What If a Village Really Will Raise a Child?

by Marisha

One week ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law that allows California children to have more than two legal parents. The bill was partially a response to a case where a lesbian couple broke up and couldn’t parent the child. The child’s biological father wasn’t allowed to take the child and, instead, the girl was sent into foster care.

Here’s a link to an article about this bill.

I don’t know why a judge couldn’t choose a biological parent over foster parents, but knowing the thickly scarred institutions of California, I am betting it’s because he hadn’t gone through proper foster parent certification. Why it was necessary to allow for more than two parents instead of a bill that would give a biological parent the first place position in a case like this, I do not know.

But my imaginative brain is just spinning over this. My first thoughts went to adoption. If more than two parents can legally parent a child, then open adoption could change to something new. Rather than the very different roles of legal adoptive parents and the birth mother (and in some cases birth father, if he’s involved), all three or four could “equally” parent the child.

You think kids learn to play one parent off the other NOW (whether the parents are married or divorced)? I realize that when some adoptees get a little older–say, teen years–they may do this anyway in an open adoption, but if all parents have the same legal status, what will happen?  And what if there are more than three or four parents? I haven’t read of a limit on the number of legal parents. What if an entire village decides it really is going to parent a child?

Where does YOUR mind travel when you think about this new law?

Help Us Celebrate!!

It’s been ONE YEAR today that we started the blog Don’t We Look Alike?, and what a ride it’s been!  We’ve learned a lot about adoption and related issues and have met some wonderful bloggers and other individuals along the way.

Coincidentally, this is also our 200th blog post!!!

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego.

English: Independence Day fireworks, San Diego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luanne:

When my husband and I adopted our two children in the 1980s, the only thing we knew about adoption was what we learned from local sources. My brother was adopted as a baby when I was eight, so adoption was familiar to me (link to my very first blog post about my brother). When we decided to adopt, we first thought of fostering because we knew the need was great, but we were told that because we didn’t have any children we didn’t qualify and were encouraged to adopt a baby for our first child. That seemed like good advice.

To do so we were asked to attend an “Adoption Information Meeting.” That evening five agencies were represented, and the bottom line was that if we wanted to adopt a baby we could go through Bethany, which represented Holt in Michigan.  Through that agency, we could adopt a Korean baby.  Within a year or so our son was in our arms. We then requested another child through the same agency because we felt it would be in our son’s best interests to share ethnicity with his sibling. Things were different in the eighties than they are today, and I still believe that was a good choice.

At that time, we didn’t have the internet to get information. Our information came from adoption-related sources, such as our case worker, the agency, other parents from our city who had adopted, etc. When the kids were little, we were connected to this network, but when the kids got older and were extremely busy with other activities and we moved away, we became less tied to any “adoption community.”

We never lost sight of our own notion that adopted children and children in transracial families couldn’t have their special circumstances ignored. But it often seemed like we were the only people around us who felt that way. People insisted that they “never thought” of our son or daughter “as Korean” or “as Asian” or “as adopted.” We would grit our teeth because ignoring realities doesn’t do our children any favors.

It wasn’t until Marisha and I started this blog that I found a whole community on the internet of people who “get” what adoption means, who understand that adoptees undergo trauma (often as infants), and that there are many political issues related to adoption which need to be considered. In fact, it feels as if the issues of adoption are just heating up.  Adult adoptees are leading the campaign to reform the way adoption works in this country.

I also didn’t know diddly about open adoption until reading like mad–blogs, articles, books. Open adoption is very different from the situation of my children’s adoptions, so it’s been such an educational experience for me to learn so much about it from the mouths of others.  We don’t know yet what adult adoptees are going to tell us in the future about their open adoptions, but I want to keep up on all this because it’s so important.

I feel passionate that reform is needed in certain aspects of adoption and foster care issues, while I am realistic about the impossibility of a system which works perfectly for every circumstance. I believe that the interests of children should be put ahead of the interests of adults.   I’d like to see our society work at becoming a “village” that cares for the various needs of foster children and children in need of adoptive families.

Thank you to all our readers and those who have participated in discussions on our blog.  And thank you to the other bloggers about adoption and foster care who share your hearts and experience with the world.

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Marisha:

I have done quite a lot of reflecting lately about this past year–mainly regarding my adoption. Seeing as this is the first year anniversary of our blog, I wanted to write a post about how amazing it is for me to see how much I have learned about myself, my mother, and other adoptees and parents.

