Conclusion

The adoption field is betwixt and between stasis and change. The records remain sealed in most states, but the traditional closed system is gradually giving way to a more open one that allows birth parents and adoptive parents to meet and even maintain contact over the years for the sake of the child.

Adoption practice is no longer exclusively concerned with healthy white newborns. Adoptees include transracial and biracial children and older handicapped children with special needs. Standards for adoptive parents, once modeled on white, middle-class, heterosexual couples, have changed to include single parents, homosexual couples, and minority and biracial couples of any age.

Uniform state laws are necessary to regulate adoption practice, but there is much disagreement about the relative importance of birth-parent versus adoptive parent rights.

The term "best interests of the child" has come to mean whatever people want it to mean. Prospective adoptive parents and birth parents find themselves in adversarial roles where their own best interests may conflict with the best interests of the child.

Adoption-reform activists believe it is in the best interests of the child to have adoption practice limited to nonprofit agencies and child-welfare specialists. They stress the need for adequate legal and psychological counseling for both birth parents and adoptive parents before and after the birth of the baby and especially before finalizing relinquishment plans.

Reformers would like to see adoption records unsealed so that adopted children can integrate their dual heritage and avoid many of the psychological problems that are caused by secrecy. They advocate a nationwide program that would promote sex education, pregnancy prevention, family preservation, and legally enforced open-adoption arrangements when relinquishment and placement are necessary.

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