While practiced long before formally and legally recognized, the United States began to recognize the practice of adoption around the 1850's. In fact, Massachusetts was the first state in the United States to pass a law, the Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act of 1851, stating that adoption was a social and legal operation based on the welfare of a child rather than adult and human interest and first used the judiciary system to define, in complete subjectivity rather than uniform, objectively measured and defined limits, "fit and proper" adoptions.
From there, adoption slowly evolved. The field of social work was created as well as many organizations like the U.S. Children's Bureau, Child Welfare League of America, and more states began to acknowledge and pass laws related to adoption. In 1919, the first empirical research study was conducted to study adoption; How many adoptions were occurring, of whom and by whom. Adoption agencies, both public and private, were created. The Child Welfare League of America initiated a minimum set of standards for those seeking to adopt a child in response to baby farming and growing concerns about the families children were being placed into in 1937. Over the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's, adoption agencies began sealing adoption records. Attitudes began shifting toward the closed adoption thinking (Read about the rationale here, under "Record Closure:" http://www.researchetcinc.com/historyofadoption.html)
The trend of closure (record closure, identifying information closure, etc.) continued during the 1960's and 1970's. Slowly, still, ever so slowly, adoption trends began changing along with cultural and social changes. By the 1970's, adoptees began to speak out more emphatically than before, blended families began to be recognized as "normalized," birth parents and adoptive parents were allowed to exchange non-identifying information, birth parents were able to choose the adoptive family with whom to place their child, and by the 1990's and early 2000's, social workers began encouraging open adoptions. People began researching and studying the effects of open vs. closed adoptions. Princeton published this article in 1993, weighing the risks vs. benefits of open adoption. Since then, several more organizations have studied open adoptions. Here are a few for you to consider:
- Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project
- Open Adoption: Is It Working?
- California Long-Range Adoption Study (Summarized by IAC)
- Research on Adoption and PASS
These studies and information are barely the tip of the iceberg. Because adoptions were closed and are rather recently trending toward complete and various stages of openness, researchers are still studying and postulating hypothesis and theories whether or not it truly is better to be open vs. closed. They're studying the effect of adoption on children throughout the adoptees entire life. Some see attachment theory as a trend similar to Freudian ideals. Some see openness in adoption as beneficial.
I can read millions upon millions of studies about the history of adoption, current trends in adoption and adoptive parenting methods, adoptive cost analysis summaries of benefits vs. risks for thousands upon thousands of different scenarios. Some have a legitimate foundation, some, I feel are hair-brained idiocy. What I know to be true, as an adoptive parent with one open adoptive relationship and one closed relationship with biological families is this: Our open adoption is healthier for our family. Our family struggles with the secrecy and questions left surrounding the closed adoption. Right now, one of our children struggles with adoption related issues and has extreme and often severe behaviors that may or may not be directly related to adoption. Not all those who were once adopted have difficulty processing or accepting adoption. Because of our unique, yet not at all uncommon difficulties, I feel adoptive families are NOT given enough pre-adoption education on the POSSIBLE difficulties they might encounter throughout their adoptive child's life. When those issues DO arise, IF they are going to happen, adoptive families need to be given respect, love, and support instead of ridiculed, called bad parents, and made into media sensations to discourage adoption or propagate negative stereotypes and stigmas surrounding adoption. Adoption has the ability to take children out of some really icky situations and places and place them in normal, human families that will do their best to care for them.
Open adoption works for us. I don't care if people merely consider it a trend and liken it to Farberizing trends, Freudian trends, Erickson trends, or any of the other child development, child psychological, or adoptive and adaptive trends. In 30 years, perhaps somebody will research our lives and relationships in correlation to adoption and the impact the current adoption trends and culture have had on my children throughout their lifetime. What will they find? I don't know. I truly worry about my son and can see negative impacts in his life because of adoption. I also know that he is an amazing little boy that will do marvelous things, regardless of a one-time event that took place 7 months after he was born. I do know that I am a better person for being accepted by non-genetically related family members. Because of my parent's open, honest, loving relationship with what some consider "step-family," but was just considered "family" in our home, I have a model and example of how to function with non-biologically related family. I have an emotionally mature, functional, and loving relationship with my daughter's biological family. I cringe when I hear "closed adoption," and my heart hurts because of our experience with it. I support open adoption. It may not be for everybody; it isn't for my son's first mother. But, open adoption is for me. It is for my husband. It is for our daughter and her birthmother....her WHOLE birth family. We pray it will be for any other children we bring into our home through adoption and will welcome their biological families into our family with open arms. We don't care if open adoption is a trend, to us, open adoption is love. So, in my mind, the only question about open vs. closed adoption is right for you and your family?