Monday, July 19, 2010

Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam?

Open adoption. The panacea that women who relinquish their children today can look forward to. And most private adoptions are open, I heard on NPR some time ago. So that sounds good right? I advocated for birth mothers knowing the prospective adopting family in Birthmark way back in 1979, when open adoptions were unheard of. Could not understand then why women who felt they have to give up their children could not pick and choose among prospective parents.

Well, today you can choose everywhere. Go to just about any adoption site and you find pictures of happy couples who hike and ski and are just the "perfect" parents for your child. You are young and vulnerable, without resources, can not possibly provide what a child needs; prospective adoptive parents are in their thirties and forties and fifties and are financially stable and possibly well off. They will give your child the horseback riding lessons you can only dream out.


 See...I want to Know how My Child is Doing...sent to me by Vanessa.

Those prospective adopters (calm down everyone, I'm just using this here and do not many any disrespect, no one is an adoptive parent yet, when the mother is choosing) can learn how to be appealing to women considering relinquishing through coaching by their adoption counselor at the agency, as well as through books on how to adopt. One such noxious book is Fast Track Adoption, which is basically a guide about how to game the system to get a kid from her mother. It has been reported that after this book came out and the birth mother of the author's child realized she had been swindled, she committed suicide.

But do open adoptions work?  A few Sundays ago, the Modern Love section of the New York Times--wait it was of course on Mother's Day!--ran a piece by Amy Seek called Open Adoption: Not So Simple Math that detailed the difficulties and pain involved in an open adoption. But what we hear less about in the media are the open adoptions that get slammed shut and the mothers simply ignored. On Facebook the other day someone wrote that 80 percent of "open" adoptions are eventually closed. We know that adoption statistics are incredibly hard to come by. We had several posts in April, 2010 about how adoptive parents did not want to or would not answer the question if their children were biological or adopted on the last Census form. So I wondered where did that figure come from? The woman responded that a friend, a birth/first mother, phoned Bethany Christian Services to find out why her open adoption had become "closed." The woman on the phone inadvertently said that 80 percent of all open adoptions they handle ended up closed. Eighty percent. The woman followed it up by saying that the agency had no idea why adoptive parents do this... Incidentally, Bethany bills itself as the largest adoption agency in the world, and they are "Christian" from the get go, and so supposedly the adoptive parents they have are honest, good people who will honor their promises...yeah, right. 

I personally know no adoptive parents in a supposedly open adoption. My acquaintances adopted overseas (China, 3; Guatemala, 2; and now, Nepal, 1, and one domestic, have no idea what that arrangement was) because it was easier, or because they wanted no connection with the birth mother. One of my friends, an editor at a major consumer magazine, said that another editor, a man, refuses to do any television spots for the magazine because, she told me, he said that he is an adoptive parent "and the birth mother might recognize me and then know how to find us." So much for that open adoption. Had to be an open adoption because...otherwise the birth mother would not have ever met him or seen his picture?


How else to shut "open" adoptions? In order to make it difficult for birth mothers to visit, adopters often choose mothers who are from some distance. If you live on one coast, the advice is, choose a mother and her baby from another coast, and since she's the one who's going to be paying for the visit...it just makes sense that a long distance and an expensive ticket is going to reduce the opportunity for visits with your/her child. 

I've also heard that some adoptive parents say that they would welcome a greater involvement of the birth mother in their child's life, but the birth mother does not follow through. I understand how frustrating that must be to those who do welcome the birth mother. But I'm thinking how hard it must be, as a birth mother myself, to visit your son or daughter and know that that's all there is. To know that at the end of the day, you are going to walk away and leave your child with the people he calls Mommy and Daddy. I can see that it would be heartbreaking. Damn, I felt let down and very blue when my natural granddaughter, who was adopted, had to leave after a successful week of getting to know her. I know what it was like after my daughter left after living with us for whole summers when she was in her teens. And that would be very different from seeing a toddler or young child; it has to be both better (because you know where the child is) and harder (because that's all there is).

The other thing I've heard about open adoptions is this: That the contract spells out, say three visits a year, with photos in between, or something like that, and includes the promise of more contact if the two parties agree. Well, the adopters are so interested in you and your child that of course you are getting along like a house afire, you see how happy you are making them with the promise of your child, you imagine the felicity will continue after you've given them your baby, but then, surprise! They do not want to be your new best friend; they see your mandated visits as intrusions and have no intention of fostering a deeper more frequent connection...so one day three or four years down the road your head is not in a fog anymore and you end up feeling duped into having given your child away. Because you've been had. More visits? Who are you kidding?

We posted a blog before by a birth mother who had this experience, and for anyone reading this who is considering an open adoption, please read: An Un-Open Adoption: Adoptive Parents Lie and Break a Mother's Heart. 

Since I started posting this blog today, I found a Legal Services site called Just.Answer and for $15 it said I could have an attorney research my question about open adoption. Are open adoption contracts enforceable?  I asked. The answer:
"A so called "ongoing contact agreement" is not really enforceable in any State in the U.S. Once your parental rights are terminated, the adoptive parents can decide who the child is allowed to have contact with. This means they can just ignore the contract.

