' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: How an Open Adoption becomes 'Closed'

Friday, December 14, 2012

How an Open Adoption becomes 'Closed'

Ken Robbins, Houses by the Bay, Archival Digital Print

A few months ago we heard from a young woman who had recently relinquished her child. She was full of pain when she wrote to us, five months after surrender of her daughter. Her "open" adoption turned into a nearly closed one after the adoptive parents of her baby read about her sorrow on her blog. She went through an agency, American Adoptions, based in Kansas, but deals with placements all over the country. Their website shows many pictures of happy couples, with dogs, without dogs, whatever you are looking for. It makes the process of giving up your child seem like the ideal solution.
It did not turn out that way for her. Here is her account of her relationship with the agency social workers, in her own words:

Around my fifth month of pregnancy, I decided on adoption. The baby’s father and I had no real relationship, and he wanted me to have an abortion, We were students at the same Catholic college in upstate New York, and after graduation in May, he was moving back to his home country of Nigeria. He would keep his daughter a secret from everyone. He would keep on partying and hooking up with random girls the remainder of my pregnancy, and then move back to Africa, and I would likely never hear from him again. I didn’t think I could get child support from him since he wasn’t a U.S. citizen and to top it off, his father was a lawyer. It was February. 
If he didn’t want anything to do with his child, I wasn’t going to force him to be in our lives. But at the same time, I didn’t think it was fair to my daughter to grow up not knowing any family members because one entire side of her family wouldn’t even know she existed.

My own family was cutting off ties with me because they were ashamed of me, and to make it worse, a  number of them were telling me I wouldn’t be a good enough mother, that I would be selfish for keeping my daughter, and that I would be on welfare for the rest of my life. Though I had originally planned on keeping my baby, they wore me down, having convinced me that as a single mother, I would not be enough. I came to believe that the only way I would be a good mother would be to give my baby away. In February I contacted American Adoptions, and met with an adoption counselor. I was still on the fence about adoption at that point. I never wanted to give my baby away, but I felt that I had to.

Before I knew it, the adoption counselor was referring to me as a birthmother (and I referred to myself as one too), and by March I had found an adoptive family. They seemed picture perfect. They seemed to go everywhere and do everything. They had a gorgeous house. They had horses. They were involved in their community. They talked about taking my daughter to Disneyland one day, and teaching her how to ride horses, and taking her to the beach, and I thought, “I want all of that for her.” 

After the agency worker talked with them, they agreed to an open adoption. We started talking via email every day up until I gave birth in the beginning of June. When I got to the hospital, I was supposed to call the adoptive mother and my adoption counselor and let them know I was in labor, so the adoptive parents could catch a flight from where they lived, seven hours away. They got there three hours after I gave birth, and over the next few days in the hospital, I let them take care of my daughter a little bit, feeding her and changing her. 

They still seemed to be great people, and the day I was discharged from the hospital, they texted me asking if I was okay because they saw me fall apart in their rearview mirror as they drove away with my baby. They sent me pictures and updates the next few days. My college roommates and I had dinner with them the day before they left to fly back home with my daughter. 

A few months later, everything changed. They had stumbled across a blog I had been keeping from the time I decided on adoption, and they were completely taken aback by an entry that talked about how much I missed my daughter. In my blog I said,   
“I feel like I served my purpose by giving birth and by completing someone else's family for them, and now they don't need me any more than my daughter does. I stopped texting the adoptive mother as frequently and asking for updates on my daughter, because I don't want to be reminded of how the one person I love more than anything in this world is doing just fine without me. Do I regret the adoption? Right now, at this point in my life, I would have to say yes. Don't get me wrong-I don't regret making the adoptive parents happy beyond belief, and I don't regret completing their family for them. But I do regret that in order to do that I had to sacrifice my own happiness and destroy my own family that would have consisted of myself and my daughter.”
The adoptive parents told the agency they wanted to cut off contact with me for the next six months, and I said that was not okay. I emailed or called my adoption counselor every single day for the next two months before anything was finalized. I had asked for updates once a month. Still a far cry from the visits, emails, phone calls, text messages, and everything else I was promised. Instead, they agreed to send me updates once a month for the next six months, but after that close the adoption. They claimed they needed time to be a family, and that I was taking that away from them. 

