Why Do We Support Open Adoption?

 

 

I’ve been working in adoptions long enough to see the significant trend toward open adoptions over the past forty years. I recall sitting in meetings in the 70’ and 80’s with an Adoption Committee in the first agency where I worked doing the matching of birth parents and adoptive parents. Actually it was a matching of child and adoptive parents because the couple would never meet the birth parents; it was just important that the child had features or background matching that of the adoptive parents. The adopting couple received a piece of paper with information about the birth mother and birth father, and in turn, the birth parents would receive information about the couple. First names only, if that, and perhaps some additional non-identifying facts. Then, the baby, who had been in foster care from birth awaiting the legal work to be done, would be placed in the arms of the adoptive family. Happy endings? Yes, usually more so for the family than the birth parent. Could it be better? Yes.

Secrecy surrounding adoptions began in the 40’s and 50’s with good intentions. It was believed to protect all the parties involved.

• The birth parents were protected from the stigma of pregnancy without the benefits of marriage.
• The adoptee was protected from the stigma of illegitimacy and the concerns of “bad blood” which was loosely connected with what we know today about genetics and carried with it the overtones of the “sins of the father.”
• The adoptive parents, often an infertile couple, would be protected from the stigma of raising an illegitimate child.

 

They were protected from dealing with their infertility and from facing the differences between being a parent through adoption vs. being a parent by birth.

Closed records also precluded the possibility of birth relatives seeking out the child, or heaven forbid, set them up for a potential kidnapping. Fear was the driving force.

By the 70’s adoptees were beginning to speak out about the fact they did not know anything about their biological families and their heritage. They had been cut off from that part of their lives. As a result of their efforts over the past three or four decades, the practice of secrecy has taken a turn–for several reasons:

Adoptees have voiced their belief that they have the right to know more about their biological roots. Birth parents have said they want to know that their child has had a good life. If they haven’t said it out loud (which many could not in years gone by), they have thought it—every day.

Adoptive parents have come to desire that connection for themselves and their child. They understand that a relationship with the birth parent does not diminish their role in the child’s life – or heart. Single parenthood, being adopted and infertility no longer carry the stigma they once did.

Adoption professionals, lawmakers and counselors have listened to the voices and tried to make laws and policies that provide helpful answers for all. Underlying our effort at Nightlight is our confident belief that some level of openness is good and emotionally healthy for all parties. It can be in the form of meetings, visits, letters, pictures, texts, videos, Facebook page or any number of other ways to have contact. In order to be a good fit for individuals in the adoption triad, relationships must be customized, but all good open adoptions are characterized by open hearts, understanding and a good amount of trust.

When birth parents and adoptive parents meet, there is a “realness” that appears. These are no longer people in a book, or birthparents who don’t care about the baby. They are real caring families who want to be parents more than anything meeting with a woman who is trying to make the right decision for her child in spite of her own sadness. Fears on both sides melt away, and relationships begin.

As contact continues through the lifetime of the child, the relationship can change, as all relationships do. They may increase or decrease in frequency. Lives go in different directions, but the child will know that everyone in his life, whether contact is frequent or not, that he is loved by everyone in his world. We now have several years’ experience with openness in adoption and they have proven to have very positive outcomes.

It seems that society at large and those who have not had a recent connection with adoption continue to believe that closed adoptions are the best. Having a relationship with birth parents is a scary proposition… “we’d really feel better if we could just go on down the road and pretend there are no other connections out there.” But the truth is there is another dimension to the child’s life. Adoptive parents’ lives can be greatly enriched by opening their hearts and getting to know the person responsible for bringing life to their child. Meeting and establishing a relationship is the greatest honor that can be given to a birth mother–to the person that has entrusted her child, and all her hopes and dreams for him to the care of the adoptive parents. It is an act that binds them together.

Supporting BirthParents Through Adoption

 

 

Working with birthparents and seeing the emotions they go through in making the decision to place their child for adoption is not an easy task.  But it is necessary to support them through their adoption.  One way to prepare yourself to support a birth parent is by educating yourself.  There is a book for that! And this book has something for each member of the adoption triad.

 LifeGivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption by James L. Gritter

It is a raw look at the decisions that birthparents make and what could and will occur in the often difficult journey of life lived without the child that she gives birth to.

If you are a Birthparent, I encourage you to read this book.  If you ever wanted to feel validated in the emotion you have felt as a birthparent, you will find it in this book! Guilt, regret, joy, pride, envy, grief, letting go, hanging on, worthiness, self-love, and so on.

