' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: The promise of 'openness' lures vulnerable mothers-to-be

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The promise of 'openness' lures vulnerable mothers-to-be

Promises of openness is a common gambit used to separate a mother from her newborn.  We at First Mother Forum believe that if an adoption has to happen, a fully open adoption in most cases is better for all than a closed or semi-open adoption. Unfortunately, too often an open adoption is offered as a panacea to persuade a mother who would otherwise nurture her child to give her/him up.  Too late the mother learns that promises by prospective adoptive parents for openness are not enforceable.

In 2004 first mother Cindy Jordan killed herself after the woman who adopted her child, psychologist Susan Burns, wrote a book on how she and her husband Scott, had conned Jordan into giving up her child with false
promises of openness.

Jordan left behind two teenage sons. Her story lives on in the Internet in blogs and Burns' book, Fast Track Adoption: The Faster, Safer Way to Privately Adopt a Baby, continues on Amazon. It tells others how to engage a mother's trust and then manipulate, deceive, and trick her into giving up her child. Judging by their favorable comments on Amazon, some prospective adoptive parents found the book "fantastic" and "priceless" as well as "recommended by our attorney." In fairness, a few people noted their disgust with her tactics, calling it "horrifying." Whether or not those who wish to adopt read books like Burns', they are coached by adoption practitioners on how to charm mothers-to-be including being given samples of "Dear Birthmother" letters,
webpages, and Burns' book.

Promises of continuing contact are a core part of adoption today. Spurred by a declining availability of infants, as well as a recognition that adoptees and their original parents need to know each other, the industry has glommed onto open adoption. The Gladney Center for Adoption, perhaps the premier non-religious agency today, assures pregnant women on its website:
"The face of adoption looks much different now than it did in previous generations. Adoption today gives pregnant women the opportunity to create their own unique adoption plan. You will be able to hand-pick your adoptive family, talk with them, meet them, and correspond with them through letters and pictures allowing you to stay connected as your child grows. You can develop your own desired plan with support from your counselor."
 American Adoptions tells mothers-to-be:
"Today's adoptions are very different than those even one generation ago, let alone those in the 1950's or 1960's.  Gone are the days when a birth mother simply handed her baby over to an adoptive family, never to see or hear from them again--and never knowing how her child grew up or knowing how much her child was loved.
"...Birth mothers not only choose adoption, but they also choose the life they imagine for their baby. From family pets and holiday traditions to values and education, a birth mother chooses a family for her baby that fits all of the hopes and dreams she has for her child."
Once the adoption takes place, however, reality rears its ugly head.  The fact is that mothers have no control over how her child is raised once they sign the papers and their baby goes into another woman's arms. The pets may have been a ploy, the family traditions may include dancing nude around a maypole, the upbringing and values instilled may turn out to be totally at odds with yours. The adoptive family can divorce, become alcoholic, be abusive, or find that ultimately, the child is a not a good "psychological" fit and treat him or her like an outsider. We have heard of stories when the mother dies, the father remarries, and the new wife does not agree to be more than a legal entity to the child that is not her husband's offspring. Thus begins a life of boarding school and summer sleep-away camps. It happens.

If you read the websites of adoption agencies carefully, you'll see the scope of openness that Gladney and American Adoption promise is limited. Gladney refers only to letters and pictures after the adoption. American Adoptions restricts contact to  pictures and letters, supervised phone calls/Skype, regulated Social Media/email, and visits which American Adoptions claims "are the least common form of contact."

Mothers-to-be are often unaware that until they sign their names they are in the driver's seat. They have something the other party wants, and they can dictate the terms of the contract: This is their baby they are negotiating over. However, agency language often begins to instill the idea that the mother's baby already belongs to those adopting, and television shows such as I'm Having Their Baby only implement that idea further. But mothers-to-be considering adoption do have a lot of power--but they must exert it before they sign anything. They can and should negotiate the amount and kind of contact permitted. They should do everything possible to assure that the document they sign in legally enforceable.

But after they sign, first mothers lose the power of negotiation. It's over. They are now locked into an agreement which may not even be enforceable. Adoption agency social workers--whose salaries are, after all, paid by the adoptive parents--usually negotiate the open adoption or, as it is also called, "continuing contact agreement." Mothers who may be so distraught at the time trust the social worker. Dawn, the Bethany social worker who arranged the adoption of Sixteen and Pregnant's Catelynn and Tyler, told them that if they had wanted visits in addition to pictures and letters, they should have asked for "a fully open adoption," which of course they didn't know they could have. We have a vivid memory of the moment in the show when Catelynn's absorbs exactly what Dawn meant. Catelynn's face crumbles. We could feel her pain.  But it was too late.

Catelynn is not the only person this has happened to. Adoption agencies and the people who work for them are basically doing a deal, and there are more prospective adoptive parents who want less, rather than more, connection with the first mother after the adoption. It is often in the agencies best interest to not inform women they can ask for more; consequently, they may accept far less than they can get. As we know from the heart-breaking stories that we have heard, prospective adoptive parents may agree to contact only to get the baby. What they promise at the time is not what they deliver later. The Donaldson Adoption Institute found that "women who have the highest grief levels are those who placed their children with the understanding that they would have ongoing information, but the arrangement was cut off." There is a Facebook page called "Mothers of Open Adoption Fraud."

We recall a mother who surrendered her son through LDS Family Services. They agency offered her its standard agreement: letters and pictures sent through the agency once a month for the first year and on the child's second and third birthdays; after that it was up to the parties. The mother, who had met those nice people who were going to adopt her baby, was confident that they would agree to further contact after her son turned three. No deal. On her son's third birthday letter, the adoptive parents wrote that there would be no more contact.

Another first mother we met had an agreement that allowed three visits a year. She visited her son for the first three Saturdays after he went to the adoptive parents' home. She naively assumed that the Saturday visits would continue. At the third visit, the adoptive parents said, "We'll see you next year." She was devastated. Another mother had bedside visits from the prospective adoptive parents who eagerly promised all kinds of contact when she was wavering about relinquishing her child. Since they were so earnest and she now began to feel guilty about how heart-broken they would be if she changed her mind, she reluctantly agreed. The arrangement ended within a short time. When the child turned 18, the mother was able to find him, but he wanted nothing to do with her. He had been raised to think she had abandoned him. She was devastated.

