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November 2012Vol. 13, No. 10Growing Up in Open Adoption

The perspective of young adults who grew up in open adoptions is the focus of a recent study in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. The article, written by Deborah H. Siegel, presents findings from the fourth phase of a longitudinal study examining the opportunities and challenges of open adoption.

For the study's first three phases, adoptive parents were interviewed at 7-year intervals to examine changes in openness over time. The original sample of parents was identified in 1988 after they adopted an infant in an open adoption. During phase one, 21 families participated; during phases two and three, 17 families participated. The study's fourth phase examined the perceptions of 11 of the original sample's adopted children (5 females and 6 males) who are now adults, for a 48 percent response rate.

Each participant was asked 19 open-ended questions in either a face-to-face or tape-recorded phone interview, depending on the participant's preference. Questions ranged from "What's been open about your adoption?" to "What has open adoption been like for you?" and "What fears, anxieties, or unanswered questions do you have about open adoption?"

Contact with birth parents ranged widely in frequency, from "sometime during childhood" to many times over the years. Contact was primarily with the birth mother or the maternal grandmother. Only four participants had contact with their birth father, and six had some contact with birth siblings. Most of the respondents (nine) had contact with birth family members via email, Facebook, or text messages. All participants currently in contact with birth relatives were using some form of electronic communication.

Every respondent spoke favorably about open adoption, regardless of the amount of contact with birth relatives. Even when discussing varied negative or uncomfortable experiences with birth relatives, every participant later recalled the positive outcome that resulted from the incident.

"Growing Up in Open Adoption: Young Adults' Perspectives," by Deborah H. Siegel, appeared in Families in Society, 2012, 93(2) and is available for subscribers here: