1. If open adoption is so great, why do so many people suck at it? By this I mean, not honouring commitments, closing the adoption, telling the other family they’re not “doing this thing” correctly or playing the “for the sake of the child” card?
I don’t think there’s a good reason not to honour commitments; however, I think I can shed light on WHY this happens. Open adoption is emotionally difficult for all parties especially at the beginning. It’s difficult for us as adoptive parents to “claim” a child as our own when you know that their biological parents also have a deep claim on the child. Parenting means loving a child so deeply you’d fight off a tiger or lift up a car or run into traffic to save them from harm. My theory is that adoptive parents need to feel that way in order to truly become parents. They need time alone with the baby or child to establish that deep protective bond. That said, we had many visits from our son’s birthfamily at the beginning, and we now visit them regularly. We all found it emotionally challenging but we did it anyway. Open adoption takes courage, and it’s important that everyone challenge themselves to face their fears and feelings and grow from them. In the end, your world gets bigger not smaller.
2. From the standpoint of first parents, open adoption sounds like something that could prolong suffering. Could this suffering potentially outweigh the good of knowing where your child is? Who helps the first parent?
I can’t speak for birthparents but I think it’s true for all difficult situations that it’s better to face your reality that hide from it. Of course there are limits and comfort levels that need to be negotiated.
3. I’m guessing kids are not hung up on how many relatives they have. Tell me that the thing that hangs up the public all the time about open adoption and other unconventional relationships—two mommies, two daddies, three, four, parents—is the least of your worries because it seems to me it is.
A lot of children of divorce wind up with multiple parents and grandparents so I think the jury is out on that one. In many countries, children are surrounded by aunties and uncles, grand relatives and multiple siblings – the village motif if you will. I think and hope that children adjust to their reality and what they are used to. Beside, the more people that care about a child the better in my opinion.
4. Do you ever feel like you should give this child back? Does the thought ever seize you totally as you watch your child with her bio-family: “ooops?”
I have definitely felt pangs when I’ve seen our son with his birthparents. They look so much alike, and they all clearly adore each other. In a perfect world, he would be with them. But there’s an assumption implicit in that statement that his birthparents could raise him. I know, and they know (they have said so), that placing him with us was the best thing for him and for them.
5. How do children ever cope with knowing they could not be kept? When they see their natural parents having more kids, what do they think? Who helps the child in this situation? Both sets of parents?
I think when our son realizes his birthparents circumstances and the fact that he is well-loved and cared for with us, he will understand that he came to us from a place of caring and love. I believe that he will have siblings in the future and I trust that he will get to meet and know them. Clearly, we would have to work this one out in the future. Again, I think it’s better that he know them and his situation and than pretend it’s not there.
6. Can you say comfortably that some surrendering mothers could not cope with an open adoption or do you think that it should always be the standard?
I know a lot of adoptive parents and I’ve seen the gamut. I’ve seen adoptive parents who have tried repeatedly to have contact with their children’s birthmothers who have totally disappeared and want no contact. I’ve seen semi-open adoptions where the birthmother has said, call me when my child is a teenager. I’ve seen fully closed adoptions open up at the request of the birthmother. I’ve seen closed adoptions open up at the request of the birthmother. I’ve heard of adoptive families closing up adoptions. The reality is in this day and age, the adoptee will be able to find his or her birthparents in the future. The way that information is shared nowadays is going to make retreat very difficult.
7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behaviours) to close an adoption totally?
Obviously cases of abuse and extreme illegal activity can result in a closed adoption; however, I still think all children should have access to their birth information no matter how difficult the circumstances of their beginnings.