' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Open adoption--does it really solve all the problems?
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Open adoption--does it really solve all the problems?

Lorraine
When I gave my daughter up in 1966 all I really wanted—or thought I could ask for—was to be able to know her one day. That bare concession to the mother and child bond would not have made leaving her behind any easier, but it would have calmed my mind about the future. As I write today, open adoption is touted as the panacea for the pain of a closed adoption., or at least mute the anguish of mothers like me. Perhaps it would have been so—to know that she was safe and protected. But I don’t know how I would have reacted to other people being there for her, to be present but unable to make the decisions I thought best for a child of mine, a child related to me by blood, a child who shared my genetic makeup and family history.

Today of the roughly 14,000 to 18,000 infant adoptions each year, about 55 percent are fully open,[1] with the parties agreeing to ongoing contact that includes the child. Most of the remaining are what is called—semi-open, letters and pictures exchanged through the adoption agency, an agreement that ends after a few years. From self-reported surveys we are learning that first mothers in fully open adoptions, generally fare better than mothers in closed adoptions, experiencing greater grief resolution in the long run, but that relief comes later. Yet mothers who interact with their babies, and help choose the adoptive parents, actually report more grief and regret in the short term, the first few months after birth. We do not find this finding unusual, but compatible with the shock of losing a child, no matter how it is done.[2]

But what is, or is not, an open adoption is still evolving. Many agencies offer what they call open adoptions, but in reality the particulars of many of these arrangements are designed to obfuscate true openness: communication between the first mother and adoptive parents goes through the agency, and the individuals may not actually know each other, or their addresses. This fuzzy category includes about 40 percent of adoptions today. [3]

BUT WHEN THE OPENNESS CLOSES....

When one of the contestants on Sixteen and Pregnant, a reality TV show, complained to her social worker that she did not know who the parents really were, the social worker responded by saying something to the effect of, Well if you wanted a fully open adoption, you should have said so. It was clear that the young—and now anguished—teen mother had not been aware that she had a choice and could have asked for direct contact. Young mothers are likely not be focused on details they assume are being handled in their best interests by the ever-so-solicitous social worker who has been holding their hands through the pregnancy and birth. If you are made to think that a semi-open adoption (which isn’t open at all) sounds like a great deal, but aren’t told you can ask for more, why would you?

States have laws sealing records—birth certificates, court records, adoption agency records, and some courts have taken these laws to mean that open-adoption agreements are unenforceable, either because they are not authorized by the legislature, or, in fact, that such agreements are explicitly prohibited. In other words, a first mother could not enforce the agreement in spite of the fact that the agency arranged it—because it shouldn't have been written in the first place and the mother has no legal right to know where her child is anyway.

Often the arrangement stipulates letters and promised updates for a few years, but then after that contact is up to the discretion of the parties involved—not the child, of course, but the adults. Adoptive parents often exercise that discretion and end all communication; the first mother has no recourse. One agency source says that 80 percent of all such quasi-open arraignments actually close within a few years. What can a mother do?

She can plead with the agency to pressure the adoptive parents, but the agency has no incentive to do so—why risk getting a name as a nagging agency from the people who actually pay the bills? The first mother who supplied the baby? She’s not the client, she’s the supplier, and even with all the good will in the individual social worker’s mindset, the first mother is someone who is part of a past transaction. Instead of coddling the grief-stricken mother, she needs to focus on the future—the people wanting to adopt, the pregnant woman she’s talking to now. Totally ignored in this arrangement are the needs of the adoptee—but that individual is not really the client, because—he or she is an infant whose direct needs of food and shelter are being met.

DIRECT COMMUNICATION IS A MUST
Women who enter into adoptions believing they will be open—but later find them closed are, not surprisingly, the most distraught, for not only have they lost their children, they were duped into giving them up with promises not kept. Some mothers talk of being pressured into doing so in the hospital right after birth when they were wavering over keeping the child; then the parents renege on the agreement. They have no recourse and now doubly blame themselves. [4]

A friend told me of an adoptive father, a magazine editor, who refused to do any television appearances because his “birth mother might recognize” him. What did that mean, I wondered: Had his child’s first mother picked he and his wife out through a photograph? Had there been the promise of contact that he now avoided? Why did he feel the need to hide? Was this a supposedly open adoption? But the basic question was: did he at all think about the needs or wishes of his child?

Another problem with arrangements for communication only through the agency is that adoption agencies are, first and foremost, businesses. Like any business, they are subject to market whims, and they can close. There is no central depository to take the records, and only luck determines if anyone will pick up the case load. When a San Antonio agency (Adoption Services Associates, ASA) shut down in 2012—after handling some estimated 5,000 adoptions—both prospective adoptive parents and birth families were in the lurch. Another Texas agency, Abrazo Adoption Services, stepped in to help the frantic birth mothers who relinquished through ASA, who were promised regular updates and photographs until the child was five, as well as the possibility of a reunion at age 18.

