Closed Adoption : Disadvantages

Closed adoption disadvantages

Closed adoption refers to an adoption process where there is no interaction between birthmothers and prospective adoptive families. In closed adoptions, there is no identifying information provided either to birth families or adoptive families. Non-identifying information such as physical characteristics and medical history may be be made available to all involved parties. There are a number of disadvantages that need to be considered regarding closed adoptions.

Closed Adoption: Disadvantages for Birth Parents

The closed adoption experience can vary from person to person. Some potential disadvantages include:

  • Dealing with grief - Some birthmothers and birth families report experiencing a difficult grieving process because of lack of information about the child.
  • Dealing with denial – Placing a child through closed adoption can lead to denial that the child was born and placed for adoption.
  • Dealing with guilt – Lack of opportunity to explain to the child the reasons for placing him or her for adoption can allow feelings of guilt to develop.
  • Dealing with abandonment – Some birthmothers report the feeling that they are abandoning their child. The inability to communicate with the child makes some birthmothers vulnerable to this feeling.
  • Dealing with lack of information – The lack of information about the child together with feelings of denial or guilt, make some individuals susceptible to depression.

Closed Adoption: Disadvantages for Adoptive Family

The closed adoption experience can vary from family to family. Some potential disadvantages of closed adoption include:

  • Increased denial - In some instances, closed adoption can promote a sense of denial about “adopted family” or “fertility” status.
  • Increased fear – Adoptive families often continue to fear that the birthmother will change her mind and ask for the return of the child. This fear is often found in adoptive families as a consequence of limited information regarding the true intentions of birth families.
  • Limited medical history – Although a medical history is normally provided prior to an adoption, there is limited ability to acquire additional information in case new medical concerns involving the child develop.
  • Less control- With closed adoption there is less personal control for the adoptive family because of the need to rely on an agency to act as a go-between with the potential birthmother.

Closed Adoption: Disadvantages for the Adopted Child

The closed adoption experience will tend to vary with every child. Some potential disadvantages for the adopted child include:

  • Identity confusion – There is the risk that as a child grows older he/she can experience struggles with personal identity because of the absence of contact with their respective birth families.
  • Preoccupation with adoption issues – A child in a closed adoption situation might be slightly more preoccupied with adoption issues than other children.
  • Limited information – Children in a closed adoption will have limited information about their family medical or general histories and genealogies–things that most children take for granted. This void can leave an adopted child with many important unanswered questions.

The closed adoption is experienced differently in every case. Communication is the most vital factor in the adoption process. As communication about wishes, desires, and expectations increases, the more comfortable everyone involved will be in the adoption process. In a closed adoption, this communication normally occurs through an adoption agency or adoption attorney.

Next Steps

It is usually helpful to to talk to an adoption professional where you can explore adoption in greater detail. You can ask questions and learn more about the process without pressure.

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Last Updated: 06/2014


Disadvantage lists adapted from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse