Category Archives: Birth parent

An open response to anti-open adoption sentiments, part 2

Posters on a private board for adoptive parents discussed their reasons for being against open adoption. In part 1 and here, I share my responses to them (background).

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Coercion
I don’t understand how you believe that agencies coerce pre-adoptive parents into openness. Just because you don’t like the options available to you doesn’t mean you are being coerced. If you go into a vegetarian restaurant and are not able to order a hamburger, are you being coerced to change your eating habits?

If you don’t like the match that’s presented to you, either because the desired amount of contact or the values of the expectant parents are not similar to yours, DON’T TAKE THE MATCH. Wait for one that works for you or move to a program that offers more opportunity for closed-ness, such as other posters here have done.

Evidence, anecdotal and otherwise
Anecdotally, you say, see the boards?? OA is a disaster because so many people complain about it. Anecdotally, I say, I know of lots of families making OA work. I say half-full; you say half-empty. So what does empirical evidence show?

OA is still fairly new and, as you point out, the children of the earliest are just now coming of age or are young adults; hence the dearth of studies available.

However, here is one article about a study funded by the National Institutes of Health:

Leve [Researchers Leslie Leve, Ph.D., and Jenae Neiderhiser, Ph.D., are among the principal investigators in the Early Growth and Development Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health] theorizes that both birth- and adoptive parents become more comfortable about the adoption as time passes, and with greater comfort comes a desire for more contact.

But Leve also ties this desire to larger, more universal trends in our society. “Individuals who have participated in adoption plans are likely no different from those who haven’t, in terms of wanting more contact and a better relationship with extended family members, biological or not,” she says. “The dispersed nature of our society prevents many of us from having as much contact with extended family as we want.”

And there’s this:

In fact, the researchers found that openness significantly correlates with satisfaction and post-adoption adjustment among birth and adoptive families alike.

“You can add openness to the list of things you don’t have to worry about,” says Leve. “It almost always works out.”

She explains that birthparents and adoptive parents select the amount of openness that fits their comfort levels. “A birthmother who wishes to remain anonymous and have no contact with the adoptive family is not going to seek services through an agency that advertises itself as promoting openness.”

Neiderhiser, herself an adoptee, endorses an attitude of openness to all adoptive parents. “The more you talk with your children in an open, positive way about the fact that they were adopted, the less of a problem it will be for them.”

Findings of the MN/TX Adoption Research Project (are you reading, researchers? We’re ready for your latest data from Wave 3, underway from 2005 to 2008) include these regarding the adoptee :

…adolescents demonstrating integrated adoptive identity had coherent, integrated narratives in which adoptive identity was highly salient and viewed positively. For example, one teen said, “When I was little I worried I was placed because she didn’t want me. Now I know I was placed because she cared enough.”
Remember, this study is not studying the effects of adoption. It’s looking into the effects of open adoption.
Adolescents having contact and expressing satisfaction with the contact (45.5% of the sample) stated that the contact provided an opportunity for a relationship to emerge that would provide additional support for them. They also expressed positive affect toward their birth mother, felt that the contact helped them better understand who they were, and made them interested in having contact with other members of their birth family, such as siblings. Adolescents having contact but not expressing satisfaction (16.3% of the sample) typically wanted more intensity in the relationship than they currently had, but they were not able to bring it about. They felt that they could have good relationships with both adoptive and birth parents, and that they did not have to choose one over the other. Adolescents not having contact and satisfied with the lack of contact (17.1%) felt that adoption was not an important part of their lives. They did not feel that it was necessary to have contact, sometimes expressing concern that contact might be a bad experience for them. They felt they were better off where they were (in their adoptive families) than they would have been if raised by their birth parents. Finally, adolescents not having contact but dissatisfied with the lack of contact (21.1%) sometimes desired contact but were unable to bring it about. Some had negative feelings toward their birth mother or assumed that she had not made an effort to have contact. Some worried that their adoptive parents or birth mother might feel bad about their pursuing contact. [2006]

Regarding birthparents:

