From what most professionals and adoptive parents will tell you, open adoption is about the child. Right? The child needs to know and understand their biological roots, see people who look like them, and have access to answers to any questions that may arrive over their lifetime. Isn’t this what 95% of open adoption literature tells us?
So why do I hear such a different story when it comes to foster care and adoption?
Even the most open-minded and progressive foster parents I know tend to struggle in this area. There is a lot of talk about biological parents not being “deserving” of seeing their children, especially in cases where parents fought to have their children returned to their care. Foster/adoptive parents have often gone through years of waiting, stops and starts, and a system that drags things out forever by the time they get to make the child a permanent member of their family. And, unfortunately, those fights are often fraught with hostility, manipulation, and too often false allegations. But, when I put myself in the shoes of parents fighting for their children, I can understand how “desperate times call for desperate measures” in their minds. These relationships are not easy and too often leave a lasting negative impression after the adoption is final.
I don’t fault the foster/adoptive parents for falling into this theory of “deserving” as a guide for post-adoption contact or openness. The reality is that it is largely set up this way by the foster care system itself. Within the system, it is not uncommon for parent/child visits to be conditional on parents having to jump through myriad hoops. And visits almost never increase in frequency (but often decrease) depending on how consistent parents are in these services. Not to mention that every time a parent misses a scheduled visit, that can be held against them when decisions are being made about reunification. So, is it any wonder after years of this pattern while the children are in care, that the foster parents carry it over after they are out from under the system’s rules?
But does this change anything in regards to the child’s needs? Does this mean that a child won’t wonder where they came from? Does it mean that a child won’t subconsciously long for the genetic mirroring that I can’t give them? And I doubt those questions that are so prevalent in the minds of adopted children will go away. In fact, I would bet that because foster children often have more experiences and memories of their biological families prior to adoption, they actually will have more questions that deserve answers.
So, then what are foster/adoptive parents supposed to do? How can foster/adoptive parents change their focus from openness being a “reward” for good behavior on a biological parent’s part and move towards a child-focused open adoption?
Well, I have a few ideas on that! Stay tuned for next month’s post. :)
About the author:
Socialwrkr247 has worked in child welfare for the past 10 years and recently became licensed as a foster parent. She hopes to explore the topic of “openness” from both perspectives as a social worker and foster parent.