Reflections on the Movement Toward a More Child-Centered Adoption

31 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 22 Nov 2010

See all articles by Annette Ruth Appell

Annette Ruth Appell

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 28, 2010


This invited article reflects on a quiet sea change in adoption that has occurred over the past two decades. This movement is reflected in the increasingly normative practice and regulation of post-adoption contact among adopted children and their birth kin in the U.S. and U.K. The article rehearses studies of open adoptive families, studies which portray these families as dynamic, collaborative, porous, and rich collectives centering on the child’s interests. The regulatory movement in the U.S. has been toward privately ordering, but publicly protecting, these relationships whereas the U.K. publicly orders and protects these relationships, at least in adoptions from foster care. This article assesses the development and propriety of these two regulatory approaches, with special attention to Massachusetts, which utilizes both mechanisms. After rehearsing the current state of statutory and judicial post-adoption contact regulation, the article presents a brief overview of pertinent studies of post-adoption contact here and in the U.K. under its court-imposed post-adoption contact scheme. The article suggests that Massachusetts courts may undervalue the wisdom and authority of the birth and adoptive parents to order their relationships after adoption. The article includes a table comparing U.S. adoption with contact statutes.

Suggested Citation

Appell, Annette Ruth, Reflections on the Movement Toward a More Child-Centered Adoption (March 28, 2010). Western New England Law Review, Vol. 32, Forthcoming; Washington U. School of Law Working Paper No. 10-03-11. Available at SSRN:

Annette Ruth Appell (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-7912 (Phone)

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