I see most of my progress in how I now react to the different situations I am put in regarding being “Asian” and being “adopted.” The stigma has slowly started to drain away, and I am happy to feel a sense of relief when I think about my own adoption issues. In the past I would be overly sensitive and get hurt too easily by the comments someone would make to me such as the “tsunami in Japan” incident or my middle school crush telling me “I’m only into blondes.” I used to think that those comments were a reflection of how people saw me, or that I wasn’t good enough. Instead, I resound in knowing that most of those incidents and experiences have in fact, nothing to do with me or who I am on the inside or outside. Being comfortable in one’s skin is never easy– it would be false to think that one can fully live a life of confidence and not have any insecurities or flaws within them. I have accepted my flaws and faced my insecurities. I face them every day, in fact.

I am so thankful for my mom for being patient with me these past 25 years. This blog has not only bonded us even more, but has given us an honest outlet to communicate with each other about the problems we both are facing in life and with each other. It has been a rocky year personally for both of us. I have done some things that I am not particularly proud of, but have learned from them and found it easier to move on from the past because I have given myself the time to understand my issues of abandonment and insecurities about being an Asian-American adoptee.

At the same time, the amazing adoptees I have been in contact with or have shared some of their stories on our blog or on their own blogs have educated me. They help to fill a void–that feeling of being alone. It has given me a comfort to know that I am not alone in this. That a lot–if not most– adoptees face the same feelings I do at some point in their lives. I am inspired by that.

This next year is full of excitement. I ring in the one year anniversary with the blog by announcing my new journey. I will be playing one of my dream roles: Mimi in the musical RENT! I have waited my whole life for this moment, and I feel as if it has come at the perfect time for me to start this next chapter as a proud adoptee and woman. I have learned to not let my race or my cultural position define me because at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. What you choose to do and how you choose to live your life is material enough to create a success out of oneself. I am so proud to see the world start to change to give opportunities to people like myself, despite what we look like on the outside or where we come from.

Thank you for tuning in to the blog every week and thank you for allowing me and my mum the freedom to share our stories without judgment. I look forward to many more stories in the future from us and especially from all of you!!!

To help us celebrate, please consider donating to help foster children.  As an example, here is a news story about an Arizona charity (not yet rated by the BBB or Charity Navigator) which seeks funds to send foster kids to summer activities of their choice.  We donated for dance classes for a boy who wanted to take dance. Click this link to read the article.  In the article is a link to donate.

The Story of How Our Son Joined Our Family

DWLA is sharing the adoption story and interview of adoptive mom Kate Donovan Hodgkins in several parts–here is the first installment.

by Kate Donovan Hodgkins

In January of 2002 we signed up with an agency in California and began the wait to be matched.  In the eleven months we were with them, we were constantly advised to offer more money for “birthmother support.”  Then we were told that because we were in New England we would be very hard to match. And that we would have to fly to Texas before we would be able to fly home to Connecticut with a baby and that we would have to fly back to Texas to finalize the adoption.

In addition, we had little contact from them and could not get our calls returned to have questions answered.  They put up someone else’s picture with our profile and it took quite some time for them to correct this error.  They lost not just one, but two of our photo albums.  In the eleven months, we did not get one call about a possible match.   At that point, we put our contract on hold and started to look elsewhere.

After more research we found a referral agency and signed up with them.  Then the whirlwind began.

At 6 PM on December 16, 2002, we got a call that a possible birthmother wanted to talk to us by phone from Utah.  At 8 PM she called and we had a conference call with Nichole.  We talked to Nichole for an hour, and it felt like we were instant friends.

We hung up after the call and asked each other, “Do you think she liked us?!?”  The answer came in less than 5 minutes when the social worker called us back and told us that Nichole had asked if she could keep us.

That was when she told us that Nichole was in the hospital and our son was about to be born.  After the initial excitement the panic came: what do we pack, who do we call, are we prepared enough to bring a baby into this house immediately.  A thousand thoughts raced through our heads, and I don’t think either of us stopped smiling that night.

After getting the packing done, we started to call family and friends to say we would be leaving in the morning for Utah and had no idea when we’d be home, but most likely not for Christmas or New Years.  Nobody complained about the late night calls–everyone was as excited as we were.  I don’t think my mom slept for the 2 ½ weeks we were gone; she was so excited to have a grandbaby boy coming.  At 79 years of age she didn’t think she’d have another grandchild, let alone a boy (she had two granddaughters).

