In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Adoption

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Manuals and Guides
  • Journals
  • Barriers to Public Adoption
  • Recruitment and Retention of Prospective Adoptive Parents
  • Demographic Characteristics of Public Agency Adopters
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adoption
  • Open Adoption
  • Special Needs Adoption
  • Older Child Adoption
  • Intercountry Adoption
  • First-Person Accounts
  • Postadoption Services
  • Disruption and Dissolution
  • Outcomes

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Social Work Adoption
Jill Duerr Berrick, Jennifer Lawson, Erika Weissinger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 April 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0010


Adoption involves the complete transfer of parental rights and obligations from one family to another. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries adoption became an increasingly acceptable and widespread form of family formation, seen as a desirable option for families in a wide variety of circumstances, including couples who are unable to have biological children, those who want to provide homes for children in foster care, or relatives who want to assist when biological parents are not able to parent their own children. Major works on adoption can be divided into topics that include the need to find more adoptive families for foster children who are older and those who have special needs (such as children with drug exposure, children of color, or children who are part of a sibling group), the trend toward open adoption and older child adoption, controversies around transracial placement and gay and lesbian adoption, and postadoptive services.

Introductory Works

The core body of introductory literature in this field provides a contextual and historical view of the multifaceted issues surrounding adoption. Adamec and Pierce 2000 provides an orienting overview of the many aspects of this broad topic. Some works are primarily concerned with a historical examination of adoption. Carp 2004 reviews historical perspectives on adoption and identifies changes in the social construction of adoption over centuries; Fessler 2007 looks at birth mothers’ experiences of adoption during the early and mid-20th century; Pertman 2001 examines the cultural forces shaping adoption; and Maza 1984 uses administrative data to examine historical changes in adoption trends in the mid-20th century. Freundlich 2000–2001 examines the ethics relating to adoption, and Brodzinsky, et al. 1993 examines the emotional and psychological aspects of adoption from adoptees’ point of view. Terry, et al. 2006 offers a comparative analysis of the issues surrounding domestic and international adoptions. Nickman, et al. 2005 provides overviews of the research on adoption outcomes.

  • Adamec, Christine A., and William L. Pierce. 2000. The encyclopedia of adoption. 2d ed. New York: Facts on File.

    Provides a complete, single-volume reference to the social, legal, economic, psychological, and political issues surrounding the adoption experience and its unique terminology. Written for general readers and professionals.

  • Brodzinsky, David M., Marshall D. Schecter, and Robin Marantz Henig. 1993. Being adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Anchor.

    A review of the psychological experiences of many adoptees over the life course, including feelings of loss, grief, and regular readjustment. The authors suggest the potential for open adoption to minimize some of the more difficult aspects of adoption but also point to the challenges for adoptees of these alternative adoptive arrangements.

  • Carp, E. Wayne, ed. 2004. Adoption in America: Historical perspectives. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    A compendium of multidisciplinary essays about topics that include antebellum adoption and orphanages, changing conceptions of adoption in late-19th-century novels, Progressive Era reform and adoptive mothers, the politics of matching adoptive parents with children, the effect of World War II on adoption practices, religion and the reform of adoption, and the construction of birth mother and adoptee identities.

  • Fessler, Ann. 2007. The girls who went away: The hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade. New York: Penguin.

    Using first-person narratives, this book tells the personal stories of young unwed mothers who were forced to give their babies up for adoption due to the social stigma of out-of-wedlock birth in the mid-20th century.

  • Freundlich, Madelyn. 2000–2001. Adoption and Ethics series. Vols. 1–4. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America.

    This four-volume series uses an ethics-based framework for analyzing adoption-related issues. Each volume covers one or more important issues, such as race, culture, and national origin (Volume 1), market forces (Volume 2), the impact of adoption on the adoption triad (child, birth parent, and adoptive parent) (Volume 3), and the relationship between adoption and assisted reproduction (Volume 4).

  • Maza, Penelope L. 1984. Adoption trends: 1944–1975. Child Welfare Research Notes 9: 1–4.

    Compiles selected information from adoption data collected over thirty years by the US Children’s Bureau and the National Center for Social Statistics.

  • Nickman, S. L., A. A. Rosenfeld, P. Fine, J. C. Macintyre, D. J. Pilowsky, R. A. Howe, A. Derdeyn, M. B. Gonzales, L. Forsythe, and S. A. Sveda. 2005. Children in adoptive families: Overview and update. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 44.10: 987–995.

    DOI: 10.1097/01.chi.0000174463.60987.69

    Reviews late-20th- and early-21st-century literature on developmental influences, placement outcomes, psychopathology, and treatment of adopted children.

  • Pertman, Adam. 2001. Adoption nation: How the adoption revolution is transforming America. New York: Basic Books.

    This book is a journalistic examination of the multifaceted trends and cultural shifts related to modern adoption. Using both research and personal anecdotes, the author provides a comprehensive look at the adoption process along with the policies and social forces that shape it.

  • Terry, Neil, Nancy Turner, and Jennifer Falkner. 2006. Comparing the efficacy of domestic versus international child adoption. Southwestern Economic Review 33 (Spring): 95–106.

    Examines legal, economic, and pragmatic issues relating to domestic versus international adoptions. Provides statistical evidence that the annual growth rate of international adoptions has increased significantly more than domestic adoptions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.