Abstract: Openness and Contact: A Comparison Between Private and Foster Care Adoptions (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

54P Openness and Contact: A Comparison Between Private and Foster Care Adoptions

Friday, January 15, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Monica Faulkner, LMSW , University of Texas at Austin, Doctoral Student, Austin, TX
Elissa Madden, LMSW , University of Texas at Austin, Doctoral Student, Research Assistant, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: The number of open adoptions has significantly increased over the last three decades (Frasch, Brooks & Barth, 2000). However, much of the empirical research on openness has focused on private infant adoptions (Grotevant and McRoy, 1998). Few studies have examined the open adoption practices and outcomes of families who adopt children with special needs from the foster care system (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2003; Frasch et al, 2000; Silverstein & Roszia, 1999). This study contributes to existing adoption research by comparing post adoption contact of private and foster care adoptions.

Methods: We use data from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP). The survey was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is one of the first studies to provide nationally representative information on adoption in the United States. The survey addresses the pre and post adoption experiences of families who adopted children by means of international, private, and foster care adoption. Data was collected between April 2007 and June 2008 and released to the public in Spring 2009. NSAP includes interviews with adoptive parents of children under 17 years of age (N=2,089). Parents were identified through other nationally representative surveys, primarily the National Survey of Children's Health. Interviews were conducted by telephone.

The present study includes adoptive parents who identified having an open adoption agreement and who adopted a child either through private adoption or adoption from the foster care system (n=434). The purpose of our analysis was to examine the likelihood of contact with the child's birth family after the adoption was finalized. Logistic regression analysis was used to explore the relationship between type of adoption (private or foster care) and birth family contact. Control variables in the analysis included: current age of child, prior history of abuse or neglect, the presence of a written agreement, history of the child living with the birth family, and whether or not the adoption is transracial.

Results: Results of the logistic regression demonstrate that children who were adopted through a private, open adoption were more likely to have had post-adoption contact with their birth families than children adopted through an open foster care adoption. This increased likelihood remained significant when controls were included in the analysis. Children who had previously lived with their birth families had an increased likelihood of having post adoption contact. However, the results indicated that children adopted by parent(s) of a different race were less likely to have post adoption contact with their birth families.

Conclusions and Implications: The results of this study suggest that although the number of open adoptions from foster care has increased in recent years, post adoption contact with birth families is not guaranteed. Additional research is warranted to better understand the role of race in open adoptions as well as the overall impact of openness on families who adopt children with special needs from the foster care system.