' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: At last, Respect: Amherst Establishes First Chair in Adoption

Saturday, December 20, 2008

At last, Respect: Amherst Establishes First Chair in Adoption

Interesting news out of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Harold Grotevant, formerly of the University of Minnesota and a lead researcher in the 20-year Minnesota-Texas study of open adoption, has been appointed to the first chair that will focus on adoption.

At last. Andrew and Virginia Rudd, who endowed the chair along with matching state funds, have a daughter, Alexi, who studied psychology and sociology at UMass. In a press release, the Rudd family said: "Our goal is that the professorship should act as a catalyst in focusing academic research on the emotional and psychological trauma often experienced by adoptees. (Italics mine.) Eventually, we hope research might be able to suggest potential avenues toward a better understanding of adoption issues.” (This inquiring minds wanted to know, but could not learn, what their connection to adoption is. Hardly likely this is a random interest. One of them is adopted, I'll bet. Or gave up a child.)

And here's what the head of the clinical psychology at UMass, Sally Powers, had to say:

“Within psychology, there are many areas of basic and clinical research that have important implications for understanding adoption and its effects,” Powers said. “These include studies of biological, emotional and social processes involved in attachment and bonding; the effect of stress and trauma, particularly early separation trauma; family processes such as parenting and marital relationships in families of origin and adoptive families; the interacting influence of genetics and the environment on child development, and factors that foster resiliency and coping in children exposed to early family disruptions.”

In an interview , Grotevant was asked:

A major part of your research is with the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, a 20-year study of open adoption, begun in the 1980s, where both sets of parents share information, and involving hundreds of adoptive parents, adopted children, and their birthmothers. What did you learn from the longitudinal study?

One thing we’ve seen is that as time goes on, the needs of the adoptive parents and birth parents tend to swap. At first, many birth mothers want some form of contact to make sure that their child is in good hands. Over time, as she feels reassured that it’s working out for the child, or she marries and has other children, her need for contact may diminish. The adoptive parents, on the other hand, are eager to establish their family and may not be so sure about involving the child’s birth relatives. But over time, their needs for contact may increase, because their children have questions about their birth mother, for example. Some of the families in our study began by having no contact with the child’s birth family, but moved to open contact. We’ve also seen that there are many ways to “do” open adoption. Families figure out what works best for their situation and fine-tune their arrangements over time.

We do have to realize that it's not always the adoptive parents who put the kabosh on a continuing relationship. Not all mother are the sensitive, caring people who visit this blog....

It will be Christmas in a few days. I'm plugging away on my book--A Hole in My Heart--reliving the parts when I first met Jane and those early days, and it's okay. This is a part of my life. I write in the hope that I can shed some light on adoption and its sad aftereffect to those numskull legislators who have their heads in the sand and worry only about those small percentage of mothers who haven't told a soul and are worried to death lest their perfect image be ruined by what happened--and who was born--twenty, thirty years ago. Well, we might not be able to move these women out of the quagmire they've sunk into, but if the opportunity arises, tell someone your story. I once got into an amazing conversation with a woman at an airport; I told her I was going to speak at a CUB retreat. She turned out to be an adoptive mother who was most interested, and open to my point of view.

Who knows? The words you speak to stranger might be just the lift they need. She or he could turn out to be adopted, and wondering if that other mother is thinking about her or him at the holidays. And you just might change someone's mind. --lorraine

PS: Christmas post come Monday. And remember, Christmas will pass. It's only a few days out of the year.

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