The topic of open adoption has caused much controversy in the adoption community, including our forum community here at About Adoption & Foster Care. There seems to be many opinions about open adoption. The opinions range from whether open adoptions work to whether open adoptions are healthy for the adoptee. The problem with this is that the opinions are usually based on myths and second hand tales, not research based facts.
Open Adoption and Research
Research has historically been difficult to do with adoption due to confidentiality and closed, "secret" adoptions. So, study open adoptions,right? Well, that is also a challenge as no two adoptions are the same. Relationships and family circumstances are constantly changing. However, one study, Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project, is the only longitudinal study to compare open adoption to other types of adoption. This research indicates that the following myths are false.
The Myths About Open Adoption
Adoptive parents and birth parents in open adoptions are constantly confused about their parental rights. It's difficult to tell where one parent stops and the other begins.
- False. Adoptive parents and birth parents within open adoptions are usually fully aware of their responsibilities and rights. This is a relationship that is constantly evolving and needs lots of open communication to flourish.
Birth family members take the adoptive family back to court over and over in an attempt to get their children back. If this doesn't work, kidnapping is often an employed tactic.
- False. Birth mothers and fathers working within an open adoption do not attempt to regain custody of their children. Seriously, how often do you hear of kidnapped adopted children on the news?
Children in open adoptions are completely confused about who their parents really are. They do not understand the roles of their birth and adoptive parents.
- False. Children in open adoptions understand the parental roles of their birth and adoptive families. This is easier for the children when the adults in their lives are open and honest with them.
The adolescent's adoptive identity and degree of preoccupation with adoption are related to the level of openness in the adoption. The more open the adoption, the greater the lack of identity for the adopted teen.
- False. Research shows that an adopted teen's sense of identity and how preoccupied he is with adoption is not related to the level of openness in his adoption.
Open adoptions have a negative impact on an adopted child's self-esteem. The more open the adoption is, the worse the adopted child feels about herself.
- False. Openness in adoption does not seem to influence the adoptee's self-esteem negatively.
Adoptive parents in open adoption often feel out of control and lack a sense of attachment and relationship with their child.
- False. Adoptive parents in open adoption often feel that they have control and a GREATER sense of permanence in their relationship with their child.
Open adoptions interfere with an adoptive parent's sense of parental right to parent their child. They tend to feel more like glorified babysitters.
- False. Most adoptive parents within an open adoption relationship with the birth family do not feel that they have any less right to parent their child.
Birth mothers in open adoptions struggle with grief resolution. Spending time with their placed child is painful and recalls the past grief. Open adoptions delay healing.
- False. Birth mothers in open and ongoing mediated adoptions do NOT have more problems with grief resolution. In fact, research shows that they did better with grief resolution than those birth mothers in closed adoptions. However, research also shows that an abrupt stop in contact did cause birth mothers more difficulty in grief resolution.
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