Even if mothers have their own representation, usually an attorney, they may not be made aware of how much latitude they have over the contact agreement. Attorneys may view their role as simply to explain the documents prepared by the attorney for the prospective adoptive parents, rather than negotiate in the best interests of their real client, the first mother. Typically, the attorney for the birth mother's fee is being paid by the adoptive parents. Some states permit the same attorney to represent both the prospective adoptive parents and the mother-to-be.

Furthermore, the mothers trust the people who want to adopt their baby--in way, they have to. They do not want to antagonize them by insisting on more than what is offered. As the baby's birth draws near, mothers may fear those nice people they have chosen from pictures and actually met will lose interest in their baby. Since they haven't made other plans, the mothers-to-be feel pressured to accept whatever is offered.

Open adoption agreements may leave out critical provisions such as how visits can be arranged if one party moves to a distant state.  In some cases, geographical distance is deliberate. Agencies and attorneys encourage people to seek children from mothers who live far away and offer mothers-to-be only profiles of distant couples to reduce the likelihood of unwanted visits. Agreements may not include visits by extended family members; they may allow adoptive parents to curtail visits if mothers show up late. Some agreements include the cruel provision that if the mother contests the adoption on any grounds, or the agreement, the whole agreement is void.

It's important to point out that agencies vary widely in their approach to open adoption. Some have made openness a core part of their program. In Portland where Jane lives, Catholic Charities only does fully open adoptions. Open Adoption and Family Services considers visits essential. "By working with OA&FS, you are choosing an open adoption philosophy that supports your enduring role in your child's life....These families are working with OA&FS because they want an open, genuine ongoing relationship with you....In creating your open adoption agreement, you choose the number of visits you want per year. Our contracts last until your child is an adult." Since there are no web-based exchanges like those in the Health Care Act which would allow mothers to comparison shop, it may be only the role of the dice that brings mothers-to-be to these agencies rather than those who use openness as a ploy to get mothers-to-sign up. The Internet does make it possible for mothers-to-be to search out such progressive agencies, but how does that affect the fourteen-year-old in Appalachia who does not have Internet at home and knows nothing about what to look for? She barely comprehends what is happening to her. Google searches often result in the most restrictive adoption agencies showing up first.

Only about half the states have laws which recognize open-adoption agreements and provide for their enforcement.* Oregon's statute permitting open adoptions, referred to as continuing contact agreements, is typical.  Judges can refuse to approve the open adoption agreement, however, and order the adoption without the agreement. But failure of the adoptive parents to abide by the agreement does not nullify the adoption.

If the adoptive parents do not comply with the agreement, first mothers must seek mediation, usually through the adoption agency. If mediation doesn't work, they must then hire an attorney to go to court to enforce the agreement.  The judge can refuse to do so; he many decide not enforcing it in the best interests of the child.  Judges are people first, and bring to the bench their feelings just like the rest of us. The judge can also modify the agreement, if he finds exceptional circumstances since the parties entered into the agreement. In other words, the adoptive parents may try to smear the mother in order to convince the judge not to enforce the agreement.

Yet the open-adoption failure is not all one way. Sometimes first mothers fail to comply with the continuing contact agreement--much to the dismay of the adoptive parents.  Adoptive parents have told us how much the children look forward to visits from their other mother, only to be disappointed time and again. They are sad because they see the children's distress; they want the children to grow up healthy and feeling loved. They are aware of how much damage a first mother's rejection or disinterest is likely to cause. Some of these mothers simply find it to painful to visit; they may think of the contact agreement only as a benefit for them, which they can comply with or not, unaware of how important it is to their child.

Open adoptions came about because of events in the early 1970's:  The search movement documented that both adoptees and natural mothers suffered from adoption itself, and the media picked up on the story.  Adoptees need to know their origins; and mothers found the grieving for their lost children was endless. Legalization of abortion, better birth control, acceptance of single mothers, and better sex education drastically reduced the supply of adoptable babies. Because of the adoption reform movement, some mothers began demanding open adoptions; some forward-thinking social workers began doing them--in California Wisconsin, and Michigan. The movement spread. Agency heads saw that they had to change to remain in business.

Yet while openness improves adoption, it does not fix it. Mothers learn after their baby is born and gone that openness reduces the pain of separation, but never ends it. Most mothers, even those who pride themselves for giving their child "a better life," still suffer lifelong grief, even though it may be less than those who relinquished our children in a closed adoption. And what is promised in a bedside "chat" with people who want your baby may turn out to be only dreams.--jane and lorraine
Gladney Center for Adoption
American Adoptions: You Are Not giving Up By Choosing Adoption
American Adoptions: Open Adoption with the Family and Your Child
Catholic Charities: Pregnancy Support and Adoption Services
Open Adoption & Family Services
Oregon Continuing Contact Law, ORS 109.305
Dr. Susan Burns
Suicide of a Birthmother
*See Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Post Adoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families" for a summary of state laws current through May, 2011.
Susan Smith, Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birth Parents

Are Open Adoptions a Boon for Birth Mothers or a Scam?
When an agency promises 'semi-open' adoption, look elsewhere
Today's new mantra: My Baby, Not my Child
An adoptive mother asks "How can adoption be less horrific on first mothers?"
Catelynn & Tyler's open adoption will stay open; for other first mothers, not so much
The Worst Adoption Agency in the World: Gladney

This is the last in a series on how the adoption industry convinces vulnerable to give up their children. Others in the series are How money rules infant adoption posted December 1; How the adoption industry convinces women they aren't 'ready to parent' posted on December 15; Is giving up a child for adoption a 'loving' decision? posted December 20 and Fathers: Are They Necessary posted January 17.

Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace
"...a tough book for mothers who relinquished because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant and sad essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow.--from Lorraine's review

The Stork Market: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry
by Mirah Ribin
"a must read, for anyone touched by adoption. It is an informative, well-documented and fascinating expose of the many abuses permeating a muti-billion dollar, unregulated adoption industry. Written in a crusading, investigative reporting style, The Stork Market is a courageous book. It will please many in the adoption world, but is sure to threaten others - especially those who profit from the lucrative business of adoption."--Child psychologist David Kirschner at Amazon. 


