Presentation on theme: "Maintaining Connections: openness in adoptions versus closed adoptions. Marcie Daniluke, Mentor Parent Dependency Advocacy Center; Kate Cleary, Executive."— Presentation transcript:
Maintaining Connections: openness in adoptions versus closed adoptions. Marcie Daniluke, Mentor Parent Dependency Advocacy Center; Kate Cleary, Executive Director of Consortium for Children; Dylan Roy, Staff Attorney Dependency Advocacy Center.
What is “Open” Adoption? Open Adoption - Maintaining Connections - takes many forms. Spectrum of closed and confidential all the way to face-to-face contact on a regular basis. Availability of open adoption depends on each State’s laws.
Maintaining Connections Basics Who is included in open adoption? It can involve adoptive parents, the child and birth parents, birth grandparents, other relatives and other important connections. Many of the details of open adoption are governed by state statutes. The law ranges widely. The growing trend, even in dependency, is openness when deemed safe & appropriate.
Maintaining Connections The 50 states, territories and D.C. vary from no laws on open adoption (that could be found) to allowing openness in kinship adoptions only, openness in non- dependency settings only, to allowing the best interests of the child to govern.
State Law Examples Idaho: No laws could be found (notes 1 and 2). Georgia: House Bill 21. Went into effect July 1, 2013. – Parties: birth relatives (parent, biological father (not legal father), grandparent, brother, sister, half-brother/sister who is related by blood or marriage to a child who is being adopted/has been adopted, or a grandparent, brother, sister, half-sibling who is related by adoption to a child is being adopted/has been adopted), adoptive parent or parents & and a child who is 14 or older.
State Law Examples – Must be entered into voluntarily and in written form with signatures to be enforceable. – Enforcement, modification or termination is under the jx of the court that granted the petition for adoption. – May provide for “privileges” regarding a child who is being or has been adopted. These include, but are not limited to, visitation, contact, sharing of information about the child or about the birth relatives. – The adoption CANNOT be set aside or declared invalid due to a failure to comply with the agreement.
State Law Examples California: – Kinship Adoption Agreements: In 1997 CA Fam Code 8714.5 declared the legislature's intent: “It is the intent of the Legislature to expedite legal permanency for children who cannot return to their parents and to remove barriers to adoption by relatives of children who are already in the dependency system or who are at risk of entering the dependency system.” Today FC 8714.5 (d) references FC 8616.5. – Further, CA Fam Code 8714.7 instructed courts that “Nothing in the adoption laws of this state shall be construed to prevent the adopting parent or parents, the birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents, and the child from entering into a written agreement to permit continuing contact between the birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents, and the child if the agreement is found by the court to be in the best interests of the child at the time the adoption petition is granted…” Today FC 8714.7 is codified as FC 8616.5
State Law Examples California Continued: Post-Adotion Contact Agreements: Found in Family Code Section 8616.5. Further, the California Welfare and Institutions Code section that deals with the Selection and Implementation of the permanent plan specifically addresses FC 8616.5 and its applicability to Dependency cases: WIC 366.26 – “Section 8616.5 of the Family Code is applicable and available to all dependent children meeting the requirements of that section, if the post-adoption contact agreement has been entered into voluntarily.” F C 8616.5 (a): The Legislature finds and declares that some adoptive children may benefit from either direct or indirect contact with birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or an Indian tribe, after being adopted. Post adoption contact agreements are intended to ensure children of an achievable level of continuing contact when contact is beneficial to the children and the agreements are voluntarily entered into by birth relatives, including the birth parent or parents or an Indian tribe, and adoptive parents. Nothing in this section requires all of the listed parties to participate in the development of a post adoption contact agreement in order for the agreement to be entered into.
State Law Examples In 2000 and 2003 changes made to the statutes mentioned above. The post- adoption contact agreements can now be made between any adoptive parent and the birth relatives. They are no longer known as kinship adoption agreements – expansion is further legislative recognition of the benefits of open adoption. Parties are the adoptive parent(s), an Indian tribe if applicable, birth relatives, including the parents, and the child. If the child is a dependent of the court, the child must be represented by an attorney for this process. If the child is over 12, they must agree in writing to the written agreement or any modifications. The agreement must be written, entered into voluntarily and found by the court to be in the best interests of the child at the time the adoption is finalized. The agreement is enforceable, but not through setting aside the adoption or granting monetary awards. Must attempt to resolve disputes in mediation prior to seeking court intervention. The court that granted the application for adoption holds jurisdiction over the PACA.
