The Minnesota / Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP) is a longitudinal research study that focuses on the consequences of variations in openness in adoption arrangements for all members of the adoptive kinship network: birth mothers, adoptive parents, and adopted children, and for the relationships within these family systems. The project was begun in the mid-1980s by Harold Grotevant, Ph.D., who is now the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Ruth G. McRoy, Ph.D., Professor Emerita from Boston College who previously held the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Professor in the Graduate School of Social Work.
Since the mid-1970s, adoption practices in the U.S. have changed dramatically, and the confidentiality maintained in the past is no longer the norm. The trend is toward "openness" in adoption, in which contact occurs between the adoptive family and birth family members, either directly or mediated (e.g., through an adoption agency). Some adoption professionals argue that fully open adoption should be standard practice, that the secrecy of confidential adoptions has been harmful to all parties involved. Others argue that openness is harmful and experimental. Their view is that confidential adoption worked well, so why change it? Although such professionals hold strong feelings about adoption, almost no research on this topic has been available to guide adoption policy and to answer basic questions about the dynamics of adoptive kinship networks. The MTARP project has provided important empirical evidence to guide policy and practice and to stimulate further research.
Why is MTARP Important?
The study is significant for a number of reasons:
- National in scope
- Has followed participants for over 25 years
- Involves a sample (720 individuals) much larger than other adoption studies that employ interview methods and home visits
- Includes the full range of adoptive openness, including cases in which contact has stopped, some in which contact continues, and others in which it has increased or decreased over time, allowing for tracking of trajectories of openness over time
- Includes data from adopted persons, adoptive parents, adopted siblings, birth mothers,and relationship partners of young adult persons
- Includes data about adoption agency practices and policies to contextualize the work
- Has significant implications for legal and policy issues concerning adoption in the United States and other countries today.
Progress toward such understanding will contribute to better theories about human development within the family, better methodology for studying complex living arrangements, a better knowledge base for prevention and intervention programs, and guidance for the establishment of policies that address the "best interests of the child" in cases of adoption.
Rudd Family Foundation Chair Emeritus in Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of Massachusetts Amherst
619 Tobin Hall, 135 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003
Ruth G. McRoy, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, Boston College