"The bottom line is that it is not legally binding. It is an agreement between the parties, but it does not carry the weight of law."
The Adoption TriangleSo there you have it. Open adoptions are to a large degree a scam. The publicity they receive as being the answer to today's young birth mothers is largely just that, publicity. Relinquishing your child is a lifelong source of sorrow, no matter how it might seem to be the answer for the moment. I am not saying that in some cases adoption, or a permanent guardianship, such as the late Annette Baran proposed, is not the answer. In some cases it is the only answer. I'm just saying that birth mothers never get over it--even the ones who deny meeting their grown children who come searching later on. Annette was one of the co-authors of The Adoption Triangle, a ground-breaking work, one of the very earliest to open up the secrecy of early adoptions. The subtitle is: Sealed or Opened Records: How they affect adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

If are are a woman considering adoption, a good source to read is from the CUB website  "What you should know if you're considering adoption for your baby by Heather Lowe, a birth mother who surrendered around 2000.  http://www.cubirthparents.org
--lorraine

Added on Tuesday, July 20: Jane posted the following as a comment but it is too important to leave there and so is being included in the main post:
Blogger Jane Edwards said...
A few states, including my home state of Oregon, do allow open adoption, or as they are called "continuing contact," agreements to be enforced.

However, failure to comply with the agreement does not nullify the adoption. And there are many traps along the way.

The mother may be told by the agency that the agreement contains provisions (visits until the child is 18, for example) where the agreement says otherwise. The mother doesn't or can't read the agreement carefully. (Think used car warranty.)

The agreement may require that all contacts -- to set up visits, to exchange pictures and gifts, and so on go through the agency, turning the mother into a supplicant.

If the adoptive parents refuse contact, the mother must go to mediation before going to court. The adoption agency likely does the mediation and may sway the sessions towards the adoptive parents, trying to convince the mother to back off.

If the adoptive parents refuse mediation or refuse to allow contact after mediation, the mother has to hire an attorney to to petition a judge to enforce the agreement. She likely cannot afford an attorney. She is also faced with the reality that the adoptive parents may try to smear her in court. This of course will be harmful to the child.

The adoptive parents may move away and leave no forwarding address. Even if the mother knows where they are, she may not have the funds to travel across country. She may send gifts and cards but the adoptive parents may not give them to the child.

The adoptive parents may say negative things about his mother causing the child to reject her. (Think parents in a messy divorce.) The adoptive parents use the child's reluctance to see his mother an an excuse to cut her off.

Alternatively, the child may yearn for his mother so much that he is angry when she leaves and throws temper tantrums. This also gives the adoptive parents an excuse to cut her off.

I urge those working to reform adoption laws to go beyond the question of enforceability. To say simply "the problem with open adoption is that it is not enforceable" allows the listener to assume that if open adoption agreements are enforceable, the problems inherent in adoption would be solved.

It reminds me of the argument against capital punishment --
that an innocent person might get executed. States respond by adding procedural safeguards rather than abolishing capital punishment.

In other words, using a procedural argument leads to a procedural answer and avoids the essential question -- is this the right solution in the first place? I urge those in adoption reform to focus on eliminating unnecessary adoptions through assuring mothers have adequate information and sufficient time to decide.


______________
If you haven't looked at the comments at the previous blog, you may want to go back and read Mary Anne Cohen's poem about adoption pioneer, Annette Baran. She is one of the coauthors of that breakthrough work, The Adoption Triangle.

48 comments :

  1. thank you for posting this.

    it was beyond, way beyond, soul crushing when i came to this realization in full several years ago.

    an insult to insult to injury.

    open adoption (well, adoption in general) has scarred me in ways i'm still discovering.

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  2. Lorraine, this is an excellent posting of the facts that many expectant mothers exploring adoption are not told. There was a focus group of natural mothers , sponsored and run by the industry. They interviewed and decided, according to the answers they received, that not knowing where their children were or how they were faring was what bothered these mothers the most. Voila! "Open" adoption...an arrangement that gives no benefits to the mother of the adopted child once those parental rights have been surrendered. That, to me, is like trying to repair a blown engine by putting on new tires.

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  3. I was just thinking about the concept, would it really have helped me instead of slammed shut and throw away the key relinquishment. Here is a reference to the grief in 'Open Adoption' from ‘The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd edition’, Christine Adamec, William L Pierce, PH.D., copyright 1991, 2000, Facts on File, Inc. , pg 195-196:

    "A study of 59 birthmothers by Terril Blanton, M.S.S.W., C.S.W., crisis pregnancy counselor at Buchner Baptist Benevolences in Dallas, Texas and Jeanne Deschner, Ph.D., associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Work at Arlington, Texas was reported in 1990.
    The researchers compared birthmothers who had chosen and open adoption (defined as at least having personally met the adoptive parents) to birthmothers who had chosen traditional confidential adoptions. These two groups were also compared to bereaved women whose children had died.
    ... The researchers modified the Grief Experience Inventory; for example, modifying the question “The yearning I have for the deceased is so intense that I feel physical pain in my chest” to “The yearning I have for the relinquished child is so intense that I feel physical pain in my chest.”
    The researchers found that the birthmothers who placed their children in an open adoption suffered more than mothers whose children had died."

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  4. Thanks for the post.I've had growing concern about this and all the issues for a time and it was looking very nasty.I'd like to link it if I may.

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  5. A few states including my state own state, Oregon do allow open adoption or as they are called "continuing contact" agreements to be enforced.

    However, failure to comply with the agreement does not nullify the adoption. And there are many traps along the way.

    The mother may be told by the agency that the agreement contains provisions (visits until the child is 18, for example) where the agreement says otherwise. The mother doesn't or can't read the agreement carefully. (Think used car warranty.)

    The agreement may require that all contacts -- to set up visits, to exchange pictures and gifts, and so on go through the agency, turning the mother into a supplicant.

    If the adoptive parents refuse contact, the mother must go to mediation before going to court. The adoption agency likely does the mediation and may sway the sessions towards the adoptive parents, trying to convince the mother to back off.

    If the adoptive parents refuse mediation or refuse to allow contact after mediation, the mother has to hire an attorney to to petition a judge to enforce the agreement. She likely cannot afford an attorney. She is also faced with the reality that the adoptive parents may try to smear her in court. This of course will be harmful to the child.

