Here are some things that caught my eye and that I shared on my Twitter or Google Plus or on my Building Family Counseling Facebook page this week:
This month’s Open Adoption Blogger roundtable prompt:
Why has or hasn’t openness worked for you?
If you are in a healthy functional open adoption, why do you think it’s working? If it doesn’t work, why do you think it stopped working? Do you think the success or failure was about education and expectations going in? Do you think it was that your personalities matched or clashed? Do you think there is something you do or did during the relationship that kept it going or was there a certain point that it changed the relationship from bad to good? Was it a mixture of all of these things?
via Roundtable #48: Why Has or Hasn’t Openness Worked for You? | Open Adoption Bloggers
This is such a great exploration. And the original post encourages readers to check out the comments on Kat’s conference discussion here. They’re really good.
We know that in this day and age (thanks to the internet), closed adoptions are swiftly becoming endangered species. If an adoption is closed now, it certainly does not mean it will remain closed. In fact it’s likely that it won’t. This means that regardless of how any individual attempts to live out his or her experience of adoption, it’s probable that someone else involved in that adoption will have some say in that experience.
In the All Adoption Groups we often talk about searching for the other parties in our adoptions on Facebook and other social networking sites. What’s clear is that we’re all searching. Adoptive family members search, birth family members search and adoptees themselves search. Perhaps every closed adoption is only temporarily closed nowadays.
At least we can hope.
The changing face of adoption is important to consider when we’re talking about success in open adoption. Because adoption is not a static experience and relationships can and do change, particularly around the level of contact.
All of this to say that it’s important to know that there are many, many, many ways to have a healthy, functional open adoption and sometimes one of the ways is to accept the long-term approach (as one person says in those comments, it’s a marathon). That means not putting expectations of success or failure on the living, breathing, growing thing that is the open adoption relationship. That means understanding that a closed door may not remain closed; that understanding and respecting boundaries takes ongoing effort; and that there is always the potential for healing.
Families and individuals may need help understanding how to manage clashing expectations since it’s easy to take our own points of view for granted, not understanding how different the world can look to someone else. Whether it’s in counseling, through support groups or by talking to other constellation members online, exploring other adoption experiences goes a long way in building understanding and creating new avenues for openness.
That’s what makes these roundtables so great. Talking — or at least reading — across blogs is a terrific way to gain understanding, which is central to making openness work. Having a chance to challenge our perspective without threatening our open adoption relationships can make it easier for us to work through problems and challenges.
At the All Adoption Meetings we have participants whose children are grown and others whose children are infants. We have participants who have been living reunion for a long time and others who are just beginning to think about searching. And we have whole ranges of openness. There is so much value in hearing the voices of people who are living across the life span of adoption.
Last Monday, as I listened to one of the women talk about her family relationships pre-reunion — a reunion that has been thriving now for decades — it was a reminder for me that our relationships in open adoption are not stagnant.
At the beginning of our own journey I thought we had to get our open adoption relationship with our daughter’s birth mother exactly right or it would all go downhill. It felt tenuous and fragile and it was a few years into it before I could let my breath out and relax. But once I did relax I relaxed fully and I thought, “There! We did it!” and believed that our open adoption would shine like that forever.
Of course, the only constant in life is change. Our lives happened in unexpected ways (jobs, moves, the arrivals and departures of other family members) and so our open adoption shifted and suddenly I was scared again. Would we able to adjust to new uncertainties? Would we survive the momentous changes we were facing?
Our daughter’s mom no longer drops by a couple of times a month for dinner because now she lives states and states away and we only see her once or twice a year. I feel like I’m learning our open adoption all over again.
Listening to my friend’s life pre-reunion — a life that looked very very different than her happy reunion now — reassured me that we don’t have to get it right for forever. We just need to get it right for right now. It reminded me that all we need to do is roll with the inevitable change and live each moment as it comes.
The prompt for this month’s Open Adoption Roundtable was to write about open adoption and time.
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. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. Write a response at your blog–linking back.
How did you talk to your extended family about open adoption prior to adopting/placing? How did they respond? For those with non-receptive family members, were you able to have more successful discussions with them post-adoption?
from the Open Adoption Roundtable #43
I don’t actually remember discussing open adoption very much with our family members before our daughter was placed with us. I remember talking about the process and about the agency’s policies, which were supportive of semi-open adoption (the agency as a go-between and the cards and letters post-placement) and there was an understanding that this was how domestic infant adoption was done nowadays. We grew into our fully open adoption and our extended family, for the most part, grew with us.
There have been times when we had to sit down and be more direct in our explanations and other times that our loved ones just went along with the reality of our lives. Not everyone in our families understands or is totally on-board with openness as we live it but they do appreciate that ultimately we’re the ones who make the call about what’s best for our kids and we believe absolutely without question that our brand of openness is what’s working.
One of the things we’ve talked about in the All Adoption Support Group meetings is how challenging it can be to manage our own expectations and at the same time cope with the expectations of our extended family members. When we are feeling particularly vulnerable or unsure, any criticism from the people who we love and who love us is that much more challenging. Or if they are pushing us to shape our adoption experience in ways that mirror their own values more than our own, we may feel shaken in our belief that we’re doing the right thing.
What helps me is knowing that my decisions are based on gut instincts but also on research. I know what the studies say about openness (all of it good) and it bolsters my faith. And I look beyond adoption-specific research to general child development so that I can feel confident about how we manage openness at each stage of our kids’ life.
I also try to remember that when we do field criticism, it comes from a loving place. We are fortunate to have family members who genuinely care about our welfare and the welfare of our kids. When they express concern, they’re doing it because they care about us. This makes it easier to stop our sometimes heated discussions from getting out of hand.