Tag Archives: closed adoption

AdoptLit: The Sound of Hope book tour

Several book lovers are sharing our thoughts about Anne Bauer’s memoir, The Sound of Hope: An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins. Even if you aren’t part of the tour* and even if you haven’t read the book, check out what people are saying about it — you might find that this book is one you want to put on your wishlist.

See the master list at the bottom of this post, following my own contribution to this book tour.

I grew up in the 1970s when closed adoption was, duh, The Way to Go. Babies were considered blank slates on which parents could etch any template they wanted. Women (and men) who surrendered a child were told they would forget about their babies and move on. They were offered a way to atone for the shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock — by giving their babies to more deserving couples. People becoming parents via adoption were allowed a way out of the shame and secrecy of infertility.

But the shame and secrecy cast a looooong shadow.

I did not, in those days, question the closedness of such adoptions. I had friends who had been adopted, and they did not question it then, either. It was what what we knew, The Way to Go.

But after I became a mom via adoption, I came to know some adoptees online who did question, who did challenge The Way to Go. Who most definitely knew they were not blank slates. Who sensed that their birth parents did not easily move on. Who challenged the idea that being married was, in itself, the qualification that made for good parents.

Anne Bauer's book cover for book tourAnne Bauer’s memoir debunks many of these myths. The concept of “closed” begins as The Way to Go but is revealed to be dark, stifling, shameful and repressive. Anne deals with her inner roiling by seeking light, and her brothers, also adopted, deal with theirs by sinking further in darkness. Her narrative shows the difficulties imposed by The Way to Go of the closed adoption era. I found it an engaging read, and Anne’s tale confirms what I have always intuited about the importance of openness in adoption: it’s essential to help children in adoption integrate the various parts of their identities.

* Disclosure: The author has provided compensation for organizing this book tour.

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In this book tour, we each submitted questions to the others. Here are three questions I chose to answer.

Anne writes of her adoptive family, On the outside, we look very much alike. We have the same eye color, the same fair complexion – yes, the adoption agency did its job well. What are your thoughts on how important appearances were at that time (the 1960s)? Have we made progress? What do you think contributed to the change?

I can only make assumptions about how matches were made prior to the days of open adoption, in which the expectant parents choose adoptive parents for their baby. Was it simply by who had been waiting the longest, who had made it to the top of the list? Or was there some criteria-matching that was instituted? My guess would be a bit of both.

If there were matching criteria, what was it? Anne suggests is was based on appearances. I wonder if social workers would, for example, declare that a baby of northern European heritage would do better with parents hailing from Scandinavia that with parents from the eastern Mediterranean. Really, what else was there to go on? So much about the closed era was about appearances — how things looked to others. How to avoid the judgment of others. How to make a family look as seamlessly created as possible.

Based on my experience only, I do believe the open era has brought progress. Through the homestudy, our agency made sure our marriage was stable, that we understood that “discipline,” at its core, was about teaching and not punishing, and that we were likely to be loving parents who could set appropriate boundaries. In other words, the problems that emerged in Anne’s adoptive family were screened for. (That said, had we not made the grade, would we have been turned away?)

What’s more, the agency did not do any matching — our children’s first moms did. Crystal looked at the then-available crop of hopeful couples and chose us (well, as her second choice) to parent her baby. Two years later, Michele did the same thing. Their criteria for their babies.

What contributed to the change? As we progress from closedness to openness, the locus of control for such decisions is gradually moving from the all-knowing agency to the all-caring first mother or father.

But clearly there is still a ways to go.

The afterword states that the author wrote her book in the hopes of raising awareness of civil rights of adoptees and instigating reform in the current laws pertaining to adoptee records. With as much exposure as I’ve had to successful open adoption scenarios, I admit I was surprised to learn how few rights adoptees have to their original birth records. Were you similarly surprised to hear how little control adoptees have over their own records? Why do you think it is that this information is not more widely known?

I was unaware of the plight of adult adoptees as first, too. Because I was in possession of each of my children’s original birth certificates, I didn’t question whether or not my kids would be able to get theirs on their own someday. According to Colorado law, they will, but only because they were born at an opportune time.

But not all adult adoptees born in Colorado can have access to their personal records. People whose adoptions were finalized in the 30-year span between July 1, 1967 and August 31, 1997 — many of the people I grew up with — are SOL. Their records are sealed except via court order. Can you believe that?

  • If your adoption was finalized on June 30, 1967, you have access. One day later, you don’t.
  • If your adoption was finalized on September 1, 1997, you have access. One day earlier, you don’t.

