Open Adoption Blog


New Study: Open Adoption is Best!

For almost 30 years, the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project has been studying the effects of openness on adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents. In an article published earlier this year, MTARP lead researcher Dr. Grotevant reports the findings show open adoption to be beneficial for all members of the adoption triad.

MTARP LogoThe MTARP study began in 1987. At that point in time, Independent Adoption Center had already been doing open adoptions for five years, but many experts in the adoption field were hesitant about this new arrangement for families. The most common fears were that open adoption would cause the birth mother to experience increased grief, lead to confusion in adoptees about the nature of their relationships, and that adoptive parents would face more anxiety about the motivations of the birthparents. All of these fears have been shown to have no basis in the lived experiences of the adoption triad members.

On the part of adoptees, an open adoption arrangement does not produce confusion. They remain firm in their understanding that the adoptive parents are their real parents, and they also understand the role of their birthparents. Furthermore, open adoption contact helps adoptees understand their identities more fully. It should not be surprising that adoptees want to know who their birthparents are, and having them be a part of their life allows them to understand who they are in tangible ways. As a result the child does not have to resort to fantasies, overly positive or negative, about their birthparents and why they chose adoption.

For birthparents the expectation in the 80s was that ongoing contact would perpetuate the grieving process. On the contrary, the findings on MTARP show that it is birthparents in closed adoptions who more often have unresolved grief decades later. Birthparents in the study reported being comforted by knowing for sure that their children were safe, happy, and cared for.

In the early years of open adoption, critics claimed that adoptive parents would suffer from increased anxiety, with the fear of “someone looking over their shoulder” often being cited. As it turns out, adoptive parents are less anxious in open adoptions. This is often a result of direct communication with the birthparents about their ongoing feelings about the adoption. For adoptive parents, personally knowing the birthparents helps prevent the formation of negative stereotypes that can cause additional anxiety. They know there is nobody lurking in the shadows, contrary to popular portrayals in movies and television.

Here at Independent Adoption Center, we’ve seen these results firsthand for decades. We are grateful to the researchers at MTARP for providing qualitative, longitudinal data that debunks the negative stereotypes and supports open adoption.

You can learn more at the Child & Family blog, and in this research article.

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When to Prepare the Nursery

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by one of IAC’s waiting adoptive couples, James & Darian Turner.

Us in Nursery 1“When to prepare the nursery?” It’s a question every hopeful adoptive parent must answer during the adoption wait.

For some families, nesting right away feels natural and can even be therapeutic. The adoption process is so full of uncertainty that creating a nursery offers some control and concrete progress on the journey to having a complete family. For others, the thought of having a dedicated nursery sitting empty for the months or years it will take to finally bring a little one home is just too painful.

When my husband and I first went active with our agency, we were firmly, and confidently in the second camp. We knew which sunny bedroom we would eventually turn into a nursery, but that was the beginning and end of our nesting thoughts.

All of that changed when we became eligible for our agency’s “Last Minute Hospital List.” Suddenly, we could at any moment receive a call to come meet our child! This was a very exciting but somewhat intimidating situation for us. Knowing that last-minute placements are a whirlwind of activity and decisions and changes, we decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and prepare our nursery; that way if we do have a last-minute placement there will be slightly fewer things for us to worry about.

Once we made the decision to prepare the nursery, we threw ourselves into it. We meticulously researched everything we could: the perfect crib (must be lower in front so my short little arms can gently lower in baby!), the ideal crib placement (not too close to a window!), the right mattress and bedding (organic cotton and no bumpers!), and the best rocking chair (no pinched little fingers or toes!) – we were definitely nesting in overdrive.

We spent long hours in the nursery making it into a cozy haven. Everything we placed in the nursery – every piece of furniture, every onesie, every toy, and every picture — was chosen with a little vision of its future owner. What would they like; how would they use the space; would this plush octopus or that crinkly panda bear be their favorite toy?

We arranged a little gallery of ethereal, fairytale-like images on one of the walls, imagining the bedtimes ahead when we’d make up stories about the adventures of the characters. We filled the nursery with things we love, things we hope our child will love, too.

