A Guide To Understanding And Navigating Closed Adoption

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I was born in the late eighties during the closed adoption era. I went home with my adoptive family at two days old and I always knew that I was adopted. My adoptive parents didn’t know the exact circumstances that led to my birth mom placing me for adoption, but they always made sure I knew she loved me.

I didn’t have too much information to go on when I decided to find my birth parents at eighteen and wasn’t sure where to start. One night I was bored and found a web page on the internet called Adoption Registry. On this website, I could enter the information I knew about my birth and if my birth parents came across it they could contact me.

One night I got a phone call while I was living in Gainesville, FL and it was my birth mom who had found my Adoption Registry page. She was living in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL and wanted to meet me.

My birth mom and I made plans to meet and it just happened to be a couple of weeks before Christmas. We spent the week leading up to our meeting chatting on the phone and catching up on the last eighteen years.

When I went to meet her for the first time it was surreal; I had passed my birth mom a million times without knowing it. My biological brother, sister, and mom were waiting outside when I pulled up and my birth mom had tears streaming down her face.

We had an amazing visit that day and we were inseparable in the years that followed. I was blessed to have a relationship with her for about sixteen years and we made a lot of amazing memories during that time.

In 2020, she unexpectedly passed away and I still miss her every day. Even though I didn’t know her until I was eighteen we were so much alike it was eerie and we looked just alike too. Below is a guide to understanding and navigating closed adoption, from an adoptee herself:

What Is Closed Adoption?

A closed adoption is a form of adoption in which the birth family has no contact with their biological child or their respective adoptive family after either the birth of the child or adoption finalization.

There is no identifying information ever shared about any of the parties involved in the adoption. The birth parents and adoptive parents never meet in person; the adoption agency is solely responsible for placing the baby with their new family.

In a closed adoption, there are no pictures of the child exchanged between the birth family and adoptive family and there are no visits or phone calls. When the child is eighteen they can search for their birth family, but it is very uncommon to even have the first name of a birth parent.

Open Adoption vs. Closed Adoption

The difference between open adoption and closed adoption is the level of involvement the birth family has with the adopted child. In a closed adoption, there is no contact at all between the adoptive family, the child, and the birth family. Open adoption has different levels of openness; there are semi-open and fully open adoptions.

A semi-open adoption is when the birth parents might get a few pictures throughout the year of the child and a once-a-year in-person visit. Open adoption is where the birth family and adoptive family are fully involved with one another. The birth family can see and talk to the child frequently.

The catch with an open adoption is that the adoptive family can legally cut that contact with the birth family anytime they want after the adoption is finalized and there is nothing the birth parents can do.

Can A Closed Adoption Be Opened?

A closed adoption cannot be opened once it is finalized; it is a legally binding agreement between the parties. In some rare cases, closed adoption may be able to be overturned if there is some sort of evidence presenting a legitimate reason as to why the adoption should be overturned.

One would have to file a petition with the court and go before a judge, but legal procedures vary from state to state. A birth parent does have a certain number of days after the birth of the child in which they can change their mind and keep the child. The number of days the birth parent also varies from state to state.

Closed Adoption Disadvantages

The disadvantages of a closed adoption are that the child grows up with no biological connections to their culture, genetics, or origins. It causes a lot of adoptees to grow up feeling a lack of identity and some adoptees grow up feeling a sense of abandonment because they don’t know why their first family gave them away.

A lot of adoptees from closed adoptions struggle with personal relationships, feelings of low self-esteem, and abandonment issues.

Another disadvantage of closed adoption is that it makes it more difficult to find your first family because there is so little information exchanged. They alter the child’s birth certificate at birth and seal the original with the court. In most states it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get your original birth certificate that contains identifying information.

Closed Adoption Benefits

The benefit of closed adoption is that it creates less confusion for the child as to why they have two different families, and the adoptive family doesn’t have to worry about dealing with the birth family.

In some cases, the birth parents desire to move on with their lives and put this chapter in their past. Some birth moms get pregnant very young out of wedlock as the result of an affair or rape and they don’t want everyone to know what happened. Closed adoption allows the birth mom to go on with her life and try to make a better future for herself and the child involved.

How To Find Your Biological Parents

After a closed adoption, it can be difficult to find your birth parents again because a closed adoption offers little information about the adoptees’ origins. With modern technology, however, there are more outlets than ever before to aid in finding your parents after a closed adoption.

‘Search angels,’ as the adoptee community calls them, volunteer to help adoptees find their first family based on whatever information is available. There are also social media outlets such as Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. So many adoptees I know have also found their biological family through Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, or any of the other DNA websites that are offered.

If your state offers open access to your original birth certificate then adoptees can try to find their first family through that avenue.

Tips For Adoptees

Use the internet and social media to connect with other adoptees. There is a whole community of adoptees from different types of adoptions and it’s nice to connect with other people you can relate to. If you want to find your birth family, take advantage of social media and all the outlets it offers to aid in finding your family.

Reunions can be sticky because there are such high expectations on both sides but do it anyways. Knowing where you came from and getting those questions answered is always worth it no matter the outcome.

Most adoptions in the United States are open these days, but closed adoptions do still exist. Every family, birth or adoption, must choose what is right for them in their particular situation. Adoption is a lifelong journey for most adoptees, but it can be a beautiful experience for everyone involved.

My adoptive father always told my birth mom that there was enough love to go around for everyone and that is a phrase that has always stuck with me. I hope it sticks with you, too.

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Trosclair of Jacksonville, FL. You can follow her  journey on Instagram. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more from Lauren:

‘I grew up in a loving adoptive home, scared people would abandon me as my birth mom had.’: Adoptee opens up about self-worth struggles from closed adoption

‘I was the middle child of 3 and the only child placed for adoption. It was the most selfless thing my birth mom ever did.’: Adoptee reconnects with biological family, loses birth mom to addiction

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