Category Archives: open adoption

Open Adoption, Media and Agendas

Grrrrr.  There I was working quite happily while Fox naps next to me when I hear on our local NPR station that there is an upcoming local piece on open adoption, entitled even “Open Adoption – Bringing Two Families Together”. I’m thrilled as I wait for the piece to come on. A local story about open adoption from the first mother’s perspective – wahoo! I consider texting Big Mama to see if she can get to a radio to hear as well. (We talk and laugh about open adoption and the negotiating this wild relationship a fair bit. We also talk about gardening, science, photography, community, parenting, education and Fox, and our daughters too.) I’m just about to text her with a link to the online piece when we hit the half way mark and I stop. This isn’t a story about open adoption at all. This is a bit about one woman’s decision and the immense love she feels for her son (good), but it is just as much about a Christian agency’s anti-abortion agenda (bad).

Below is the rant to the journalist who ran the piece that I was prompted to write. Go watch the video and tell me what you think?
Open Adoption brings together Two Families
Was this a lost opportunity to talk about open adoption? What do you think their agenda really was? Did this educate the public about open adoption at all?

As an adoptive mother who is part of a fully open adoption I was excited to hear a local story talking about open adoption.

Imagine my disappointment when the resultant story was in fact not primarily about open adoption, what it looks like and the importance of connection for the child at the center being connected to their first family, or how families meld and grow and negotiate this fragile and less traditional relationship, but over 50% about a local Christian adoption agency whose focus appears to be on advising just two options and does not consider 25% of the US population as potential adoptive parents.

I was interested to hear Mary’s perspective on her decision, to hear her voice, but the post has little to do with the nature of open adoption. What I wanted to hear about in a piece titled Open Adoption Brings Together Two Families is what open adoption is, why it was important to Mary, what it looks like, how Trevor and her interact, what is the relationship like with the adoptive family. How they have negotiated this open adoption. What advice would she give to other families embarking on open adoption.

All I could garner about open adoption from this piece is that Mary and Trevor had at least yearly visits and she receives photographs. What about communication in between? What about Mary’s older children how do they feel about it? Today, most parents who place their children for adoption are in their late 20s and typically are already parenting children. This would have been an interesting avenue. The fact that Mary chose the adoptive parents via the match letter doesn’t indicate openness. Did they have opportunity to meet before or after? I want to hear from Trevor. What does he think? How has the agency supported Trevor, Mary, the children she is parenting and the adoptive family in negotiating the complex world of open adoption before and after placement and ongoing?

While I appreciated hearing the voice of a first mother (adoptive parents often command larger voices in media and society) about why she chose to place her child for adoption, I am disappointed by the lack of discussion about open adoption in a piece entitled Open Adoption Brings Together Two Families. The fact that immediately following today’s airing of the post the announcer suggested that if you would like to hear more from the ‘other side’ there was a piece about Planned Parenthood of Arizona’s position on abortion and on the wide array of health services (beyond abortion) for women it provides confirmed my suspicion that this piece was actually about anti- abortion sentiments and not about open adoption. Mary has an important story to tell about open adoption. I want to hear it. Please tell that story.

You can share your thoughts with the author of the story here.

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Filed under Adoption, open adoption, religion, the business of adoption

Open Adoption – Some Kind of Funny

I’ve mentioned before that I’m reticent to talk too much about Big Mama, our son’s mother, because I don’t want to share what isn’t mine to share. Without giving a word for word account of a text conversation I do want to share this and I think it can be done without violating Big Mama’s privacy give a little insight on an open adoption.

A few weeks ago we got a text that Big Mama was coming to town. Just that, coming to town, no request, just a statement of fact. We didn’t have a scheduled visit planned, she has friends and connections here and used to live here so it isn’t unusual that she might visit and texting each other isn’t uncommon either.

When I saw that first statement, I stopped for a few seconds. What should I do? Then, it was straight forward, she was family, she would be in town, we had a morning open, and we wanted to spend time with her. “Wanna come over if you have time?”