We knew ahead of time that having this uninhabited room in our home could be a source of sadness for us. We were a little surprised to find that it’s really not. Along the way we realized it’s not empty at all; it’s full of our hopes, our dreams, and our wishes for our child and our family’s future.

James & Darian Turner live in Northern California. They are hoping to adopt their first child soon. To learn more about James & Darian, visit: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/chipanddarian

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Mother’s Day Series: A Letter to You

Editors Note: The following is a post for our Mother’s Day series, written by adoptive parent, Sara, to her daughter’s birthmother.

13a772f8-516e-48b7-97ec-ec7fa12639caTo Our Daughter’s Birth Mother,

This was the first Mother’s Day I celebrated, and it is because of you. I know the decision you made to place your daughter with us wasn’t for me. It was because that was the best decision you could make for her out of love. Still, because you made that decision, my dream of becoming a mother came true. Not only did I get to become a mom, but you allowed me to be as much a part of your pregnancy as you could. I got to see our daughter’s ultrasound, I got to feel her kick, I got to be there when she was born, and I got to be by your side. And now, I get to care for her every day, watch her grow and learn, shower her with hugs and kisses (and I give her extra for you), hold her, and just be amazed by her. There are no words that are adequate enough to tell you the depth of my gratitude to you, or to describe the bond I feel to you. All I can do is tell you that I try my hardest to honor you every day. I try my best to be the kind of mother that our daughter deserves, to be the kind of mother that would make you proud. I also want to tell you that on Mother’s Day, I will be thinking of you and celebrating you.

With all of my love,
Sara

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Mother’s Day Series: A Letter to You

Editors Note: The following is a post for our Mother’s Day series, written by adoptive parent, Karen Zgonc, to both of her sons’ birthmothers.

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To my sons’ birthmothers:

It’s simple – without you, I would not be a mother. The depth of my gratitude for this simple fact makes me speechless. Being able to share mutual love and pride for our boys has been the greatest honor of my life. You brought life to my sons and entrusted us to parent them – you are the most courageous women I know. Without you, our lives would be empty of the joy that surrounds our every day. On this Mother’s Day, I thank you both.

With love,
Karen

 

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Mother’s Day Series: A Letter to You

Editors Note: The following is the first post for our Mother’s Day series, written by adoptive parent, Shannon Johnson to her child’s birthmother.

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It is all because of you that we get to experience this.
The joy and the heart wrenching miracle that is parenthood.
Because of you we get to
bathe him.
change his diapers.
calm him down.
make him laugh.
watch him grow.
see the world through his eyes.

It is all because of you that we get to
watch him crawl.
find his voice.
hold his hand.
nurture and nourish him.
encourage him.
cuddle him.

Because of you we get to love him.

Adoption has not been what we thought it would be; we never thought that our child would have siblings. We never thought that we wouldn’t meet. There are so many things that we expected that didn’t happen. We wouldn’t change anything for the world and have never been more humbled and grateful for this perfect gift. It is our promise that we will love him. We will love you. He will always know about you and your love for him. There will be no shame. There will be no guilt. Just love.

So while it is such a simple and inadequate sentiment, thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thank You,
Shannon Johnson

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What Annie Has Taught Us About Adoption

cover_photo_digitalEditor’s Note: The following is a post by IAC’s hopeful adoptive parent, Joseph Greaves, and how listening to Annie gave him insight into what open adoption means to him.

Last weekend, I decided to roll up my sleeves and do some weeding in the backyard. My husband Benjamin was out performing in a show, The Music Man, so I had the house to myself. I put on some music – the original Broadway cast recording of Annie, because that’s how we roll – and headed out back.

As I got into the “weeding zone,” singing along to “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and belting it out to “Tomorrow,” it occurred to me how much fun it will be to have a kid in the mix. It’s not exactly that we are fixated (at least not yet), but every once in a while, we have visions of our future family that make us really appreciate the choice we have made to become dads, and have a child through open adoption.

