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Adoptive parents and natural parents may agree on various arrangements of contact between the child and natural parents, however these agreements are not usually legally binding after Parental Rights have been severed. Most"open" adoptions (80%) close within 3 months of the adoption finalizing in court by the adopters. In some jurisdictions, the natural and adoptive parents may enter into a binding agreement concerning visitation, exchange of information, or other interaction regarding the child. As of February 2009, 24 U.S. states had provisions for these agreements to be legally enforceable contracts included in the finalization of an adoption. Far more common are informal agreements, which may change over time as each set of parents' lives progress. As legal guardians, the adoptive parents are responsible for implementing any contact arrangements and hold final decision-making authority over contact.
Open adoption is distinct from open records. Even in adoptions where all parties know the identities of one another, birth and adoption records remain sealed in those jurisdictions where that is the law regarding adoption.
History of openness in adoptionA closed adopton is an adoption in which the parties involved do not know the identities of each other. Closed and secret records reassured adoptive parents from the fear of returning natural parents. The social stigma of unmarried mothers, particularly during the BSE (Baby Scoop Era) l945-1975 rendered "unwed mothers" social outcasts. In a mother driven society after WWII infertile couples were also seen as deviant due to their inability to bear children. The social experiment of taking the children from "unmarried mothers" and "giving them" to adoptive parents became the norm during the BSE. These adoptions were predominantly closed. The records were sealed, natural mothers were told to keep their child a secret, and adoptive parents told to treat the child "as if born to".
By the 1980s, as the social stigma slowly decreased with Abortion Laws and ready access to birth control, domestic adoption decreased dramatically. The adoption industry needed an incentive to entice mothers to surrender their children for adoption, and "Open Adoption" was created. The fact that 80% of Open Adoptions close early after the birth of a child, is not readily given to mothers of adoption separation before Consents are signed.
Although open adoptions are thought to be a relatively new phenomenon, in fact most adoptions in the United States were open until the twentieth century. Until the 1930s, most adoptive parents and biological parents had contact at least during the adoption process. In many cases, adoption was seen as a social support: young children were adopted out not only to help their parents (by reducing the number of children they had to support) but also to help another family by providing an apprentice.
Adoptions became closed when social pressures mandated that families preserve the myth that they were formed biologically. One researcher has referred to these families, that made every attempt to match the child physically to their adoptive families, as 'as if' families. Other degrees of openness
An adoption where the adoptive and natural parents do not become aware of each others' identities and where only medical and historical information is given to the adoptive parents is known as a closed adoption. In a semi-open adoption, the biological parents may meet the adoptive parents one or several times and then sever contact. Non-identifying letters and pictures may be exchanged directly or via a third party, such as an adoption agency, throughout the years.
Access to birth recordsIn nearly all US states, adoption records are sealed and withheld from public inspection after the adoption is finalized. Most states have instituted procedures by which parties to an adoption may obtain non-identifying and identifying information from an adoption record while still protecting the interests of all parties. Non-identifying information includes the date and place of the adoptee's birth; age, race, ethnicity, religion, medical history, physical description, education, occupation of the natural parents; reason for placing the child for adoption; and the existence of natural siblings.
All states allow an adoptive parents access to nonidentifying information of an adoptee who is still a minor. Nearly all states allow the adoptee, upon reaching adulthood, access to non-identifying information about their relatives. Approximately 27 states allow natural parents access to non-identifying information. In addition, many states give such access to adult siblings.
Identifying information is any data that may lead to the positive identification of an adoptee, natural parents, or other relatives. Nearly all states permit the release of identifying information when the person whose information is sought has consented to the release. Many states ask natural parents to specify at the time of consent or surrender whether they are willing to have their identity disclosed to the adoptee when he or she is age 18 or 21.5. If consent is not on file, the information may not be released without a court order documenting good cause to release the information. A person seeking a court order must be able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that there is a compelling reason for disclosure that outweighs maintaining the confidentiality of a party to an adoption. In Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Kansas, New Hampshire, and Oregon, there is no requirement to document good cause in order to access their birth certificates. Some groups, such as Bastard Nation, One Voice, and Origins USA, campaign for adoptees' automatic access to birth certificates in other US states.
At age 18, people adopted in the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and in several provinces in Canada are automatically entitled to their birth certificates and may access their adoption records.
- ^ (PDF) Openness in Adoption, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, 2003, http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_openadopt.pdf
- ^ Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, 2005, http://childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/cooperative.cfm
- ^ Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families: Summary of State Laws, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau, 2009, http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/cooperativeall.pdf
- ^ History of Adoption: Closed Adoption, National Adoption Center, http://www.adoptionclubhouse.org/03_homework/02_history/07_closed.html, retrieved 2008-05-02
- ^ Closed Adoption, SharedJourney, http://www.sharedjourney.com/adoption/closed.html, retrieved 2008-05-02
- ^ Adamec & Pierce, 1991
- ^ Yngvesson, Barbara (Spring 2003), "Going 'Home': Adoption, Loss of Bearings, and the Mythology of Roots", Social Text - 74 (Duke University Press) 21 (1): 7–27
- ^ Yngvesson, Barbara (Spring 2007), "Refiguring Kinship in the Space of Adoption", Anthropological Quarterly (George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research) 80 (2): 561–579, doi:10.1353/anq.2007.0036
- ^ American Pregnancy Association
- ^ Access to Adoption Records, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, 2006, http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/infoaccessap.cfm
- ^ a b http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07316/833100-84.stm Retrieved 29th February 2008
- ^ http://www.unsealedinitiative.org/html/articles.html Accessed: 2nd March 2008
- ^ http://apostille.us/news/bill_looks_to_open_adoption_records.shtml Accessed: 2nd March 2008
- ^ http://adoption.about.com/od/adoptionrights/a/openingrecords.htm Accessed: 2nd March 2008
- ^ One Voice, No Secrets Available: http://www.onevoicenosecrets.org/main/ Accessed: 27th April 2008.
- ^ Origins USA position papers Available: http://originsusa.memberlodge.org/Default.aspx?pageId=24588 Accessed: 27th April 2008.
- Open Adoption and Family Services
- Open Adoption, adoptive parent profiles , birth parent support
- Open Adoption Resources and Support
- Openadoption.org A web site dedicated to practical advice and cautions in work to achieve an open adoption
-  Open adoption information and resources in Canada.
- Open Adoption information for those interested in adoption
- www.AdoptionSmiles.com: Adoption Smiles is a free listing service for parents interested in open adoption.