    The adoptive parents may move away and leave no forwarding address. Even if the mother knows where they are, she may not have the funds to travel across country. She may send gifts and cards but the adoptive parents may not give them to the child.

    The adoptive parents may say negative things about his mother causing the child to reject her. (Think parents in a messy divorce.) The adoptive parents use the child's reluctance to see his mother an an excuse to cut her off.

    Alternatively, the child may yearn for his mother so much that he is angry when she leaves and throws temper tantrums. This also gives the adoptive parents an excuse to cut her off.

    I urge those working to reform adoption laws to go beyond the question of enforceability. To say simply "the problem with open adoption is that it is not enforceable" allows the listener to assume that if open adoption agreements are enforceable, the problems inherent in adoption would be solved.

    It reminds me of the argument against capital punishment --
    that an innocent person might get executed. States respond by adding procedural safeguards rather than abolishing capital punishment.

    In other words, using a procedural argument leads to a procedural answer and avoids the essential question -- is this the right solution in the first place? I urge those in adoption reform to focus on eliminating unnecessary adoptions through assuring mothers have adequate information and sufficient time to decide.

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  6. Von,

    Yes, of course you can link to this or any other post.

    Thank you.

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  7. I would like to link to this for my Adoption Education page - I think that it is very pertinent to the young women of today...they still believe this bull.

    If that is ok?

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  8. Good post, Lorraine.

    it has to be both better (because you know where the child is) and harder (because that's all there is) got to me, as a mother in a closed adoption. I'm not sure which would be worse. Certainly, an open arrangement then slammed shut would be the worst of the worst.

    In my adoption travels, I have met an a-mom who opened her child's adoption, a-parents where the first mother couldn't handle her end and cut off contact, and (most often) younger first moms who eventually got cut off. That's where I learned that these agreements are usually unenforceable. Breaks my heart when a first mother has the courage to stay in and then gets shut out.

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  9. Open Adoption = Scam. It is fraudulent because those who promote it KNOW there is no legal right for any parent (My language: parent = ones nature intended, adopter/adoptive = parent who adopted) to keep contact ongoing and at any point adopters can close the adoption down. And this happens way too often.

    So many mothers I know caught up in the trap of open adoption are horrified to learn the truth only months or a couple of years into the adoption when adopters finally close the adoption. I have seen websites promoting open adoption with absolutely NO mention of the reality and indeed many women are trapped into thnking it is a real agreement and they can ensure contact.

    Open adoption was only created to ensure the future of adoption. Too many decided to keep their babies after the BSE and so the adoption professionals had to come up with a way to keep adoption continuing so they introduced a new scam. Seriously, it is a fraudulent practise that isn't worth the paper it is written on. Just another method used to steal babies from women who, with some extra moral support and in some cases other support, would go on to raise and mother their own children.

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  10. I agree Lorraine, and this is why I abhor pre-birth matching. Under the guise of giving an expectant mother a choice and providing a needy expectant mother with help, couples are even inviting expectant mothers into their home, providing them with medical care, paying for their rent, getting them transportation--so on and so forth, all with the expectation that she will hand her baby over to them in the end. Oh, but it's not as "payment" for their good deeds. They were just helping her out in her time of need. Needless to say, I've heard many-a-woman say that pre-birth matching and meeting the hopeful-bright-eyed parents made her feel obligated to surrender.

    The surrender documents now aren't much different than they were decades ago. A woman signs her rights away--all of them. She has no legal right to her child. It is completely up to the APs that the adoption stays open. There are no real contracts. A few states have made provisions in the law that acknowledge open adoption arragements but there is little recourse for an adoption becoming closed for no reason and it is never grounds for the adoption to be overturned.

    And this is furthermore the problem I have with pre-birth matching. It is placed upon a woman's shoulders to pick the perfect parents who will respect both her and her child as well as her child's needs to know her and be loved by her, all in less than 9 months time. She must trust people she barely knows and sign away all her rights to them. The featured surrendering parents on an MTV show about Teen Moms complained that their open adoption wasn't what they expected and the Bethany post-adoption worker chided them for not paying better attention to what they discussed with the PAPs before it was a done deal.

    In the 1978 book The Adoption Triangle, Soronsky et. al. stated that open adoptions should be offered only if a woman is otherwise unwilling to relinquish her rights.

    Other agency-based research reports, such as "Adoption in the 1990's.." by Chippendale have also expressley concluded that openness is favorable because openness encourages relinquishment.

    We'd like to think that agency shift towards open adoption was because it was in the best interest of mothers and children, but sadly, I think the evidence shows otherwise.

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  11. *Sorovsky rather.

    He's one of my favorite researchers ever and I am certain his opinions have changed a lot in recent times but I did find that one particular notion in his book a little shocking.

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  12. My husband and I are adoptive parents to 2 children who share the same birth mother. Both adoptions are open adoptions. Or rather, they were...

    The birth mother picked us partially because we lived in Europe (US citizens who had transferred due to my husband's job.) She didn't want too much openness and liked the distance. 6 months after our son was born, she asked us to adopt a second baby. Our children are 13 months apart in age. Every time we would come to the US, we would contact her to arrange a visit. (Half the time she would cancel at the last minute or just not come.) And there were frequent telephone calls, letters and we sent photos.

    We are in the process of moving back to the US. As soon as we knew, we contacted our children's birth mother to share the news. We were so happy we would be close enough for more frequent visits!

    We haven't heard from her since. Letters get sent back "addresses unknown." Her telephone has been discontinued. E-mails are unanswered.

    We are still in contact with her mother and my children's half siblings, who live with their grandmother. We will set up regular visits so the siblings can grow up knowing each other.

    We are confused and sad over the fact she has stopped contact and hope that given time she will get back into contact with us.

    Not all open adoptions are closed by the adoptive parents...