  1. 27 years ago I was slapped in the face by the lie of open adoption…and everyday since. little has changed, young mothers are lied to for the baby…
    wow at the time I really thought I was doing the best thing for my son


    others may say it worked for them, but that is only because the people that have the baby followed through with what they agreed to.. no real rights for the natural MOTHER

  2. Adoption , for the most part, does not work. I have heard these open adoption horror stories. We all know the horror that is closed adoption. It is un-natural to hand a baby to strangers to raise.

    Even when things "work out", such as in my own case, there are still problems. There are the legal problems of having falsified documents. There is the problem of the AP's feeling so threatened they never speak about the adoption at all. Both of these are my problems at the moment and I am in my mid 50's! This is not the way to live one's life.

    I have a childhood friend who was a black market baby. This was the Baby Scoop Era and there were 3 adoptees on my block. My friend's AP's did the whole transaction under the table. There is no paper trail. They never told her she was adopted....she found out at the age of 48. Her mother was abusive and treated her miserably. Putting the pieces together today, we have concluded that they bought her in an attempt to save a crumbling marriage. It didn't work.

    Anything that would make people behave this way is wrong. Closed adoption. Open adoption. Black/gray market. Promises of contact that AP's fully intend to break. It's sick. And the babies are caught in the middle. And then the babies grow up and have to deal with all the baggage.

    I guess AP's are still very threatened. They want the baby, and will say anything to get it. They agree to open adoption and them, holding all the cards, they close it. I don't know how these people live with themselves.

  3. It's too true that agencies and PAPs use open adoption as a carrot. I've counseled many PAPs on different forums not to agree to anything they can't maintain and aren't willing to do. It's just not right.

    There are times when adoption is an acceptible alternative. But even in those cases, APs need to think about what's best for the child, rarely is closing an open agreement about the best interests of the child. It's normally about the comfort level of the APs.

    Openness at any level is hard. But closing down that relationship should only be done if the child is in actual danger. That's rare.

    In reading your posts, it seems to me that you are often speaking of moms who place once. I haven't seen (and I may have just missed it) acknowledgment of the moms who repeatedly place. My kids first mom has placed 4 times. I know that has to take a toll on her. I don't know why she keeps getting pregnant. But I know that by this last pregnancy, she had started doing drugs. There was no way she would have been allowed to take our son home. He tested positive for cocaine. Her excuses included a story about cocaine just lying out on the counter. She has 2 kids at home.

    There are many who thought we should close the relationship because of the drug use during the last pregnancy. While I will be careful going forward on visits, she needs to be clean and sober at those times, I'm not shutting down or even reducing our current contact. I agreed before hand that it was best for our kids for the adults to maintain this relationship. Just because she is struggling right now is not a reason to contribute to her struggles. And I don't see how it would be best for our kids.

    I really just wish that more moms understood the power that they can have before placement. And I wish that PAPs weren't willing to do anything to get a baby.

  4. I never heard about this woman before. I wish her family would sue that psychotic psychologist. It seems that psychologists (and psychiatrists) and those who support them make the worst adoptive mothers. Melanie Crapo is proof of that to. These quacks are all pretty much amoral anyway, they abuse power in their field on a daily basis but add to that the abuse of power the adoption system gives them and you have an out of control monster that would actually flaunt what she did through a book. That psychologist is also murderer and should be held liable. She knew the woman who took her life could of come across the book and she didn't care. Being a psychologist she knew her book would totally be a form of emotional abuse towards her. Wow. I feel so sorry for the child who was adopted, her mom is dead and her fake mom is insane. Adoption is a joke more often than not and this story is just more proof of that. If this happened to my mom I would sue my adoptive parents from here to hell. I hope this girl does someday. This is also why we need laws to control adoptive parents in open adoption and this sad suicide should always be used as an example when talking to lawmakers. Good post Jane.

  5. I appreciate that you mentioned that open adoption is a two way street, but it probably deserves more than a slight mention. I personally know (not counting internet acquaintances) half a dozen adoptive families in open adoption where it was the decision of the first mom/dad to decrease openness and the adoptive family would like more connection. That is our situation as well; we haven't seen our daughter's other mom and dad in half a year by their choice (they live local to us). I completely, fully understand why- it is too hard. But I worry so much about our daughter if this decrease in contact continues. How will it make her feel when she realizes that her parents could see her any time they want to, but they choose not to? It quite literally keeps me up at night. I hope and pray that it will get better, and I do everything I can to keep the relationship going. But one-sided relationships are incredibly hard to maintain.

    It's a really complex situation... there is grief with giving a baby up that openness cannot magically cure. Dealing with seeing your child over and over, and re-opening that wound each time... I can only begin to imagine the depth of suffering. I think that besides the non-legally binding aspect of OA (adoptive parents being able to close the adoption, etc), this is what bothers me the most about how OA is sold. It doesn't make the grief any better. It's just a different kind of grief. This is something that agencies do not make very apparent to mothers. They sell the idea of OA being so wonderful, a way to remain in your child's life. They do not get into the complexities for a mother in living the rest of her life seeing the child she is not parenting.

    We try to be as sensitive as we can be to this difficulty, and still, I can tell that it is such a hard thing for them. I worry for our daughter, and all I can do is my very best to encourage and remain open and offer one-on-one opportunities as she gets older. I want so badly for her to know her parents and have a relationship with them, one that doesn't wait until she is an adult, but is now. Sometimes, I think I'm hoping for more than is possible from broken hearts...

