Academic journal article Family Relations

Patterns and Predictors of Adoption Openness and Contact: 14 Years Postadoption

Academic journal article Family Relations

Patterns and Predictors of Adoption Openness and Contact: 14 Years Postadoption

Article excerpt

Increased attention is being paid to open adoption arrangements between birth parents and adopted children and families. This study examines openness and contact among 469 adoptions at 14 years postadoption from the fourth wave of the California Long-Range Adoption Study (CLAS) and 378 adoptions matched across all waves. The proportion of families reporting contact declined from Wave 3 (1997) to Wave 4 (2003) although contacts increased within open adoptions. Positive ratings of the contact's effect on the family increased the likelihood of contact between adoptive and birth families, although greater levels of overall satisfaction lowered the likelihood of openness over time. At any point in time, public agency adoptions were less likely to be open. Findings suggest that increased attention should be paid within agencies to how open arrangements are pursued for adoptive placements.

Key Words: adolescent and parental topics, adoption, birth parents, child/parent relationships.

Interest in open adoption arrangements is increasing among adoption researchers and practitioners, despite a relatively long history of use in the United States. Open adoptions, defined as contact or communication between members of biological families and adoptive families following placement (Grotevant, 2000), have been conducted informally in the United States since at least the early 1900s, especially among African American communities (Wolfgram, 2008). An increasing shift toward a broader use of open adoptions began in the 1 970s (Grotevant, McRoy, Eide, & Fravel, 1994), and by the mid-1980s, these arrangements became more commonplace (Grotevant), although it remains difficult to estimate the current prevalence of open adoption arrangements (Brown, Ryan, & Pushkal, 2007). Some research points to beneficial relationships between open arrangements for children's development (Grotevant, Ross, Marchel, & McRoy, 1999) and overall satisfaction with adoption (Berry, Cavazos-Dylla, Barth, & Needell, 1998; Grotevant et al., 1994), although these relationships need further confirmation from longitudinal research with samples drawn in different times and places. The purpose of the current study is to examine the longitudinal patterns and predictors of contact between adoptive families and birth families over all four waves of the California Long-Range Adoption Study (CLAS).

Research on Open Adoptions

Arrangements between biological and adoptive families following placement fall on a continuum of openness (Grotevant, 2000). On one end is the closed or confidential adoption where no information-sharing takes place; this is followed by mediated contact between families through the adoption agency and, finally, open adoptions, which involve direct interaction for sharing information between biological and adoptive families (Henney, Ayers-Lopez, McRoy, & Grotevant, 2007). Openness can involve a variety of contacts, from letters and cards to in-person meetings (Frasch, Brooks, & Barth, 2000), and these contacts can vary in frequency over time (Grotevant, 2000).

Early critics of open adoptions feared that these arrangements could harm children by threatening their attachments to their adoptive parents (Kraft et al., 1 985) or otherwise causing them confusion (e.g., Wieder, 1978, cited in Wrobel, Ayers-Lopez, Grotevant, McRoy, & Friedrick, 1996). Yet, research has shown that despite complex relationships in an open adoption arrangement, most adoptive parents report relatively high levels of comfort. Wolfgram (2008) critically reviewed research literature from 1987 to 2000 pertaining to openness in adoption and found a number of salient features of open adoptions from the perspectives of adoptive parents. Among other findings, Wolfgram's review found that open arrangements do not need to include inperson contact, but can include a range of contact options such as telephone or e-mail conversations or letters. …

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