Open adoption: Answers to your most-asked questions

What do we know about the effects of open adoptions?

Research to date indicates that birth mothers commonly view open adoption positively. Adoptive parents reported that they appreciated having contact with birth mothers to answer questions as they arose.

Not all outcomes, however, have been positive. A 1990 survey of 59 relinquishing birth mothers, 18 in open adoption and 41 in confidential adoptions, found that birth mothers in open adoptions were significantly more troubled than those in closed adoptions in terms of social isolation, sleep complaints, physical symptoms, despair and dependency.

In one study, 72 percent of adoptive parents were "very satisfied" with contact with birth mothers, 19 percent were "basically satisfied" but had some reservations; two families were dissatisfied and had ceased contact; and 15 of the 16 birth mothers were satisfied with contact. A relationship was found between more frequent contact and a higher degree of satisfaction with the placement.

Are open adoptions successful?

Research has shown the following key points:

•Fears that birth parents would attempt to reclaim their children or otherwise intrude on adoptive families' lives are not apparent in families with fully disclosed adoptions.


•Openness does not interfere with adoptive parents' emerging sense of entitlement to parenthood.

•Having a fully disclosed adoption does not guarantee successful grief resolution, shown by the broad range of grief resolution among birth mothers in all adoption arrangements.

•Only 35 percent of the agencies offered fully disclosed adoption options as part of their standard practice in 1989. Four to five years later, 76 percent offered full disclosed adoptions.

•Two-thirds of the fully disclosed adoptions did not start as fully disclosed: Five percent began as mediated, and 14 percent as confidential.

Source: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse

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