    1. Open adoption can aggravate and trigger the grief. it is a very tough situation to go through. Grief is already heightened in a mother, to see her child and be in a powerless situation to change it and to witness her own child calling someone else mother etc can and does humiliate and traumatise the mother further. A mother who has entered adoption without actually knowing what it will be like (and no person who has not been through it does know what to expect or what it will be like) is someone making a decision based on heresay and the (often dubios) "expertise" of their "counsellor" who may or may not withold informaiton on the risks, trauma, ptsd and consequences of relinquishment. Therefore you are expecting a mother, going through life transforming experience of pregnancy and motherhood. to make a decision, while under the stresses of her situation and the vulnerablity of pregnancy and all that means cognitively, to make a life long decision for herself and her child about a situation she has never been in and with people she does not realy know and who are strangers. And then a consent is expected of her in the most hormonally chaotic and vulnerable time of her life, in a short time period, with the invasiveness of a stranger party and their needs (which are oftern promoted over her own needs) , and experected in a very uneven and unfamiliar legal playing field, to make a largely uninformed decision, often in the absence of her own born and often with the deliberate interference and intervention and intrusion of the PAP. (Really who made up this process and time frame. Not mothers wishing to protect themselves andth eir babies thats for sure). And she does become a mother, but, because of a life crisis she is now then is a mother without her child. So for her to have agreed to an open adoption may have been done in a very naive idea of adoption and in ingnorance of adoption ptsd and the severity of loss and trauma. So , now entrapped in this situation she cant change, she has to deal wiht this exceptionally tricky and dynamite situation. A situation that may trigger her and bed rid her for 2 weeks in deep depression. That may cause her anxiety for a month. And therefore she closes down and avoids the reminder of her loss and the trigger to her being possibly misled into a very difficult sitatuion. I knew a very carying mother who was pap stalked and bedside duressed to consent her child, and they knew full well she wanted to keep. And she fought for her child in her courts. but she herself said it was necessary in the end to distance herself from the open adoption arrangement because it was too impossibly painful and unnerving and depressing and deblitating. She did not like the adopters as well, so constantly it was a reminder of their non admission of how they got her child and then expected her to play along with happy adoptions. So it is probably trauma that repels and undermines the mother and stops her from coming to see her child. And not just a little tremor, but an earth shattering , ground opening, mind splitting, wrist cutting agony that she has to then recover from.

      I know because I have lived it.

      I once had an adopter write "adoption was an easy decision for me" Of course it was, adopters dont suffer a thing. While mothers are impaled by the brutal trauma and loss for the rest of their life.


  6. I wonder how old Cindy's surrendered child is and how well he/she is going to deal with what happened to his/her mother?

  7. Tiffany: I agree with you that the issue of first mothers not keeping in contact for the child's sake is a bigger issue than we included, but the overall post was about open adoption as a bait to lure women into giving up their children--not about the mothers who disappear. And since no one hears about them--as least we don't--we don't know much about them. Anyway, I am very glad you added your comment here.

    Is this topic much discussed on adoption blogs?

    What we have a tendency to see are people complaining about not wanting to adopt here in the US because of ...too many strings. Like mothers.

  8. I am a mother of open adoption fraud and I would have never gone through with the adoption had I known what would happen only a few short years later.

    The couple I chose changed their tune almost immediately; as we lived very close but I was offered nothing other than pictures through the mail. After a few years it all stopped and I was left not knowing if my child was dead or alive.

    People who do this are despicable and have no business adopting the child of someone else. They even managed to brainwash my child over the years and make him believe nonsense, so to have all loyalties and love go all to them and them only.

    Had they called, written and asked me to have any contact at all, especially a visit, I would have dropped anything and everything to be there. They were threatened then and still are. I find it pathetic and sickening; especially since they ended up having their own child only a few years later.

    Open adoption is nothing but a con in most cases. Don't fall for it.

  9. http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1164960

    Gals, a mother in an open adoption is asking for advice here. She seems to be at the stage where she decides whether to leave or not. Though very much topic as an illustration of the problems you have with open adoption, this mother needs help now!

    LDS-experience would be useful.

  10. Is this her, Susan Burns? If so this is creepy. Look to the right on the list of what she "helps" people with. Jesus Fing Christ!


  11. Also someone asked how old Cindy's daughter is now-Cindy's daughter was born in 2001 and she will be 13 this year.
    Take a look at some of the horrible comments on this blog about Cindy including the post too. The woman who wrote this and some of the commenters should be smacked.

  12. Regarding Cindy's child -- he was almost three when she killed herself in 2004 so he would be 12 or 13.

    I did write about a family where there were multiple children spread across many families, some had been adopted, others lost contact after divorce or separation. Adoption 'builds' a family but always substracts from another

    Many of the mothers today who have had multiple relinquishments are families involved with state child welfare authorities. FMF is mostly concerned with reforming practices related to voluntary infant adoption.

    I know mothers who relinquished more than one child and I've met adoptees whose mother, and father in some cases, relinquished more than one child.

    The mothers I've known are from the Baby Scoop Era. They relinquished a second child for the same reason they relinquished their first child; birth control was not available and abortion was illegal.

    Other BSE mothers gave up children because they were Catholic and believed using birth control was wrong but they had little money and their husbands did not want children.

    I've known adoptees who have found first parents like you describe: parents who never could get their lives together. I think it's fantastic that people like you give these children homes and commit to allowing some kind of relationship between the child and the first parents.

    Even though the adoptees find dysfunctional families, they're happy to know them. I know several adoptees who have spent years searching for their siblings and were able to bring them together.

  13. Thanks, Theodore, for the link to the post by a first mother on the Recovering from Mormonism website wanting to know if she should stay in contact with her relinquished child. I and all the other commentators said absolutely yes!

  14. Anon at 3:07.
    I think the Susan Burns who wrote "Fast Track Adoptions" is a different person She has a Ph.D. and lives in Hawaii. This Susan Burns lives in Washington and doesn't have a Ph.D.

    Agree Washington Burns's ad is creepy.

  15. Open Adoption was really just a way to keep adoption numbers up. It is a fraudulent practise and many women have been lured by its lies nto believing they will still have a part in their child's life but still be supposedly doing the 'right' thing (as they have been branwashed to believe) by still placing their child with strangers.

    It really is despicable. And despite that it has worked for some, it has caused much heartbreak and destruction for far too many others.

    Really, open adoption is a ruse for the agencies and PAP's... and has nothing to do with what is best for the child or mother.

  16. Jane, just saw your comment on "Recovery from Mormonism". I am "Jersey Girl" who commented on that same thread telling the mom to stay in her open adoption for her child's sake. Nice that most comments seem to agree.

  17. I was one who was promised openness. The openness was always controlled however. When we got together it was always under the watchful eye of the amom. My husband noticed it too. She was threatened....I felt it. It was the little things they did and it started right from the beginning. So, I was always careful not to EVER mention I was my son's mother.

    Then I did. I mentioned it to his amom because my son was having trouble and she stopped communicating with me. I told her that I was concerned and that I was his mother too. I explained to her about the bond that you have with a child that you've given birth to(she hasn't been able to give birth). That it doesn't go away because you relinquish your parental rights.