Birthmothers who were older at the time of placement were more likely to be satisfied with their current openness arrangements at Wave 2. At Wave 2, birthmothers who were older at placement also felt closer to the child’s adoptive mother than did birthmothers who were younger at placement. Most birthmothers reported feeling positive or very positive about their relationship with the child’s adoptive mother and father and were satisfied or very satisfied with these relationships. At the same time, the majority of the birthmothers indicated that they had at least some concern about whether their contact or potential contact interfered with the adopted youth or adoptive family functioning. Almost 20% were “very concerned” about this issue. [2001]

and this regarding adoptive parents:

At Wave 1, when compared to parents in confidential adoptions, those in fully disclosed adoptions generally reported higher levels of acknowledgment of the adoption, more empathy toward the birthparents and child, stronger sense of permanence in the relationship with their child as projected into the future, and less fear that the birthmother might try to reclaim her child. [1994]

This next brief passage is password protected. If you want in, just ask. I’ll likely give you the secret code.

If we keep beating, the horse will surely die
Clearly, I am not going to change your mind any more than you are going to change mine on these issues. I don’t even  belong on this thread based on its title. I did not join the conversation until later when it became about me.

I am happy, though, that a counter viewpoint is here in case others who are on the fence about openness explore the ground we’ve covered.

Peace out.

Why I am anti anti-open adoption: a public response to private statements

Private bulletin boards certainly serve a purpose. A private board can be a safe place for people to connect and explore sensitive issues more deeply than where the whole world could see. I’m in full support of that. A private board can also be a place to vent, and I’m also in support of that.

I’m on a couple of private adoption boards from various corners of the triad and see that the boards do, indeed, serve well these two functions. Time and again, members get comfort, get “gotten,” find clarity, release frustration, feel better, move on.

But there is also a dark side to one-sided private boards: the pile-on. The phenomenon where a person states an issue (or worse, names a person) and one by one others pile on that issue, feeding off each other with righteous energy that can fan the flames way past a sell-by date, and with little thought to an alternate view.

I witnessed this recently on a thread on a private forum for adoptive parents. with a thread called something like, “Why I am anti-Open Adoption.”*

The pile-on (my word, and yes it’s a little inflammatory and probably not what the poster and participants thought they were doing) went on for four pages before I was brought into it, against my best intentions.

You see, one of the participants had found an open adoption blog and began using excerpts from that blog to prove her anti-OA points. It turned into a bit of a personal pile-on.

She didn’t realize until later that the blog she was quoting was mine. The one you’re reading.

So I joined the fray, which wasn’t really much of a fray. The one thing we agreed on, respectfully, is that we will not change each other’s minds.

So why did I  spend quite a bit of time responding? Because some future person on that board who has not yet made up her mind about openness might read through that thread. I wanted to have my counterview there for her to factor into her decisions on how to parent her child, how to relate to her child’s birth parents.

And why am I going to share my salient points here? Because the thoughts expressed privately there are possibly also felt privately by people elsewhere who are evaluating how much openness they themselves are open to.

So this is for you, future googlers.

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I have a confession to make.
Back during Adoption School, when being a mom was just a theoretical concept (by the way, our agency was nothing like what’s been described in this thread — it told us the benefits of open adoption to the child and said we would eventually form our own relationships with first parents, which it then left us to do), I did not embrace OA because the highly-paid social workers said it was proving to be better for the child than shame and secrecy. I did not choose it out of gratitude to the woman who would eventually make me a mother.

I chose OA for selfish reasons. I looked ahead to the time my theoretical children would turn 18 and *I* didn’t want to go through the jealousy and insecurity *I* might feel at that time if they decided to wonder, to seek, to meet their birth parents.

That, I thought, would gut me. I thought I would feel betrayed. I worried I would think my children disloyal.

And then I wondered how that might feel for them. Being split between their love for their parents and their curiosity about their birth parents. Would they be afraid to even wonder (much less search and meet) because of the ensuing feelings of disloyalty for my husband and me?

How could I do that to them, tear them in two?

I think it’s natural to wonder. I would, had I been adopted. This doesn’t mean all will, for I’ve certainly met many closed-era adoptees who have expressed no desire to explore their roots.

