An adoption where birth parents are still in the picture has become the norm, a new study says. And while the initial set-up may be complicated and awkward to hash out, families who chose an open adoption are happier later on.
The practice of open adoptions first began in the 1980s, and has been spreading across the US ever since, reports the Wall Street Journal. According to a study published by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York, there is some degree of contact in about 95% of adoptions today.
Critics of early open adoptions worried that they would confuse children about their identity and hurt their self-esteem. Some also thought that it would make it harder for birth mothers to come to terms with the adoption. Contrary to those original concerns, another recent study, The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, found that people involved in open adoption usually were more satisfied with their overall experience than families involved in closed adoptions, where there is no contact.
Post-placement contact agreements, which establishing exactly how relationships between birth and adoptive relatives will be maintained, can provide some structure to these unfamiliar situations. "It's a good thing to have the agreement, and it's not even about its enforceability," explained Susan Edwards, new adoptive mom, "Because of the contract, we all know what to expect, having that agreement does a lot to take away the nervousness or anxiety."
However, one risk of setting up enforceable agreements is “they might not take into account how relationships among the children and families naturally evolve over time,” says Harold Grotevant, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “People move, new relationships develop and attitudes can change.”
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