Tuesday, August 3, 2010

oa roundtable - agencies and open adoption

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. Click here to link to what other bloggers are writing about this topic.

We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?

Since we live in Canada and adopted a child from the United States we endured two agencies...and all the drama (and money!) as a result. Our experience with our agencies was vastly different. We were explicitly told by our Canadian agency that they work hard to take the emotion out of adoption when interacting with prospective adoptive parents. We can safely say that they did a pretty good job of this. So much so that we often felt belittled for any emotion we did show. Our social worker was great though. She was supportive and encouraging. The agency we used in Canada only does international adoption and didn't provide us with any information regarding open adoption. However, our social worker was able to chat about this with us.

We have seen open adoption work very successfully as many of our friends are involved in relationship with their child's first parents. So before we even signed the application form we already knew a fair amount about openness and that we placed a great deal of value on this sort of adoption. This is one of the main reasons we chose to adopt from the US instead of overseas. (For those of you wondering why we didn't choose to adopt locally you need to know that for varying reasons it is very difficult to adopt in our province. Many people wait 5-8 years).

Our American agency required us to read specific books as a part of our application process and this included reading on open adoption. However, as we got to know the workers at this agency better we became aware that they don't really encourage complete openness between adoptive and first families. This agency's definition of open adoption is what we would refer to as a semi-open adoption where all correspondence between families flows through the agency. The agency encourages adoptive and first families to meet prior to or during placement but that is where the openness ends. We were supposed to keep our address, last name and any other identifying information a secret, as was J. We did share some of this information with J as did she. How can you be given a child and not share more of who you are? How can you give your child to a stranger to parent without knowing where he will live?

Both of our agencies knew that we were very open and willing to be involved in a fully open adoption. Yet, each in their own way questioned us and our motives. Each brought up openness at various times and would ask "are you still open to x, y, z?" And we would continue to say "yes." It is a frustrating have to defend yourself for making choices that you believe are clearly in the best interest of the child. Isn't that what agencies should be interested in as well?

In the end, we learned more about open adoption from friends living it, than we ever did from our agencies.


Heather said...

I wish full open adoption would just be the standard starting point, you know? To be backed away from if a situation warrants it, instead of inched up cautiously.

Thanks for participating!

luna said...

it's so strange how the agencies are the ones getting in the way in many cases. they should be educating everyone about the benefits. they have nothing to lose, unless they really think that true openness would scare away both expectant parents and prospective families. but really, that just means they have more work to do to counsel everyone about why openness, in most cases, is not only better for the child, but for everyone.

Anonymous said...

As I've mentioned before, I learned far more about the benefit of open adoption through blogs, not through agencies who just pointed you towards books. Frankly, having to deal with the social workers just made things more complicated.