Adoption Expert Peter C. Winkler, LMSW, a featured guest blogger shares his expertise. He writes regularly for allexperts.com on the subject of adoption.
I was leafing through the new (August 5, 2013) issue of Time magazine and I came across a story about the great new NFL San Francisco quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Colin had a fantastic 2012 season and he took his team all the way to the Super Bowl. In my opinion, it was one of the best Super Bowls ever played, but unfortunately for Colin, he and his team were unable to score the winning touchdown with two minutes left on the clock.
While reading the article, I learned that Colin had been adopted as an infant by a Caucasian family. The article explained that Colin’s birth mother was 19 years old when she placed him for adoption. She apparently had no contact with Colin until he was a college student. While Colin was in college, the article indicates that he and his birth mother “exchanged messages”, but after a while, he cut off their communication. Then, in February of 2013, following Colin’s great performance in the Super Bowl, his birth mother was interviewed by ESPN and she spoke about the feeling that she had on the day she placed Colin for adoption.
The article indicates that Colin was unhappy about the ESPN interview and when he later called his adoptive mother she “broke down on the phone”. Colin subsequently decided that because (in his view) his birthmother had “hurt” his birthmother and his family, he no longer wanted to have anything to do with her. Colin went on to relate many of the generous things that his adoptive mother had done for him when he was growing up.
When the author of the article spoke with Colin’s birth mother, she denied any intentions of undermining Colin’s adoptive mother or family. She said that she did want to change the “stigmas or stereotypes associated with birth mothers.”
As soon as I read this article, I decided to write this blog because I believe that the picture painted by this article would be far different if Colin’s adoption had been an open one. In this century, an increasing number of adoptions that take place are done following an agreement between the birth parents and adoptive parents that there will be some ongoing communication by the adoptive parents to the birth parents regarding the adopted child’s wellbeing and progress. In some cases, one or both birth parents are given the opportunity to have periodic visits with the child as he or she is growing up. Many who work in the adoption field believe that such open adoptions (when appropriate) can serve to minimize or eliminate a sense of separation, grief and loss that both the birth parents and adopted child might have. They note that adopted children in closed adoptions, are usually told that their birth parents loved them very much, but they placed the child for adoption because the adoptive family could give the child a better upbringing than they could have. They go on to say that often the child begins to ask why their birth parents came to that decision if they really cared about them. In a closed adoption it is a tough and really impossible question to answer. In an open adoption, the answers are more readily available.
That brings us back to Colin Kaepernick. Colin is a young man who has achieved a great deal and who has a very promising future in professional football. I hope that he will be a positive role model for other adoptees and I also hope that he will reconsider the current impasse with his birth mother. I applaud his adoptive parents and siblings for embracing him and giving him the opportunity to experience what it is like to grow up in a home where you are loved and wanted. By the same token, I applaud Colin’s birth parents, who recognized that placing him for adoption was their best option.
Read More on What is Happening at Adoption STAR: Our Calendar of Events for 2013