Tag Archives: Open Adoption

Debunked: Myths vs. Facts in Open Adoption

Debunked: Myths vs. Facts in Open Adoption

What is open adoption? For many, the term could hold different meanings – birth parents having little to no contact with the family to birth parents holding an extended family member role. Understanding of open adoption varies from person to person. However, there are myths about open adoption that do not hold true. Below are some myths debunked:
Myth: Open adoption is synonymous with co-parenting your child

Fact: In an open adoption, adoptive parents and birth parents are clearly defined in their roles – there is no shared custody of the child. The agreement is based upon the birth and adoptive parents’ wishes. In the end, adoptive parents are legally responsible for their children’s well-being.

Myth: Open adoption is puzzling to children

Fact: While the questions may start from an early age, children do have a sense of who their birth parents/adoptive parents are. They also understand that there may be an agreement in place between adoptive and birth parents wherein the child may see their birth parents a certain amount of times a year.

Myth: Adoptees grow up despising their birth parents

Fact: While they may feel some intense emotions throughout their lives, adoptees have the privilege to get to know their birth parents – to learn their stories and background. They can ask those tough questions; thus, making them less likely to have doubts or animosity toward their birth parents.

Myth: Adoptees grow up despising their adoptive parents

Fact: Adoptees who are a part of an open adoption learn their story from an early age – it is not hidden from them. Adoptive parents strive to give their children that understanding. This avoids them from creating their own fantasy and makes them more accepting of their story since it is discussed openly.

Myth: Most open adoption agreements eventually dwindle

Fact: While it is true that some relationships might fade, the majority are longstanding. In fact, most open adoption agreements are not legally binding. It is ultimately contingent on the birth parents and adoptive families forging a lasting relationship.

When considering open adoption, think about what you hear, and do your research. It’s important to not believe everything you hear.

Sources:

http://www.americaadopts.com/resources/open-adoption-myths-and-facts/

Our Open Adoption Isn’t Looking Like What We Thought

One of the key components to understanding and respecting Open Adoption, is realizing that it is not just one moment in time. Open adoption is this ever flowing process between an adoptive family, a birth parent and a child.

There are various levels to open adoption that individuals are cautiously maneuvering through, on an individual basis according to one’s comfort level.

Different Ways Open Adoption Can Look

Open adoption can be as minimal as an expecting parent choosing an adoptive family, but never really having any sort of contact during pregnancy or placement. A birth parent may opt to just want to receive their future picture and letter updates from adoptive families and for them, that is enough. That is they level of openness they decided they needed as they go through their individual grieving process that adoption entails.

Open adoption can also be extremely close to the point where adoptive families connect with birth parents through phone calls, text messages and visits on their own, without an agency liaison. Many adoptive families who experience these sorts of open adoptions, feel comfortable enough with their child’s birth parents, that these relationships and lines of communication simply work for these families.

Open adoption plans can be on any length of the spectrum of openness. It is important to realize that as an agency, we do our best to ensure that a birth family and an adoptive family are comfortable with the same amount of openness before any sort of matching is completed. This allows for all parties to feel a sense of ease in the open adoption process.

Ebb and Flow Over Time

What many do not realize is that a birth parent goes through an extreme amount of emotions at different points in their journey of adoption. Birth parents are also going through their own personal lives and struggles even post-placement, which may alter their future connection to their open adoption. What this means for an adoptive family, is that birth parents may come and go in their relationship to the family and child, and that is okay. Part of parenting a child through open adoption, is realizing that they can walk through that door to “openness” at any point in the child’s life. Being willing to keep that door open shows the respect and understanding that an adoptive family has for open adoption, and specifically the respect they have for their child’s birth parents.

Regardless of a birth parent’s commitment to the future contact, an adoptive family’s role it stay open-minded and provide a space for that door to open whenever a birth parent is ready. This means continuing to send pictures and letters to the agency for a birth family, and continuing to educate their child on the loving decision their birth parent made in choosing adoption. Continue to honor and respect your child’s birth parent and allow a child to understand that you as an adoptive parent will remain committed and supportive to their relationship with their birth parent, if and when their birth parent is ever ready. It takes away the tug of war many adoptees say they feel in choosing between their birth and adoptive families. The truth is it doesn’t have to be either/or but BOTH is an option.

