To Whom It May Concern

I got two emails from Ruth at the beginning of the month, two in a week, which is pretty unusual—the first to confirm that I will write them a letter of recommendation, the second to send me guidelines. I was a little sad about getting guidelines, since I had a pretty good plan in place for the letter, but I am slooowly adapting.

The guidelines include a list of points to address, one of those being “How would you feel about placing your child, or one you are personally interested in, with the applicants?” It seems likely that I’m not reading this question the way that it’s meant to be read; my first response was along the lines of “I would have lost my child, I would be heartbroken, why on earth are you asking me this?” I then decided not to answer it at all—now I’ve written a new response that sort of indirectly addresses the point, and I’m deciding whether to leave it in. My answer talks about how Mr. Book and I regret the adoption, but that seeing what great parents Ruth and Nora are is the silver lining. I don’t think Ruth or Nora will ever read the letter, but of course it’s possible that they’ll end up hearing details from it. I’ve decided that I’m okay with that, I asked Mr. Book and he’s okay with that—but ideally, of course, they won’t. I know that they don’t want to know, and I can’t really blame them. I also want to leave it in because I think it explains the conspicuous absence of “I am so happy with our open adoption” or “I’m so glad that I placed my son with the applicants.” On the other hand, I don’t want to ambush Ruth or Nora, so I’m open to advice.

I have to send this letter by the end of the month. I have a draft finished, I’ve tinkered with it a bit, but it still sounds a bit stilted. Go figure. I assume I’ll get another email from Ruth sometime this week reminding me of the deadline. My mom asked whether Mr. Book couldn’t write the letter instead, and I said that he couldn’t, because he doesn’t like them at all; it’s so weird that this is where we’ve ended up.

19 thoughts on “To Whom It May Concern

  1. Write what you want to write and how you want to write it. Don’t worry about their “guidelines.” In fact, completely ignore them.

    Don’t worry. It will not somehow prevent Ruth & Nora from adopting again. Frankly, you could say awful things and it probably wouldn’t. I worked, very briefly, in the adoption industry writing home study reports. (Not as a social worker. The social worker did the visits then sent me all of his notes and I wrote the report and sent it back for him to make the final edit.) I stopped because I became disillusioned and all the glowing reports, some of which I felt were not valid. Prospective adoptive parents would need criminal records to not get approved for adoption. But now I am being cynical.

    Anyway, just write it how you want to.

    • Yeah, I know that this letter isn’t going to be make or break for them; they will adopt again whatever we do. I think I will talk about regretting the adoption, not in a blame-y kind of way, but because I think it explains the oddly cool tone of my praise. I have drawn a line in my head, however—if they want me to talk to someone they’re matched with, I just don’t think I can. Now, how to put it? “I don’t think that would turn out well for you” is right out….

      • Putting myself in Ruth and Nora’s shoes, I think it would be fine for you to say “If I was talking to anyone contemplating placement I’m afraid I’d just tell them not to do it no matter who the adoptive parents are. Since I don’t think that is what expectant moms want to hear, I probably better not, for her sake.” thereby leaving Ruth and Nora’s goodness or badness out of it, or even making them seem like the cream of the crop so far as adopters go, but highlighting that that is beside the point…

        Even if Ruth and Nora don’t want to hear all the ways it sucks for you or have ongoing dialogue about that, the fact that it does suck should be able to be spoken. They don’t get to insist the world sanitize for them any more than the rest of us, do they?

  2. Are the guidelines from Ruth and Nora, or from the agency? I know that when we adopted Liam, our friends and family got similar questionnaires to fill out. We did copies of them from the agency, but only after each person had written to the agency allowing them to disclose them to us (we wanted copies for Liam’s baby book and everyone had made us copies except one, so we got it from the agency).

    That being said, i would have felt horrible if anyone had felt obligated to write something they didn’t believe or feel. Write what you want, and if you honestly don’t think they should adopt again, you should say so.

    • They’re agency guidelines: a list of eight points they want us to hit. Most of it seems logical to me (Do you see the applicants’ relationship as strong enough to weather difficult circumstances?”), but that one is crappily different.

  3. I think you need to say it as a great big heads up to the agency about the questions but also as a reminder that the women who place have lives & feelings after placement.