In the chapter Why the Public Dislikes Birthparents:
“Pregnancy at an inopportune time in life raises complex moral questions. I believe we learn at least as much about the moral strength of these folks from the way they work through their situations as we do from the circumstances leading to their pregnancies. The adoption choice reveals a great deal about their character and basic values.”

In the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness: 
“How sad that the extraordinary strength underlying the adoption decision is so often mistaken for failure – but that’s the way it is with adoption.” …and goes on to say… “Those who ignore the complicated nature of adoption will never understand its astounding depth and its mysterious capacity to enrich even those who endure loss.”

In the chapter Circumstances of Necessity:
“Women who are thinking about adoption should not base their ideas on propaganda: They deserve a reasonable description of its costs and benefits.” It is so important to educate yourself before entering into adoption. Keep learning to feel what your heart needs to feel in order to live life.

In the chapter Holding On and Letting Go, had this to offer when speaking of a birthparents ambivalence and the heart – head factor:
“…she faces a conflict between mind and heart, between thought and emotion – a potent clash between different internal systems of perception and appraisal.” …and goes on to say … “We find inventive ways to deny, avoid, delay, ignore, and minimize those factors that move us down a difficult trail.”

Adoptive Parents should read this book.  It will help you understand many different factors that birthparents must go through in order to help your family grow. Respect and communication are two factors that are imperative in adoption and the author reaffirms this. This book will help you understand that your child’s birth family will be very important to them.

In the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness:
“The decision to entrust a beloved child to more promising arms requires great strength of character, for it is never easy to stand alone and counter conventional thought.”

In the chapter How Birthparents Fit In, when speaking of envy:
“If the hurt and frustration of infertility has not healed to some degree, it will be predictably difficult for adoptive parents to honor and appreciate the importance of the life giving role.” Learning to accept the things you cannot change, and living with what you have been given will play a huge role in your relationship with your birthparents.

In the chapter How Birthparents Fit In:
“…children are not confused by the involvement of birthparents (in their lives). To the contrary, open adoption kids are especially well-positioned to figure things out.” … and goes on to say … “And when children feel the unconditional love and affection of all the crucial contributors to their life stories, they are positioned to thrive.” It is crucial for adoptive families to understand this and believe it.

Adoptees should read this book.  It will help you understand the mind of a birthparent.

From the chapter The Pursuit of Worthiness, regarding answering those difficult questions from an adoptee:
“A question from his soul deserves an answer from hers, and she prays she can somehow find ways to explain her lonely experience, all the while knowing this is an experience for which there is no adequate language.”  There is hope that understanding will be there.

In the chapter Birthparent Regret:
“An expression of wistful regret that simultaneously wishes things could have been different yet accepts the reality that they cannot be is important and constructive information for an adopted child” … and goes on to say … “It reassures the child that she has always been loved and that she is where she belongs.”

In the chapter How Birthparents Fit In:
“Adopted children deserve a firsthand account of their birthparents’ rationale for adoption.” and goes on to say … “So many people are uncomfortable with the pain of adoption that adopted children often learn to deny their feelings of sadness.” I feel very strongly that every adoptee deserves the right to know where they came from. There should be no secrecy about who you are.

I think this book is a wealth of information and could be beneficial to anyone who wants to learn more about a birthparent’s choice.  In adoption, life keeps evolving, growing and shifting with each and every year.

Feel Good Friday: Reunification in Uganda

It was only yesterday that we welcomed baby Grace into our home.  She was born a preemie at 7 months and her mum plus sibling both passed away at birth. She weighed only 1.2 kgs and was still very under-developed, even the hospital didn’t expect Grace to make it.  She was feeding through an ng tube and her skin was so pale.  We spent the whole night praying that she would survive.  She was severely dehydrated and needed lots of care and feeding.  We fought, prayed and believed for Grace’s miraculous survival.  Little did we know that Grace was as much determined to make it as we were.  She was a fighter.

Today we celebrate a miracle as we see grace being reunited with her biological father.  We are in awe of this great and amazing journey of hope. Grace has grown into a beautiful and happy girl who is full of energy. She is a feisty girl and will fight her way through any crisis.  She is very strong willed, fearless, and opinionated.  She has a smile which is contagious, when she chooses to show it. 

Who knew that this little girl could actually be here to tell her story?  Who knew that this tiny baby would grow into a lovely and flamboyant beauty?  Who knew that even when people give up on you, God can actually redeem and restore?

