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Open adoption is a term generally used to describe a variety of arrangements allowing for ongoing contact between members of the 'adoption triad' (adoptive family, birth family, and adopted child). The level of openness in any relationship varies widely. Degrees of open arrangements span from mediated contact, which implies letters and photographs sent through a third party (so that the adoptive family can maintain privacy), to full the full disclosure of the adoptive family's personal information. In fully open adoptions, there is actual physical contact, through meetings and visits between the birth family and the adptive family. Sometimes an adoption agency may describe an adoption as 'open' when the birth-mother (and/or birth-father) may have a say or may make the actual decision on who is chosen to parent their child, though this is not the generally accepted definition.

An adoption where the adoptive and birth parents do not become aware of each others' identities and where only medical and historical information is given to the adoptive parents is known as a closed adoption.

Although open adoptions are thought to be a relatively new phenomenon, in fact most adoptions in the United States were open until the twentieth century. Until the 1930's, most adoptive parents and birth parents had contact at least during the adoption process.[1] In many cases, adoption was seen as a social support: young children were adopted out not only to help their parents (by reducing the number of children they had to support) but also to help another family by providing an apprentice.

Adoptions became closed when social pressures mandated that families preserve the myth that they were formed biologically. One researcher has referred to these families, that made every attempt to match the child physically to their adoptive families 'as if' families.[2]

Openness became the norm when infants available for adoption became scarce, and birth parents had the ability to negotiate acceptable terms for their children, including the ability to participate in decisions about who they wanted to parent their child.

Proponents of open adoption maintain that such adoptions are better for the child and represent best practice. Increasingly, as children growing up in open adoptive homes are studied, adoption researchers are finding that this might be a preferable adoption arrangement.[3] Civil rights advocates argue that openness is the right of all children, who are entitled to information about their history and heritage.

One important fact related to openness is that open adoptions are not legally enforceable agreements in many jurisdictions[4]. The adoptive parents may terminate all contact with the birth parent(s) at any time and for any reason.

See alsoEdit


  1. Adamec & Pierce, 1991
  2. Yngvesson, 1997
  3. Doherty 2000; Grotevant & McRoy, 1997; Mendenhall, Berge, Wrobel, Grotevant & McRoy, 1997; Silverstein & Roszia, 1999; Berry, 1991; Berry, Dylla, Barth & Needell, 1998; Grotevant, McRoy, Elde & Fravel, 1994
  4. [1]

External linksEdit

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