Savage Love Adoption Issues
posted by April 19 at 14:57 PMon
Good column today—I enjoyed reading it as usual. I wanted to point out, though, that one comment you made to the effect that all adoptions should be open really struck me as naive. In a situation like the one of the young woman in last week’s column, yes it would be a nice option to have an open adoption.
In my case, my family of four (wife, me and two boys) adopted two kids from Ukraine in 2005. The littlest one was 18 months old at the time, and the elder was 3 1/2. The birth mom abandoned the little one at birth in the hospital, and the state came and took the elder one. She had—and has, as far as I know—severe alcohol problems, and is suspected of abuse (the elder has some pretty questionable scars). Do you think that she gives a shit? Do you think that if she ever wakes up and actually does give a shit that I ever want her showing up at my door saying “Mommy’s here!” or anything else, for that matter? Not a chance.
I know it is highly unlikely, as she is half a world away. I also know that in the US, four weeks in re-hab, finding Jesus, and deciding she is a good mom after all is all most judges need to remove a child from a loving adoptive home. Precisely why we went to Ukraine. In Ukraine, the adoptive are, in the eyes of the law, and on the birth certificate, recognized as the birth parents.
Yes, it would be nice if everyone was nice, but it ain’t so. Some people just should not be around children. Doesn’t stop them from having them, though, does it? As you well know, if everyone had to go through all the trouble (and expense!) of adoption to get pregnant, the world’s population would plummet.
I hear you, B.F. But not all “open” adoptions are alike—they don’t all involve high degrees of contact; some don’t involve any ongoing, real-time contact at all. Some bio parents are so unfit to parent that even phone calls, let alone visits, are a danger to kids they couldn’t take of in the first place. I still support “openness,” however, even for what, in practice, may be closed adoptions.
In your case, I hope that your kids know their birth stories, where they come from, how they came into your lives. I feel they have a right to that information—no secrets, no lies. That is open adoption too.
Also, B.F., in Oregon, where my boyfriend and I adopted our son, the state placed my name and his on the birth certificate, and our adoption could only have been reversed if fraud was proved—and then only in the first year. So not all open adoptions involve the kind of risks you’re concerned about.
Many parents that adopted in closed adoptions live in fear of their children’s birth parents precisely because they know so little about them and imagine the worst. (Maybe what you imagine to be true about your children’s birth mother is accurate, but maybe not.) In cases when it’s possible for an adoptive parent to know his or her child’s birth parents (and that’s most cases, I believe), having the birth parent’s blessing—to be chosen by the birth parent!—is tremendously empowering. It also honors the sacrifice that the birth parent is making. Knowing the birth parents can alleviate the anxiety—you don’t have to worry about the birth parents coming for the child if you’ve met them, they picked you, and they’re content with their choice.
In a closed adoption, the only way for the birth mom to ever see her child again is to sue for custody—to try and disrupt or reverse the adoption. In an open adoption—which, again, simply isn’t possible in cases like yours—the birth parent or parents can have some mutually agreeable degree of contact, and see or hear from the child, without having to disrupt or reverse the adoption. I don’t have stats but I would imagine that birth moms that have done open adoptions are, therefore, less likely to try and reverse the adoption—and, indeed, reversals of adoptions are pretty rare to begin with.
Thanks for writing.