A couple of people asked me to talk a little bit about the support Ms B is getting from the agency, after my comment that they're doing a good job. Before I do that, I want to make the disclaimer that (1) this is mostly based on Ms B's experience and other people may have a different story to tell and (2) it obviously comes from my perspective as someone who has never been through the experience of placing a child.
More than anything, the social worker Ms B is paired with has just been there for her consistently. They've met regularly for months and during some of the particularly difficult stretches were meeting weekly or bi-weekly. She's also met with key family members and friends, because adoption is never just about one person in isolation. It's been nice for me to know that Ms B has a supportive place to talk not only about how she's doing but to sort through her hopes or fears about the open relationship and how to approach things like holidays and extended family. Without that, I believe I would default to thinking that was somehow my responsibility, which isn't a healthy dynamic. We can cry together or disagree now and then without me feeling that I'm failing her.
The other thing Ms B has said she appreciates is connecting with other first parents. She actually went to one of their periodic gatherings while she was still pregnant because it was so important for her to hear about their experiences first-hand (especially since she doesn't use the internet, so can't get information that way). Later this month is the annual Lifegivers Retreat (named after Jim Gritter's book) that I hear combines a discussion of a post-placement topic (this year is about honoring joy and grief) with typical retreat-style pampering.
Connecting peers is something I think they're pretty good at. I mentioned that I wished I knew someone in the area who shared certain philosophies about transracial adoption and within a day a social worker had connected me by email to local adoptive mom. Another agency worker is helping T and me (hopefully) set up an open adoption support group in our town. They also maintain a list of parents who are willing to act as peer mentors for waiting families going through similar experiences (for instance, we might be connected with someone who is going through a long pre-birth mediation period like we had). There is also an active adoptive parent email group; it was something the parents set up on their own, but I think reflects the value for support that the agency has and thus the clients have. They do similar connecting for first parents; Ms B talked with a young expectant mom who was feeling that relinquishment might be hard for others but wouldn't be for her (B: "Not a chance.")
I can't help but contrast that with our experience at the agency we used when we adopted Puppy. The staff turnover was atrocious. We went through four social workers during our eighteen months working with them. K reported that when she called them several months after placement no one she had worked closely with was left (which shouldn't have stopped them from talking with her anyway, but sort of did). We chose them because they told us exactly the sorts of things we were looking for in terms of support: long-term counseling available for adoptees and first parents, support groups for adoptive parents, etc. The six support groups we were required to attend were a total joke. Here was a golden opportunity to train and help us through the intense early months of open adoption and instead we sat around month after month sharing waiting/match/placement stories and filling out the state paperwork.
If we ever ran into a significant bump in Firefly's open adoption, I would call the agency in a heartbeat and trust them to help mediate it. I can't say the same for the agency which handled Puppy's adoption. That's the biggest difference to me. No agency is perfect, and there are some things I wish this agency had done differently, but this is one of their strong points.
That will have to be all for now. Firefly and I are off to Big City to pick up a stash of donor milk.