Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Since most adoption stories in the media have traditionally centered around closed adoptions, this is often the perception of adoption that is common in the general population. Despite this, most adoptions in America today are not closed. The pendulum in adoption began to swing towards open adoption in the 1980’s when research began to demonstrate the benefits of openness in adoption proceedings. As research became available, ethical adoption practitioners began to examine their adoption processes and change their methodology to include the practices that demonstrated proven positive outcomes for the families they served.
Since the early 80’s, research has demonstrated that most birth and adoptive families in open adoptions report positive experiences, and those with more openness tend to report being more satisfied with the adoption process. Research on open adoption has repeatedly demonstrated that open adoption provides the best outcomes for the child, the birth family, and the adoptive family. So much research has been done on this topic and the conclusions are so convincing that most researchers do not even research this topic anymore.
The research has demonstrated that openness in adoption benefits each person in the adoption triad. It has been demonstrated that open adoption helps birthparents process grief and loss after placement. Birthmothers who have ongoing contact with their birth children report less grief, less worry, and less regret than those in closed adoption situations.
Openness is especially beneficial for adoptees. Research shows that adolescents who have ongoing contact with their birth parents are more satisfied with their adoptions than those without contact. Openness allows them to better understand the reasons for their adoption, promotes positive feelings toward their birth mother, provides them with information that aids in understanding their own identity, and assists them in forming a trusting relationship with their parents. Open adoption is especially helpful for transracial adoptees who are able to find both a very individualized cultural and familial connection within their birth families. In addition, when adoptees feel free to express their feelings about their adoption with their parents they have a deeper level of communication within their adopting parents and thus report higher self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems, fewer feelings of alienation and better overall family functioning. Put simply, they feel better understood and more able to communicate their needs.
Adoptive parents also benefit from open adoption. The California Long-Range Adoption Study found that the majority (73 percent) of adoptive parents are very comfortable with contact in their open adoptions. Some of those that reported they were uncomfortable with their contact, actually wished that they had MORE contact with their birth families. Other studies have found that openness in adoption reduces adoptive parents’ fear of adoption disruption and increases empathy toward birth parents. Adoptive parents have also reported that they feel more connectedness with their child because their child feels comfortable discussing adoption matters with them. Children who can open up to their parents about their adoption and their feelings regarding their birth family feel better understood, and this nurtures the relationship between parent and child.
Because of the many benefits of open adoption, Professional Adoption & Family services specializes in open adoption. We are proud to provide the training, guidance, and education to all members of the adoption triad in order to create meaningful open adoption relationships.
Below are citations and abstracts for relevant studies:
Openness in adoption and postadoption
Ge, X., Natsuaki, M. N., Martin, D. M., Leve, L. D., Neiderhiser, J. M., Shaw, D. S., Reiss, D. (2008). Bridging the divide: Openness in adoption and postadoption psychosocial adjustment among birth and adoptive parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(4), 529-540. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0012817
Evolution and resolution: Birthmothers' experience of grief and loss at different levels of adoption openness
Susan M. Henney, Susan Ayers-Lopez, Ruth G. McRoy, Harold D. Grotevant
First Published December 1, 2007
Volume: 24 issue: 6, page(s): 875-889 Issue published: December 1, 2007
The role of open adoption in the adjustment of adopted children and their families
Volume 20, Issues 1–2, January–February 1998, Pages 151-171
Fam Process. 1994 Jun;33(2):125-46.
Adoptive family system dynamics: variations by level of openness in the adoption
Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota, St. Paul 55108.
This study examines the consequences of variations in levels of openness in adoption, especially focusing on the dynamics of the adoptive family system from the perspective of the adoptive parents. Participants included the father, mother, and at least one adopted child in 190 adoptive families, and 169 birthmothers, drawn from adoption agencies across the United States. Families included 62 confidential, 17 time-limited mediated, 52 ongoing mediated, and 59 fully disclosed adoptions. When compared to parents in confidential adoptions, those in open adoptions generally demonstrated higher levels of acknowledgment of the adoption, empathy toward the birthparents and their child, a stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and less fear that the birthmother might try to reclaim her child.
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