    That is when the door slammed shut in regards to talking to my son. I can only talk to him through her.

    I was told by my son to apologize to his amom.

    He has been told by a counselor that I am only an extended family friend.

    Now I can ONLY send Christmas presents and a birthday present. She says he is confused now that I refer to him as my son and that my other children refer to him as their brother.

    And my son says that he's going to cut off communication because he is hurting me.


    What to do next? Wait? He turns 18 soon. But I don't know if that'll make a difference.

    I wanted to send him a Valentines day card....I don't want to be disrespectful to his parents. I guess he could always return it to sender.....

    WHAT HAVE I DONE???????

  18. BJane,
    I am so sorry. I don't know what to tell you except that these relationships often change over time.

    Your son is still very, very, young.

  19. Bjane, it is possible "what you have done" can be undone with years and a lot of patience. Don't send anything now, especially not a Valentine. Your son is very young and angry and caught between two mothers. I was in a similar situation when my son was that age, and it took many years to resolve it. I had contacted him at 16, which he was not ready for and could not deal with. I thought I knew something of his home situation, being in touch with the adoptive mother, but I did not. I learned many years later she was a compulsive liar among other things.

    As the years passed I was sure he would never turn around, as he did not when he moved out and at some point both I and the adoptive mother lost touch with him. It is a long story, but it was not until he was in his mid 30s that he came around at all, and several years later that I learned the whole story. He was very leery of the whole idea of "mother" because of his mentally ill adoptive mother, did not know me, and did not need another one of "those". My son is 45 now,happily married, our relationship is an ongoing one, but he is still wary of relatives in general.

    I would say do not push any more with the adoptive mom, do not send anything but the Christmas and birthday greetings you have been sending, and wait until he grows up and moves out to make some contact to him directly. You do not really know what is going on in that home or the pressure he is under.

    You do not need the adoptive mother or even your son to validate your motherhood if you know in your heart you are his mother, and are willing to wait for him.

  20. I totally concur with Maryanne's advice. Sometimes you have to leave the situation alone and let time and maturity take place. It is hard, we both understand that.

  21. @ BJane, I agree, Valentine is really something better ignored in a mother-son relationship, screwed up as yours may be. A Valentine greeting could really confuse a young guy.

  22. I'm an adoptive mom and I have been fighting to keep our adoption open. I wish the promises my son's first mom made to me were kept...they weren't. I would love to visit, get pictures of his extended family, even just get an occasional letter....but nothing now for a long time. All I can do now is keep sending the letters, pictures, and updates as I promised, and hope that some day she wants contact again.

    I think it's a mistake to generalize that APs feel threatened by first parents. In fact, I think it usually it's that we feel we can never measure up to them. Of course there are APs out there who are greedy idiots and only want a child, but in my experience that's not the norm. And I think you'll find that there's the "idiot corner" in every section of the population, no matter how you slice it. But, just as there's the "idiot corner" , there's also a lot of us APs who are honest and want to do right by everyone involved.

  23. Lorraine asked "Is this topic much discussed on adoption blogs?"

    I'll be honest, I don't read many adoptive parents blogs, and only one on a regular basis. I tend to seek out adoptee and first mom blogs because those are the voices that I feel I learn from. But, I have seen this mentioned on other AP blogs. Like I said, my experience is more based on my real-life interactions, but I admittedly would likely not be friends with someone who was the type of mom who would close an open adoption, anyway, so my experience is likely skewed.

    I have read blogs and message boards discussing this issue, but I suppose it's not as common as the adoptive parents closing. Or maybe it's that it doesn't get talked about as much.

    It's too bad. I read so much here about first moms who want to be involved with their child, and they can't be because of the adoptive mom. And here I am, wanting my daughter's other parents to be more involved, and it's too hard for them right now. Not exactly irony, but it's the word that pops into my head.

    "What we have a tendency to see are people complaining about not wanting to adopt here in the US because of ...too many strings. Like mothers."

    Definitely. I see this a lot too. I just read someone in one of your links talking about that. I can't recall which one now, but it was in the comments that they don't want a domestic adoption because they don't want the first mom to be involved. Interesting to me because we would have never done an international adoption for several reasons, one being the lack of involvement from the first family.

    I think it all comes down to security. Many adoptive parents close an open adoption or seek out a closed adoption because they can't handle the presence of the woman (or man) who is genetically the parent of their child. The adoptive parents I personally know are comfortable with their relationship with their children and comfortable enough to realize that a child can love more than one parent without diminishing the love for each. And, they are putting the child's needs about their own, most importantly.

  24. What have you done?

    You threatened a very insecure woman. She knows you are his mom and is jealous she might lose him.

    I had a closed adoption female was very jealous. Although, she had complete control till he was 26 she was threatened open or close they know in their heart who mother truely is and will most anything to screw things up.

  25. American Adoptions is an absolute piece of sh*t and so are the people who work for them. They lied to me my entire pregnancy, and once I discovered their lies, no one cared. The adoptive parents got my child, closed the adoption, and American Adoptions would like me to just 'get more therapy' and 'reach a place of healing'. I'm about as healed as I'm going to ever be from having my daughter taken from me with lies and coercion. I'm sure there are some decent agencies out there, but American Adoptions is certainly not one of them.

  26. So Gigi, based on your experience, what do you suggest would help someone in Bjane's position maintain their relationship with their child?

  27. I lost my child to adoption in 1969. I had no support from the adults in my life and surrendered to adoption because it seemed to be the only choice and one that was presented to me as being in the best interest of the child. To this day, my child is unable to understand why the adoption happened and hates when anyone, including me, uses the word "surrender." Thus, I can't even imagine how adoptees are going to handle having been "surrendered" to an open adoption since the societal stigma of single motherhood is long gone and resources are much more available. It's going to be tough.

  28. Rose:

    "Surrender" to me means this: I was adrift in an ocean of forces telling me that I had to give up my baby: shame, parental disgust and disappointment in me, the first in the family to go to college; societal pressure to give up my baby. Without a lifeline to save me, I surrendered to the ocean and drowned myself while pushing my baby upwards to a "better life" than that of a bastard. We women of that era did surrender. I hope that makes you think of the word in a different light.

