What Are the Benefits of Closed Adoption for the Child?
byJennifer Brozak, Demand MediaJan 26, 2013
The process of adopting a child can be as trying as it is rewarding. Not only must adoptive parents decide whether to adopt domestically or internationally and trek through mountains of paperwork, but they also must decide whether they would prefer an open, semi-open or closed adoption. In an open adoption, the adoptive parents keep in contact with the birth parents before, during and after the birth of the child. In a semi-open adoption, the adoptive parents and the birth parents meet once or twice before the birth and may exchange photos and letters through an intermediary, such as the adoption agency. In a closed adoption, on the other hand, both the adoptive parents and birth parents remain confidential. While the number of closed adoptions has fallen over the past few decades in favor of open ones, parents may still wish to consider the benefits that a closed adoption can have for a child.
According to Beth Kozan, a licensed professional counselor from Phoenix, Arizona, who specializes in adoption-related issues, a sense of permanent closure is the main perceived benefit of a closed adoption. "Birth parents who state they want a closed adoption believe that it will give them closure, rather than being reminded by receiving photos and updates," she says. "They are often adopted persons from the closed adoption era who feel that having an adoption different from their own would be strange and upsetting." Moreover, the American Pregnancy Association reports that the closure that results from a closed adoption can allow families to more readily move on with their lives.
Closed adoptions also eliminate the risk of interference from the birth family. While each adoption can vary, a continued connection with a child's birth parents can create what the American Pregnancy Association calls "fuzzy boundaries," or the complications that can arise from co-parenting concerns. "Adoptive parents who seek a closed adoption believe it will make adoption smoother because they won't have to deal with a perceived 'interference' from the birth family," says Kozan. Still, she points out, there are risks involved in this arrangement, including "The tendency [for the adoptive parents] to wait for 'the right time' to tell the child he is adopted -- which may never arrive -- and the missed opportunity [for the birth parents] to see what their child may look like or act like as he grows."
Sometimes, children who are being adopted come from families with unstable birth parents. As such, adoptive parents may choose a closed adoption to protect their child from a birth parent's emotionally disturbed or criminal behavior. If a parent has lost custody of her child because of abuse or neglect, an open adoption can result in harassment, general ill will and safety concerns for the adoptive child and his family. However, Kozan says, most states factor those issues into consideration. "Even in states that recognize open adoption agreements by making the agreement part of the court record, the adoptive parents have the option of withdrawing contact," she says. "If there is a safety issue -- perhaps someone comes to a meeting on drugs, or brandishes a weapon at a scheduled meeting -- the option of withdrawing contact with that person is certainly understandable. However, to presume that emotional problems or a criminal past are reason to block all contact would be ill advised."
Another benefit of a closed adoption involves the child's identity. In a closed adoption -- especially of a baby -- the adoptive parents can control if, when and how their child should learn of his birth parents. This can, again, be an advantage if the child was born to abusive or neglectful parents. It can also help the child to feel more secure. "The belief is often stated that the children are less confused growing up believing their adoptive family is their only family," says Kozan. Still, she cautions, this approach can backfire; if a child learns about his adoption when he's a teenager, he can become angry that this information was kept from him for so long. "A late discovery adoptee feels as if his whole life has been a lie, and he demands answers," she says.