Category Archives: open adoption roundtable

Open Adoption Roundtable #28!! Open Adoption: My Alternative Lifestyle

First of all, can I just say – TWENTY-EIGHT!?!?! I’m so happy that the Open Adoption Roundtable has stuck around and grown and become such an awesome resource! I’ve missed a few here and there (okay, a big-ish chunck around the low 20’s) but I so enjoy having them as a platform. I looked back at some of the oldies from my first blog and my pathetic number of contributions since I made the move. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go back and respond to some of the ones I missed….Also, I’m really hoping we do another interview one soon! I’d love to connect with another awesome blogger out there! 🙂

Anyway, back to the main event for the day.

Write Mind Open Heart posed the question she had received from her friend Joanne, which was then posted on Heather’s blog (Production Not Reproduction) and here we are!

So, without further adieu, here are the questions posed and my answers!

1.       Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

Yep, pretty much!

I could elaborate on this, but I almost don’t think I need to. The answer is just YES.

2.       Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

The open adoption that we have between me, Dee, and Cupcake is certainly a little unusual because I placed via California’s “Safe” Haven laws. In the beginning, all contact was through the case worker. I would receive phone calls from her letting me know if Dee had emailed her. Rather than forwarding me any emails/pictures, I would drive an hour and a half to her office to pick up grainy print-outs in order to “protect Dee’s anonymity.” (Of course, these communications could have been forwarded with Dee’s information removed with just a hint of effort on the part of the social worker, but me driving just made much more sense….where’s that darned sarcasm font when you need it???)

About eleven months in, Dee and Cupcake and I had our first visit, social worker in tow. Joy. (I was not in love with the social worker at this point). The social worker had actually already left the agency, but wanted to see this through to the introduction. Rather than work with someone completely different, Dee and I just agreed to maintain direct communication from that point forward.

3.       What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?

I personally felt more disadvantages than advantages. I always felt like Dee and the SW were friends in a way, and that I was this outsider. Because of their relationship (maybe it was due to something else, but it felt tied to this), Dee was given MUCH more information about me than I ever knew about her or Cupcake. She knew what I wore when I brought Cupcake to the hospital, what I wore at visits, even what the SW guessed that I weighed! I felt…violated?

I would guess that Dee found comfort…a friend….someone to know what was “normal” in this process. And, of course, she got a “buffer” separating herself from me should something not go as planned.

Dee probably benefited, but looking back especially, I don’t think that I did.

4.       How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?

No clue. My daughter was placed through a County Foster/Adoption agency, so I know they had a lot on their plate. I think that it wasn’t SO heavy in involvement because she really only had (chose?) to be involved on one side. I wasn’t counseled or anything. I actually asked about anything that they offered and they gave me a list of three places that might be able to provide something on a sliding fee scale. With no insurance and limited income, I had to pass.

The actual “involvement” that I saw was that she would contact us when emails/letters were sent/received, and forward when appropriate.

5.       Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

I have no clue if there is a different price for adoptive parents, but I have never heard of anything like that….

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

There’s the threat of big, bad, mediation. Supposedly you can even go to court and get a judge to mandate that you follow through (but I don’t know what happens if you don’t do it then – a fine? That goes where? No clue….)

I realize that it wouldn’t be fair to the child to say, “Break your promise and you have to give the child back!” BUT I think that the real recourse is kind of a joke. Adoptive parents often seem very afraid of legally binding agreements because of the potential recourse, but I don’t quite get it. The biggest deterred for them, I think, seems to be the fear of having to pay a lawyer’s fees should they be unfairly accused of not following through.

It seems that these contracts are also worded in a way that there is very little point. “Visits shall occur twice yearly unless it is deemed that it is not in the best interest of the child.” But what does that MEAN??? And if it’s the adoptive parents who are the final deciders of what “best interest of the child” means – what’s the point? How does that hold them accountable in the first place?

Having said that – there are some adoptive parents that are VERY committed to their open adoption agreements…to the point where I tend to believe that the folks that agree to agreements are often the folks that wouldn’t need them in the first place!

7.       What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Nothing I suppose?

But as a first parent I can say this: I had Dee’s address for nearly four years and I never once drove by. Never once considered it. Knew where she worked, where Cupcake went to day care, even where one of their favorite neighborhood restaurants was. I knew what parks they liked to play at. And I never stopped by, drove by, or visited one of those locations.

Partly – I’ll admit – because I’d look like a loony toon if I was caught!

But also, I didn’t see the point. I’m not going to turn stalker for a glimpse of my child. I’m not going to risk building our relationship on that. Not worth it, no way, no how.

As for just stopping by? The only place I stop by unannounced is my parents house less than a mile from my place because (a) they love it, and (b) that’s where I do my laundry! Anywhere else? My brothers’ house, my sisters’ house, a friend’s house? I’d never just stop by unannounced because it’s not appropriate. Double – nay, triple? – what’s more than quadruple??? – the level of inappropriateness in this situation!

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

Hm…..not off the top of my head, and I’m sure someone else would have better information that I would, should I just go out a-huntin’.

