Friday, March 5, 2010

How much openness?

I'm going to start with the topic of open adoption and then move on in a later post to profile books and life books.  Thanks for the suggestions in my last post.  I came up with 6 questions related to open adoption; Steve and I are going to answer them.

1.  How did you feel about open adoption before you started the entire adoption process?

Steve:  I didn’t know anything about it when we started looking into it.  I certainly didn’t know what “open” meant.

Wendy:  I did a lot of reading and research about adoption prior to us making the decision to adopt.  When we were going through infertility treatments, I read books about adoption as well as infertility.  I wanted to be as prepared as possible, and I wanted to know more about different types of adoption.  At that point, I was reading about both international and domestic adoption.  Through learning about domestic adoption, I learned that there are 3 types of openness in adoption:

  • closed – there is no contact between the child, the birthparents, and the adoptive parents
  • semi-open – this can vary depending on the agency, but basically the birthparents, child, and adoptive parents would have some contact (i.e. letters and pictures.)  Only non-identifying information would be exchanged.  Letters and pictures would be exchanged through the agency.
  • open – the highest level of contact – may include letters, photos, phone calls, emails, and visits. 

The degree of openness would be determined by both the birthparents and the adoptive parents.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the idea of a completely open adoption, but that’s because I was still learning about it. 

2.  How did you learn more about it?

Steve:  Reading online, going to our agency’s meetings, and reading 2 books that the agency required (Dear Birthmother and Adopting After Infertility.)

Wendy:  I read books on the subject.  I loved going to our agency’s “Waiting Families” meetings because families who had already gone through the process shared their experiences.  We got to hear from a birthmother and her thoughts on openness (she hadn’t wanted an open adoption.)  We got to also hear from a family who have an open adoption agreement with their daughter’s birthmother.  The birthmother and the adoptive parents all spoke at the meeting.  During our home study process, our caseworker explained what would be involved if we decided to choose a semi-open adoption vs. an open adoption.  I also joined adoption chat boards and reading blogs about open adoption.

3.  How did you decide what was right for you?

Steve:  We weighed the pros/cons of an open adoption.  We had already agreed that a closed adoption wouldn’t be our preference.

Wendy:  We talked a lot about it.  We talked about our fears and our concerns.  We talked about all of the benefits of having an open agreement.  We knew that we needed to make the choice that would be in the best interest of our child.

4.  What type of openness do you have with your child’s birthparents?

Wendy:   We have an open adoption with Zoe’s birthmother.  When we signed our paperwork, we also signed an openness agreement.  We agreed to send pictures and letters to Z at specific points in Zoe’s life.  For example, I just sent a package since Zoe is turning 6 months soon.  For the first year, we will send pictures about 5-6 times, I think.  Then it’s a little less each year until age 18.  That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t send more pictures more often.  We can and will if it’s okay with Z.  We have sent cards for holidays and birthdays.  We email back and forth and often include photos with our messages.  I’m saving the emails and putting them in a binder so Zoe can read them someday.  We have spoken on the phone once in a while, and we are hoping that a visit will happen soon.  We have not had contact with Zoe’s birthfather.

5.  Have any of your friends/family members had issues with your level of openness?

Steve:  One relative in particular has expressed concern because that relative worries that it might not be a completely positive thing.  This relative doesn’t have any direct experience with open adoption (other than ours.)  It probably stems from fear that something could go wrong with our situation if we are open.  We have talked to this person and tried to educate them (and we continue to do so.)

6.  Any regrets over your decision?  Would you change your agreement if you could?

Steve:  No regrets at all.  The only change would be if we were able to be open with both birthparents.

Wendy:  We are very happy with our decision to have an open adoption agreement with Zoe’s birthmother.  We hope our relationship with her continues to grow.

Thinking about open adoption can be scary if it’s a brand new idea to you.  If it is something you think you might want to consider, try to do as much as you can to educate yourself on the idea.  As we learned more about it, we felt more at ease with it.  We really feel that it is in our child’s best interest to have ongoing contact with her birthparents.   We can’t imagine being adopted and growing up not knowing where you came from and who your birthparents are.  We can’t imagine always having the questions in the back of your mind.  We can’t imagine not knowing your history and some of what makes you who you are.  We hope that our decision to be open to open adoption will be a good thing for everyone involved.


E said...

I was (and continue to be on some level) afraid of the concept of open adoption. But as you mentioned at the end of this post, I can't imagine either having those questions in the back of my mind if I were adopted.

That's great that you have that openness with Zoe's birthmom. Hope you get that some day with her birth dad. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with it.

-Stephanie- said...

Great post, Wendy, with good info. It can't be stress enough, though, how important it is for APs to fulfill their promises to their BP(s)! There are way too many hurt and confused BPs out there.

Yay for Zoe and for you & Steve for keeping your word!

Wendy said...

E - I hope we do, too.

Stephanie - You're right - I wish I had mentioned that in the post. It is SO important to keep your promises about the openness agreement. It is a commitment that you cannot take lightly. Thank you for bringing that up in your comment.

Lost in Space said...

Great post, Wendy. I loved following yours and Steve's thoughts through the process. It is something that I don't think people can fully understand or decide on until they are actually facing it.

I'm so happy that your family and Z are on the same page. (-;

LL said...

Great post Wendy!

I think there are so many layers to open adoptions and they will tend to change through time. What is right for one family or situation may not be right for another. But it is always nice to keep communciation lines opened.