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"Closed" Adoption Families

Navigating a closed adoption when you wanted an open one

We have been pursuing an open infant adoption, and have had two failed matches with women who had wanted open adoptions. We are now matched for a third time, but the expectant mother does not want contact beyond updates through the agency. We are told she thinks openness will be too painful. While we are happy and honored to have been chosen, we are sad that the child may not get to know its biological family. We’ve spent so much effort learning about open adoption, that now we’re a bit at a loss for how to have adoption conversations with our potential future child. Does anyone have any resources for handling a closed adoption in a way that is the most healthy for the child? Do you guys have photos of the biological family? How did you let the bio-family know you are open to openness if they ever want it? Feel free to share any wisdom you have learned!


What you are describing is not a “closed” adoption, but a “semi-open” adoption.  You will have contact with birth family before the child’s birth and placement.  You will continue to update bio-family with pictures and letters. 

We are an adoptive family with three semi-open adoptions.  We have always been extremely open with our children about the fact that we are an adoptive family.  We send yearly update letters with pictures.  I invite the kids to help with update letters, to draw a picture or write a letter, to help pick out examples of schoolwork that they want to send.  Sometimes they do, other times they don’t.  Since I send the letters around their respective birthdays, it gives us many opportunities to talk about birth family and adoption, and, I hope, gives my kids opportunities to ask us questions.  We have pictures of their birth families, and they do ask to see those.  My oldest, age 9, will ask to see the pictures, and I think he finds them helpful.  My younger two (ages 7 and 6), rarely ask, but when they see the oldest looking at pictures, they will ask to see the pictures of when they were born.  My kids are young, so it is hard to say for sure, but I believe my oldest and youngest will search for birth parents, I don’t think my middle child will.  We have told them that we will help them search if they choose to do so when they are eighteen. 

I don’t see your effort as wasted.  You have learned so much about adoption, and whether you have on-going contact with birth family or not, the most important thing for your child is how you think about and speak about their birth family. 

We spent time with the birth families in the hospital, and the kids love those stories.  I would say to take lots of pictures and ask lots of questions, like “what’s your favorite ice cream?” and names of different family members, what do birth mom (and birth dad if you meet him) like to do for fun?  I wish that we had asked stuff like that, that is what the kids want to know.  And, I would bring disposable cameras to the hospital, so that the birth family can take pictures, too.  That was much appreciated when we did that.

The update letters are both painful and wonderful for me; I work on them for weeks, then always end up staying up all night to finish them.  They are a record of my children’s lives for me, too, and I hope the letters bring a measure of peace and comfort to my children’s birth parents.

Sometimes open adoptions become less open over time, there are no guarantees.  And maybe this e-mom will change her mind about openness over time.  You can certainly have virtual contact with her, through private FB sites, or frequent emails.  You can let her know that you are open to contact, and you can let her know that you are open to accepting letters from her, as well.  My advice would be to keep hard copies of any updates you send to birth family.  Sometimes birth families lose touch with the agency, and then pop back up again (happened with my oldest’s b-mom).  Also, not only you but your child will want to see those some day, for adoptive families those are our baby books! 

If you think this match is a good fit in every other way, I would not push e-mom for openness.  Let her know that you are willing for contact, and then let it go.  Believe me, people on all sides are telling this poor woman what she should or shouldn’t do…  Make sure that the agency you are working with is offering her counseling, so that she can make an informed decision.  If she does place the baby with your family, you will have opportunities to offer on-going contact.

Good luck on your adoption journey!

Posted by jszmom on Dec 31, 2018 at 1:48pm

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