But then I had a momentary crisis – “Maybe” came on. It is beautiful, with a lovely, longing melody. However, it occurred to me that in the context of open adoption, it’s heartbreaking: Annie longs to know her birthparents, wants to believe that they made a mistake and feel regret, and wants reassurance that her parents love her.

These can be major issues for adopted children – longing to know birthparents, wanting to know why they were placed for adoption, having feelings of rejection. How could we subject our adopted child to Annie and potentially expose them to all of these difficult issues? Would we need to put Annie on some sort of “no show” list and wait until they are older? What about other musicals with issues about orphans? Oliver!, Les Miserables, and Newsies, to name a few?

At the same time, how could we – as gay dads with a particular fondness for music and theater and the combination thereof – NOT subject our child to Annie and these other classics from our own childhoods? It was unfathomable.

The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that Annie is far from a crisis: it is an opportunity. We are fortunate that adoption has come a long way, and that most domestic adoptions in the U.S. are now open. Indeed, open adoption has evolved in reaction to the secrecy and shame that characterized adoption when we grew up, as embodied in Annie. It will be different for our child. They will know their birthparents, and will hopefully have contact of some kind. They will know that adoption was an act of love by their birthparents, wanting only the best for their child. And they will know the constant, unconditional love of having two doting parents from the very beginning.

Annie will be a teachable moment for us as parents, not something to shy away from. It will also be a learning experience for us, as our child will likely relate to Annie in ways that we never could.

Phew, crisis averted! But I still have a lot of weeding to do…

(BTW: For further reflections on Annie, and why so many of us are obsessed with it, check out this “deconstrution” by musical theatre aficionado Seth Rudetsky. It’s brilliant.)

Joe Greaves and his husband Benjamin Pither live in the SF Bay Area. They are hoping to adopt their first child soon. To learn more about Joe and Benjamin, visit: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/joeandbenjamin

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On Transracial Adoption

by Angela Tucker, a Transracial Adoptee

621a3192-1Since the debut of Closure, the film that documents my search for my birthparents, I have had flocks of adoptees – both transracial and not – approach me via email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and in-person after public events. So many of these adoptees write me, saying that they finally feel validated and free to have conversations about their own identity. Even though I am a complete stranger to them there is a strong desire to connect, a desire that suggests that their fundamental needs were not met earlier in their life. Transracial adoptees don’t always have the opportunity to see their own reflection mirrored within their immediate family, or general community around them, which can lead to a fragmented sense of self. In no way am I suggesting that transracial adoption be abolished, as I see it to be a very necessary solution to an unfortunate need. However, parents who have adopted outside of their race need to make sure that their children have a safe space to articulate these feelings and to be able to have constructive conversations to process these emotions.

After delivering a keynote speech at an adoptee centric event last year a 16-year-old African-American transracial adoptee raced up to me, barely able to contain his thoughts, stating, “I feel like my emotional identity is White, because of the way that I talk and dress. I actually don’t mind that people think of me as an Oreo. I’m kind of lucky that I have the ability to code-switch if needed. I am comfortable with the preppy style.” Another transracial adult adoptee recounted a feeling of being “psychologically erased” every time someone called her an ‘oreo,’ or made a comment denoting that her personality did not fit with her skin color.

In 2011, Social psychologist, Claude Steele published the book, Whistling Vivaldi, How Stereotypes Affect Us, and What We Can Do. Some of the story centers around New York Times writer Brent Staples who would walk the streets of Hyde Park in Chicago, whistling Vivaldi and other classical tunes in an effort to signal to white people that he was educated (and thus nonviolent). This is an example of a phenomenon called code-switching. Individuals partake in this coping strategy in an attempt to appease dominant stereotypes. Language is a proxy for identity, and thus code-switching is an apt and cunning way for a person to handle more than one identity. Code switching is an appropriate way to remain safe within our own skin in a country where pervasive implicit biases are killing people, specifically black men. For transracial adoptees these general American stereotypes can feel messy and difficult to absorb and discern. Continue reading »

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Out in Open Adoption

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a story written by Davidson Lloyd, an adoptive parent and one of the first gay couples to adopt through the Independent Adoption Center.