  29. Rose:

    "Surrender" to me means this: I was adrift in an ocean of forces telling me that I had to give up my baby: shame, parental disgust and disappointment in me, the first in the family to go to college; societal pressure to give up my baby. Without a lifeline to save me, I surrendered to the ocean and drowned myself while pushing my baby upwards to a "better life" than that of a bastard. We women of that era did surrender. I hope that makes your child think of the word in a different light.

  30. The "relinquishment/surrender" document that I signed in 1968 uses the term "surrender" right in the paperwork.

    It said I was "relinquishing and surrendering my minor child" for adoption to the agency.

  31. In the world of adoption where words often don't mean what they mean, perhaps this will help.

    The terms "surrender" and "relinquish" are used in state adoption statues. They likely originated with the adoption industry but took on legal meanings when states passed adoption statues in the early 20th century.

    A surrender is giving legal rights over a child to an adoption agency. The agency will in turn consent to the adoption of the child. The wording of the document a mother signs goes something like this: I, Mary Jones, hereby surrenders my child to Happy Family Adoption Agency for the purpose of placing my child for adoption."

    A relinquishment is consent by a parent to the adoption of her child by a specific party. The term is used in non-agency (independent) adoptions. The document will read something like this: I, Mary Jones, do relinquish my child for adoption by Susan and Robert Smith."

    The adoption industry has replaced surrender and relinquish with the less draconian sounding "making an adoption plan" but state statues still use "surrender" and "relinquish."

    People should not make much if anything about what words were used. A surrender or relinquishment could have been 100 percent voluntary while an adoption plan could be as coercive as hell.

  32. Lorraine, I too use the word "surrender" because that's the word that best describes my personal situation. I felt exactly the way you described how you felt. From what I've read, I think many of us firstmothers felt like we had no choice other than to give our child what was suppose to be a better life. I don't know what I signed since I was in shock at the time and never received any type of related paperwork.

  33. Thanks Jane! I never knew surrender and relinquish had different legal meanings. That is interesting. You are so right, the words used do not reflect whether the situation was free choice or coercion.

    Some who "made an adoption plan" were really just agreeing to the only option offered. Just a rubber stamp on a "plan" already made for them by the faciltator.

  34. Sincerely.....thank you for your advice.

    I will wait and have hope.

  35. @Gail

    I didn't receive any paperwork at the time I relinquished/surrendered my son(1968) but in 2000 I wrote to the agency and they sent me my documents.

    The document says "Relinquishment" at the top of the paper, and it says "relinquishment" in several other places as well as "surrender"..so I guess the state of California used both terms.

    @Jane @Maryanne
    I agree with both of you! Words used don't reflect whether coercion is used,and , in fact the words can disguise the reality of how voluntary the surrender/relinquishment/adoption plan actually was.

    I have always wondered about the word "voluntary" that is/was attached to the surrenders/relinquishments/adoption plans.

  36. @Gail

    I apologize...I was thinking you were from California but I think I had confused you with someone else.

    I am sorry..

  37. People will throw around the "well you signed the papers" line to make adoption more legit and to paint us as non-coerced, perfectly willing participants.

    But think of all the documents people sign after they finally succumb to the powers that be. Could be anything from a bad divorce settlement to a confession to a crime one didn't even commit!

    But hey, the system has your signature on the papers, that's all that matters, right?

  38. I am quite reluctant to trust any advice from people in the social work and/or counseling profession, and this probably can be traced back to the bill of goods I was sold that resulted in losing my child to adoption. As a matter of fact, I was recently persuaded to go to counseling in an effort to resolve an issue that was having a negative effect on my reunion relationship. Prior to the start of counseling, I made it very clear to the counselor that a particular issue needed to be addressed. I was assured that it would be, and guess what? I went to several sessions, spent a hefty amount, and the issue was barely mentioned as the counselor wanted to talk about things on her agenda! I felt taken advantage of and quit. I then took some of the money I would have spent on counseling and instead treated myself to several sessions at a local SPA and this was money well spent!

  39. People confuse open contact in adoption compared to an open relationship in adoption. Open contact meaning getting updates and the birth parents seeing the child once a year is not a true open adoption. Open relationship meaning the birth and adoptive parents have an open relationship with the child is a true open adoption. Very few adoption agencies train PAPs on what a true open adoption is and the work that goes into it. In addition PAPs rarely prepare themselves for the work necessary to develop and live out a true open adoption.

    Even if the birth parents are grieving and don't respond to attempts to keep up open adoptions, it's up to the Adoptive Parents to always keep that door open. It takes both sides to make the best of it but I believe that Adoptive Parents are the party that can make a break an open adoption. And even when there is a true open adoption it doesn't mean that it isn't hard or that there aren't bumps along the way.

  40. We have openness with both of our kids' birthfamilies, including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I never want my kids to feel like they were kept from knowing their entire selves, and it disgusts me that someone would lie to a vulnerable woman to "get" her child. What a legacy you're bestowing that child - one of lies, betrayal, anger, and hurt.

    We feel lucky to have such an open and loving relationship with our kids' extended families, because they have become our families too. How can I deny my children all of the love to which they're entitled? They deserve to know their whole story.

    And when a friend of mine was conflicted about openness, I told her that it's selfish and mean to withhold a child from their birth family. Now her younger son's grandma babysits and his birthmom is included in all of the family holidays.

    Some of us aren't so bad. Although I do make my five year old eat her veggies.

  41. We are always glad to hear from people who do the work to keep an "open" adoption truly open. Not only do such stories indicate that there is a new way to look at adoption, your managing such openness will encouarge others to do so.

    And five-year-olds do have to eat their veggies!

  42. Anonymous said "Even if the birth parents are grieving and don't respond to attempts to keep up open adoptions, it's up to the Adoptive Parents to always keep that door open. It takes both sides to make the best of it but I believe that Adoptive Parents are the party that can make a break an open adoption. And even when there is a true open adoption it doesn't mean that it isn't hard or that there aren't bumps along the way."

    I agree! And if this was based off my comment at all, I just want to be clear that we continue with everything and then some that we agreed to do. I just sent off my weekly pictures and updates and an invite to an activity our daughter is in. I also gave our daughter an extra hug and kiss this morning and told her that they were from her other parents because they love her.

