This Roundtable prompt is from Jessica at O Solo Mama. A week or so ago, she asked seven questions about open adoptions. Lots of better bloggers than me already answered them. I, being a not-so-hot adoption blogger, did not. So then…here are her questions and my answers.
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?
Frankly, there are a lot of things and people working against openness in adoption. There are huge misconceptions out there, and they’re fanned up by those who should know better – adoption “professionals”, media types, “well meaning” relatives on every side, etc, etc, etc. It takes a hell of a commitment to not listen to those whispers in your ears: “If she gave her away, what does she want visits for?” “You should just move on with your life/let her move on with her life.” “Don’t give too much information away – you can never get it back.” They go on and on.
Open adoption is a fairly new phenomenon in the adoption world. There are some models of successful open adoptions, but mostly families make things up as they go. Believe it or not, adoptive and first families are human, and humans fsck things up. People flake on their commitments. People get frightened. Sh*t happens. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. It certainly doesn’t make things right. Then again, there are people who honor their commitments and do what they need to do for their child’s sake – open their adoption and keep it open, in whatever way all parties can agree will happen.
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?
I can’t address the first two parts of the question, as I am an adoptive parent and would not presume to speak for my daughter’s first family.
The final part of this question is something that has bothered me from the start of our adoption. About 5 years ago, when School Girl was about…3, M dropped out of sight and touch completely. From what we gathered from her parents, she had a serious struggle with depression. They asked us for ways to get in touch with her social worker. I was stunned. I was so stupid that I didn’t realize contact after finalization was not proactive on the part of a first families’ social worker. She had told M, apparently, to “get in touch if she needed her”. Which is exactly the wrong thing to tell someone who might be at risk of serious depression. As far as I can gather (in our state anyway), they’re on their own.
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.
Yes. Especially since a) we have close family friends who are same-sex families and b) we have to deal with our biofamilies once in a blue moon or so in person. School Girl knows that she has two mums and two dads and that’s that.
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?)
Yes. That’s another post all by itself.
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?
We haven’t come across that particular situation. However, School Girl has brought up the subject of being “given away” (her words). She’s still deciding whether or not to bring it up with M.
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 cannot say that with any confidence at all. Sorry.
7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?
Other than issues of safety, no. My personal opinion, but no.