Monday, February 8, 2010

My thoughts on open adoption

I believe that all open adoptions should be a legal bonding document that can be held up by the courts. I am sure that I didn't surprise any of you there. I believe this is the only 100% safe way for a woman to know that when an prospective adoptive couples says we agree to a open adoption that they really mean it. If they are not willing to agree to a legal document then maybe they are not 100% committed to an open adoption.
I think that this document could be in the works after a match is made and that it should have some wiggle room if either party feels something isn't working for them. But never ever never ever should a birthmother totally get cut out 100% unless there is a very good reason for it. I mean something really drastic. I think if/when problems arrive that the parties can't solve on their own that should be mandated to go to an counselor that specializes in adoption. I just think more needs to be done to protect the birth parents from feeling the loss of the promised open adoption.
I do know that there are plenty of good adoptive parents out there that wouldn't dream of cutting their child's birthparents out of their lives and that they do their best to give their children the best of both worlds. But there are others who for their reasons just can't get past their fear or whatever else might make them just end contact.


Cathy said...


StefanieJinelle said...

I was talking the other day to my caseworker and she said, "If open adoptions were legally bound. No one would do them." There is already a ton of court stuff with closed adoptions.
And it's not just the adoptive couple that is legally bound to it, but you are too. So you would have to keep up your end of the bargain of whatever they wanted you to do.
Instead of seeing your child whenever you wanted or made a phone call to see what's up. The court would have to approve every single visit.
It wouldn't be fun to see your birth child, it'd be a chore by the court.

It's not an awful idea. I just don't think anyone would do it and it'd be so complicated.

birthmothertalks said...

While I agree that making open adoptions legally binding would be complicated, but I am not saying that every visit or letter would be have to be approved by a judge. But for example if the couple agrees to sending pictures and an update say 3 times a year them it's a requirement and the birth parent has some resources if they don't keep up their end of the agreement. I did say that it should have some wriggle room and seek counseling if it's needed. If no one would agree to making it legal how committed are they to the open adoption.
I was burned in what was suppose to be an open adoption. So the legal binding agreement could have really made a difference in my life and that of my daughter's life.

Cathy said...

Perhaps it's just me, but I would welcome a "legally binding" contract in my open adoption. I would sign any paper right now which stated I would *never, ever* stop contact with my daughter's first mother.

The vast majority of parents who understand open adoption desperately want their child to know his or her first parents, to avoid identity crisis in the future.

Alex said...

I've seen your comments on several other blogs and I decided to pop over an dread some of your back story since you're opinions always seemed so strong and...well for lack of a better word bitter. I say that matter or factly and not to be mean, although I'm sure it come across that way.

Seeing your backstory I don't blame you for feeling bitter, since you were pressured into giving your child up for adoption. However as an adopted child myself I have to say that the fear of my biological mother(also young when she gave birth) being bitter, resentful and obviously not "healed" is a really good reason that I have chosen not to look for her.

I have parents. I have a loving family that raised me and are the only parents and siblings I have. I apprecaite that my biological mother gave me up for adoption because it led me down the path I am on now, but I do not think of her as my mother. A mother doesn't just give birth, a mother raises, nurtures, guides, disciplines and encourages her child. And a birth mother doesn't have the chance to do that, and its not her fault she can't. Life is what life is. However I would be offended if my birth mother referred to me as her daughter in my presense. I am not her daughter. I am my mothers daughter. And while I appreciate and respect my biological mothers decision to birth me and give me up that is the extent of my feelings towards her. I feel no anger or abandonment, but I also feel no love or attachment. Sure I think about her on my birthday and say a silent prayer that she knows I am okay and that she has had a good life, but that is because I am not an intentionally cruel person and I can understand the extent of sacrifice that she made to give me a good life. And as such that is her first act of motherhood in my mind. However...once the decision is made the title of mother is gone.

