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Future of Adoption Publication Series


Just as adoption practice and policy have changed substantially in recent decades, so will they surely continue to evolve into the future. In April, 2018, the Rudd Program convened a conference on the topic of the Future of Adoption, which generated considerable interest and discussion. In order to make insights from the conference more widely available and expand the discussion to additional topics, we commissioned a talented group of authors to develop a series of user-friendly papers for broad dissemination. The Rudd Adoption Research Program at the University of Massachusetts is excited to sponsor this Publication Series on the Future of Adoption. The user-friendly pdfs, linked below, are available to the public at no cost, due to the generosity of the authors and the support of the Rudd Family Foundation Chair at UMass Amherst. Please share the link to this page widely among your networks interested in adoption.

The first link is to our concluding paper, which is an overview of recommendations for research, practice, and policy.

Next, we present six thematically-linked sets of papers, addressing the following broad topics:

We hope you benefit from this series and share it widely with others!


Promotion of Well-Being

Although much adoption research is focused on difficulties and challenges, more attention needs to be directed toward the promotion of well-being and prevention of difficulties. The three papers in this section of our series directly address ways in which well-being can be promoted. Susan Badeau draws on her extensive experience as an adoptive and foster parent and her professional experience in child welfare to discuss how relationships provide critical underpinnings for supporting development of children who have experienced loss and/or trauma. Jesús Palacios discusses adoption breakdown, a very difficult experience for children and parents alike. Importantly, he draws on research that has identified known factors that put families at risk for breakdown while also pointing to what is known about prevention of breakdown and working with families and children to minimize its negative impact. Finally, Thomas May addresses a topic of great current interest: the use of genetic testing to help adopted persons fill in information they lack about their family medical and health histories. His ongoing project is a model for how research can actively engage the adoption community in how the work is created, carried out, and disseminated.  Taken together, these three articles point the way toward new directions that can continue to move the field’s focus toward promotion of healthy development.


Contact between Birth and Adoptive Family Members


Adoption practice, especially with regard to secrecy separating birth and adoptive families, has changed dramatically in the past several decades. Contact between birth and adoptive family members, once unthinkable, is now common, especially in certain types of adoptions and in certain countries. Today's contributions to our Future of Adoption Publication Series address the issue of contact. Two papers address change in adoption practice and the research evidence underpinning these changes. Harold Grotevant addresses ways in which open adoption practice requires us to rethink family, from being a nuclear family that has simply added a child to an adoptive kinship network that connects a child's families of birth and adoption. Elsbeth (Beth) Neil addresses how birth family contact can be planned and supported when children are adopted from care. Both Grotevant and Neil lay out the evidence base regarding this change in practice, drawing on their respective longitudinal research projects (Grotevant's in the US and Neil's in the UK). In the third paper, Marla Allisan, adoption attorney and former adoption agency founder and director, provides principles for the development of written Post-Adoption Communication Agreements, which she used in her practice to help articulate and clarify commitments regarding contact that both birth and adoptive parents make at placement. Taken together, this set of papers highlights the significant changes that have occurred in this area of adoption practice and foreshadows changes that may be coming in the future. As with all papers in this series, implications for the future of adoption with regard to research, practice, and policy are discussed.


Diversity in Adoptive Families:

Adoptive families are incredibly diverse. Parents frequently adopt children from racial, ethnic, or national origins different from their own. In a society where differences in race and nationality are noted and often stigmatized, adoptive parents must understand that "love is enough" is not sufficient to help their children thrive. Populations of adoptive parents are also increasingly diverse, with increasing numbers of adoptions by African American parents and LGBTQ parents. Today's contributions to our Future of Adoption Publication Series provide important insights for parents and professionals. Amanda Baden discusses the dramatic decline in intercountry adoptions over the past decade and looks into the future of this adoption practice. Ellen Pinderhughes focuses specifically on families who have adopted children transracially, drawing on a growing body of research to develop recommendations for attending to children's cultural socialization and preparation to encounter bias in a racialized world. Kathleen Belanger, Ruth McRoy, and Joe Haynes report on two program models that have been very successful in recruiting and retaining African American adoptive parents. Finally, Rachel Farr discusses the rapidly growing body of research on adoption by lesbian and gay adoptive parents, and what we know about family processes and child outcomes. Each of these papers provides important insights for everyone concerned with adoption.



Research in adoption has inspired and tested a number of interventions designed to improve lives for members of adoptive families. Lee Raby and Mary Dozier discuss the importance of early intervention with adopted or foster children who have experienced maltreatment, presenting the Attachment and Biobehavioral Catchup (ABC) intervention as an empirically validated method of helping children and families.  In the Spong and Homstead contribution, we move from the parent-child dyad to the neighborhood as the focus of intervention. They describe the Treehouse Community in Easthampton, Massachusetts, an intentional intergenerational community for families who have adopted children from foster care, discussing the program model and outcomes to date.  Wilson, Riley, and Lee widen the lens further by addressing competency needs of professionals in the field. They describe the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative, which is creating web-based training for mental health and child welfare providers across the country, aimed at promoting the provision of adoption-competent care.  Taken together, these three contributions highlight innovative and validated approaches to program development. These models are already showing significant impact; they will certainly also inspire other innovations for the future.


Lived Experience of Adopted Persons Working in the Field of Adoption

Expertise in the adoption field comes in many forms. One form of expertise frequently overlooked is that of the lived experience of adopted persons themselves, and especially that of adopted persons who have chosen to work in the adoption field. Our second set of papers includes three articles that  were all written by adopted persons. Steve Kalb and Angela Tucker write about their leadership positions in adoption organizations as the developers of programs by and for adoptees. Their unique adoption journeys have shaped their approaches and goals in important ways; both are leading organizations that are having widespread impact and serve as national models. Hollee McGinnis chaired a panel of adoption researchers at the Rudd Conference, all of whom were adopted internationally. With Hollee, we hear from Amanda Baden, Adam Kim, and JaeRan Kim about the connections between their adoption experiences and their scholarly work; they also reflect on the greatest needs for adoption research in the future.  We also hear from Ana Dolan and a team of fellow undergraduate or recently graduated UMass students (Jennifer Mutén, Peter Nikolai McGinn, Ana Gremli, Emma Sander, and Victoria Griswold) who all helped launch the UMass Adopted Student Advisory Panel (ASAP).  Their open letter to adoption researchers, family, friends, and allies lays important groundwork for efforts that the field must take very seriously.  Our warm and sincere thanks to all who authored these articles; we look forward to their personal and professional contributions to come -- as they are the future of adoption.


Re-thinking Adoption in the 21st Century

The first two papers in the series, linked below, are refinements of the keynote address presented by Dr. Gary Mallon, and the panel discussion that followed it, chaired by April Dinwoodie. Mallon's keynote is based on his career-long experience in the field of child welfare, as well as his personal journey as an adoptive and foster parent. The panel discussion featured professionals with deep experience within the field as well as diverse personal connections as birth parents, adoptive parents, adopted persons, and those who have experienced foster care. Taken together, these two papers provide much to consider as we think toward the future ... and importantly, a call to action on behalf of improving the world of adoption, keeping uppermost in mind the best interests of children.