How can this be justifiable?

Anne speculates that much of her brothers’ problems may stem from their verbally abusive adoptive father. Do you agree? Are there other factors that might have been at work in Thomas’ abandonment of his own young family and Brian’s years of social withdrawal?

Yes, I agree and yes, there were other factors that contributed to Thomas and Brian’s difficulties. Besides the verbal abuse from their father, I believe the repression inherent in a closed adoption made both brothers stuff down their emotions. That which we resist persists. If you leave something in the dark and occasionally shovel manure on it, you shouldn’t be surprised if the result is rot and decay.

To continue to this book tour, please visit the links below. Comments are much appreciated by the book tourists!

  1. Lori of Lavender Luz (see above)
  2. Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed
  3. Laura at Laura-Dennis.com
  4. Judy at Judy M Miller
  5. GeoChick
  6. Liz at Poemfish
  7. JoAnne at Stories by JB
  8. Peach at Neither Here nor There
  9. Tonya at Mommy Musings
  10. Kellie C at All in the Family Adoption
  11. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully
  12. Dora at My Preconceived Notion

We hope you have enjoyed our discussion of the issues raised. Thanks for reading along!

AdoptLit Book Tour: The Sound of Hope, an Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins

Anne Bauer's book cover for book tour Anne Bauer’s book title refers to a certain musical starring Julie Andrews that premiered shortly before the author was born, songs from which are interwoven throughout the narrative, sometimes in surprising ways. Her subtitle, A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest for Her Origins, refers to the an in-depth look at the unique difficulties adoptees from the closed-adoption era face when they try to search for their roots.

As with other adoptee memoirs I’ve read and valued, I found Anne’s book engaging and highly worth reading, especially for parents involved in adoption (both the adoptive-and birth- types of parents). In fact, Anne tells me “I really feel my story should be read by adoptive parents.  I did not write it for adoptees to have another sentimental search and reunion story.  I wrote the nitty-gritty stuff nobody likes to talk openly about but is there even today in a lot of adoptive families.”

To be clear, you don’t have to be an adoptive parent to sign up for this book tour. You don’t even have to be involved in adoption at all. You cold be a first parent, an adoptee, a person with any or no connection to adoption, or simply someone who likes to peek into another person’s life.

One benefit of reading a string of adoptee memoirs is that it becomes possible to spot commonalities among accounts. The adoption mosaic is so complex that the best we can do in an attempt to get a handle on it is to find the broad strokes — the general themes of wondering and yearning to know one’s origins, the ability of a person to feel intense connections with more than one set of parents, the anguish that a child can experience when a mother or father missteps (often through misguided, absent or just plain bad advice on the part of adoption experts), and how to best support an adopted child in forming her identity.

Sound of Hope adoptee memoirFrom Anne’s author page:

Her memoir has earned the prestigious Editor’s Choice award and Rising Star Designation and is now part of Barnes & Noble’s Special Collections, “Catch A Rising Star”, a page dedicated to finding Up-And-Coming Authors.

I invite you to read and discuss The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins with fellow readers. The book is available via Amazon in paperback ($22), Kindle (only $3), and computer download ($6).

But wait — there’s more! See Giveaway information below. But first, here’s how to participate in this book tour.*

Book Tour Details

BookThe Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins
Author: Anne Bauer (she’ll  follow our tour and is open to responding to reader questions)
Sign-up: today through March 4
Questions to the group due to me: March 18
Post date/Tour date: April 2

How does a Virtual Book Tour work?

  • Sign up for the tour by March 4 (click link or use the form below).
  • Get the book. (Reserve at your library, purchase from your bookseller, or enter the giveaway, below).
  • Come up with up 1 or 2 discussion questions (not Yes-or-No), which are due to me by March 18.
  • Shortly thereafter, you’ll receive a list of questions from other participants. From this list you will choose any 3 to answer on your blog.
  • On April 2, links to participant stops on the book tour will be posted here on LavenderLuz.com so you can read,  comment and discuss with each other — just like a face-to-face book club, but with less coffee cake and more keystrokes!
  • Follow this blog and spread the word to interested parties (tweet, share, G+ with the buttons at the bottom of this post).

I have made notes in my copy of The Sound of Hope and am eager to talk with you about Anne’s account of her search for birth family and what follows, not to mention how this book informs those of us entrusted with parenting via adoption.

Giveaway

Anne is generously giving away two copies of her paperback book. Leave a comment below to enter. A random drawing will be held February 15 and winners notified by email (so make sure I can reach you). Anne will mail a book to each of the two winners.