We arranged a meeting and it was good, but the messages leading up to that meeting were funny in that awkward ‘we’re just figuring this out’ way. ‘Let’s meet, but only if you want to.’ Each trying to make sure they weren’t putting pressure on the other. Then Big Mama called it as she saw it, “This Open Adoption is some kind of funny.” The awkwardness evaporated. Yep, it is. Some kind of funny, some kind of hard, some kind of weird, some kind of joy and some kind of family. Our family.

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Filed under Adoption, open adoption, visit

Visit

Yeah! A visit. A sweet visit with Fox’s mama this week, our first since one shortly after placement. We’d had scheduled visits, but then circumstance and fear got in the way. The visit was lovely.

Fox surrounded by lots of love, from Big Mama, Big Sis and Bean. 

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Filed under Adoption, open adoption

Part 1: How we came to match with Big Mama or How Big Mama sort us out.

One of the wonderful things about the Open Adoption Interview Project is all the new blogs to follow. One of the awful things about the Open Adoption Interview Project is all the new blogs to follow. I’m obviously going to have to spring clean my Google Reader so I can fit some new ones in. One I found last night via the project was a relatively new blog called Tears of/and Joy. While Anne, the writer, has been part of the adoption triad for a couple of years she has been blogging just a couple of months. Anyway, I was reading this post of hers called Losing My Religion, about how their mixed faith family was considered to be an impediment to adoption by adoption agency workers, and I thought ‘I’ve never shared how we came to match so quickly’. The two things are related. You’ll have to go to Anne’s blog to read her take on their situation and how religion is considered by adoption agencies, but I thought I would share an important part of our story. I actually wrote most of this as a comment on Anne’s post, but what the heck.

We’re atheists. There I’ve said it. Shock, horror. I’ve actually had people gasp when I’ve shared this. There are actually quite a lot of us out there and most of us are perfectly nice people. Atheism is not paganism and we’re not heathens.  Actually, we’re humanists which is what I’ve started saying rather than atheist, as it is a more accurate description and because there is such a negative connotation with atheism for many. What is humanism? As far as we’re concerned it comes down to this- We don’t believe in the supernatural. This earth here? This life? This is what we have. We have do the right thing this life time for others, for ourselves, for this place, no do overs. We are compelled by reason, by logic and by our humanity, which we believe is inside pretty much all but some total psychopaths, to do so. Not by some super natural being.

I worried that our atheism/humanism would be a major road block to adoption. There were agencies that wouldn’t even consider us.  In the end, being atheists/humanists was one of the main reasons why Big Mama, first mother to our son Fox, considered us.

We had our home study done by a local home study agency. The agency isn’t a matching agency and does no marketing to expectant parents, just home studies for foster and adoptive situations and pre and post placement counseling. We were planning to sign up with one of the big open adoption agencies on the West Coast. We didn’t qualify (not Christian, not medically infertile) for most local agencies and we were not willing to work with agencies who wouldn’t work with same-sex couples and weren’t focused on open ethical adoption. Big Mama approached our agency looking for potential adoptive parents who were atheist or agnostic or just not super religious just as our home study was making its final stops through the court system. We had been very upfront in our  home study interviews about our beliefs. Prior to our application we had debated waffling about being spiritual (you can be without being religious I believe) or something and didn’t feel it was an accurate representation. We settled on saying we were humanists/atheists and explaining our families religious leanings. When we questioned the home study social worker as to whether being atheists would be a stumbling block to being matched she gave an honest response, that for some expectant parents it would be, but that it would appeal to others and some just wouldn’t care; that it was important to be honest as the adoption triad is an ongoing relationship. We spent a fair bit of time explaining what humanism meant to the social worker as she wasn’t familiar with it. In the end it was that frank conversation about humanism and atheism that meant our names were put forth as one of a very short list to Big Mama.

