Spend some time researching adoption on the internet and you can easily get pulled into the abyss. There are websites for any angle you want to look at. There are blogs from adoptive parents, adults who are adopted, adopt reform supporters, adoption reunion supporters, therapists and consultants who have their own theories and ideas of how everyone should feel, research supporting loss and grief, Christians who support orphan adoption and those who feel that those Christians supporting this belief are nothing but Child Traffickers, it goes on and on. Then there are all of the books written about Open Adoption – and what to do for a successful adoption. So who is right? How are we supposed to do adoption? Should we be doing adoption? Who are we supposed to believe?
This is what I have learned as a woman who experienced infertility and 3 unsuccessful medical attempts at pregnancy, as an RN who has been present (and delivered personally)at the birth of 100’s of babies, as an advocate and educational support of fostering and adoptive parents in Child Welfare, as a woman who has worked directly with other women who have had their children removed by the court, as a mentor to foster youth now having their own children, as an advocate for women (and fathers) in active and recovering addiction, as a facilitator working with families who want to adopt and women who come voluntarily to me to relinquish a child in an adoption plan, and as a mother of 4 through adoption who all have a different “Open Adoption” with their birth families: There is no single way to do an adoption. We have laws to abide by to avoid child trafficking, we have statues that prohibit how much we can provide in assistance to women who choose adoption to prevent baby selling. Those are important. But Open Adoption can mean many things, and until we meet the people involved in each adoption plan, there is no “right way”.
Adoption should always be Child Centered, meaning – all of the adults involved should be making a decision based on what is best for the child, baby being born. We have enough research today vs back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s even to understand that having a relationship, or knowledge of birth history provides an adopted individual with a greater ability to cope or survive. But a cookie cutter approach is not always best for everyone. There are just as many birth moms who are comfortable with the choice they made, until someone tells them they shouldn’t be. There are adopted adults who don’t suffer the day to day trauma that some anti adoption advocates would like for you to believe all adopted individuals feel. In fact if you tell them there are not any problems they will tell you it’s because an adoptee doesn’t want to create a problem. Just as there are variations in families or individuals who have not been adopted, there are variations in those that have been.
We have many families come to us after reading books or researching on line and most of these families are clearly split into two groups. Both of these sets have a specific mind of what they are expecting or looking for. There is the family that has received no grief and loss support surrounding the years of infertility, they are hesitant to adopt but know no other way to start a family. They don’t want to do fost adopt because they can’t bear the thought of finally having a child in their home and then losing them. They also have a very long list of expectations : age of mom, ethnicity, absolutely no drug history or even cigarettes, some alcohol okay. No mental illness. They may want to meet mom but not necessary. They will always want a picture though and some knowledge of the health and development of the other children. Visits will not be included in the post adoption contact but they will provide pictures and letters. This last request made because they don’t want their child being confused about who the parents are. The other family reads about Open Adoption , attends some orientations and then decides this – they must have a relationship with their birth mom(who by the way is not a birth mom until she places for adoption). They want to meet her before they decide on a “match” to make sure they all get along, because this will be someone who is in their life as well as the child. They want to know the complete family history, when all medical appointments are and attend those visits when possible. They are the ones most open to trans racial adoption and some drug use. They want a hospital plan drawn up and a post contact agreement in place right away. All of these things because they know it is best for the child. So which one of these adoptions is the right way? They both are…and there are many other plans that will be right too.
There is no right or wrong way to do an adoption plan IF everyone is acting morally and ethically. We are working with real people here. There are so many dynamics that influence an adoption plan that I share with families- you have to be flexible. I think it’s important to gather information, to read, to store facts. I think all of this needs to be put in what I call our “adoptive parenting toolbox” . What I think is most important though is to remain open to all potential situations. You may envision having birthdays and holidays together and meet a mom who wants to do an adoption plan with the same intentions and then in a year or two that all changes. Our lives change year after year so I ask families to remain open to ALL possibilities when considering whether they want to move forward in an adoption plan. If you have a focus or an idea of how your plan is supposed to go you shut yourself out to many other possibilities. Open Adoption is what’s best for our children, and this means many things – mostly sharing of information. There are going to be times when physical contact is not safe…do you avoid adopting a child where this might be the case? There may be a time when you meet mom during the pregnancy and then after the baby is born , she does not want to remain active in your life…does this mess up your adoption plan?
Our children all have an Open Adoption. Kyle : we meet Sarah when she was 6 months pregnant, we spent time with her, I was in the delivery room. She disappeared after Kyle was born and resurfaced when he was 16. We had a turbulent couple of years trying to develop this relationship. Kyle would not even agree to do anything but text and communicate online for a year. He is 22 now and they spent a month together in Ecuador, they send emails to each other. He has a relationship with a couple of her sisters and we have a relationship with two of is cousins and one aunt. Our twins came to us a t 4 months old, we met their birth mom and then communicated with her for the first year. She then disappeared. When they were 17 Alex a birth sister contacted them on Facebook, we have since had her over to stay and I communicate with B. Mom. They don’t want to. The birth father knows about them, I have communicated with him but he does not want a relationship. Kaylee came to us through foster care, her family was initially involved with a reunification plan, we had an older sister with us too. She was eventually reunified after 1.5 yrs and we were chosen to adopt Kaylee. We have a relationship with an older sister and some of her younger ones. I have been in touch with B Mom but she is not in a situation right now where she wants to reach back. These are all open adoptions. I can’t force anyone to be who they are or have a relationship that they don’t want to have, and beyond the normal dysfunction of a “normal” family my kids are good with who they are. They don’t feel like they are missing out, they don’t feel special because they are adopted, they feel loved and we feel blessed.
Books are good to have as a resource, other peoples experience is good to listen to, research is important because it provides us with tools and a base from which to work from. What’s most important is that you come into adoption with the same understanding as you have of marriage or any other relationship. We grow, we change and we need to be open to many scenarios. Just because something is someway one day it may not be the next.