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

I feel that there are certainly people that don’t like the idea of open adoption….they cling to the “fact” that it would be terribly confusing for the children. There’s also one of my favorite arguments that it’s just “not fair” to “force” the child to build a relationship with this stranger (you know – the stranger that gave birth to them). Mind you, these same people are more than welcome to introduce their child to all kinds of other strangers. You know, the grandparents the child doesn’t know yet. The aunts and uncles that they haven’t met. But that’s different….they’re family. Arguably, a birth Mother would also be family, but that’s not always the definition used.

So yes, some are very opposed to open adoption.

But there are also amazing groups of people that advocate for open adoptions and I’ve learned so much from those women.

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

I think that there is no hard and fast answer to this question….if a child grows up just knowing their biological parents and not knowing any different, then they don’t have to make that decision. Like SO many other decisions in life, their parents made it for them. This is not unique in that scenario.

If children are not in open relationships with biological parents, I think it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. If a five year old is often asking questions, maybe it would be appropriate then. If it’s a young teen that wants contact, perhaps it’s time to find the best way to navigate that. Perhaps they want to wait until they’re an adult. That’s fine too. Reading the cues of the adoptee would be paramount in my opinion.

If my adult placed daughter wants to break off ties with me, I’d be devastated, but I’d respect her wishes. But if as a four year old she said she didn’t want to have a visit, I might think “tough cookies!” There are LOTS of things four year olds don’t necessarily want to do: go to school, come inside, take a nap, etc., but if it’s not going to harm them (and a visit with me isn’t harming, I promise!) then I think that it would be like visiting any other relative. (Now if the child clearly was actually having a long term negative reaction, I’d never force them into visiting.)

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

I’ve reached out here and there, but my most valuable information and relationships have come from blogs, forums and making the connections on my own. There wasn’t a support group available to me, so I had to create my own the best I could. And it’s been a great support system for me so far, and I appreciate everyone who has been a part of it.

You can check out the rest of the responses either via the Open Adoption Roundtable  or at Write Mind Open Heart. Enjoy!

Also – any other questions from someone not in an open adoption? Now taking requests! 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under all things adoption, deep thoughts with TG, me and Dee, open adoption roundtable, what openness looks like

Open Adoption Roundtable:”Nope, Never, Everything’s Fine!”

I’ve been a less than consistent responder these days to the Open Adoption Roundtables, but I really enjoy having the prompts, so hopefully this is the first of many consecutive offerings! The question of the day is:

Has open adoption ever felt like too much? Have you ever wanted to walk away?

Ever since I read this topic yesterday, I’ve been battling with how to answer. If I should answer. Because the truth is, this often feels like one of those baiting questions that a first parent will never answer “correctly.” Admitting to those kinds of feelings may just prove that I’m everything they say I am. Answering honestly may provide naysayers all the ammunition that they need to slay us.

This probably sounds dramatic.

It might be.

But it feels very real.

It probably feels real because I’ve often been accused – or more accurately TOLD that I don’t “really” love my daughter. Actions that I’ve taken and things that I’ve said have been torn apart and analyzed by people that have never met me and have never tried to get to know me. Those things have been used as evidence that I’m a horrible person. So in the wake of those experiences, this question….just feels like a trap.

I’ve had a post quasi-written – that I’m too nervous to complete/publish – for quite some time titled “Things We’re Not Allowed to Say.” This conversation falls into that category.

How dare I say it’s “too” hard, when so many think that the decision to be in an open adoption is selfish? That it’s more than I deserve? Who am I to consider walking away? What does that add to the narrative that first parents are flaky, selfish, uncaring? Even if the concrete action of walking away never occurred, to say it was a thought, to consider it – that would be going too far. It would be an indictment. The extension of woman that says she’s “considering adoption” and is immediately labeled a birthmother…the first Mom that’s struggling with open adoption that justifies every parent that ever closed an adoption because they “thought it would be too hard on our birthmom.”

I don’t know if it’s that way across the board, or if this thought process is specific to my experience. I DO think that anyone that puts their stake in the ground saying “open adoption is GOOD, I want to be in one, I’m an advocate for them” opens up the possibility criticism when they speak about what’s hard. If they say that it feels like it’s too much. They run the risk of getting the old, “Well, you asked for it!”

The ironic thing is that many parents get frustrated by that mindset when they try for so long to have children, adopt, etc., and complain about any little thing and someone says, “Well, you asked for it!” I would think because of this shared experience, folks would be more open to being empathetic, but I’m not sure that’s always true.

So there’s my non-answer-answer. Or at least the explanation of why I feel that I can’t answer the question. I’m eager to see if/how other first parents answered this question. If they were braver than I. What in their story led them to the safe place of being able to answer honestly? Perhaps one day I’ll get there….or perhaps, get BACK there…because I feel like I WAS there once. And I feel like I learned my lesson.

