Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

28P Openness and Post-Adoption Contact: A Comparison Between Non-Relative Foster and Private Adoptions

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Monica Faulkner, PhD, LMSW, Research Associate, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Elissa Madden, PhD, LMSW, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Arlington, TX
Background and Purpose: Openness and post-adoption contact have steadily increased in the United States during the last three decades. However, until recent years, the practice of openness has primarily been contained to private adoptions. This study attempts to address this gap by comparing post-adoption contact in open adoptions between the birth and adoptive families among private agency adoptions and foster care adoptions.

Methods: We used data from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents, the first survey to provide nationally representative information on adoption in the United States and about the pre-adoption and post-adoption experiences of adoptive families. Data were collected by telephone interviews in 2007 and 2008. Our sample included 819 children who were adopted by non-relatives through foster care (n=411) or private agencies (n=408). The independent variable in this study was type of adoption (foster care/private). The dependent variable in the analysis evaluated contact between the child's birth family and the child's adoptive family. The presence of an agreement regarding open adoption was used as a control variable. Other control variables included transracial adoption, the likelihood that the child experienced abuse prior to the adoption, whether the child lived with birth family, and the child's age at placement in the adoptive home.

Results: This study examined differences between foster care and private adoptions with regards to any post-adoption contact between the birth and foster families. Results of the logistic regression demonstrated some differences in post-adoption contact between private and foster care open adoptions. Families completing adoptions from foster care were 75% less likely to have had post-adoption contact (ŽÍ2=70.05; p≤ 0.001). The presence of a post-adoption contact agreement significantly increased the odds of contact. Families of children who had agreements for contact were over five times as likely to have had contact with the birth family after the adoption. Additionally, families of children who lived with their families prior to the adoption were over five times as likely to have had post-adoption contact with the child's birth family. Finally, the likelihood that the child experienced physical abuse was negatively associated with post-adoption contact between the adoptive and birth families. Families of children who likely experienced abuse prior to the adoption were 67% less likely to have had contact with the child's birth family.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings of this study demonstrate that openness and post-adoption contact in adoptions from foster care do exist; however, they occur less frequently than in private adoptions. This study represents the first data from a nationally representative sample of adopted children and thus, fills significant gaps in the literature regarding what happens after adoptions, particularly adoptions from foster care, are finalized. Aside from determining best practices in openness in adoptions from foster care, options for open adoption should be presented to adoptive and birth families when it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. Child welfare agencies should incorporate practices that facilitate open adoption, provide post-adoption services to facilitate contact, and assist birth and adoptive families in managing openness.