Reconnecting After No Contact

One of our social workers recently had a birth mother come into their office, who unfortunately had lost touch with our agency and the adoptive family that she placed with over 12 years ago. This woman had gone through her own personal struggles of drug addiction and incarceration but was now in a really good place in her life. She asked if we had any recent updates from the adoptive family. I stepped away from our meeting to find a folder filled with over 10 years’ worth of correspondence that this adoptive family had been sending her. We have had been holding all of these pictures and letters for if and when she came back to the agency wanting them. It was such an honor to be able to hand this birth mother a bag filled with amazing stories and pictures of her beautiful son from the last 10 years. She smiled at me and said that she can see what a beautiful life her son was given. I reminded her that she made the decision to give him this beautiful life and she should feel proud of herself.

As a social worker, it was so nice to be able to witness what open adoption can provide, even years later. This family was highly devoted to the commitment they made to these birth parents and the respect they have for open adoption.

One of the Biggest Fears Faced By Birth Parents: Adoptive Parents Not Keeping Their Promises

One of the biggest fears faced by birth parents in adoption is that adoptive parents will not keep their promises about future contact. Many birth parents have heard horror stories about adoptive parents who promised the world, only to cut off all contact after the placement. In adoption, we are asking birth parents to place their trust in an agency and social worker, perhaps based on reputation or recommendation. From there, we are asking them to place their trust in adoptive parents the agency has approved, who they may have only met once or twice. It is not a surprise that birth parents fear a lack of follow through. The only way to ease that fear is to build trust, and trust takes time and relationship to build.

So what can an adoptive family do to ease that fear and begin building trust?

Discuss your commitment to open adoption in your profile. Don’t make adoption or openness the “elephant in the room” of your profile.

Reiterate your commitment to openness in person when meeting the expectant parents. Don’t be afraid to bring up openness first in this meeting! You can ask the expectant parents what they are hoping for, and share your excitement and commitment again.

Solidify your commitment to openness with a symbol or gift. Prospective adoptive parents often want to give a gift to expectant parents when they meet before the birth or at the hospital, and this is a perfect time to continue showing your commitment to openness. A gift like a memory box, photo album, or scrapbook, with an explanation that you plan to send photos or scrapbook pages to fill it up, is a great start to this conversation.

Offer to sign a legally enforceable future contact agreement. If your state allows for legally enforceable future contact agreements, bring this up with the birth parents. Letting them know that you are willing to put your name to a legal agreement for openness may ease some of their fears.

Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep. It often happens that families get overwhelmed at the hospital and begin offering more openness than they are comfortable with. If you’re asked for something you’re not sure about, let the birth parents know that you want to think about it or talk about it with your partner or social worker before making a commitment. It is always better to say, “I’m not sure” than to say “yes” and then not follow through.

Don’t offer more contact during pregnancy if you don’t intend to continue that level of contact after placement. We understand the appeal – if the expectant mom has your cell phone number, she can just text you updates about doctor appointments instead of having to go through two social workers to get this information. We support you in having this level of openness, but only if you are comfortable continuing to text directly after the baby is born. If you would rather have some separation after the placement, you should keep the agency involved in your contact during pregnancy as well.

Set appropriate expectations. Along the same lines as above, if you intend to have direct contact with the birth parents, set expectations to ensure that everyone is on the same page and no one is disappointed. For example, if you share an email address, you may want to mention how often you’ll check it and how quickly you’ll be able to respond.

Send pictures and letters on time, and whenever possible, share more than the minimum. Think of your yearly updates as a chance to review your year for your child as well as the birth parents. Share all of those tiny moments that no one else will think are quite as exciting as you do – your child’s birth parents will likely revel in them right along with you.

Be creative in sending updates. Keep a running list of fun “firsts” and milestones to include in your yearly letter. Consider including your child’s artwork or schoolwork as well.

Involve your child in sending the update. Ask them to write a note or draw a picture for their birth parents to include.

Offer visits. Often birth parents are ready for a visit, but may be hesitant to ask to set one up. Include an offer of a visit, whenever the birth parents are ready, in each of your yearly letters. This lets birth parents know that the door remains open, but also that you haven’t forgotten.

Accept letters and gifts from the birth parents. Some birth parents love to respond to letters, or to send their own letters to the adoptive parents or the child. Others rarely send letters, but never miss a birthday. Always accept these letters and gifts, and either share them with your child now, or save them for a time when it will be more appropriate to share.