7 Comments

Filed under brutal honesty, deep thoughts with TG, drama in cyberland, open adoption roundtable

Open Adoption Roundtable: Seven Deadly Questions

I’m a little late on the Open Adoption Roundtable (again) but better late than never! On today’s episode of the Open Adoption Roundtable, O Solo Mama asks seven questions that she described as “ignorant.” But I would describe them as incredibly valid. Judging from the volume of comments on that particular post, I think I can assume that I’m not the only one. So now I’ll attempt to tackle these questions, and we’ll see how many times I can put my foot in my mouth along the way. And don’t forget to read the rest of the OAR responses!

1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honouring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?

I think that people suck at it (to use your words :)) because it’s hard! Marriage can be great too, but statistically half of them end in divorce. I think we often have unrealistic expectations when going into open adoption about what that entails. I think we look at all the parts of open adoption that can be great, and we don’t spend enough time talking about and acknowledging the parts that are challenging and that take a great deal of work.

Some people seem to be blindsided when they reach the realization that it IS such hard work. That can be scary, so rather than work through it, some people choose to close adoptions or alter the level of commitment. To some degree, I can understand the impulse. It’s the hiding behind the “for the sake of the child” statement that really ruffles my feathers. Because that’s not working at this at all. That’s hiding and not even trying. Where’s the communication and effort in that?

And when you don’t put in effort at something – at anything – the odds are that you’re not going to be great at it.

2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent?

It’s interesting, because more often than not, I hear about open adoption prolonging first parent suffering from people that aren’t first parents. This was a barrier in the beginning of our open adoption as our first visit was delayed several times and by several months because I wasn’t ready. Only, I never said that. The social worker said that. Dee said that. But I didn’t get a voice in that conversation. Now maybe the real reason was that Dee wasn’t ready. Maybe the real reason was that she was nervous to have the meeting before finalization (something that was insinuated by the SW). But the reason that was always given officially, was that everyone was concerned that it wasn’t in my best interest, and would be too painful for me, to move forward too quickly.

Having said that, anyone can read posts either shortly before or after I’ve had a visit, and see that there is pain and suffering there. The thing is, it’s there whether the adoption is open or not. I know that because often I feel like our adoption is not open. We don’t have a 7-11 type of openness. We have an open adoption that’s more like a small family run business in a small town with funky hours and days that it’s open of which you can’t always keep track.

But for me? I will take the hard times before and after visits, between visits, at visits, you name it, to see pictures of Cupcake and to hear her voice and to give her hugs. I will take that all day long.

3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.

I think that Dee and I navigate this area fairly well because Dee has always pictured her child as having two Moms. As a gay woman, Dee’s ideal situation was to have two Mom’s raising Cupcake. Currently, she’s parenting as a single Mom. But I think her comfort level with two Mom’s has allowed her to cast me in that role – if somewhat modified – more easily. Enough at least that she doesn’t squirm when I accidentally call myself one of Cupcake’s Moms.

As for the general public? Heck, I’d like to get past the adoption community first. I feel like the adoption community as a whole isn’t ready to embrace dual “Moms” or “Dads” being okay.

We debate over titles, firmly resistant in sharing them. We worry about children receiving gifts from their first parents, because what does that mean??? We’re vigilant about controlling the ways in which children are allowed to interact with their biological families. And none of these things feel like the adoption community as a whole is embracing the idea that this is the child’s second family. Not suspect strangers that need to be monitored. (For the record, I’m talking about voluntary infant adoptions. In which, the vast majority of us first parents aren’t evil and dangerous).

So if WE can’t model that it’s okay? I don’t see how we can expect the general public to wrap their heads around it.

4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)

I have certainly never felt like I needed to take Cupcake back.

But I have felt like I could be a great parent to her. And that she doesn’t have a “better” life with Dee than she would have with me, just different.

That does feel a little weird. But she’s happy and healthy and safe, so I’ve never felt a need to take her back.

5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?

I don’t know how Cupcake will cope as she grows up. Part of me wants to buy into the rhetoric that is often put out that she’ll never feel a void because her Mom loves her so much. That I’m around, so it won’t ever matter to her. That primal wounds don’t exist and are complete hogwash and that my daughter will never experience that.

But I have no clue if any of that is true.

And I have to acknowledge that or it would be a disservice to her.

My only hope is that Dee and I can be there for Cupcake and support her no matter what her experience is. I hope that Dee will believe in and validate Cupcake’s feelings. And if there is a role for me in that process, I hope that I am engaged in it, because I think that all of the answers and support that Cupcake can receive can’t hurt.

6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?

No, I can’t say this.

And the reason I can’t say it is simple: I wouldn’t want anyone else making that decision for me, and I won’t make it for someone else.

That goes both ways. I can’t say that all first Mothers should have open adoptions and it would be irresponsible for me to point to someone and tell them what they can and can’t cope with.

7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?

Wow…..really saving the big guns for last, eh?

I think I’m going to cheat a little here and save this for another day. When I can really commit my whole brain to this one question. Because it is such a complex one, and I want to give it the focus it deserves.

But thank you for these questions O, Solo Mama! And remember, they are NOT ignorant, they are awesome. 🙂

7 Comments

Filed under all things adoption, brutal honesty, open adoption roundtable