Evolving opinions on open adoption

So much of what I thought about adoption has changed over the last couple of years. I almost have to laugh when I think about how naive Christian and I were when we got into this whole thing. I have talked a great deal about corruption in international adoption on this blog. (Corruption happens in domestic adoption, too, and I plan to write about it someday, but just haven’t gotten around to it.) Unfortunately, corruption was one of the first things in which we were schooled. Several months after we adopted Zoe from Phu Tho, Vietnam, the province was shut down to US adoptions over allegations of corruption, and now Vietnam is shut down to US adoption entirely. It was a gigantic wake-up call. Before that, we thought that all international adoptions were wonderful and that any agency or person working in the field must have noble intentions. We really thought everyone cared about the kids. Boy have our opinions changed on that.

Another thing that has really changed is our opinion about open adoption. Sadly, our opinions on this have changed in part because of what we have learned about corruption in adoption.  I feel guilty admitting that one of the main reasons we chose international adoption in the first place was so that we didn’t have to “deal” with birthparents. Christian and I were talking about this the other day. We vividly remember sitting in our family room talking to the social worker for our first homestudy. We told her we knew that children who were adopted internationally and who had been in orphanages could be sick, have developmental delays, or attachment problems, but that we were much more willing and able to accept those challenges than we were the challenge of having a birthfamily change their mind or be involved with “our” child for the rest of our lives. However, once we learned that there was a real possibility that Zoe’s birthfamily could have been coerced or tricked into placing her for adoption, or that she could have even been kidnapped, we longed for more information. Now we WISH we could have had contact with her birthfamily, so that we could know this was truly what they intended for her and thought best for her.

What we have finally realized in the past few years is that adoption is not about US and what WE are comfortable with. Adoption is about our CHILDREN and what is best for THEM. We now believe that what is best for THEM is to have contact with their birthfamilies, or at least that they have the OPTION to have contact with their birthfamilies. For that reason, we have done the following:

  1. We have transitioned Colin’s adoption into a fully open adoption from a semi-open adoption. This means that Colin’s birthmom now knows our last name and our address, and we are going to visit her in the next couple of months.
  2. We have started a search for Zoe’s birthfamily in Vietnam. We have hired a searcher, and they will be starting the intial phase of the search with officials in Hanoi as early as next week. We are not certain that the search will be successful, but we are hopeful.

I plan to write separate posts about Colin and Zoe this week, but this has all been very difficult for me to put into words, so bear with me. I am also still struggling with how much information to share, whether or not to password protect, etc. Also, I have a lot of friends who are adoptive parents who have not arrived at the same decision we have, so please know that I am not judging anyone here. This is what Christian and I have decided is best for our family. Similarly, I ask that everyone else respect the decision that we have made. Yes, it is scary, but again, this is what we think is best for our family. Finally, I know that there are many adult adoptees who say that the decision to have contact with birthfamily should be that of the adoptee. We appreciate that opinion as well, and the decision to continue contact in the future will be Colin and Zoe’s. However, we feel that we need to lay the groundwork now for the possibility of that contact to be there when they are old enough to make the decision themselves.

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12 thoughts on “Evolving opinions on open adoption

  1. Hey Tracy-
    Can you PM me with the info on your seacher for Zoe’s first family?
    Who did you end up going with? I really want to get the ball rolling on this…

  2. This is a very interesting post. I will be interested in following along with especially Zoe’s search. I’ve been desparate for answers regarding Jocelyn’s history because of all of the RAD/trauma issues she’s working through. It is hard to not have anything solid to tell her or her therapist to help her overcome what’s going on with her.

  3. I have the same request as Jena. And a few add’l questions. We’ve been very committed to finding Matty’s family since shortly after he came home and we need to just get on it.

    Thanks for your post! Although we didn’t choose international adoption for the purpose of avoiding birth parent contact, we knew nothing about anything. We redefined naive. It’s almost embarrassing. To say that I’ve had my eyes opened over the past three years would be the understatement of the century.

    I also struggle with how much to share, whether to PW, etc. I tend to over-share as it is, but there’s so much more that I don’t. It’s hard to find a balance.

    I’ll stop or I’ll just keep rambling. If you don’t mind passing on your info and answering a couple of questions about your searcher, I’d really appreciate it!

  4. I so understand and decided I can’t wait to try and find Aiden’s first family. I’ll be interested to hear who you are using as I have been trying to research since November- it’s hard to know who to use!

  5. I so commend you for talking about this. I have been working on a post about Stormea’s adoption for the last 6 months. I just don’t feel comfortable putting it up yet, I worry that by talking about the pros of our open domestic adoption I will inadvertantly piss someone off.
    We too, chose international adoption because we didn’t want a ‘birth family’ and we didn’t want to have to sell ourselves as the perfect parents. And I talk about that in great detail….BUT some people don’t want to hear that you know?
    Maybe your posts on this will give me the courage to just put it all out there.
    I am so happy for you all and your decision to meet with Colin’s mom. I can only imagine that it was a hard and easy decison to make all at once. And I wish you all the best of luck in locating Zoe’s birth family. I can’t wait to hear about it and how you even go about searching for her birth family, I imagine that is no easy task.
    AShlea

  6. Wow girl! Of course I definitely know where you are coming from. I started in the same place myself. I’m embarrassed how pro-closed-adoption I was. But also I was coming from a place where I was living in hell with a co-parenting (husband’s ex wife) who was totally insane, controlling and abusive/neglectful. And we had to share parenting with her equally. And the kids were a mess. So I based my own opinions on that and wanted NOTHING to do with sharing parenting ever again, if I could control it. Now, like you, my PT baby changed everything and I would give ANYTHING to meet and know and have her birth family in our lives.

    I am really curious to hear more about the Colin’s situation as I hadn’t realized you fully opened it. Wow. big step!

  7. I felt the same way about that little ‘benefit’ of int’l adoption. And like you, the PT situation has totally changed my mind. I’ll be very interested to know how the search for Zoe’s family goes. I applaud you for taking that step.

  8. Of course you always have my support especially when it comes to the little darlings!! I am sure Zoe and Colin will appreciate all the work you are doing for them as they get older 🙂

  9. Tracy: As usual I fully support your decision and will also will emphatically defend it . Last night in my yoga teacher training we had to name a guru or someone that we look to for advise or inspiration and I named you. Thank you, add another reason to the list. Namaste!

  10. We really didn’t know what to do after Vietnam shut down. I had my heart set on visiting Vietnam and learning more about the culture and adopting a Vietnamese baby. When we moved to Seattle, we met a couple who had an open adoption and highly recommended their agency. We went for the informational meeting and then proceeded with out home study. We entered the waiting pool in October 2009 and are desperately waiting for “the call.”

    It took me getting over a-lot of my own insecurities and really thinking about what would be best for our child and our family. That’s why an open adoption makes sense to us. Like you said, we are not judging anyone and we have many friends that are AP’s to children born in Vietnam, Ethiopia and even closed adoptions here in the US. It’s a big decision and there is that BIG unknown – will she change her mind after the baby is born? I’d love to hear more about your open relationship with Collin’s birth family.

  11. DITTO on everyone else’s comments. I have arrived exactly where you are. I, too, have tried to look for birth family info to no avail. If you would be willing to share who you are using and how you are pursuing…we are not done trying and would be very grateful for the info.

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