Frequently Asked Questions about Open Adoption

MothersWhat is open adoption?

The term open adoption refers to the sharing of information or contact between the adoptive and biological parents of an adopted child. This can occur before, during or after the placement of the child.

There are different degrees of openness:

Confidential. Minimal information is shared between adoptive and birth family members and is never transmitted directly; exchange of information stops with the adoptive placement.

Mediated. Non-identifying information is shared between parties through adoption agency personnel, who serve as go-betweens. Sharing could include the 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.

How many open adoptions take place each year?

In 69 percent of public and private agency adoptions, the birth parents met the adoptive couple.

What is the history of open adoption in the United States?

In the early 20th century, laws were passed that required that adoption be confidential and that birth certificates and adoption records be sealed. By the early 1950s, almost every state had amended its adoption statutes to create complete anonymity for the birth parents. In 1974, research demonstrated 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. As a result, open adoption became more and more common in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

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