Adoption professionals have varying opinions on what makes one adoption “open” and another “closed.” But most agree that open adoptions give expecting parents the option of meeting with prospective adoptive parents, choosing the right adoptive family for their child, and remaining in contact with their children, either directly or through their agency as an intermediary long into the future.
In closed adoptions, on the other hand, information regarding birth parents and adoptive parents remains confidential. No personal information is exchanged prior to a child’s placement, and there is no contact between the parties afterward.
Both forms of adoption have their supporters and their critics. This article is meant to dispel one of the great myths surrounding “open” adoption within American culture.
Open Adoption: History And Misperception
There is a widespread, incorrect belief that most adoptions before the 20th century were “closed.” Many erroneous sources say that “open” adoptions didn’t occur in America until the 1980s. But in reality, most American adoptions until the 1930s were “open” adoptions. Before that, most pregnant women and prospective adoptive parents would have some form of contact before placement.
But during the 1930s, social pressures forced adoption professionals and adoptive families to buy into a myth. And this myth, that adoptive families are second class to traditional biologically-created families, was used to support closed adoptions over open ones. Laws were passed in most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sealing adoption records. Many historians also attribute the prevalence of closed adoption to an awful stigma common at the time around unmarried mothers. Another push for closed adoptions was due to the fear that birthmothers with openness would then disrupt the adoptive family in some way. For the next 50 years, the vast majority of adoptions in America were closed and eventually, people simply forgot that open adoptions had previously been the norm.
Renewed Interest In Open Adoption
Obviously, we now understand that the strength of a family should be measured by the love that binds it, not how its members came together. And in the 1970s, valuable research became available suggesting that open adoptions actually resulted in healthier families, less identity struggles for adoptees, and better closure for birthparents than closed adoptions. In the 1980s, many adoption agencies began pushing for more “openness” in the adoption process. According to a report published by the Washington Times in 2012, 95% of American adoptions currently allow for some openness between birth parents and adoptive families.
Why Choose Open Adoption?
At Adoptions From The Heart, we believe in open adoption, in its amazing power to build beautiful families and create connections among birth and adoptive families and their children. We are proud to have been one of the East Coast’s first supporters of open adoption among the “New Generation” of adoption professionals back in 1985. We believe that expecting mothers and their partners have a right to guide the adoption process, to review and meet with prospective adoptive parents, so they can feel comfortable making informed decisions. We also value the proven benefits that open adoption has for all those involved in the adoption triad, in particular the children themselves.
We allow expecting parents the opportunity to guide their adoption journey. If they are not comfortable with openness, we allow them to create a plan that works for them. However we do require adoptive families to send the agency updates in the event that after some time has passed birthparents are interested in receiving updates. Our mission is only to help birth parents and prospective adoptive parents make informed choices, choices that are right for their particular situation. We then allow the opportunity for those adoptive parents and expecting parents with identical preferences to connect. No matter what they choose is best in the end, our adoption professionals are here to help.
Are you pregnant and considering adoption? There is no pressure, we are here to help you any way we can and we are happy to answer any questions you might have. Call Adoptions From The Heart at 1-800-355-5500 to speak with a counselor or visit afth.org/pregnant to learn more about our agency and the adoption process. Our services are completely free of charge, no matter what you decide is best for you in the end.