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Open adoption the new standard

Missouri residents looking to add to their family through domestic adoption should be aware that they almost certainly won't be bringing one person into the mix. They will likely be inviting the entire birth family, as well.

Today, about 95 percent of adoptions in the U.S. involve some sort of communication between the adoptive and birth families. In 1999, the figure was 79 percent, more than double the 36 percent figure of about a decade earlier.

It was in the 1980s that the idea of "open adoption" took off in the U.S. Birth families wanted to participate in selecting a family for babies and older kids, and agencies began to broker a deal between the two sides for some continued communication. Today, contracts stipulate things such as how many times the adoptive family will meet with the birth family each year, how many phone conversations they will share and how often the adoptive parents will send photos or emails with news of the child's activities.

A study over the past three decades that followed 720 adoptive parents, birth mothers and children found that open adoptions usually are better received by families than closed adoptions.

Another study, this one published in 2006 in an adoption journal, said that adopted children felt better about themselves if they had more contact with their birth families. An earlier study of pregnant women said 69 percent of those who gave up their child and chose the adoptive family had fewer regrets than those who did not select the family.

Each year, there are more than 130,000 domestic adoptions in the United States.

Experts said that while much progress has been made in the open adoption arena, both birth and adoptive families can use more training in making the partnership work. One way is making sure agreements are realistic and do not make promises that might not be viable over an extended period, such as monthly visits.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "One Baby, Two Moms: a Rise in Open Adoptions," Mara Lemos Stein, Aug. 14, 2012

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