Abrazo was only able to locate the adoptive families of about a dozen of them, and only half of them were receptive to continuing contact with the birth mother! That would be six. Several thousand first mother who thought they had an open adoption arrangement were left in the lurch. When Abrazo’s director, Elizabeth Jurenovich, suggested to some of the ASA adoptive parents that the promised reunion take place—an ideal that many first mothers had clung to—the reaction surprised her: “ASA only made us send her a letter and picture once a year for five years afterwards, that should be enough!” one adoptive father shouted on the phone. “We didn’t want to adopt her and her family, just the baby!” Conversely, a handful of adoptive families who did want to keep up contact with the first mother—but only if Abrazo would act as the go-between. Incidentally, Abrazo only handles fully open adoptions.

LAW IS WOEFULLY BEHIND THE TIMES
States are beginning to catch up to changing adoption practices, and some have laws that offer some degree of enforcement, as well as allow judges to modify the agreement if circumstances change. But the law is woefully behind on this, and most first mothers looking to enforce an open-adoption contract will find themselves in the lurch and looking for a lawyer who won’t be able to offer much help.

In short, many agencies trumpet open adoption to trusting and confused young women, but in far too many cases those agreements are no more than marketing scams to encourage pregnant women to give up their babies. Without a steady supply of babies, and couples willing to pay thousands of dollars for these babies, adoption agencies cannot stay in business. Agencies promise, adoptive parents promise, but experience indicates that only a small percentage of those promises—in the semi-open adoptions—are being kept.

However, if the promises of opened are kept, first mothers fare significantly better than those in closed adoptions. Four years after relinquishing their children, women who chose the adoptive parents—and were not coerced by parental pressure—report less grief and worry, and more relief and peace, than those who did not have this opportunity.[5] More than half of the respondents had received follow up pictures and letters. But four years later, a mere twelve percent (which loosely coordinates with our informal source) said they had phoned or visited since the child had been placed with a new family.

Closing an open adoption is not all the adoptive parents’ doing. Some first mothers do not keep up contact—it may be too hard to visit and not be overcome by grief and guilt; the adoptive family might live in a far-away state; and some women are simply less bothered by their children being raised by others and drift away. Yet adolescence is precisely the time more contact, not less, is likely to be beneficial to the adoptee. First mothers may be led to believe that the openness is merely for their benefit, and are totally unaware of how important it is for the child.

AND THE CHILDREN? 
How do the children fare? Since open adoptions in any number date from the Nineties, research on how they are doing has yet to appear. A few random comments found on the Internet say that such arrangements are not necessarily easy for the child. Some adoptees try to return to their first families; others are content to live with the adoptive family that has nurtured them from birth, while being able to spend time with their first family. Whatever the situation, however, it is complicated emotionally for the individuals involved.

The best solution if a mother cannot raise her child is for the child to be absorbed into the larger genetic family of aunts and uncles and cousins, with the child growing up always knowing who his mother is. Open adoption is a step forward, but it is not a panacea for the myriad issues that stem from relinquishing a child to someone he does not have a strong genetic connection to.--lorraine  (from my upcoming memoir: hole in my heart. Not to be reproduced or copied without permission)
______________________________
[1] Openness in Adoption, March, 2012, p. 7.
[2] Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, p.
[3] Openness, Donaldson, p. 7.
[4] Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, p.50.
[5] Pearila Brickner Namerow, Debra Kalmus, and Linda Cushman,“The Consequences of Placing versus Parenting Among Unmarried Women, Families and Adoption (The Haworth Press) Vol.25, No. 3/5, 1997, pps. 175-197.

SOURCES
E. B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Openness in Adoption: From Secrecy and Stigma to Knowledge and Connections, 2012
E. B. Donaldson Adoption Institute: Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, 2006

FROM FMF
The promise of 'openness' lures vulnerable mothers to be
Considering Open Adoption? What You Should Know

READING
Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self                                
by David Brodzinshy, Marshall D, Schechter and Robin Marantz

One of the best books looking at the adoptee experience through the different ages of the individual. I was mesmerized when I read it, years after I found my daughter. I lent it to a high school teen who was adopted, who devoured it and lent it to her best friend, also adopted. It's chock full of insights about what is going on and the lifelong implications of being adopted.

Children of Open Adoption (above)
by Kathrleen Silver and Patricia Martinez Dorner

A book that examines the effects of open adoption on the children. Two pioneers in the field examine scores of open adoption experiences from infancy to adolescence. Among topics covered: bonding, grief, communication, entitlement, and adoption understanding among children. 

45 comments :

  1. Such a great post, Lorraine. Open adoption is not the answer. Aside from staying with biological relatives, I don't think there is an answer. Especially not while money is being made.

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  2. Short answer: absolutely no.

    I don't like the premise that open adoption is a magical cure that fixes the little bit that was wrong with adoption. "Oh, birth mothers and/or adoptees complain about adoption because it means they can never know what happened to their child/mother, they need medical info, and they want to know where they came from? Well, let's just establish ongoing contact and that fixes that." Absolutely not. It fixes the giant hole that comes from not knowing, but it does not fix the multitude of other issues with adoption. It also creates more issues in and of itself.

    "Closing an open adoption is not all the adoptive parents’ doing. Some first mothers do not keep up contact—it may be too hard to visit and not be overcome by grief and guilt; the adoptive family might live in a far-away state; and some women are simply less bothered by their children being raised by others and drift away. Yet adolescence is precisely the time more contact, not less, is likely to be beneficial to the adoptee. First mothers may be led to believe that the openness is merely for their benefit, and are totally unaware of how important it is for the child."

