Post-adoption contact and openness in adoptive parents' minds: Consequences for children's development

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This paper explores openness in adoption on two levels: what contact children were having with their birth family (structural openness) and the openness of adoptive parents when it comes to thinking and talking about adoption (communicative openness). Children placed for adoption under the age of four years were followed up an average of six years post-placement. In-depth interviews were carried out with adoptive parents and parents completed the child behaviour checklist (CBCL). Children having face-to-face contact with their adult birth relatives were compared with those where the contact plan was letterbox contact. The communicative openness of adoptive parents was rated using a qualitative coding system. Adoptive parents involved in face-to-face contact arrangements were found to be more communicatively open than parents involved in letterbox contact. Children’s emotional and behavioural development was not related to either the type of contact that they were having with their birth families or the communicative openness of their adoptive parents. It is suggested that further follow-up of this sample in adolescence (using a range of outcomes) is required. This research suggests that social workers need to remain open-minded about the possible impact of contact on children, resisting blanket predictions of either help or harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sep 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009


  • adoption
  • families
  • communication
  • parenting
  • open adoption

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