Study: Fam­i­lies trend­ing to­ward open adop­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

An es­ti­mated 95 per­cent of U.S. in­fant adop­tions now have some level of open­ness be­tween birth par­ents and adop­tive par­ents, un­like ear­lier decades, when such con­tact was rou­tinely de­nied, says a re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day.

“The era of truly closed adop­tions is prob­a­bly com­ing to a quick end,” said Adam Pert­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Evan B. Don­ald­son Adop­tion In­sti­tute.

Ac­cord­ing to data on 4,400 re­cent adop­tions from 100 agen­cies, 55 per­cent of do­mes­tic in­fant adop­tions are “fully dis­closed.” This means birth and adop­tive fam­i­lies know each other and typ­i­cally have on­go­ing, di­rect con­tact, Don­ald­son In­sti­tute re­searchers wrote in “Open­ness in Adop­tion: From Se­crecy and Stigma to Knowl­edge and Con­nec­tions.”

An­other 40 per­cent of in­fant adop­tions are “me­di­ated,” which means fam­i­lies ex­change let­ters and pic­tures through in­ter­me­di­aries, but they do not know each other. The re­main­ing 5 per­cent of in­fant adop­tions are “closed” or “con­fi­den­tial,” which means adop­tive par­ents have med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents, but not names or iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion.

The Don­ald­son re­port ap­plauded the trend to­ward open adop­tion as ben­e­fi­cial, say­ing that when in­for­ma­tion is shared and some level of con­tact is wel­comed and main­tained, peo­ple’s fears, dis­tress and anx­i­ety of­ten is greatly re­duced.

There’s still “a lot of work” to do, as ex­pec­tant and adop­tive par­ents should be ed­u­cated about the process as well as post-place­ment is­sues, said Mr. Pert­man, who is the adop­tive fa­ther of two chil­dren with open adop­tions, and au­thor of “Adop­tion Na­tion.”

But the lega­cies of closed adop­tion per­sist: Forty-three states still make it hard for adoptees to see their orig­i­nal birth cer­tifi­cates, lead­ing un­told thou­sands to search for fam­ily mem­bers. And although closed adop­tions have be­come un­pop­u­lar, they have not dis­ap­peared.

“‘Open’ adop­tion is qual­i­fied — it has quotes around it — be­cause it doesn’t open the birth records,” said Marri Jo Rillera, a board mem­ber of the In­ter­na­tional Soundex Re­union Reg­istry (ISRR) in Las Ve­gas.

Since 1975, ISRR has com­piled birth in­for­ma­tion from peo­ple in the adop­tion triad. When doc­u­ments re­veal a match, ISRR vol­un­teers in­form the searchers. An es­ti­mated 228,000 peo­ple are in the ISRR, and hun­dreds more come in each week, said Ms. Rillera, who is an adoptee and a birth mother.

Most ISRR reg­is­tra­tions in­volve peo­ple born in the 1960s and 1970s, she said. “But there will not be a week when we don’t get stuff for the ’30s, ’40s, lots from the ’50s and now ’80s and ’90s.”

“And, as al­ways hap­pens,” many of the reg­is­tra­tions come from peo­ple who just turned 18 or 21 and now “feel they have per­mis­sion” to search, Ms. Rillera said.

The Amer­i­can Preg­nancy As­so­ci­a­tion, an ad­vo­cacy group for healthy preg­nan­cies, of­fers a list of rea­sons peo­ple still seek closed adop­tions: A birth mother may want privacy about her preg­nancy or the adop­tion, or adop­tive par­ents may want to pro­tect their fam­ily from in­tru­sive or un­sta­ble birth par­ents.

If a birth par­ent is en­gag­ing in de­struc­tive or risky il­le­gal be­hav­iors, “An open adop­tion can be detri­men­tal,” said Brad Im­ler, pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“But apart from that, if you have healthy in­di­vid­u­als on the birth-fam­ily side, and healthy adop­tive par­ents, which you as­sume you do since they’ve gone through back­ground checks and home stud­ies . . . an open adop­tion can be a won­der­ful thing,” he said.

Mr. Im­ler has per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with adop­tion: In 1964, he was placed at birth into a closed adop­tion. He later found both his birth mother and fa­ther.

Years later, when he and his wife found they were in­fer­tile, they adopted two chil­dren, both in open adop­tions.

“My kids have eight grand­par­ents that all love on them,” he said.

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