If you’re an adoptive parent (or if you will be), Adoption Utopia might look one way.
If you have placed a child, Adoption Utopia might look another way.
And if you are a person who was adopted, Adoption Utopia might look completely different from the other two.
It’s a feat to balance sometimes competing needs and rights among the people involved in an adoption triad.
The scope for my answers includes only adoptions where firstparents make a conscious decision to place their child, NOT when the decision is made for them by a child welfare agency.
Of course, others with a different experience may weigh in with a different scope (thanks, Joanne!)
Here are my thoughts to some questions I wonder about — I invite you to share your viewpoint, too.
1. What responsibilities do adoptive parents* have for their children’s firstparents*, both before and after relinquishment?
Adopting parents accurately portray themselves and what degree of openness they can commit to. Once they commit, it is only ethical that they abide by their agreement, whether or not it is a formal, written contract.
Adoptive parents use only respectful terms when talking with the child about his firstparents. This is not only morally right toward the firstparents, but necessary for the child to know that his origins are worthy. Denigrating the firstparents denigrates the child.
2. What responsibilities should the adoption system have for placing parents?
In Adoption Utopia, expectant parents considering adoption get neutral counseling about both parenting and adoption options. Good adoption agencies provide this, and adopting parents should use one that does (there is enlightened self-interest for doing so: birthparents who don’t feel victimized by The System are more likely to heal and move forward, which is better for all involved, especially the child. “Stuck” is not good.)
Adoption is only ethical if the firstparents place with full information and no coercion. All resources for the parenting option are presented.
3. And how does the “best interest of the child” fit in with these responsibilities?
Granted, it’s too early for me to tell yet since my children are still young. But one of the reasons I decided not to put a divide between me and my children’s firstmoms was so that Tessa and Reed would never feel like they had to choose sides. There is no choice to make if we are all on the same side.
I hear from people adopted in the 1960s that they would never search for their birthparents because of the sense of disloyalty to the parents who raised them. Why would I want to inflict such a burden on my child, saying, in essence, “If you want to satisfy your natural curiosity about your medical history and genetic makeup, circumstances around your birth and relinquishment, and to know how it feels to be around people who look like you and have similar mannerisms — in order to get answers you’re going to have to betray me.”
My children can be true to themselves without being disloyal to me.
So we keep in touch with Crystal and Michele. When open adoption was just a theory to me, this was a calculated move FOR my children. But in reality, I have gained a very close friend in Crystal — someone whose friendship I genuinely enjoy. Channels are open to Michele, if and when she would like a renewed relationship with us.
What is your Adoption Utopia like? What responsibilities would you like to see?
* normally, parents are parents, without preceding adjectives. But for the sake of this discussion, I use qualifying terms for adoptive parents and first/birthparents.
image: Salvadore Dali, Girl in the Window
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