Ask AF: Information in a Closed Adoption

A parent who unwittingly found out information in a closed adoption wonders how she should share it with her child when she's old enough.

Q: We adopted our three-year-old through a closed, newborn adoption. In some of her medical records, her birth mother’s last name and social security number were not blacked out. What should I tell my daughter when she asks about her birth mother, or perhaps wants to track her down?


A: I admire you for anticipating your daughter’s needs. You have years before she’ll start asking such specific questions about her birth mother. Until then, the most important thing is to tell your daughter her adoption story, openly and often, so you will have a basis for future conversations.

Adoption is based upon mutual respect. Thus, I would advise against sharing or acting on information that you obtained without the birth mother’s consent. When your daughter starts asking more questions or asks about contact, you can tell her that her adoption was a closed one, but it is possible her birth mother might feel different now. Say that you can check with your agency and/or attorney to see if that might be possible. If you hear back that the birth mother still does not want contact, you must respect her wishes. By contacting your agency or attorney together, you will be there to help your daughter cope with any disappointment. You might explain closed adoption by saying that all birth mothers have options when making an adoption plan. Some decide on contact, while others are not ready for this. If you know the reason your daughter’s birth mother chose a closed adoption, explain it. If not, you and your daughter might think of possible reasons together. It is important to emphasize that this is always the birth mother’s decision and doesn’t imply anything wrong about the baby.

If you someday decide that you want to tell your daughter her birth mother’s name, you should be honest about how you found it.

Copyright © 1999-2024 Adoptive Families Magazine®. All rights reserved. For personal use only. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

More articles like this

Adoption Experts answer your questions.