Grace was loved by many.

We are so proud of the girl she is today.  We are so thankful for what God has done and continues to do in her life.  We are so grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to change her story.  We are so grateful that our hope was not in vain.

Grace was inconsolable on the day of reunification.  It was difficult to see her in tears as we said our farewell, but we were comforted that she was in the hands of her parents who were excited and very grateful to have her home.

It was a hard day for grace and her nanny as they bid farewell

Grace will always be loved and remembered in the home.  Her smile and energy are missed every day.  God has indeed been good and we can boldly say Ebenezer. 

—-Ken and Cathy Nganda (Tender Hearts Baby Home)

The Cost: An Analogy for Adoption Part 2

Nightlight’s most expensive international program is $28,000 in program fees.  Including all travel expenses and USCIS expenses, the adoption could cost as much as $49,000.  For a domestic program through Nightlight, you would pay only $24,000 in program fees.

In order to receive this child into your home, here is what you will need to pay for:

  • You will apply with US Immigration for approval to adopt (Building Permit: The salesman told me that the company would take care of all the steps related to the building permit and the permit would be about $700 which is included in the estimate of the room.) USCIS charges families $775 to process your application plus $85 for fingerprinting for each adult member of the household.  Agencies charge a fee to evaluate the safety of your family and complete a home study which is submitted with your application, essentially “taking care of” the building permit process”.
  • You are hiring specialized workers through your agency, such as, licensed therapists, social workers, and other social services degrees to conduct home studies, evaluate children’s files, and match families with children.
  • The agency must insure that the file of the child has been fully vetted and there are no other options for this child, such as, family members who could care for him. (Quality Materials and oversight)

In addition, the agency doing the work would need to cover the cost of:

  • liability insurance 
  • accreditation costs.
  • the adoption must meet all regulation requirements (building codes) and pass a “final inspection” when you apply for your child’s US visa.
  • your agency should be available for you and your child for life. The Adoption happens in an event, but a person’s adoption journey lasts a lifetime.  If at any point in the future, you need help, we are here for you.  Is that similar to a lifetime warranty?  I’ll let you be the judge.

As I sat and considered the amount of money need to add a room to my home, I realized that while I certainly would enjoy this room, it doesn’t even compare to the joy and reward of redeeming an orphan.

What is the cost of redemption?  Christ shed his blood on the cross so that you and I could be redeemed.  He paid it all!  Redemption is costly, and it is certainly more valuable than a room added on to my house.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:18

The Cost: An Analogy For Adoption Part1

Last weekend I visited the local Home and Garden Show and I was so inspired by the patio rooms displayed that I made an appointment for a salesman to visit my home. After talking with him about my desires for the room, he crunched the numbers. I had figured the room would cost around $25,000. After he crunched the numbers, the first price was $81,000! He said, “I’m sure that is a bit more than you were expecting.” Of course, after all the deals and discounts, the final price was $57,000. Then we discussed some adjustments, such as, making the room smaller. Ultimately, we were able to get the price down to a meager $42,000. After he left, I ultimately decided that adding this room to my home is just not in the budget for this year. However, I started thinking about the cost of this room and the fact that no one would ever question the validity of this cost. The company has a good reputation, and the rooms are made from the highest quality materials.

Yet, when discussing the cost of adoption, many people question the validity of the cost. Many feel that adoption should be free or at the very least the cost should be minimal. In the mind of some, no one should be employed in the world of adoption and everyone should volunteer. Over the years, I’ve heard comments made that it is “free” to adopt through the state. This is simply not true. While the adoptive family does not write a check to the local Department of Human Services, the employees are paid and the cost of the process is covered by tax dollars. If you look at statistics regarding the average cost to care for a child in foster care annually, you will find that private adoption is actually quite inexpensive.

So, how is it that building a room for $42,000 or even $57,000 is so easily accepted but adoption costs are seen as unfair?  Let’s look at this objectively.

In order to build this room onto my home, I would need to pay for the following:

  • Building permit
  • Materials-I want the best quality of course.
  • Specialized workers for foundation, glass, roof, etc.

In addition, the company doing the work would need to cover the cost of:

  • Insurance
  • Oversight
  • Shipping materials from the manufacturing plant to my home
  • The room will need to meet all building codes and pass a safety inspection
  • The company also offers me a lifetime warranty. If anything happens to the glass 20 years from now, they will send someone out to fix it.

How does this compare to adoption? Stayed tuned and read more next week!