Why Maintain Connections in Dependency Cases? The Fostering Connections to Success & Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008: – Clear that there is a federal preference towards relative placement and family connections for foster youth 3. – Maintaining family connections can come in many forms. This decision is not about the birth parents or relatives. The child’s interests must be the main consideration. Legally, it is really the only consideration. We, as players in this system, are making, forcing even, decisions upon the lives of the most vulnerable children in our society. These decisions are made for children before they even know what is happening in most cases. We have to be aware of the connections we are maintaining or foreclosing on behalf of these children.
In What Types of Cases Should Some Form of Openness in Adoption be Considered? “Aside from determining best practices in open adoptions from foster care, options for post-adoption contact should be presented to adoptive and birth families when it is determined to be in the best interest of the child. Public child welfare agencies should incorporate practices that facilitate open adoption, provide post-adoption services to facilitate contact, and assist both birth and adoptive families in managing contact.” 4 Open Adoption and Post-Adoption Birth Family Contact: A Comparison of Non-Relative Foster and Private Adoptions (2012) by Monica Faulkner Ph.D., LMSW & Elissa Madden Ph.D., LMSW. – From a study that used data from the National Survey of Adoptive Parents to compare data about post-adoption contact in families with non-relative private and foster care adoptions.
In What Types of Cases Should Some Form of Openness in Adoption be Considered? “All adoptions, including those facilitated by public agencies, should be evaluated for openness.” Initial Validation of the Open Adoption Scale: Measuring the Influence of Adoption Myths on Attitudes Toward Open Adoption, Donna Brown, MSW; Janet Therese Pushkal, MSW, and Professor Scott Ryan, PhD. 5 – Authors created a scale, the Open Adoption Scale, which they validated and have since utilized to confirm their earlier findings. The OAS was used to measure attitudes and erroneous myths that are harmful to the neutral evaluation of openness in adoptions. Tool designed, in part, to lead to internal trainings of social workers. – Cites to article by Lonsway & Fitzgerald that illustrated the biggest myth is that closed adoption is best for the child, adoptive parent and the biological parent.
– Illustrates other research articles that indicate that there is a growing trend towards openness – and that it is even “often a preferable adoption arrangement 6.” – Community values and norms informs attitudes towards openness in adoption 7. Similarly, in the 2005 article, Informed Decisions in Child Welfare: The Use of Attachment Theory, professors Maura O’Keefe & Ferol Mennen arrived at a similar conclusion based upon attachment theory for dependent children where reunification has failed – “In all cases, the possibility of an on- going relationship with birth parents should be explored to see if it might prove beneficial to the child as openness in foster care adoptions has proved beneficial to many children and families.” 8
Evidence that Openness Should be Considered in All Cases? There are three major longitudinal studies of the effects of openness in adoption upon the satisfaction with the adoption for the adoptive parent(s), birth parent(s)/family & and adopted child. – 1. The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project (all private adoptions). – 2. The California Long Range Adoptions Study. With findings reported at 8 and 14 years. Four waves – the first with public, private and independent adoptions two years after adoption. The second wave was at four years after adoption. The third wave was a smaller sample of only adoptions from foster care. Wave four was done at 14 years after adoption. – 3. Professor Deborah Siegal’s study of 31 adoptive families starting in 1993 and ending in 2008.
The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project: Started in 1984 by Rev. Calvin Oerdel, the VP of Social Services for Lutheran Services of Texas. Pilot study’s findings of 17 adoptive families was published in 1998. Findings justified further study. Focus on private adoptions. – Wave I: 190 adoptive families and 169 birth mothers. Children between 4 & 12 in 1987 to 1992. – Wave 2 - Data collected between 1996 - 2000 - children now adolescents. – Wave 3 - Data collected between 2005 - 2008 - children now young adults. – Wave 4 - Data collected in early 2012. – Findings: Self-Esteem: Children in the group were scored in the “normal” range - openness in the adoptions did not have an effect. Adjustment: Openness, per se, did not have an effect on the child’s ability to adjust to life appropriately. What had a positive effect on the child was a sense of collaboration and working between the birth family and adoptive family.
California Long Range Adoptions Study “Growing Concern among mental health and child welfare professionals about the impact of closed adoption on adopted children has been a major contributor to the recent shift from closed to open adoptions 9.” – Study started in 1992 in California. Multiple papers written about different waves. In 2000, doctoral student Karie Frasch and professors Devon Brooks and Richard Barth published the 8 year findings on the study in a piece titled, Openness and Contact in Foster Care Adoptions: An Eight-Year Follow-Up
California Long Range Adoptions Study In 2009 Professors Richard Barth and Thomas Crea authored “Patterns and Predictors of Adoption Openness and Contact: 14 Years Postadoption.” – “[T]his study adds to a body of research suggesting that open adoptions at least do no harm and may contribute positively to adoptive families’ well-being.”
