August 24, 2008

What I Said

I'm amused at the shocked response in the comments to the oddly titled The Open Adoption Book: A Guide to Adoption Without Tears after my off-hand mention of it. I'm kind of glad some of you hadn't heard of it before, as it's crap on a cracker as far as being a comprehensive open adoption guide. It was required reading at the agency we used for our first adoption. (Which is symbolic of our experience with that agency, in a way: they set us on a good path by insisting on openness, but didn't give us any tools to make that openness work long-term. It was a glossy version of open adoption.) I probably shouldn't say this, but ... it's so over-the-top pro-open adoption, pro-adoptive family that it might be useful propaganda to give to relatives who insist you should be adopting the "old-fashioned" way. Do with that what you will.

I thought about posting what I wrote in response to the friend of a co-worker who asked for feedback on a facilitator, but it turns out I don't have a copy of the sent email. It essentially went like this:
  • I'm glad you're thinking about adopting! It's been an incredible experience for us.
  • This is how much we spent on our two adoption processes and what I think is reasonable (she had also asked about costs for domestic adoption in general).
  • We personally shied away from facilitators. There are some decent ones out there, but these are my concerns about adoption facilitation.
  • I don't know anything about that particular facilitator first-hand. I looked at her firm's website and a number of things they do don't line up with what are currently considered best practices, here's what they are.
  • Plug for agency adoption as the best shot at a well-done adoption. Empathetic statement about how hard it is to pick one.
  • Offer to talk more. Yay for adoption.
That's obviously quite paraphrased, but you get the idea. I liked Dawn's comment about leaning in before you pull back when offering advice. It's been something I've been trying to teach myself: finding a point of connection before laying out a critique and using lots of "I" statements as I do so.

After reading all your comments, I do wish I had been more direct than I was about the lack of respect shown for all parties by that facilitator--not just in the quote I shared, but in the way their whole process is structured. I appreciated Megan's take for the way she connected it to the child being adopted, as I think that's something most prospective adoptive parents will take seriously:
I suppose I would encourage this person to read some books on open adoption and warn him/her that an agency/facilitator who does not speak with respect and dignity towards an expectant mother cannot, by default, truly respect the child. It's a difficult process regardless of how great your agency or facilitator or lawyer is, so you really want to find someone who is not out to degrade your potential child's birth family or DNA. You also want someone who is brutally honest.
(Heh. "Brutally honest" is a good description of our most recent social worker. In a good way.)

I did hear back from the friend of the co-worker. She thanked me for my opinions and said she was going to follow up on one of my suggestions, but didn't say much else. I really do wish her well. I'm grateful I'll never be at that place again, trying to figure out the 150,000 options available to adopting parents with no personal experience to guide me. I wonder how many of us would make different choices were we able to start over knowing what we know now.


luna said...

it must be challenging answering questions by people who aren't aware of the issues and problems in the "business" of adoption when you want to be encouraging...

we are starting to work with a "consultant" who specializes in truly open adoptions. she calls herself an advisor and not a facilitator, and she is very strong on advising expectant mothers and families (and pushes for lot of counseling). she does way more than our agency to prepare both sets of parents, and she presses for more openness than most in our agency seem comfortable with.

that said, she doesn't advertise but gets referrals, but there is a burden on us to "find" our own match through our own outreach. some people think we're crazy for using her...

Lori said...

In my experience, half of the "we should grab coffee because my husband and I are thinking about adoption" invitations are never followed up on. I always respond enthusiastically and give an elevator speech version of why open adoption works for us. But the lack of follow up leads me to believe that many people just want someone...anyone to tell them that it is okay to even consider adoption.

Perhaps that's what the friend's co-worker was looking for. Validation that adoption can be a blessing for all involved. And it sounds like that's what you gave her (in addition to some great advice).

Ariella said...

Your last sentience gave way to my own post of the subject of passing on info. I hope I sited your blog correctly, and that you don't mind me quoting you. Let me know if you feel it needs to be changed in any way.

Unknown said...

I think your response was the best one. I am intrigued by what Lori commented about how people asking about adoption may just be looking for someone to tell them it's okay to think about adoption. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it made sense as soon as I read it.

We went with the first agency we visited, and I have no regrets whatsoever. BUT, I think we just go really, really lucky. The more I read about agencies and domestic adoption in general, I realize more and more how lucky we were/are to have found this agency.

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