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 listed at Open Adoption Bloggers 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.
This round is a smidge different–time for some cross-blog pollination! Lori of Write Mind Open Heart, an adoptive parent in two open adoptions, has up at her blog a set of eleven questions about open adoption which were posed to her by JoAnne, an adult adoptee in a closed adoption. There are some great questions there about the role adoption professionals played arranging contact in your adoptions and how you understand the legal weight of any open adoption agreements you may have.
1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?
Yes, of course. I cannot tell you how many times I have read condescending explanations to the tune of:
If you wanted to have contact/a relationship/some idea of whether your placed child is alive or dead, you shouldn’t have placed that child for adoption.
I don’t think people smugging it up about ~*~real ~*~parenthood on the internet are the only ones who feel that way, either. Heck, I listen to an adoption/infertility podcast every week, and on the last episode, a social worker who does adoptions said that she thinks legally binding open adoption agreements are a bad idea because adoptive parents need to be able to be the real parents. I don’t quite understand the mindset that agreeing to a visit once a year (in our case) stops people from doing more or less whatever they want to their children, but I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one.
On the other hand: I have a friend who placed a child for adoption only to have the adoptive parents promptly move across state lines and close the adoption. Her son is now in middle school, and my friend has found his older sister on Facebook. I think it’s getting less and less possible to hide yourself and your family forever; while adoptive parents can do whatever they please, the reality is that their kids may very well use available tech to look for birth family without any guidance or help from their parents.
I should also say that in our adoption, which I think is a pretty functional one, the adoptive parents don’t meet the terms of the agreement. (In our agreement, we birth parents are only “permitted” and not obligated to do anything—but we do that which is permitted.)
2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?
In our case, the agency used by the adoptive parents counsels them, but we had very little guidance or mediation for the four of us during the process and have had none since placement.
5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?
I don’t believe so.
6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?
Well . . . nothing. I mean, theoretically we could take them to court, but I don’t think that most birth parents have the resources to hire a lawyer etc. It’s hard for me to imagine that that process would make it easier to have a relationship. And I don’t know of any agreement that has actually been legally tested, so they may all end up not being binding after all. In practice, if things really broke down for the adoptive parents, they would I believe go to their agency for help—we (the birth parents) don’t have access to agency support, and would probably just keep trying to contact them every so often but otherwise give up.
7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?
Manners? Rational self-interest? Not being a paint-huffing crazy lady? I mean, maybe I should turn this one around: What stops the adoptive parents from coming to my house unannounced? Well, that would be rude and destructive to the relationship, and it’s hard to imagine it going over very well. We just aren’t that close. Heck, I wouldn’t turn up at my sister’s house without checking in with her.
The assumption that birth parents have no boundaries is pretty insulting. I’m participating in a study tracking birth parents, adoptive parents, and placed kids, and every time they interview me, I get asked literally dozens of questions like: What was the last time that your actions got you in legal trouble? What is the last time that you started a fire? What is the last time that you used illegal drugs? Does your use of illegal drugs prevent you from doing the things you want to do? (Never, never, never, and did you not notice the never? for the curious.) The birth parents I know are living their lives and missing their kids. When I really, badly miss Cricket and wish I could see him, I feel sad; I write on the blog; sometimes I bake.
8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?
I don’t think there are, but I’m interested to see what will happen.
9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?
Not that I know of. I think that those who oppose open adoption can simply opt out.
10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?
Well, as to the first question, that’s something that his moms will decide. I will say that if Ruth emailed me tomorrow and said that Cricket said he doesn’t want to have a visit, I would ask whether we could see whether he feels differently in six months—in the meantime, of course, we would be willing to not send him cards or gifts. I would probably keep exchanging emails with Ruth, but we have an independent relationship that I don’t think it would be appropriate for him to control. (Cricket is two and a half, by the way.) If he wants to cut off contact with us, we will accept that; we’d grieve, and we’d hope for an eventual change of heart, but I’d never want to force a relationship on him. At the same time, if his moms agreed, I might ask whether we could keep on sending cards for him to them that they could save and give to him if he ever wanted that.
11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?
Open Adoption Support is a good one—beyond that, I’ve gotten good and kind information just by emailing bloggers.