Open and Closed Adoption

In an adoption situation, what are the pros and cons of preserving and maintaining the child's relationship with his or her birth mother? My spouse and I are seriously considering adopting a child, but we haven't yet decided whether to make it an "open" or a "closed" arrangement. What would you recommend?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both closed and open adoption arrangements. On the one hand, open records may prove extremely helpful to the adopted child once he reaches adolescence and young adulthood. At that stage of his life he is likely to be grappling with questions about his own identity, origins, and direction in life. Practical matters such as having access to a child’s family medical history may be points to consider as well.

On the other hand, while open adoption may be advantageous in some circumstances, some families have reasons of their own for detecting dangers and insecurities in it. This is why Focus on the Family would oppose any legislation that might require open records in all adoption cases. Furthermore, we believe that although an open arrangement may be beneficial during the latter part of a child’s growth and development, it can also be extremely harmful earlier on in those instances where the birth mother has unhealthy or unrealistic expectations. There is great potential for emotional damage to a young child who is establishing one parental relationship, while simultaneously being influenced and affected by the presence another “mother” on the scene. A great deal of conflict and confusion can be avoided if the book is left closed until later in the child’s life. If an open relationship has been agreed to, it’s critical that birth parents always respect the wishes of and understand that the adoptive parents reserve all parental rights to do what they believe to be in the child’s best interests.

There may be other factors to take into account as well. In instances where legal orphans are adopted from foster care, the cases are more often closed than open. In addition, state laws related to open and closed adoptions must be taken into consideration during the decision-making process.

For further insight into the pros and cons of this debate, we recommend that you get a copy of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family: Real-Life Solutions to Common Challenges by David Sanford. You can order this book via our online store or by calling us here at Focus on the Family.

If you’d like to discuss this matter at greater length with a member of our staff, one of our counselors will be happy to take your call. Each is a committed Christian and a licensed family therapist.



The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family

The Whole Life Adoption Book

Adoption & Foster Care (resource list)

Fostering or Adopting Children From Difficult Backgrounds (resource list)


TCU’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development

Empowered to Connect

The Out of Sync Child

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption Program: Wait No More®

Preparing for Adoption

Adjusting to Life After an Adoption

The Adoption Journey (includes lists of books, broadcasts, articles and referrals)


Attachment and Bonding

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