The EGDS recruitment procedures were designed to accomplish the following: (1) to reduce the likelihood of recruiting only one member of the adoption triad (child, adoptive parents, and birth parents); (2) to minimize potential ethical concerns by not initiating contact until after the period of revocation; (3) to minimize the probability that participation in the study would cause information to be transferred across participants, including adoption agencies; (4) to recruit a sample that would contain ethnic diversity and varying levels of adoption openness (contact and knowledge between birth and adoptive families); and (5) to recruit a large subsample of birth fathers. This complex recruitment strategy entailed the collaboration of four recruitment sites: the Mid-Atlantic (George Washington University and The Pennsylvania State University), the West/Southwest (University of California, Davis and University of California, Riverside), the Mid-West (University of Minnesota), and the Pacific Northwest (Oregon Social Learning Center).
Recruitment occurred between March 2003–January 2010 with the recruitment of adoption agencies into the study (N = 45 agencies in 15 states). The agencies reflected the full range of US adoption agencies: public, private, religious, secular, those favoring more open adoptions, and those favoring more closed adoptions. Adoption agencies often work in multiple states, and some participants have moved residences since the adoption placement; thus, EGDS participants currently reside in 46 states, the District of Columbia in the US, and in 7 other countries. Each adoption agency appointed a liaison from their organization to perform the initial stages of recruitment into the study. Liaisons received recruitment training by EGDS staff, and agencies were provided an honorarium for their efforts assisting with recruitment.
Agency liaisons identified participants who completed an adoption plan through their agency and met the study’s eligibility criteria: (a) the adoption placement was domestic, (b) placement occurred within 3 months postpartum, (c) the infant was placed with an adoptive family that was not biologically related to the child, (d) there were no known major medical conditions such as extreme prematurity or extensive medical surgeries, and (e) the birth and adoptive parents were able to understand English at the 8th-grade level. All types of adoptive families were eligible for study enrollment (e.g., same-sex parents, single parents, and hearing-impaired parents). A total of 3293 triads met the study criteria. A flow chart of the recruitment procedures is illustrated in with the left bolded column indicating the path to successful recruitment into the study.
Recruitment flow chart. AP = adoptive parents. BF = birth father. BM = birth mother. *Percentiles for each box correspond to the proportion relative to the bolded box above it.
Initial recruitment by agency liaison
Once eligibility criteria were met, 2–4 weeks post placement, the agency liaison mailed a letter describing the study to each eligible adoptive family. Adoptive families were given the opportunity to opt out of future study contact by returning a self-addressed, stamped postcard. Two weeks after the mailing, liaisons called the birth mothers linked to the adoptive families that had not opted out of study contact (80% of the adoptive families). In this call, the liaison described the study and asked for permission to have a recruiter from the study contact her directly.
Recruitment of birth mothers by project staff
If birth mothers provided permission for EGDS to contact them (89% of the time), the EGDS birth parent recruiter contacted the birth mother. Once the birth mother returned a signed consent form via postage-paid mail and began the assessment, she was considered an active study participant (79%). The project employs separate birth parent and adoptive family recruiters to ensure that project staff do not transfer information between members of the adoption triad. We maintain this separation through all stages of the study, including assessment.
Recruitment of adoptive families by project staff
Next, the EGDS adoptive family recruiter attempted to recruit the adoptive family using contact information provided by the agency. If the adoptive parents agreed to participate, they were sent informed consent forms and additional study information. Like birth mothers, adoptive parents were considered recruited once they returned a signed informed consent form and began the first assessment (65%).
At any point, if the birth mother or adoptive family declined participation or was unable to be contacted, recruitment efforts for that adoption triad ceased. However, once an individual had consented to participate, that individual continued as a participant. Such unlinked participants are not considered as part of our sample of 561 adoption triads but are included in analyses examining questions specific to birth parents or specific to adoptive families.
Recruitment of birth fathers by project staff
After the birth mother and adoptive parents were recruited, project staff attempted to recruit the birth father. The EGDS has the largest sample of directly studied birth fathers in an adoption study and is the only study to assess birth fathers longitudinally; we have recruited and assessed birth fathers in 37% of our participating triads (n = 208). Project staff attempted to recruit the birth father using the procedures outlined in the birth mother recruitment section. If the agency liaison did not know or could not reach the birth father, a project staff member asked the birth mother if she was willing to answer some questions about the birth father to help the study locate him and invite him to participate. In addition, recruitment efforts for birth father continue at later waves, which has helped us to recruit additional birth fathers on an ongoing basis.
As is shown in , project recruitment staff had low rates of declines (2% of birth mothers, 20% of adoptive families, and 8% of birth fathers). Most nonparticipation resulted from the inability of the agency or the project to locate and contact a potential participant. Minimal systematic sampling biases were detected in recruitment, as shown in . Data for comparisons in were derived with the assistance of our participating adoption agencies, who recorded the education, income, and age of all birth and adoptive parents who met the EGDS inclusion criteria and completed an adoption plan through their agency during the EGDS enrollment period. We compared the demographic information between triads who participated in the EGDS (N = 561 triads) with those of the eligible nonparticipants (N = 2,391 triads available for analysis). As shown in , four comparisons reached statistical significance at our set threshold (p < .01), and they proved trivial in practical terms (e.g., participating birth mothers, birth fathers, and adoptive parents were slightly younger than the eligible nonparticipants). There were no significant demographic differences between birth mothers for whom birth fathers were recruited and birth mothers for whom birth fathers were not recruited, with one exception: birth mothers with non-participating birth fathers were less likely to be married or in a similarly committed relationship than birth mothers with participating birth fathers. These comparisons suggest that the EGDS sample is representative of the population from which it was drawn.
Comparison Between EGDS Participants and Eligible Nonparticipants on Education, Income, and Age (N = 561 participants and 2,391 eligible nonparticipants)