A Better Way Forward: Open Adoption and its Benefits for Adopted Children and Their Adoptive and Biological Parents
Written By: Susan M. Doran
Despite the beliefs of many people to the contrary, adopted children who are placed into an open adoption where contact with their biological families is maintained have a far better chance of thriving and enjoying continued mental health than those whose contacts with their birth families are cut off. Open adoption leads to more positive outcomes for adopted children than closed adoption, as it results in better overall adjustment, attachment, and identity development; ready access to historical and medical information; and greater feelings of security and well-being for adopted children and their adoptive and biological parents. In this paper, the advantages of open adoption will be demonstrated by a careful analysis of scholarly material and other evidence, in order to illustrate that, generally, open adoption is in children’s best interests.
Having no bridge to their past left many adoptees wrestling with issues around who they were and where they belonged in the world (Jones, 2004).
The implications of openness in adoption remain a subject of great debate, and in fact are among the most controversial issues in the adoption arena (Mail & March, 2005a). Although most people think of open adoption as a new phenomenon, in actuality it was common practice in North American adoptions until the 1930s (Siegel & Smith, 2012). The intent of moving to absolute confidentiality in adoption at this time was to shield unmarried mothers and adopted children from the “stigma of illegitimacy” (Ge et al., 2008, p. 529) and to protect the privacy of all parties involved in hopes of affecting a clean break from the past.
Openness in adoption refers to “the level of contact taking place between adoptive and birth family members” (Von Korff, Grotevant, & McRoy, 2006, p. 531). While there is no communication at all in confidential (closed) adoptions, the level of openness in open adoption arrangements can vary dramatically, ranging from an occasional exchange of letters or photographs mediated through a third party (such as an adoption agency) to regular ongoing personal visits among the adoptive and birth families and the adopted child (Von Korff et al., 2006).
Susan Doran, B.A. (Hons), in addition to being a long-time and widely-published professional writer, is a certified Child and Youth Counselor (CYC), a specialized emergency after-hours foster parent in Toronto, and a family access centre coordinator. Through her work in the child protection system, Susan is involved in helping to implement changes in current adoption practices.
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