February 1, 2011

Really Good Questions About Open Adoption

As always you don't have to be involved in adoption to comment. I love hearing what other people have to say...
It's time for another open adoption roundtable.

Jessica from O Solo Mama is an adoptive parent via international adoption (and a fabulous writer). She's been listening to us tell our stories (especially those who participated in last year's interview project) and thinking about open adoption--why it sometimes seems to work, why it sometimes seems not to work, what's really going on for those of us living it. The other week she asked seven questions of those of us in open adoptions. Seven really, really good questions.

1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honouring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?
I think as much as people want to do the right thing, it's kind of hard not to suck at it sometimes. I really try to live up to all our commitments and give the first family access, etc. but...well sometimes people are jerks. Sometimes you really do feel like it's in the best interest of the child not to expose them to certain behaviors. It's such an emotional issue that I think it's really difficult sometimes to keep things perspective.

2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent?
It would seem to me that it would prolong the suffering, but open adoption is becoming more and more the norm. I feel like I just wouldn't be able to handle the contact, that it would be easier to take an out of sight, out of mind approach. I know in our situation, we offered post-placement counseling to the first family, but they declined. They decided to deal with it themselves. I'm not sure that was the right choice.

3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.
We are often asked in whispers, "has the other family tried to see you?" People are curious, they want to know what the situation is, and if there's drama. We try to be as laid back about it all as possible. We are trying really hard to have adoption be a simple fact of our daughter's life, and not some big secret or topic we don't discuss. She's still very little (just turned a year old) so there's no issue now, but I don't think it will be an issue later because it's all she'll have ever known. She has her first family and she has us. Period.

4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)
No. I am absolutely certain to the bottom of my soul that my daughter is in the right place. And from all indications her first family agrees. That doesn't make it less complicated or difficult though.

5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?
I'll admit, this is something that really concerns me. My daughter's first parents are still together, and at the moment intend to stay that way and have children when they get to a place where that's possible. I am very nervous about how my daughter will react to full-blooded siblings who stay with the first family when she did not. I can't imagine that will feel good to her, despite the fact that they felt they were doing the right thing for her. I'm really not sure how we'll handle it if it does happen.

6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?
I think if I were a surrendering mother I would not want an open adoption. I don't think I'd be able to deal with it. I think open adoption is an amazing thing when it's handled properly, but I think it should absolutely be at the surrendering parent's discretion.

7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?
I keep coming back to this question. And I keep wanting to say of course there is, but...but I can't think of any. I've mentioned before that we entered into our adoption process many, many years ago wanting a traditional, closed adoption. But now that we have an open adoption, I can't imagine not having access to the first family. I can't imagine my daughter not having access to them. What a gift for her to be able to ask them directly any questions she has about the situation. What a gift for her to ask them...anything. She never has to wonder or take our word for it. That in itself is reason enough to have an open adoption.