We got the call at 3 AM that Chase was born, weighing 5 lbs 7 oz and 18” long.  He was 6 weeks premature and they had to induce labor because his heart rate was dropping.  At delivery they found he had the cord wrapped around his neck.  Chase had premature lungs and was immediately moved to a larger hospital’s  NICU where he would spend the next 2 ½ weeks.

Our flight left Hartford, CT on time and arrived in St. Louis, MO on time.  However, shortly after landing, severe thunderstorms closed down the airport and we couldn’t get a flight out until morning. This delay was also a blessing in disguise.  During the past year of adoption research, I had made friends with a group of women across the country who were all also adopting.  One couple, had just adopted their daughter three months earlier and lived in St. Louis.  They came out to the airport to see us before we flew out to Utah.

Finally at 2 PM on December 18th we arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah.  We followed our social worker to the hospital, where we immediately went up to the NICU.  There we found Chase’s birthmom, Nichole, sitting on a stool watching over Chase until we arrived.  Nichole and I locked eyes and both started to cry and hug each other.  I knew at once that our family had just increased by two, not just one. My husband, in all his wisdom, took a picture of Nichole and I with Chase as soon as we met–tears and all.

We could not hold Chase because he was on a respirator, but we could touch him and talk to him and love him.  I’ve never seen so many wires going into a child and so many beeping machines keeping track of all his vital signs.  But it didn’t faze us at all, neither my husband Tom, nor I had any fears after seeing Chase.  Somehow we both knew he was going to be fine and we had no concerns at all about his health.  Hard to put into words, but we both felt very calm and at ease when we met Chase even with all the beeping and the noise of the respirator.

We stayed with Nichole there at Chase’s bed for a couple of hours, then we all had to pry ourselves away.  We took Nichole out to dinner, then went to the agency’s office together and signed all our paperwork and cried some more.  Afterward, we took Nichole to her apartment and stayed into the wee hours of the morning chatting and laughing and crying and looking at pictures of her family.  When we left to go back to the hospital at 2 or 3 in the morning it was a bittersweet goodbye.  Nichole was flying back to South Carolina in the morning, and we were very sad to see her go, but so thankful for the gift she had given us.

We agreed from the beginning that we wanted to have an open adoption with Nichole, not something we had really thought we’d want until we met Nichole and Chase.

For the next two and ½ weeks we were pretty much permanent fixtures in the NICU. We gave Chase most of his diaper changes, feedings, and all his baths.  The hospital allowed us to stay in a house across the street.  We only had to walk out the front door, cross the street and walk in the back door of the hospital.  Right inside the hospital was the cafeteria and by the time we left we didn’t even have to tell them what we wanted for breakfast, we’d get to the counter and our bagels would be ready.  The people that worked in the hospital were about the nicest,  most compassionate people we’ve ever encountered.

The third day we found something missing in Chase’s area.  No more respirator!  He had been taken off the respirator and his nurse was there to met us and tell me I could hold my son for the first time!  You talk about an emotional moment!  Picture this, me holding Chase with tears streaming down my check, my  husband taking pictures with tears on his face and our son’s tough male nurse crying right along with us.

His nurse gave us a picture he had taken for us while the respirator was being taken out, it was Chase with his middle finger up, telling the world what he thought of that machine.  It was the most amazing thing to finally be able to hold my son and I never wanted to put him down again.

Now Chase could be fed!  But it quickly became evident that Chase was not able to take a bottle.  He didn’t have the suck swallow breathe reflex yet.  So for the time being I fed Chase through a tube that went in through his nose into his stomach.  The nurses would set up the end of the tube for me with a syringe of formula and I’d slowly push the plunger and feed Chase.

Before we knew it Christmas was upon us and although several of the wonderful people at Heart to Heart had extended invitations to us to join them in their homes for the holidays, we opted to spend the holiday with Chase.  We decorated his area with Christmas cards and the hospital staff put up a sign with Chase’s name with Christmas decorations on it.  Tom and I headed to BabiesRUs and bought the Eddie Bauer stroller/car seat combination.

Soon Chase could start wearing his own clothes and since none of the clothes we brought with us (newborn clothes and 0-3month) would fit, we were off to buy preemie clothes.

We spent Christmas dinner in the hospital cafeteria with another couple we met whose daughter was also in the NICU.

