What is openness? This is what I found online, “Open adoption involves ongoing contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents. Openness often includes other birth family members or foster parents.
Semi-open adoption involves some level of communication between birth and adoptive families, either with or without identifying information.”
My journey is different from many as I always wanted to grow my family through adoption. I wanted to adopt an older child and knew growing up that my child would have a name and a history.
When I started Pride training, this was the first time that I had heard about openness in adoption. Yeah, I do NOT think So! I am adopting an older child, not a baby; older children come with a history of loss, neglect, and abuse. As IF I would ever want to let these people into my life. I am sure that many other people looking to adopt older children feel or felt the same as I did. I attended panels with birth families and adopted families sitting side by side talking about how the more love our children have the healthier they are. But these children were adopted as babies. These birth moms made the choice to allow another family to share in the raising of their child. My birth parents would not have agreed to let their children go.
Jump forward 6 months, my home study is complete and I am sitting on the curb outside of CAS pouring over the file of a 4-year-old girl that they had matched me with. No photo, no identifying information, just reports and assessments of how much this child had been through in the first 4 years of her life. There was a lot of vague information in her file about her past, a past full of neglect, physical punishment, domestic abuse and loss. As my daughter moved in with me, I started to deal with the trauma and loss she was experiencing. This was very difficult for me to separate my thoughts and feelings. I felt angry towards her birth parents at the time because they were in denial of what had occurred in my daughter’s past.
Jump forward 6 more months and it was time to sign the final adoption papers, we were ready to become a forever family. I will never really understand how hard this was for my daughter, she started acting out, refusing to call me mom, telling people about her birth mom (whom she had good memories of from access visits and loved very deeply). She was in a crisis of loyalty. What could I do to support her? I called our worker - I felt like I needed to speak to someone who knew Birth Mom: What was she like? What was her opinion on openness? My worker advised me that birth mom was doing amazing and had made positive, healthy changes in her life.
I thought to myself, what do I do now?
I opened a new Facebook account, and sent her a message. It would be 6 more months before I would hear from her, she never saw my message. We started slowly. I explained that I was only willing to have a written relationship with her and that I would not be letting my daughter know about it as she was still struggling with her attachment and loss. She was very grateful that I was willing to speak to her. She provided me with information for our life book, answered very difficult questions, allowed me to vent my frustrations with her and provided photos that were instrumental in creating a photo album for my daughter of the first couple of years of her life.
We continued this way for over a year, just checking in, sending photos and updates while we got to know each other better. At the 2 year mark we made the next step and moved our relationship to phone calls and then eventually we met for coffee. We also agreed to start opening access with my daughter in the form of letters and gifts. We are moving at the pace that my daughter can handle. She is now aware that I speak with her birth mom but as of yet not aware that I meet with her in person. I believe that my daughter likes the fact that the contact is there and wants to know what we speak about. She loves the idea that she can write to her birth mom whenever she likes but at this time she chooses not to, she is very busy being a little girl!
She understands that birth mom is making better choices so that one day they will be able to see each other again and she is fine with waiting. She is excited for that day, and knowing that that day will happen I believe gives her comfort. I wonder if the not knowing was harder for her.
As for birth mom, she is also preparing for the day that her kids will return to her life. She has attended trauma training with me, has read books on attachment disorders and is processing her past. I look into the future with a lot of hope for this relationship.
People who are willing to accept their past and learn from it should not be punished for it for the rest of their lives.
“Forgiveness is not one size fits all. It’s a process, and the forgiver needs adequate space to process their circumstances and get there on their own. Once there, it can really be a powerful tool for them. For those who want to be supportive in the adoption realm, it’s best to just be there to listen, express empathy, and let the process evolve on its own.”
— Tom Andriola