Thursday, February 9, 2012

Handling an Open Adoption

I've been asked many times "'How do you make an open adoption work without stepping on toes?"  Years ago I decided that I would allow the adoption to be run by Lori and Barton.  As open as they wanted things would be as open as I was ok having them.  So far that has worked for me.  HOWEVER I know that my mentality doesn't work for everyone.  I know that for some birth mothers they fear that the adoption will at some point close and they will have no control over that.  They fear that it will break them and they will be heart broken.  I believe those fears are very real fears.  They are sometimes very hard to deal with.

How can adoptive parents and birth parents come to an agreement before placement that will make it so that both parties are comfortable with how open the adoption is.  Really it's simple.  It's a funnel system that has worked for me and has worked for many other adoptive couples.  It's really simple in theory and works wonders.

Before placement (I recommend before the baby is even born) the birth mother needs to sit down and write down as CLOSED as she feels she could handle the adoption.  Be very specific and don't leave out things you feel are "small" details.

For example I feel that as closed as I could handle would be 1 visit a year with pictures at least once every 6 months.

Before placement the adoptive couple needs to sit down and write down as OPEN as they feel they could handle the adoption.  Again be very specific and don't leave things out that you feel "aren't a big deal" now because in the future they may become a big deal.

For example maybe the couple and birth mother live close to each other so something they put down is that the birth mother is welcome to visit but needs to let the couple know at least 2 hours before she comes over (no "surprise" visits).  Things like that.  If the couple and birth mother live far away something they put down may be that when the birth mother visits she can stay with them in their home for 4 days but that more than that amount of time wouldn't be appropriate.  Does that make sense?

Then once both the birth mother and adoptive couple get their list written you need to meet with a case worker or counselor to hash things out.  The key is to meet in the middle.  Write down your agreement on paper (not that it's legally binding or anything but I think when things are written on paper they feel more "real").  A big part of this is honesty.  In order for this to really work you as a birth mother have to be honest with the adoptive couple and not worry about hurting their feelings by you wanting more contact than what they feel comfortable with.  And as an adoptive couple you also have to not worry about the birth mothers feelings.  Being real with your own feelings is a huge part of this.  If you aren't open and honest up front it won't work.  You'll start doing visits and you'll be uncomfortable and then that is when things will fall apart.

Use the agreement for 6 months and then go back and readdress it.  Make sure that you as a birth mother is open about how the contact has been affecting you.  When I say be open that DOES NOT mean you need to tell the adoptive couple how hard adoption is or how hard of a time you are having.  By simply saying "I've had a few hard days but I know my decision was right." that lets the couple know that you are grieving and you have pain but you aren't taking that pain out on them.  Also make sure as an adoptive couple you are open about how the contact is affecting you and your family.

It may be after 6 months you are ready for more contact and feel that it has been good for you and your family.  You need to be open about that.  If it hasn't been good for you.... SAY IT!!!!  Not being open about your feelings will only lead to problems down the road.

I believe (and this is from experience) that if you as a birth family and adoptive family talk every 6 months with a case worker or counselor about how the contact has been going and set new boundaries it will only make the relationship stronger.

After all this I know that EVERY situation is different and some things that have worked for me won't work for others but I truly believe that this funnel system allows for the best communication between birth family and adoptive family.

I'm willing to answer questions that you may have. ask away and share away.


Kristine said...

What do you suggest (as far as sharing how you are feeling about things) when the birth mother feels as if our feelings don't have validity because she's the only one who's done something difficult - so hers are the only feelings that matter?

Katelyn Krum Shaw said...

let her know that you do agree that her feelings because of the adoption are hard, raw, and can be difficult to deal with at times. Let her know that you have no idea how it must feel to be in her shoes. But also let her know that being an adoptive mother isn't just sunshine and peaches. Let her know that you hurt because she hurts. Let her know that although there is joy on your side there is also pain. No not the same pain that she is feeling but that doesn't mean there isn't pain. I've always said that adoption is a beautiful ending to a painful, trial filled story. There is pain and trial on the adoptive couple side and the birth mother side. Don't discredit her feelings. Don't make it sound like yours are more than hers (I'm sensing that wouldn't go over well lol). Let her know that you care about her and because you care about her you also hurt for her. You hurt for the pain that she has endured because she did the right thing for her child. Always bring it back to the child. Always remind her that the pain and sacrifice is hard but the joy and happiness of her child is worth it. I hope this all makes sense and that it helps. You are more than welcome to email me (or have her email me too).

Kristine said...

Thanks! I have done all that - it always comes back to her. How I'm selfish for even considering telling her about how I feel. I get it, it's the way she sees the world. It's all about her and no one else. So, going to HER isn't going to solve anything.

I've just come to the conclusion I need to just change how I see things.

Katelyn Krum Shaw said...

I'm sorry. You've said everything I would. It may be a matter of maturity....

Christina said...

I love your thoughts on this. They are very logical and thought out and would save people a lot of trouble. I just wish it was so easy. When we were in the adoption process we wanted an open adoption but our social worker scared us off saying all parties in an open adoption had to be very psychologically stable for it to work. Then when we met we immediately exchanged all identifying information. It seemed ridiculous to try to hide who we were and where we lived. Our son's birthmom is often the first person I want to talk to after he does something new or something cute. Unfortunatly, I never know what she's thinking. She completely disappeared for nearly a year. Now we are facebook friends. I'll post pictures and I never know if she sees them. She's only commented on one once. Am I being too needy or asking for too much?

Katelyn Krum Shaw said...

I Know EXACTLY how you feel! I blogged about it here.... I finally decided that I couldn't put Amy expectations on her if she wasn't going to choose to be open with me. I know how frustrating it can be though.