Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Once or twice a year I speak on the AEP's (Adoption Education Panels) Today it was about openness agreements. If you're not familiar with adoption, openness agreements are a moral faith agreement designed to keep some forms of openness between the adoptive family, birth families and sometimes the previous foster parents. I enjoy speaking on these panels about our experiences and knowledge that we've found throughout our years of adopting maintaining several forms of openness. We have a "few" adoptions and with every adoption placement, the openness varies accordingly. I explained that with some of our children, openness was closed because of drug and alcohol addictions. It was unhealthy to maintain a relationship with their birth family. With others, we have kept contact with a Grandfather through telephone and regular mail because he doesn't use the computer. We hope that one day he can make it to the Island or vise/versa us up North. Another sibling group we have established more openness with their birth Mom, Grandma and Great Grandma consisting of twice year visits either there or here. Once in the summer, once around Christmas. We also have telephone and email contact. To add more openness, we have four foster families that are either known as "Grandparents" or "Aunts" - extended to our family. We also have visits throughout the year, have telephone and email contact. In total we have twelve titled Grandparents. I explained it's really cool because when I was growing up I had no Grandparents and our children have twelve! I jokingly always say, "We adopted all these extended family members into our family" but truth is we did. With any forms of openness and especially when it's close to home (in our home) we have to develop boundaries and titles to who everyone is. When we first started adopting I did worry about how a birth member would influence our child. In fact, influence is a legit worry. You definitely have to be careful who you allow into your child's life. That being said, we do have very successful openness with some of our children's birth family. Some of the fears I had during an adoption placement was our new child not moving forward. I questioned onto how while visiting their birth Mom. How can I establish my role as their Mother? Eventually with time I've noticed every ones roles move into place. Boundaries become established and the fears not only I once had, the birth parents fears settle because as much as adoption is exciting, it's full of losses and unknowns and with time, we all know our roles. (Or should) Ultimately it's about the child and in the end, we all love and want what's best for that child/children. In order for us to sign any openness agreement, it has to be safe for the child/children and our family. Openness can change from year to year depending on the relationships between everyone. Once a closed agreement, it can easily be opened when a child becomes a teenager and accesses facebook. So regardless what we signed, what we wished - in the end it can be completely different. What I've learned is that nothing is written in stone. An openness agreement is on good faith and a document that either us as adoptive parents or the birth family can access to establish and maintain a relationship. One way or another, the adoptive parents are the legal guardians, legal "parents" that will make the appropriate choices with any situation. With our experience, all I can say is "All the worries and fears are legitimate" But having the understanding with the healthy relationships between the birth parents and foster parents, (while working through the feelings of loss, developing appropriate boundaries) openness is what's best for the child. Without openness it will raise many more concerns when the children are older. A childhood is a time to build positive fundamental skills so their adulthood isn't so confusing. (At least we hope) Mainly with time (eventually) everyone should understand their roles and for the adoptive parents; follow your heart, your intuition and do what's healthy and safe for your child. I hope my mumbo-jumbo made sense and my writing skills didn't further confuse anyone. Every adoption placement is different. There is different scenarios onto why every type of openness can and will be different including having no openness at all. Regardless with what it looks like from the beginning, ten years from now closed or open, it could be completely different. Something to be aware of. For us, what we have established is working, at least for now.