Saturday, November 7, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable #9

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

Publish your response during the next two weeks--linking back here so we can all find one other--and leave a link to your post in the comments. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

This round we're going to consider one critique of fully open adoptions. Have you ever heard--or perhaps even made--statements like these?

"We have medical histories and can share the information we have about their birth parents with our children now. If they feel a need to initiate contact with their birth families when they are adults, we will fully support them."
"The decision to have a relationship with her bio family should be hers when she is ready. Creating a relationship between them before she wants it might cause issues in the future."
"Children deserve to have just one family during childhood and not to deal with anything adoption-related until they are more mature. A fully open adoption robs a child of a normal childhood."
These statements are from people participating in closed and semi-open adoptions. I paraphrased them slightly, but left the meanings intact.

The writers share a certain point-of-view: that direct contact during early childhood between birth families and children placed for adoption may not be the best idea. Adopted persons should be free to initiate relationships with their first families--or not--on their own timetable. The parents (first and adoptive) in an adoption shouldn't make such an important and personal decision for them.

What is your response? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I'm going to look at this question from my adoptee point of view, as if it were my (adoptive) parents who were making these statements. Maybe it will give other potential adoptive parents, or current adoptive parents some insight into how these thoughts may affect their children.

Mine was a closed adoption, so this is mostly theoretical. But I would have been PISSED if I had found out as an adult that my parents had either known my first family, knew how to contact them or kept them from me in any way.

The closest actual thing that did occur was that my mom applied for and received a packet of non-identifying information about my first family. She got this info when I was 13 when I asked her to get it as I was underage and could not apply myself. The information arrived within 6 months. Want to know when my mother gave it to me? 17 years later when I was 30! Her reason for not giving it to me sooner? I stopped asking for it. At 13, 6 months is a long time to wait for something. I asked a few times during the first weeks, but then stopped asking. Not because I no longer wanted it, but because I TRUSTED MY MOM to tell me when it arrived. Yeah... that didn't work out so swell.

Kids are a lot more resilient then adults want to believe. They are not confused by having more family members, or multiple families. Kids of divorce and remarriage navigate this road all the time without adults trying to shield them from it.

Trying to create relationships 30 years after the fact causes a lot more complications then if everyone grows and learns those relationships from the get go. Trust me. I only met my first mother when I was 30 and it is way more complicated then I could of ever imagined. If I had had the chance to know her when I was little? I doubt it would have been this complicated, since it would have become the "normal" for all of us. Now it is anything but normal.

To me these statements are a load of hooey that adults hide behind because of their own fears. They have nothing to do with what is best for the child, but only what is best for the adults.


luna said...

thanks for sharing your perspective, andy. I think it is really helpful for people to hear firsthand how difficult reunion can be when there has been no information or contact.

also your point about multiple families is a good one. kids "get" that they have multiple grandparents and aunts and uncles, they understand who step parents are. I think it's more confusing to adults than to children.

SustainableFamilies said...

I'm going to participate at my blog!

(gimme a minute to write it lol)

And I enjoyed hearing your perspective Andy.

SustainableFamilies said...

ok I did it!

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Excellent point about other family configurations.

And the trust issue is so big. I hope that even if my kids get mad at me, end up on a therapist's couch because of me -- I hope that at least they can say that they always trusted me.

I so appreciate your viewpoint, Andy.

Leigh said...

Hi Andy, thanks for your comment! I really appreciated reading your perspective on this. These days I am soooo curious to learn about the adoptee's perspective (trying to speculate as to what my b-daughter may feel).