Among other things, the adoptive parents told me I was no longer my daughter’s mother, that I could just have another child someday. They lied to the agency and said I was harassing them along with my friends, they blocked me and everyone else they once had called “family” online on Facebook, they continued to stalk my blog and report back to the agency what I wrote. I finally took the blog private. They also said I can’t share pictures of my daughter with anyone , and have implied on more than one occasion that I never deserved to be a mother. The agency’s response to this was to tell me that I was asking too much from the adoptive parents, that I needed to get into therapy and move on with my life, and that I seemed resentful. I took down all pictures of my beautiful daughter.

Just now, five months after placement, I am finding out more unethical things the agency did. They had me sign relinquishment papers over a month before my actual due date. They had me waive the number of days I had to change my mind from ten down to five. They lied to me about the original birth certificate, telling me it would be shredded, and that I wasn’t allowed to have a copy of it or see it. The called me a birthmother before I ever gave birth, implementing in my mind that's who I was. As I was figuring out what was happening with contact with the adoptive parents--they had deleted me from seeing their Facebook  page--I also had asked them who told the adoptive parents to change their phone number.  My adoption counselor said she'd talk to their social worker to find out. The next day that SHE told me she was the one who told them to delete me on FB, but that she had never told them to change their phone number.

Although I had requested the adoption counselor be there when I was discharged with my daughter from the hospital, only the adoptive family was there. The counselor did not call to find out how I was doing until a few days after I left the hospital. And for all the therapy the counselor encouraged me to go into, acting like I could have all the therapy I needed, she failed to tell me until after placement that they would only pay for three sessions. My father is now paying for it.

As far as I am concerned, the social worker at the agency pretended to care about me. After placement--if you’re still in that place of “I’m so selfless and noble and peaceful” about the whole thing--she asked if I would become a poster child for adoption. If you say one word against them or the adoptive parents, they  tell you to "get over it."

I do not feel comfortable at all with the adoptive parents anymore, especially since the adoptive mother told me that every time she looks at my daughter she “has to be reminded” that she couldn’t give birth to her herself. I wish I had known that I was good enough for my daughter. Just because the adoptive parents had horses and money does not make them saints. As for the future at this point I really have no idea...I doubt things will be patched up between the adoptive parents and myself, unless I throw myself under the bus and take blame for everything, which I have no plans on doing.--a natural mother

FMF would love to hear from other mothers and their relationship with the social worker who handled their case, and their relationship with the agency involved and how they feel about the agency today.

From FMF, related posts

How adoption agencies 'turn' vulnerable women into spokespeople for relinquishing Former Bethany "recruiter" speaks up
Mea Culpa to Julia and others who give up their babies today

Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories The book is one of the early ones about first mothers, and the writer, though not involved in adoption, tells their stories with empathy. The writer, Merry Bloch Jones had me hooked in the introduction when I read: "...I began to realize that, to birth mothers [yes, that term, but hang on], relinquishment was more than merely a life-altering turning point. For most, it was an invisible barrier separating them from the bulk of humanity."

I still can't read that--or at least not tonight--without tearing up, just a bit, after editing this young woman's piece and understanding all too well her heartache. And to have that awful truth of our lives acknowledged by an outsider is so powerful. Bloch understood there was no "getting over it" and "moving on." Life goes on yes, but everything about our lives has changed, and not for the better.

