• Dec 2003/Jan 2004
  • Vol. 4, No. 10

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Open Adoption Increasingly Common Among Private U.S. Adoption Agencies

Private U.S. adoption agencies steadily increased their provision of fully disclosed (open) adoptions as standard agency practice between 1987 and 1999, according to a recent article in Adoption Quarterly (Volume 6, Number 3). Confidential adoptions decreased in frequency during the same period. Mediated adoptions (in which non-identifying information is shared between the adoptive and birth parents using the agency as an intermediary) remained the predominant arrangement among the agencies surveyed.

The article, "The Impact of Openness on Adoption Agency Practices: A Longitudinal Perspective," presents results of a longitudinal study based on interviews with staff of 37 agencies in 16 States. Staff were interviewed at three points in time (1987-89, 1993, and 1999) about their current practices, attitudes about openness in adoption, and any changes that may have taken place since the previous interview. Due to agency closings and staff availability, staff at only 24 of the agencies were interviewed at all three points in time.

Changes in the adoption options offered by surveyed agencies were driven primarily by the demands of birth mothers for greater openness, as well as competition from private or independent adoptions. By final data collection in 1999, however, most agencies in this sample had changed their perspective from viewing the birth mother as the primary client to viewing the adopted child as their primary client.

Implications for agency practice discussed in the article include:

  • Contrary to what was once thought, openness has not decreased the need for agency services overall. It has increased the need for some services in particular (e.g., education and mediation).
  • Agencies must adequately prepare adoptive and birth parents for openness. Staff also should be prepared to be involved in adoption as a lifelong process.
  • Agencies will need to be mindful of and plan for changes in staffing, workload, and resource management that accompany the provision of more openness-related services.
  • Many agencies have become increasingly aware of the need to involve birth fathers in open adoption arrangements, which may require agencies to facilitate different openness arrangements for each birth parent.

The article may be retrieved online at www.haworthpress.com/store/product.asp?sku=J145.

Related Items

For more about open adoption, see the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse publications, "Openness in Adoption: A Bulletin for Professionals" (http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/f_openadoptbulletin.cfm) and "Cooperative Adoptions: Contact Between Adoptive and Birth Families After Finalization" (http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/general/legal/statutes/cooperative.cfm). Also see "New Findings From Longitudinal Study Show Adoption Openness Results in Greater Birth Mother Satisfaction" in the February 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

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