Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Open Adoption Round Table #28 "Questions from an adult adoptee"

This round table is a little different. Lori at Write Mind Open Heart was asked a series of questions from an adult adoptee from the closed adoption era regarding today's open adoptions and has invited others to participate in answering the questions as well. While I can't answer them all, I'll do my best!

1. Can the adoptive parents really go back on their word after the adoption has been finalized and do whatever they please in regard to updates and pictures?

To my knowledge there are only a very few states that have legally enforceable open adoption agreements. In the other states, open adoption agreements are verbal and hold no legal enforcement. So, I supposed the answer to the question is yes. It can and does happen. Does this happen in the majority of OA cases? To my knowledge no. I know 7 families off the top of my head who are in some form of OA with their childs birth family, who are complete advocates for OA and really work to make things successful.

2. Who is the go-between for communication with most Open Adoptions: the case worker, the placing agency, or the lawyer handling the adoption?

I would think in the beginning, the majority of communication goes through a third party. Most agencies set up  a schedule for pictures ans visits. It's a good guideline to have for those first years. For us, when we were first matched and adoption specialist at the agency handled all of our communication, but after we had our first meeting with C, we started having direct contact and rarely used any third party communication, especially after Lovebug was born.

What are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the above contact persons?

Since my last answer didn't touch on each of the mentioned people I will just answer this question pertaining to the person I did mention, the Adoption Specialist(or caseworker). I think the advantages to using your case worker to communicate is that it gives you a buffer. You can bounce your ideas off of that person before presenting them if your still trying to find your way, if your hurt by something or worried about something you can ask your case worker about her experience with the specific situation your in, etc. But I think thats more stuff for the beginning of an OA. I think the disadvantages to going through your CW to communicate is that your really not learning how each other work or how you think. I think OA's at there core are very personal and going through a third party is very impersonal. IMO, once an OA is established communication is better just being direct.

4. How can case workers be involved in Open Adoption as well if DHS are already so understaffed and the budgets are maxed out for the thousands of forgotten children lost in the system?

I don't think this really pertains to my experience...

5. Is there an incentive such as money for the adoption agency to be still involved indirectly and indefinitely for an Open Adoption? Does it cost the prospective adoptive parents more money upfront for it to be an open adoption?

No and no.The agency doesn't benefit at all from our OA. They're role basically ended when we finalized unless we needed them for something. In C's case, the agency has continued to offer post relinquishment support to her through counseling and support groups which does not benefit the agency either.

6. If the contract is legally binding, what happens to the adoptive parents if they don’t follow through? Is there really any legal recourse for both parties that are clearly spelled out?

I'm not really familiar with legally binding OA agreements since in FL OA are not legally enforceable. But, I would love to learn more from those of you who may be in a state where it is legally enforceable! Anyone from California?

7. What deters the birth parents from coming to your house unannounced?

Well, nothing! But, I guess how you view your childs birth parent would determine how you'd think of this question. We love and trust Lovebugs birthmom and her family, if we didn't quite honestly we wouldn't have given them our address, last name and telephone number. Trust is huge in an OA. That being said we've told C before, and meant it, that she's always welcome at our house. We consider her family in the real sense of the word. It's not just a fun phrase for us. We really feel that way. So what stops her from just dropping by (besides distance, since we don't live close by) is the common respect she, or I or you, would have for anyone. Hopefully we'd all call be for going over to anyone's house!

8. Do you know if there are any court cases where it’s obvious that there are loopholes in Open Adoption that need to be addressed?

Not personally. There are the horror stories everyone has heard about prospective adoptive parents agreeing to OA just to "seal the deal" and then recanting once placement happens. I have never seen this first hand, but I would consider this a loophole that needs to be addressed. The problem is how?

9. Just like there are issues with closed adoptions and we have the outspoken activists’, etc., are there any Open Adoption opponents or vice versa that are working to be the voice for the birth mothers as well as the adoptive children and their best interests?

 I've never come across an "activist" against OA. Plenty for it, but none against it. I've seen people voice their concerns on forums about OA, but rarely do they ever have any true personal experience in the matter. 

10. When is the adoptee old enough to choose if they want contact or not? What if they are the ones who want to break off ties with the bio parents?

They way we feel about Lovebugs family is that they're part of our extended family, much like aunts, uncles or grandparents. In a traditional biologically connected family you don't hear too often of a child choosing to cut off contact with part of their extended family. I just don't foresee that being an issue. But, there is a big difference between having an aunt and a birthmom, so if Lovebug ever did feel uncomfortable with a visit or some form of communication we would try to help her to figure out why and work through it.

11. Are there any support groups/legal aids for birth mothers where they can get honest answers with their concerns for open adoptions?

I know our agency has support groups for birthmoms as well as expectant moms so I would assume other agencies do, too. There are online support groups/forums, but I'm leery to suggest them as lately the ones I frequent seem to be plagued with arguments and people with their own agendas.


  1. Hi, Kelly. And thanks for participating in this bloghop.

    I really like this: "In a traditional biologically connected family you don't hear too often of a child choosing to cut off contact with part of their extended family." True!

    And you said something I hadn't thought of before about having the caseworker as an intermediary -- you're not learning to navigate the relationship for yourself. Like you say, it's all right for training wheels, but you eventually want to be able to get around on your own.

  2. Hi! I just found your blog...its really great! We are about two weeks from being home study approved in PA. PA does have legally enforceable OA documents called a PACA. I think they said its something like 12 years old the kids can make changes to it in court themselves, but I agree with you- family is family, like it or not!

  3. Thanks Lori!

    godwillfillthisnest~ Thanks for sharing. That's interesting. I guess the only positive in that law is that it seems a little more involved to change the OA agreement. It looks like you'd have to take it back to court and couldn't just change it on a whim, hopefully deterring people from changing the agreement for the wrong reasons.