Being so involved in the adoption community, it’s natural that I get a lot of inquiries from friends and random people seeking help in beginning their adoption journey. One of the things I have to often remind myself is that I was once in their shoes. In today’s adoption climate, open adoption is the norm. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in the early stages of adoption knows about open adoption or is immediately comfortable with the idea…
Some people may think that closing an open adoption is okay. They may think that promising an open adoption is just a means to becoming parents and that closing it has no effect on the child. After all, closed adoptions used to be the norm, and open adoption agreements often aren’t even legally enforceable. I often hear people state that they would only close the adoption if the environment for an open adoption became unhealthy. And while I too am guilty of making this statement, I think the phrase “closing the adoption” needs to be looked at closer.
Here are some ways to look at your open adoption and get through the struggles that may be plaguing your relationship with the birth family before just writing off the relationship with them. To read the rest of the article, please click here to visit Adoption.com.
If you are in the Cincinnati listening area, you can tune in live on the radio, or if you are outside the station’s reach, you can click the links below and stream the show live. I was super nervous, but Rodney did a great job putting me at ease and the conversation flowed naturally. Tune in to the show for information about my adoption story and upcoming books!
Here’s the schedule for Sunday Morning Magazine with Rodney Lear
Airs Sunday April 13th: (times are EST)
7:00 a.m. on WKRQ-FM (101.9)
7:00 a.m. on WYGY-FM (97.3)
6:00 a.m. on WUBE-FM (105.1)
6:00 a.m. on WREW-FM (94.9)
I participated in a radio interview today and this question was one we weren’t able to get to, since we ran out of time. I thought I would take it to the blog and address it here. I was a little worried about fumbling over my words in the interview on this question anyhow.
So, we’ve all seen the stories or had a friend or family member that didn’t know he/she was adopted until teen or adult years. So the question is, why was the topic of adoption taboo? I think this stems from a time of more closed adoptions. Adoption was a taboo subject for several reasons.
- One of which is with infertility there is a bit of a stigma that is attached to it. Women have been placed in a role by society to have children. Men have a need to carry on the family name and lineage. With adoption their, so called, failure to do so is brought to attention.
- Some people have the mindset that if God wanted someone to have children, He would grant that to them naturally, making it against God’s wishes.
- Then there is the stigma of the child’s background. In closed adoptions, the adoptive parents were given very little to no information about the birth parents. This lead to confusion or an inability to discuss the unknown.
- Another reason adoption used to not be commonly talked about, was also the parent’s own insecurities of losing their status as “parents” to the child. If their child ever questioned their biological roots, this may have made the adoptive parents feel inadequate or insecure and fear they may lose their child. They may not have had many answers about the birth parents, so they avoided the subject all together. If or when the child learned of their adoption, then it was often awkward for all parties to discuss.
- Often parents in closed adoptions also feared there was no “right time” to tell the child. If the adoption wasn’t open, knowledge of the birth parents or a relationship with them wasn’t present, some parents may not have felt equipped to tell their child and answer the difficult questions, so they put it off.
- Sometimes families adopted children from within the same family. The adoption was kept a secret so there was not any confusion as to who the parent was. The biological parent may have been a sister or close aunt or cousin. So, while a relationship with the biological parent may have existed, the knowledge was withheld.
What other reasons can you think of that made the topic of adoption taboo or reasons why parents may have kept the adoptive status of their child a secret?
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!
Sarah Baker | August 26, 2013 | 11:49 AM
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is “Will you tell Ezra he is adopted?” I think this question comes from a time of closed adoptions. Some people go their entire lives not knowing they are adopted. Sometimes people find out only in a medical emergency. Other times they find out when they begin questioning their birth story or why they are tall or have brown hair. Imagine how a person’s world would be turned upside down if they didn’t already know they were adopted and suddenly were faced with that news.
As a society, we come with a long history of closed adoptions and adoption being a taboo subject. With that mentality, we are often faced with even more awkward questions than this one. We are the first generation to embrace open adoption. While adoptions have taken place in all cultures throughout history, it is just in the last few decades that research has proven that open adoptions can be very rewarding and healthy for everyone involved. It gives the first family (birth parents) the peace and knowledge that the child they loved and carried is doing well. It gives the child the knowledge of his or her roots and love. It provides the adoptive family with the answers that a closed adoption wouldn’t provide.
So to answer the question of if we will tell Ezra he is adopted, the answer is; we already talk about his adoption with him. I feel it’s important to start early with this topic so it doesn’t come as a surprise. He has a picture of his birth parents and siblings in his room. We point out their pictures and tell him he grew in her belly and tell him their names. When we get together with them, he hears our conversations; reminiscing his birth, talking about our abundant and mutual love for him. When he’s bigger and can talk with us, we will continue to call them by their names and tell him God had him growing in his birth mom’s belly, but he was meant to live with us so we could be his Mommy and Daddy. Sometimes I call her belly mama. I think it all needs to be age appropriate to his capability of understanding. Right now, at 7.5 months old, he is learning the world around him. The adoption is part of his world. I am also in the process of making his first year photo book and a Life Book. A Life Book is not about adoption, but about his life. Not our feelings about how happy we are to have him, but a story line of how his adoption took place and who he is. It will include photos of his birth family, time lines, his sonograms, his birth, his baby years, etc. We will add to it as long as he wants and what he wants as he gets older, it is his life.
If you’d like to follow more of our adoption story go to: www.facebook.com/OurAdoption