    I view this as one of my greatest responsibilities to my daughter. I will do everything humanly possible, and then I will do some more, to make it so that she grows up knowing her other mom and dad. I believe that this is one of the greatest actions I can take to help her deal with her adoption. This is a secondary point, but I also need to be able to say with total honesty that I did everything I could to keep her adoption open with her parents. I do not think they will disappear from her life, but if they did, I need to be able to say to my daughter that I did everything humanly possible to maintain the relationship. Otherwise, I believe she will have every right to be angry with me and have trust issues- I would have failed with one of the first promises I ever made to her.

    It is a great deal of responsibility to take on, and I agree that many agencies are not clear how much work and sacrifice is involved on the part of the adoptive parents to maintain openness. We do it because we love our daughter, the same as we do all the other hard things that come with parenting. But I think for some adoptive parents, the easy route is too tempting.

  43. I have read a number of blogs recently on OA. There is no doubt that it's purpose is too address the diminishing supply of infants. The secondary consideration of improving the health of adoptees is a convenient marketing device without any evidence to back this spurious claim.
    The posts on OA are invariably followed by comments from earnest APs extolling its virtues as a means to assist the child come too terms with their removal from their family. A frank admission and acknowledgment that adoption, even the much heralded OA, is emotionally and psychologically difficult for the child.

    It is here that we find a strange disconnect between their wishes for the health and happiness of the child and their complicity in the event that has resulted in the child requiring help.

    Let's consider this, and this is very important. In cultures and societies where there is an absence of forces, actively seeking, to remove babies from their families, voluntary rrelinquishment, for the purpose of permanent adoption is virtually non existent. It is the financial incentive provided by the PAPs that drives these forces to acquire infants to feed this demand. There is no line up of pregnant women just waiting for the chance to divest themselves of their newborns. These situations are created by vested interests seeking to profit from the event.

    I don't question the love and care these APs have for their adopted children. But the seeming inability to examine their place as a causal agent in the separation and consequent suffering of the child leaves me more than a little flummoxed.

    There may be the odd adoption worker or even agency that has real concern for the outcome of the child. But the industry as a whole just wants babies to sell. For profit, of course.

  44. David,
    You mentioned the diminishing supply of infants being the fuel that drives "open adoption"
    and that is true. If they were able to maintain the status quo of closed adoption they would.
    Came across this article yesterday and was struck different societies deal with infertility. I was also struck by how many people would shake their heads on how barbaric this is and not see any parallels to western adoption.

    Last week, Mangok Bol was sitting in his office at Brandeis University, in Waltham, holding the phone tight against his ear and then, suddenly, everything felt woozy, his cousin’s voice, 7,000 miles away in Kenya, growing faint as the enormity of it all sank in.

    Mangok Bol’s brother, Makech Macthuy, and his brother’s wife, Achol Magot, were dead, murdered, their children scattered, like the ashes of their village in South Sudan.

    He scoured the Internet and a news account from the region gave the basics: Gunmen, who authorities said are from the Murle tribe, moved into the village of Kolnyang and massacred nine men and 19 women. Eleven children were abducted.

    Among them were Mangok Bol’s nephew, Makuei Makech Mach Bol, who is 2 years old, and his nieces — Abiei, 8, Ajoh, 6 and Anyieth, 4 — all taken.

    “This practice of child abduction,” Mangok Bol was saying, “it’s been done for a long time.”

    It is inhumanly perverse. One tribe with a low fertility rate consciously goes out and murders people from another tribe and steals their children and plants them with families in their own tribe. The children’s memories are wiped clean. They are stolen from their people, and their identities and culture are stolen from them.

    “I have to find them,” Mangok Bol told me, and then he didn’t say anything for a while.

    Mangok Bol lives in Everett. He loves Everett. He is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, one of 20,000 boys orphaned or displaced by civil war. In 1987, he was a boy, 9 years old, when he began walking with his cousins, at a fast pace, away from the same village in South Sudan, marching to the cadence of the surrounding gunfire. They winced at the gunfire. They wept for their dead parents. They slept in the bush. It took them months to reach Ethiopia.

    He lived in a refugee camp for three years until men with guns forced him to return to Sudan. He finally made it to another refugee camp in Kenya when he was 14. Nine years later, he was a young man, a lucky man, as he made it onto one of the last planes to carry the Lost Boys out of Africa.

    He landed in Boston two weeks after the 9/11 attacks and got a job as a security guard. He sent most of his pay back to what was left of his family in Sudan. He put what was left in his pocket and tried to get something the gunmen who destroyed his family never had: an education.

    He started humbly, at Bunker Hill Community College, riding the Orange Line, before moving up to Durham, to the University of New Hampshire, where he studied hard and marveled at the Wildcats hockey team. He graduated from UNH in 2008 and got a job at Brandeis, where he earned advanced degrees and found a home. Everybody at Brandeis loves Mangok Bol. He is a scholar and a gentleman.

    But now he has to go to his original home. Next week, Mangok Bol will get on a plane, fly to Kenya, and somehow make his way back to South Sudan, where the echo of gunfire and the blinding light of bleached bones hover in his consciousness.

    “Right now,” he said, “it’s not about the people who died. It’s about these innocent children.”

    Mangok Bol spent months walking out of Sudan, and when he finally crossed the border, his feet were blistered and calloused but his heart was not. Now he will spend however long it takes to get back into Sudan, even if it means walking the same route. He will do this to honor his brother, his sister-in-law, his parents and everybody in his village, now and then, because it is something he must do.

    The burden of freedom, Mangok Bol explained, is that you can’t endure someone else not having it.

  45. @David,

    You stated,"It is here that we find a strange disconnect between their wishes for the health and happiness of the child and their complicity in the event that has resulted in the child requiring help."

    "But the seeming inability to examine their place as a causal agent in the separation and consequent suffering of the child leaves me more than a little flummoxed."

    I am in total agreement. I too, am flummoxed at the hypocrisy. But how can you lovingly teach the AP'S and society in general about the tragedy of adoption? What can be done?

    I am having a hard time talking to my parents and siblings about it. All of them stating how wonderful adoption is.