So when I read that you are so obviously still emotional and towards your daughter it makes me very sure that I have made the right decision in not contacting my biological family. My parents have always le me know they would help me in any way if I desired to contact my biological family, however it has never been desired. Because as I said I have a family, but also there is the fear that it could open up a pandora's box of emotions that can't be put back. The last thing I want is to be guilted into feeling like I have to have a relationship with people I truely don't know. Maybe they would be wonderful and I would feel like I had some additional extended family. However given how happy and full and complete my life is, I really have to say that its not a chance I am willing to take just to get a few more relatives. I already have a large extended family. Just because someone has a genetic tie to me doesn't make them more deserving of the title family than my fathers, mothers, sisters uncle. To me family is way more than genetics. Its love. And love comes from an emotional tie. I love my parents, my siblings, my husband and my children, and even my inlaws. But I can not love someone out there that I don't even know. Not even because they gave me life. As I've said to people before, my biological mother gave me life, but my mother filled my life. So while she has my respect, thats as far as it goes.

I hope one day you are able to come to terms with this. If you ever plan to make contact with your biological daughter I really, REALLY hope you let go of some of your baggage before you do it. Otherwise you are setting yourself and her up for a lot of disappointement and heartbreak.

birthmothertalks said...

I respect your thoughts on this subject, but I don't agree with you that I am being bitter when I comment on other blogs. I like to read blogs from all sides of adoption and I do my very best not to be rude to people. If I see something that I think is offensive such as anyone calling a birthmom a "bm" I might kindly tell them that it's offensive to a lot of birthmothers out there. Most of my followers and the ones that comment are adoptive parents.
I think it's great that you have a great family life, but your birthmother did so much more than give birth. She gave you life and that includes the life you have today. You are where you are because she put your needs before hers. Also, there are plenty of other adoptees who do feel that connection to their birthmothers. We are all human and I am not saying either way is right or wrong. In addition, I never, once say that I am my daughter's mother or Mom. She has a Mom and a Dad and I respect that. I may not like what they did or didn't do, but I don't wish them harm. How could I? It would be like wishing for my daughter to be hurt.
If you have been reading you will see that I have been going to counseling to deal with my grief. Birthmothers were told to get over it and go on. No one gave us flowers or remembered her birthday. As far as my healing, I have been slowly healing. As far as cutting off my emotional tie to my daughter? I would rather cut off my arms.
Lastly, adoption hurts people. For every angry birthmother blog out there and I don't think I am an angry blog. there is an angry adoptee blog out there.

Cathy said...

Maybe I haven't been reading long enough, but I just do not see this blog as "bitter."
Brokenhearted? Yep.
Hurting? Yep.
Anger? Yep.
Bitter? Not that I see.

I am raising my daughter not just to be grateful to her first mother, but to LOVE her first mother. J. didn't just give Mary life (though yes, that's amazing considering the odds were stacked against her and she was under tremendous pressure), she LOVES her. She loves her so much that she broke her own heart for her daughter. Can you imagine a love like that? The times she wept, the times she sobbed and I held her in my arms - my heart was breaking, too.
Our lives are forever interconnected not just because we both love the child so much, but because we genuinely love each other so much. She is brilliant, beautiful, generous, brave, a great writer, et cetera et cetera.
I WANT my daughter to know what amazing DNA she carries. I WANT my daughter to carry those traits in life. I am PROUD of where and from whom my daughter comes.
I say about my child all the time, "Just like J."
(I knew her first mother when SHE was a child.) She has never lived with her first mother, but rest assured, she carries her demeanor, has identical looks on her face, etc. Nature is just as important as nurture. This doesn't mean you can't rise about your nature (if your father was abusive, for instance) but try as you might, you ARE predisposed to the actions and faults and strengths of your biological parents. The DNA code does not lie.
My daughter's grandmother, aunt, and uncle are such an important part of our life, I would never DREAM of shutting them out. WE would lose out. SHE would lose out. My daughter's background is fascinating. The stories in her birth family are fantastic and funny and joyous and I love hearing them.
I have read WAY too many stories of adult adoptees with identity crisis, emotional strain, etc. from not knowing. The constant scanning of crowds for someone who looks like them, the constant worry if they're destined for breast cancer, or mental illness, or whatever.
No, not all adult adoptees feel this way, but it DOES happen and I won't negate their feelings.
Having a broken heart does not mean one is bitter. We are ALL entitled to our feelings - even if that feeling is bitterness, which would be totally understandable in this situation.

