According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_adoption#Background_and_procedure, the reasons for “closed adoptions” are “Historically, the four primary reasons for married couples to obtain a child via closed adoption have been (in no particular order) infertility, asexuality, having concern for a child's welfare (i.e. would not likely be adopted by others), and to ensure the sex of the child (a family with five girls and no boys, for example). In 1917, Minnesota was the first U.S. state to pass an adoption confidentiality and sealed records law. Within the next few decades, most United States states and Canadian provinces had a similar law. Usually, the reasons for sealing records and carrying out closed adoptions is said to be to "protect" the adoptee and adoptive parents from disruption by the natural parents and in turn, to allow natural parents to make a new life.”
There are objective legal and subjective policy considerations for Jewish law opting for closed adoptions preference. The discussion at bQeddushin 69a-75a argues that a child whose pedigree/lineage cannot be determined cannot be permitted to marry Jews whose lineage is [a] clear and [b] licit. These laws are listed at Maimonides, Forbidden Sexual Relations, 15:21-33.
Since a convert is regarded as a newborn with no pedigree “baggage,” Maimonides, Testimony, 13:2, in order to avoid sad scenarios, Orthodox practice is to adopt and convert parentless non-Jewish babies.
If it can be shown that the offspring comes from a Jewish mother without taint of disqualifying blemishes, the adoption by Orthodox Jews could under those circumstances proceed.
What are the ethical values underlying these restsrictions? When Israel went into Egypt, they did so as families; when the courageous midwives saved the Israelite baby boys, in defiance of Pharaoh’s genocidal decree, God gave them “houses,” probably families. The Torah maintains that the happiness of the individual is best assured when families are strong. When we see the parent, one learns a lot about the child. A bad parent is worse than no parent. It seems to me—offering “a” but not “the” Jewish view, that there is an implied Jewish moral order that underlies specific acts of legislation. And the individual Jewish men and women are reminded that it is easier to make a baby than it is to make the baby a mentch, a human being worthy of God’s image.
This policy has been taken to an extreme by Jews of the extreme. On one hand, Orthodox Jews may neither add to nor subtract from the Torah [Deuteronomy 4:2 and 13:1] In the non-canonical Kalla 1:16, it is suggested that a child born to a woman who was not cleansed of her menstrual impurity will have a bad character. Deuteronomy 24:15 rejects the doctrine that there is a necessary connection between parental wrongs and offspring’s Torah accountability. On the other hand, newly Orthodox Jews, misnamed “repentant one’s,” [bShavu’ot 4a teaches that repentance is returning to the original, Torah starting point] are really closer to “converts” who discover the new and correct path. There are Orthodox Jews who disallow the intermarriage of “frum,” ritually complaint Jews from Orthodox families to “intermarry” with the offspring of non-observant Jews, however observant that offspring may be.
Since [a] the “law” discouraging the union of a child of a menstruant does not appear in the Talmud, where the right to make apodictic decree ends with Ravina I and Rav Ashi [bBaba Mezia 86a], [b] the “law” sounds like folkore and not legislation, [c] and is not cited by Maimonides in his compendium, this stricture may, and in my view should, be discounted. We only forbid the forbidden, we do not add rules upon rules because that policy makes us fools.
While the law as recorded in the Talmud and Maimonides is binding, every case is unique. Therefore in practice, each special case should be referred to a rabbinic expert.
The Jewish Tradition has long acknowledged the profound role that adoptive parents play in the lives of their children. Nearly two thousand years ago, the Talmud codified that one who raises an adopted child in their home is to be treated as the natural parent in all regards (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 19b).
However, Jewish law has historically discouraged closed adoptions because of a serious concern in halakhic literature about the (somewhat soap opera-esque) possibility that an adopted child might inadvertently fall in love with a biological relation and enter into a forbidden marriage. For that reason, while Jewish legal authorities permit adoption, they generally insist that whenever possible the identity of the birthparents be made known to the child-- so that they can avoid becoming romantically entangled with an unknown cousin or sibling down the line.
In the pre-modern world, the odds of such a mishap were signifcantly higher than they are today. In our society, in which adopted children are often raised in different cities or even different countries than their birthparents, one might fairly question the chances of an accidental encounter with a relative. It is for that reason that, although they discourage closed adoptions, contemporary Jewish legal authorities have ruled that the child of such an arrangement can freely marry whomever they choose, without concern that the marriage might be consanguineous (Noda B’Yehudah, E.H., 7; Iggrot Moshe Y.D I, 161).
Although our classical sources do not directly mention the institution of adoption, there are numerous statements within Rabbinic literature that praise adoptive parents. Moses was adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:10) and we are told that Mordecai adopted his cousin, Esther (Esther 2:7). Our sages taught “whoever raises an orphan in his house is regarded by the Torah as the child's physical parent.” (B. Sanhedrin 19b) Rabbi Mark Washofsky (Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice, pg 142) writes that parenthood is established “by the real bond between parent and child, a bond that exists in adoptive families.” The adopted child is fully and completely a member of the family.
I am unable to find any reference to a Jewish preference for either open or closed adoption. I looked at a number of on-line resources, including broad guidelines that were on website counseling prospective adoptive parents. None mention the issue of closed or open adoption on their guidelines.
The closest reference I could find was in an old article on adoption in Jewish Action, an Orthodox publication, (http://www.ou.org/pdf/ja/5766/spring66/FillingVoid.pdf) which expresses the concern held by some rabbis that adopting a Jewish child could be problematic “because of the yichut (lineage) of the child,” leading to a concern that the adopted child might unknowingly marry a sibling. “However now that the adoption culture has moved from a clandestine process to a significantly more open one, rabbis are not as concerned about this happening.”
The FAQ on the website of the Jewish Children's Adoption Network comments on their preference for open adoption (http://jcan.qwestoffice.net/answer.html) but roots that preference in experience rather than Jewish law or tradition.
According to an article on jlaw.com (http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/maternity4.html – “The Establishment of Maternity & Paternity in Jewish and American Law”, Michael J. Broyde) the notion of a closed adoption arose as one of several requirements for adoption developed in America between 1860 and the end of World War II. The fifth of those requirements, according to the article
“was the secrecy of the legal proceedings, and the provision for the alteration of the child's birth certificate. As one commentator noted, 'Adoption laws were designed to imitate nature.' They were intended to put children in an environment where one could not determine that they had been adopted; even the children themselves many times did not know. The law reflected this, and severed all parental rights and duties with an adopted child's natural parents and reestablished them in total with an adoptive parents, as per the Roman model of adoption law.”
The institution of adoption in Jewish tradition functions more as a matter of agency, the adoptive parents standing in for the biological parents. In that case there is no need for a closed adoption which removes all links to the biological parents.
It should be noted that there are complex issues surrounding the process of adoption and one should be sure to seek out the best advice available when entering the process. The book, And Hannah Wept: Infertility, Adoption, and the Jewish Couple, by Rabbi Michael Gold (Jewish Publication Society: 1988) remains a valuable resource.
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