    Gretchen, Adoptive Mother

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  13. "In the 1978 book The Adoption Triangle, Soronsky et. al. stated that open adoptions should be offered only if a woman is otherwise unwilling to relinquish her rights."

    In other words, use it as a form of coercion. That is exactly what it is: coercion.

    And they knew it would work: Baby broker Baran and her cronies started the research to find out how to bring more babies to market:

    Open adoption: They Knew It Would Work"

    “[Open adoption] was proposed by Baran and her colleagues as a way of encouraging unmarried women (and specifically unmarried white women) to relinquish their babies for adoption at a time when they were increasingly choosing to raise them alone” (Yngvasson, 1997)

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  14. Cedar, did you actually know Annette and Rubin? I did, for many years. I was there when Annette apologized at the first AAC in 1979 for her previous work in adoption, and for the wrongs perpetrated by the social work profession. I had heard other social workers speak and make all sorts of excuses for what they did, and was very impressed that Annette did not do that, just admitted she was wrong and sorry.

    I was there in the 90s at CUB retreats when Annette and Rubin advocated replacing adoption with guardianship. Yes, they favored open adoption over closed, but not as a trick and not where the mother was coerced in any way or where she just needed a little help and encouragement to keep her child.

    Annette and Ruben were people of integrity and valor, whether you agree with them on everything or not (and I did not)but it is a cheap shot to malign those not here to defend themselves with old quotes taken out of context. To hear some of Annette's later views, go to Faux Claud's blog, and watch the interviews:
    http://www.musingsofthelame.com/2010/07/truth-of-annette-baran.html

    For information about ethical open adoption, check out Brenda Romanchik's page:
    http://www.openadoptioninsight.org/
    Brenda is a mother who has been in a fully open and successful adoption for about 25 years. She is not selling anything or sugarcoating anything, just trying to help those in open adoptions make them work, for the good of the child first of all, and for both sets of parents as well.

    Is open adoption a scam? Sometimes it is, but sometimes it is not. Is it ideal, or painless? No, but sometimes for some people it is the better choice. Do unethical providers use it lure pregnant women to surrender? Yes, but they are not the only ones doing open adoptions, there are good guys as well. Unless you believe that no adoption can be good, but that is a whole other story.

    Please look at both sides of this before making a judgment. It is not really an either/or question.

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  15. "Not all open adoptions are closed by the adoptive parents..."

    This is obviously fact, and it makes me wonder.

    Could it be that parents who agree to and prefer open adoption are more inclined to just need help in the interim but choose adoption because where the child is placed is in their control? Also, I wonder if some say they want limited contact out of fear they'll be perceived as monsters if they don't want any contact. That they'd really just prefer to hand over the baby and wait to see if the grown child wishes to meet later in life but are ashamed or pressured and can't bring themselves to say so.
    I'm not so sure about open adoption, if it's good thing or not. It's obvious it can work ok for some but I think it takes extraordinary people.

    I worry about the kids being denied or abandoned over and over again, depending on which set of parents can't get their shit together and put their own insecurities or pain second to what's best for their children.

    And this may be a stupid question, but why can't parents who want an open adoption create a separate contract that will enforce visitation? It's done in divorce. Penalty could be as severe as nullification of the adoptive parental rights if they're the ones reneging. If it's the biological parents reneging my hope is that the adoptive parent just lets it go and doesn't keep setting up missed visits but still quietly keeps tabs on mom and/or dad's whereabouts as best they can so they can answers kid's questions as they come up and then help them search when they're old enough.

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  16. As an adoptive mom in an open adoption with our son's birthmother and her family it makes me sick that PAP's lie just to get a baby. How could one mother do this to another mother. We have kept every promise and more actually. The birthmom wanted pictures and letters and if and when our son was older and wanted visits they were open to them. This was their choice. Well it has become so much more. From day one we emailed, texted, pictures, updates, videos and then when birthmom was ready visits we did that too. We have since had numerous visits and that includes weekends at our house and theirs. We have a whole week vacation coming up with them. So there are adoptive parents who do keep their promises.
    I really wish open adoption was legally enforceable. I wish it was for both sides.Just as a birthmom I would not want our open adoption closed.
    We are hoping to adopt again and I am very scared that our next child's birthparents will walk away from thier child and us because it is hard. So there are adoptive parents out there that are scared of the very same thing. It's not always the birthparent that gets hurt by open adoptions being closed. Open adoption is not a normal relationship, and it is hard in certain aspects and can be uncomfortable but, it best for the child. Since it is best for the child I wish we could all be held legally accountable and not be able to walk away. I pray this law happens one day so that expectant moms considering adoption are not duped into giving their babies away under false pretenses and the adopted child will aways have their birthparent in their lives.
    I know our relationship is the exception to the rule and I try and educate anyone I can on the benefits of open adoption because I truly believe it can work. I want things to change. Thanks for putting this out there women considering adoption should educate themselves and know everything before they place.

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  17. Cedar,

    Seems Annette wanted to cover all her bases. If she was sorry for closed adoptions, and apologized then turned around and advocated for open adoptions either way there is pain involved, just another hideous way to coerce a baby from its mother.

    Taking responsibility for oneself involves more than an apology in my opinion.

    Buttering both sides of adoption equation for the almighty buck and selling books.

    Gale

    Should I apologize for getting pregnant? I think not as it doesn't take away the fact that I did. Is that taking responsibility? Taking responsibility would be allowing me to raise my son, not taking him away.

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  18. The comments here show the wide variety of experiences--as I said, I had read and heard about open adoptions where the birth mother did not follow through and the adoptive parents were hard-pressed to know what to tell the children. I would always chose, I think, to know where my child was, but then...knowing can make the reality even harder.

