Maintaining Connections: openness in adoptions versus closed

Report
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 nondependency 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 postadoption 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 postadoption 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 youth3.
– 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 arrangement6.”
– Community values and norms informs attitudes towards openness in
adoption7.
• 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 ongoing 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
adoptions9.”
– 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.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
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.
Infant Adoption Training Initiative: http://www.iaatp.com/docs/FAQs-ID.pdf.
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-datapublications/data/state-data-repository/perspectives-on-fostering.pdf
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
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.
Brown, Ryan & Pushkal at page 181.
Brown, Ryan & Pushkal at page 182.
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/policypriorities/child-welfare/fostering-connections/
• http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publication
s/2012_03_OpennessInAdoption.pdf
• http://www.adoptionhelp.org/openadoption/research
• http://www.psych.umass.edu/adoption/resea
rch_design/participants/

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