The survey was entitled “Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Open Adoption.” The parameters were that the respondent must be 18 years or older and raised in an open adoption from birth or an adoption that became open shortly after.
A link to the survey was shared on Facebook and Twitter over a 2 week timeframe between September 2nd- September 15th. In all, there were 35 respondents. Of those, 7 indicated that they were not raised in open adoptions. After filtering out the respondents that did not meet the parameters, 28 remained. The following is a summary of those responses. A link to the survey will be posted at the end. Also, please follow us here and on Facebook for more surveys.
Questions 1 and 2 were required in order to set the parameters; age and openness. The remaining questions were optional and occasionally some were skipped by 1 or 2 respondents.
- 86% of respondents were told they were adopted before the age of 5.
- The initial terms included visitations with the birth family in 44% of adoptions.
- The majority of respondents were born after 1981.
- 77% of respondents were raised in homes with a married mother and father who have remained married into their adulthood.
As the years progressed 22% of the adoptions became more open, 25% became more closed, and 18% closed entirely. The remaining adoptions stayed the same as the initial terms.
If the adoption closed entirely, 30% of the time it was initiated by the adoptive family, 15% by the birth family, and 23% by the adoptee. One respondent commented, “I closed it for 2 years because my pain was to[sic] much to deal with at a young age.” In other cases, the closing was mutual between families.
59% of the respondents have contact today with their birth families and 70% have contact with their adoptive families. In some cases, contact is limited to one family member or only between adoptive and birth mothers.
There were a number of reasons given as to why the respondent was placed for adoption. There were discrepancies between what reasons the adoptive family gave to the respondent and the reasons the birth family gave to the respondent. Adoptive families were more likely to tell the respondent their birth mother was young, poor, unwed, and did not want to parent. They were also more likely to tell the respondent they were “unwanted”, adoption was chosen as an abortion alternative, there were safety concerns, or their adoption was “God’s Will”.
Birth families were more likely to tell the respondent that a general “better life” was desired for them; “Birth mother couldn’t give me the life she wanted for me.” They also were more likely to say that persuasion and/or coercion were involved in placement; “Forced/coerced adoption. Birth mother wanted to parent.” In some cases, no reason was given by birth families.
- 92% of respondents were not adopted into a family with their half or full siblings.
- 46% struggled with jealousy towards their birth family’s kept siblings.
- 53% of respondents with siblings did not have direct contact with their siblings.
- 22% of respondents were in transracial adoptions.
- 33% of respondents could directly contact their birth family.
- 29% of adoptive families encouraged contact between the respondent and their birth family.
- 14% of respondents felt like their adoptive and birth families blended into one family.
- 51% of respondents have felt torn between two families.
- 70% of respondents felt their birth family’s involvement was too little in their life.
- 70% of respondents struggled with identity issues.
- 77% struggled with feelings of abandonment.
- 25% were placed on anti-depressants as minors.
- 65% committed self-destructive behaviors.
- 55% considered or attempted suicide.
- 33% of respondents said their Open Adoption was beneficial for them.
- For Open Adoption in general, 42% of respondents said it could be a benefit to children.
When asked if other arrangements could benefit a child more than Open Adoption, preserving a birth family garnered 42% of responses, followed by kinship adoption, indifferent, and Open Adoption all tied at 11%. Comments ranged from, “It depends entirely on the situation. There is no hard and fast rule” to “The most important thing would be to preserve the original family, but if this isn’t possible, kinship adoption or guardianship may be possibilities depending on how they’re handled.”
As minors, 18% of respondents received counseling directly related to adoption. As adults, 55% of respondents have received counseling directly related to adoption. 59% of respondents did not feel that they received appropriate emotional support in navigating Open Adoption.
- 73% of respondents would recommend Open Adoption to others.
- 50% would consider adopting a child through Open Adoption, while 50% would not consider it.
- Religion was used as a means to explain the respondent’s adoption in 29% of cases.
- 11% of respondents believe that adoption was God’s plan for their life.
- 65% of respondents consider themselves pro-choice, while 34% consider themselves pro-life.
- 38% of respondents consider themselves pro-adoption, while 42% do not consider themselves pro-adoption, and 19% are indifferent.
- 74% of respondents would not consider placing their own child in an Open Adoption.
- 66% of respondents do not believe abortion to be a preferable alternative to adoption.
- 77% of respondents daydreamed about their birth families as minors.
- 44% enjoy hearing the story of their adoption retold.
- 46% find adoption anniversary days triggering for them.
- As minors, 66% of respondents thought about adoption often.
- As adults, 74% of respondents think about adoption often.