    Yes. This. I'm heartbroken that this is what we are experiencing. My visions of our daughter growing up always knowing her other parents have been dashed. I don't hold any blame, either, just great sadness and a sense of fear and loss for our daughter. The pain involved in continually saying goodbye to the child you have lost is like a bleeding wound. It cuts so deep, and no one ever tells you how it feels to relive relinquishment again and again and again. For both sets of parents, it is so incredibly painful. And once the child is aware? The pain and confusion multiply.

    No, open adoption is not a fix. But I still believe that if adoption is to occur, it absolutely should be open and these issues should be worked through together. What I would like is more help and assistance in how to navigate these issues and make sure that the child is always at the center.

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  3. Thank you for taking on this topic! It is of course, near and dear to my heart. For those who don't know my story, I was forced by my parents to relinquish my baby daughter "A" for adoption in early 1985. Knew nothing of "open adoption" and my parents took me to the agency fully expecting a closed adoption. When I voiced my opposition to adoption late in my pregnancy, agency informed me of a "new program called semi-open adoption" where my bf and I would be able to read 3 typed letters from hopefully aparents, and could then choose one of them to parent our child. With that, we would receive a letter and picture from them when our daughter was 2 months, and then I believe one more at her first birthday. That was the end of the aparent's requirement. We reluctantly chose a family, and to make a long story short, they opted for MORE contact because their older adopted son had an open adoption with his "birth"family. (they knew each other personally and aparents were asked to adopt him) So, we had an "agency centered relationship" for several years before we finally exchanged names and addresses so we could be in direct contact. I married "A's" father, had another baby 21 months after "A" and my husband joined the military. We were overseas and definitely not a threat to the afamily! That may have played a part in the openness. When "A" was 9, we all reunited, or met, or whatever you want to call it. We were then in a different state so still not close enough to have many visits.

    Now that the long background is out of the way, having to be an outsider in my daughter's life was excruciating, and if I could go back and change it, I would. *I* wanted to have MY ORIGINAL TITLE of "mom" and hearing her call someone else by that name hurt very badly. IF adoption had been MY choice and for whatever reason I had NOT wanted to parent her, things might have been different. It was pure torture for me, and would take me several days after a visit to regroup and function again. (this was of course kept secret from the aparents) My husband had a difficult time as well, but as men do, they put it on the back burner and go on. My children were also withdrawn and sad for the next day or so. (we have 4 boys and 2 girls respectively) I hung in there for A, as well as the other kids. I was hoping they'd have good relationships as they got older since they "kinda" grew up together. So far, that hasn't panned out. It breaks my heart...for all of them.

    To be continued...

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  4. Part 2...sorry this is so long!

    For how A was affected...in the early years of our relationship, she showed a connection to us that her a-mother said she didn't have towards anyone else that she had grown up with. She wanted to spend the night with us the first time we met, and a-mom was completely shocked. "A" wouldn't stay overnight with her Grandmother without crying to go home, but she stayed with us on our second visit...no problems what-so-ever. A-mom said she was sullen and moody for several days after visiting us. When she was about 13, she opened up to me on the phone telling me through tears that she felt she "belonged" with us. I silently nodded in agreement, but told her we missed her too...or something like that. From that point, she and I grew very close emotionally. During our brief visits, she wanted to sit by me constantly and wanted me to act as her "mom." She dominated my time, and my other kids were bothered at times. I tried not to let it happen, but only seeing her once or twice a year it was hard not to. (we were given unsupervised overnight visits while we were in town visiting other family) She told me once that she would watch me rock the girls when they were babies, and she wished I had rocked her like that. Talk about guilt and MAJOR pulling of the heartstrings. She would cry quietly in the back of her aparent's car on the way home after visits. A-mom said it took her a couple of days to "bounce back." We knew the feeling. Again, we didn't let on. Couldn't risk being deemed "unstable" and potentially losing visits. Again, I was holding out hope that the kids would all remain connected.

    To be continued...AGAIN!

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  5. The final chapter :) If you're still around, thanks for hanging in there!

    Through the years following A's graduation from high school, things fell apart. I revealed too many feelings to the aparents, they took it personally, and it pretty much shut down. I believe A started feeling pulled between the 2 families, and being dependent on her aparents, we got less and less of her time. She is now almost 30, and recently moved back in with her aparents who are paying for her to go back to school...for the 3rd time! Not her idea, but they lured her to their new home in a different state with the promise of financial assistance. She came out as a lesbian about 10 years ago or so, so she has no family of her own and her relationships are unstable to say the least. My children are all independent (except for the girls...who are still in college/10th grade and doing quite well) We are helping our 22 year old son who has an 18 month old daughter to support. He is able to live at home while working and going to school. I fully expect him to be on his own and independent WELL before he's 29! He's made some mistakes, but we are doing what families do and have stepped in to help him. But help is temporary, and he isn't going to have til he's 30 to get his stuff together. I don't understand the aparent's not being able to cut the apron strings, or A liking to still be tied. I have had to watch them make bad (imo) parenting decisions and was unable to say a word. Unfortunately, A is seemingly very entitled and spoiled...she doesn't treat people very well. Ironically, she doesn't even treat her aparents that great. I don't know what will become of her. I hope she will grow up and find a stable relationship and be happy. I know she isn't by the little bits she's shared with me. Not too long ago, she made the connection that being given up by us had probably caused her some damage. Maybe she's slowly coming out of the fog? Idk. I'm sick and sad and wish I could go back and change things. But I can't. So I pick up the pieces and count my blessings..which include 2 adorable grandsons and a sweet-as-honey granddaughter! My kids are healthy and smart, and I have had a good marriage for almost 28 years. Life isn't all bad! :)

