Data provided to prospective adoptive parents on the child they are considering adopting and also on the child's biological family.
In the case of an infant adoption, background information generally includes such nonidentifying information as the pregnant woman or birthmother's age, a physical description, her racial and ethnic background, religion, education and medical history. Information on the birthfather is gathered by caseworkers as well, and caseworkers may also obtain data on birth grandparents.
Some workers also include information on personality or hobbies, for example, the birthmother's good sense of humor or the birthfather's musical talent.
If the adoption is an OPEN ADOPTION, then the adopting parents and birthmother (and birthfather, if possible) usually meet and may exchange extensive identifying information beyond that provided by the social worker.
Particular attention is paid to recent illnesses the pregnant woman or birthfather may have suffered, and social workers attempt to determine if there has been any drug or alcohol abuse before or during the pregnancy. Whether or not the birthmother has obtained any prenatal care is also determined.
In the case of an older child's adoption, workers will try to obtain the same information on biological parents as they do in an infant adoption as well as data on the child since birth. (Most older children have been in foster care for several years, and the information should be in their case files.)
Background information on an older child will include a medical history, previous foster and/or adoptive placements, behavioral problems, any siblings and other information that could be valuable to the child in the future or to his or her adoptive parents.
If the child has been abused and the social worker knows this, that information should be shared with adopting parents. This knowledge will help the adopting parents with their own adjustment to the child; for example, if a child shrinks from her adoptive father's hugs, it helps to know that she is fearful of men because of attacks she suffered from her biological father or her biological mother's boyfriend.
Sometimes the adopting parents will meet foster parents and discuss the child's likes and dislikes and information that could aid the parents in helping the child with the adjustment.
Studies have revealed that parents who are well informed are far less likely to disrupt an adoption, and workers should make every effort to ensure that the adopting parents feel they have as much information as caseworkers can give them.
Several organizations, including the NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION, publish and distribute model background information forms.
Find more information on background information
©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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