Happy National Adoption Month! Here at Lifetime Adoption, we celebrate adoption year-round. But November holds a special place in our hearts. This month is recognized across the U.S. as National Adoption Month, and it's the perfect opportunity to share the beauty of adoption.
Today, I'd like to share about how adoptions in the U.S. have changed over the years. Join me as I reveal a peek into the past of how adoption has evolved from a secretive practice to a nationally recognized and celebrated event!
Adoptions have changed drastically within the past 50 years. Traditionally, all adoptions were closed. That meant that there was no interaction between the birth mother and the adoptive parents. No identifying information was provided either to the birth families or adoptive families, so the child didn't know his or her birth parents and wasn't able to get in touch with them. As the child grew up, he or she often struggled with personal identity because of the absence of contact with their birth family.
Ilene, a seventy-year-old adoptive mother, told me how she came to adopt her two children in the early 1940s. They received a phone call one evening from a local adoption agency asking them if they still wanted to adopt. If so, there were two children, both infants, available. Ilene told the social worker she'd speak to her husband at dinner. If he agreed they would "come down after they finished dinner and cleaned up the kitchen," to pick up the children. In that era, adoptions happened in a completely different style from the modern adoptions of today.
Many changes have made adopting a child somewhat different today. Opinions and attitudes of adoption have changed. Negative experiences with closed adoption forced the process to open up. Agencies and their policies evolved slowly. Regardless of changes, some agencies today still have in place procedures used 30 years ago. Many of these are failing because they are not meeting the needs of their clients. Successful agencies will continue to operate as long as compassionate and caring social workers are involved. In the late '70s, adoption facilitators and attorneys began to offer services to meet needs not being met by all agencies.
Some degree of contact through open adoption is by far more desirable to most birth families than closed. Today, many adoption professionals don't offer closed adoptions but instead, offer semi-open adoptions with varying levels of openness. Birth families' wishes are now being respected, allowing many adoptees the needed information to feel whole and at peace with why they were adopted.
Whatever the circumstances were, adopted children are now allowed to have that knowledge to do with it whatever they need to feel complete. Some adoptees accepted the information and left it at that, others felt they needed more details and wanted to search for their birth parents for more answers, while another group wasn't interested in knowing any more than they had received growing up.
With a closed adoption, the child often doesn't have the option of knowing their birth parents. Information about their adoption, their birth family, and their origins are unavailable to them. Experts agree offering flexibility in adoption to meet the needs of the triad is the most successful way to approach adoption today. The adoptive parents are provided the knowledge of their child's medical history, which helps should anything go wrong.
If you're hoping to adopt, I encourage you to seek support from others who have gone through open adoption. Every adoption is different, just as there are differences in people, there are vast differences in adoptions. No two are alike, and the needs of the triad will differ.
Closed adoptions will continue, though the percentage is less than a single digit today. There will always be birth parents and adoptive families who feel it's best for their situation. Time will tell if it truly was. For now, the benefits of an open adoption far outweigh any other option. Education helps adoptive parents to become more familiar with the benefits to their child, themselves, and the birth parents.