    She's there, I'm here, and I can't be her everyday mother, like the genetic stranger (even if I picked her out) who adopted her. I can not even imagine what such visits are like unless the birth mother is totally grounded and mentally tough, and has a life to go back to that is full, with or without children.

    I also want to thank the adoptive parents who have posted for doing so. We need to hear your voice too. If you read any of my previous posts about my own daughter's placing her daughter for adoption, you see that she refused to listen to my suggestions of an open adoption.

    Someone earlier on wrote about comparing the grief of a mother who places a child in an open adoption and that of a mother whose child dies...
    stating that the mother who places a child in an open adoption suffers more. That is a bald statement and while I can understand the impetus for saying that, it is impossible to compare the two types of grief. (How many angels dance on the head of a pin?) But as a birth mother having experienced both placing my daughter for adoption and her untimely death, this is the basis for a new blog topic. In time.

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  19. I also wanted to add that I think Annette Baran was totally one of the good guys, and I appreciated her involvement in changing adoption. More to come.

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  20. Good and fair post, Lorraine and Jane. I loved that you used Just.Answers, btw - I've used them myself a couple of times for legal questions.

    I am also opposed to open adoption and agree that it is usually just another form of coersion. However, I have to agree with you and Maryanne about Annette. I did not hear the first apology in the 70's; but she and Reuben were at a couple of conferences I attended in the late 80's - early 90's. Both AAC and Crossroads conferences and I heard how contrite she was and how they were doing what they could to effect change.

    A very wise and seasoned mother friend and I were discussing people in adoption reform who's agenda is sometimes questioned.
    We both felt that as long as they support our work for open access and admit that current adoption practices are unethical, wrong and need to end; let them sing their tune. Ideally we all learn and change our thinking as we do so.
    I base my opinions of people on what I hear them say and I also believe Annette was a true pioneer, honorable and a definite good guy in the adoption reform community - right up there with Jean Paton who sometimes had different ideas than we believe now.

    I'm not defending Annette's practices and what she did, but I was so impressed that they could come forward and stand before mothers and adoptees and admit they had contributed to our pain and devoted the rest of their lives to trying to undo and correct of those wrongs.
    I was honored to have briefly met Annette and heard her speak. I only wish my own social wrecker would have had the conscience to have admitted that something she had been taught was the right thing to do, destroyed so many lives of mothers and their babies.

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  21. By the way, where do I find Maryanne's poem about Annette? I'd love to read it...

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  22. If you haven't looked at the comments at the previous blog, you may want to go back and read Mary Anne Cohen's poem...

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  23. "Annette stood before a crowd
    at an adoption conference once,
    and said "I am sorry
    for what my profession has done,
    for what I have done"
    That's all, no excuses, no justifications,
    No Big Buts......"

    Maryanne, what a beautiful tribute.

    I heard her make this statement above, as well.
    Perhaps you had to be there to believe she meant it.

    She truly was a class act.

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  24. In response to the adoptive parents and the adoptee that posted I can only say this:

    First, to the adoptee - excuse me? You don't have a very good opinion about mothers.

    "Could it be that parents who agree to and prefer open adoption are more inclined to just need help in the interim but choose adoption because where the child is placed is in their control? Also, I wonder if some say they want limited contact out of fear they'll be perceived as monsters if they don't want any contact. That they'd really just prefer to hand over the baby and wait to see if the grown child wishes to meet later in life but are ashamed or pressured and can't bring themselves to say so"

    To your first question - once a child is placed for adoption the natural parents have NO control - so you question is invalid on the face. There are no parents, adoptive or otherwise, that allow their children - legally their children - to be controlled by another - and in cases of open adoption, a lot of adoptive parents close the adoption so that they don't have to deal with the mother and her needs to be in some control.

    The second statement/question addresses the fear of being seen as a monster - excuse me? That kind of makes me and all the other closed adoption mothers as painted with the same "monster" brush - that was just "what?"

    As far as pressured, exactly who pressured them? You seem to think that first mothers go around brow beating others - not so - we respect decisions, even stupid ones - and yes, I mean stupid - that we all later regret. That is part and parcel with never being respected, we learn that the only ones we can rely on are each other - so why beat up on someone emotionally for something you can't change? The only time I have ever seen pressure is from adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents and their representatives.

    For the adoptive parents out there that tried. Bravo...there are fewer of you than you would believe. I pity the mothers - they don't seem to get it.

    Sorry - but those comments were soo out there.

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  25. No more comments good or bad about Annette Baran.

    I met her a couple of times at conferences, talked to her on the phone, called her for advice and information, and we paid each other mutual respect. If there were more people like her who changed their minds about adoption, there would be no more sealed records in America--all over America, Canada included; adoption would be replaced by "permanent guardianship," and the world would be a better place.

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  26. Thank you Cedar..I for one did appreciate what you wrote.

    In the context of those who are not here to defend themselves.
    My not-so-good husband of 43 years died a year ago. And for a time, I would not allow myself to speak 'ill' of the dead. But you know what, I got over that..especially when I had a brother-in-law say right in my presence.."_____ was a good man" (this several months after the death)!! I almost choked on my spit!! My bro-in-law knew my hubby quite well over the many years and am sure he thought it was the right thing for him to say in my presence..it wasn't..because it was a falsehood. Yeah..my hubby was a hard-worker...but that was it. If some person came to me..and told me that my hubby had somehow harmed that person...whether physically, emotionally or otherwise..that person has the right to tell their truth...irrespective that the guy is no longer here to defend himself. Truth is truth...dead or alive. Some people see people one way, some the other..dead or alive. Just because one has died, does not mean one cannot give their perspective of that person and that person's actions/accomplishments, etc. Good, bad and indifference is in the eye of the beholder and/or the person/persons they harmed or helped while the person was still alive.
    Good grief...books upon books, historically, have been written about dead people, praiseworthy and not so praiseworthy.
    It's not for me to defend the dead..their actions while alive will either be their defense or offense.

