The process of adoption has changed dramatically over the years. Adoption, itself, has existed since the dawn of time. As long as there have been humans on this earth, there has been a need for adults to take in children who weren’t born to them biologically and raise them as their own.
Before World War II, the United States had very few rules and laws to regulate adoption. It wasn’t uncommon for people to exchange money between adoptive parents and biological parents, which easily created a lot of problems associated with child trafficking. Around the time of World War II, however, the United States government set out to put an end to those issues, making it illegal to exchange money for a child. Among the new child trafficking laws came new regulation to seal up adoption records, which was done with the intent of protecting the identity and personal life of the biological parents.
The number of adoptions and percentages of unwed pregnant women choosing adoption peaked in 1970. During that decade, however, a number of factors began a transformation to how adoption is today.
With the Supreme Court ruling of Roe vs. Wade, abortion became a legal option for women with unexpected pregnancies. The 1970’s also passed regulation to make it easier for single mother’s to receive financial government assistance, which also lead to less women choosing adoption. The percentage of unwed pregnancies dropped from close to 9% to below 1% in just 20 years, and has remained below 1% ever since.
Along with the new laws that lead to changes in adoption numbers, people in the adoption community also became more interested in reconnecting their biological family tree. An effort to make adoptions less secretive lead to the government changing the laws about sealed adoption records. Many adopted children became reconnected with their biological roots. That interest increased throughout the years, which lead to adoptions beginning with that connection.
Starting in the late 1970’s, biological parents began to prefer adoption agencies who offered open adoption. An open adoption meant that it was not kept secret from the biological parents as to the whereabouts of the child, sometimes even keeping verbal or written contact between the different sides.
By the time the late 1990’s came, the majority of adoption agencies found it necessary to offer open adoption in order to compete with other agencies because biological parents were overwhelmingly choosing to place their adopted child with agencies that offered open contact.
After the turn of the century, open adoptions continued to evolve into what we have today. Relationships between adopted children, adoptive parents, and biological parents continue to become more and more open. While all types of adoption still exist, today many adoptions keep close and intimate contact between all people involved.
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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.