Sunday, April 17, 2011

What happens in 20 years?

We had our second and final day of training for our agency yesterday. Last weekend we had a birthmother and adoptive parents come in and tell their stories. They had very open adoptions and frequent interactions. Yesterday we talked more about the importance of openness. A few other couples at the training with us asked about what happens when the child is an adult? Does a very open relationship mean they might feel free to move in to birthparents' home when they are, say 19? What is the experience of adult adoptees who have very open relationships? The caseworkers tried to downplay the concerns and just repeated, again, this is not co-parenting. But when you think about it, open adoptions really started increasing in the mid1980s, so children in those environments are really just hitting adulthood in the past few years. So we don't really know their experiences.

I know the birthmother and adoptive family that spoke with us really freaked out some others in our group about openness, but I did not worry because I knew we could set boundaries on how open we are. We would not have to set up a relationship like they did. But the adult adoptee that spoke yesterday freaked me out. She had a semi-open adoption. Her parents and birthparents exchanged letters. She did not meet her birth family until she was about 14. It evolved over time but now she sees her birthmother and biological sister quite often. She started having Christmas Eve dinner at their house every year! That was when my nerves really picked up. I don't think I could handle that.

She had a binder full of all the letters exchanged over the years. She passed that around for us to flip through. It became apparent that the birthmother gave her a different name that was changed by the adoptive family. I asked how she felt about that. She did seem to think it was a big deal to have had a different name at one point. But she did say she was thinking of changing her middle name to incorporate her birth name. She might do it as a mother's day present to her birthparents. I could not handle a mother's day of all days to have my child do that.

She did say her adoptive mother has some anxiety issues about her interactions with her birthmother. And seem conflicted when she talked about that.


  1. Wow thanks for writing about this, Missy. I have never even thought about these things but I guess it's something to think about with adoption . . . but you're totally right, you can set whatever limits you want on openness . . .

  2. When you adopt, you adopt someone else's child. Pretending otherwise is not healthy for either you or the child. And with open adoption, there is a partnership. Adopted people have two families, this is especially true today. Would you really try to keep an adult from associating with their family if that was their choice to do so?
    Is adoption for you about finding a family for a child (as it should be) or finding a baby for a needy family?
    I have seen too many of my adopted friends seriously hurt and damaged when their adoptive families try to treat them like a possession instead of a person.
    Open adoptions of any kind require serious care and commitment. There is a child at stake and their health and well being should outweigh everything else.

  3. My husband was adopted in 1967. At the time, all Kansas adoption records were open. He pulled them as an adult to get medical histories, and found letters his birthmother had written him over the years. He chose to meet her, not because he really wanted to, but because she seemed certain he hated her. Their relationship has evolved to the point that we see her and his half-siblings twice a year, once at Christmas and once at the 4th of July. Jeff's parents were the ones that encouraged him to meet her, but Jeff, while he recognizes that she is his biological mother, still considers his adoptive parents his true parents. I don't know where I was going with this, but I did want to share it with you.

  4. Wow! I can understand how that would make you uncomfortable. I think it would make me uncomfortable too.

  5. I had never thought about 20 years down the road. I totally agree that that would be a very awkward, uncomfortable situation if the adoptee were having christmas eve dinner with the birth family. I can see why that made you nervous.

  6. I think that after 20 years the child would be even more secure in their feelings of love for their adopted parents and having a good relationship with their birth parents wouldn't change that.

    It sounds like the adult adoptee has a really good relationship with her birth family but as an adult we are always adding to the people who we are close to, whether that be through our partners or work, etc so I think as long as things like dinner on Christmas Eve aren't happening until the person is an adult it isn't a bad thing.

    I think especially for the adopted child it can only be a good thing to have such a positive relationship with both his/her adopted parents and the birth parents.


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