California Long Range Adoptions Study “The findings from this study suggest that adoptive children and families are doing well because they continue to negotiate their relationships with birth families.” “Respondents’ perceptions of their children’s well-being over time had little to do with having an open adoption relationship, although greater family well-being predicted openness.”
California Long Range Adoptions Study “We predict that, as a result of these changes in practice and policy, open adoptions will become increasingly common; however, as adoption arrangements are facilitated by child welfare workers, increased attention must be given to negotiating contact between birth and adoptive families prior to placement.” 10
Professor Deborah Siegel’s Research Three waves – interviewed 21 adoptive families over the course of 15 years: 1.Initial findings in 1993 findings published in Open adoption of infants: Adoptive Parents’ Perceptions of Advantages and Disadvantages. Social Work. Vol. 38, No. 1: 15-25. 11 a.Interviews with adoptive parents when the child was under a year old. According to the author, the findings “indicate overwhelmingly positive feelings about open adoption.” The group of adoptive parents believed at the onset open adoption was in their child’s best interests. 2.The second wave of findings were addressed in, Open Adoption of Infants: Adoptive parents’ feelings seven years later. Social Work, 48(3), 409-419. 12
Professor Deborah Siegel’s Research a.In the second wave the children were now six and seven years old. The only change identified by the adoptive parents was a request for more openness. The feelings of positivity towards the open arrangements continued from the earlier findings. Not one adoptive parent indicated that they wanted less contact. 3.The third wave of findings was published in 2008 in, Open adoption and adolescence. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 89(3). 13
Professor Deborah Siegel’s Research a.The third wave of findings were published when the children were fourteen to fifteen years old. The adoptive parents all stated that they believed openness helped their children with identity issues. No parents indicated that they felt that the openness had a negative impact upon their children’s adolescence. All adoptive parents continued to report positive feelings towards open adoption. The adoptive parents even indicated they felt positive about parents who had a continued substance abuse problem or ongoing mental health issues – they all noted that there had been no threatening behaviors during visits.
References 1.Child Welfare Information Gateway, (2011), Postadoption contact agreements between birth and adoptive families. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. 2.Infant Adoption Training Initiative: http://www.iaatp.com/docs/FAQs-ID.pdf. 3.Fosteringconnections.org: Perspectives on Fostering Connections: A Series of While Papers on the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data- publications/data/state-data-repository/perspectives-on-fostering.pdf 4.Monica Faulkner & Elissa E. Madden (2012) Open Adoption and Post-Adoption Birth Family Contact: A Comparison of Non-Relative Foster and Private Adoptions, Adoption Quarterly, 15:1, 35-56, DOI: 10.1080/10926755.2012.661333 5.Brown, Ryan & Pushkal (2007), Initial Validation of the Open Adoption Scale: Measuring the Influence of Adoption Myths on Attitudes Toward Open Adoption, Adoption Quarterly, Vol. 10(3-4), 179-196. 6.Brown, Ryan & Pushkal at page 181. 7.Brown, Ryan & Pushkal at page 182. 8.Mennen & O’Keefe (2005), Informed Decisions in Child Welfare: The Use of Attachment Theory, Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 27(6), 577-593.
References 9.Frasch, Brooks & Barth (2000), Openness and Contact in Foster Care Adoptions: An Eight-Year Follow-Up, Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, Vol. 49(4), 435-446. 10.Crea & Barth, Patterns and Predictors of Adoption Openness and Contact: 14 Years Postadoption, Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, Vol. 58 (December 2009), 607-620. 11.Siegel, D.H. (1993). Open adoption of infants: Adoptive parents’ perceptions of advantages and disadvantages. Social Work, 38(1), 15-23. 12.Siegel, D.H. (2003). Open Adoption of Infants: Adoptive parents’ feelings seven years later. Social Work, 48(3), 409-419. 13.Siegel, D.H. (2008). Open adoption and adolescence. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 89(3).
Further Information http://www.childrensdefense.org/policy- priorities/child-welfare/fostering-connections/ http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publication s/2012_03_OpennessInAdoption.pdf http://www.adoptionhelp.org/open- adoption/research http://www.psych.umass.edu/adoption/resea rch_design/participants/