November 04, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #9

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking back here so we can all find one other--and leave a link to your post in the comments. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

This round we're going to consider one critique of fully open adoptions. Have you ever heard--or perhaps even made--statements like these?
"We have medical histories and can share the information we have about their birth parents with our children now. If they feel a need to initiate contact with their birth families when they are adults, we will fully support them."
"The decision to have a relationship with her bio family should be hers when she is ready. Creating a relationship between them before she wants it might cause issues in the future."
"Children deserve to have just one family during childhood and not to deal with anything adoption-related until they are more mature. A fully open adoption robs a child of a normal childhood."
These statements are from people participating in closed and semi-open adoptions. I paraphrased them slightly, but left the meanings intact.

The writers share a certain point-of-view: that direct contact during early childhood between birth families and children placed for adoption may not be the best idea. Adopted persons should be free to initiate relationships with their first families--or not--on their own timetable. The parents (first and adoptive) in an adoption shouldn't make such an important and personal decision for them.

What is your response? Do you agree or disagree? Why?


Susiebook (first mom) at Endure for a Night: "Your child can’t create familial relationships on his or her own—by leaving it up to the adoptee, you make a relationship impossible at first and then merely difficult, handicapped by the years spent in the dark."

Ginger (first mom) at Puzzle Pieces: "I think when parents say this, they usually mean something like,'We can't decide if openness is good or bad so we just won't decide now. Instead, we'll push these adult decisions off on a child.'"

Elly (adoptive mom): "I get the feeling that too many a-parents who are fixed on a closed or semi-open adoption are doing it because they aren't comfortable with the child's birthfamily. But his (our son's) birthfamily is his family. I don't want him to be afraid to be curious, or interested. Or surprised. Or try to figure out himself how to 'make contact'."

KatjaMichelle (first mom) at Therapy Is Expensive: "All in all adults are uncomfortable with open adoption because its a foreign concept and if we raise our children to view it as an unusual occurance they will be uncomfortable with it as well. If we raise them to know that differences in families are normal, that they have extended family connects that their friends may not, they can grow up embracing all of who they are."

Leigh (first mom) at Sturdy Yet Fragile: "My initial reaction is that I can't disagree entirely with these statements. I think that they represent a fair argument, which is to say that a child may not be mature enough to fully comprehend such complicated relationships as are present in open adoptions. However, from what I've read from several families participating in fully open adoptions, there seems to be an organic level of understanding, and of love, that takes place for the child, even if he or she does not have the adult words or labels to explain those relationships."

Rachel (adoptive mom) at Henry Street: "I truly have some mixed feelings when it comes to full openness, but I would never dismiss it as bad for the kids. Adoption is complicated, period."

Dawn (adoptive mom) at This Woman's Work: "Well, obviously I disagree. And these kinds of arguments drive me crazy."

Valerie (first mom) at From Another Mother: "At first, I'm not really going to have a choice whether [a hypothetical aunt is] in my life--and I'm probably not going to care. However, it's still my choice whether to have a relationship with her. I still get to decide--whether consciously or un--whether I like her or not. My parents may dictate how often I see her as I grow up, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to talk to her or bond with her. It's my choice. And as I get older, the choice becomes more and more my own."

Barely Sane (adoptive mom) at Infertility Licks: "Bonds are formed over time. It will take time for MG's birth family and myself to form a relationship that all parties are comfortable with. We need that time now, while MG is still too young to recognize the awkwardness of it."

Luna (adoptive mom) at Life From Here: "To those who say that contact would be confusing for the child, I fail to see how spending time among family would be any more confusing than trying to understand later why your parents never made that option available, if it was possible."

Shmode (adoptive mom) at Frogged Mind: "I do not look down upon those that have decided against open adoption as it is more than just the best interest of the child at stake. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree, but the adoption itself isn’t solely a single individual’s life experience. There are a mass of people surrounding the child that are affected on a daily basis by his or her presence, so you cannot tell me that a serious decision like this should only consider the needs of the child and the child alone and ignore the persons that will surround him in his daily life for years to come."

Lavender Luz (adoptive mom) at Weebles Wobblog: "We do better to normalize our children's adoption from as early as possible. Our children come to us living in a gap between their biology and their biography. The sooner this schism is addressed and the less spread open the cleft is, the more likely it is to heal well and completely. Integration of the two parts of an adopted child's identity should, in my mind, be the responsibility of the decision-makers (parents) from Day 1 with their new child."

Andy (adoptee/adoptive mom) at Today's the Day!: "Mine was a closed adoption, so this is mostly theoretical. But I would have been PISSED if I had found out as an adult that my parents had either known my first family, knew how to contact them or kept them from me in any way."

Sustainable Families (adoptee): "Taking a quick glance over at open adoption research over at the Adoption Institute, we find that their conclusion seems to be that semi-open adoption is in fact, the hardest. Going on adecdotal evidence, I would agree. Semi-open adoptions and open adoptions with limited contact are, I believe, harder for children and biological parents"


Anonymous said...

