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Opening the Adoption Files
Image: Kenneth Chan
Vineyard pastor Alex Van Riesen, adopted at birth, wishes he'd known his birth parents better. So he and his wife, Susan (right), allow their adopted daughter, Hope (left), regular contact with her birth mother.

When Hope Van Riesen turns 7 years old on November 1, she will celebrate with her adoptive parents and siblings in Palo Alto, California. That week, Hope will also see her birth mother, Miranda Wang.

With help from Bethany Christian Services, Wang arranged an agreement with Alex and Susan Van Riesen during her pregnancy that enables her to maintain a presence in Hope's life. Seeing Wang three or four times annually assures Hope that her birth mother loves her, say the Van Riesens.

A recent report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which studied 4,400 recent adoptions from 100 agencies, estimates that more than half (55 percent) of U.S. infant adoptions are now open or "fully disclosed," involving ongoing, direct contact between birth parent and adoptive family. Only 5 percent remain "closed" or confidential.

"Openness in adoption is fast becoming the norm within the United States," noted the report.

Most adoptions became closed after the 1930s. Carol Demuth, a supervisor with Dallas-based Buckner International, attributes this to a desire to protect out-of-wedlock children from societal scrutiny.

But this admirable goal had unintended consequences.

"People were still returning to agencies and had questions about their birth family and why the adoption took place," she said, speaking from firsthand experience. Although grateful her single, 17-year-old mother placed her for adoption, Demuth said the forced separation left her with many questions.

Buckner migrated to open adoptions in 1995 after a decade-long transition.

"We see it as a good thing," said Bethany president Bill Blacquiere. About two-thirds of the agency's adoptions are now ...

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Opening the Adoption Files
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October 2012

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