Alex said...

I guess everyone just sees things differently. I do see heartbroken as well as hurt and anger...but I'm sorry to be it does come across as bitter. So as an outside prospective, if you feel you aren't bitter then maybe look into it with your counselling a bit more. Or perhaps we have different ideas of what bitter is I suppose...

And I did acknowledge that my birth mother did more than just give birth. She did give me life, but as I stated she gave me life but she didn't fill my life. And by that I mean she didn't give me my values, she didn't heal my wounds, she didn't teach me about love. I suppose you will say that by doing something as amazing as growing me inside her body and being strong enough to give me up for my betterment that that is showing me about love...and I think in a way you are right. Just as I can teach a stranger about love and compassion by a random act of kindness. Everyone can teach people about love in general. But I mean LOVE with the ups and downs that come with family. Anyway I don't want it to come across as I an indifferent about my birth mother. Anyone that knows me knows I am grateful and appreciative and in no way devalue her gift to me. I'm sorry if its coming across that way here. I value her sacrifice however I am not bonded to her and she is not my mother in any way. That name and those emotions are reseved for one woman and one woman only. I get very offended when someone asks me if I know my mother, and when I say of course I do she raised me, and then they say no I mean your real mother. That devalues them woman that truly did give me LIFE. A home, a family, caring, love and nurturing. Yes I couldn't have that without my birth mother birthing me...but a life without a life filled with love, morals, warmth, education etc is just being alive, its not really living.

If I ever did meet my birth mother I would hug her, cry tears no doubt, thank her and ask her how she was really doing. But I wouldn't ever call her mother, and I would ask her not to call me her daughter. Birth/Biological Daughter is fine but if she referred to me to others as her daughter I would be upset. I am only one woman's daughter, one fathers daughter. My parents.

birthmothertalks said...

We all have different views and that is ok. I can see why it would bother you if someone referred to your biological Mother as your real Mom. I can get that. However, it's my right to call my daughter "My daughter" It's not like she is reading this and being offended. I spent most of the 18 years living in secret to the fact that I had a daughter. My family knows, but pretends she was never born. I don't think you will ever get to know how it feels to feel like you can't speak up about your experiences. To spend birthday after birthday so sad and not one person calls to see if your ok. In real life, I go back between calling her "Izzy and my daughter" It's my choice. I do believe that sometimes you might see bitter moments because of my experience, but I don't think that overall my blog is bitter. I have stated over and over that I know that not all adoptions have been like mine. I am happy that they seem to be improving, but I think we still have some improvement that could happen. And I am working with a counslor but it's not so much about me being bitter, because I have made some major gains over the last year.

Tammy said...

Hmmm...I have a lot of thoughts on this thread. I guess I'll start from the beginning.

I am going to be frank here - not to hurt or offend anyone but because I want to give a different side of this discussion. If open adoption was regulated by law, no one would do it. And as much as I value my open adoption with my son's birth mother and I see her as a vital piece to my son feeling "whole", I would not sign a legal document promising a certain level of contact. I know that sounds harsh and it probably is. But 18 years is a long time and so much can happen between now and then. I trust who my son's first mom is *now* but what about the future? What if a mental illness takes over or she develops a substance abuse problem? I know those are extreme examples but my son's physical and emotional safety comes first for me. I know you said there should be some wiggle room - but judges view things differently and I do not trust the legal system that much (and I work with it all the time).

