Here is this month's Open Adoption Roundtable prompt:
Jessica from O Solo Mama is an adoptive parent via international adoption (and a fabulous writer). She's been listening to us tell our stories (especially those who participated in last year's interview project) and thinking about open adoption--why it sometimes seems to work, why it sometimes seems not to work, what's really going on for those of us living it. The other week she asked seven questions of those of us in open adoptions. Seven really, really good questions.
So I am going to give it a shot, best I can. Here we go:
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 think the answer to this question can be summed up as simply as "relationships are complicated." You could just as easily say "If family is so great, why do so many people suck at it" or "If marriage is so great, why do so many people suck at it?" It is hard to be in relationship with people. Forming families is always chaotic - forming families through adoption is potentially more chaotic, and doing it through open adoption means that adoptive families have more access to the chaos surrounding their child's birth than families who don't meet the first parents, see their grief, attempt to be connected to them while also connecting to their child etc. People screw it up because it's hard. That doesn't mean it's not good, or even better than closed adoptions. It is just more honest, with more reality visible on all sides of the triad.
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 think this is an area that could be improved upon. From what I know, which is limited, Z is being helped by the agency. But the help they are giving her is pretty basic and related to her unique situation. When I read blogs by first moms it seems like agencies often fail in this area. I'm not qualified to speak for first parents, that is not my experience, but from what I understand knowing that your child is loved, cared for, alive, etc. is preferable to no information at all. Which is what first parents in closed adoptions have to live with.
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.
This is the least of my worries. The more adults a child has that are deeply invested in her future well-being the better, I say.
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?” (OR for f-parents: Do you ever feel as though you need to take this child back? That nothing is stopping you beside an agreement that feels false? Does that feeling go away?)
I have never seen J with her first family, so this one is hard to answer. But knowing what we do about her first mother's situation it very much seems that Z was not in a position to parent, and still is not. After our failed match with Y, who was capable of parenting and chose to do so, it became very important to me that our adoption be a situation where the need was obvious. This will remain true in the future.
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 don't know the answer to this. But I don't think that keeping parentage a secret, i.e. closed adoption, is the answer. And I don't see a huge difference between the "why" and "why me" questions that may come up for J and the questions that may come up for our friend's internationally adopted daughter. Both will have to deal with some amount of mystery around their origins and wondering about the choices their first parents made. The difference is that J can go ask about it, she can seek out people who look like her, and if Z decides to open our adoption more she can grow up feeling connected to her first mom, instead of searching when she is an adult. Kids in closed or international adoptions don't have that option.
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?
My position is that no one but the first mom has the right to close an adoption. I personally feel that the only really ethical stance for an adoptive parent to take is one of openness. It is harder, yes. It is more complicated, yes. But we, the adoptive parents, are the ones signing up for this. We're the ones claiming to have enough stability, security, and resources to be gifted with a child to parent. We should be able to work through our stuff and be present to the first mother to the extent that works for her as she works out her grief and level of comfort.
7. Is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behavior) to close an adoption totally? Every adoption is different. And the system isn't perfect. So I'll answer a question with a question - is there ever a reason (aside from extreme/illegal behavior) to completely cut off a family member? To refuse to speak to a parent forever? To cut a sibling out of your life with no recourse, no question, no future possibility of contact or reconciliation? Because that is what a "closed" adoption does.