Saturday, February 27, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable # 14

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.

For this round Lori of Weebles Wobblog reached back through time to a post Heather wrote lo these many months ago after spending an afternoon with her daughter's first mom. In it, she wondered aloud if there was a common definition of a successful open adoption. Is it even possible to define, given the myriad factors involved? Here's how Lori poses the question:

If there's one thing we all might agree on, it's that we'd like our open adoptions to be successful. But what does "success" mean to you, when speaking about open adoption? Do you think it may mean something else to the others in your triad?

Wow, this is a tough one.  One thing I can say for sure is that our open adoption plan for Liam's adoption is definitely NOT successful.  He's never met his Mom, his brother or his sister.  We no longer have contact or updates from K.  By definition his adoption is closed.

For me, the success of an Open Adoption lies in how well the needs, wants and desires of the adoptee are being met. After all, adoption is supposed to be about them (us), right?
  • Can the adoptee contact their first family when they want to?  
  • Does the adoptee have the type of relationship with their first family that they want to have?
  • Does the adoptee feel that it's okay to be in contact with their first family and not pressured by either  family to chose sides?  
  • Are there no secrets or lies surrounding the adoption?
  • Does the adoptee have access to medical history, their genetic background, their heritage?
  • Does the adoptee consider the open adoption a success?
If the answer is YES to these questions, then I would say that the OA is successful and working for the people involved even if the adoptive parents and the first parents felt that it was not successful by their definition. Because it's not about them.


RMF said...

I think that's a fair definition of a successful open adoption for an adult adoptee. I'm not sure I agree with it at your stage now, because your son isn't old enough to know what he wants from an open adoption. He's certainly not interested in medical records and so forth.

While I can see that an open adoption could be really rewarding for a child--more relatives who love him, more support, and the opportunity to see a variety of families working (for example, three sets of grandparents with different ways of running households and different Christmas traditions) I don't think that young children would feel the absence of that necessarily. Young children (by this I mean second or third grade and under) tend to accept the world the way they see it, and not look for other things unless they are invited to. I'm not saying that my Kid never thinks or wonders about her birthmom, but I seriously doubt that she has any of the concerns you outline in your blog, only because she's not old enough to think that way.

And I also know adult adoptees who don't regret their closed adoptions.

So I guess I'm wondering whether an unsuccessful open adoption can still be a successful adoption--and a fulfilling life experience--for the adoptee. And while I think that all parents should put the needs of their children first, your post brings up questions for me about the rights of birthparents. I've always thought that placing your child for adoption absolves you of responsibility toward that child. A birthparent is giving all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood to the adoptive parent(s), I thought. But clearly you disagree, and feel that your child's birth family still has many responsibilities towards him. But what about those who can't or don't want to fulfill those responsibilities?

As you know, I'm not in an open adoption, and I'm not an adoptee, so I haven't thought about this nearly as much as you have. These are just questions that came up for me as I read your post. I'd be interested to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

I am in a similar situation, Andy, in that what I thought was going to be an OA is not. And, like you, I still want it to be a succesfull adoption, according to the child over the long run.

RMF's point makes me think about the PROCESS of OA, and how do you measure it as a child vs as an adult?

A happy life can still have points of discontent. Likewise, a successful OA can have times of discomfort.

I don't think placing necessarily absolves first parents completely of responsibility -- esPECially in OA. Legally, yes. Emotionally, not really.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fairly new subscriber to your blog, an I'm an adoptive parent of a 3 year old girl. Open adoption is so much harder than I thought it would be! I don't want to tell my daughter (when she's older) about some of the choices her birth family is making now. I do have contact to varying degrees (phone, IM & e-mail) with both birth parents, and often all I see is how complicated it will be to explain once she starts asking questions. I see a lot of broken promises in her future relationship with them, and it makes me so sad. Maybe they'll get their acts together before she notices. I really, really hope so. I would like to know more about what other parents tell their kids when the promises of gifts, calls, visits, etc. don't happen. My husband's inclination at this point is to maybe limit her contact with them, just so they don't hurt her. But that can't go on forever, can it?

Andy said...

@RMF- I do realize that this post is very slanted from an adults perspective. That is mostly because I don't think the success of an OA can truly be determined until the adoptee is old enough to determine it for themselves. It might be working for everyone (child included) when the adoptee is young, but until they can truly reflect on it, they can't deem it to have been successful.

For your question "So I guess I'm wondering whether an unsuccessful open adoption can still be a successful adoption--and a fulfilling life experience--for the adoptee." For me, the 2 things are separate, and I'm not even sure how to define a successful adoption. The first thing that springs to mine is one that was done legally and has paperwork. ;) If the adult adoptee is happy with the level of contact (even if that is none) then the OA, in my mind, is successful for THAT adoptee.

And yes, I do believe that first parents continue to have responsibilities. Maybe not legally, but emotionally and even morally. I don't believe that you can bring a person into the world and then expect to severe all ties and walk just walk away. That person you brought into the world deserves more. I wish I knew the answer to what to do when they can't or won't be there. If I did, maybe Liam's OA would have a little more O in it.