Thursday, January 25, 2007

Open Adoption isn't for everyone .... or is it? Part 2

So, we all can recognize how secrecy in adoption can hurt some or all involved. We can agree to that, and we're starting to understand it. Yet, still ... can "open adoption" be the right choice for every family ... every birth parent ... every child?

I say, absolutely. When I say that, am I saying that it forces all members of the adoption triad into something harmful or miserable? Does it mean that a birth mother is forced into face-to-face contact when her instinct is to run and hide in her pains of grief? Does it mean that an adopted child should be put into personal contact with an abusive birth parent after a state removal? Does it mean that a birth parent can stop by, call or spend the night whenever they feel like it, and the adoptive parents should honor that? Does it mean that you must open your home and your children to a birth parent who may still be struggling with an addiction, or bad choices that would compromise the safety and security of your home?

Oh, come on! If you've read more than two sentences of my stuff, you know I'm not an idiot (okay, okay, that's relative ... but you know what I mean!). I'm anything but irresponsible with my children, and I would never - ever knowingly do anything to bring them harm. Open adoption is about what is best for the child, first and foremost. Everyone benefits in some way from open adoption, but ultimately, when it helps the grown ups, it - in turn - helps the child, as well. However, if a level of openness were going to cause harm physically or emotionally, well - duh!?!

Courage, Compassion and Common Sense

This is where the common sense comes in. What many people do not know is that we were very close to adopting a sibling group who had been severely neglected. We didn't have details about any abuse, but we were prepared for the fact that they had probably experienced abuse to some degree. Yet, we were preparing for an open adoption.


Without sharing too many details, these two children still had positive contact with one of their parents. We had been educated on what our adopted child would need throughout their lifetime to help them with their losses. So, we knew this particular contact needed to continue. We would have certainly spoken to authorities, counselors and caseworkers to maintain appropriate boundaries. We would have done everything we needed to do to give our children a connection to their history ... their past ... their story. Yet, we would have approached it with courage, compassion and common sense.

Here's another "out of the box" example: There's a young girl who has been adopted from a foster care situation. She had a very close relationship with a woman who babysat her for several years. This was a connection she had before her removal from her home. It did not continue during foster care. The state is not required, and normally not motivated, to continue contacts with those outside of immediate family. However, the agency and the adoptive parents knew the value of open adoption. They knew the value of maintaining positive relationships. Keeping personal contact with either of the birthparents was not in the best interest of this child. So, they spent a large amount of time talking with extended birth family, caseworkers, former teachers, etc. That is when this amazing woman surfaced. This woman was "family" to this girl. Thanks to open adoption, she still is today. She is her healthy connection to her history. She has answers to many questions that continue to surface over the lifetime of this child.

Then, (and this is very common) you might have a birthparent who chooses to not have any contact because (you fill in the blank). It could be because their friends or family (not experts) have convinced them that contact will make it a harder loss, and they should just "walk away and forget it ever happened." Perhaps they have been able to hide their pregnancy, and no one in their life even knows about their child, and they are thinking that they would like to keep it that way. Maybe they are hiding because they truly fear for their safety from an abusive father who would not be forgiving. The list never ends because every expectant mother has a different story. However, in their grief they many times cannot not realize that the choice they make at the time of placement is based on circumstances that could (and many times do) change.

Closed and semi-closed adoptions say, "Great, you don't want contact. That's understandable. Here's how many letters/cards you'll receive from the adoptive parents (if that)." Sign on dotted line. Stamp. Stamp. Notarize. That's that. No matter what.

Open adoption offers counseling to that woman, encouraging her to maintain that relationship if at all possible. Yet, it is still her choice. If she chooses to walk away, open adoption says, "This door is always open. If things change tomorrow, next year or when your child is twelve ... this door is open." When that day comes, a reputable open adoption agency will be available to all of those involved as they enter into a new level of contact. People change. Circumstances change. Support systems change. Open adoption allows for change. It prays for change. It hopes for change with great expectation.

Open adoption is a mindset. It's not check box.

to be continued ...


-Tora- said...

very informative post

Jenna said...

Hey, any chance you'll finish the series by tomorrow morning? Either way, I'll be featuring at the very least these two posts on the Fresh Outlook Friday on the adoptionblogs. :) I like a lot of what you have to say. I think others should hear it!

Amanda/MayhemMama said...

Great series! Yes, "open adoption is a mindset, it's not a check box." You explain this very well. Thanks.

ChrissyLou said...

"Everyone benefits in some way from open adoption, but ultimately, when it helps the grown ups, it - in turn - helps the child, as well."

Exactly. Keep talking!

Amy T. S. said...

speak it