What she said, dangit!

“Keeping [birth] records closed perpetuates the myth
that open adoption is a fringe movement,
flirting with the potentially dangerous idea
of not cutting adoptees off from their families of origin.”

***

“Closed records play into the fiction that there is something
shameful in adoptees’ pasts. … They reinforce the idea
that first parents should disappear into the shadows
after relinquishment if they know what’s best for them
and their child. They suggest to adoptive parents that
the only way to be their child’s real parent is to see
themselves as replacements for the biological parents.”

***

“They [closed records] are simply an outdated and unwarranted
part of adoption … premised on the idea that adopted children
needed to be protected from the wayward parents who conceived
them and the stigma of illegitimacy. First parents needed to hide
their shameful secret from prying eyes. Adoptive parents needed to
be able to pretend they were a biological family.”

Wow. Is anyone else hearing the harps and angels sounding — or is it just me?

Kudos to Heather at Production, Not Reproduction who’s written a fantastic piece on the connection — yes, there is one! — between open adoption and the need for open records, both issues of import in this, my little corner of the blogosphere.

Anyone visiting here regularly knows how I feel about the need for open birth records, a position fueled initially by the fact my husband’s own closed adoption and the fact that his very own story is not, well, actually his own. You also know how strongly he and I feel about open adoption, and that we are committed to ensuring our daughter Maeve’s adoption remains that way. (Of course, one day she will step to the helm and steer her own course.)

Heather (she’s over there snug in my blogroll, by the way) makes myriad connections in her piece that had me nodding my head yes and thinking I should check for my byline at the top of it. We are absolutely kindred spirits on this.

For all my hours toiling away here with these issues, she’s got me wishing I’d gone and said it this clearly before. (Maybe I have, maybe not, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.) All I know is this rings so true with me.

I could keep blathering on about why this piece touched me, how it states so wonderfully why I believe what I do and why I advocate for what I do, but ya know what? I’d be doing it — and you — a disservice.

Just go have a read for yourself.

Now. (Ahem. Please.)

NaBloPoMo Stats: 7 down, 23 to go.

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5 Comments

Filed under Adoption, Adoption Ethics, Birth parents, Closed Adoption, Discussing Adoption, Maeve, NaBloPoMo, Open Adoption, Parental surrenders, Parenting

5 responses to “What she said, dangit!

  1. I’m so glad this resonated with you. Thanks for the shout out. 🙂

  2. G

    I think you are only looking at one side of a big picture. Most parents who adopt children are against open adoption (whether they will admit it or not). Some will put up with it. Look at the adoption trends…International is growing quickly. It certainly is not because people are trying to save the world, nor race (China, Africa), nor wait (China = ~2yrs)… It’s because they dont like the adoption situation in this country. Sorry to be brutal, but wouldnt it be nice if more movie stars adopted “black” children from this country? It wont happened because of the open adoption laws and records access in this country….and this doesnt just apply movie stars. Common people want their privacy too. What good are open adoption laws if they limit the pool of prospective parents, and a child goes un-adopted?

    (and yes, people can say the child should be most important, but the fact is that in a decision to form a family, all parties are equal.)

  3. Hi G. and thanks for your comments. I agree that it is a very big picture, but I think it’s an unfair generalization to say that those parents in an open adoption are “putting up with it.” I can speak for myself — and many other APs, both online and real-life friends and acquaintances — who see that keeping communication and contact open with their children’s first parents is of the utmost import. And I can speak about it from two sides, as I mentioned in the post — being directly touched by closed and open adoption. Adoptees are going to have questions — choosing to adopt domestically, like we did, enabled us to be able to provide some, even many, of those answers.

    Open adoption has been around a couple decades and is clearly the more common route for domestic adoptions today. At this time, a closed adoption is still a possibility, so I’m not sure how much stock I can place in the pool of prospective parents being limited. But that’s not even an argument I think is worth making — as open adoption proves much more humane and beneficial for our children — yes, they are the most important — I think those scared of open adoption will begin to see the light.

    Bottom line, that’s just what I think it is. Being scared. And when you really begin to peel back the layers and look at what (and who) is involved, it’s not scary at all.

    It’s like turning on the lights to show your not-sleeping children that there is no bogeyman in their room.

    Shedding light shows first moms and their children benefit from knowing one another — and although adopting for me was about, among other things, crafting a family, it was never about changing who the child is or somehow keeping them from themselves.

    Yes, I’ve had a couple acquaintances share with me that they did initially seek an international route because they were afraid of the contact in an open domestic adoption. Now, as their children are growing and they have learned more about how the openness works, they feel the loss of information and some regret — never in their children of course, but in choosing that route based on their own fears rather than what will help their future child.

