• November 2016
  • Vol. 17, No. 8

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Open Adoption With Gay and Lesbian Parents

Much has changed in adoption over the last several decades to offer greater adoption options for children and parents. Two encouraging trends—one toward openness in communication between birth and adoptive parents (open adoption) and another toward removing barriers to adoption for lesbian and gay prospective parents—are the topic of a recent article from the Donaldson Adoption Institute. Authors David Brodzinsky and Abbie Goldberg examined data from the 2015 Modern Adoptive Families Study to compare survey responses from 880 heterosexual, lesbian, and gay male adoptive parents about the extent of their contact with their child's birth family.

Their findings, which also compared private agency and child welfare adoptions, showed the following:

  • Regardless of parents' sexual orientation, families that adopted through private agencies were more likely to have had some contact with their child's birth families than families that adopted through child welfare agencies (85 vs. 75 percent).
  • Among child welfare adoptions, gay male parents were more likely to have had some contact with birth families than were heterosexual or lesbian parents (87 percent vs. 78 and 67 percent, respectively).
  • Likewise, all family types that adopted through private agencies were more likely to be in current contact with their child's birth family than families that adopted through child welfare agencies (75 vs. 58 percent).
  • Among child welfare adoptions, gay male parents were more likely to be in current contact with birth family members than were lesbian or heterosexual parents (74 percent vs. 56 and 55 percent, respectively).

The authors highlight the significant percentage of postadoption contact in both private and child welfare adoptions in this recent survey, noting that these percentages (85 and 75 percent, respectively) are a substantial increase from postadoption contact found in the 2007–2008 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. They suggest that these increases may indicate continuing trends for open adoption from both types of agencies.

Given these trends, the authors offer the following practice guidelines for open adoption with gay and lesbian parents:

  • All agency personnel, from directors to placement professionals, should receive comprehensive and objective training on open adoption.
  • Agencies should ensure that all clients receive comprehensive preparation, education, and services on open placements.
  • Adoption professionals should be aware of receptivity to open adoption by most lesbian and gay prospective parents and of the positive relationships they typically form with birth families.
  • Adoption professionals should explore birth parents' receptivity (and that of their relatives) to placing their child with lesbian or gay parents.
  • Adoption agencies should promote positive stories about lesbian and gay adoptive families in the media.
  • Adoption professionals should work with both gay and lesbian families and with birth families around sharing information about parents' sexual orientation with others.

Practice Guidelines Supporting Open Adoption in Families Headed by Lesbian and Gay Male Parents: Lessons Learned From the Modern Adoptive Families Study, by David Brodzinsky and Abbie Goldberg, is available on the Donaldson Adoption Institute website at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/DAI_MAFReport2.pdf (669 KB).

 

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