Adoption Progress

I received an email today from the social worker who was instrumental in putting me in touch with my birth family in the mid 1980s. During his time with post-adoption services he had the privilege (yes, he referred to it as a privilege) of reuniting approximately 1000 adoptees with their birth families. He said many of the adoptees he worked with over the years had many of the same struggles I had with finding their identity.

Today I read an article published earlier this year by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute that warms my heart and gives me hope for the future. The report says that in the United States today the number of closed adoptions has shrunk to approximately 5% of the total, the remainder being a combination of open and mediated adoptions.

This movement toward openness and truth telling is good news for adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents. It’s evidence that we have realized the harm done by the shame and secrecy surrounding adoption in the past and we want to do it different in the future.

I’m not naive enough to believe that transparency in adoption will eliminate the grief that is inherent in the process but, at the very least, it acknowledges it, opens the avenue for healing, and does away with much of the shame put on adoptees and birth parents in the past.

The Donaldson report concludes as follows.

Putting an end to secrecy in adoption does not erase the grief or loss embedded in the experience; it does, however, empower participants by providing them with information and access so that they can face and deal with facts instead of fantasies. Adoption-related laws, agency policies and clinical practices should support the autonomy, self-determination, truth-telling and family connections of adopted people and their birth and adoptive relatives. Greater education and training, along with ongoing research into how different kinds of open adoption journeys affect their participants, can help to guide and improve policy, practice – and lives.” [emphasis mine]

Yes. Now that we know better, we are doing better. That’s reason to hope.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. Linda, we are huge proponents of putting an end to secrecy in adoption. And the Donaldson report has stated correctly that ending the secrecy won’t end the other deeply embedded emotions and feelings. So glad there is always room for hope.

    1. I believe there is always hope, Sherrey. Always.

  2. Linda, until I started reading your blog, I had never really thought about an adopted child having feelings of abandonment and shame. After all, they are much desired and loved children in most cases. Interestingly enough, my older brother was adopted and it was a huge secret, but probably only for me, as he was actually the child of one of my older cousins and many family members knew where he came from. I did not learn about it until a major family altercation when I was 12 or 13. The whole story is way too long to write here, but I can see how many of his problems (and he had many) had roots in the adoption and how it was handled. It is hard to separate the affects of the adoption with the affects of both of us being sexually abused for years by his adoptive and my natural father. Additionally, my mother was very protective of and partial to him, but failed to protect me, and I could never figure out why I was so worthless. My brother and I were never close except when we were quite young. He is dead now and unfortunately no one is sad. He developed into a very abusive person himself.

    1. Hi Joyce,

      What a tragic story. I’m so sorry for what both you and your brother had to endure.

      My goal in writing about adoption is to educate and so I’m pleased that you have learned just a big about the adoptee experience from reading my posts.


  3. Dear Linda, when I grew up in the forties and fifties, I never met anyone who was adopted. So your posting really teaches me about all that is involved in adopting and living with knowing you’re adopted. It’s a whole new territory for me. Thank you for sharing your story and for being so passionate about what has happened and is happening with regard to adoption. Peace.

    1. Dee, I’m so happy to see you here again! I’ve missed you!

  4. Hi Linda,
    Since I was not adopted, I haven’t realized the full impact the process can have on a child’s psyche. Your good work is helping to soften and open hearts.
    I also haven’t had an opinion on closed vs open adoptions, except to think I would want to know everything. Now, I realize others do too, especially those living with unsettled feelings. I enjoy your posts!

    1. Hi Gayle, thanks for stopping by again. I love your comment that my work “is helping to soften and open hearts”. May it be so…

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