But if my children turned out to have the curiosity that I do, I didn’t want them to have to mend an 18+ year split. I thought that reunion at that stage of life would be incredibly complicated because of all that was missed. How would you forge a relationship with a stranger who was once (and, in my view, always) so intimately integral to your very being?

It seems to me that search and reunion after a lifetime of separation would be very difficult to navigate — not just the relationship, but the feelings that go with establishing it. If I can prevent my children from having to go through search and reunion, I thought, I will. The way to do this is to facilitate contact with birth parents from as early on as possible.

(I am not talking about the “scary” birth parents you fear — I’m talking about normal people who made a tough decision and who give me the same respect I give them.)

Turning over the reins
For many years, you will be able to call the shots about your children and their birth parents. You can direct the language and titles they use, you can direct the amount and type of contact, you can control what information gets through in either direction. You are in complete control.

But at some point, your growing or grown children may wonder. They may want to explore their heritage. They may want or need dynamic medical information. They may want to explore their feelings about their birth parents. Are you going to try to stop them? Are you going correct them if they use terminology you don’t like? Are you going to squelch their curiosity? Guilt them into not wondering, not seeking?

Trying to love your child’s birth parents gives your children permission and encouragement to love themselves because of the prominence you have in the child’s life. I suspect that any feelings you have about birth parents, positive and negative, end up internalized by your child.

When you get your spouse, you also get in-laws. And you make it work.
When you got married, you got not only the one you love but also his/her family. Same with adoption. You could think of your child’s birth family as in-laws or extended family members. You don’t get to choose them, but you do your best to make it work because of your common love for another. If everyone gets along — BONUS. You rarely cut in-laws out of your life just because you want to be the Only Important Person to your beloved.

Co-parenting/fostering /caretaking
Open adoption is not coparenting. But it is honoring the role of the birth parents in my children’s lives. That takes away nothing from me; it only adds to my children.

PLEASE REMEMBER I am not talking about the stereotypical crack-whore-birthmother [said tongue-in-cheekily, a la Claudia and her CWBM shirt] or the abusive birth father that you can encounter with fostering (edited: although, as SocialWorker24/7 points out, openness makes sense for these children, as well, for the same reasons; it just has added facets that the parents involved must work out).

I am talking about two people who happened to get caught having sex via unplanned pregnancy and who love their child so much they made a huge sacrifice for his/her well-being. (And this is why lack of coercion is so important to YOU the adoptive parents — so that the decision to place is made freely.) These are loving, honorable people, not too different from all of us, probably.

And psssst…you left off  three and a half words when you quoted me: Until my children are grown, I am merely the caretaker of themir birth parent relationships.

Why so closed up?
I ask you this: as you read through my| posts | that | bothered | you, did you feel threatened? Why do you feel motherhood is a coveted position? Did you yourself once covet it? What is behind your need to be the “only”? Why does it have to be either/or for you?

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This has gotten long, so come back next week for part 2.

* No parts the thread except for my own contributions are directly quoted here. The statements of others are merely paraphrased here in my words.

Ten

Ten years ago  I was introduced to a significant other. First we found out about each other by a mutual acquaintance, and days later we were met in person. We liked each other immediately, and sure enough those strong feelings of like soon turned into true love. Within a couple of weeks we were bonded for life.

Ten years into our open adoption

We hit a milestone this month, Crystal and I. It was 10 years ago when my husband and I got the call that she wanted to meet us. That meeting went well and set the stage for all that was to come: labor and delivery, leaving the hospital to a surprise destination (and  ignoring conventional wisdom of the day), our daughter’s first birthday, 2nd, 3rd and 4th (and so on), kindergarten graduation, dance recitals, haircuts, support.

Suddenly, Tessa is 10. I have each one of her days documented in her own set of journals. I carry in my mind’s eye snippets of her: in a flowered cutiepie toddler outfit with matching bow for her hairless head; the leg-clinging she’d do when I left her in the nursery for an hour while I taught a Geography class; the determination on her face when she decided to conquer the monkey bars; her delight in making chocolate chip cookie dough together; her early penchant for lip gloss and fingernail polish (obviously not inherited from me); her courage in the face of trauma; her inexorable joie de vivre.

I salute these two amazing ladies who have blessed me so abundantly these past 3652 days.

And counting.