Can We Talk?

OK, hands up: Who thinks open adoption needs reform?

If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. Lots of people who have gone through the process (and even those who haven’t) believe that open adoption is ripe for an overhaul. Here are some of the common complaints:

Waiting adoptive parents shouldn’t have to wait so long. The application and home study process needs to be streamlined. Decisions need to be made faster, easier. There needs to be less red tape and more pre- and post-adoption education and support. Building a family shouldn’t take forever, cost a fortune, or sentence unsuspecting parents to a lifetime of uncertainty and problems.

As for a pregnant woman who may be considering adoption, don’t make any assumptions about her. Just because she’s thinking about placing her baby for adoption doesn’t mean she will. And don’t call her a birth mother until she’s relinquished her child. Explain her options, including parenting (especially parenting), and give her all the information, guidance and support she needs to make an informed decision.

And whatever she chooses to do in the end, don’t pressure her or judge her. If she decides to parent, so be it. If she decides to place her baby with an adoptive family, don’t pander to her. And afterwards, don’t forget her. Even if adoption is her decision, it doesn’t come without a cost. Help her grieve her loss, deal with the pain and move forward with her life.

And that’s just on the adoptive parents and the birth mother side of things. We haven’t even touched on the most important — and overlooked — part of the equation: the children of open adoption and their best interests, whatever that means.

So, lots to consider. Just thinking about it kind of makes your head spin.  Where to start? What difference can  one person make? There’s just too many obstacles, too many barriers, too many complicated things to worry about, too many…

But hey, isn’t that how open adoption looks when you’re just starting out? Just Google “open adoption” and “overwhelming” and see for yourself. You wonder how in the world does anyone ever get through it. But they do.

Well, as one of those people who has gone through the process and made it back more or less intact, why don’t I start? Right here, right now. I don’t have any grand idea or manifesto. Heck, I don’t even have an editor. What I do have is this little virtual soapbox. And a boatload of questions. Over the next little while I plan to use this  space to ask them. And, every now and then, to come up with a few answers of my own.

Let me know what your questions are. And when I do stick my neck out and suggest something new or novel let me know if you agree with me. Let me know if you don’t. If you think I’m completely out to lunch or you have a better idea about how to do things, feel free to weigh in with your comments. I don’t pretend to know everything, most of the time anyway, although my sons may beg to differ.

I’m hoping that once we get talking, others will join in. Maybe it will change things. Maybe it won’t. This is National Adoption Month, after all. Anything’s possible. At the very least it could introduce us to new people and points of view. And who knows, it could get us thinking about open adoption in ways we might not have considered before. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you get something out of it, too.

What do you think of open adoption? What do you like or don’t like about the process? What needs to be changed? How would you make it better? Please leave your comments in the section below.

(Photo credit: lawgeek)

2 thoughts on “Can We Talk?”

  1. What do you think needs to change specifically? Just support for the mother? And thinking of what’s best for the kids? I am not really seeing from this what they have now that you don’t like. Just wondering.

    Also, what about for older kids with access to parents? It does feel like sometimes the kids’ rights are second to the birth parents rights. And even, as someone who wants to adopt, I question the whole “biology is the most important thing ever” attitude. I understand the importance of knowing who they are and having a connection but to disrupt lives to make sure they have visits frequently? I just don’t feel comfortable with that. When is it the best thing for the child versus the birth parents? What about the adoptive parents? When you adopt, don’t you hope for a bit of normalcy and being a family unit? It just gets complicated and I’m sure it scares a lot of people away. I guess having biological family who wasn’t in my life, I would have hated to see anyone force them into my life when they weren’t healthy for me…and a lot of people (including my step dad) have been more family than my bio family… why are they important? because a sperm and an egg met? Hmmm.

  2. It’s a complex issue, Stacey, and I don’t think there’s just one way of looking at it or, for that matter, one way of answering it. Keeping families together should be the top priority. But in those cases where there’s evidence of a child being abused or neglected, action needs to be taken. Each case is different and needs to judged on its own merits. And while “the best interests of the child” should always come first, there’s no consensus on what that means exactly, which only muddies the water further. But don’t give up. Try to see things from the other side. It may not answer your question any more than I have, but it could help you understand how and why a particular decision was made.

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