Our nation’s practices and views about adoption and “family” have greatly evolved and continue to evolve even today. We know that in the 1950’s most of the infants adopted were children born to unwed white mothers. Today, the stigma on these mothers and children is largely gone and many households are headed by a single parent. Unwed couples who choose to have children are far greater than in the past. Many women can support a child on their own or with the assistance of federal programs. Paternal rights have drastically changed which also opens up an entire side of a child’s family that was previously overlooked. Today there is much more openness in adoption, no matter the type of adoption (domestic private, international or foster care).
In foster care adoptions, the shift in child welfare practice now involves birth parents from the beginning of the process (the day a child enters into placement). Openness in adoption can take many different forms and may vary from state to state and from case to case. Current practice initiatives demonstrate many ways that open adoption can be successful and benefit all members of the adoption triad. Some birth parents want the openness on one level or another. For some adoptive parents it eases their fears that others will find out their child was adopted or the fear of birth parents returning to “take their child back.” They have formed a relationship and parameters for contact already. Some children have healthier identities because they know where they come from, who their birth families are and their own personal histories instead of accidentally finding out or having their truth revealed to them later in their lives. The days of secrecy and shame surrounding adoption are diminishing, and adoption is much more widely accepted by society. This shift towards openness and honesty are greatly valued by all those involved in the adoption process.
Transracial adoption, in which a child of one race is placed into an adoptive family of another race, is a practice that still causes controversy in America. Even today minority children have higher rates of placement into the child welfare system. Practices and laws are aimed at eliminating biases and discrimination, which can factor into these disproportionate placement numbers. Although adoption rates in the United States have decreased since their peak in 1970, adoptions in America are now more visible and more people are aware of adoption due to international, transracial and older youth adoptions, which has led many people to believe that adoption rates are increasing.