Author Jessica O’Dwyer: Why We Wanted Open International Adoption

When deciding which type of adoption to pursue, some would-be parents choose international adoption because they tend to be by their very nature closed. First parents are presumed unknown and not in the picture (which may not always be true). Closedness is part of the allure to some; an open international adoption with birth parents in the mix is rarely possible.

But sometimes an open international adoption is possible. Jessica O’Dwyer is a mom who was determined to find and connect with the birth mothers of her children and cultivate ongoing contact with them over the years. Here’s why and how.


Jessica O’Dwyer on Open International Adoption

Growing up, I didn’t know anyone involved in an open adoption. Granted, I’m old, and back then nobody talked about adoption, much less expanded their family configuration to include first mothers. When my husband and I started the process to adopt our daughter Olivia from Guatemala in 2002, we never discussed reuniting with her birth mother. I hadn’t known it was possible. And even if I had known, I’m not sure I would have rushed in to participate. My thoughts about reunion mostly were based in fear. What if her birth mother said the adoption was corrupt (a possibility in Guatemala)? Would they take my daughter away? What if Olivia loved her other mother more? 

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Clemencia Deleon: Truth-Telling & Emotional Intelligence in a Kinship Adoption

You tell a small lie or you keep the truth out of something, and your intention is to go back and tell the truth. But then you forget, or you get comfortable in that missing truth part, and it just gets bigger and grows.

And so it was this energy that was accumulating. Nobody was saying anything about until I was like,
“I can’t do this anymore. I have to tell him.”

Clemencia Deleon, birth mom in a kinship adoption —

Imagine you are 18 years old and parenting a 4 month old boy, a path you don’t feel prepared for or supported in at all. You have an older half-brother; he and his wife have been struggling to conceive. You end up placing your baby with them in what is agreed to be an open adoption.

But in practice, it’s not open. Sure you have contact at family get-togethers. You get to see him. But years later, his parents have declined to tell him that he was adopted and that you are his birth mom. As he grows older, you are pressed to either stay complicit with this lie of omission, or spill the beans without their permission.

emotional intelligence in adoption

In this new podcast episode of Adoption: The Long View, Clemencia Deleon tells her story of a kinship adoption gone wrong, her quest for emotional intelligence over the years, her moment of truth in finding her voice, and lessons learned to share with you.

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Sara Easterly on Coming Out of the Adoption Fog

I’ve been always told that it was a gray market adoption.
I never really knew what that meant.

— Sara Easterly, adoptee, author, daughter, mom

When the entire approach to a societal issue is steeped in shame and secrecy, we end up with lots of opaque-ish words like fog and gray market — and worse. When it comes to adoption, if you start scrounging around in a thesaurus you can find even shadier words like dirty and impenetrable, words that sometimes apply to policies and practices.

Many adoptees and first parents, especially those from the Baby Scoop Era, can attest to this opacity and to problems that germinate in darkness. People then either suffer in the dark or find their way into the light — or maybe both.

Sara Easterly is one who did both. She has been coming out of the adoption fog for years, and now carries a flashlight to help others living in adoption. Her insights are especially helpful for adoptive parents to hear.

sara easterly on coming out of the adoption fog

I’m excited to say that Sara is the latest guest on my podcast, Adoption: The Long View.

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adoption, parenting, mindfulness, open adoption