The Background Of Closed Adoption

In the first half of the 20th century the most common reason for a mother to give up her child for adoption was because the mother was not married to the father, a very embarrassing situation in those days. The mother usually went away to a relative or to a Salvation Army Hospital to have the child and the child was put up for adoption. To avoid further shame to the mother or her bastard (fatherless) child, the adoption records were closed or sealed. The mother never knew anything about the new family, nor did they know about her. And the child was left in the dark. This is now known as a Closed Adoption.
Today there are many reasons that a child is adopted into a family. A new husband might adopt his step child. A grandparent might adopt their grandchild of a deceased child. A child welfare agency might remove a child from an abusive home and end up putting the child up for adoption because the home situation cannot be made safe. Or, it could be the old classic reason; an unwed mother cannot or will not care for a child by herself. The reasons can be as varied as the parent or parents that give up a child for adoption.

While there is no longer the extreme stigma associated with being an unwed mother like there used to be, many young women are embarrassed or shamed by the circumstances that put them into that situation. Rather than opt for having an abortion they decide to put the child up for adoption, but not wanting to have to explain the circumstances for what ever reason, they decide to have a Closed Adoption.

A Closed Adoption is just what it sounds like; the records for the adoption are closed. The mother does not know the adoptive parents or her child. Neither the adoptive parents nor the child know the mother. All contacts between the two parties are handled by an intermediary who is forbidden by law from disclosing all but the most basic information to the other party. That information is closely defined. While modern usage favors Open Adoption it is good to understand the background of Closed Adoption.

While the adoption of children of unwed mothers was closed as a matter of custom, it was not until 1917 that Minnesota became the first state to codify the practice into law. Most of the remaining states followed suit in the following decade. The baby was usually given up immediately at birth and placed in a temporary foster home to ensure that the baby was healthy. Within a few weeks the baby would be transferred to the new parents. After the adoption was legally completed a new birth certificate would have been issued listing the adoptive parents as the actual parents. So there wass no open record of the child’s background of closed adoption.

A modern Closed Adoption follows many of the same procedures except that the child is transferred to the adoptive family as soon as it leaves the hospital nursery. It is currently believed that this aids in the bonding process between the child and the new family.

While a Closed Adoption has its records sealed, there are procedures in place in most states to allow the mother and child to re-unite after the child reaches majority. For this to take place both the mother and the child need to register with an agency that they desire to be re-united. In order for this to happen the child has to be told of his background of Closed Adoption.

In many states, there exists a procedure for one party or the other to pursue if attempts to make contact through one of these registries fails. An adoptee or mother contacts a Confidential Investigator. This investigator gets a court to temporarily unseal an adoption record in order to get the background of closed adoption to track down the other party. The other party is then approached and is asked to authorize contact. If the contact is refused, the records are again sealed and no other contact is made.

There are many reasons that a young woman might want to give up a child through a closed adoption. She might be embarrassed by the circumstances in which she got pregnant or emotionally scarred by those circumstances. She might be ashamed of who she is and not want to burden the baby with that shame. For what ever reason, a Closed Adoption allows a woman to place an unwanted child with a couple that will love and care for that child as one of their own.
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