Expanding Adoption Opportunities Case Studies: Open Adoption and Fost-Adoption

The Adoption Services at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, in partnership with Ashalim, have initiated a program that aims to increase adoption opportunities for children at risk who are unable to grow up in their birth families, and to improve adoption support services in Israel.

In the first phase of the study, a background paper was prepared, based on a review of the international experience and a summary of interviews conducted with policymakers, professionals and family court judges.

The current report describes the second phase, an extensive qualitative study of actual cases of two adoption models that are relatively new in Israel: open adoption and adoption by foster families (fost-adoption). In open adoption, birth families retain some contact with their children. In fost-adoption, foster families that had intended to provide a temporary placement eventually adopt the children in their care.

The study is based on 17 in-depth case studies: 7 open adoptions, 8 fost-adoptions and 2 combined open fost-adoptions. Altogether, 80 in-depth interviews were conducted with all of those involved in the adoption process: adopted children, adoptive parents, birth parents, adoption social workers, and foster care social workers.

Both of these models have the potential to significantly enhance the quality of life for adopted children, yet they represent significant deviations from existing practice, and as such require the development of new coherent processes and policies to support effective implementation. The report describes the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the adopted children, the adoptive parents and the birth parents with regard to their experiences with these models. The study also assesses the issues and difficulties of each model and identifies recommended practices for their implementation.

The findings emphasized the need to greatly broaden the cooperation between the foster services and the adoption services. It is also necessary to continue developing the knowledge and skills of all those involved with regard to these models and to consolidate policy so as to provide guidelines to support professional judgment in individual cases.

The study findings were presented to key professionals working in the field of adoption at a special national seminar for staff from the Adoption Services and the Foster Services. They are enhancing the professional dialogue and are serving as the basis for efforts to improve and develop open adoption and fost-adopt models and to formulate a comprehensive policy.

The study was commissioned by the Adoption Services at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services and JDC-Ashalim and funded with their assistance and a special grant by Annie Sandler of Virginia, USA.