Also, I do believe that a child needs to have one set of parents who makes decisions about them. The co-parenting idea just would not work. It sounds good in theory but would be very, very messy in real life. Just ask divorced parents how well it works - often not very well.

In terms of the use of "mother" and "son" with my son's first parents. As I have said, I don't find it offensive. I'm not sure what else they would call him and there is a tie there. Besides, getting caught up in semantics bogs the whole thing down. They play an important part in his life.

That all being said...I do hope and, in fact, expect that my son would view his birth family differently. They are not the ones feeding him, clothing him, teaching him, rocking him and being up with him at all hours of the night. When he cries, I am the one who comforts and nurtures him and I do think that gives me a different role than birth parents. I don't find them to be equals to me. Maybe that is my insecurity. Or maybe that is reality. I don't know - they are simply my feelings. But I would wager that most adoptive parents feel the same way. Are first families important? Certainly. They are invaluable and I agree that we often do a disservice to them (ok, that's an understatement) But I don't see them as equals. How can they be when they live halfway across the country from me? They don't know what his favorite foods are or how he likes to be held or when his bedtime is.

That all being said...I try very, very hard to not make this a competition. I am not always successful, as you can see by my thoughts above. But I think we fall into an easy trap when e try to determine who is more "important" or whatever word we want to use. But in the end, the child doesn't want us arguing about who is more important or more needed. They just want us all to get along. So while I have those thoughts, I usually keep them to myself. (Except here, since we are discussing them)

On another point, Alex seems to be very comfortable with her adoption and that is something we all strive to do for our children. I hope I can raise my son to be a happy, well adjusted adult, however, he chooses to make his life look when he gets older. My goal right now it keep all avenues open for him so that he can decide when he gets older what "role" we all fill in his life. To me, that seems to be the best compromise because in the end, it is not about us adults, but about the child who had no say in how his or her life started out.

birthmothertalks said...

I am a little offended by a few of your statements Tammy. I have really stated that birth parents are more important than adoptive parents? Or that open adoption suggest co parenting? I admit before an adoption happens I think the Mom is the Mom until the TPR's are signed and while I agree it will hurt the soon to be adoptive parents very badly, but it's her choice on it. I just think that adoptive parents shouldn't lie or cut off the birthparents, because they have fears or it reminds them of the adoption. It's the same legal system that you don't trust to have a legal document that you think women should use to sign away their parental rights. So, as you can imagine I don't think it's protecting some of the women who need protection from the system. As long as adoption is a business there will be some practices that are not morally correct.
As far as Alex is concerned, I am happy that she is secure in her life and her adoption. However, she came to my blog and accused me of being bitter on other peoples blogs and of mine. I think this all goes back to the feeling that most people in this world just can't understand where I am coming from. If a birthmother displays hurt or feels there is some injustice in the system then all of a sudden she is trying to take over being the Mom. And I get reminded how adoptive Mom's did all the caring for the child. Do you think I don't know that? Sorry I didn't intend to make anyone go on the defense mode.

Mama Bear said...

well, i am in a very open adioption and a very closed adoption also, both at request of birthmoms, i would say I would agree to some things that would legally bind me like updates to agencies and things like that for sure, however, the personal things like visits and contact and things like that i dont see how that could be regulated, but i do not think I should ever be allowed to cut off all contact, that is cold and unfair and just mean. with my daughters birthmom, we have in house visits, it is a mutal respect we have for each others roles, and we let my daughters needs dictate the relationship, even though she is only three we have already had to adjust things for her well being. and with my son she chose not to meet , or have a relationship with us, and I feel we need to respect that. does it make me upset, well sure it does for my son, and I hope whe will one day decide to meet us, him if thats what he wants, and I understandit is probably just too hard for her, I really do. but each situation is so different which makes it so hard.

Tammy said...

Well, you are correct when you say the same legal system that terminates first parents rights is the system I don't trust. There is some truth to that statement.