Albany“Oh, you’re a gay couple,” a cynic said, “you’ll wait a long time to adopt a child.”

Many times in the journey of our relationship we talked about bringing a child into our family. We had excuses: we’re not ready. (Is anyone ever ready for children?) We don’t have enough money. Money never stopped our own parents from having five children, respectively. We wondered if our moment would ever arrive or would we keep putting it off until it was a dream of something we wanted to do but never pursued with full passion?

In October of 1997 my then partner, now husband, Tom Keegan’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her illness was sudden, unexpected and shocking to the family. She was “The Mother.” She raised five children of her own and partially raised five from her second marriage. By Thanksgiving the cancer had spread rapidly throughout her body and we lost her on December 1st. Tom was at her side when she died. That night he called me from the hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

His voice was quiet but edged with emotion, ”I feel this is the time to bring a child into our lives,” he said. Silently, on the other end of the telephone, I began to cry. There was no denying the mutual feeling transmitting through the telephone wires. That night, from separate American coasts, we placed an order for a baby far out into the universe.

We launched into research: visiting agencies, exploring surrogacy (far too expensive), investigating foster-to-adopt possibilities, adoption through a lawyer, the County, foreign adoptions, or a facilitator. We went to adoption workshops, seminars, classes and plowed through volumes of adoption books, magazines, and articles.

In 1998 we were in the vanguard of a wave of male couples becoming parents. The gayby boom was beginning to flower. Gay men were breaking through society’s prejudice that gay men, single and in relationships could not be parents; could not care for, nurture, support, love, or understand the complexities and realities of childrearing. Parenting is not gender specific. Good parenting comes from within. Just because you can make a baby doesn’t mean you can parent one.

After months of searching we chose an adoption agency, the Independent Adoption Center (IAC). We were attracted to the IAC because their mission was “open adoption,” where there might be some kind of contact with the birthparent(s) after the baby was born.

The IAC, at this time, had had only two same-sex adoption clients, a female couple and a male couple. They recommended we contact them. One couple said: “Your lives will change forever.” The second couple said: “It’s the most challenging job you’ll ever have and the most rewarding.”

I think we were hoping for something more; something that was particular to “gay parenting.” We would have to find answers through our own baby experience. It was an unknown adventure our hearts were about to embark upon.

You can read the rest of the story in an upcoming edition of “True Stories of Open Adoption.” To get the first edition visit Amazon.com

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The Gift of Two

Editor’s Note: In this post, adoptive parents Maura Montellano & Kat Wetherbee, talk about how they adopted twice from the same birthmother, and the bond they all share.

IMG_3167June 22, 2010, and July 25, 2013, will always be milestones for my wife, Katherine, and I. They are the dates when we learned we’d be mothers. After years of disappointment, hoping and waiting to be parents, we have now been blessed twice. Our oldest daughter, Gia Belén, was born in December 2010 and our younger daughter, Ava Simóne, was born in March 2014.

Our daughters’ birth mother Ashleigh’s choice to place these two girls in our lives has forever changed the trajectory of our lives, her children’s lives and her own life. Since meeting, we have enjoyed a sincere, unparalleled open relationship – sharing photos, videos and texts of our daughters almost daily.

But I’ll back up a little to explain how we got here. In July 2013, Katherine, Ashleigh and I met for our annual dinner to celebrate Ashleigh’s birthday. At that time, we only had our daughter Gia, who was 2½ years old. During the course of the evening, we mentioned that we were considering adopting again and asked Ashleigh to share her thoughts about it. It was important for us because she is a part of our family now, and a sibling for our daughter and another birth mother joining our family circle would have been an adjustment. She was excited for us and for Gia to have a sibling to grow up with. We jokingly agreed to have her tag along to meet any prospective birth mothers so she could give us her take on them.

When Ashleigh called two weeks later, we could not have guessed her news or her request. She had just learned she was pregnant. She had a seven-year-old son and was not ready to parent a second child. Would we be willing to adopt this baby?

