It’s presumptuous to make a blanket statement about any group of people. It’s inappropriate to assume that an individual will like or dislike something without first getting his or her input. Then why are blanket statement being made about open vs. closed adoption? The unbiased truth about the matter is, there are voices from all triad sides proclaiming the merits of both, yes both. While this country proudly proclaims freedom of choice, that is not always the case when blanket statements pro or against something leave no options for those who need to make a choice.
There are many adoptees who have no desire to search for their birth relatives at all, and are perfectly happy with how things are, and their adoptive lives are stable and secure. There are minor adoptees who feel imposed upon when they have to share details about their lives and photos of themselves to people who have not taken an active role in the triad, when those people originally asked for that. My son is one of them. His birthmother refused to answer his first questions and closed the door nine years ago: adding to the rejection that many adoptees feel at not having had any control over their original destinies. The hope of receiving family and medical history never really materialized despite my requests early on. And so this year, as agreed by all and was policy of the agency, my son has plans to stop further updates. He wants to move on with his life and not have to think about adoption, or be identified or labeled by the fact that he was adopted. He also has no desire to search or to be contacted when he turns eighteen. It is because we are a very openly communicative family and honesty given the highest place in our relationships, that I cannot go behind his back and try to maintain any contact in case he changes his mind. The fact remains that his own birthmother decided that she first wanted privacy. She does not want direct contact and does not respond to the letters and pictures I keep sending. So, it really isn’t my place to go between either of them.
The opinion that most preadoptive families now seek open adoption may be out of context. I believe that most preadoptive families approach adoption professionals not knowing much more than that they want to become parents. The professionals tell them what they believe is the best thing for adoptees, and the current majority viewpoint is open adoption. We embraced that concept with open minds and hearts like so many others, and ultimately it was not the right road for our triad at all.
People are unique, with unique experiences. Each situation deserves to have its unique ingredients appreciated as the analogous cake is baked. All it takes is one ingredient left out or added to ruin the recipe.
There are birthparents who are totally dissatisfied with Open Adoption because it did not present the things that they had anticipated. I can say the same thing as an adoptive parent. All the openness in the world cannot make another person share family and medical history if they choose not to. Openness cannot guarantee that there will not be drama, stress, or fear. Open Adoption is a work in progress and everyone involved has to participate in a productive way to get over the lumps and bumps. Without that willingness or cooperative effort, the waters can get murky.
I am really happy for those people who have incredible blended adoptive-biological family extensions that work beautifully. However, their success does not mean that people with huge differences in lifestyles, values, cultures, etc. will have the same experience. Likewise, children who have histories of abuse or neglect have challenging circumstances in their past which make Open Adoption typically impossible. Imagine the potential harm if everyone assumed that such a child had an ongoing relationship with his or her biological relatives, and unknowing teachers, doctors, friends’ parents and others continually asked about the relationship – as if adoption and open contact with birth relatives were expected.
Every adoptee has the right to privacy about their own circumstances surrounding their adoption. Adoptees have a right not to be identified or stigmatized by their adopted status. When biological relatives are identified, the intimacies of the original adoption circumstances can become public. While ongoing contact may minimalize the potential trauma of being asked about adoption, the fact remains that unrelated people could ask more, and more people could know…and why is that necessary? How is that productive?
If it’s really all about the adoptee, then the adoptee needs to be given choices, and have those choices respected. They are the last to be heard while everybody else rushes to decide what is best for them. Ask them. What I’ve heard is that they just want to be treated like anyone else. They want to have the opportunities of anyone else. They don’t want to be labeled. While many feel that open adoption best enables them to accomplish their goals, this is not always true because the dynamics of every triad is unique.
As potential adoptive parents, remember that your future children depend upon you to leave room for them to make personal choices when they’re ready. What if they don’t want eighteen years of contact, letters and photos? How could this be addressed? When is open contact not healthy for your child and would you confront the issues in an ethical and responsible way if a problem arose? What responsibilities do you expect out of triad contact, and how will you address them?
Thoughfully written by Keadieadoptee, adoptees, adoption professionals, adoptive families, adoptive parent, adoptive parents, biological family, birthmother, birthparent, birthparents, medical history, open adoption