While adoption itself is not a new concept (dating all the way back to biblical times), the practice of “openness” in adoption is a more recent, yet, important change that came about during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Today, the clear majority of adoptions contain at least some degree of openness. But even to this day, there are still a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about what open adoption really is and what the benefits of it are.
The Donaldson Adoption Institute has conducted multiple research studies about adoption. One 2012 study focuses on the benefits of open adoption. Listed below are some of the basic facts about open adoption today as well as the significant findings for each of the members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and, most importantly, the child):
Facts About Open Adoption:
- Today, only 5% of adoptions are closed, which means that 95% are open.
- Of that 95%, the breakdown is as follows:
- 55% are fully disclosed, and
- 40% are “mediated” (facilitated through an agency).
- Openness in adoption became the standard for two main reasons:
- A growing recognition and understanding of the negative impact of secrecy, and
- Birth mothers were increasingly requesting more openness in the adoptions of their children.
- In the vast majority of adoptions, the expectant parents review different profiles and then personally select the adoptive family for their baby.
- In most cases the two parties also meet each other prior to the birth of the baby (at least by telephone, if an in-person meeting is not possible).
- A 2009 survey shows that continuing contact between adopted children and their birth parents/relatives occurs in about 67% of private adoptions.
- Of that 95%, the breakdown is as follows:
Benefits of Open Adoption:
In general, greater openness in adoption is associated with greater satisfaction amongst the triad members with the adoption process. As with any relationship, there are varying experiences that involve different levels of discomfort and challenges, but in general, most people in open adoptive relationships appear to thrive and react positively to the openness. This is especially true when these open relationships are built upon mutual empathy and respect and are centered around the child.
The primary benefit of openness in adoption is for the adoptee and his/her access to birth relatives, as well as his/her own medical, genealogical and family histories. Some additional benefits that have been identified by adoptees include:
- Coming to terms with the reason for their adoption—they have access to ask and talk about the adoption choice with their birth families when the time is right.
- Physical touchstones to identify where personal traits came from—they have ability to look at and interact with biological relatives.
- Information that aids in identify formation—open adoption allows them to better understand themselves and where they come from in a way that an adoptive family cannot provide.
- Positive feelings towards birth mother—this results from getting to know her and understanding her story more fully.
Another benefit of open adoption is that it allows adoptees to gain a better understanding of the meaning of adoption and more active communication about adoption with their adoptive parents.
Birth Mothers who have ongoing contact with their children generally experience better grief resolution in open adoptions compared to those in closed adoptions. Dealing with ongoing feelings of grief and loss many years after the adoption is a common challenge for birth mothers, however those in open adoptions with continuing contact reported less grief as well as less worry and regret about their decision to place. Additionally, birth mothers in open adoptions report more relief and peace of mind and also experience positive adjustment and self-efficacy after the placement. An open relationship allows them to feel like a resource for their child and gives them a sense of contributing to their child’s well-being.
Perhaps surprising to some is that adoptive parents overall report more positive experiences with open adoption than the parents in closed adoptions. They report high levels of comfort with contact and generally feel free to parent their child without fear of losing them to the birth parents. Open adoptions help create greater feelings of empathy and more positive attitudes towards the birth parents. Additionally, adoptive parents report more open communication with their children and also perceive benefits for their relationships with their children.
The research indicates that all parents (both birth and adoptive) should receive thorough counseling and training on open adoption, with a focus on strategies for working through tensions and maintaining a child-centered focus.
At AdoptMatch, we are strong advocates of open adoption and maintaining contact throughout the lifespan of the adoption. The research demonstrates that open communication is beneficial for all triad members. Our Adoption Professional partners are committed to thoroughly planning for the post adoption contact relationship prior to the adoption and, in most cases, advocate a clear, written agreement concerning that contact.
To read more of the research findings, you can find the article here.