Adoption Utopia…what’s it to you?

Adoption Utopia. What’s that like?

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.

Worlds apart?

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 first parents 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 first parents*, 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 first parents. This is not only morally right toward the first parents, but necessary for the child to know that his origins are worthy. Denigrating the first parents 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: birth parents 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 first parents 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 first moms 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 birth parents 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.


In Adoption Utopia, every woman in an unplanned pregnancy for whom parenting is not a viable option would find the people who long to parent a child. They would be truthful with each other and be true to their word. The child that unites them would suffer only from having too many people love him/her.

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.


25 thoughts on “Adoption Utopia…what’s it to you?”

  1. Well, in my adoption Utopia, I think I would have liked to have known my biological sisters all their lives. Open adoption would have been very beneficial in that way. But, I loved the fact that I had a SAHM and that I didn’t lack for love and attention. Also, I would have a picture of the sperm donor and would know how to reach him to get medical history. That is the only regret to having an ass hat for my other genetic half. For adoptions in general. I think a detailed mental history that goes back many generations needs to be taken. I will even take it a set further and say that if there is a test that encompasses the DSM-IV and can give you a heads up to future possible disorders, it shoudl be given to the adoptive parents, like an adoption SAT. (This kind of test may have given my bio-mom a heads up that my adopt. mom was a nut case. Maybe we would have know she would be a severe rapid cycling bipolar manic depressive who would make mu teen years a living Hell.) Wow, I didn’t think I was still upset at that one… lolSeriously though, I really do think there needs to be extensive therapy for adoptive parents. Some mental illness can be overlooked, i.e depression, but others may not be as easy to glance over. That would be an adpoption Utopia to me.

  2. Hi LoriI really appreciate your insights into the adoption process, the question of ethics and your awareness of the experience for all parties concerned.I think things are quite different in Australia. I know someone who has adopted children locally and they keep in contact with “tummy mummy” every 6 weeks, sending photos, stories etcMy friend runs the catholic adoption agency for NSW. Last year they placed just one child. The rest of the families that they were in contact with either decided to parent themselves or else the child went to a grandparent or other relative. Meaning that in a state of over 5 million people only one child went through the catholic adoption process and I believe there were 14 local adoptions in all in the state.Which gives heart that mums/couples are receiving all the support they need to either parent on their own or find in family support.The down side being that there are very few children available for couples who are unable to have children. Lots are turning to international adoption.i would be interested in hearing your perspective on international adoption. On the one hand, potentially giving a child a massive opportunity to have a life very different to the one they might have otherwise lived. On the other – can you truly know the ethics of the situation? Is it OK to raise a child away from the language, national identity, people etc?

  3. Can’t add much to the adoption discussion as I haven’t thought much about it enough to be articulate.I do think that if we were to choose the adoption path, that something more akin to open adoption would be the right choice for us.I agree with Tammy that a mental health history is often neglected for adoptions and sperm donors and should really be pursued.Here from NaComLeavMo.

  4. Hi Lori,You know when I read your blog I realize that you and I are in similar spaces — different of course, but there’s something that rings true when you talk about your choices for Reed and Tessa as it relates to their birthmothers — and the openness of the situation — I find too that if I look at the relationship I have with X, as rocky as some parts have been, it brings good things to my life as well — and invaluable things to W’s life — which is, of course, the thing.I find a lot of comfort and grounding in your blog(s).xoPam

  5. Tammy — you bring up a very good point. In fact, mental health, physical health, financial and marital health was part of our agency’s screening process.What a tough thing to go through as a teenager.I agree there should be full disclosure regarding anything pertinent to the adoption.Duck — along the same lines, I often wonder if anyone ever gets refused in a homestudy. I have never heard of that happening — I wonder what it takes.WG — I have noticed that, too, about us. About us having unlikely friendships with the “other mother” in our child’s life.Antigone — do you mean medical? personality? stories? I imagine it would be all three and more.Jendeis — nice to “see” you here after meeting you in DC!B — I have heard that about Aus, but I was unaware that unkinship adoptions were so rare!On adoption boards, there are many schools of thought about international adoption. Where do you draw the line between sacrificing one’s blood family to be raised in affluence? Is there a point where it is worth it and justified?You might want to see my recent post on the Burning Building, for that’s when I think adoptions of any type are justified.Also, for the flip side of ethics in int’l adoption, see

  6. Wow, this is why I mull alot about adoption, but, don’t really have any kind of decision on it yet. I still want to want to adopt, but, I’m not there yet, it’s the open adoption bit (that you are rightly fond of) that freaks me out… it’s so complicated, and I guess I have not thought of it enough.My Dear friend irl was adopted, and her adopted parents were crazy alcoholics and she always fantisized about her bio mother, so it’s complicated and it’s commendable that you have a great relationship with the bio mother.Your strong.

  7. Thanks for the thoughtful post and discussion. What an insight to read Steph’s post.I have a known donor for the same reason you chose open adoption. I hope to create a similar atmosphere – where our child(ren) can learn more about Belinda without feeling that they are betraying me. It’s nice to read about a story where that is working.

