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All together now: open infant adoptions are on the increase

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with Connor Anthony Kidman Cruise at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on September 11, 2006.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with Connor Anthony Kidman Cruise at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on September 11, 2006.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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For years, adoptions were shrouded in secrecy, the birth records sealed and adoption papers hidden forever. Birth mothers might never know what kind of life their child was living. Children would wonder “where they came from,” who their birth parents were and why they were given up. Finding out the truth could be a long, painful, possibly futile or even disappointing journey.

In recent years, however, the trend has been toward “open adoptions,” in which birth parents, adoptive parents and child might all remain friendly, even close, for life. A new study by the Evan B. Donaldson Institute reveals that only about five percent of infant adoptions take place without some kind of relationship between parties. In the majority of cases, birth parents meet and select the adoptive parents, rather than, as formerly, delegating this crucial decision to intermediaries. Fifty-five percent could be considered “fully disclosed” and forty percent are “mediated,” with contact maintained indirectly through the agency that facilitated the adoption.

According to the report, in an open adoption, adoptive parents feel more satisfied with the adoption process, birth parents feel less stress and regret, and children reap the benefit of access to their birth relatives and medical histories. There are plenty of good reasons to pull back the curtain of secrecy when it comes to adoption. But while there are still some families who, for whatever reason, would choose to have no contact, it’s now easy enough to find your old classmates on Facebook, or to Google your family tree.


In the Internet age, can any degree of privacy be maintained? What are adoption agencies doing to ensure best practices when it comes to security? How can they guarantee that a closed door will stay closed? If you’re someone who has participated in an open adoption, how do you feel about the experience?


Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national not-for-profit organization devoted to improving adoption policy and practice.