University of Massachusetts Amherst

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MTARP began in the fall of 1984, when the Rev. Calvin Goerdel, Vice President of Social Services for Lutheran Social Services of Texas (LSS), invited Ruth McRoy and Hal Grotevant (both at the University of Texas at Austin) to evaluate the changes that three of their agencies (LSS Austin, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi) were making in their adoption practices. Prospective adoptive parents and birth mothers were being offered a number of options, including the opportunity to meet each other prior to placement, have a placement ceremony involving both birth and adoptive parents, and have ongoing contact after placement. Seventeen adoptive families and members of their corresponding birth families were interviewed between May and September, 1985. Results of this pilot study were published in Openness in Adoption: New Practices, New Issues (McRoy, Grotevant, & White, 1988).

Data from the pilot study provided justification for a nationwide project involving families with differing degrees of openness in their adoption arrangements. Wave I of the project, funded by the federal Office of Population Affairs (DHHS), National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, involved 190 adoptive families and 169 birthmothers. The target adopted children were between the ages of 4 and 12 when the data were collected between 1987 and 1992. A summary of findings was published in Openness in Adoption: Exploring Family Connections (Grotevant & McRoy, 1998). During this phase of the project, Hal Grotevant moved from the University of Texas to the University of Minnesota, but the collaboration has continued to the present.

Because of the great interest in adoption outcomes for adolescents, Wave 2 of the project was funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Data were collected between 1996 - 2000, when the target children were adolescents. Numerous articles have been published in professional journals and books (see project publication list).

Wave 3 of the project (2005 - 2008) was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Science Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation when Hal Grotevant was at the University of Minnesota. The young children who enrolled in the study in the 1980s were now emerging adults ... some are married, some have children, some have completed college, some are working - they are taking many paths toward adulthood. This important new phase of the study allowed us to look at how their long-term experiences in different adoption arrangements have set the stage for their development as adults. Wave 3  followed the study's participants across the transition into young adulthood (age 20-28) and asked how the quality of children's relationships while growing up predict the quality of their close relationships outside their families, their social adjustment, and their sense of identity as young adults. Wave 3 data collection was completed in 2008.

Wave 4 of the project (2012 - 2014) involved an online survey completed by 112 of the young adults in the study, who were between the ages of 25 - 35 at the time. It was funded by the Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, after Dr. Grotevant moved there in 2008. A subsample of birth mothers was followed up by Ruth McRoy and her team at Boston College.

Overall, the MTARP study has contributed valuable research findings to the national debate about "the best interests of the child" in cases of adoption. These findings have helped shape agency and state policies about contact between adoptive and birth family members. In the process, undergraduate and graduate students involved in the research are mentored in an interdisciplinary setting, as the study of adoption draws on psychology, social work, sociology, economics, public policy, communication studies, and anthropology. This strength will be reflected in the development of information for the public that will contribute to a more accurate portrayal of the strengths, successes, and challenges experienced by members of the adoptive kinship network.

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