    Thanks for sharing your views.

  4. G

    I linked to your site from a CNN article on the efforts to enact laws to force the open records on adoptions, and that may have bias my initial reading of your blog. I am in no way against those who choose an open adoption. I am against not allowing people to choose.

    I am glad your open adoption is working well and you are comfortable with it. I do, however, stand by my first comment that SOME (as stated before) are “putting up with it”. I can name “SOME”. For them, the factor of adopting a child domestically out weighed the concerns of open adoption. For others, it does not.

    I too can speak from experience. Through a series of complex events, I being a parent to my niece. Though not a formal adoption (more like foster), she has been a member of our family from age 4-10 (current). She, of course, knows her situation with nothing but honesty. In our case, the “openness” has been nothing but destructive to the well-being of my niece. My niece yearns for a simple, stable, consistent, family home. Her biological parents have done nothing to provide that and everything to interfere with it. I am not saying that “openness” caused this. It is most certainly the choice of the individuals involved.
    (And yes, I do understand her views may change when she gets older.)

    This experience was a primary factor in choosing to internationally adopt our next two children. If we could have guaranteed a closed domestic adoption, we would have went that path. You may call it “being scared”, but I dont believe there is anything wrong with protecting my family from potentially harmful situations. (And yes, this is a family issue/concern, not simply a one child issue.)

    Since our adoptions, I have done many seminars on adopting internationally (on process, not to persuade). I can tell you from my experience, that the openness of records (whether by law, by future worry, or by general perceptions) in the United States is one of the primary factors in people’s decisions to adopt internationally rather than domestic. So I, sort of, agree that the pool of prospective parents may not be drastically reduced, but because it already has had an impact. The rate of international adoption has double since the 90s and the domestic rate has stayed even (international now makes up about 30% of all adoptions; US Dept Health, US State Dept).

    As for the importance of the openness to the child, certainly there will be wonder. We, unfortunately, live in an American society which strongly ties genetics to family. As much good as it can hold for tightly bound “traditional” families, it can create a myriad of problems (beyond adoption, like mixed marriages, teen mothers, etc) in “non-traditional” families. In our family, blood is not thicker than water (to slant an idiom) and we give no importance to the role of genetics in relationships (which isn’t to say our children will not be influenced by things outside our control, nor to say that we do not address the issue).

    Again, I have no problem with people who choose and embrace open adoption, and I favor anything that works to create a loving family. My main point still being, efforts to force (by law) open adoption and open records on everyone, for a still debatable purpose, is counterproductive to the main goal of finding children homes. The larger the prospective pool of possible parents, the more chance adoptable children will find homes. Rightly or wrongly, some people (potentially excellent parents) will choose not to adopt when forced into an open adoption situation. Therefore, creating laws which would essentially force open adoption would not be beneficial to our society in general.

    Thank you for listing my comment and providing the forum.

  5. Hi, thanks for checking back. I do want to make a clarification. There is a definitive difference between an open adoption and open records for adoption.

    Being in an open adoption means continued contact on the part of all parties. It’s a living, breathing, changing thing.

    Open records simply means allowing access to one’s own birth certificate and birth records.

    While I can see how some may make the jump from an adoptee accessing their data to then reaching out to their birth parents, I disagree that this is actually the norm.

    I don’t mean to say that some adoptees given identifying information on their birth parents don’t then go out and look for them. But what really happens? Are they somehow stalking or harming these people? The data doesn’t support this. And are we aiming to protect birth parents or adoptees (both of whom, by the way, at this time would be grown adults) or both?

    It comes down to an adoptee’s basic right to their own birth certificate, their own history.

    Should open adoption be “forced” on anyone seeking a domestic adoption? (And vice versa, on the birth parent who has placed their child?) No.

    Open adoption is a commitment by the parties to continued contact. Open records is access to data that already should belong to the person seeking it.

    A vast difference, to be sure.

    So seeking enactment of laws that would give adoptees access to their own documents does not in any way make a “closed” adoption (like my husband’s) an “open” one (like my daughter’s).

    Even though our daughter’s is open — and she has since spent time during our visits with her biological mother and has access to medical records (albeit with identifying information still blacked out or left out altogether), she should be able to hold in her hand HER original birth certificate. It’s the story of her birth. It belongs to her.

    What makes a closed adoption become an open one is the decision by all parties to reveal themselves, if you will, and move in the direction of continued contact — in any of its myriad forms.

    So these are two different things we’re discussing here. Securing one (open records) does not in any way force another (open adoptions).

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