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.
This prompt is inspired by Lori of Write Mind, Open Heart, whose friend Joanne of a closed adoption posed the questions I’ll answer below. These address the impact of contact agreements (or not) in open adoption.
1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?
In some states, the open adoption contracts are not legally binding, which in that case adoptive parents can do what they want. I have heard many different stories from birthmothers where the adoptive parent(s) have stopped contact. My heart aches when I hear stories like this. In my case though, Oregon is one of the states that has a legally binding contract. With this being in said, I am to have pictures and letters 3-4 times a year and a visit once a year since my daughter is now over the age of five. I do think that life gets in the way and people’s lives get busy. An adoptive parent can and will probably forget from time to time to send pictures or an email. I know that I should email more often than what I do, but I just get busy. It is no excuse, but it is life. I believe that with the social media world (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) that someone sitting down to write a quick note to put in the mail or send a quick email is dropping off.
2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?
There are many different forms of communications for open adoptions. In the open adoption agreement that I have with Darrin & NaeDean is that we communicate directly. I have never had Open Adoption & Family Services (OAFS) be the middle man in any type of communication for the most part. The only time OAFS acted as the middle man was when I was still considering placing and looking for possible adoptive parents for my unborn child. After the first meeting with Darrin & NaeDean, we quickly just used email and phone calls to communicate. Other adoption agreements though may have a case worker, adoption agency or lawyer handle any or all communication for all parties. If you are a prospective adoptive parent or someone who is considering placing a child into an open adoption this is something you really want to consider. Do you want to have a go-between person for communication or would you rather communicate directly?
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?
I have a problem with this question. In my eyes, an open adoption is when everyone knows everything. If each party involved is not fully open to this idea then open adoption may not be the correct choice for them. By having a go-between for communication is really for people who may want to have a semi-open adoption where items such as contact information, last name, and so on are held from each other. If I were to place another child again, I still would not have a third party act as the go-between and/or if I were a person looking into adopting a child I would not want to have a go-between. One of the main disadvantages in having a go-between is that the information being sent could take awhile to get to each other. Another disadvantage is the possibility of the go-between closes its doors due to a number of different reasons. Then what is one suppose to do? In this case I feel that the birth-parent is the one who gets screwed.
4. How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?
Once again this is why I would prefer complete open communication with all parties. When DHS comes to mind for adoptions, I think more of foster parenting and/or closed adoptions. The children are taken out of unfit environments due to several reasons that one may never know. I have not looked deeply into this, completely.
5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?
This is something that I would not now since I am the birthparent. I know that it is expensive to adopt through a private agency verses DHS. The comforting thing about placing or adopting through an agency is that if either party has a problem or issue in the first 18 years of the child’s life, the adoption agency offers counseling services for all parties involved as well as mediation services. That is one reason why I chose to place through an adoption agency due to the huge support and connections at the adoption agency.
6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?
If the contract is legally binding like in Oregon, there could be legal recourse for both parties if one does not hold up to the agreement. I don’t think either party ever gets to the point where legal recourse is needed, but if it has happened then it is on the very low percentage.
7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?
First off, stop watching Lifetime!! Second, you must be reading the birthparent hate blogs if you are thinking this question. What deters a birth parent like me to going to NaeDean’s house unannounced…this is laughable. I would never just show up unannounced, even if I lived in the same city or town as them. That is just rude. It would be the same case as if I showed up at a friend’s house unannounced. I live in Ohio and the adoptive parents live in Oregon. Kind of hard to just show up with out saying anything. NaeDean is very accommodating for when I do come to town once a year. Even when I lived in Oregon, the thought of just showing up is appalling. Would it cross a person’s mind? Probably…but that is why I chose a family that was a couple hours from me. I didn’t know how I would feel walking through the grocery store and seeing them. I do think that birth parents respect the privacy of the adoptive parents. If you are a birth parent, you almost have to think of yourself being more like an aunt or uncle to the placed child.
8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?
This is something that you would have to do research on. I have not looked into this.
9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?
Adoption is a very personal choice that should not be taken lightly. If one is looking into placing a child into an open adoption, then one should know the good and bad. One of the things that the American Adoption Congress (AAC) tries to do is increase the public awareness about the realities of adopted life for birth and adoptive families.
10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?
I would say the adoptee is old enough to choose when they start asking lots of questions. Kaylee is only seven and a half and so at this time I do not see her wanting to close contact with me. I think though if a child has not been introduced to their birth-parents then maybe around the age of 10 or so would be an ideal age. In an open adoption though, the child knows who their birth parents are at a very young age.
11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?
I do not know of any actual legal aids for birth mothers. I am actively involved with Birthmom Buds which is a non-profit online organization to support birth families. There are also numerous different online support forums and groups through yahoo groups, Google groups, and even groups on Facebook that one can get into for support. Some adoption agencies will offer a local support meeting once a month for birth mothers. Depending on what city the birth parent is in they may be able to find a group on Meetup.com to connect with others in the adoption world. If one is looking for actual legal advice, one should look at contacting a lawyer who specializes in adoption.
To read other’s responses head over to: Open Adoption Rountable! When a blogger answers the questions then they will go over OAR and post their link to share. Feel free to read, comment, and share!
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