    Just please, know that open adoption is NOT the answer. The kids still lose, and you can go to sisterwish.com to read an adult adoptee's account of growing up in an open adoption. It's painful. Being separated and watching your family go on without you...or watching your child be parented by someone else who may or may not share your values while your hands are tied, still wanting to be your child's "mom" but you're not...overwhelming and soul crushing. Don't be fooled.

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    1. Amy, just as on the other post where we "met", I am right there with you. The kids still lose in open adoption.

      I remember celebrating our son's 3rd birthday with his paternal family - father, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, sister - nearly all of them were there. Was so much fun.

      Anyway, when the cake was brought to the table, our son reached right into the middle of it after the candles were blown out. My impulse was to stop him from doing it but in the split second before I acted, his family burst out laughing and he smiled super big and that was one of the first "wake up calls" that nature is as big or bigger than nurture.

      It may seem like a silly example but for me in that moment I thought "They understand a part of him that I don't. He's with HIS people. He belongs here."

      I know it was only birthday cake but it was a profound moment for me and I mourned for him that he wouldn't have family time with them ALL the time. I still wish it for him. If I didn't have my parents to consider, I have often thought we should move to where his paternal family is. (Five hours away) But I may one day soon need to help care for my parents and also moving that far would take him away from his first mom and his brothers from that side of the family...

      So. Yeah. Open adoption is SO messed up for the adoptee in so many ways and as Tiffany stated earlier, it creates issues in and of itself. Issues you never dreamed would even happen!

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    2. A telling, story, Second Mom. It's wonderful that you had the presence of mind to wait before correcting your son.

      I've heard adoptive parents say they accept their adopted children as they are. I'm sure they mean this but the little differences are bound to create problems. I see this in families where children are raised by both genetic parents but happen to be unlike one parent. They have constant conflict with that parent.

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    3. Thank you Jane - I was afraid my story might sound trite - one of those "you had to be there" kind of things. I was hoping I'd illustrated it well enough.

      Another thing I learned from being around his family numerous times was to STOP asking him to smile for photographs with an open smile (as in - "show me a toothy smile honey") because it finally got through my thick head that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather and uncle ALL smile without showing their teeth. ("Grin" would be the more appropriate description actually.)

      I mention that because of what you said about people accepting their adopted children as they are. I was too uninformed, dumb etc. to realize that the way we choose to smile is most certainly genetic! I felt like an idiot. After several visits and looking at portraits on their walls I finally went "Well DUH" and so I don't ask for toothy smiles any longer! :)

      And ironic that you said it happens with children and genetic parents. Very true!! I was SO unlike my mom in personality and looks that I actually quite clearly remember wondering at about age ten if I myself were adopted!

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    4. Didn't we all wonder--if only for a few seconds--if we were adopted? I thought that my father had to be my father but my mother....maybe not.

      Of course now I recognize many of her traits in me.

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    5. That's my situation to a "T" now Lorraine! My mom and I are very close, talk several times a week, enjoy the same books, have a lot of the same opinions...

      And my dad and I who were so emotionally alike back then are really not these days. Weird how life turns out.

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    6. My mother and I also became incredibly close in my later years, esp. after I told her about my daughter. Amazingly enough, she was always supportive of my being out front and talking about this, even though I know the folks in the apartment building where she lived, in the town where I grew up, had to chatter about the scandal.

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    7. I think that's neat that your mother was so supportive and (apparently) didn't care what her neighbors thought!

      Seems like aging either broadens our views or narrows them. In my father's case they've narrowed. We've agreed to disagree about the openness of our son's adoption. He loves our son but thinks the openness will cause confusion for "J".

      He actually (verbatim!) stated that "He's either ours or he isn't." (Meaning we shouldn't "share" him with his own family!) I had to explain to him that it isn't that simple and we have left it at that.

      Luckily aging has only broadened my mother's views. She understands why openness in adoption is important. And after she retired she became a genealogy nut and has done "J's" family tree back five generations on both maternal and paternal sides. Obviously he knows the living members of his family but I think it's neat that he has the history further back as well.

      Her research uncovered that "J's" three times great grandfather was a noted judge in our community and that he served in the Twenty-Third Texas Legislature. His portrait as well as his wife's hangs in our small museum here in town. I've shown "J" the portraits but I think he was really too young to absorb the information. I need to take him back there again soon. He'll be ten in March so hopefully (?) now it would mean more to him.

      I tend to digress and/or ramble...(sorry!)...but I'm guessing you've already figured that out...lol! Thanks for the dialogue Lorraine!

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  6. I had enough trouble dealing with the emotional backlash from being forced to relinquish. I think I would have become suicidal had I been forced to watch someone else raise my daughter..... I can't imagine the pain of knowing that the little one I loved so much thought I cared so little that I could walk away over and over again without thought or pain.