I guess I tried very hard to make my son's adoption an ethical one and that meant that no one was forced to do anything they didn't do on their own free will. I don't find it just or moral or legal to force someone to do an adoption (aside from when CPS takes kids away due to abuse and neglect - that is a different situation.) It doesn't matter if the mom is 15 or 40. When I think of a legal and ethical adoption, I think of first parents agreeing to relinquish their rights of their own free will. When I think of a legally binding agreement, it feels like I would be "forced" to follow that agreement, no matter how life changes. You are right that I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. I expect birth parents terminations to be permanent but I don't want to enter into an agreement that is permanent. But as a legal parent, don't I have a say as to who will have contact with my child and who doesn't? If I sign a legally binding contract, doesn't that take away a fundamental right as a parent?

You are correct that I don't think it's ok for adoptive parents to cut off birth parents because it reminds them of adoption or even if they have fears. I agree whole heartedly. This is not about us adults, it's about the child. However, what if the birth parents are so unstable that it would be unhealthy for the child to have ongoing contact? Case in point, I had a failed adoption last March. The birth mother was addicted to cocaine and had serious mental health issues. She was so unstable that when she refused to do a private adoption, CPS took the baby and put him in foster care. She had a long history with CPS and all of her other children had been taken and they eventually TPR's her through foster care on her other kids. Had the private adoption with me gone through, I would have wanted to keep contact with her but I would not have been able to promise visits with the child. She was simply too unstable and had too many of her own personal issues. And while I would have wanted to keep up contact with her, I would not have felt comfortable going into court and promising a certain level of contact for the next 18 years.

As I think I've said, my son's birth mother is wonderful and I have no such concerns about her. But not every situation is the same, which is why I'm not sure one can make sweeping statements. Open adoption is important - but it is not always the best in every situation.

You are correct that birth parents have rights until TPR occurs. It is as it should be and as it is, as it is what happened with my failed adoption I told you about happened. My comments were more about after the adoption is finalized. And as for Alex, I was simply commenting on her security surrounding her adoption - nothing more, nothing less. I know I don't truly "understand" you but I do think your hurt and anger are legitimate. In terms of adoption, I hope we keep learning from our mistakes. I agree that as long as money is exchanged, there will always be unethical things that happen. Hopefully if we keep talking about them, we can at least bring them to light so that they aren't secrets anymore.

Anyways. I find these conversations helpful for me - I hope they are helpful for you.

birthmothertalks said...

It has been really good to express my thoughts on adoption and for other people to tell me what they think about this or that.
I can see your point about if you have to be forced to see someone then you would feel like you are losing part of your rights. The adoptive parents that I worry about most are the ones that promise the world and then take it all back and chalk it up to be about the kid and in a lot of cases it's about how it makes them feel.
I can understand where you are coming from when you say that you trust your son's first mother now, but what about the future? What if mental illness or drugs? I understand those fears, but it's the saddest thing that I have read on here, because when a couple is seeking to adopt someone's child and you meet them. Are you not asking them to trust you for 18 years? They can get to know you now, but what about the future? And it's not 18 years of trust or distrust that they have to carry. It's a lifetime of having to trust that you will do right. This whole trust thing and just the lack of being there to see my daughter grow up is the reasons I would never agree to give another child up or adopt one. If a birth parent can trust you with their child and let you take a piece of their heart with them then why can't the trust be given back? Fears?

Tammy said...

You are right that the trust goes both ways. I see time and time again how everyone in the triad - birth parents, adoptive parents and children - are so very, very vulnerable. We are all. And no, I don't how a first parent can fully trust adoptive parents. I have a hard time trusting my day care lady LOL! I would imagine you never fully feel comfortable with it, even if you can see yourself how your child is doing. I have often wondered how they can feel confident in their decision just based on a profile (that is how I was chosen - a simple computer generated scrap book).

I don't have all the answers. And yes, I have fears, as I believe my son's first mom does. Probably all the same fears that you have described and then some. I can tell that she is afraid I will cut off contact with her, even though I am always telling her I value her relationship with my son and I often initiate the contact.