UPDATE: Random.org selected #5 and #10. Kathy and Esperanza, please check your email for information on how we can get your books mailed to you.

I look forward to exploring the themes of The Sound of Hope with you!

* Disclosure: The author has provided compensation for organizing this book tour.

Open Adoption Grid: Adding a Dimension to the Open Adoption Spectrum

How Shall We Think of Open Adoption?

I bet if you asked a bunch of people who know about adoption what open adoption is, you would get variations on the theme of contact, that there is a continuum of contact, and that each adoption will find its way on to a point on the continuum. On one end might be a fully closed adoption, meaning no contact and no identifying information. At the other end people might place full openness — adoptive and birth parents treating each other as extended families.

open adoption spectrum

Seems kinda flat, no?

But as we move into the third decade of the movement toward open adoptions, I submit that we should stop using contact as our measure. Why?

Because Contact ≠ Openness.

Contact is not the same as openness.

Further, because of the need to consider contact and openness separately, we need a better tool than a spectrum. How about a grid? A grid that takes into account a measure other than contact — the level of open-heartedness on the part of the parents of the child.

Adding a dimension to the open adoption spectrumLet’s look at each of the boxes:

Box 1

  • Traditional Closed Adoption. Not only is there very little contact or identifying information available to the child, but the adoptive parents are ill-equipped to deal with adoption openly. They may have unresolved grief left over from their infertility struggles. Perhaps they were counseled to act as if their child were born to them. They may not be comfortable having tough conversations and confronting “icky” feelings about adoption, either theirs or their child’s as she grows and advances cognitively. This box may be the most crippling for a child to grow up in, the least conducive to integrating her identity from both her sets of parents.

Box 2

  • Obligatory contact. Here is where there is contact with birth family, maybe through exchanges of photos, emails or even meetings. Parents here may say things like, “We follow our open adoption agreement and send monthly updates and pictures.” or “We’re not afraid to let the birth parents know where we live.” But what’s lacking in Box 2 is what Jim Gritter calls the Spirit of Open Adoption. Adoptive parents may harbor feelings of guilt, envy, distaste or even superiority about their child’s birth family, either consciously or subconsciously. (By no means am I saying that all do, but rather the observation that some do.) These adoptive parents may enjoy having all the power they hold in the relationship rather than inviting the first parents to co-create their open adoption relationship. Because of the lack of openness here, the child is still at a disadvantage, feeling split between her clan of biology and her clan of biography, for there is quite a gap between them.

Box 3

  • Openness with discernment. This box is at play in many foster and international adoptions, as well as some domestic infant adoptions where distance or birth family availability is a factor. It involves low contact but high openness. Logistics and safety issues may make actual contact not possible or unwise, but the parents in Box 3 still parent with openness. They are able to deal with their own emotions about their family-building story mindfully, and they are able to open their hearts to their child as she processes her adoption story and integrates her identity. She is in a good position to have the space and support from her parents to do just that.

Box 4

  • Extension of family. Here is where the birth family is considered extended family, both in contact and in openness. This relationship may be no different than one with a beloved uncle, sister-in-law or grandmother (or even a relative not so beloved!). The relationships are child-centered and inclusive. The child is claimed by and able to claim both her clans, thereby helping her integrate all her pieces as she grows through her toddler and school years, through her tweens and teens and into adulthood. She is not pulled to choose or rank one family over the other and she is therefore not split — she is free to integrate herSelves and pursue wholeness in her identity.

Which Box is Best?

What matters as we set our parenting GPS isn’t where we are left-to-right on this grid. After all, we have only partial control over the level/type/amount of contact. What matters more is the elevation we operate at. The openness required by and afforded to Boxes 3 and 4 is likely to foster healthier relationships than mere contact in Boxes 1 and 2.

Adopting and adoptive parents, where would you plot yourselves? Consider both aspects of open adoption — contact and openness — as you build and sustain a child-centered adoption constellation.

Update

Feedback from some adoptive parents indicated that since they can’t fully control the level of contact with birth family, why should they be penalized for being in a less-than-ideal box?

First of all, no one is being penalized. In Adoption World, it’s better to deal with What Is rather than what we wish things would be. The boxes are meant to self-assess, not to personalize. I would counsel adoptive parents to focus on openness — what they CAN control — over contact, which they only partially control. Boxes 3 and 4 are where the benefits of openness in adoption occur, anyway.

One family may have open adoption relationships in more than one box, based on differing situations with birth family members for each child.

A reader pointed out that plotting can change over time, as contact and openness can both be fluid measures.

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Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen daughter and a teen son, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.