“Open” Versus “Closed” Adoption
Based on modern adoption principles and current practices supported by legislation, all adoptions that occur in Alberta are classified as “Open” unless, based on special circumstances, a Court orders otherwise.
We receive many questions about open adoption from prospective adopting couples. Many are concerned that open adoption allows, or even legitimizes, a degree of residual parenting rights or access to birth parents that might undermine their authority or potentially affect their relationship with their adopted child.
Only Applies to Birth and Adoption Records
In terms of adoption, the reference to “open” usually refers to birth-related records and information and not to the parenting or the legal relationship between the adoptee and birth parents.
What Parental Rights are Retained by the Birth Parents?
In terms of parenting, the adoption process permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities to the adopting parties, once an adoption has been granted,
Unlike guardianship, or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption causes a permanent change in status and establishes permanent legal filiations between the parties.
The legal concept of filiation is described as follows:
“Filiation is the relationship which exists between a child and the child’s parents, whether the parents are of the same or the opposite sex. The relationship can be established by blood, by law in certain cases, or by a judgment of adoption. Once filiation has been established, it creates rights and obligations for both the child and the parents, regardless of the circumstances of the child’s birth.”
Why is Open Adoption So Much Better?
Small Miracles Adoption is not aware of any credible, modern report or study that supports closed adoption practices.
As recently as 30 years ago, state institutions and organizations continued to defend closed adoption as necessary to protect the interests and reputations of people who had placed children for adoption. This argument persisted despite pressure from birthparents attempting to obtain information about the children they had placed; the very group that state actors relied upon to justify state-imposed-adoption-record-secrecy.
It is likely reasonable to assume that between the turn of the century and the 1970’s, most of the people who became the gatekeepers of closed adoption knew very little about child psychological development and perhaps even less about the actual origins of closed adoption.
The Origins of “Closed Adoption” in North America
The closed adoption of children was founded in the roots of racism, religious intolerance and child servitude. The concept of sealed adoption records can be traced back to a paper published in 1859 by prominent Protestant minister Charles Loring Brace, The Best Method of Disposing of Our Pauper and Vagrant Children.
By the middle of the 19th century, a combination of the American Civil War and rapid immigration had resulted in an explosion of orphaned children in the United States. Reverend Brace was personally appalled at the number of homeless children on the streets of New York City. He was particularly concerned about the number of Irish Catholic children, believing them to be the most dangerous element challenging the city’s good order.
Reverend Brace and his supporters sparked the Orphan Train movement which resulted in the forced relocation of over 200,000 children from the urban centres of the American East Coast to the rural areas of America, where most became indentured farm labour. An important component of the Orphan Train movement was the requirement to keep the “adoption” records sealed so that the children’s parents could not locate them and to prevent the children from finding their way home.
The Formation of Individual Identity
The reason that closed adoption registries are not good idea is that secrecy and lack of information interferes with an individual’s normal ability to form a sense of identity. Failing to properly achieve a sense of identity can contribute to behavioral and developmental issues and has been associated with a variety of psychological disorders.
Open Adoption is the Way to Go!
While we understand the concerns, there is no indication that knowledge or association with birth parents increases the chances that adopted children will reject or abandon their adopted families. Conversely, studies indicate that an adoptee’s failure to properly develop their identity can lead to psycho/social problems and the possibility of family rejection.
If you are considering adoption, or have adopted, and are concerned about any aspect of Open Adoption, do not hesitate to contact Small Miracles Adoption for information and guidance.