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OPENNESS IN ADOPTION

by Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS


BUT DOES IT ALWAYS WORK?

Though you have probably heard them referred to as closed adoptions more frequently, adoptions which involve no sharing of identifying information between birth and adoptive families are called confidential adoption by their supporters. 3

Proponents of confidential adoption4 argue that not all birthparents and adoptive parents would be able to form successful relationships, and that is certainly true. Unless both families have been well-counseled, both families have respect for boundaries, and unless birthparents are emotionally healthy and are not abusing substances, there can be serious problems with openness. Mediators cannot be accessible to help deal with emotionally needy or mentally unbalanced people 24 hours a day. This is another reason to use well-trained professionals when planning adoptions. Experienced professionals are in the best position to determine whether openness can work with a particular situation.

Some children come to adoption from dangerous, abusive, or neglectful situations. Certainly unless those problems have been solved, it could be unsafe for these children to have their birthparents involved in their lives. On the other hand, it is often possible for the adoptive families of these children to forge important supportive and productive relationships with extended birth family members of the child-grandparents, aunts, uncles- much to his or her benefit.

3 Grotevant, Harold D. and Ruth G, McRoy. Open Adoption: Exploring Family Connections (Sage Publications, 2000)

4 Critics prefer to use the more negative term closed adoption. In a parallel action, opponents of open adoption refer to it as experimental adoption. In this course, in both this instance and elsewhere, I have tried myself to use whichever language the proponents of a system prefer. I believe this is the fairest way to promote communication and discussion of an issue. In the same vein, were I writing about abortion, I would use the terms pro-life and pro-choice as the terms self-selected by those sharing each of these philosophies, rather than to label groups anti-abortion, anti-choice, or anti-life.

 

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