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    1. Oh Lori, you've said that so well. I agree with you.

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    2. Believe me, I *felt* suicidal at times! I was in and out of counseling, but even well-meaning counselors couldn't offer much help because open adoption was/is such uncharted territory. No one knew what to do with me! And, my daughter witnessed me crying once or twice. She *knew* I was in pain over the situation, and that in and of itself isn't fair for a young adoptee to shoulder. So, do you let them think "all is well" which can translate into "this doesn't bother me...I'm A-OK!" or that it's hurting you? They don't want to feel responsible for causing you pain, and I believe that's exactly how it can be interpreted to them. It's a crazy mixed up mess and I truly believe it's unfair to ask them to be a part of it. True, some adopted children will handle it better than others due to their personality and emotional make-up, but how do we know?? It's a big risk to take with their hearts. It's one I'm very sorry for.

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  7. Amy: I remember reading parts of your story previously. What a shame. Like you say....if only we all could go back and change things...

    I personally know of one open adoption. It was a complete disaster. The tug of war between the first mother and the a-parents was more than any child could stand. The adoptee is a young adult now, but God knows where he is. He and the adoptive parents don't speak. I don't know what became of his first mother.

    No...open adoption is not the answer.

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  8. Actually I still have something else to add. If I could go back in time, not being able to change losing my baby to adoption, I wouldn't do open OR closed. I think I would choose to know where she was and how she's doing on a yearly basis or so, but I'd never want to be involved as a by-stander in her life. I think it harmed ALL of us. It's such an incredibly UN-NATURAL situation and there's nothing you can do to normalize it. Then, when she was an adult and whenever SHE decided, we could reunite. I actually believe the relationships between her and our kept kids would have been better had we been able to meet later. She had to witness us parenting her kept siblings, and I can't help but believe it damaged her emotionally somehow. Saying good-bye to her over and over...how can that be healthy? It's too much for a young girl to process. She doesn't communicate well, and I know she didn't share her confused feelings with her aparents. She would talk to me in the earlier years, and then it would come in spurts. For the most part, she is very closed off. She has confided in me that it is the downfall of most of her romantic relationships...that she doesn't open up or communicate with her partner. I know for a fact that her amom wanted to believe our open situation was the best of both worlds...a fairy tale even. If she was conveying that to my daughter, while my daughter was hurting and struggling...couldn't have been good. "A" went to counseling and was put on Prozac when she was 17 because she was refusing to go to her new school and having a hard time adjusting to her adad's job transfer. They bought her a new car, but funny enough, that didn't help! lol

    Would she have had the same problems or worse in a closed adoption, it's impossible to say but it doesn't appear that being involved in an open one helped her much. It's hard not to be bitter because of the damage adoption did to ALL of us. No one has been spared.

    Ok, I think I'm done now! :)

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    1. Amy wrote:"I think I would choose to know where she was and how she's doing on a yearly basis or so, but I'd never want to be involved as a by-stander in her life. Then, when she was an adult and whenever SHE decided, we could reunite."

      I agree with this 100%. I think the expectation that I have a relationship with my first mother would have been too painful. It would have hurt too much to see all of my siblings, who were bio-kids, being raised by their natural parents while mine only came to visit. My n-mother wanted so much to keep me that she probably would have been one of those mothers who couldn't handle the pain of seeing me in another family and very likely would have ended the open adoption arrangement, if only to preserve her own sanity. But that would have been devastating for me. Also, there would have been too much pressure on me to try to keep everyone happy and not show divided loyalties. I bet I would have felt more comfortable in my original family, but since my adoptive family was the one that was really there for me I would have prioritized having a secure attachment to them over my desire to be with the people who gave me up. No, I really see this 6 of one, a half dozen of the other, arrangement as causing at least as many problems as it solved. The only advantage I can see to it over closed adoption is that I would have always known who my natural parents and extended family were. And this is, of course, something every child is entitled to know ALWAYS.

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    2. Amy wrote:

      " I think I would choose to know where she was and how she's doing on a yearly basis or so, but I'd never want to be involved as a by-stander in her life. I think it harmed ALL of us. It's such an incredibly UN-NATURAL situation and there's nothing you can do to normalize it. Then, when she was an adult and whenever SHE decided, we could reunite"

      Amy:

      As an aparent of a child who was his bmom's second child ( and placed) this is what I fear too. I too am an adoptee but my adoption was closed ( b. 1967) and I enjoyed life with my aparents and family. It was only until I was pregos with my first child that I searched for my bparents ( they were young teens who were too young to care for themselves much-less a child). Today, I have a BEAUTIFUL relationship with them and all of us ( my aparents/bparents ) are family.

      But in the case of my son, I opted to have a semi-open adoption because bmom was parenting a child already, and I had to ask myself " how will this child feel seeing his bmom and bsibling ( the one she "kept") consistently?" In the end, we all ( bmom, hubby & me) decided that updates would be best and when baby boy was older to let him decide when to meet his bfamily.

      "I actually believe the relationships between her and our kept kids would have been better had we been able to meet later. She had to witness us parenting her kept siblings, and I can't help but believe it damaged her emotionally somehow. Saying good-bye to her over and over...how can that be healthy? It's too much for a young girl to process."

