American Adoption Congress: Educating, Empowering, Evolving Donate

Maine Department of Human Resources

In 1989, the Maine Department of Human Resources Task Force on Adoption did a comprehensive study of adoption issues which found an overwhelming desire to be found by both sides of the triad.

Maine’s DHS admitted it was “startled” to discover how few people didn’t want to be found. Here’s what they found: of 130 birthparents surveyed, all 130 wanted to be found by the child they had placed for adoption. And of the 164 adoptees surveyed, 95 percent expressed a desire to be found by their parents. In 1991, Paul Sachdev did a study that showed 85.5 percent of birthmothers and 81.1 percent of adoptees support adult adoptees having access to records identifying their birthparents.

To be sure, practice-based knowledge further validates that birthparents and adoptees want to be found by one another. Contrary to the assertion that birthparents move on with their lives, and live in fear that the children they relinquished for adoption will intrude upon them, research and the work with birthparents undertaken by Becker in 1989, Demick and Wapner in 1988, and Baran, Pannor and Sorosky in 1976, uniformly finds that birthparents do not forget the children they relinquished for adoption, wonder whether they are alive and healthy and express strong desires to be found by them; and also finds that the grief they experience in having relinquished their children is intensified by the secrecy surrounding adoption and the walls the adoption system has erected against any contact.

Rosemary Avery’s 1996 research on the attitudes of adoptive parents in New York regarding access to identifying information found that 84 percent of the adoptive mothers and 73 percent of the adoptive fathers agreed or strongly agreed that an adult adoptee should be able to obtain identifying information on his or her birthparents.

This research reflects higher levels of support than that found in Feiglemen and Silverman’s 1986 research on the attitudes of adoptive parents.

That study—more than ten years old—nevertheless found that 55 percent of the adoptive parents of American-born children supported legislation easing restrictions on their children learning about their birth families, while 66 percent of adoptive parents of internationally adopted children expressed their support.

In conclusion, the research basically makes it clear that birthparents and adopted adults both want access to identifying information; and, adoptive families, rather than feeling threatened by their children’s needs and interest in their birth families, support that access.

Other research, including that done by McRoy and Grotevant in 1994, demonstrates that benefits flow to all members of the triad when information is more freely shared and there is greater openness in relationships. Policies that facilitate connections between birth families and adopted adults and access to information, have strong empirical and practice support.