Thursday, April 25, 2013

Open Is A Myth

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of open adoption.

I firmly believe the accepted practice, that is the norm in today’s world, is just as damaging and painful as closed adoption.

From the very start, the promise of open adoption is used to convince vulnerable, pregnant mothers to give up their babies.  It came into existence, not because the Adoption Industry suddenly grew a heart and started to care about what was TRULY best for mothers and their unborn children.  But because adoptions were drastically dropping after the Baby Scoop Era.  Because the demand for newborns was outnumbering the number of available babies.  And the Industry learned, promising frightened, vulnerable mothers that they could still be a part of their child’s life increased the chances they would give their sons and daughters up for adoption.

And then you have pre-birth matching which is sold as an integral part of open adoption.  You have what is one of the worst, cruelest forms of coercion used against pregnant mothers.  One that is so accepted as “okay” that even those who are currently in the process of seeking a baby to adopt, list it as a “positive” for open adoption because of the terrible coercion it brings about . . .

---“When the mother can see first hand, how important the adoption is to the family, it is more difficult for her to back out and disappoint them.” – Adoptions Don’t Have To Be A Secret ---

---“As the process moves along, birthmothers begin to see their babies as belonging to the adoptive parents and not to them.” – Birthmother, Good Mother ---

From there, you have the open adoption agreements which are more of a barter between two people for another human being, than anything else . . .

I promise to send pictures four times a year, videos for every major holiday and visits twice a year.  In exchange, you promise to give me your baby directly after giving birth.

And yet, sadly, barters – signed sales agreements between two parties – have more legal backing, in many states, than any open adoption agreement.  And even in those states where open adoption agreements are supposively recognized by law, what point does it really serve?  What rational ability does a First Mother truly have to hire a lawyer, pay for a lengthy court battle and hope she might win something in what will become a battle of proving what is in the best interest of the child.  Not in what was promised in order for the Adoptive Parents to convince the mother to give up her child in the first place.

And none of it, not even with the wording the court systems like to use, has anything – on the surface – to do with the Adoptees.  It is, as so often happens in adoption, Adoptive Parent-centered.  It’s about what they must do, what they must agree too if they have any hope of a mother giving her baby to them.  It’s all about how they sacrifice and give of themselves to keep their promises.  How they are good for sticking to the original agreement they made with their child’s First Family.

And for those First Moms, it’s about being grateful that the Adoptive Parents are actually following their agreement.  About behaving as expected so there is no risk of them breaking their promises and closing the adoption.

But the worst of it is it’s sold to vulnerable mothers, and hopeful Adoptive couples, as the miracle “cure” so that their children will never suffer the loss and pain of being given up for adoption.

Though it was almost three decades ago when open adoptions became more and more a part of the adoption vocabulary, it is presented as the “new thing” that makes everything about adoption better, brighter, with the promise that today’s Adoptees will do so much better than Adoptees of the past.

And that, in itself, is terribly damaging.  To buy in to the belief that some pictures, a couple visits, is all it takes to make sure our children are happy with being given up for adoption, is one of the worst things we could ever do to them.

Years ago, Adoptive Parents were told to treat their children like a blank slate and they would be spared the pain of adoption.  Today, they are told, open adoption is so much better.  A few pictures, a visit or two a year, and their children will never know the pain of the Adoptees of the past.

It’s no more true now than it was then.  Both myths are terribly damaging to children. 

But today’s myth of open adoption being the newest and greatest thing is hugely embraced and accepted as the cure-all for adoption loss.  It works so well for Adoptive Parents.  They can do what is expected of them and stick to the agreements they made and be reassured, at the same time, that by doing so, they are sparing their children any and all pain that might come from being taken away from their family at birth.

And the damage continues.  Because children are expected to be happy, more than accepting of those pictures that cure all their issues with identity since they can see where they got their rounded chin from.  Their green eyes.  Their frizzy hair.

They’re expected to be “healed” from any sense of loss when they are allowed a visit with their First Family.  Regardless if they must also be forced to watch their First Parents go on with their lives, without them in it.  So often walking away from the child they gave up for adoption only to return to the children they kept and raised.

Open adoption is painful.  Open adoption is hard.

And though I am not a fan of it because of the damage it causes, I do believe that our children deserve for us parents to take the time to do it right.  To make it Adoptee-centered.  To swallow our pride, our ego, and make open adoption what it should truly be about – an ever-growing, changing relationship with all sides of a child’s family.

And there are those Adoptive Parents that do just that.  Who truly understand that adoption is about loss and pain, there is nothing that can be done to change that.  But our children can be put first.  Be given the relationship they deserve between both sets of parents that has nothing to do with what is best for the parents but what is, instead, best for the child they all love.

I think of Daria. And Rebecca.  And Lori . . .

Lori . . . The author of The Open-Hearted Way To Open Adoption.

A book not just from her, but from her daughter’s First Mother as well.

A book that isn’t about how great she is to allow a connection between her children and their First Families.  Or about how grateful her children’s First Parents are to them for keeping their promises.

A book that is, instead, about putting the Adoptee first in every aspect, every part, of an open adoption relationship.  One that doesn’t stick to the accepted norm of what the majority of Adoptive Parents do to keep their promises of open adoption.  But instead encourages the reader to go beyond their egos, their uncertainties, their misguided beliefs, and concentrate instead on what is truly best for their child.

She acknowledges the pain that also comes with such relationships.  Doesn’t try to cover up the loss that exists, or sugar-coat the emotions her children face as they try to find their way to balancing having Adoptive and First Parents as a part of their life.

She faces and addresses the reality of what open adoption is and encourages her readers to step outside of their comfort zone and truly do whatever they can to do what is best for their children.  To accept that open adoption is beyond a static agreement.  A two-dimensional pact made between adults without knowledge of the future.

It is, instead, a way of life.  A reality to be lived that is ever changing because our children’s lives, and their relationships with their families, are ever changing.

There is no magical cure out there that will miraculously save a child from feeling the pain of being given up by one family to be adopted by another.  Adoption does, and always will, begin with loss.  There is no amount of pictures or visits that can ever change that.

To encourage pregnant mothers to give up their babies because of some mythical belief that open adoption makes everything better, just creates more pain and loss.  More unnecessary damage that nobody deserves.

If we truly want to protect children then we must first concentrate on helping and preserving their family, whenever possible, so they will never have to know the reality of adoption loss.  And, if there is no other way, and adoption must happen, then the openness must be real.  It must be significant and it must be centered around the Adoptee and only the Adoptee.

Anything less is just another myth that will continue on the same painful path of the past, creating even more damage along the way.