Just a note, Big Mama wants Fox supported to explore and come to his own conclusions about faith, but  to know and understand no matter what route he decides that kindness to fellow humans and this place we live in is valued highly. This has always been our parenting philosophy, that our job is to support and guide, but not dictate. So that is where it started for us. A call, “We’ve got an unusual situation. An expectant mother has approached us.  She is wants to find a family for her son that isn’t religious, but maybe agnostic, atheist, just not religious. She wants potential adoptive parents who really want a fully open adoption.” A few other things too, but really that is how it started. I realize that for some who see adoption as a way to bring souls to the Kingdom of Heaven this placement is a disaster, but our journey, our charge is quite different, to be loving, stable, supportive parents to a child and  loving, open and supportive family members to his mother (first mother) and sisters (plural – Big Sis and Bean).

We were to have our second visit today, but Big Mama’s car wasn’t up to the drive, so we’re going up to see her in the next few days and, like her, I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. The last visit, when Fox was less than two weeks old, was both beautiful and heartbreaking. This visit will be shorter than we had originally planned for today, but we’re already talking about our Solstice visit. I’m hoping for a beautiful visit again, and wishing for less pain in goodbye. A girl can wish. Right?

And because this post needs a photo and this photo, or rather the very fine shirt that was embroidered for Fox, should be seen. I present to you,
Reformed Blastocyst by a most talented and gracious friend ML.
Oh how my science geek rejoices at this.
IMG_2142

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Filed under Adoption, first parent, Homestudy, humanism, open adoption, visit

Open Adoption Interview Project – Weathering the Storm

Blogs from all members of the adoption triad have been an incredible resource for us as we explored adoption and open adoption. One of the most important resources we found was Heather at Production not Reproduction who has done an amazing job at reaching out and connecting members of the open adoption triad. One of her projects is called the Open Adoption Interview Project where blogging members of the adoption triad are paired up and interview each other. This time I wasn’t just a spectator in the interviews I participated. My interviewee and interviewer? Rain of Weathering the Storm.

Rain and McRuger, her spouse, have had a convoluted pathway to parenthood, through fertility treatments, fostering and then finally open adoption. Her words are honest and heartfelt. Some of my new favorite posts are the guest posts she invited and then posted recently sharing different views of adoption to open discussion. Thank you Rain for participating. My questions are in bold type.

Our sons are just ten days apart in age and so I imagine we’re going through some of the same experiences. How are you addressing questions about his adoption and Ms. J?

With strangers, or people I have just met, I tend to keep answers brief and to-the-point. I don’t think I need to tell the entire story. With friends and family, we’ve encouraged people to ask as many questions as they want. With that encouragement, we’ve also expressed a desire to keep some of Cadet’s story private, so that they will understand if we don’t give lots of details. Only a few people know anything about Ms. J and her circumstances. Some people know only some of the story. I never lie about the story of Cadet’s adoption, but I am very careful about who I share those details with.

Is there a resource about open adoption, book or blog, that particularly resonates with you?

I have yet to find a book on open adoption that I have connected with. I have read several, many of them too clinical and removed to really help me learn about open adoption. My quest for open adoption blogs has really just started. However, the first one that comes to mind is Geochick over at http://geo-chick.blogspot.com/. Her writing on the subject always seems to be interesting and informative.

It sounds like you and Mr. R have a different ethnic, ancestral background than Cadet. What impact do you see this having on your parenting and Cadet? How do you plan to address it? PACT?

Yes, McRuger (my husband) and I are Caucasian. Cadet is the true definition of “multiracial”. I think that parenting Cadet has already opened my eyes to a new level of inequality in the world. I’ve been trying to find toys, books, and artwork which represents his background, and it’s hard. I have to scour books stores to find children’s books with a “dark skinned” hero/heroine. Even though Cadet is a male, I still want him to have a few dolls/action figures which “look” like him…it’s been a challenge. Even the labels on foods, shampoos, and toy boxes are plastered with the smiling faces of “white” children. So, I’ve had to question friends and family to find these things which will (hopefully) foster a sense of belonging and connectedness in Cadet.

That being said, we are raising Cadet in a heavily multi-ethnic area and we have friends who come from all different backgrounds. As Cadet gets older and begins to notice the differences in skin color, we want to take advantage of the diversity of the area.

We always plan on being honest and open with Cadet when it comes to his heritage. Frankly, there are very few role models for him to look up to. We want him to be aware that not everyone is treated equally all of the time, and how to handle that.

