The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.
Write a response at your blog–linking back to this post so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.
Open adoption agreements are the documents signed by placing parents and adopting parents that establish post-adoption contact expectations and boundaries. Discussions often focus on their legal weight (e.g. Are the agreements enforceable in court?) or the practical details (e.g. How many visits?), both very important issues. I thought it might be interesting to also take a more personal look at how they have influenced the relationships in our personal adoption constellations and how our views about them may have changed over time.
Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?
Excerpts from the responses:
Racilous (first mom) @ Adoption in the City: “I have a confession. I was told I could have a legally enforceable open adoption (they are legal in New York) and I chose not to pursue one. I was so completely confused as to what I wanted at the time, and the idea of going to court to make an agreement that was legally binding seemed so extreme, especially because the language we were talking about was so vague because I had no idea where this was headed. I wish I understood then what I understand now.”
PDXmama (adoptive mom) in the comments: “We refined the agreement provided by our agency to especially include our daughter’s birth grandma. We printed it out on fine paper and signed it together on Grandma’s kitchen table in gold ink, snapping pictures at the time. It is only a guiding document in that it reminds us to be honest and open. I wouldn’t do anything different. It was something important in the moment but not now that we are functioning together as a blended family.”
Monika (first mom) @ Monika’s Musings: “While I believe that agreements shouldn’t be legally enforceable, I do think especially at the beginning of an open adoption, that guidelines should be put in place for minimum expectations of contact. It helped me in my own situation to know that I should expect an update letter approximately every 3 months for the first couple of years and that I would get a couple of visits for the first couple of years as well. We’ve far exceeded that, but in my initial stages of grieving and figuring out where I should be, this was essential.”
Jenna (first mom) @ The Chronicles of Munchkin Land: “I’m not okay with the way that ANLC lied to me. I’m not okay with agencies and facilitators lying to expectant parents considering relinquishment and adoptive families alike about the ins and outs of open adoption just so they can get what they want which is, of course, the money. I’m not okay with this form of coercion that is alive and well in our country. But I am okay with what I have in my daughter’s family. We make our relationship work”
Venessa (adoptive mom) @ A Journey of Love: “As a way to leave the option for visits open, we agreed to write that into the agreement too. So, at anytime we would be able to schedule a visit if we felt like it. Seemed simple enough right? Not so much. The agreement became the biggest issue in our relationship.”
MommySquared (adoptive mom) @ Our Journey to Parenthood and the Years that Follow: “We have also attached a copy of our agreements to our Wills so there is no misunderstanding of our beliefs for our children. The legal guardians we chose understand what open adoption means and what it means to our family, so in choosing them we know should something happen to us, our children will still have the relationships with all of their family.”
Wendy (adoptive mom) @ Our Story: “Just to backtrack a little bit…we did not know a lot about open adoption when we signed with our agency. We knew that most of the adoptions they did were semi-open. We were a little bit nervous about it because it was something brand new to us. We discussed what it meant to have an open adoption with our caseworker, and Steve and I talked about it a lot with each other. Ultimately, we felt like it was in everyone’s best interest to have an open adoption if the situation felt right. We felt very comfortable with Zoe’s birthmom, so we were very happy that she chose to have an open adoption. I wouldn’t change anything about our agreement, but I am very glad that it has changed over time and become so much more. “
Danielle (first mom) @ Another Version of Mother: “Officially, I am no longer a part of a ‘traditional’ openness agreement. I opted to not ‘re-sign’ a piece of paper when we revisited the terms that had been set before us eight years prior.”
Cindy (first mom) @ Another Crazy Christian: “I have worked hard to be friendly to them, and I do like them very very much, but the friendship connection isn’t there and that is what would lead to more openness, not a contract. If anything, a contract would be the kind of thing that would kind of ruin the chance of natural friendship.”
Rebecca Hawkes (adoptive parent and adopted adult) @ Love Is Not a Pie: “Open adoption agreements are important, and I believe, above all, that they should be legally enforceable documents, not meaningless pieces of paper. But open adoption relationships are just that — relationships. They ask much more of us than our signatures.”
Cat (adoptive mom) @ Cat’s Litterbox: “If you’re not comfortable “sharing” your child with their birth family, you have no reason to have an open adoption. Have a semi-open adoption… but the word open means just that… OPEN. Open to communication, open to expanding your family, and open to letting your child know everyone that loves them. If you’re not willing to do that, you shouldn’t have an open adoption.”
Lynn (adoptive mom) @ Open Hearts, Open Minds: “Having a written agreement defining the relationship between Tim and me and Elliot’s birth parents is not something that I’d want now, and definitely not something I would have wanted as we began our journey into the unknown territory of open adoption.”
Robyn (adoptive mom) @ The Chittister Family: “It’s too soon to tell if I wish we had agreements with Cassie’s birth parents. Maybe Laine wishes we talked more often, the way we did before Cassie was born, and an agreement would probably legislate that. However, the agreement wouldn’t take into account if Laine’s phone’s been shut off, would it?”
