Young Adults: Openness, Searching, and Access to Family History

This article has been taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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Being placed for adoption does not necessarily mean an adopted person will never be able to contact his or her birth parents again. Adoptions may have some degree of openness, meaning that there is some communication between the birth and adoptive families—possibly including the adopted person.1 Additionally, the birth family or the adopted person may attempt a search and reunion later in life. The number of open adoptions (in which the birth and adoptive families know each other’s identities and have direct contact with the adopted child) and mediated adoptions (in which contacts between the birth and adoptive families are made indirectly through a mediator) are on the rise. In a 2012 survey of adoption agencies with infant adoption programs, the agencies reported that only 5 percent of their placements during the previous 2 years were confidential, with 55 percent of the adoptions being fully disclosed and 40 percent being mediated (Siegel & Livingston Smith, 2012).

There are myriad reasons adopted persons may seek information about or contact with their birth families, such as a desire to establish or reestablish a relationship, help further develop their own identity, or to obtain genetic or medical information. The desire to search may be prompted by specific life events, such as marriage or having children (Corder, 2012). Studies have shown that adopted persons rarely search for their birth parents because of a negative relationship with their adoptive parents (Muller & Perry, 2001). Perhaps half of all adopted adults search for identifying information or try to make contact with their birth parents (Curtis & Pearson, 2010; Evan B. Donaldson, 2010; Muller & Perry, 2001). Adopted persons in an open adoption or who otherwise have contact with their birth parents generally have positive feelings about the relationships (Grotevant et al., 2007; Siegel, 2012) and are glad they searched (Penny et al., 2007). Some earlier studies, however, found that adopted persons who search for their parents may exhibit lower self-esteem, have lower family and friend support, have higher incidences of anger and depression, and more frequently use mental health services (Borders et al., 2000; Cubito & Obremski Brandon, 2000).

For additional information about open adoption and birth family contact, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway

For additional information about obtaining birth and/or adoption records, including State laws that govern this access, visit Child Welfare Information Gateway

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Young Adults: Postadoption Issues

Young Adults: Managing Adoption Issues

Young Adults: Additional Resources


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