Awesome--I couldn't stop talking. =D

Ginger said...

Ugh...I maybe should have sat this one out...but here you go anyway:

That I wrote it today is a sign of my true dedication to the Roundtable. I wrote 3341 words earlier today for NaNoWriMo (bringing my total to 9507 in 4 days)...and then found the prompt and still managed to write a decent length post...

Elly said...

I feel a bit over-evangelical talking about open adoption... When we first embarked on the adoption journey we had a session with an adoption counselor. She firmly pointed out to us that open adoption is about the child, not about the parents. I get the feeling that too many a-parents who are fixed on a closed or semi-open adoption are doing it because they aren't comfortable with the child's birthfamily. But his (our son's) birthfamily is his family. I don't want him to be afraid to be curious, or interested. Or surprised. Or try to figure out himself how to 'make contact'.

I find the 'children get confused' argument irritating. Yes, children might get confused. Kids do! They are still learning about human relationships. As a small child, I couldn't understand why we called our neighbors 'aunt and uncle' but their kids weren't our cousins. I learned. Not having contact doesn't change that your child has two sets of parents.

Having said all that, my husband finds the contact strange and it is mostly my domain. But that is true of many family issues, anyway! I love DS's bmom. Thanks to her, I am a mom. I can't imagine her not being able to see him growing up. It seems like a small repayment for what I have gained to send her photos, letters and let her be part of his life to the extent I can.

I could write more, too! It is a short answer and I'm sure there are holes which others will point out.

Anonymous said...

I wrote! i could have gone on longer but it got pretty long so I shut myself up

Leigh said...

I agree with what everyone said - this conversation will surely be a lengthy one filled with interesting arguments on both sides!

Rachel said...

I think adoption is complicated, whether it's open or not. I would like our adoption to be more open, and I think cultivating that openness is our responsibility as adoptive parents. However, I still have mixed feelings about all of it.

Elly said...

I wanted to clarify the comment that was quoted in the post. I didn't mean that adoption is particularly or unusually confusing to kids, thus justifying closed adoption. I mean that kids find many things confusing because their knowledge and understanding is developing. I think there is an assumption that they come equipped with our 'knowledge' of what is normal or acceptable and if their experiences differ from that it is going to affect them.

I believe that kids think that whatever they know is normal. As they are exposed to other situations they will expand and refine their views. This happens throughout life - as in when people move to other countries and experience 'culture shock'. I'm glad I thought about this more because rather than worrying me about what we tell DS, I am content to tell him about himself and realize that it is more important to equip him to relate to others who might not understand his background. And that is partly by me learning to model good 'adoption related behavior' to others who question me about it.

Heather said...

@Elly - I understood what you meant! But I can see how it might be interpreted differently, taken out of context as it is. I can pull a different quote, if you'd like.

Valerie said...

Here's mine

Elly said...

I don't mind either way. just seeing it written like that it could easily be taken to support the 'closed adoption' position, which was obviously not my intent!

Barely Sane said...

Here's my post. A subject that hits close to home for me in so many different ways. Good topic

luna said...

here's my contribution:

thanks, heather.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, here's mine.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Andy said...

Mine's up!

Anonymous said...

Heather, there is a glitch in my other blog, so can I submit a new link?

It's the same post as I crosspost some of my stuff.

Anonymous said...

Is this only a mother/female issue? Where are the men/fathers?

Heather said...

@Anonymous - Open adoption certainly isn't just a mother/female issue. I suspect it's a numbers thing. The roundtable participants represent only a tiny fraction of the total number of bloggers writing about open adoption, and of that total number, a fairly small percentage seem to be male. If you know of a male blogger who might be interested in participating, let me know and I'll try my hand at some recruiting.

Anonymous said...

I was talking with an adoptive mom recently who related a story about being in the supermarket with her 4-year-old daughter. The clerk addressed the daughter and said, "Did you get your pretty blue eyes from your mother." The 4-year-old replied, "Yes, I got my blue eyes from my tummy mommy. This is my everyday mommy." Obviously the little girl was totally comfortable with having two mommies - because her two mommies were also comfortable with it.

Kelli said...

I am both an adoptive mom in an open adoption and an adoption coach. We have been totally open and honest with our now 5 year old daughter about how she came into our family.

I feel it's very healthy for our daughter to maintain contact with anyone from her first family that is open to it - we have plans to see my daughter Ariel's birth grandma and great grandparents the day after Thanksgiving.

Which feels so appropriate as five years later, I am still so thankful and grateful we were chosen to be her parents.

I tell adoption coaching clients that I work with that an open adoption relationship is one built on trust. Never promise something to the biological family you are not prepared to deliver just to be selected.

In our case, we truly love the birth mother of our daughter and her family so having an ongoing relationship is a blessing. I see it growing and maturing over time.

Anonymous said...

Better late than never?

Cat's Litterbox said...

I'm WAY late posting on this... but I felt compelled to comment!!

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