For many generations, almost all adoptions in Tennessee were “closed.” In closed adoptions, the birth parents were not allowed to contact the child or adoptive parents and vice versa. These days, however, open adoptions are trending. In these adoptions, all of the parties involved are allowed to meet or have some form of contact.

While closed adoptions are rarely pursued in the United States, they remain prevalent in international adoptions. They were particularly common when agencies were used by parents who wanted to adopt a newborn. After placing their name on a list, the family would wait for a match to be made by a social worker. The adoptive parents would have no information about the origins of the child, where they came from or the identification of their birth parents. It would not be unusual for the child to not be aware that they were adopted.

The records of closed adoptions are typically physically sealed. Still, in the majority of states, there are procedures that allow family members to open the records and obtain information about the other parties involved. Each state has its own process for opening close adoptions and provides varying levels of access to the information. In some states, a court order is necessary to begin the process.

Current adoption agencies encourage some level of openness for adoptions. Generally, birth parents can have a say in who will be the adoptive parents and are given biographical information about the candidates.

An attorney who practices family law may guide clients seeking to adopt a child. For close adoptions that occurred in the past, the attorney could assist individuals with obtaining information about their birth parents or the child they gave up for adoption.