If you make a mistake, admit it and commit to do better. Open adoption is a different type of relationship and it will take time to adjust and get comfortable. It is likely that you and the birth parents will make mistakes and step on each other’s toes as you figure out how to do this delicate dance. Be okay with making mistakes, and quick to apologize and commit to doing better.

Choosing the Right Family for Your Baby

If you’ve already made the decision of adoption, you may be thinking of the crucial next step of choosing a family. You want to make the best decision, but you might be feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to feel this way, this is could possibly be the toughest decision you ever make. The best thing to do is make the decision with the information you have. However, there are three questions you can ask yourself to help guide you through the adoption process. What are my child’s needs? What are my hopes, wishes, and wants for my child? What level of openness do I want in this adoption?

 

1.) What are my child’s needs?

It’s important to determine the needs your child might have. Once you figure out those needs you’ll be able to look for a family that can provide for them. You may want a family that is financially stable. You may want someone that is a stay-at-home mother/father who can spend adequate time with your baby. You may want the potential adoptive parents to be able to offer your child the opportunity of a good education. Some birth parents may even consider the location of the potential adoptive parents. There are a lot of aspects that may factor into your child’s needs. You may even consider your own childhood to help you decide what your child needs or doesn’t need.

 

2.) What are my hopes, wishes, and wants for my child?

This question is just as important as the one above. There might be certain things you may want for your child. You may want your child to be raised by someone with a college degree. Choosing a family that shares your religious beliefs may be a factor for you. What type of home do you want your child to be raised in? Do you want your child to be raised by a same-sex couple, heterosexual couple, or does it even matter? Did you want your child to grow up with siblings or be an only child? Is there a certain discipline style you don’t like? It’s best to contact the potential adoptive parents to ask questions and convey your hopes, wants, and wishes. This can help narrow down which family is best for your baby.

 

3.) What level of openness do I want in this adoption?

This is something you may want to discuss with your social worker or the adoptive parents. You want to make sure that your level of openness matches the adoptive parents. You may want yearly updates or visits. Or you may want more updates and a few visits a year. Are you and the adoptive parents comfortable with semi-openness or complete openness? You may even decide to have a closed adoption in the beginning and work up to being completely open. That’s okay too. Many adoptions start off closed or semi-open and evolve to a wonderfully open relationship with the adoptive parents. You just have to discover what’s right for you.

With decisions like these it’s hard to be confident that you made the right choice. We’d love to think that our choices come with guarantees, but they don’t. We can only make the best decision with the knowledge we have now. Weigh your options and decide what’s best for your baby & you. I’m a birth mother that placed 5 years ago and these are some of the questions that helped me. Of course, I second guessed myself, but I always felt comfortable with the decision I made and the family I chose. I chose what was best for my child’s needs and what was most important to me. That alone helped with this difficult decision.

Adoption Updates: What to Send

At first when our open adoption was brand new, it was hard to know what to include in our updates. Especially since the only big things that changed between month 1 and 2 were our daughter’s weight and height. It’s hard to know what to write when the relationship between adoptive and birth parents is just beginning.

After the first few months of struggling through the updates, I simply began to think WWIW, meaning what would I want to see and hear about when I’m away from our daughter. I love to hear about everything. The blowout after daddy just changed her diaper, how our puppy gave her a slobbery kiss on the head, how her face scrunches up when she first gets into her bath. You are painting a picture for your child’s birth parents with your words and photos

Now this is where the “open” part of open adoption can be applied to your communication. As your relationship develops with your child’s birth parents, you will get to know what they really enjoy hearing about. You can even ask if there is anything specific they would like to know.

Once we moved from monthly to yearly updates, it was easier to write as so much had happened in a year. The only problem was, I found it hard to remember everything. So what I started to do was keep things in a note section on my phone so when something happened (like her first word or first tooth) I could make a note and then use those notes to write my yearly update.

Holding Back

Sometimes people will ask “isn’t it painful for her birthparents to hear those things” or “won’t it make them to change their mind”. I also knew of a family who only sent “ok” photos with their updates because they were afraid that the adorable pictures they were posting online and sending to grandparents would make their daughter’s birthmother regret placement. More often than not it is our own insecurities and fears at play. I have known several birthmothers who have said that while there is a sadness that comes with the updates there is also a great joy in seeing their little one growing up. Adoption is mixed with complex emotions and both joy and sadness can be present at the same time. If you genuinely have a concern about upsetting your child’s birthparents, contact your social worker to talk more in depth.