      Again, this is the reason why we ( me, hubby & bmom) opted for semi-adoption. We were all concerned about the emotional health of baby boy.

      Amy:

      In your case you seem like the same age as my bparents when they had me ( 17 & 19 years old) so "I" would have understood "why" but in the case such as baby boy and many others ( many of today's bmoms are parenting a child already), its far more complicated.

      I wish you the best and all the love in your journey towards peace.

      -Mya

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    3. I agree, Robin, and what you describe is how I believe my daughter probably feels. Somehow she felt she needed to choose. Her amom claimed to be pleased that "A" could speak openly to me when she didn't feel she could to her (amom), but accoring to "A" that wasn't true. She expressed that her amom would always ask "Does Amy know this?" and if she said "yes" then her amom would get mad and hurt. Two different stories...

      If it wasn't for my children (all of them) I would have walked away. It would have been much easier, as long as I knew where she was and would be immediately contacted if something were to happen or if medical info. was needed.

      It was simply too much for a human being to handle.

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    4. May: Your situation is what it is and I can understand totally why you chose that route. Will you be able to help your adopted son find his natural mother one day? That is the problem as long as states continue to keep records sealed from adoptees. It is not simply unfair, it is ethically and morally indefensible. And what has happened recently in PA does not bode well.

      I hope that one day your son will be able to have a relationship with everyone. You sound as if you will be able to help him do just that.

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    5. Lorraine:

      Yes, my son will be able to contact his bfamily when he is older and if he wants to. As I said before, we have a semi-open adoption with direct access to each other via email and facebook. He will have her name, address and all info she has given us.

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    6. Amy, I'm glad you shared this. Our open adoption is developing on its own into less contact. It is too hard, emotionally, on our daughter's mother. I understand, but it is sad for me. You really made me think, though, that perhaps this is best for now, until our daughter is older and can understand.

      I think we have started feeling that as we will always keep the lines open, and we feel that in time, our daughter will be asking and wanting to know and have that relationship. Then, since we have that open relationship, she can get to know her parents as she is ready. No big search, no major reveal. I'm hoping that this helps. Because as everyone says, it hurts no matter what. There is no fairytale, and I never believed there would be.

      I have to admit to being an absolutely awful person because I struggle with my daughter's parents still being together. I'm wracked with guilt over it, but I don't want them to stay together, if I am being honest. I worry endlessly how it will impact our daughter. When I say endlessly, I really mean it keeps me up at night sometimes, feeling such anxiety over how it might make her feel if she has full siblings someday. When she is much older, I think she would be able to intellectually understand why her parents made the choices they made. But when she is 16? 14? I don't think she will... I think it would hurt so much, and I don't have to tell you how much that scares me to think about for her.

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    7. Oh Tiffany! I'm constantly in awe of how much you actually "get it." And I believe because you do, you have half-way won the "war." You're not trying to convince your daughter that her being adopted was "ordained by God, meant to be, and a candy-coated situation with no pain or confusion." I hear so much from adult adoptees that they couldn't tell THEIR truth, or be honest, because it would hurt their a-parents. Your attitude that you will undoubtedly convey will allow your daughter to be honest and open with however she may feel. And you never know...she could be one of the ones that accepts things as they are, and is truly as "okay" with it as much as one can be. There will be questions of course, but you're not going to be patting her on the head saying "Don't worry daughter dear. God planned ALL of this out, and this is how it is meant to be!" That's what my daughter's a-parents did. They are very strong in their Catholic faith, and think God micromanages and plots EVERYTHING out. I got pregnant because they prayed to St. Theresa exactly NINE MONTHS TO THE DAY that they got the call from the agency letting them know my baby was waiting there for them. It messed MY mind up being told how they believed that this was all "meant to be" and that God used me to get them their baby! "A" and I discussed the whole God thing, and she said it was an idea that was "shoved down" her throat from as long as she could remember. It initially confused her. I could never believe that MY God would use a 17 year old as a vessel to get them THEIR daughter. How cruel. And not to mention how hurtful the situation has been for my daughter, and other kids. If that's not a narcissistic way of thinking, I don't know what is!

      Sorry...off on a tangent again! My well-meaning advice would be...don't borrow trouble and get some sleep! :) I'm sure you're doing a great job, and will continue to do so. We can only do the best we can with what we have, and you're so ahead of the game. You're head isn't in the sand, and your daughter will be the better for it. We can't protect our kids from everything, but we guide them the best way we can, and soften the tough blows as much as possible. It's all we can do. Take it day-by-day :)

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    8. Thank you so much for your reply, Amy. Your words meant so much to me.

      No, I absolutely in no way believe God wanted our daughter to be separated from her parents. The story of your daughter's adoptive parents makes me positively ill. I cannot fathom that amount of selfishness and insensitivity. I would be hard pressed to hold my tongue if confronted with that. That must have wounded your daughter so very much, to feel that her pain was ordained by God. As a person of faith, my God isn't that sick and twisted.

