Open Adoption Roundtable #40 – what were your reasons for choosing open adoption?
Three (almost 4 now) years ago, when we first started fostering, we – my partner and I – choose to attempt inclusive foster parenting as a way of helping parents work towards reunification. The idea was, that if I could help the child and parent have a solid relationship despite their child being in care, the parent would have a better chance at working to have their child returned, and the child would have an easier transition back into the home of the parent.
Two years in, when we realized that there was very little chance of our foster son (munchkin) being reunited with his birth parents, we started looking at adoption. Initially we didn’t think we would adopt him – until our child welfare agency asked us about considering an openness plan with the birth parents, given our established relationship with them. Then life went haywire, and next thing I knew we were a family of five – three adopted siblings, and a legally ‘binding’ openness order.
The reasons we chose open adoption were the same underlying reasons that went into choosing inclusive fostering. That despite it not being the easy or clean-cut path, it’s hands down the best choice for the child. Pretending like they have only one family, mine, does them a huge disservice both now and in the future.
For instance. Not only do my kids have a mostly reliable relationship with their birth parents (*i need to explain one caveat to this), but they have this fantastic ongoing relationship with their birth dad’s family. As in, just since the last blog post, I have taken the kids and cousins up North for two weeks to visit homes and cottages of the family, spent thanksgiving with the family (cousins galore), yet another day for a wedding celebration, and that’s not even looking at Christmas. Given that this is all in addition to the very solid and reliable relationships that the kids have with my family and my partner’s family, it has been only good for our kids to have this openness. To be honest, it now feels less like openness and more like normal family – I feel the same towards the kids grandma (birth dad’s mom) that I do for my own grandmother. If I’m completely honest, I actually look forward to seeing their grandma more than I look forward to seeing my own.
(I don’t allow much contact between our family and bmom’s family, given the high level of dysfunction and inability to protect the kids from said dysfunction. Also, the kids have never had contact with that side of the family, from birth onwards, so it is less of a loss to them. The older two kids have expressed that they do not want to have contact with this side of their family.)
Massive credit has to be given to bdad’s side of the family, though. The kids’ extended family has welcomed us to the point of normalcy: we’re invited to everything because we are expected to be there as family, and we are made fun of just as much as any other family member, etc. I can’t tell you how much this has helped my two oldest adjust to being adopted. I really don’t think we would be where we are attachment wise if not for this openness, and the family allowing it to be so natural.
My caveat, is that our contact with birth parents has been strained as of late. It’s still happening as per that court order (which is worth about as much as the paper it’s written on; it’s based on good faith). However, the oldest is currently refusing contact with birth mom, any and all contact. This is in part due to bmom’s behaviour, which gets more screwy when she’s using hard. The boys don’t really notice any difference, although Jayden reacts to some of the things bmom will say (I really miss you, you can come live with me when you’re older).
This has meant we’ve scaled back what contact and visits look like between the kids and the birth parents, so that all contact is good and healthy contact, and no one is left feeling like they have to pick up the pieces of what just happened. I want my kids to know and remember their birth parents as much as they want to, but I want the memories to be good ones. They have enough bad ones from their past.
Since I’ve started working again, my partner (MC) has been doing way more of the parenting and general looking after the kids – more food prep and lunch making, more taking them to their swimming or gymnastics, more picking them up from daycare. Which has meant he’s been offering more opinions on how we parent them (you can guess how much this has stretched me, can’t you). Including opinions on openness.
The most recent visit with bmom was… not terrible, but pretty close. I was left very angry with her, and very very bitter. That weekend I told MC that I wanted to stop face to face contact with bmom, even bring the openness order back to court to reflect this. In some ways, I was not crazy in wanting this – bmom really did fuck up with this visit, and I hated putting Jayden back together afterwards. But, MC was the one who very rationally explained why we shouldn’t cut bmom out, and why we should keep at it. Given that he’s believed the exact opposite in the past, I relied on him and let him make that choice for me. He explained how, after spending more time with the chillens, he really did see that the openness with all the family was helping them settle in with us as a family. I was still angry, but it helped to have someone else push for this openness too.
I have often been told I’m crazy and odd for choosing the amount of openness we have; it was validating to have my partner see both sides and still choose openness.
So. That is why my partner and I chose open adoption. And why we continue to pursue it, even when it’s a pain in the ass.