"I just last night finished this book. In some places of this book which I underlined or marked it was as if I myself wrote it. I felt a lot of the things described and still do. I am a birth mother of 2 daughters from the 70's so I lived in the era that condemned, shamed and lied to us. It is a relief knowing it was NOT me who..."--from Amazon


  1. I'm in a fragile state already today with the sorrowful tragedy in CT, and this just pushed me right over the edge. I was sobbing halfway through.

    As an Adoptive Mother, all I can say is I am so strong and firm that there MUST be legally enforceable open adoption agreements in place in all states. And not the flimsy ones we have in six states now, you know, the ones where the first mom has to have the money and means to take the APs to court and then most judges side with the APs anyway.

    These APs should be ashamed of themselves for being such bald-faced liars. I know they aren't now, but someday, they will have to face the questioning of the child they supposedly love and explain this to them. I'm taking with an adoptee online who is going through just that right now, and she feels so angry and betrayed by her APs.

    To the author, I can only say I am so very sorry. This is so, so wrong. And I'm sorry.

  2. This story sounds very much like mine, which you also featured on your blog a few years back.

    To the mother this is happening to, I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish so badly that mothers would take heed to the warnings out here before embarking on "open adoptions."

    Perhaps someone will read this and not make the same mistake. I know is hard not to trust adopters who are so sweet and phony when they are courting you for your infant, but these stories are all to prevalent. These people don't care about you, or any natural mother. They will say and do anything to get your infant from you, including blatant fraud. I hope I live to see a day when people like this are held accountable for these crimes of humanity and adoptions that have taken place under the premise of openness that are slammed shut will be declared null and void.

  3. I understand that closing an open adoption is deplorable. However, I don't see that as the biggest problem. I take issue with infant adoption in any form. To me, open or closed, both situations are harmful to mother and child. There is no happy adoption. I can't believe that reasonable adults really can believe that it is ever the very best thing to separate a newborn baby from it's mother, and raise it in a family of strangers. The very idea is ludacris. And they say the mother's willingly, gladly even handed over their own children. Open or closed, adoption has the stink of evil.

  4. "and now they don't need me any more than my daughter does."

    This is where you are mistaken. Your daughter does need you. She always has and she always will. And she needs her heritage, her biological connections and her ancestry, too.

    The adoption industry has brainwashed you to believe that your daughter doesn't need you. It makes me so angry how adoption agencies skirt around the issue of how the child will feel about being adopted. After all, adoption is supposed to be about the child. If s/he has a lot of trauma as the result of being relinquished, how is this a 'better' life?

  5. Adoption agency personnel are soooo nice, they seem to care about the expectant mother so much. Let's face it, in most cases the unmarried pregnant girl's parents are angry with her (furious even) and the child's father has probably abandoned her. And then she walks into an agency and they make her feel valuable and important again. But the truth is, they don't care about you. The care about their PAYING CUSTOMERS, the prospective adoptive parents. I read about a very successful businesswoman who adopted a baby in her late 50s for the princely sum of $62,000 dollars. These are the people the agency cares about. Middle-aged, post menopausal women who devoted their lives to their careers and then suddenly, when it's too late to have one naturally themselves, decide they want a baybee. Catering to their paying clients is how adoption agencies make their money. But they couldn't stay in business unless young, vulnerable mother supply the product, er, I mean the baby. The expectant mothers or "birthmothers" as agencies insist on calling them, are being used.

    As for open adoption, I have written before that I don't think it is such a perfect solution for the child. But it is not always so wonderful for the mother either. It is too often used as a ruse to get an e-mom who is on the fence to surrender.

    To the mother who is living this story,

    I am so terribly, terribly sorry for your loss. I hope you will come back frequently. There is a lot of support to be found here and at the other family preservation oriented blogs.

  6. Sigh. Until people understand that open adoption is actually just a ruse used by agencies to get more mothers to sign and is in fact part of their coercive tactics, this will keep happening.

    Whilst some adopters might honour their agreement to have an open adoption, many use it to convince the mother to give her baby over.