Through the years, we have watched Ashleigh grow from her experience of placing, and have proudly witnessed her peace and advocacy for open adoption. She has blossomed as a mother to her young son learning invaluable lessons about motherhood, life and unconditional love. She handles adversity with aplomb, and in spite of setbacks that would make many of us buckle to our knees, she perseveres

Her life has not been without its struggles, including a teenage pregnancy, a dark period of drug addiction, rehab, sobriety (nearly 8 years strong), and the controversy about placing for a second time. Although many friends and family were happy and proud of her when she placed Gia, placing for a second time seemed irresponsible to them and many openly disapproved of her choice.

I think she did a much better job than I did of coming up with the right response for those who questioned her. Initially, I was defensive in my responses to questions about her “irresponsible” lifestyle choices. We were taken aback by the lack of compassion and analogies used to compare the situation. To hear negative comments from some family and friends when sharing our news was by far the most surprising to us. We did our best, however, to stay away from defending Ashleigh, and focused instead on the bravery, strength and absolute love required to do what’s best for her child.

As we did with Gia, we were in the delivery room when Ava was born. It was an extraordinary moment when she took her first breath. We watched as she was weighed and we all gasped – 9.7 pounds of pure love! Later, we visited Ashleigh in her room and we gushed with joy. We knew she was genuinely happy for us and at peace with her adoption decision. Early in our match, Ashleigh had made the difficult choice to not  hold Ava in the hospital; she had done the same with Gia. It was the only way she could do what she felt in her heart was the best for the children, she said. Her plan was to meet the girls when they were older and when they requested to meet her.

But life unfolds in its own wonderful way. Continue reading »

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Our Adoption Journey

Editor’s Note: IAC’s hopeful adoptive parent, Nicole Davis, shares what led her and her husband to ultimately choose open adoption.

VJT_3892When Don and I met and started dating, I knew there was a very real possibility I couldn’t have children. It was a discussion we needed to have because my problem would become his if we got married. I was very fortunate that he said “We’ll cross that bridge together someday when we’re ready.” That someday would come seven years later after we’d been married a few years. We began the infertility path with the usual tests and charts. I was referred to the Infertility and endocrine center where we did additional, painful tests and determined surgery might be the key. So as I signed a waiver that said 1 in 1,000 who have this surgery will have a puncture; we moved forward. I’d be that 1 in 1000 15 minutes into the procedure, so it wasn’t finished. After that we reevaluated our options to start a family.

It took many tear filled days and nights over the years as we went from infertility to looking into adoption options. We didn’t have the resources then with the internet in its infancy. Every time I thought I’d found a viable agency I’d find it had closed or was cost prohibitive. We were looking to do international adoptions as well as domestic and just kept coming against a wall. We then discussed not even trying to have a family. That is always a family option but it wasn’t in my heart or his. We adore kids and want to be a family someday. We concentrated on our work, family, and friends. Even as our friends, my younger brother and cousins were all having families of their own, we just kept working and enjoying our time with their children. It was always in the back of our minds though that we’d have to finish grieving and move forward. Moving on meant we’d either look into adoption or just be a childless couple. We chose adoption as our option.

When we learned of the Independent Adoption Center and its open adoption with lifetime counseling for all involved in the adoption triad, we jumped in with both feet. We were only familiar with closed and semi-open adoptions until then and the openness really appealed to us. It would take us about 9 months to get everything completed and the wait would begin. They say the wait is the hardest part and really it doesn’t sink in when you’re busy completing paper work, the home study, and your profile. I think it keeps you so busy you don’t realize that the wait leaves you nothing to do but wait. The trick is to keep living but I even spent the first year of the wait putting off a trip that would take us to Europe for fear “the call” would come and we’d miss it. We took trips around the U.S but it’s so easy to hop on the next flight here and get where we need to be, unlike traveling abroad. We have adjusted to living again and have chosen to take the trip anyway this year and if we do get “the call” we can change our trip itinerary. The wait has its own timeline we can’t control and that can be frustrating as hopeful adoptive parents. We’ve been waiting over a year but I know our extended family is out there we just have to wait for them to find us.

To learn more about Nicole & Donald you can visit their iheartadoption profile

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