Wednesday, November 4, 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 can find out more over at Production, Not Reproduction. The new prompt is in response to a criticism of open adoption. "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 taking a [brief] break from NaNoWriMo. I haven't yet my [self appointed] daily quota, so I will need to be brief.

In response to questions like this, I have to first say, we always do what is best for the child. We--all of us--adoptive parents and birth parents alike. I will always always always follow the lead of his PARENTS where my son's well-being is concerned.

But with regards to this question, I'd like to propose that birth parents stop getting treated like invaders in the life of their birth-children. While we are not the child's PARENT, we are nevertheless invested in them, their family, their success, and their happiness.

Look at it like this: say that I am a child. I have an aunt who is really close to my family. Maybe she has a really great relationship with my parents. This means that she's going to be a part of my life from a very young age. At first, I'm not really going to have a choice whether she's in my life--and I'm probably not going to care. However, it's still my choice whether to have a relationship with her. I still get to decide--whether consciously or un--whether I like her or not. My parents may dictate how often I see her as I grow up, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go out of my way to talk to her or bond with her. It's my choice. And as I get older, the choice becomes more and more my own. If I like her and I want to talk to her, I will. If I don't, I won't. And that relationship may change and flux over time--maybe when I'm 10 I couldn't care less about my crazy aunt, but when I'm 17 suddenly she seems really cool and I want to talk to her every week. Regardless--it's always up to me.

Of course we don't FORCE the child to have a relationship with his birth family. But we are FAMILY nonetheless. There is a genetic as well as an emotional bond. But if that bond isn't initiated by the adult in the relationship, it may never happen. A child won't see the value of knowing his birth family. A child won't instinctively know that he would be happier growing up with them in his life. It's up to the adults--his parents and his birth parents--to guide him until he is ready to determine those things for himself.

And speaking for myself, my son's parents have told me that they believe A) that he is more well-balanced and self aware because he knows he is adopted and B) that he is more secure in his self-identity because he can see my face and hear me tell him that I love him. That's the beauty of open adoption--none of us are left with questions. We take each day, each month, and each year at a time, always keeping the child's best interest at the forefront of our relationships.


  1. Amen! I was going to respond to this prompt as well, but I think you've said everything I wanted to say better than I could have said it.

  2. I love your aunt example, how you break down the fact that there is still a whole lot of emotional choice even in a pre-existing relationship.

    @Jill Elizabeth - I hope you do respond! You may think you have nothing to add to what Valerie wrote, but every slightly different take contributes to the conversation.

  3. this is such an important piece of OA that people forget about: "B) that he is more secure in his self-identity because he can see my face and hear me tell him that I love him. "

    I think that would have a made a huge difference for me growing up if I could have had that.