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I went to dinner at a Japanese steak house around the corner from the hospital. We hadn’t ventured out much beyond the NICU and our room and decided a nice meal out was in order.  We had a wonderful time, sitting with a family who so excited to hear about Chase.  Being in Utah was a very different experience then living in Connecticut.  The people are very very friendly and just think the world of anyone adopting. We were treated like royalty wherever we went.

We were at Chase’s bedside at midnight toasting with plastic champagne glasses filled with sparkling cider provided by the hospital staff.   We rang in the New Year with Chase. Everyone in the NICU milled around and visited and took pictures.   Definitely a New Years we’ll never forget.  We even have a picture of Chase holding one of the champagne glasses.

That night, Chase began taking a bottle, after days and days of trying.  On New Year’s Day, they tried Chase out for twelve hours in the car seat, hooked up to monitors. This is a common test for premature newborns leaving the NICU and even more so with a travel across the country ahead of them.  Chase passed the test with flying colors and had surpassed the five pound mark.  That meant he could leave the hospital and fly home!  He was released from the hospital at 10 AM on January 2, 2003.  Two hours later, we got a calling telling us that the interstate compact was done and we could fly home.

I never really knew what it was going to be like to be a mom. Now I can’t even imagine life without being a mom.

Kate with Chase

Chase is very fortunate to have a very loving  birthmother in Nichole.  Chase calls her either Mama Nichole or  MaCole.  We send her pictures and we do phone calls. Chase loves to talk to her and we are so blessed that she choose to do what she believed was best for Chase.  Open adoption isn’t always right for everyone, but we have truly been blessed to have Nichole in our lives.

Watch for the next installment of Kate’s story next Friday, June 14!

Paris Review – “Every Adoption is a Ghost Story”: An Interview with Jennifer Gilmore by Amy Benfer

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Here’s an interview of Jennifer Gilmore who wrote the novel The Mothers about open adoption from the perspective of a prospective adoptive mother.

The interviewer, Amy Benfer, once had almost placed her daughter with adoptive parents and changed her mind at the last minute.

Paris Review – “Every Adoption is a Ghost Story”: An Interview with Jennifer Gilmore, Amy Benfer.

Statistically Impossible: What Would You Ask?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is Father Friday rather than Foster Friday 😉

Statistically Impossible: What Would You Ask?.

As you can see, by the screen shot above, the blog Statistically Impossible is written by a birth father who “stuck around.”  What a great read!  In this post, he asks what types of questions you would have for him if you were attending a presentation he is giving at the adoption agency.  Just click the link above or the screenshot itself to visit his blog.

A Story of Open Adoption

by Kristie Hoyt Gonzales

Adoption was always something I knew I wanted to do. In college I had the opportunity to study abroad and work in an orphanage. I fell in love with the kids. Leaving them was hard and I knew I wanted/ needed to do more.

Four years later I traveled to Guatemala for work. I fell in love with the city and the children. I was able to visit the special needs orphanage and my heart was broken for these children. In both Mexico and Guatemala, when I would arrive at the orphanages the children would smother me. They craved attention, contact, interaction, and mostly love.

And they had so much to give. Their hearts were big and open even in the face of adversity. They just wanted what everyone else wanted: a family, someone to hug them and tuck them in at night, comfort them when they fall, someone to read them a story while sitting in their lap, and someone to tell them they ARE loved. My heart broke every day I left them, and then when I returned. I wondered if they ever found someone to love them; a family of their own.

When my husband and I started talking about having a family we knew we wanted to have a child of our own and then adopt internationally—and from a Latin American country since we both spoke Spanish. After a few years of trying I was told it was pretty unlikely I would ever have kids and we knew that adoption was always the way our family was meant to grow.

We decided to adopt an infant since you only bring home your first baby once. That means we went domestic. We were open to transracial adoption and searched for an agency that would meet our needs, even though it meant going out of our home state. After a long process to enter the waiting pool, we were matched one week later. With TWINS!

But it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel it would happen, so much so we never even asked the gender of the babies. Three weeks later, late at night, the phone rang. It was an out-of-state number and I had all the numbers for the agencies and our social worker saved so I wasn’t thinking it was the call. But I answered and I am so glad I did. She told me we were matched for a little boy, and that the birthmom wanted to talk to me tonight! What? Tonight?! But Tony was working and it was past 10PM where she lives. “Call her anyways” is what I heard. I responded with a shaky “ok” and a “what do I say to her?”

