Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why Open Adoption?

Here is our reading list from IAC:

1. Children of Open Adoption by Kathleen Silber and Patricia Martinez Dorner. This is required reading and talks about open adoption through the adoptee's lifetime.
2. The Kid by Dan Savage. We actually already had this book and re-read it when we got home. It's a great account of their journey through adoption.
3. Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff. This book was required if we were open to adopting a child of a different race/culture. We are.
4. Because I Loved You by Patricia Dischler. A birth mother's account of adoption and later meeting her birth son. Really good book!
5. Dear Birthmother by Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin. This book looks at the myths surrounding adoption and refutes traditional thoughts about it.

A few folks have asked about open adoption. Probably the best way we know how to explain the advantages of an adoption being "open" are to look at the myths from book #5.
1. "The birthmother obviously doesn't care about her child or she wouldn't have given him away." This was supposed to make it so much easier for the adoptive family to think that the birth parents were somehow losers. In reality it takes great courage to evaluate the circumstances and make a choice in the baby's best interests. She's putting the baby's future ahead of her own desire to raise a child. Know that the birth family will always be a part of our family and will be included in as much as possible, given their desires and geographic closeness to us.
2. "Secrecy in every phase of the adoption process is necessary to protect all parties." This was supposed to protect the birth family by allowing them to move on, the adoptive family to somehow assure them that the birth family would never show up to take the child back, and the adoptee to somehow think they were the "real" child of the adoptive family. In reality, secrets in adoption are as destructive as any other secrets. Instead, the open adoption gives everyone full contact information. Birth families are able to follow the adoptive family's life, the adoptive family can give honest and open answers when the child begins to ask questions about the adoption, and the child is able to know their family and history.
3. "Both the birthmother and birthfather will forget about their unwanted child." This made it easier for the adoption facilitator and the family and friends of the birth mother, but no one else. In reality, the birth family needs to acknowledge their loss and grieve. Adoption facilitators need to provide counseling and support after the adoption for the birth family. And knowing the child's "happy ending" is therapeutic for everyone!
4. "If the adoptee really loved his adoptive family, he would not have to search for his birthparents." The desire of the adoptee to know where they came from (and even the circumstances behind the adoption) doesn't mean that they love their adoptive parents any less. Like anyone else, they want to know their history, their place in the world. Their family tree didn't suddenly start with the adoption. And they aren't looking to replace their adoptive family. They just want to know. Our child will have our total love and support in anything they do, including connecting with their "roots".

As adoptive parents in an open adoption, we will always make sure the adoption is celebrated and help our child realize how treasured they are. We will know answers to the questions that adoptees ask about where they came from. And our family will grow to include the baby, but the birth family as well.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Post-workshop Update 3/2/10

The weekend intensive workshop was great! There were 5 couples there, including us, and one single. Two were from Ohio, one from Maryland, one from Connecticut, one from New York and us. We were the only ones with foster experience and were the only ones who had tried to adopt before. We were given several books to read as well as a ton of information in our notebook. We had a few forms to fill out that we took care of while we were there, as well as handing over our first payment. And they sent us home with a "to-do" list, including:

1. Read 2 of the books we were given.
2. Complete a cultural assessment questionaire.
3. Work on the text for our Dear Birthmother letter. We emailed them a draft of 80% of the content before we left. We're waiting to hear their feedback. They say most letters go through 6 re-writes before they are accepted.
4. Gather pictures for our Dear Birthmother letter. We had gathered several that we could potentialy use in our letter. We have to have one taken for the cover that has some specific requirements. It should be taken outdoors with no shadows or squinting, we should look like we like each other (be close), it should look like we are within arms reach of the camera (mostly a head/shoulders shot), we should coordinate the color of our clothes (and tie that to the colors we use in the letter when it is designed), and there shouldn't be anything distracting in the background.
5. By the time we get those things done, they should have a template out for the letter and for our adoption website at Previously prospective adoptive parents had to use professional designers to put together their letter, which is really more of a 4 page pamphlet or brochure.
6. When we are done and the leter is approved, we have to have 250 printed and send about 100 to IAC. They give them to birth mothers that have requested information. She can request all of the letters (about 250 prospective adoptive families), but they try to get her to narrow the field by specifying letters a specific geographical area, religious preference, straight/gay/lesbian preference, etc. She can also do her own searching on the website and request information on only a few that way.
7. We have to have our home study updated, since it is 2 years old now. That means new employment verifications, fingerprints for background checks, child abuse registery checks, physicals, financial information, and a multi-page demographic/background questionaire. And 6 reference letters, 2 from relatives and 4 from friends. Oh joy! When all of that is done, our local adoption agency will write up the home study and submit it to IAC.
8. Once the homestudy, the Dear Birthmother letter, and the website are done, we will be officially "listed" with IAC and birthmothers can find us. Then the waiting begins. They say it takes 6-18 months to be selected by a birth mother. She can be anywhere from 5 months along to ready to hatch. She can be anywhere in the US. If she is in a state with an IAC office (Indiana, California, Texas, Georgia, or North Carolina), they will handle all the local adoption stuff. If she's anywhere else, we'll have a third (local) adoption agency that we'll have to work through to handle the birth state paperwork. Oh...and we can't adopt from Flordia, Mississippi, Arkansas, or Utah. It's against the law for gays to adopt there. And IAC doesn't work with Kentucky birth mothers because Kentucky has some really strange, time-consuming rules about adoption that make it too difficult.

Even with all these things that need to happen, we are hopeful that we can be "listed" with IAC within a month or so. Looking at the whole process, from signing up to finalization of the adoption, it is very clear that many things need to happen that are totally out of our control! So we put the whole process in God's hands and trust that we will be successful.