April 30 -- Open adoptions, as opposed to traditional adoptions, allow birth parents to stay involved in their children's lives even after the adoption has been finalized.
Twenty years ago, 1 percent of domestic adoptions were open. Now, 60 percent to 70 percent of domestic adoptions are open, which is why many agencies, whether advocates or opponents of the trend, offer open adoptions as an option.
Map: Laws on Open Adoption Agreements State by State
Although many still consider open adoptions controversial, those who have researched the practice say that some of the fears are unwarranted. Harold Grotevant, whose Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project has followed 720 active adoption participants for more than 15 years, says, "For people who want to do an open adoption, we have found no evidence that it is harmful." Grotevent does add a caveat: "It makes your family more complicated. It is not necessarily the best route for everyone."
A Shift in Power
"Birthmothers have a lot more control than they used to," says Marianne Berry, one of the leading open adoption experts in the country. "They get to decide who gets their babies."
It wasn't always this way. As recent as the 1970s some birthmothers never saw their children after delivery. Some women were tied down and blindfolded in the delivery room to avoid the possibility of eye contact — and the possibility of further bonding — with their babies. For those who had the opportunity to see and hold their babies, the relationship was often short-lived; case workers, whose job it was to ensure secrecy and silence, would quickly surrender the babies to waiting adoptive parents with whom the birthmother had never had, and would never have, contact.