A major new report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute explores the changing face of adoption in America, and the “new reality” in which “the vast majority of infant adoptions are ‘open,’ meaning the two families have some level of ongoing relationship.” Not only that, the report says, but the demographics—such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and class—of both adopted children and adoptive parents are shifting, too.
The report, “Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections,” found that:
- “Closed” infant adoptions have shrunk to a tiny minority (about 5 percent), with 40 percent “mediated” and 55 percent “open.” In addition, 95 percent of agencies now offer open adoptions.
- In the overwhelming majority of infant adoptions, adoptive parents and expectant parents considering adoption meet, and the expectant parents pick the new family for their baby.
- Adoptive parents, like most participants in open adoptions, report positive experiences; more openness is also associated with greater satisfaction with the adoption process.
- Women who have placed their infants for adoption—and then have ongoing contact with their children—report less grief, regret and worry, as well as more peace of mind.
- The primary beneficiaries of openness are the adopted persons—as children and later in life—because of access to birth relatives, as well as to their own family and medical histories.
But open adoptions are not the only change:
For generations until the second half of the 20th Century, nearly all formal adoptions in our country consisted of white, married, infertile couples adopting babies born to white, single women. Today, most adoptions in the U.S. are of older children, many of whom are of color, and a growing percentage of whom do not share their new parents’ race, ethnicity or nationality. Likewise, the profile of the women and men who are adopting has changed dramatically; today, they are people who are fertile, of color, single, older, gay, lesbian, cohabitating, and from a wide range of incomes and educational backgrounds. . . . One common denominator remains among the adults involved, however: They typically start out with limited information about adoption’s current realities—and what they do know is gleaned primarily from the media, whose own understanding of the process and of the millions of people it affects is often less than complete or accurate.
In order to address some of these issues, the report “identifies factors that are important to achieving successful open adoption relationships and offers research-based recommendations for overcoming the fears, misconceptions and other barriers that the affected parties often face. The recommendations include counseling and training for all the parents involved (expectant and adoptive), as well as post-placement services to help them and their children work through any challenges they encounter.”