      I always knew I wanted to adopt. But I pictured it very differently. I felt in my heart that someday, I would be there for a child who needed me; not that I would need a child, but that a child would need me to be a mama. I'm an intuitive person, and it's hard to explain, but I tend to just *know* things without being able to explain why. I can read people and know things about them that they don't even tell me. I can know the outcomes of certain events without having any justification, and I'm always right. It drives my husband crazy! ;) It's odd, but I've always been this way. Anyway, so adoption was never about finding a child for me, but about waiting for that child who would need me. And that is pretty much what happened. We didn't match through an agency, but through a friend in a very random way. Our daughter's parents were not able to keep her for some complicated reasons that I won't get into, and I did feel as though we were meant for that time and place to step in as second parents.

      But I think it was the... challenging circumstances... in the parents' lives that caused them to be separated from their baby. Not God, but the failing of people in their lives to do the right thing. I wish we could have changed the outcome for them- I would have if I could have. In a perfect world, I would never have met my daughter. I think this is a thought APs shy away from because they aren't able to live with the conflicting thoughts. They love and want their child and they can't accept that that love can exist while still acknowledging they are God's or the universe's or fate's second choice as family. I will always be second place as a mother to my daughter, and that's ok. It's not a contest.

      It's like that "you grew in my heart" nonsense. Or "my baby was born to another," which is even yuckier. I suppose these sentiments work well for children who escaped an abusive situation, perhaps adopted from foster care. But my daughter was born to the right parents. It's just that in this crappy, sucky world, she was not able to stay with them. That's when I think we came in as the best possible second choice for her.

      I'll try to stop worrying so much. :) It is hard though. It's one of the things mamas do best, I suppose.

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  9. Take heed, vulnerable young women who may be contemplating open adoption. Many promises are made that can and are broken; just to ensure you part with your infant and into the desperate arms of people who will say and do anything for your child. Do your research. There are many stories out here (and even a on this blog) of women who have endured this con and most end with the same narrative; you are shut out when you become too much of a threat and inconvenience. They want your child, not pesky you involved in "their" lives.

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    1. Some of the younger adoptive parents, particularly the ones who comment here, do want to keep the natural parents in the picture. I hope that by their writing their stories here, other adoptive parents will learn from them that keeping the ties with the biological parents is good for the children. Not all adoptive parents tell stories and then disappear!

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    2. I said "many" promises are made and "many" are broken, not all. The one's who do are the one's I am speaking about. I know, I lived it. Thanks.

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    3. As an adoptive mother who cares very, very much about maintaining our relationship with my daughter's other set of parents, I agree with Not Forgotten. I feel incredibly strongly that open adoption agreements should be a legally binding contract similar to how child custody agreements work in divorce situations. Changes should require mediation. Both sides should be held accountable to uphold the agreements made at the onset, and if changes are proposed as required for the mental health of the child, then that is when the mediator should step in to ensure that it is not just a preference on the side of the APs to close contact.

      When we were adopting our daughter, it was me who made sure that the parents understood fully that they were placing their trust in us to uphold our agreement. My husband and I felt very strongly (and still do) that any child deserves to be able to access her original family and not have to search. But I wanted them to know that they were essentially just believing us and that there is no legal recourse. I made sure to fill out the form and file it with our adoption paperwork, but I also made sure they understood they had pretty much no recourse if we violated it. We didn't really have an agency adoption, exactly, but I know that agencies try to make open adoption seem like a sure thing to expecting parents, and it's so wrong.

      I take my promises very seriously, and not just because it is the moral and right thing to do, but because I will be held accountable someday by my daughter. Whatever kind of relationship she decides to have with her parents, I will not be the cause of it being a negative one. I don't want to burden my child's heart with that, so I keep my promises and make sure that there is a relationship there that will not cause our daughter to choose between parents.

      In the end, I love my children and want the very best for them- whatever makes them feel complete and happy. They love me and their dad more than anyone or anything else right now. But it won't always be that way. And I'm ok with that because it's how nature works. They will find partners, have children of their own, have deep friendships... they will someday love others more than me. My daughter who is adopted may love her first mom more than me. That's ok. But I will never, ever love anyone or anything more than them... and that's enough for me.

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  10. Amy: you say that your daughters AP's thought the open adoption was a fairy tale situation.

    My AP's think the same of my closed adoption. They got what they wanted.

    Now we know that neither is a healthy situation. And the adoptive parents are the only winners in thus game. Not first mothers, and not adoptees. The whole thing is so unnatural.

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    1. JE, I think aparents craft the "Fairy Tale" in their own minds, whether out of guilt or feelings of inferiority because they desperately NEED it to be true. I say inferiority because I have heard of cases where aparents are jealous/envious/whatever of the bio-parents because they produced a child and they could not. Amom actually thought we had the perfect situation because the birthfather and I ended up getting married, and having a family...thus showing we were committed to each other and "A" wasn't the product of a meaningless relationship. Never did it dawn on her that the situation might actually make "A" feel worse?! Was it lack of empathy, or denial?

      Hope you're having a relaxing break! :)

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  11. 28 years ago the big fat Lie of open adoption hit me in the heart. Really open adoption is an adoption term or lure and not a legal right. The ones that want to get the baby say what ever to get the baby.. then take the baby and run. What Real Rights…I call this baby stealing and no one cares.
    Still today nothing has changed. The court papers signed are still the same, nothing said of the promises and lies made..sign the dotted line sign all rights away.
    The Lies are still going on in the same way and I feel like I have yelled this as loud as I can and no one can hear me

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    1. I agree and I understand.

