In recent years, adoption agencies and pregnancy counseling programs have advocated for open adoption practices which allow birthmothers to have either direct or mediated contact with the adoptive family and the adopted child. However, to date, there is very little longitudinal data on outcomes for birthmothers who have contact over time with the adoptive parents and the child they placed for adoption. This study is designed to fill this gap by examining how differential levels of openness in adoption predict multiple dimensions of birthmother functioning: grief resolution, role adjustment, and boundary ambiguity. This project is particularly timely, as new welfare reform provisions may increase the number of women who consider adoption placement, and as agency workers, educators, and policymakers advocate for pregnant adolescents to consider “open adoptions” as an alternative to abortion and parenting. The findings will yield valuable new information about how relationships or contacts between birthmothers and adoptive families evolve as the birthmothers move into middle adulthood, and their placed children move into adolescence and young adulthood. Moreover, we will have significant data on birthmothers’ perceptions of and experiences with evolving agency practices towards openness.

The Adoption Openness project is a nationwide, multi-method research project investigating outcomes for 170 women who made varying types of adoption plans for their infants 25-35 years ago. It is part of the Minnesota-Texas Adoption Research project (MTARP), which involves data collection from birthmothers, adoptive parents and adopted youth. Data were first collected in 1987-1992, again in 1995-2000, and continues now in 2015. Interview and questionnaire methods are being used to examine adoptions in which birthmothers have varying types and levels of contact with the adoptive families and situations where there has been no contact. See for more information.

The study will have significant implications for adoption law, policy, and practice in the United States today. Findings will enhance theory about human development, provide insight into complex family relationships and diverse family forms, and help inform the debate about outcomes of openness.

This study has also been supported with grant from The University  of Texas Research Institute.