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Journal Issue: Adoption Volume 3 Number 1 Spring 1993

Risks and Benefits of Open Adoption
Marianne Berry


Open adoption has both strong critics and staunch supporters. Most of the criticism and support is based on the philosophical or legal rights of members of the adoption triangle, but empirical evidence to support either position is sparse. This article reviews the arguments for and against openness, and the empirical evidence that supports or refutes these arguments.

Research to date indicates that birthmothers commonly view open adoption positively. However, teenage birthmothers often are not developmentally ready to assess the long-term consequences of openness, and may be overdependent on the adoptive parents and immature in their contacts. Adoptive parents are generally favorable toward openness, but many feel that they were pressured to accept it in order to obtain a child. Many adoptive parents state that they are uncertain about what the future may hold in open adoption. The effect of open adoption on the children is least understood at present and demands further long-term research.

The choice of open adoption should be made in the course of comprehensive counseling of birthparents and adoptive parents by trained professionals. Continued contact should exist only if ongoing support through postadoption services is extended to all parties, with particular attention to the interests of the children.