    Open Adoption is a crock....just another way to get newborns to the adoption market.

    And I ain't debating or arguing..is just my "perspective".

    ReplyDelete
  27. To offer another perspective....

    I'm an adoptive mother of a 10-month old in what all involved parties currently feel is a successful open adoption. We adopted through an agency that did a great job educating adoptive and birth parents about open adoption and the benefits to children who are adopted. We do not have any kind of contract, and I wouldn't want one. Our relationship with our son's birth parents, like all successful relationships, is based on mutual respect...and on doing what is best for our son. I'm sorry that others have not had such positive experiences.

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  28. Lori

    "because WHERE their child is placed is in their control" is what I said. If somehow I've gotten it wrong and the "natural" parent in adoption today doesn't choose who the adoptive parent will be, I stand corrected.

    If parents just need help in the interim and they choose foster care, do they get to pick the family? Again, if they do and I'm wrong, sorry, I stand corrected.

    The second thing I said that seems to have offended you is
    "I wonder if some say they want limited contact out of fear they'll be perceived as monsters if they don't want ANY contact. That they'd really just prefer to hand over the baby and wait to see if the grown child wishes to meet later in life but are ashamed or pressured and can't bring themselves to say so"

    Is this really so far fetched?

    I'm not sure why you assumed I only meant other first/birth/natural mothers. It could be family, it could be their friends, it could be counselors, adoptive parents, it could be anyone.

    Anyway, I'm talking about pressure to choose open adoption over closed.

    How do YOU explain biological parents setting up an open adoption arrangement and then not following through?

    ReplyDelete
  29. To answer your question, Lorraine, "Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam?"; Open Adoption is an outright, blatant scam.

    The baby brokers and their cohorts all know it is a scam, too. Not one person, not ONE of them told me or informed me that the people I chose could and would do what they did to me. .

    I was as a young scared vulnerable woman manipulated and conned into relinguishing my child under the guise of a fraudulent open adoption, so the baby brokers could line their pockets and the adoptive parents could make off with their prize, my child.

    Just to add a little more insight into how "wonderful" my open adoption experience has been, allow me to fill you in the new developments, (since I had to use a search angel to find my child for me after he turned 18 because I had no other way to contact or find him in a supposed "open adoption)...

    ~ I was immediately treated like an unwelcome, univited intruder into the life of my child, by the very people I trusted, who promised me an "open adoption". I was not even worthy of a "hello", nice to see you are still alive, we are so sorry we lost contact with you". (I meant to say we are so sorry we LIED to you).

    ~ Even though I lived less than 15 minutes from them, I was snubbed and left out of any and all of his events (his brother and I were not even invited to his high school graduation).

    ~ His adoptive parents outright lid to him about why they stopped communicating me. They claim they simply "lost contact". How do you simply "lose contact" with the mother of your adopted child? All they had to do was make a phone call to see how to get promised correspondence to me. You mean to tell me those oh so perfect, college educated adoptive parents couldn't figure that out? Yeah, right.

    ~ His younger brother has been ignored and snubbed, as well.

    ~ I have been asked "never to contact ANY of them again", because I dared question why they chunked me out like yesterday's trash, after only a few years.

    ~ I have been called the "devil" by my son and his lovely girlfriend, because I do not hold their fundamentalist christian views or values (I have turned away from religion altogeather, after my experience in this).

    So, as you see, this has not been the "better option" for me, having a supposed "open adoption". It has actually been a complete and utter horror story of epic proportions.

    I have suffered from depression for all of the twenty years since the adoption, along with panic attacks and PTSD, as so many others do. I stopped being the person I was the day I lost my child. I am a shell of my former self and will always be. There is no turning back.

    I get all of that while the adoptive parents of my child and their family bask in the happiness and joy of having my child to call a family member. Me, well you see what I got.

    Open adoptions are a SCAM. Please heed this warning if you are considering it. The only people who gain are the people who are in possession of your child, the adoptive parents.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The ongoing argument here about Annette Baran is inappropriate and distracting. I mistakenly let it continue yesterday, but as it was going on today from other commentors, I took down a couple of posts that simply continued the argument over her involvement in adoption and reform, and am not posting anymore. I did leave the two up that started the discussion, one each from Maryanne and one from Cedar. Both are valid comments, but after that the discussion disintegrated with more people getting involved defending either.

    Additionally, the link to Cedar's blog does contain a great deal of research that I wanted to leave up, and Maryanne's links to the videos of Annette that some may want to view at Musings of the Lame.

    I assume you will all understand, and I thank you for that.

    ReplyDelete
  31. "How do YOU explain biological parents setting up an open adoption arrangement and then not following through?"

    It could be that the pain of relinquishment springs up when they see their child again...

    (For those who have given up their children and who actually don't *care* enough to follow through, that's a different story. However, from what I've read, it's mostly those who experience too much while seeing their children being raised by other parents - even if the natural mother had support or felt it was truly the best choice. Best choices do not always equal no pain.)

    ReplyDelete
  32. "However, from what I've read, it's mostly those who experience too much while seeing their children being raised by other parents"
    That's right. It's only the sensitive types who give up on OA.
    The clods soldier on regardless (snark)

    ReplyDelete
  33. It would make things a lot less contentious if those in open adoptions, failed or successful, could write from the point of view that "MY open adoption was a scam" or "My open adoption is working" rather than generalizing from either side.

    It is a scam for some, way too many, because of the lack of enforcement of promises as Jane detailed. It is a blessing for others, not without pain and grief, but when everyone is honest and puts the child first, it works. Maybe there are not enough people willing to do that, which is why it falls through so often, and from the worst of the worst, it was a scam from the start. But it is not always one thing or the other.