  4. hmm, if they’re agency guidelines, i would consider writing a note to the agency pointing out the obvious issues with the wording of that question. not that you should feel any responsibility to do this—it’s not your job!—just that this might be an additional way to address the ickiness of that question.

    as to the letter, i strongly feel that you should write it the way you want—even to the point of actually including the problems in your “open” adoption—but i can also see myself being terrified of n & r’s reaction if they get wind of anything negative, given their apparent tendency to go cool in reaction to perceived slights. given that, i think the approach you describe strikes a good balance between honesty and protecting your relationship to them.

    ultimately, i just don’t think it’s okay that they asked you to do this, given the power differential in your relationship. but i guess it’s just another example of them being completely blind to their faults and thinking everything is hunky-dory. i really hope someone slaps me repeatedly upside the head if i ever treat my son’s mama that way.

  5. Based on the way the question is worded, I don’t think it’s designed to be for someone in your role. I think it’s meant for other people in the adoptive parents’ lives. Say, a friend from church or something. “If the kid being placed was your kid, or your nephew, or your goddaughter, how would you feel about the applicants as parents?” Since the kid is indeed your kid, it seems like this is sort of moot. You could skip it altogether, you could mention, as you suggested, that the one bright spot is knowing that your child is not in harm’s way. Cricket is safe and loved. Would you do that again? Not in a million years, and definitely make sure you reiterate that too, or at least gently speak of your challenges. Best to you and Mr. Book!

  6. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but it just seems SO insensitive that they’ve asked you to write the letter at all. It seems very dismissive of the feelings you might have–despite that they don’t want to know you have those feelings–it doesn’t erase them.

    However, maybe a “we DID put our trust in this couple to care for our child, and he is growing into a wonderful, healthy, beautiful boy in their care; his needs, to our knowledge, are being met.” would be truthful, but not gushy.

    • Wow – I can’t believe they’ve asked you to be a reference for them. If our second adoption had been different to how it was, there’s no way in hell I’d have asked D to write a reference for us, because it seems so…insensitive. And of course you’re a “great” reference, what with having already placed a child with them and all – but that’s *exactly* why it is as insensitive as it is.

      Anyway, since you’ve agreed to do it, and since I agree that the question absolutely wasn’t intended for someone in your position in their lives – there was a similar question on ours, but worded better in that it asked whether the reference would trust us with his or her own children (not as parents; just as babysitters or taking a kid out with us somewhere or whatnot) – that the answer in the comment I’m replying to is probably the way to go.

      • That does sound like preferable wording, although I know that probably very few people reading these guidelines are birthparents = it’s not a big deal from the agency perspective.

  7. I have to say that I (also) think it fairly strange that they asked you to write the letter. It makes me wonder if they have any idea of how you perceive them, or what the reality of the relationship is from your position. I wish there was more empathy there on their side of things, the willingness to acknowledge that this experience is a tragic one for first moms and that maybe you don’t want to relive it by recommending them to someone else. hmph.

  8. This whole thing must feel so strange. I like the direction in which you’re taking the letter. I would probably expect R&N to have access to it, but maybe they won’t mention it. I’m wondering how their second match and adoption process will affect your relationship (in the immediate term and in a few years). Only time will tell, but maybe there could be some improvements down the line.

  9. This just makes me so sad. I agree with others that it’s unfair they’ve asked you to write the letter. They seem to have an expectation that the letter will be positive, yet they’ve made little effort to understand your feelings and how this adoption has affected you. Although nothing you write will keep them from adopting again, maybe it will help guide the choice of a parent who places with them, or chooses not to. Good luck.

  10. i think you really can see guidelines as “suggestions.” then write what you want, including that you are sad & wish things different. you won’t be bashing them in sharing your experience, that’s the truth. you are finally too generous to bash ’em.

    • I really like Sarah’s suggestion to write what you like. Since you feel regret, expressing it is authentic. You are far too kind to bash R&N, and if damning with faint praise is what is comfortable for you, I support you.

      I do think it’s insensitive for R&N to ask you to write this letter, but they seem very insensitive in general. I wouldn’t be altogether surprised if they asked/demanded to read it before you give it to the agency, as if they hold editorial power.

      • I agree *surprise* with Kara. I wish they would ask me to write the letter. I would write a very good letter complete with illustrations. And exciting adjectives like “great” and “big” in it.

        It is all so ooky, and speaks to the desperate need of reform needed and lack of gravity from the industry’s stand point.

  11. As an adoptive mom I would never ask my sons’ first parents for something like this, just as I would not expect them to ask me for (money, favors, etc.) something inappropriate. So I think it’s positively sucky they asked this of you, and it makes me mad you have to fret over this. I agree with Sarah – write what you want.

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