Ways to Stay In Touch

In addition to the yearly update, our relationship has progressed to where we text and Skype with each other. We discovered that creating a private Facebook group just for us and our daughter’s birthmother was perfect for us. We can share videos and photos and only those we allow can see them. When our daughter is older we will include her as well. We also have the CVS near our daughter’s birthmother stored in our favorites so sporadically throughout the year we send photos directly there to be printed and then let her know she has photos waiting for her.

Over Time It Will Become More Natural

So the next time you text a photo of your child to a grandparent or you are changing out the drawings he made that are hanging on the refrigerator, take a minute and think about your child’s birthparents too. Would they like a surprise mailing? Do you have a place you can store it until your yearly update or visit comes around?

I understand that each open adoption relationship is different and what we have found to work for us might not work for others. So find a system that works best for you.

Tell me, what tricks have you found to stay in touch and make updates easier to pull together?

 

Open Adoption – Remembering It’s NOT Just About Me

When we began the adoption process, we kind of had a leg up in knowing so much about open adoption. I had been working in the field of adoption for years and we knew several families that had different levels of contact with their children’s birth parents. We knew of the wonderful benefits of openness and were also aware of the familiar challenges. We were excited at the idea of open adoption and envisioned Thanksgiving and birthdays gathered together as a family.

The day we got “the call”, our dreams of growing our family through adoption became real. In that same moment, a large part of our adoption dream had the door slammed shut, or so we thought. As we learned more about our match and the woman who made this extremely difficult decision, we discovered that she didn’t desire openness. She wanted to choose a family and leave it at that. For a moment when I heard the news, it was like a weight was crushing my chest making it hard to breath. In an instant, my “picture” of open adoption disappeared. I was heartbroken. Not only for me but for our child as well.

I had to remind myself that my specific vision of openness was only one of the many paths our adoption journey could take. I re-framed my thinking with a focus on the birth mother’s needs and desires. For whatever reason, she was choosing to shut the door on contact, at least for now. The great thing about doors is that they can also open. I held hope for what might be while I centered the here and now in what was.

We were picked for an emergency placement, meaning that Little Miss was already born and we only had a few hours between the call and getting to meet her for the first time. When we arrived at the hospital, the incredible woman who had just made one of the most complex decisions of her life had already left. We were walked to the maternity floor and shown to our room by our social worker. Moments later they wheeled in a bassinet with this gorgeous little girl. Even now the tears still flow thinking about this moment. Tears of joy for our growing family and this precious little girl. Tears of sadness for the pain her mother must be feeling after saying goodbye.

From the hospital to a hotel and then finally home. We took each moment a day at a time. Revocation period passed then the court date for finalization came and went and we were officially a family. All the while we sent photos and letters to the agency regularly. It went on one-sided for quite some time. We never hesitated to keep our promise to send updates even when they seemed to be responded to with silence. Then nearly 4 months after our daughter was placed in our arms, we received a message from her birthmother through her social worker. I wept as I read each word. She had been reading each update we sent and holding the photos close to her heart. Each time we offered contact if and when she was ready. It took some time but she was now desiring to exchange emails and was looking forward to a day when she might be ready for a visit. It was almost like receiving “the call” again. Our family was getting ready to expand even more! It wasn’t long before our emails turned into text messages which developed into phone calls and Skype sessions. We created a private Facebook group for the three of us to share photos and videos. It was amazing.

Then almost 6 months to the day that Little Miss was born, Momma J and I found ourselves in an embrace that seemed to last forever. It was our very first face-to-face meeting. None of our surroundings mattered, we were together at last. Our daughter returned to her arms for the first time since being held in the hospital. It was the most joyous and heartbreaking visit. The pain of placement came with the happiness of being reunited as they are often intertwined.

My original dream of being together to celebrate birthdays later came true to as we all celebrated Little miss turn one and have her very first bite of cake.

Our social worker told us at the beginning of the process that open adoption is an ever-changing path with highs and lows. Times of abundant contact and times of scarcity. The contact and visits ebb and flow on Momma J’s end depending upon her situation at that time, however we have vowed to always keep the door open.

