Pros and Cons of Adoption

by Laura Christianson

This series of blogs will explore the pros and cons of
various types of adoption: confidential/closed, semi-open and
fully-disclosed/open; international; special needs and foster-to-adopt. Please email
me your own pros and cons and I’ll add them to the list.

Part 1: Pros and Cons of Confidential or Closed Adoption

What is closed adoption?
A confidential adoption is one in which there is no contact between the birth and adoptive families. Confidential or closed adoption was commonplace from the 1950s through the early 1980s, when the concept of open adoption began gaining popularity. In a confidential adoption, the agency or adoption attorney serves as the mediator, and the adoptive family receives only non-identifying information (medical history, description of physical features, etc.) about the birth parents.

The child’s safety is foremost

Confidential adoptions are an appropriate choice (and often, the only viable choice) when the birth parents are incarcerated, are drug addicted, are emotionally disturbed or have been abusive to the child. In these situations, the child has often been removed from his or her birth parents for safety reasons. The safety of the child should always be a parent’s foremost concern. If protecting a child from potentially harmful contact with his or her birth parents is a critical factor, a closed adoption is a viable choice.

Birth parents are out of the picture — for better or for worse
Adoptive parents who choose a confidential adoption do so partly out of fear of involvement from potentially pushy birth parents. On the other hand, because they know nothing about the birth parents, the adoptive parents may have a hard time feeling empathy toward them as fellow human beings who grieve over the fact that their child is no longer in their life.

Or the adoptive parents may live in fear, always on the lookout for anyone who resembles their child, fearful that a birth parent will swoop in and steal the child. These fears are largely unfounded, as proven by the ever-increasing popularity of open adoption (see article on the pros and cons of open adoption for a different perspective).

In the past, when closed adoption was a birth parent’s only option, people asserted that confidential adoption gave birth parents the opportunity to put the painful experience behind them and move on with their lives. Numerous studies show that birth parents do not ever forget the child they placed for adoption. Not knowing whether their child is healthy, happy and well-adjusted causes lifelong grief for many birth parents. Because of their lack of information about their child, birth parents are likely to second-guess their decision, forever wondering how their child is doing, whether their child hates them, or whether their child is anxious to meet them.

Some birth parents still do choose closed adoption because they do not want their pregnancy to be public knowledge and the confidentiality of closed adoption makes them feel more comfortable.

The child may be affected negatively
Adopted children seem to be the ones most negatively affected by confidential adoption. Thousands of adult adoptees born in the 1950s through ‘70s search for their birth parents, saying they feel incomplete, as if part of their identity is missing. Many adopted women search for their birth parents when they get pregnant for the first time, desiring to complete the “missing link” of their biological heritage and to obtain more complete medical information about potential health issues their own children may inherit.

Coming December 6: Pros and Cons of Semi-Open Adoption

This series on the pros and cons of adoption is also available at

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