    One other thing that struck me is how adopters and agencies used things and experiences to convince a mother their child will have a better life with them. Disneyland? Horse riding? Why do mothers think they will never do that for themselves? At the time we are pregnant and vulnerable, we are abused by being told we will not be enough yet thy is so not true. Disneyland and horses do not make life wonderful. Sure they are fun and everything but that means nothing if home life is crap and as we are all well aware, adopters are sooo not perfect! I am so sad for this mother and her daughter. But not shocked. The adoption system allows for this sort of tragedy so easily. Mothers are merely objects to be discarded when we have filled our use and sacrificed our children. It's all feral and gross and just one of many reasons adoptions should cease or be vastly reduced as an option to have a family.

    1. I placed my newborn son for an 'open adoption' in Houston, TX. I was soon to learn this wasn't to be 'open' in any way. Immediately, I was bullied, intimidated, and belittled by the adopting father. My son turned 21 years old, last September.

      Just reflecting upon it all depresses me. I'm too sapped of energy to elaborate further.

  7. To You who wrote this and lost her daughter, many hugs. I know you--if that is you--are being ripped apart over at the Huffington Post. If that is not you, you are another victim of a quite corrupt agency, American Adoptions. I went to their site and I was ready to scream, they make it seem so easy to give up your child to one of those "more-worthy-than-thou" couples advertising themselves.

    People are so cruel, they cannot understand what it is like to actually give up a child. There are some adoptive parents who do understand, and keep their hearts open to the other mother, but there are too many who are always ready to attack us. It's one reason I don't speak out when I am with people who say heartless things. I stay silent. I suppose it would be better if I said something but most of the time I just can't be brave like you were.

  8. Myst wrote: "Disneyland and horses do not make life wonderful. Sure they are fun and everything..."

    That is so true. And these kinds of luxuries do not lessen the pain of having been given away, do not lessen the child's wondering why s/he was not worthy enough to be kept. They do not make up for a lack of genetic mirroring or having a complete, up-to-date medical history. They also do not make up for the child's wondering whether or not s/he really belongs in the a-family and whether or not s/he truly is a member of the a-family. It is not uncommon for an adoptee to find that some adoptive relatives refuse to accept her as family.

    Re-reading what this first mother wrote, I can see how brainwashed she was by the agency. Her focus is on how the adoptive parents feel, how happy she made them by helping to fulfill THEIR dream of having a family. But it was never her responsibility to make another couple happy or to help them fulfill their dreams. And certainly not at the expense of her own happiness and peace of mind. But the adoption agency never tells her that.

  9. Wow, close to 900 comments on the Huffington Post video!


  10. I'm so thankful this young mother had the courage to go public with this story on HuffPo. The comments show the truth about how society has nothing but contempt for "birth" mothers...none of that brave and selfless bullshit is on display over there.

    But this young woman had the guts to put herself out there and tell the truth about adoption and how promises of openness are little more than a trick up the adopter's sleeve.

    Thanks for sharing. We are here for you.

  11. Her story breaks my heart. As an adoptee, I know very well what power adoptive parents have and what they wish to divulge or not to divulge to their adoptive children. Everybody today thinks all adoptions are "open" but many do not realize the power the adoptive parents have once the adoption is legalized. I know in New Jersey it is still up to the adoptive parents whether or not they want to keep it open after it is legalized. This information is not given to the birthmothers and if it is, they are many times given false promises. How sad that in 2013 we still have to hear about this. When will the child be put first??? It is always the adoptive parents and their feelings that are considered not what adoption is supposed to be all about, the child.

  12. Just now reading these comments for the first time...I had to take a break from adoption-related things after the HuffPo interview. But anyway, I am the author of this guest post, and also the same birthmom who did the HuffPo interview. It's ridiculous the comments over there...so many people would just rather spew hatred and ignorance than be educated and informed. Everyone loves to judge based on a short video that by no means shows even 10% of the story!