I feel like I am rambling on…did any of that make sense? Yes.

Something a little lighter. Given your love of good food and cooking are you planning on making Cadet’s first foods? Have you started looking at baby cook books? What regular food are you most excited about introducing him to?

I am SOOOO looking forward to cooking foods for Cadet. And I have already thumbed through several different cookbooks and gotten a few ideas. Since our area is a cornucopia of fresh fruits and veggies, I can’t wait to let loose with him at the Farmer’s Market. I am really looking forward to when we can take him out to our favorite Indian or Thai restaurant and letting him experience those spices and flavors for the first time. I feel that part of exposing Cadet to the wonders of this world will happen when he first tastes a light curry or miso soup or even just a fresh peach still warm from the sun.

I’m impressed by how you’ve responded directly and respectfully to what sounds like some outside criticism/flaming about your decision making. Are you ever tempted just to ignore it? Do they ever respond?

Ahhh, one of the best things about having an anonymous blog…people getting pissed at me for choices I’ve made. Seriously though, I’ve never been one to ignore or evade a discussion. Even when I was teaching high school, I never wanted to move away from “uncomfortable” topics just because they were hard to talk about. Just because someone thinks my choices are poor ones, shouldn’t mean I should ignore that belief. I want to enter into a conversation and be open about it.

What I’ve talked about on my blog (foster care, adoption, parenting) are important topics and people feel strongly about them. And when people feel strongly about subjects, that’s when good dialogues can take place. None of these topics should be taken lightly. To that end, I feel that when someone takes issue with my choices, I want to look at it from their point of view…in hopes of learning more about my own thought process. I am not perfect, far from it, and I believe that we can learn so much from each other if we set aside ego and pre-conceived notions.

What ticks me off is when people are instantly angry or send hateful e-mails without first trying to understand where I am coming from. I am always open to people contacting me, and using my blog as a forum for a respectful, thoughtful dialogue.

In some cases, yes, I have had a positive response, but mostly my pleas for dialogue go un-answered.

You’ve commented before about the very broken foster system, what three practical/realistic things would you do to change the foster system? (Unfortunately, making the reasons it exist go away isn’t likely to happen)

I’m not sure I can come up with three. However, the big one for me is about the actual people handling these cases. Social workers/Case workers need to be experienced, well-educated, highly paid, and frequently reviewed by peers, foster parents, and administrators. I think some of our most frustrating events in foster care happened because of the social/case workers who were handling everything. The workers were overworked, underpaid, and (in some cases) didn’t have the proper training on how to handle certain situations. During our time as foster parents: we were lied to, ignored, called names, and that was just by the social workers. I think having the proper people in foster care would go a long way to improving the system.

I imagine from what you’ve written that you have some strong opinions about the adoption process and adoption agencies. How would you like to see adoption change in the US change in the next 10 years?

I would love to see more dialogue and education about adoption in our country. I think there are still a lot of people who have antiquated notions of what adoption is (my parents used to be like that). There are people who believe that we are “saving” Cadet from some poor house/orphanage/baby home. The number of questions I get about adoption, even through my conversations on facebook, lead me to believe that people still don’t understand what adoption looks like today. So, before we can change it, I think we need to talk about what it looks like now and how we can improve on it from there.

With that, I think it’s important for all sides of the adoption world come together and share their experiences (without judgement or fear). Adoption is a world of dualities. There’s the pain of a mother giving up her child which is coupled with the joy of adoptive parents being able to parent that child and there’s also the adoptive child who may experience feelings of loss. With such high/strong emotions, it’s important to be open and honest and take the time to understand where the other person is coming from.

Sweetest, unexpected moment in open adoption so far?
Naming Cadet. When Ms. J shared how she came to name him, we knew we had to keep the name. And then when the pieces fell into place for his middle name, a name that had connection from both families…it always brings a smile to my face.

Thank you Rain.

Rain will be posting my responses to her interview questions soon (I sent them late, big surprise) on her blog. Go over have a read. You can also check out other interviews, just pop over to Production not Reproduction’s list of interviews.

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Filed under Adoption, open adoption, Open Adoption Interview