Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reopening a closed adoption

If you've spent any amount of time reading adoption boards, you have probably run into the topic of open adoptions becoming closed. Most often we are hearing about it from a first mom's point of view. How she was promised an open adoption - regular visits, updates, pictures - and how once the adoption was legally finalized, POOF, the openness is gone. No more updates, visits not being scheduled, and in some extreme cases the adoptive family has even moved, never to be found again. The first moms' are posting looking for support, ideas on how to approach the adoptive family and just a place to vent.

Occasionally you hear the adoptive parent's side of things - it's too confusing for the child, it's interrupting our life, we all need to move on. They are also posting looking for support, and depending on the type of board it is, they may very well get it. (I've personally stopped frequenting those types of boards any more because they make my blood boil.) Usually they are looking for others to help justify their actions. To me, if you need some internet stranger to help you decide if what you are doing is right, chances are, that deep down, you know it isn't. But that's just me.

As always, the one side that is not being heard from is the adoptees themselves. Now it could be that most of them are still too young to be dealing with the emotional issues of an open adoption becoming closed, since open adoptions are pretty new. Or, if their adoption was one that was closed very quickly, maybe they never knew that they were supposed to have contact with their first families and believe that theirs has always been a closed adoption. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years as these kids grow up discover the truth. What will they have to say about it?

There is another scenario that can occur, one that you do hear about, but not as often. And it is this scenario that we fall into with Liam's adoption. We, (Hilary and I, the adoptive parents) want a fully open adoption. We want visits, letters and pictures exchanged, chit-chatty phone calls or emails. This was the "plan" before Liam was born and we were working out the details with his mom. (yes we had a pre-birth match, something that if I knew what I knew today, I would never have considered)

Right after Liam was born we lost contact with her for about 4 years, re-established contact for about 1.5 years and have not heard from her in the past year. (I think I know some of the reasons for why she has stopped contact - mostly it being too hard emotionally for her.)

The struggle now is how to reach out again? We promised, as part of the adoption agreement, to send letters and pictures at a minimum of twice a year. We continue to do that and will continue to do it because that is what we agreed to. But is it fair for us to keep pushing for more contact, or to hear back from her? Are we doing it for us or for Liam? I think that right now it is for me more then anyone. Being an adoptee who has gone through reunion and all the secrets and emotional roller coasters that reunion entails, I want to protect Liam from that. Liam is mostly oblivious to adoption right now. He hasn’t brought it up on his own since last summer when he declared that he missed “K”. I wonder if he doesn’t bring it up because he is okay with it right now, or because “K” is no longer someone we communicate regularly with and he notices the absence. How much is me pushing my emotions and baggage from my adoption into his?

Are there any other adoptive parents out there in this type of situation? What have you done to overcome it? First moms – what would you suggest? How much pushing is too much?

To me, this is the grey area that would make legalizing open adoptions sticky. I wouldn’t want to be in a position of FORCING “K’ into having contact. Because really? What good would that do anyone?
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