The Open Adoption Roundtableis a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. We’re up to Open Adoption Roundtable #28.
Lori of Write Mind Open Heart, an adoptive parent in two open adoptions, has up at her blog a set of eleven questions about open adoption which were posed to her by JoAnne, an adult adoptee in a closed adoption. There are some questions there about the role adoption professionals played arranging contact in your adoptions and how you understand the legal weight of any open adoption agreements you may have.
I actually found out about this Open Adoption Roundtable from Jenna’s blog, The Chronicles of Munchkinland. As a birthmother, Jenna was offended by the questions. Personally, I find the questions naive, even ignorant (though not in a mean way). I tried to go to the questioner’s blog to see what her adoption experience was like. What I found there really didn’t mesh with the questions she asked. So, I’m a bit confused as to the motivation behind the questions, as well as with the questions themselves.
That said, I’m going to answer the questions anyway.
- Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?
Yes, they can. Like many of the other bloggers, I find adoptive parents who go into an adoption promising openness simply to get a child reprehensible. It seems that a lot of birthmothers think this is the norm – that all adoptive parents are just out for the kid and never think of the birth parents again. I know that’s not true, but I hate the parents who perpetuate this perception.
- Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?
As far as I know, none of the above. I know some people who have open adoptions and use an agency as a go-between. In our open adoption, we know everything about S and her family, and she knows everything about us. I haven’t talked to anyone from the awful Adoption Network Law Center since we came back to California with Jackson.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?
I think this question is asking, “What’s the advantage to using a go-between?” There really isn’t an advantage for an agency, lawyer, or social worker to be a go-between. But there can be advantages to having one of those entities be a go-between. I see a lot of queries about setting boundaries, and social workers can help there, for example. On the other hand, I know a woman who went through her agency to send updates, and the agency read the updates and redacted them. Not OK.
- How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?
I think this is where some of the ignorance comes in. It seems that the questioner is assuming that all adoptions go through social services. They don’t. If you’re dealing with social services (in California, that would be Child Protective Services, or CPS) then presumably a child has been removed from his parents. In most cases, openness with parents isn’t in the best interest of the child. However, many adoptions from foster care now involve openness with other family members, such as siblings and grandparents. I think that this openness is another piece of foster care, so it’s the social worker’s job to help here. Of course, if a social worker had to choose between facilitating a visit between siblings or returning a call from a prospective adoptive family, I hope she’d choose the latter. It would probably be best for a social worker to teach the families to facilitate their own visits.
- Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?
I don’t believe so. Some agencies may receive continuing fees for facilitating openness.
- If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?
Nothing. My understanding is that the most a court can do, when it comes to enforcing open adoption agreements, is order visitation. However, usually what the adoptive parents want is what happens. All states with open adoption agreements explicitly state that an adoption cannot be overturned if the parties do not honor the agreement. I think that makes sense. But it also means that open adoption agreements don’t have any teeth.
- What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?
Another ignorant question, but usually I see this one from prospective adoptive parents who are insecure about the very existence of the birth parents. What keeps anyone from coming to your house unannounced? Manners and common sense.
Of course, my father used to come over to my house unannounced. Now, he comes over unannounced on Thursdays. I’ve had the occasional friend or family member who happened to be in the area drop by , and that’s usually a happy surprise.
If there is real concern about this, for example, because a birth parent is an addict, then I imagine a person could get a restraining order. But, in general, birth parents shouldn’t be feared.
- Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?
I’m not sure what’s meant by “loopholes”. There are several legal problems within adoption where reforms are needed. Open adoption agreements are generally not enforced, even if the state says they’re enforceable. I don’t think those issues qualify as loopholes though.
- Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?
There are proponents and opponents of open adoption. I know of at least one adult adoptee in a closed adoption who is against open adoption and blogs about it. I thought the blog was full of venom, so I never went back. The Open Adoption Roundtable is all about promoting the realities of open adoption.
- When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?
Lori’s answer to this is great. From the birth parent perspective, you should read Racilous’s answer.
As for my part, if Jackson doesn’t want to talk to his birth family when I do, I don’t force him to. I wish he did, but he’s not big on talking on the phone to anyone. It does mean that I call them less often, because I can’t involve him. I don’t think I’d allow Jack to break off ties completely, as long as he was under 18 at least. Knowing S’s family is important. I don’t think young kids or teenagers necessarily see the benefits of situations that they don’t like.
- Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?
I know one birthmother support group: Birth Mom Buds. I know of a few organizations that actually help pregnant women considering adoption as well as birthmothers. Chicks In Crisis is a local organization.
I tried to keep my answers short and to the point. It’s hard to slog through a lot of Q&A. This roundtable really was slanted towards adoptive parents. I don’t think the ignorance in these questions comes from a bad place. I think it’s run of the mill, genuine not knowing. Still, I can see how the questions would be offensive to some.