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.

Nutrition & Your Adopted Child

When children are adopted, they often have had trauma in their lives that can affect many aspects of their lives, with eating being one of them.  In fact, nearly 80% of children with developmental issues also have feeding issues.  So it is no wonder that our children who are adopted, who are often developmentally delayed and have experienced many issues, such as bottle propping as infants and then given mushy and limited number of foods often have eating problems.

These issues do not just apply to internationally adopted children but can be seen in children who have been in foster-care.  If your child was adopted from foster care, she may be normal weight, but she may have been deprived of certain foods, given lots of snack foods, and may not have been provided any structure around meal time.  On the other hand, if your child is from an orphanage, he may have had overly structured meal times and had to consume limited amounts of food very quickly.

In the  book Love Me Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More ,  Katja Rowell, a medical doctor, does not so much  provide nutritional goals for the adopted  child but  she explains the best ways to establish a positive relationship between you and your child.  Food and dietary habits can become an integral part of what Dr. Rowell call the Trust Model for establishing attachment with your child.  This Trust Model helps to provide nurture as well as means of establishing healthy eating habits in your child.  You may be asking, “But what about my other kids who have not had difficult starts in life? How am I going to make meal time different for all my children?  As with any positive attachment and trust model, this model can be used with all children.

This Trust Model promotes shared power: you the parent determine when, where and what your child will eat, and your child gets to determine if and how much to eat based on what foods are there.  This allows you to decide on what nutritional foods your child can select from and where and when your child will eat, but the child gets to decide on what food to select from and how much to eat.  Now, of course, an infant, who has nearly all the power when it comes to feeding, decides the when, where and how much to eat; you, the parent, just decide on what milk to give her.

The Trust Model gives children the structure that they need as they know what to expect. And as with feeding a baby, sometimes you must take your cues from your child.   For example, younger children need to be fed more often, so they will ask for snacks more often in-between meals.  If your child is malnourished, you may need to offer your child food more often until you get to know your child’s signals as to when he is hungry.

Feeding your child with the family helps your child see others eating, sets a model of portions, and to be able to know when he is hungry and full.  At meal time, it is best to have different types of foods at the table—especially those that your child likes based on taste and texture—so that your child can have familiar foods as well as try new foods in a non-coercive setting.

Giving your child a snack—in the afternoon—or perhaps two snacks—can help a child who gets cranky in the afternoon waiting for dinner to feel more relaxed and content  Do not be concerned with a “ruined appetite” before dinner.    Your child may eat less at meal time, but as long as the snacks provide healthful foods, your child will get the nutrients he needs.

Simple but practical solutions for children who come from difficult pasts can help solve food and meal time problems.  However, some children, especially those with medical and sensory problems, may require more therapeutic assistance.  Often an occupational therapist (OT) is the first professional who may become involved, as the OT usually assesses sensory and gross and fine motor skills and the child’s ability to feed herself.  A registered dietitian (RD) may assess the child’s nutritional intake and growth patterns and if more serious steps must be taken, such as tube feedings, are necessary.   As with any type of professional who is going to provide advice and some counseling, certain factors must be taken into consideration.  A mental health counselor would be involved to assess the parents’ and child’s interactions surrounding food and may also assess attachment issues.  The counselor would also work closely with the other professionals such as an OT and RD.

If you, as a parent, are having major food issues with your child, your child’s pediatrician may not give the advice you need, unless your pediatrician is very familiar with adopted children’s needs.  Instead, you may need to consult with a pediatrician at an international clinic for a referral to a feeding clinic or OT.

If you feel that your child is growing steadily but there are still major issues surrounding  eating issues, then you may want to consult with a counselor who has experience with adoption and attachment issues and can help you use trust based approaches in helping you and your child with behavioral issues surrounding food.  If your child is having eating issues and may also have sensory and other issues related to motor skills, then  the  counselor and OT  need to be working together.  The approach needs to be parent focused as adopted children need to be attaching to their parents—not separated from them.

Rowell has a list of questions you may need to ask before working with a professional:

  • How do you help the parents integrate the skills at home?
  • Am going to be involved in the treatment plan, or am I going to be separated from my child? (Parents are the ones who ultimately work with the child.)
  • Do you use negative/positive reinforcement? (Either type of reinforcement can feel like coercion to a child and can result in a power struggle.)
  • Do you require the child to eat food she does not want or hold food in front of the child until she eats it? (This leads to a power a struggle.)
  • What resources do you suggest?

Children who have had difficult starts in life had little control in their lives and often feel shame.  So any approach that takes away power from a child (instead of offering shared power with the parent) or shames a child into eating often leads to more problems.

Bad formal therapy is worse than no therapy.    But good therapy need not be formal–it can be done by the parents if the parents can take cues from the child.  The parent can trust the child to do the eating while the child trusts the parent to be “there” for him and builds upon the relationship.

To learn more about your child’s nutritional and feeding needs, these websites provide very valuable information, tools, and even equipment:

 

  • http://adoptionnutrition.org/ This website provides information related to the nutritional needs of adopted children—even by country—as well as addresses some feeding issues such as hoarding and children who will not eat.

 

  • http://mealtimenotions.com/  This site offers stories, articles and information regarding the feeding and nutritional needs of children with special physical and sensory issues.

 

Part 2: Salem Family Answers Common Embryo Adoption Questions

It’s January 2015, and for Adéye Salem, that means she’s less than a month away from the frozen embryo transfer that she and her husband have been preparing months for.

Adéye recently braved the cold weather and made another video to answer your questions about embryo adoption. In this video, she answers questions about their decision to adopt embryos through open adoption, as well as what their plans are if no babies are born from the process.

Check out the video below:

Learn more about Salem Family’s journey and the challenges that they’ve faced on the Embryo Adoption Awareness Center’s blog!

Part 1: Salem Family Answers Common Embryo Adoption Questions

Adeye and AnthonyAnthony and Adéye Salem are working on a series of videos to answer your questions about embryo adoption. In the first video, they answer questions about:
Age – Are they too old for embryo adoption?
Success Rate – Why did they choose embryos that have a 20-30% chance at life?
Family Size – How they manage life with nine children, and how will they do it with even more children?
Medication – What kinds of medication will Adéye have to take leading up to the FET?

See the full video and watch for their shout out to Snowflakes®:

As their mid-January Frozen Embryo Transfer nears, the couple will release more videos to answer your questions. Visit Adéye’s blog and leave questions in the comments for their upcoming videos!