My husband and I have had the incredible fortune to adopt two amazing boys with the help of Adoption STAR. Like many couples initially starting down the adoption journey road, we didn’t know very much about the concept of open adoption. The only bits of information we had on the subject were questionable at best, as they were primarily garnered from sensationalized news coverage or Lifetime Network movies about “worst case scenario” adoption stories.
As we learned more about open adoption from Adoption STAR’s classes, reading books, and talking with folks that had adopted successfully and were “living” open adoption, the more comfortable we became with the topic. Interestingly enough, we reached such a level of confidence regarding both the importance and benefits of open adoption that we found ourselves hoping for a more open arrangement once we were “matched” with an expectant parent.
This desire for an open adoption is very much the reality for our oldest son (who is nearly four years old now), and we couldn’t be happier. Our son sees his mother and the siblings she is raising every 3 months or so (and that’s not a formal arrangement written in stone; it’s just an organically developed level of contact that seems mutually agreeable and “right” to all parties involved). We have a great time when we get together, as the kids run off and play while the parents socialize, laugh and genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Openness in adoption has become our “normal” when it comes to our oldest son’s adoption story, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Open adoption is actually a source of joy for us (and if someone had told me that I’d ultimately feel this way about open adoption when we were just starting our journey, I probably would have laughed at them).
Things are dramatically different for our youngest son, who is just seven months old. His mother, although willing to meet us briefly on the day we picked our son up from the hospital, has requested that we provide her with pictures of our son accompanied by letters…..and that’s it. In these letters we’ve expressed our willingness and desire to see each other face-to-face, and we’ve made it crystal clear that more contact (as opposed to less) is our preference, but we’ve gotten no response from her thus far. I understand and totally respect the fact that as the adoptive parents we don’t “call the shots” as it relates to wanting more contact. The decision to see each other (or not see each other) rests solely on the shoulders of our son’s mother. However, I find myself feeling concerned for both of my sons and the gross disparity in their adoptions as it relates to openness. Will my youngest son resent his older brother for having connections to his biological family? Will he find himself wishing he too could see his mother and his siblings? Will he be haunted by questions like:
“Do I look like anyone in my biological family?”
“Why doesn’t my biological family want to see me?”
If our youngest does wind up asking these very questions (or similar ones), we’ll be there to support him, provide him with answers to the best of our ability, wipe his tears away, and wrap our arms around him with loving hugs. However, the void he may feel at the hands of these unanswered questions is not something we will be able to fill without the help of his mother. Our deepest desire is for her to reach a point where openness is something that she ultimately wants, chooses and embraces. We can’t control whether or not she’ll every get to that point, and there are undoubtedly no guarantees that she ever will, but we’ll continue to wait with hope in our hearts. If we had our way, openness it what we want….. for our youngest son, his mother, his biological siblings, and for our entire family.
Michael Hill is the Associate Director of Adoption STAR. He has been with Adoption STAR since 2009 when he joined the agency as the Project Lead for the federally-funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project (IAATP) which he will continue to facilitate. As Associate Director for Adoption STAR, Michael plans, organizes and directs the day-to-day operations of the Development Department. Michael resides in Snyder, New York with his partner Scott and their sons Elijah and Seth. Michael’s favorite pastimes include singing, playing tennis, gardening and taking the boys for long walks at local parks or around their neighborhood.