I’m behind this week on the challenge. A sick kiddo home from school for three days, a hubby out of town for two days, and a Mount Everest sized pile of laundry to fold will do that to you in no time flat. Oh, add to that overnight guests on Saturday night, which means extra cleaning (and yes, I’ve enlisted my husband to help). As it turns out, N is for No #AtoZChallenge Post, so I’m playing catch up today.
…which is what we have. Over the five(ish) years since we started, we have had consistent counsel and read consistently that an open adoption is the best and most healthy choice for everyone involved. Generally speaking, of course. There are certain situations where a closed adoption is advisable…severe mental mental health issues, violence, or a birth mom who not only doesn’t want the baby, but doesn’t care what happens to him/her. Believe it or not, there are birth moms like that, and we were presented with two or three.
I can’t imagine having to deal with any of those issues, and thankfully we don’t. We have enough dysfunction to deal with already, and we have a very easy, congenial relationship with our birth mom. She is unstable – no job, no home, on-again/off-again drug habit, on-again/off-again boyfriend, dysfunctional family – but she doesn’t have mental health problems, and she is a sweet girl who has shown that she loves our baby. We could not ask for anything better, and both social workers involved with our case have confirmed this. We have it good.
In our case, open adoption means that we have met both birth parents, and have a continuing relationship with them that consists of four written communications per year (with pictures included), and up to three visits per year, at a neutral location, and at the request of the birth parent. We are obligated to the written communication per a written agreement with our birth mom, and she is entitled to (but not obligated to) the visits. This is not how all open adoptions work, but it is how ours does. The most important component of it is that we know each other, and that we have access to each other.
The visitation stops at age three, and that is written into the contract. This is for our child’s protection. Our social worker explained that studies have indicated that between ages 3 and 12, visitation with the birth parents can be counter-productive to the parent/child relationship within the adoptive family, and they can create a lot of confusion. One of the biggest issues we all want to ensure is that our child feels secure and loved, and that he understands that his birth parents did not give him up because they didn’t want him, but because they loved him and wanted a better life for him than they could provide. This is the truth, and it will always be a regular part of our discussion of his adoption.
After age 12, if he desires contact with his birth parents, we can request visits. They have both indicated they are open to it. We will facilitate that as needed, and always with his well-being and best interests at heart.
With that we move on to…
As you have probably gathered from my previous posts, there are reams and reams of paperwork. Everything, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is documented…sometimes in duplicate or triplicate. You have to stay on top of it, or it will consume you.
And if you’ve reached this point in the adoptions posts, you know that the paperwork doesn’t end when the adoption is final, especially if you have an open adoption.
What we have facing us for the next 18 years is four letters per year, with accompanying pictures, because though the visits stop at age three, the letters do not. Our birth parents wanted to have a continuing written record of our son’s development, and I totally understand that, and desire that for them. I am grateful that they want it, because it demonstrates that they do love him, and explaining that they surrendered him out of love is much easier than trying to explain why they didn’t love him.
That being said, all of our written communication goes through our agency, and they forward it on to their respective addresses. Unfortunately, that is not always easy, as they do not always stay put or stay in touch. Such is the case with our birth mom right now…we (the agency, our social worker, and the two of us) do not know where she is, or how to contact her other than by phone (which may or may not be functioning). We are fortunate that the agency has an address for her grandmother, who (sadly) is the only person in her family with a stable address. So that is where our letters are sent, and we hope that she gets them.
UPDATE!! I just got word yesterday (Good Friday) that our birth mom is living with her grandmother, and she has a job. She contacted her social worker to ask about pictures of our baby, which are en route already. I am thrilled to hear this…to know that she is ok, and that she has found some stability. I am praying that she stays the course, and praising God for his infinite care and mercy. It was a Good Friday indeed!
As far as the legal paperwork goes, it is complete. His birth certificate is now available in Vital Records for our county, and all we need to do is go pick it up. Next week…so here’s praying that baby and mommy don’t come down with the crud that kept big brother home from school.