Respondents were asked if they felt their lives turned out “better” than it would have with their birth families. 33% of respondents said “yes”, followed by 22% saying “no”, and 22% “indifferent”. Respondents commented with, “I’m more successful than my kept siblings, but I have a lot more emotional issues .” Another said, “Based on what I can gather, it would have been similar socioeconomically.” It was explained by one respondent, “This is a tough answer to question[sic], and one that I ask myself often. It’s not helpful to think of my adoption in this way: my present life is what it is now, and nothing will change it. The adoption most negatively affected my childhood — not my adulthood.”
And finally, respondents were asked what their overall feeling today is about Open Adoption. The responses varied with Happy 7%, Anger 11%, Indifference 19%, Sadness 15%, Grateful 7%, Confusion 23%, and Peaceful 0%. Responses included, “Anger, a deep grief, I feel like I have to be someone that I’m not in my adoptive family.” Another said, “I think it’s by far the best way to do it but mine was completely mishandled.” Other responses included, “It is what it is” and “My open adoption was terminated by age 5.”
The following are free-form responses that respondents were given as an option to offer a final statement.
“My birth mother has severe mental illness which I did not discover until I was older. I would not have closed contact with my birth family if this were not an issue. Most contact during my childhood was through my biological grandparents.”
“While I recognize the economic advantages from being adopted versus being raised by my birth mother, my adoptive father was emotionally and occasionally physically abusive. I suspect from our interactions that my birth mother has her own emotional issues, I was the 4th of 5 children she had and the only one adopted out. As a child I may have fantasized occasionally about life if she had kept me, but as an adult I think it would have just been a different set of problems than what I faced. My adoptive father grew up in a closed adoption and only found the truth after his adoptive mother passed. I am grateful that my adoptive parents were open with me about my situation and it never seemed like a big deal to me as a child.”
“My bio mother was slowly limited from calling and sending things. And I was told she just wasn’t calling or sending things. I’m not sure what the truth is, but I’m not super supportive of adoption. I do think Open Adoption is better than Closed Adoption.”
“Adoption was positive. Had I not been adopted, I would likely be in an unstable abusive family that couldn’t take care of me.”
“Adoption is a gift of trauma that keeps on giving. No one understood my life, perspective, and feelings while I was growing up. No one understood me or helped me, and so in a lot of ways I ‘failed to thrive.’ I’m currently pursuing my MA, and I’m still trying to overcome the trauma and neglect. Through adoption I was given many things, but I haven’t been able to grasp them due to emotional challenges.”
“It’s a great idea and, I think, helps ward against fantasies of birth family at the same time as grounding a child. In my case, it was mismanaged and causes more damage/pain. However, saying that, I actively want to adopt and would be positive about open adoption. My parents were just too threatened by the whole thing.”
“I’m now an adoptive mother and I believe my own experience has made it easier for my own children. It’s a very open topic in our home and while my children are not able to have contact with their birth parents yet (adopted through foster care), I believe it is much easier for them to come to me about their concerns and feelings because they know I understand what it’s like. It took a very long time for my birth mother and I to have a good relationship (over 20 years) but we have now and I will never regret finding her, even though I was very young at the time.”
“The whole adoption thing bugs me more as the years go by and I’m left with hardly any family at all, and my children don’t have as much family as they should have. My adoptive father doesn’t care about me/us at all. My amom cared for me, but was to weak to leave him and take me with her.”
“I think, for some families/individuals, Open Adoption can be a good thing. My situtation was not average — I grew up exposed to domestic violence in my adoptive family. There were some very traumatic events early in my life. When I turned 18, I met my birth mother and her children for the first time, and lived with them during my first two years of college. This was a mistake, but was a decision made out of genuine curiosity. We thought it would work, but it didn’t. I think, if anything, children who are raised in an open adoption situation should be communicated with from an early age on what that means for them, their adoptive family, and their birth family. I would have preferred to be given my birth mother’s contact information when I was at an appropriate age and been given the choice as to whether to make contact or not. Growing up, it felt like none of the decisions pertaining to my well-being were ever my choice, and this is something that has proven to be a challenge in my last decade as an independent adult.”
Adoption Surveys thanks the respondents who took the time to complete the survey. Our hope is to give those affected by adoption a voice.
The link to the survey results can be found here: Adult Adoptee Perceptions in Open Adoption
address if broken link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-8S7MYQDL8/
There is currently a survey for Natural/Birth Moms in Open Adoption. If you are a mom who fits the parameters or knows someone who does, please direct them to:
(It will be closing sometime in September 2017 TBA)
Follow us on Facebook for more surveys on adoption in the future.
If the link is broken: https://m.facebook.com/groups/1571159579602138/