Open Adoption - History of Openness in Adoption

History of Openness in Adoption

A closed adoption 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 biological parents. The social stigma of unmarried mothers, particularly during the BSE (Baby Scoop Era) 1945-1975 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, biological 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. Some Open Adoptions have become closed early after the birth of a child.

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.

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