  13. I know, Kim, I read enough of the comments to feel sick. Too many adoptive parents, their friends and relatives, and just people in general have no compassion--still--for the mother who actually gives birth once you mention that you might relinquish your child. After that, it's "but you promised!" It's easier to get out of a contract to buy a house than keep your baby, and we are talking about human life with all its complications and emotions, none of which are ever set in stone.

    Take care.

  14. When I got pregnant in 2012 I just knew I was going to give my baby up for adoption. I was fresh out of high school. I didn't have a job nor education.
    I started reading adoption stories by birth moms and they sounded so fake! None of the stories talked about what it felt like to carry a child for several months knowing she would have to give her baby away. They didn't talk about what it felt like to feel your baby kick for the first time. They all ended in im glad I gave my child a life I couldnt provide.
    Im like ok 30 people wrote about their experiences and it feels like the same person wrote all of these.
    After doing some digging I found stories of open adoptions suddenly becoming closed, agencies foraging signatures, and real issues behind adoption.
    They even have books for adoptive parents on how to manipulate mothers to make sure she doesn't change her mind.
    Its 2013 and I don't regret my decision to keep my baby!
    Thank you for posting your story. Please continue so that other girls may be informed of the dangers of open adoption as well.

  15. I am one of those older "post-menapausal" childless women described above. I truly do want to adopt a child or sibling group but I do not want to deal with any agencies at all. A lawyer would need to get involved because of the legalities. I see no need for an agency. I'd like a relationship directly with the the baby's mother and the baby's mother's family if they want it. Truly open. The more support layers for a child the better. Everyone's invited on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. How can I find a way to meet prospective mothers and talk about this? Is there a forum? I don't want to deal with agencies. Wesley01234@aol.com

  16. Wesley, I hope that instead of buying a baby (or a family), you adopted a dog. You are living in la-la-land if you imagine adoption will be anything like the picture you have in your head. Do you realize how selfish you sound? If you really wanted what was best for a child, you would do all you could to help his own mother have the means to raise him herself. Babies need their mommies, not well-intentioned but deluded strangers.

  17. My babygirl is now 24. I had an open adoption with Sunnyridge agency in Illinois. I saw my daughter when she was five months old. I respectfully gave her adoptive parents respect and privacy. I started asking to meet her when she was around 12 and continued to do so until she was 18. They always said. " She isn't ready its not a good time." When she turned 18 I started pushing harder to meet her. I contacted Sunnyridge...they said I have no legal rights...you and her family are Christian go try to work it out. Well...it went no where other than spiraling me into a very dark place. They refused with more excuses...I was so angry. I wrote them angry letters about how they used me. I decided to let it go for my mental health. A few years later I apologized in a short note for my anger. They didn't even acknowledge mt apology. The adoptive father is a preacher..he preaches every week on how to live and love as a Christian should. I've also reached out to mt daughter numerous times on fb to see if she would like to meet me. I have been rejected by her( who knows what she has been told by her adoptive parents. I am still her waiting..loving her...brokenhearted by this for many...many years. I did marry and I do have wonderful children! They will not take her place. I've never posted about my experience before. I've always felt ashamed since I was 16 and pregnant and unmarried.

    1. Black Violins, I am so sorry to read this. I have heard stories before about parents who have turned the adoptee away from the mother, just as this. One was even threatened with police, and a letter from the daughter saying how she dreaded her birthday because she was afraid that the mother might send her a card....I contacted the first mother years later, and she told me that everything changed when he daughter moved out of the house, and that today they had a good relationship.

      No one can say this is what will happen to you, but I wanted to let you know anything is possible.

      I wish every women who is entering into an open adoption would read stories like yours, for I feel that there might be many fewer adoptions.

      I hope you can find peace in your heart, if not the end of sadness for what was lost. My mental hugs reach out to you today, and I weep with you.



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