Amber (adoptive mom) @ Bumber’s Bumblings: “When we met her, we of course fell in love with her and her family. We brought up the covenant to her and Nate said to her, ‘Are you sure that’s all the contact you want? Because I think we are going to want you in our lives; I think it’s going to be important for him to know you and know the sacrifice that you’ve made for him’. She responded that she wanted any further contact to be initiated by us. That this was the life and the parents she was choosing for him.”
Sarah (adoptive mom) @ Gondola Queen: “Ours stipulation was much different. Ours was that since we’d had abandonment issues in the past, we wanted a firm commitment that she would not leave Canada again for more than 30 consecutive days. In short, we wanted her to promise she wouldn’t run out of his life after we invited her back in. We were afraid a 4 year old could not handle that loss twice.”
Lori Lavender Luz (adoptive mom) @ Write Mind Open Heart: “I thought we really couldn’t begin to envision how our OA relationship might look until we’d met the person we’d be in an open adoption with. To do otherwise would be like setting up the terms of a marriage before you’d even met your beloved. Sure, you have some hopes and maybe even dealbreakers in mind, but nothing would be set in concrete until you were both present to co-create the relationship.”
Kierstin (adoptive mom) @ Our Family Building Adventure: “One thing we did do (which is why I am responding to this round table discussion) is have a written agreement in place. I had another friend who had adopted her son and had an open adoption a few months prior but no written agreement made. She recommended we do it to prevent any miscommunication or hurt feelings. So we did and I was glad we did.”
Katie (first mom) @ This Birth Mommy’s Story: “They stuck to their end of the bargain, so why shouldn’t I? Just because I’m feeling weird doesn’t mean I’m going to cut off communication. The whole reason I chose adoption was because it was what I thought was best for my daughter. Disappearing out of her life after 8 years is not the best thing for her. I love that girl with all my heart, and I feel so blessed and lucky to have been able to watch her grow up.”
Camille (adoptive mom) @ Embracing the Odyssey: “I’m fairly sure that piece of paper offered little comfort to C. anyway. She had a shiny portfolio with our happy pictures and promises, but she had no real guarantees that she’d ever see Ellie again.”
Luna (adoptive mom) @ Life From Here: “The agreements helped create a dialogue about specific expectations. They guided us through a discussion of what our life as a blended family could look like, at a minimum. They offered a mere blueprint, a skeleton, the bare bones that would need to be fleshed out through actual experience and insight, learning as we go what works and what doesn’t, ultimately building a stronger relationship with a life of its own, far beyond what any legal document could provide. The process though was critical — i.e., being honest as we communicated what we all wanted and how we were each willing to participate in our open adoption.”
Meg (adoptive mom) @ God Will Fill This Nest: ”I understand you need to protect your child if there are serious legal issues, drug and alcohol issues, etc. Regardless though, the biological parents should still be treated with love and respect, despite struggles in their lives. After all, many women who place their babies have significant psychosocial stressors in their life- if everything were going perfectly smooth, and wonderful, and was easy, they probably would not be considering adoption to begin with.”
Alice Anne (adoptive mom) @ Xavier, Alice Anne, and Kal-El: “We told them beforehand that we wanted an open adoption, but we never put any “open adoption agreement” in writing or decided on anything specific. I don’t know if that was wise or not, looking back. At the time, I thought a structured agreement was too formal and unnecessary. But I see the value in it now. We’re kind of just winging it, and maybe that will work out the best for us or maybe we’ll figure out our mistakes along the way.”
Susiebook (first mom) @ Endure for a Night: “At the same time, it feels as though the important things in our relationship are wholly untouched by the agreement: And how could they be? Ours is not a relationship that works very well, and that has to do with our personalities and our different hopes and plans.”
Barelysane (adoptive mom) @ Life of the Barely Sane: “I don’t have the answer as to whether or not these agreements should be legally binding or not. If there isn’t a system in place to help the birth parents ensure the agreements are being enforced, then it doesn’t seem much more official than the papers we signed. What our agreement did do though was at least allow us a starting point to work from. The leap of faith L had to take to trust us to keep our word wasn’t something a judges stamp of approval would have helped with. She had to get there on her own, legal or not. We gave her our word and she had to take the gamble it would all work out. I hope she thinks it has.”
Andy (adoptive mom and adopted adult) @ Today’s the Day: “Open adoption was (and is!) very important to me. The problem is that you can’t force someone into contact or a relationship. So while we have kept communication open – sending letters, pictures, emails – it is all one sided. Liam’s Mom does not reciprocate. I guess that makes our agreements null and void. The only one who loses from this is Liam though; the only one who had no say in any of this.”
Tracy (adoptive mom) @ Just Let Go: “The day my husband and I decided we seriously are the luckiest people on the planet and are glad there is NO agreement in place that tells us how we should navigate the relationship that we have with our families. We follow our hearts and we are doing what we know is RIGHT for Kylie.”