Sarah Baker | September 17, 2013 | 06:38 PM
I posted a blog awhile back about lessons we learned during our first match. Most of the lessons we learned surrounded setting boundaries early on and communicating directly what your wishes are for the adoption. Both parties should fully understand the adoption plan so there are no surprises or hurt feelings later down the road. One of the most common things I have heard from people who are opposed to adoption or looking to reform adoption say is; “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”.
Open adoption is a relatively new concept. In the lifetime of adoption, open adoptions just started being more accepted in the 1970’s. As with all new concepts and alterations in tradition, changes don’t occur over night. Studies were done and are still being done. Since people my age are pretty much the forerunners of this new concept in open adoption being the “norm”, it is not uncommon to have friends and relatives question and caution the decision to have an open adoption. They have fears (and let me admit, so did I before learning more about it) like; Will it undermine me as the parent? Will it confuse my child? Will it hurt the birth mother more to see the child? Will it cause trauma? Will the birth parents try to steal the child back? Will it be a competition of love? Will it be awkward? What will other people think? After hearing these questions dozens of times, it starts to get frustrating, but keeping in mind that open adoption is “new” and they are just looking out for your well being, I take it as a great opportunity to educate them and involve them in the expansion of our family.
As a reminder from my previous post (Lessons Learned):
Things open adoptions are not:
• Custody arrangement
• Long term child care
Things open adoptions are:
• Birth parents having knowledge of well being of the child
• Self-identity for the child
• Love and communication
So my response to the people that like to constantly remind expecting mothers that “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”, is that while it is indeed not legally enforceable, choose wisely. Choose an ethical agency. Choose an agency that advocates open adoption. Choose an agency that has training and education on why open adoption is healthy. Ask the agency if they will intervene if an open adoption starts to take a turn, sometimes miscommunication can be a simple fix. Tell the adoption counselor what your expectations are. Make sure you are choosing adoption for the right reasons and fully understand what adoption is. And lastly, choose a family that you feel you can trust with the adoption plan you envision and that you see your child having a good upbringing with.
Communicate your feelings, no matter what they are. Don’t assume that people know what you are thinking. But, if you are thinking that you want to see your child that you place for adoption at least weekly or maybe even monthly, that may be unrealistic for an adoptive family and could also be a sign that you don’t really want to go through with adoption. You may want to explore your options and see if there is a way you can parent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must place your child for adoption. That is YOUR choice. Open adoptions are great, but ultimately, you are no longer that child’s mommy. You turn into a birth/first mother. So just be comfortable and confident in your choice.
So, while some people do close the door on their open adoption, I’m an optimist that likes to believe that this is not the norm or that they have valid reasons. I can’t understand why an adoptive family would enter into such an agreement and take this amazing gift from a loving woman, and then shut her out. It’s something that doesn’t comprehend in my mind. Was it in their plans from the beginning? Were they deceitful? Did something in life change? My thoughts on open adoption are this: We have an open adoption with Ezra’s birth family. I say family because it’s not just his birth parents. He has siblings. He has aunts. He has grandparents. These are extensions of my son. Who am I to deny him this identity of himself? There are very few circumstances I can see me making the tough decision to limit physical contact with these people. Those reasons would be drugs, crime, abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, etc. Allowing Ezra to see his birth parents this way at a young age would be devastating. I would carefully explain that until these actions are corrected, we would cease visits that include Ezra. However, I would never stop contact altogether. I would still send updates and photos. I would still be there as emotional support and encourage them to get back on a better path in life and if that day never came, when he is old enough, then I would provide him with the way to be in touch on his own accord. I pray that is never something we will encounter; we really enjoy our family picnics and time spent together. But, I believe they placed their son in my care so that I would do what is best for him… and if they were in one of those situations I described previously, I think I would be doing them and their choice an injustice by putting him in harm’s way.
To learn more about the benefits of open adoption and stereotypes often associated with them, please visit: http://www.openadoptions.com/ (I didn’t have a chance to read every single topic on this page, so I hope the information is useful and accurate)
Follow our adoption story more at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption
If you have specific questions about open adoption, please message me, I am open anytime to help!