  8. This is a great post. My son (my oldest) was an unplanned pregnancy and I had actually gone through the process of placing him. I selected adoptive parents, met with them several times throughout the pregnancy and they were at the hospital when I had my son. (The adoption was blocked by my ex who reappeared on the scene a week before I gave birth.)They were wonderful people and I still feel awful for the adoption falling through. I can’t imagine how crushed they must have been. Still, there were a couple of things they did for me in the process that I thought were wonderful, such as a) respecting the fact that I did not want an open adoption. I felt that if I were to go through with it I needed a “clean break”, b) they took a letter I had written to my son in case he wanted to know why I had given him up, with the idea that it would be given to him if he was curious about me and when they believed he would be mature enough to cope. The letter wasn’t anything earth shattering; in it I just told him that I loved him enough to find two parents who had a situation that was much better for him than my own at the time. When my ex came back (a day before I went into labor as it turned out) the adoptive mother met with me and had me make two lists of pros and cons if the adoption went through and if it should fail. Then she told me that I needed to make the best decision I could live with regardless of hers or the father’s feelings. She was completely supportive even when it was beginning to look like her own heart was about to be smashed into a thousand pieces. I can’t tell you – after that experience – how much respect I have for the way in which prospective adoptive parents put themselves out there and make themselves vulnerable in order to fulfill their wish to become parents. You guys are amazing.

  9. What a thought compelling post. I think that an Adoption SAT for prospective parents would be a great thing (and I’d be happy to subject myself to it). I also wish there was more medical history involved. Here’s the thing thought–we are in complete and open contact with both sides of MAM’s birthfamily, and they don’t know a lot of their own medical history. Course, my hubby doesn’t know much about his family’s medical background either. Great post, Lori!

  10. Hi visiting from NaComLeavMo and am glad i foudn your blog. My husband and I are currently in the adoption process. We should be placed by Christmas. We are adopting from the government, so these kids are older with special needs and have been removed from their homes. In most cases contact with the birth parents is not possible due to the unhealthiness of the birth parents. husband and I would like our kids to have contact with them, but only if they are healthy. Iam reading the book Twnety things adopted kids wish their adoptive paretns knew, by Sherrie Eldridge. Most things in this book I agree with, it is how I envisoned my adotpion utopia to be. Thanks for this post

  11. Wow. I found you through NCLM and pleased to see some thoughtful discussion on deep subjects. I don’t even know what to write in response. We have chosen not to adopt and do sponsor a child in Africa to remain with his own family. Some friends of ours are choosing to adopt internationally and all kudos to them. I think that road is rewarding, but hard, and full of the big questions. Maybe I just don’t have the gumption for it. Thank you for raising such an interesting topic.

  12. *****I limit the scope of this dialog to include 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.*****Oops…I didn’t see that. Lori, please delete my comment because it really doesn’t fit in with what you wanted for this post. Thanks! (and sorry!)

  13. Great post Lori. 🙂My adoption utopia would be that after being abused by their biological parents, children are not victimized again by the foster care system. My children spent four years in foster care before we adopted them and that should be unacceptable to everyone in the adoption community. I would love to see children freed for adoption within six months of being placed in foster care.

  14. In descending order of utopian preference.1) No adoption at all – it wouldn’t be needed because every child could be raised by his or her first family, including supportive extended family if necessary. Note that I don’t say “and every family would be fertile.” I think we need to de-couple these two wherever we can.2) Open in-country adoption – open in the sense of extended family open, where first and adoptive families blend into one.3) Open transnational adoption and open domestic transracial adoption by families prepared and educated sufficiently to parent children from a different culture, ethnicity and race.My family’s adoption is off this chart – closed transnational and transracial. Personally, if I could just get to #3 I’d be in personal adoption utopia. It would certainly be better for our kids.

  15. Hey I’m there for you Joanne! All three of my kids came from the county thanks to CPS. An Adoption Utopia for that process? Jeez that would be some list. #2 on Lori’s list would be most important in my case. I was so unprepared (at least in my mind). But then again are you EVER really prepared.

  16. This is in no way answering your question — but I’m wondering, ideally, what, theoretically, the responsibilities of the parties would ideally be in a surrogacy situation. If things were to work out, Kyrie, though having no genetic connection, would be the child’s birthmother/firstmother and, I suppose, Kyrie’s partner, Arianna, would also be a kind of firstparent. I don’t get the impression that Kyrie or Arianna are interested in a connection with the child after its birth, but I wonder — if they change their minds — whether such a connection would be in the child’s best interest.

  17. Niobe — you bring up an emerging issue, and there is much discussion about this in adoption circles now.I have asked on boards, “now that we can separate gestation from genetics, what does <>birthmother<> mean?”And there is no consensus. But the weight, I believe lies slightly on the side of genetics.It makes the genetic birthmother more like a traditional birthfather. The genes but not the gestation connection.I’ll be interested to see you things play out for you and your growing family.

  18. Hi Lori! Well, I described my adoption utopia, but it is pretty LONg…so I will just invite you and your readers on over to my side of the bloggy-fence 😉 Thanks for the great question you posed!:)Dawn

  19. In my adoption utopia, every adoptive parent would match with a birth mother who wanted the same amount of contact. It is so sad to hear about birth mothers who wanted an open adoption but had adoptive parents who closed it as soon as the adoption was finalized. On the flip side, it is so sad when a birth parent walks away from an open or semi-open adoption that was working for the adoptive family. In a perfect world, all members of the adoption triad would be seeking the same thing.– Faith

  20. Dawn — thanks for getting people to talk about this on your blog.Faith — I completely agree. In fact, I will add this to future additions of my own list.

  21. In Ann Fessler’s excellent book, The Girls Who Went Away, one of the mothers who surrendered her child said this:

    It’s not the children who need to be adopted, it’s the mothers.

    As someone who’s lived through adoption as an adopted person, I believe that adoption by strangers should be a last resort. Children should be able to stay in their extended families, or at least in their communities, and parents and guadians should receive the support they need. I fully support open adoption if adoption is the only alternative for the safety of the child.
    Swimming Up the Sun: A Memoir of Adotion
    Available at and bookstores

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