80% of Open Adoptions Close… Or Not

I’ve seen the following statistic thrown around: 80% of open adoptions close within X years. Sometimes it’s one year, sometimes three. I wondered, where are they getting this information? Statistics in adoption aren’t really kept. The Evan B. Donaldson Institute just completed a major research study about adoption, maybe it’s there.

Nope. According to them, about 80% of domestic adoptions are open, and only 5% are closed.

When I Googled “80 percent of open adoptions close” I got links to the study and to articles about the study, because the terms “80 percent”, “open adoptions”, and “closed” are used.

The only place I could find the statistic was on First Mother Forum. A post from July 2010 states:

On Facebook the other day someone wrote that 80 percent of “open” adoptions are eventually closed. We know that adoption statistics are incredibly hard to come by.  … So I wondered where did that figure come from? The woman responded that a friend, a birth/first mother, phoned Bethany Christian Services to find out why her open adoption had become “closed.” The woman on the phone inadvertently said that 80 percent of all open adoptions they handle ended up closed. Eighty percent.

Later posts on First Mother Forum state this “statistic” as a fact.

So basically, some person on Facebook says that her friend phoned Bethany Christian Services, and that the social worker she talked to stated that 80% of the adoptions they handled were closed.

So if my friend Shaina’s friend Nathalie says that she emailed the web masters at BellaandEdward.com, and they said that 80% of their followers are Team Edward, apparently, that means that 80% of Twilight fans are Team Edward.

Or not.

First, the statement is hearsay. From Facebook.

Second, Bethany is a national agency with hundreds of offices. We don’t know if the social worker meant 80% of all open adoptions Bethany handles are later closed, or if 80% of all of open adoptions that that particular office handles are later closed.

Third, who is this social worker, and does she actually have hard data that backs up her alleged claim? Or, if she said this at all, was she more likely estimating based on her own recollections?

Fourth, even supposing that 80% of adoptions that Bethany Christian handles close, that “statistic” doesn’t indicate who closes the adoptions. I know many people who have had their children’s birth parents walk away from open adoptions. (But First Mother Forum excuses birthmothers who do this, because, you know, open adoption is hard. Double standard much?)

Fifth, this is Bethany Christian Services. They’re not known for being the most ethical agency in the nation. Far from it.* Let’s ask Open Adoption and Family Services how many of their open adoptions close. I bet we’d get a very different number. Heck, to make it somewhat equal in scope, let’s ask American Adoptions how many of their open adoptions close. Even then, I bet we’d get a different number.

I understand that some adoptive parents promise open adoptions and do not follow through. I’ve never met one of them, but I imagine they’re not likely to be a part of the adoption community online. Most of us believe in open adoption and go to varying lengths to ensure that our adoptions remain open. Some of us do very little. Some of us are amazing at it. I’d like to think I’m somewhere in between.

I would like people to stop using this “statistic” as fact. If First Mother Forum would like to continue using it, then they need to try to verify it. I doubt they’ll actually do it, because First Mother Forum benefits from making adoptive parents look bad. (Hey, at least they know their audience.) In some posts, they write, “we cannot prove it, but…” or “the unverified statistic…” – so prove it, verify it, or move on!

I don’t know how many open adoptions close, why they close, or who closes them. And neither does anyone else.


* Please note, not all Bethany Christian Services offices are the same. Some are more ethical than others. Of course, all of them discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.

7 thoughts on “80% of Open Adoptions Close… Or Not

    • Amen!
      Any site that has an agenda to push is only going to include data that back up its side. However, in this case, this “statistic” can’t even be considered data.

  1. i agree and i hate when people spread myths and misinformation. a few months ago i looked and couldn’t find much information about it, either. the closest thing i could find to a statistic was in an interview with an adoption attorney who estimated 30%. 80% sounds way too high.

    • One of the problems is that the US does not have one central authority for domestic adoption. We have no statistics on how many adoptions happen within the US. Therefore, it’s impossible to know the percentage of open adoptions that close when we don’t know how many adoptions there were in the first place!

  2. Pingback: Favorites of 2013 | The Chittister Family

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