Over the next few weeks we talked often with our birthmom (she has asked to remain anonymous). We developed a close relationship and she asked us to fly out for the birth. YES! YES! YES! But Hudson came early and fast and we weren’t able to get there for the birth. We had to be in state for at least two weeks waiting for our Interstate Compact Papers to fly home and had plans to visit some of the sights with our birthmom. However, since Hudson was born prematurely, those two weeks were spent in the hospital, which had a weird loop hole: even though all papers were signed and he was legally ours, birthmom still had all medical rights. This meant we couldn’t visit our son in the hospital without birthmom and she had to be in the NICU, so as a couple, we couldn’t spend time together with our new baby.

It was a very hard and difficult situation on everyone. Our birthmom, who had planned to say good-bye at 48 hours and then take time to grieve before we all went out for the first time, couldn’t leave. She had to be there, had to see us interact with our baby, the baby she just gave birth to, had to give the doctors permission to speak to us, watch the photographer take his newborn hospital photos with us, and put her grieving on hold. We had to put our bonding on hold and it became an awkward situation for all involved. To make things worse, we were the ones driving her to and from the hospital to the hotel we were BOTH staying at. Her counselor was with two other birthmoms during that time that were giving birth. We all wanted to be a family, but we also needed our space, which we didn’t get.

Fast forward a few months.  The grief that our birthmom had been compartmentalizing erupted. And she took it out on the only person she could and that knew about the adoption: me. I fought through it, was her punching bag, tried to set boundaries, but also keep with our openness plan. Our agency told us to cut off all contact and change my phone number, but I just couldn’t do it–to her or my son. After a few months, I was finally strong enough to set and keep boundaries. This was the best thing I did!

After a few months of no contact, our birthmom had the time she needed to grieve and I had the time to focus on Hudson and form an attachment. We now text often, talk on important days, and are planning for her to visit. Even though our relationship wasn’t always easy, I am so grateful for our birthmom, for sticking through the rough times and not listening to others to end contact because we wouldn’t have the relationship we have now. We have trust, we check in with each other (and not just about Hudson). We have a relationship with each other.

But our adoption story doesn’t end there. We knew our family wasn’t complete and we had love in our hearts from another child. It was still weighing on our hearts to adopt internationally. Knowing we wanted our children to have the same ethnicity we changed from adopting from Latin America to Africa. After researching different countries we felt led to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We chose DRC for the process and the fact you could adopt independently with lawyers in country versus using an agency. This adoption is a completely different experience. We are currently waiting for a referral and are excited to see our family completed.

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Kristie Gonzales is an Early Childhood Education Specialist. She says, “Adoption was always something that was on my heart and when I couldn’t get pregnant, we knew adoption was always meant to be how our family would grow. My husband, Tony, and I pursued an infant adoption and we were open to a transracial adoption. Our blessing, Hudson, came into our family through an open adoption, and we are currently pursuing an international adoption from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Kristie Hoyt Gonzales can be found at www.ourjourney2forever.wordpress.com

A Book for Children about Open Adoption: “Megan’s Birthday Tree”

by Luanne

I’m excited to be participating in the Book Club over at Open Adoption Bloggers.  The first book we read is Megan’s Birthday Tree, written by Laurie Lears and illustrated by Bill Farnsworth (2005).  In this book, Megan is a young girl who is an adoptee in an open adoption.  The characters are Megan, Mom, Dad, and Kendra.  Mom and Dad are the adoptive parents, and Kendra is the birth mother.  Kendra planted a small tree in her yard to remind her of Megan.  The story’s central conflict is how Megan reacts when she learns that Kendra is moving away.  Megan assumes that Kendra will leave the tree behind and, thus, forget about Megan.

Our moderator Heather provided us with a list of discussion questions which was put together from suggestions by all of us “book clubbers.”

There are so many wonderful questions, but I will only address a few of them.  My participation is based on my experience as an adoptive mom and from teaching children’s literature at the college level before I retired, but I don’t have young children at home any longer.

  Have you experienced moving or marriage as an adoptive mom or birth mother? Was it difficult to explain to your child? What did you do to help your child understand that your love remains no matter where you go or who comes into the family?

My children are adults now and were not adopted through open adoptions, but through international adoption.  However, we did move when they were six and two.  The move took us away from the extended (adoptive) family and away from a community where transracial adoptions such as ours (Caucasian parents and Korean kids) were common and to a place where it was rare.  We had to work extra hard to provide them with that sense of family and identity we were leaving behind and found it in a small private school and our worship congregation.