In my head, I get it all and I know most of my fears are irrational. Maybe it is part of the newness of this too. I have only had my son for 7 months and it takes awhile to build a real relationship with someone. I can often talk myself out of the irrational fears I have and real contact with my son's first mom always, always reassures me as well. It is a strange thing, this open adoption, isn't it? To share someone (your child) so intimately and yet to know that person so little. I know bits and pieces about my son's first mom. We talk, e-mail and had lunch while I was in her state to pick him up. But we certainly don't know each other in a very intimate way. I can't think of any other relationship where trust is so vital and yet you have so very little information to go on.

As long as we are discussing things about the adoption process, I have a couple of questions for you. I realize they are simply your opinion but I am curious to get your opinion on these things.

I finalized my son's adoption on Monday. I e-mailed my son's first mom, as well as put pictures of us up on the blog I created for her. They are pictures of my son in his suit, at court and at the restaurant celebrating afterwards. I wanted to tell her that the legal process was done. In my my e-mail and my blog, I mentioned that I didn't know if this would make her feel better or worse (it is what she wanted, when she chose adoption, but I know it seems so permanent). Would you have wanted to know when that legal process was done with? I just wasn't sure how to go about it and, in the end, I just decided to do it. I thought she would want to know, even if it hurt to hear it. She isn't always open about her feelings about things and I try to ask but not pry - to give her the space to talk if she wants to or to let it go.

Another questions: how would it feel to hear Izzy call her adoptive mom "Mom"? I am planning a visit with his first mom this summer and this is one area I am not sure how to prepare for. I know she gets it in her head, but hearing it may be a whole different matter. Aside from acknowledging that it may be difficult for her to hear, what else would you want to hear?

What do you think about adoptive parents paying for birth parent expenses? (living expenses - rent, food, clothing, medical, etc)

birthmothertalks said...

Tammy, I try to answer your questions tomorrow. It's a little late.

birthmothertalks said...

I think when the birthparents really are educated about adoption and what everything means I don't think the finalization of the adoption would be too upsetting. I say that because what I understand is most cases once you sign the TRP their is no going back. So, really that legal part of it has nothing to do with birthparents. However, in my case without the education on adoption it was a very sad event for me. When I learned that it was final. I thought, it meant that at any time during the 6 months or so I could have gotten her back. Before it was final, I knew she was gone forever. So, I took it very hard. Because I knew my Dad would have been willing to help me, if only, he had time to process it all. I don't remember at one point that I learned it had nothing to do with me. Also, I never knew that the couple I choose could still be denied permission to adopt her. I didn't know they were still being checked out with home studies. I didn't even know what a home study was. So, being that she knows more about adoption, I do think it's good that you shared this with her.
I think hearing call her adoptive Mom, Mom might sting, but it is what she is and I wouldn't expect anything less out of her. I do think that seeing the Mother daughter bond would upset me more than just the word. "Mom" You can't be afraid to use the word Mom around her, because you are his Mom. However, she did parent him for his first six months so it's only natural that she will probably feel some hurt over it, but I don't know how to avoid it. I think the important part is to remember that he has two Moms that love him and there is no reason she can't know what his favorite food is or what makes him giggle.
I haven't really thought much on adoptive parents paying for the birth parents for the medical, clothing, rent and food and stuff.
I don't know how any adoptive parent can afford to pay someones full medical bill, but it has to be paid. It doesn't seem right for the birth parent to carry a huge bill. So, hopefully they are insured.
I think the money part is tricky. Because it gives if the birth parents was given funds by the adoptive parent they might feel more pressure to go through with the adoption even if they were deciding to think about parenting. I am thinking that I think while maybe some assistance should be offered, but it shouldn't be pushed on them. So, for example, the agency shouldn't be trying to entice them with funds. I do think that the agency should figure this cost into your adoption and if the birth parents don't need it then refund it back to you. Thanks for asking what I thought on these subjects.