    I had something like a semi-open adoption as I found my son very young, and contacted his parents when he was 13. I also saw him from a distance a couple of times,
    "spying". It helped me immensely to see him, know he was alive and at least physically well. Sadly years later I found out from him his mother was mentally ill, and she had lied to me and treated him terribly. But at the time, I did not know. It did not make it worse to see him, though, it did help.

    I am not a really jealous person so I accepted the fact he had other parents, I just wish now they were better ones. I think based on this I could have handled an open adoption had there been such a thing at the time, but I realize it is not for everyone. Nothing is.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Just having skimmed through this blog, I am so glad that there are people who have felt the way I do (thanks internet!).

    I am an adoptee,1963, from the Booth Home for unwed mothers. I did talk with my birthmom who said she gave birth then had to jump up and do some duties. I found her in my 20's, after petitioning the juvenile court that the fee for 'reunion' was 'unreasonable' and that they were too controlling of the process. I found her after getting the names of the original birth certificate, and it made me whole again. She was so nice, more of a mother inthe short time I knew her than my amom EVER was. The only thing was that she wanted to keep me a secret still, and I longed to meet my family, so contacted my half sister and grandmother, and then my birthmother was mad, and me ashamed so I never called again.

    I was always "the adopted one" in the family, the one with dark hair (my french/irish roots) but they would call me Carmen miranda or her little indian orincess, and that made me feel different and seaprate. My amom had 2 other children after me-natural- (she was "infertile" before, yeah, right), and I know she favored them. She would say to me dont drink the milk, sarah hasnt eaten breakfast yet (neither had I), she switched presents people gave us, giving the better one to her daughter. She blamed me always. When I wanted ballet, she said no "you never finish anything" (I must have been 9 or 10), she said when I was 12 that I never ask her about HER day, ect. It just got worse. I spent most of my time at my friends' house, I hated home, though at this point she worked alot (consulting) . She never cared, then when my friends were into smoking, ect, she told everyone I was "not normal". All my parents friends thought I was a loser, so I was shamed, very manipulative on her part. I left at 15, then asked to come back and she said no. She wanted me to be emancipated, now I know she just didnt want the legal ramifications of responsibilty till i was 18. But with other people around she would put on a good show. I would blanch and withdraw if she tried at this point to "give me a hug" (for show). My dad and I spoke behind her back- I would call, and ask if mom was there, if so, I would say bye, if not we would talk. But my dad was passive, and wouldnt say anything, just tell me to "try harder" and "its my perception" that she dosent like me. She never ever called when I moved out, when I asked her about this she lied, then bought me an answering machine for Christamas. My dayd died when I was 21, ans then she told everyone I "stole his wedding ring" (I heard the one time I spoke to her new husband) What a crock! How disgusting! I couldnt even fathom something more disgusting! Except when she told me that my dad "thought I was a sociopath" (and he dead to not ask about this. What a creator of memories. I stopped talking to her after the conversation I learned of these last two items.

    Right before my dad died, at 20 or so, I had a revelation that I was NOT to blame (my self esteem was shot) that I was a student, worked, paid my bills, didnt do drugs like 1/2 the college kids I knew. I thought then there was something wrong with THEM.

    Anyway, it caused me a lot of pain throughout my life. anyone wishing to help me continue to sort this out, please leave a comment.

    ReplyDelete
  35. cont--Right before my dad died, at 20 or so, I had a revelation that I was NOT to blame (my self esteem was shot) that I was a student, worked, paid my bills, didnt do drugs like 1/2 the college kids I knew. I thought then there was something wrong with THEM.

    Anyway, it caused me a lot of pain throughout my life. anyone wishing to help me continue to sort this out, please leave a comment.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Also am I the only one who thought "Juno" was not a cute feel-good filem, but insulting and making light of a serious issue?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Vanessa, i read your comment yesterday and i haven't stopped thinking about you. It broke my heart to read what you wrote...i'm so very sorry. I hate the "we lost contact" story that your son was told...i don't understand how in the world that happens. :(

    Much love to you...

    ~Issy

    ReplyDelete
  38. as an adoptive mom of two, one of which is a very open adoption, I have always wondered this myself, I really think agencies play up open adoption as a marketing tool to have more women place. I think oa is wonderful but it has heartache on all sides still, its hard to see another woman raising your child, its hard to allow another mom in your home and not really knowing what roles are which, its hard to have guestions from your child about why they were not kept, adoption is just hard all the way around. and I am in a wonderful relationship, I would say ideal really however just the nature of adoption is difficult and I think the agencies need to still promote open adoption but not to offer it in a win win win type deal, to still explain the risks and hardships of it also!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Issy--If you want to really read the whole heartbreaking story of Vanessa and how she was influenced to give up her son by the adopters, go back to the blog and click on the link there to her story.

    Oh anonymous//I wish there were no stories like yours but I know there are. I know there are good and loving adoptive parents--some of them comment here, see Mama Bear above and others who have left comments--but I know there are more sad stories than social workers ever dream of. Adoption is hard. As one of my friends said she has heard from her adoptive parent friends--who are more open with her than they are inclined to be with me--Why didn't somebody tell us what this would be like?

    My answer: Why didn't you do more research...? and find out.

    ReplyDelete
  40. To Anon who wrote, "anyway, it caused me a lot of pain throughout my life. anyone wishing to help me continue to sort this out, please leave a comment."

    I am sorry to hear about the way your adoptive mother treated you. There is a great online forum for adoptees who will truly be able to understand your pain in a way that perhaps only other adoptees can.