    I have dear friends that are AP's (not my sons AP)....so far I have kept my mouth shut, but note it is extremely HARD. And I am trying not to be jaded in regards to them. Jaded as in: I look at them and start to wonder if they've dealt with infertility issues? If they think of their child's mother....ever? In fact one did tell me in regards to my son's adoption closing, that it was because I was overstepping my "bounds"......(what bounds? Mine was a private adoption that was supposed to be open and there was never any bounds set, in fact the AP's broke many promises of openness, in which I could do nothing.....who is writing the rules?....)

  46. David, as an adoptive parent, I agree with you that market forces are currently the top driver of all aspects of adoption, even those that are presented as "better" options e.g., open adoption. It is all about the supply to prospective adoptive parents.

    I however want to take this opportunity to talk about the foster system, from where we adopted. In our local county, there is a huge push to keep families together and not adopt out children. Adoption tends to happen only in the most extreme cases of abuse and compromise to the children's safety. I am supportive of this approach, although it would be nice to make changes all around (legal, socio-economic) so that adoption is not needed at all.

    While I am supportive of curtailing adoption, there is something that needs to accompany it - providing resources so that parents can keep their children. I have a former foster daughter who is in a highly unstable situation right now because her mother is mentally ill - from 7 years of knowing her, I can tell her medications are not working as they used to. My husband and I were prepared to do whatever was within our power to help this mother and daughter out, but we are not professionals and we needed the help of professionals affiliated with child welfare services (social workers, psychiatrists, counselors) to help us help this family. I begged and begged, made many phone calls, and in the end got a hold of one social worker who said she was sorry but they could not help. Why? Because the county only provides rehabilitation services if there is an alcohol or drug abuse problem. They have no resources whatsoever to help the mentally ill - and in the meanwhile, our former foster daughter is suffering terribly.

    My husband and I have now become acutely aware of how many children are subject to great instability from living with a mentally unstable parent. We need resources to bring stability to these families - it is no different from mental impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse. I am distressed with how little is being done in family preservation in general. We have got to provide more resources in this area, if we are to curtail adoptions.

  47. the facebook page you noted "mothers of open adoption fraud" is missing, I can't seem to find it...or any other support groups for open adoption.
    I am part of adoption groups that are mostly baby scoop ladies and I love these ladies, but I would like to also connect with ladies that have had the same experience I have had.

  48. BJane said "I am in total agreement. I too, am flummoxed at the hypocrisy. But how can you lovingly teach the AP'S and society in general about the tragedy of adoption? What can be done?"

    Continue to talk, be open, state the truth.

    As an adoptive parent, I am completely open and honest about the many pitfalls of adoption. A few months back, I ended up leaving a close, private internet community of mothers I had been a part of for years. I had met many of these mothers in person; they were my support group. One of the mothers (adopted herself) shared that her teen sister was pregnant and her parents were not supportive of her keeping the baby. I advised looking into groups that help young mothers and found a local one for her to contact. Several others spoke up recommending adoption, specifically reaching out to Catholic Charities and Bethanny. I spoke up that as an adoptive parent, I would never counsel a woman in crisis to speak to an adoption agency first, but rather to an independent party, such as the group I first suggested. I also mentioned that the two agencies recommended have a terrible track record in regards to ethically counseling mothers and are far too biased.

    I have never had such terrible things said to me as I did after that, by women I considered friends. I was accused of being anti-adoption (although I'm an adoptive mother), of furthering my own agenda, of being an arrogant know-it-all, of "getting what I wanted and then bad-mouthing how I got it" (a terrible way to speak about my daughter, especially considering the person knew the whole story), and not understanding the situation a teen in crisis is facing. I was told adoption is a beautiful thing, and that every child deserves better than what a teen mom is able to give them.

    This was all from 5 people with no connection to adoption besides their own opinions.

    I left the group.

    I have experienced similar reactions when I talk about how adoption isn't a thing of beauty. But I continue to speak the truth whenever the opportunity arises because I think that until we change the societal perception of adoption, real change will be hard to enact.

    I believe adoption will always occur. In my daughter's case, it was nothing I could help stop- she would have gone into the foster system or have been adopted. She could not go with her parents. It was a tragedy, and one that shouldn't happen. I love her with all my heart, and because I do, I speak out about how to make it so no child is separated from loving parents for reasons such as lack of money, support from family, societal pressures.... children should be adopted only when it is necessary for their well-being and protection.

    Change happens slowly, but I do believe it can happen.

  49. Tiffany, thank you for speaking up. As a former 'teen mum', your supportive, respectful voice has such a positive effect on me.

    I recently had my son's very sweet partner (and lovely mother of my grandson) say, about the programme Teen Mom, that wasn't it great that the programme had reduced the numbers of teen mothers.

    I really didn't know what to say, so I said nothing.
    But I thought 'Was I a bad thing?'
    I didn't feel like a bad thing, just someone who needed some help, as many much older parents do when they first have a child.

    In the end, I gently said that I thought it was better to call these women young mothers, as the term teen mom allows them to be dismissed and stereotyped. But I realised, in the quiet of my own insides, that I was still being seen as something bad - justifying, I suppose, my son's adoption.

    To me it never did.

  50. @ Tiffany,

    Yes, thank you.

  51. Cherry and BJane, you are welcome, although I don't feel that you need to thank me for the truth. A mother is a mother and love for our children is not bound by an age minimum.

    Cherry, you are most certainly not something bad because you had your son at a young age. God help those with so much judgement in their hearts. None of us are capable of withstanding the scrutiny of perfection. Being pregnant as a teen is not the unforgivable offense many make it out to be, although I do believe the harsh judgement they have in their hearts might be. It's simply easy for people to judge others and feel superior for not being in that particular position.

    I could have been a pregnant teen. I simply lucked out and wasn't. But I know what could have been, and I think if women were honest, that would be the vast majority of us. Like you said, a little bit of help could go a long way. I truly do believe that.

  52. BJane, I'm sorry, but his aparents are so wrong for what they are trying to do. I think you should find someone to help you to confront the issue and find a way to tell him once he's 18. If you wait until he's out of their house, it might be harder for you to locate him because they aren't likely to willing give you information about his whereabouts (i.e. college/military,etc.)

    Anyway, try calling until he answers, blocking your number, calling from work, whatever, and try calling him during the day when they aren't home to try to divert you. 3:00 should be a good time. Tell him the truth and good luck!



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.