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Overview

Over the past 50 years, adoption has changed more than it did over the thousands of years between the first recorded accounts of adoptions in ancient times and the mid-20th century. These changes have followed societal trends and reflect the greater openness in our discussions about personal matters and our deeper understanding of human strengths and weaknesses that have occurred in almost every segment of our lives.

We have come to understand the feelings of grief and loss a birth mother feels after placement; the question of parental rights has been brought to the fore in legal proceedings protecting the rights of a birth father; we have come to have a greater appreciation of the difficulties an adoptive parent encounters when answering intrusive and personal questions, especially where a transracial adoption is concerned; in the face of increasing scientific research on the importance of genetic histories, we have heard adoptee voices raised in support of opening adoption records; mechanisms have been developed privately and by states, provinces, and countries, to assist adoptees and birth parents to locate each other, and we have grown in our ability to encourage each other to make better and more well-informed choices when facing an unplanned pregnancy, or when choosing an adoption agency or adoption attorney.

The changes that have taken place haven't just been in individual perceptions. The U.S. Government has taken a strong pro-adoption stance in enacting the adoption tax credit, and in subsidizing the adoption of special needs children. States, regional exchanges, and the federal government have turned to adoption photolistings on the Internet to draw attention to the children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.

From the days of routine closed adoption to the growing instances of open adoption, from catch-all terms to changes in language that have grown out of a respect for the position of each member of the adoption community, we find ourselves in a constantly evolving system of practices, procedures, and relationships.

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