Open adoption bloggers are meeting for the 36th time at the roundtable. This go-round we are discussing open adoption agreements.
Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen! Tune in next time for more deep thoughts.
Psyche. You knew I’d have something to say.
Roger and I entered into an open adoption agreement with Crystal more than 11 years ago, before OA information and communities were readily available on the Internet (or at least before I was tuned into them). The only influences we had back then in forming our open adoption relationship were the agency we both used and ourselves.
At our 3-day Adoption School, the agency’s social workers clued us into what open adoption was, counseled us why it was beneficial to the baby we hoped to soon parent, and demythologized what thought we knew about birth parents. They did not address the formalization or legalization of an OA agreement; they gave us some insight and tools to build a relationship but said they would not build it for us. We were the ones to live with it, so we would be the ones to create the open adoption relationship we wanted to live in.
I didn’t think much of it again.
My husband and I are somewhat spontaneous (code for “too lazy to plan”). For our honeymoon we backpacked for 3 weeks through Greece and Turkey, planning each day as it came and not knowing each morning where we’d be spending the night — just knowing that all would be well, or at least adventurous. So it never occurred to us to microplan what our OA relationship would look like. We were content to let it unfold and see what happened.
I thought we really couldn’t begin to envision how our OA relationship might look until we’d met the person we’d be in an open adoption with. To do otherwise would be like setting up the terms of a marriage before you’d even met your beloved. Sure, you have some hopes and maybe even dealbreakers in mind, but nothing would be set in concrete until you were both present to co-create the relationship.
When I first heard that Crystal had picked us, I desperately wanted to like her and to have her like me. Not just tolerate each other, but actually LIKE each other. I felt guilty and shallow at the time because Liking was so important to me. In hindsight, I realize it was merely a wish for an easier and more pleasant road ahead.
I’ve written how Crystal and I built trust on the day after Tessa’s birth, both before we left the hospital and on the detour we took home. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was when and how we sent the ground rules for our open adoption agreement:
- we would look at things from the other’s perspective
- we would do what was right in the moment and also keep the long-term focus on Tessa
- and most of all, we would — and could — trust each other.
With less contact but no less commitment to trust and openness, we have built the same informal OA agreements with Joe, Tessa’s birth father, and Michele and AJ (Reed’s birth parents).
I found out years later that Colorado does not enforce adoption agreements. I have mixed feelings about that.
On one hand, an adoption agreement offers clarity of each party’s expectations, and provides a course of action, with teeth, should either side break the agreement.
On the other hand, legally codifying the relationship can emphasize the letter of the relationship rather than spirit of the relationship and may actually cost a measure of intimacy. In addition, what, realistically, can be done if a first parent closes the adoption? How far would the court go to force him/her to remain in contact?
For that matter, what, realistically, can be done if the adoptive parents close the adoption? I’ve read many first parents say they can’t imagine actually taking their child’s parent to court because (a) of the expense, and (b) of the risk of further damaging the relationship. Still, I’ve heard it’s many birth parents’ worst fear to continually face the specter of being shut out, to be made powerless and voiceless.
Lastly, no, I would not approach anything differently. While I wish we did have more physical proximity to three of our children’s birth parents, I cannot say that I wish Roger and I had done anything differently. So far.
But the road is a long one….check back periodically.
Click over to Open Adoption Bloggers to see what others have to say. And if you’re in an open adoption, feel free to contribute your own viewpoint.