  Do you think this book represents a realistic view of what open adoption might look like?

From the stories I hear from others who are in open adoptions, I think this is a realistic view of a very good open adoption situation.

  While the birthday tree was used to decorate and celebrate Megan’s birthday in what other ways do you believe the tree was important to Megan and her birth mom?

Trees are living beings and they grow as children grow.  They also grow as love grows.  There is a sense of connection to nature.  However, the tree is not Megan.  Kendra says, “I don’t need a tree or anything else to remember you!  Even though we don’t live together, you will always be a part of me.”   Nevertheless, Kendra proves to be just as “silly” as Megan because she is carrying the birthday tree in the back of her truck.  She’s taking it with her to her new home.

  In Megan’s Birthday Tree, Megan’s adoptive parents were present at various points, but tangentially. Did you pick up on this? Does your response to the background role the adoptive parents played say anything about where your family is in your adoption journey?

My take on the role of the adoptive parents in this book is that they are allowing Megan space to grow as an individual and in her relationship with Kendra, rather than claiming ownership of Megan’s experience.  This reminds me of something very powerful in this book: Megan insists on buying a tree for Kendra with her own money and works hard to earn it.  She refuses to take a gift of money from Dad.

  What do you think about the illustrations of Megan as a Caucasian girl? By the text, she doesn’t have to be any one race, but by adding illustrations, she’s clearly a white girl.

While I just reviewed a book where I found the animal characters (dogs) confusing because of the term “adoption,” when the illustrated characters are of a particular race, it is a bit limiting.  Nevertheless, there is nothing inherently wrong with this being a book about Caucasian characters.  It does make me wonder about the statistics of open adoption.  Are there more families composed of white children and white parents?  It’s something I wondered about from looking at the racial composition of this picture book.

  What do you think about the illustrations of the other characters? That Megan looks a lot like Kendra and that the adoptive parents have similar coloring.

I love that Megan looks so much like Kendra.  She isn’t a clone, though, but looks like an actual biological child.  However, the adoptive parents have a similar look to Kendra and Megan, so I also wondered if that was in light of research.  Do a lot of birth mothers choose adoptive parents who resemble themselves?  Since I am not myself in an open adoption, this picture book really started me wondering about the overall picture of open adoptions.

  Sometimes when a person reads a picture book about adoption and something rattles something somewhere inside, but they ignore the warning because the book is so cute and mostly so good. Did you have any of those moments in this book?

I still haven’t found one picture book about adoption that didn’t have something that I wanted to change or that concerned me.  This book is one of the closest to perfect, I think.  I love how Megan, Kendra, Mom, and Dad all hug at the end.  It’s definitely a tear-jerker.  Any drawbacks?  Well, it’s an important point that Kendra and Megan think alike about the tree, as we can see by the end.  But does it undercut the idea that the tree isn’t what’s important?  We have Kendra’s words that she doesn’t need a tree to remember Megan, but then the text and illustrations show Kendra dragging the big tree with her.  I’m torn about this part of the ending.  On the one hand, I appreciate the drama of it and on the other, I do wish that the emphasis was on Kendra not needing the tree.

One other point is that I wish this book was illustrated with other racial combinations and that the book could be sold that way.  Wishful thinking ;).

  The book was categorized by the publisher as one of its “issue books,” dealing with “children’s problems and special needs.” Other books in the series address topics like autism, epilepsy, and stuttering. What do think about a book on open adoption being characterized that way?

I think it’s a necessary evil that this book is labeled an “issue book” because that is how adults in open adoptions will find this book to share with children.  Children don’t know or care how the book is marketed.  What is important that it gets into the hands and minds and hearts of children who will most benefit from reading it.

Definitely put this book on your library or bookstore list!
Open Adoption Book Club @ OpenAdoptionBloggers.com

Was it Enough?

Question to Parents (or Prospective Parents) in Open Adoptions:

A question was posed the other day by Tao from The Adopted Ones Blog .  How would you describe the training and focus you received from your agency on the notion of “openness”?  “Was it a one-hour class type thing – or a major focus in how it would look and ways to document it?”

If you already adopted your child or children, is the “open” part of open adoption what you expected? What you were told to expect by your agency?  Has anything surprised you?  Has it been better or more difficult than you expected?

We thought about setting this up as a poll, but really we don’t know what parameters to place.  Without hearing from you, we don’t know how good a job the agencies are doing about preparing adoptive parents for open adoptions.