Once when a planned visit didn’t work out at the very last minute, we had some well-meaning family members ask why we keep doing it. Was it worth the 6 hour drive round trip only to find out she couldn’t make it. Without a doubt, yes. It’s not just about spending our time and gas, it’s about keeping the door open for all the benefits open adoption can have for our daughter. It’s about keeping our promises and doing the right thing even when it’s hard. As our daughter gets older, we will also make sure listen to her needs and feelings as well in relation to openness and contact. For now she enjoys when we Skype and likes to show off her new super hero moves and dance spins.

For all those adoptive parents who send updates and photos and never hear back…please don’t assume they aren’t worth doing. Momma J told us that even when she didn’t have the strength to be in touch, those updates meant the world to her. For prospective adoptive parents just beginning the process, remember to be flexible to the changes that open adoption will go through over time. It’s not just one way of being, it’s a lifestyle that over time changes and develops and hopefully grows. Open adoption can not simply be defined by one thing. For us, I’m glad that a door that began as closed has now opened.

How to Spot An Adoption Scam

When we think of adoption, we think of someone choosing to grow their family. We think of the expectant mother who wants to give her child a better life. We think of a child receiving love from all angles. Rarely, do we consider a person taking advantage of someone’s need or want to adopt. It is sad to say, but adoption scams happen all the time! Scary, right?! But don’t worry, we are going to give you helpful tips on how to spot warning signs and red flags down below.

Warning Signs

One of the first warning signs you could receive is a vague or questionable email address and subject title. If you receive an email with a subject titled “Baby waiting for you!”, an eyebrow and a question should be raised. If the email address ends in @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, or anything other than the company’s name, make sure to do your research on the facilitator or agency. Also, beware of generic messages. These are emails that lack specifics. You could be one of many receiving the same message. The usual scammer makes their first point of contact via email.

A sure-fire warning sign is the recipient requesting money. Money should never be exchanged without discussing it with an adoption professional first. At this point, all communication should cease until you speak with an adoption professional. The recipient may also request a plane ticket. This is common for overseas scams. The recipient may explain they want to have their baby in your country. Only problem is the baby may not actually exist or the recipient does not plan to complete the adoption process.

An expecting mother approaching you about adopting her twins could tug at your heart strings. Unfortunately, this is a classic scam that happens around major, sentimental holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Scammers rely on these holidays to lower your guard. They hope you want a child bad enough that you will agree to the situation quickly with little to no objection.

 

Red Flags

  • Pressure to sign documents you don’t understand.
  • If any guarantees are made.
  • If they rush to the topic of you paying expenses.
  • If they refuse to meet with the adoption professional or agency.
  • If agency or facilitator refuses to return your phone calls or emails.
  • If birth mother doesn’t provide proof of pregnancy.
  • If agency or facilitator says they will be in touch with you instead of giving their phone number.
  • If anyone is selling a baby online for money.

 

Suggestions

Whether you choose to go through an agency or use an adoption professional make sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professional. Learn your legal rights to adoption. You can join groups online that discuss tips on how to avoid adoption fraud. If you are a prospective adoptive parent here are a few ways to avoid “Birth Mother Scams”. Set up a phone conversation. Get confirmation of pregnancy. You can request a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, find out if your adoption professional has the right paper work to request the ultrasound. If she refuses to speak with your adoption professional and refuses to send an ultrasound, things may not be as they seem. When in doubt always contact your agency or adoption professional. They have more experience in these situations and can help you navigate through the process. Adoption professionals don’t have any emotional attachments to the situation, so they can ask the expectant mother the hard questions.

Relax & Breathe…

Don’t let the possibility of a scam scare you away from adoption. Adoption is a great way to expand your family. Just keep in mind, never jump into a situation that seems too good to be true. Do your own research on whomever you choose to use as an agency or as an adoption professional. Take the time to learn adoption laws in the state you reside. Find adoption information meetings that you can attend to familiarize yourself with the process. It’s unfortunate, scams like these make adoptive parents leery of posting their profiles, specifically on the internet. Remember, that the internet is just a tool being used. Scams can happen at any time, on any platform, and can involve professionals. I can’t say it enough… DO YOUR RESEARCH!