The term open adoption refers to the sharing of information and/or contact between the adoptive and biological parents of an adopted child. This can occur before, during and/or after the placement of the child. (Baran and Pannor, 1993)
(Grotevant and McRoy, 1998)
Confidential: Minimal information is shared between adoptive and birth family members and is never transmitted directly; any exchange of information typically stops with the adoptive placement of shortly thereafter.
Mediated: Non-identifying information is shared between parties through adoption agency personnel, who serve as go-betweens; sharing could include exchange of pictures, letters, gifts, or infrequent meetings at which full identifying information is not revealed.
Fully disclosed: Involves full disclosure of identifying information between adoptive and birth families; may involve direct meetings in each others' homes or in public places, phone calls, letters, and sometimes contact with the extended family.
The origin of statutory requirements in the early 20th century, that adoption be confidential and that birth certificates and adoption records be sealed, began with early laws such as the Minnesota Act of 1917. By the early 1950s almost every state had amended its adoption statues to create complete anonymity for the birth parents. Beginning in 1974, research demonstrates that some of the psychological problems observed in adolescent and adult adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents appeared to be directly related to the secrecy, anonymity, and sealed records of adoption. Open adoption became increasingly common in the 1970s,1980s, and 1990s as research and practice began to promote the principles of open adoption. (Baran and Pannor, 1993)
The following statistics are based on the Grotevant and McRoy longitudinal study on open adoption. Between 1987-1992, information was collected from 190 adoptive families and 169 birthmothers experiencing varying levels of openness in their adoptions.
The data from the study, a snapshot of families taken 4 to 12 years after the adoptive placement, revealed:
In the same study, thirty-one adoption agencies were also interviewed on their practice toward the range of openness. The agencies were measured in two time intervals: Time 1 was between 1987 and 1989 and Time 2 was 1993.
(Grotevant and McRoy, 1998)
Baron, A. and Pannor, R. (1993). Perspectives on open adoption. The Future of Children: Adoption, 3(1), 119-124.
Berry, M. (1993). Adoptive parents' perceptions of, and comfort with, open adoption. Child Welfare, 77(3), 231-253.
Berry, M. (1993). Risks and benefits of open adoptions. The Future of Children, 3(1), 125-138.
Grotevant, H.D. and McRoy, R.G. (1998). Openness in Adoption: Exploring Family Connections. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.