How Do We Treat Birthmothers?

by Luanne

I’m prefacing this post by saying that I’m an adoptive parent, so I can only speak from my own adoptive-parent-perspective, not that of an adoptee or a birth parent.

Back in 1986, The Child Welfare League of America adopted a resolution outlining their perspective on open adoptions.  At the end of this post, I am going to print the whole resolution as it is published on their website.  Notice that they were already advocating open adoption and that they recognized that there can be no hard and fast rule as needs of the child may differ.  But they could see that open adoption was what was going to happen and that it was in the best interests of the child.

Flash forward to today: 2013.  In the United States today open adoption is the norm.  The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute states:

A major new report depicts just how extensively adoption in the U.S. has changed over the last several decades – from a time when it was shrouded in so much secrecy that birth and adoptive families knew nothing about each other, to a new reality today in which the vast majority of infant adoptions are “open,” meaning the two families have some level of ongoing relationship.

So I have a question.  Since open adoption is the best option in many situations, why do some birth mothers get flak from other people, even from strangers?

230px-PregnantWomanWomen no longer feel that they have to hide that they had a baby. They no longer have to shroud that part of their lives in secrecy. Yet that openness leaves them open to attack.  A birth mother in an open adoption decides to be in a transparent relationship with the child and the adoptive parents because she did what she felt was the best thing she could possibly do for her child.  This exposure can lead to private and public criticism.

If women are criticized for placing their children with well-chosen adoptive families, isn’t this related to the shunning, discrimination, and embarrassment that women were subjected to if they publicly bore a child “out of wedlock,” in mid-20th century?

Isn’t this misogyny in a new form?  How is this in the best interests of the child?

In a world closer to the ideal, pregnant women who are considering adoption for their children would get more help keeping and raising them.  This help would be financial, emotional, whatever was needed.  But until that happens, sometimes the best option is adoption.  Should birth mothers be driven back into secrecy?  Is that what is best for the children?

Adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, and members of society: we’re all in this together.  We’ve made great strides in the area of adoption and there are still many more to be taken.  Let’s hope they all move in a positive direction.

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Openness in Adoption by the Child Welfare League of America:

  • The agency providing adoption services should recognize the value of openness to all members of the adoption triad, but should allow determinations concerning the degree of openness in an adoption to be made by the parties to the adoption on an individualized basis.
  • Openness in adoption has the potential to benefit all members of the adoption triad. The degree of openness in the relationships between birth and adoptive families should be arrived at by mutual agreement based on a thoughtful, informed decisionmaking process by the birth parents, the prospective adoptive parents, and the child, when appropriate.
  • Decisions about the degree of openness should be based on respect for the rights of all individuals involved in an adoption.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 1.17, p.17.
  • When adoption is being considered as an option, counseling for birth mothers, birth fathers, and other family members can clarify the options within adoption and the consequences of each option. Counseling also provides an opportunity for members of the birth family to explore the various level of openness that are possible in adoption and the extent to which they may desire openness if they make the decision to place their child for adoption. In all instances, birth parents and other family members should receive counseling to help them understand the grief and loss inherent in adoption.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 2.1, p. 28.
  • The agency providing adoption services should advise birth parents who are making a plan for the adoption of their child that information related to their identities may be disclosed to the child at some point in the future.
  • Many birth parents may express an interest in having their identities disclosed to the child whom they place for adoption at the time the child reaches adulthood. The agency providing adoption services should obtain, in writing, the birth parents’ interest in having such information provided and should retain the birth parents’ written statement in the adoption record.
  • Some birth parents, at the time they make the decision to place their child for adoption, may express a desire to have their identities withheld from their child. The agency providing adoption services should advise the birth parents that under current law in all states, courts may order the opening of sealed adoption records and allow adopted adults access to identifying information.
  • Laws sealing adoption records are being re-examined in many states, and the possibility exists that adopted adults may have increased access to identifying information in the future. As a result, agencies should assist birth parents in understanding that it is not possible to assure them that their identities will be protected from the children they place for adoption.
  • The birth parents’ desire to have their identities shared or withheld from the child they placed for adoption may change over time. The agency providing adoption services should inform the birth parents that they may at any time communicate to the agency any changes in their desires in this regard.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 2.8, p. 32.
  • When appropriate, some level of contact between birth parents, other relatives, and the child after adoption should be considered. Openness after adoption, however, should not be used as an incentive to obtain the birth parents’ agreement to voluntarily relinquish the child.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 2.9, p. 34.
  • Education about and consideration of the benefits and challenges of openness in adoption should be an integral part of the home-study and preparation process for all adoptive applicants.
  • Adopted individuals, birth families, and adoptive families are best served by a process that is open, honest, and supportive of the concept that all information, including identifying information, may be shared between birth and adoptive parents. The degree of openness in any adoption should be arrived at by mutual agreement based on a thoughtful, informed decisionmaking process by the birth parents, the prospective adoptive parents, and the child, when appropriate. Educating applicants during the homestudy process about the range of openness in adoption provides them with time to explore their attitudes and possibly expand the level of openness with which they will be comfortable in adoption.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 4.12, p. 60.
  • The agency providing adoption services should support efforts to ensure that adults who were adopted have direct access to identifying information about themselves and their birth parents.
  • The prevailing legal practice in the United States prohibits adults who were adopted as children from obtaining access to their original birth certificates or to identifying information contained in their adoption records.
  • The practice of sealing records has come under scrutiny as the benefits of openness in adoption for the adopted individual, birth parents, and adoptive parents have come to be understood. The interests of adopted adults in having information about their origins have come to be recognized as having critical psychological importance as well as importance in understanding their health and genetic status. Because such information is essential to adopted adults’ identity and health needs, the agency should promote policies that provide adopted adults with direct access to identifying information.
  • This trend toward openness has already been recognized by the Indian Child Welfare Act (P.L. 95-608). Under that Act, courts must unseal records for American Indian children, on request, and provide information necessary for the adopted individual to ascertain his or her tribal affiliation and membership. Such information may include the names of the adopted child’s birth parents.Child Welfare League of America Standards of Excellence for Adoption Services, 2000. Section 6.22, p. 87.
  • All members of the adoption triad are affected by the adoption and as such should be consulted as to their desires, needs, and capacities in determining the level of openness in their particular adoption plan. To provide such opportunities agencies should make available a broad spectrum of options which may range from closed placement to open adoption. Selection and utilization of these options is dependent on the birth parent, the prospective adoptive parent, and the child if he or she is of age or ability to make such a decision.Child Welfare League of America-First Biennial Assembly Resolution, 1986. Adoption Resolution #3.

Open Adoption Bloggers

Open Adoption Bloggers.

Recently, DWLA posted several stories about open adoption by a birthmother and an adoptive father.  If you want to read more about open adoption, you can find more stories through this site.  Here is the “about” description on the Open Adoption Bloggers blog.

My name is Heather Schade. I’m the caretaker here at Open Adoption Bloggers.

I started this blogging network because I believe in the power of telling our stories and listening to the stories of others. In the very beginning, it was stories that demystified open adoption for me and made it something I not only agreed with in principle, but really wanted for our family. Stories turned unknowns like “contact” and “visitation” into regular people sharing phone calls and meals. Stories from other adoptive parents let me make sense of the role I play in our personal triads. The honest words of first parents made me more sensitive to my kids’ birth families. Listening to the stories of adopted adults helped me to be–I hope–a more empathetic, aware parent with my kids.

When I’ve struggled with our own adoptive relationships, knowing there are other people who have faced the same worries has eased the loneliness. And when I stumble on a blog of someone who’s been living open adoption for years and years? I’m almost turning cartwheels at all their insight into what lies ahead.

Beyond the sterile research studies and mass media pieces, I think it is our stories that show the world the reality of and reasons for what we do in open adoption. And that give us a sense of comraderie as we live out openness–something which is all at once completely normal and completely counter-cultural.

The heart of Open Adoption Bloggers is the list of 300+ bloggers writing about their open adoption experiences. Writers from all sides of open adoption gathered together in one spot– place for us to find each other and for others to find us. We also gather for Open Adoption Roundtable discussions and host the Best of Open Adoption Blogs awards.

My husband and I are the lucky parents of three young children through open adoption. You can read more about our family and my thoughts on adoption at my blog, Production, Not Reproduction, which has been named a Top 25 adoption blog by Adoptive Families magazine, About.com, and Circle of Moms. My writing has been published in Adoptive Families and I presented at the Symposium 2011 Opening Adoption: Realities, Possibilities, and Challenges in Richmond, Virginia on social media and open adoption.

Questions? Ideas? I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me at admin [at] openadoptionbloggers [dot] com.

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