The adoption world is not what it used to be. We went through this terrible “Baby Scoop Era” where women were sent away to have their babies and if they got to choose who would parent their child, it was from a list of names on a piece of paper. That time created a lot of pain and questions and Lifetime movies.
Then, we learned a few things. Women should get to choose more than a name. They should get to make a good parenting decision since they chose life. However, society wanted her to walk away and just forget about it. I call this the “Emotional Scoop Era.” Have your baby but don’t have any feelings about it.
Today is a new day, a better day hopefully, in adoption. More often we are seeing openness in adoption. As an adoption professional, over 90% of the adoptions I help facilitate have openness. I wish it were 100%, but I don’t get to make those decisions. Anyway, I am excited by this change. I think it’s important to have contact.
You may wonder why. You may think I think that just because I am a birthparent. I don’t. It’s bigger than that. If we begin the adoption process as ‘best interest of the child’ on both sides, because believe me that is what these expectant parents considering adoption are thinking, then we should remain that way. I understand that birthparents want contact, for the most part, but I don’t think we should have contact in adoption because of the birthparents.
The reason to keep open contact in adoption is for the child.
Looking at it this way helps us to move within the relationship with flexibility and grace. It’s not one parent against the other. That can get ugly. You know those stories about ‘mama bear’…well in adoption that is times two and when those two mama bears don’t agree, well, you are going to need a professional counselor to mediate that passionate situation.
Anyway, the child. Walk with me on this.
If both sets of parents begin with the openness agreement of ‘in the child’s best interest’ and the research shows that contact and openness is in the child’s best interest, and then remain in that mindset, you are going to win because the child will get a voice. And friends, we need to hear the voices of our children!
If the child doesn’t want to see his birthparent, for whatever reason, then the birthparent (with the mindset of ‘child’s best interest’) can accept that more graciously. Then, the adoptive parents don’t have to worry about what they will say to the birthparent. The truth is sufficient. Yes, it will suck for the birthparent. Yes, it’s okay for the adoptive parent to grieve this, but parents, your child gets to have a voice. Adoption is not just a trend or a story told on Facebook but a fight for life that continues well into that child’s adulthood.
Likewise, if the child wants to see/know more about his birthparent, for whatever reason, then the adoptive parent (with the mindset of ‘child’s best interest’) can accept that with grace. It is not a rejection or a preference, but rather a curiosity about his identity. When given the freedom, when allowed to experience the love of both sets of parents, the child wins. Yes, this may be hard for that mama who has endured that pride swallowing siege that parenting is, but there is something to be said for the safety of love that allows us the freedom to explore who we really are. That is what God’s love does for us, and friends, we want to model His love for our children.
Now, I realize that some of you are reading this chomping at the bit for me to wrap it up so you can give your rebuttal, but listen, I’m not just making blanket statements. I am a birthparent whose child is not really interested in talking to me right now. He is sixteen and cool. I’m the weird part of his life. Don’t think for one second that I won’t jump at the chance to communicate with him! I will, but for now, I find solace in the truth that he has spoken and I have heard his voice in this, in his life right now. I want that for him. I want him to get to make those decisions in safety. And, if I venture a guess, most birthparents do too.
I also realize that there are some situations that make this kind of thing more difficult. I’m not trying to push anyone into something unsafe or anything like that, but you can do something. If you make every effort to connect and one of the parties refuses your advances, you can still write updates and cards and letters. Your child will grow up and make his own decisions about this. Believe me, you want to make every effort for your child to feel the most love and keep the child’s best interest at the center of this relationship. Your child will thank you for that.
Love big, friends. Love big.