Open adoption: adoptive parents' reactions two decades later

Soc Work. 2013 Jan;58(1):43-52. doi: 10.1093/sw/sws053.


Unlike in the past, most adoption agencies today offer birth parents and adoptive parents the opportunity to share identifying information and have contact with each other. To understand the impacts of different open adoption arrangements, a qualitative descriptive study using a snowball sample of 44 adoptive parents throughout New England began in 1988. Every seven years these parents who adopted infants in open adoptions have participated in tape-recorded interviews to explore their evolving reactions to their open adoption experiences. This article reports the results of in-depth interviews with these parents now that their children have reached young adulthood. This longitudinal research illuminates how open adoptions change over the course of childhood and adolescence, parents' feelings about open adoption, challenges that emerge in their relationships with their children's birth families, how those challenges are managed and viewed, and parents' advice for others living with open adoption and for clinical social work practice and policy. Findings reveal that regardless of the type of openness, these adoptive parents generally feel positive about knowing the birth parents and having contact with them, are comfortable with open adoption, and see it serving the child's best interests.

MeSH terms

  • Adoption / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Disclosure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Social Work
  • Time Factors