Open adoption is a model appropriate in cases where the children were in contact with their birth families prior to the adoption and for whom this contact has been found beneficent. In recent years, family court judges have tended to approve more cases of adoption in which the children remain in contact with their birth parents and to allow more meetings between them (up to 12 a year). There has also been change in the characteristics of cases in which the court rules in favor of the model. The Service for Adoption and the Division for Research, Planning and Training at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services (MOLSA) commissioned the research staff at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (MJB) to conduct a study on the implementation of the model in Israel and ways it can be improved.
The main goal of the study was to conduct an in-depth examination over time of implementation of the open adoption model and its principles of best practice in Israel, and to learn from the experience accumulated in recent years in the country’s “pioneering” first cases of open adoption. We examined the experience of the adoptees, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents and siblings, as well as that of the social workers responsible for open adoption in Israel. The goal was that the study findings would help policymakers to formulate guidelines and professional principles to support best-practice implementation of the model in Israel.
The study used qualitative methods and included:
- Three background interviews with professionals at the Service for Adoption at MOLSA, which were conducted online in February and March 2020,
- Case studies based on cases included in a study conducted by MJB in 2010-2011 (“the first study”) of 11 adoptees born to 8 birth families and adopted by 10 adoptive families. Thirty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted, the majority online and the remainder face-to-face, from February to November 2020.
- Two focus groups – one of social workers responsible for adoption cases who work on developing post-adoption services, and the second of social workers who work with a large number of cases of open adoption. The meetings were conducted online in June 2020.
The interviews and contents of the focus groups were transcribed, analyzed and processed by the study team at MJB using qualitative thematic analysis. The analysis of the case study comprised several strata: an analysis of each interview separately; a comparison of the different cases; and finally, a comparison of the interviews in the first study with those in the current study.
The research report describes aspects arising from the case study and examines whether there has been any change in the decade since the first study was conducted. In addition, it describes the respondents’ perceptions of the open adoption model, according to the 3 sources of information.
The respondents’ reports reveal that open adoption has its advantages; that it is not appropriate for every adoptee/adoptive parent or birth parent; and that it involves costs with regard to the parties in the adoption (adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents).
The study also presents the respondents’ perceptions of ways of improving the model, some of which are in keeping with the characteristics of best practice in open adoption abroad, as found in reviews of the international literature, and some of which relate specifically to work practices in Israel.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In order to improve implementation of the open adoption model in Israel, it is recommended that the methods used follow the principles of best practice found in the international literature. For example, it is recommended that more holistic support be given to the adoptees, the adoptive parents, and members of the birth family with whom contact is maintained over the years, and particularly at the time of adoption, when the adoptees enter puberty, and when they reach the age of 18.
It is also recommended that the support be adapted to current social conditions, when people can be easily found through social networks. In addition, steps should be taken to improve work methods in Israel: to bridge the gaps in professional perceptions between the family courts and the adoption services; to improve the meetings with regard to the frequency and environment in which they take place; and to increase the number of positions for social workers responsible for adoption and provide them with regular training so they can cope better and over time with the challenges of the open adoption model.
 Sorek, Y. & Nijim-Ektelat, F. (2012). Expanding adoption opportunities – case studies: Open adoption and fost-adoption. Jerusalem: Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Hebrew).
 Sorek, Y. & Nijim-Ektelat, F. (2012). Expanding Adoption Opportunities for Children at Risk. Jerusalem: Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Hebrew); Sorek, Y. & Nijim-Ektelat, F. (2019). Open Adoption: Literature Review. Jerusalem: Division for Research, Planning and Training at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services with Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute (Hebrew).