    Check out this link:
    http://www.adultadoptees.org/forum/

    ReplyDelete
  41. Brenda RomanchikJuly 22, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    There are a number of current studies that are far more illuminating than
    the one above. Please check out the following:
    http://www.cehd.umn.edu/fsos/Centers/mtarp/

    A quote from key findings: "At both Wave 1 and Wave 2, birthmothers in fully disclosed adoptions had lower adoption-related grief and loss than those in confidential adoption. There were no significant differences by openness level associated with birthmother regret about the decision to place. When birthmothers' level of openness was controlled, as satisfaction with openness increased, birthmothers' current global level of grief decreased."

    Fully open adoptions are rare. What is promoted as "open adoption" is
    usually semi-open.

    I have been educating and supporting participants in open adoptions for 23
    years. I am also a birthmom in a fully open adoption. My son will be 26 in
    September. Lest you think I am an apologist for the industry, I consider
    some of my best work to be fully educating expectant moms considering
    adoption on the realities of open adoption. Including telling them that they owe it to their baby to explore all possible parenting options. And giving them resources to do this. You would be surprised (or actually not) how many moms I have talked to that never even considered parenting or were
    encouraged by agency staff to explore that option. I am very proud of the
    intact families that have resulted because of that work.

    A couple of things: Open Adoption began as a benefit to birthmothers and is still promoted by most providers as such. It is used as an enticement, and
    it serves no one in the end. For open adoption to really work it needs to be
    presented to all parties as child-centered. It needs to be seen as something both sets of parents are working on to provide for the child. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is doable.

    Most adopting parents and expectant parents get no guidance on the
    difficulties of navigating this relationship. They are thrown into a mine field with no map. They are told to "Do whatever you are comfortable with". But true open adoption is not comfortable for the adults involved if they are truly working at it.

    The MN/Texas study found this as well: "When children were involved in
    adoptive kinship networks involving contact with birth family members, child adjustment was related not only to qualities of relationships within the adoptive family but also to collaboration in relationships between the adoptive parents and birth family members involved in contact. Collaboration in relationships is an emergent property of the adoptive kinship network, characterized by the ability of the child's adoptive and birthparents to work together effectively on behalf of the child's well-being. It involves collaborative control over the way in which contact is handled and is based on mutual respect, empathy, and valuing of the relationship. Higher degrees
    of collaboration in the adoptive kinship network were associated with better adjustment during middle childhood (Grotevant, Ross, Marchel, & McRoy,
    1999)."

    I believe that open adoption is not for everyone. I also believe that it can be the best thing for the child if the parties involved can maintain that
    focus. Getting people there is difficult and most "providers" just don't do the work in educating. But then again, most "providers" want an adoption to go through at all costs. They do not practice informed consent on many levels.

    Brenda Romanchik
    From my personal experience and from the experience of hundreds of birthmoms
    I have known over the years

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hey, Brenda -

    Your name is so familiar. Did you by any chance participate on the old iVillage adoption board back in say, 1998 – 2000? For some reason I remember your name. I used to post there as a newbie a-mom (adoption from China).

    Your comments were excellent. You make it easy to understand why open adoption would not be for the faint of heart and how much work is involved in putting the child first . . . growing together as parents for the benefit of that child.

    “True open adoption is not comfortable.”

    No, it wouldn't be. Totally, I see that.

    So how do you stop open adoption being a source of fresh pain? You suggest that collaboration is healing for everyone—the relationship between the a-parents and the first parents becomes as important as everyone's relationship to the child. But how to you actually help two sets of parents trust each other and let go of any judgment or defences?

    Really liked the way you addressed this and thanks for the research too.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Anon 1963 Booth Home:

    You story is somewhat similar to my son's. Dad was the good guy, but passive, but died when my son was 21. Parents had an older biological daughter, who was very much like her mother, whom my son described as manipulative, agoraphobic, and paranoid. She took out her mental problems on him, and after his Dad died he cut off contact with the adoptive family.

    None of this was your fault, no more than it was my son's. Some people should never have been given a child. I feel very bad for you, for what you went through, but I hope there is some happiness in your life now as there is in my son's life, and that you know you are a worthy person. Because of his awful mother my son is wary of mothers in general and me in particular, but that is slowly improving and the rest of his life is great.

    His adoptive mother died last year, and he did not go to the funeral. I thought it was sad, but the more he has told me about his childhood, the more I understand.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you for this, good post!

    Kristy

    ReplyDelete
  45. Anon 12:52, I have been attempting to gather factual information and posting it on a blog Adoption Education:A Real View and the problem is that most adoptees don't want to discuss the good or the bad. The thing is, and I truly believe that there are good and bad in adoption, without input from both sides, it is useless. Would you be willing to post your story - even anonymously - on the blog? Or have me post it for you anonymously?

    I believe education on the realities of adoption are the answer.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I don't think that open adoption is about luring in pregnant parents. It is about the needs of children. They need transparency. I think that places that package open adoption as something for birth mothers are doing a disservice to all parties. Maybe if all parents involved knew that this was for the child, everyone would try to stick it out. Adoptive parents are also in a bind here. They can't make birth parents comply with an open adoption either. It just sucks. Everything is worded in parental rights, what about kid rights!?! Open adoption should be a child's right!

    ReplyDelete
  47. "I don't think that open adoption is about luring in pregnant parents. It is about the needs of children"

    Oh, yes it is about luring young vulerable woman into surrendering their children. Ask the thousands of woman who have been conned out of their children by open adoption promises from adoptive parens and the baby brokers if they were 'LURED' in by this.

    Have you lost a child to adoption? An open adoption? If not, I wonder how you can suggest that it is not a con? Once you have, then please come back here and suggest this.

    It is about the child AND the mother, who in a great many cases should have never been separated because she was brainwashed and lured in with promises of still being in her child's life.

    ReplyDelete

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