      Is anyone listening??

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    2. Oh Amy, we have been listening. xxx

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  12. I am a victim of an open adoption that closed only after a year, I found my daughter and she wants nothing to do with her natural family. From her amom's facebook I learn that her amom was a high school drop out and recently was convicted of theft and meth possession, i say all this to say DO NOT TRUST ADOPTION AGENCIES they ony have the AP interests in mind, if I had known that her amom was a drop out I would have never place my child but the agency didn't tell my this and why should they she was a paying customer.

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    1. wow this has stayed with me since I read this post and wrote the comment above . This TRAMMA will always continue. The nightmares of what kind of people have my son, so willing to lie and smile.
      All I wanted was the best for him, for him to have better then I could provide

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    2. I'm so sorry.

      That's such a common misconception...that aparents are somehow flawless and perfect, much above birthparents! Another story that breaks my heart...I used to baby-sit a little girl who was adopted. This was about oh, 25 years ago when I first started. When the girl was 16, getting dressed in her pretty party dress to go to her high school dance, her afather walked into her room and shot her dead. The amother came home from the store, he shot her too then himself. The aparents were having marriage problems (GASP!) and adad apparently had mental problems. I often wonder if Lisa's birthmother ever found out. These people lived in a huge house, and Lisa never wanted for anything. PIcture perfect on the outside, and apparently "hell" on the inside. My mother was adopted in 1945. My agrandfather (whom I loved dearly) was a raging alcoholic. My agrandmother was a career woman and they lived in an affluent neightborhood. They adopted my mother because my grandfather promised he'd stop drinking if they did. He didn't. Cream of the crop people?? Nope, just real human beings with real problems...just like the rest of us.

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    3. One Mad Mama--that is such a sad story, of course you are angry. And I'm sorry that your daughter does not want to have a relationship. But in time, people do change.

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  13. I met a woman yesterday who was adopted as an infant but wasn't told until her 30's. This woman's son was blessed with a child when he was 16 and the baby's mother opted for open adoption. From the paternal grandparent's perspective she felt it was a good situation. The aparents had pictures of the original parents on the crib and always honored the original parents.
    I really connected with this adult adoptee, original grand parent. She is a wonderful woman. Except for her belief that I was honorable, and amazing and I can't remember what other words she chose because I relinquished. I tried explaining that I was none of those things. I was stupid and gullible.I walked away from my child when she needed me most. How can people think highly of "birth" mothers? I don't. Of course, I wouldn't want her calling me a birther and telling me how damn cruel I was, I get that from adoptees on other sites. But please, don't praise a mother who walks away. Praise the mothers who stay and fight and care for their children. Who put off medical school or whatever, because they have a much more important job to care for their infant child.

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    1. I'm praising ANYONE who survives the institution of adoption.

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  14. There is no honestly in adoption. None of the problems with adoption can be fixed until everyone involved starts acting like adults. Closed adoption is built upon lies. First mothers were told that they would forget and move on, and I am sure the social workers who said so knew it was a lie. Open adoptions are rarely honored. The dishonestly is rampant and adoption can not work until it stops. Sadly, I do not think it will.

    FYI: Going on a much-needed weekend away. My older girl is staying with my folks so I can manage this. I will be reading here, but I don't know if I can comment. I'll be back early Sunday.

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    1. "First mothers were told that they would forget an move on and I am sure the social workers who said so knew it was a lie."

      I agree and I think the first mothers knew in their hearts too...I think that is maybe their hardest cross to bear that they hoped/wished it would be true but knew deep down how could it be???

      That is basic human nature to know you won't forget your child. You don't need a degree or a social worker to tell you. You know.

      Em

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  15. Of course, in 1966, the adoption of my daughter was "closed." But after I found her when she was 15, it was "open." She spent summers with us, and lived with us for nearly a year when she was 20. All I know is that it was healthier for her to know all of us; and I do know that she did feel torn sometimes between the two sides of her--adoptive and biological. She once said, the closer I get to one of you, the farther I have to pull away from the other. I feel like a magnet torn between two opposing poles. We had our difficulties but no one ever thought it would have been better to not know each other. Of course, it would have been better if there had been no adoption in the first place.

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  16. Thank you for your post, I am a grandmother of a baby lost to "Open Adoption" that is now closed. I can not tell you the pain that my daughter endures every day because an adoptive couple promised this beautiful story of "Open Adoption". Actually, my whole family is grieving this loss. My granddaughter is 2 1/2 and 3 weeks after this couple took her, they started to change the adoption and cut off contact. We now have a lawsuit against the attorney and the adoptive couple for conspiracy and fraud. This has been a huge eye opening experience for the horrible laws in our state! We will change laws! This will be our goal in our state of IA. Thank you for your post! We need to educate all on this injustice.

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  17. adoptive parents are wilfully blind to the anguish of the birth mother. A truly christian response would be to help birth mother and child to stay together. How can it be christian to take a child from its mother - it is inhuman . to ignore a birth mother and love her child is is illogical. birth mothers were rejected as outcast their child taken from them and given to people with more wealth . No mother willingly gives up her child . A christian couple would dobetter to contribute to support of mother and child schemes and possible help parents stay with their child. Adoptive parents are anathema to birth mothers who long for their child . May god forgive you for taking my son.

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