adopted child. A skilled family law attorney experienced in adoption cases will be able to set your mind at ease and ensure a smooth adoption.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified attorney specializing in adoptions.