Summer Blog 2016 - Adoption Awareness Campaign
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
― Charles Bowden
ADOPTION OPTIONS continues to strive to ensure adoption is considered as a positive option. It amazes me how open adoption is still unknown or completely misunderstood after being a viable option for more than thirty years now in Alberta. My hope is that one day anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy will know what each of their options are and is met with support in making a decision that is right for themselves and the baby.
Understanding open adoption is to simply know that there can be an ongoing relationship between the birthfamily, adoptive family and child, like any other extended familial relationship. Like all relationships, it must grow with time, nurture and mutual respect. Open adoption is when the prospective birthparent chooses the adoptive family from our approved and waiting family list and there is an exchange of personal information about one another so all involved can make an informed decision. The open adoption experience can be uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning as strangers come together filled with fear of the unknown and hope for the child that this relationship will be right for all involved. Adoption is a life-long process and an emotional rollercoaster. Open adoption is the letting go of any sense of entitlement and control and surrendering to a new reality. Adoption is managed best by those who are able to embrace their new reality and acknowledge that all members of the adoption circle bring grief and loss but all ultimately want the same thing…. the best life possible for the child. Adoption is managed best by those who are able to grieve their loss in a healthy manner, have a positive sense of self, are non-judgmental and open, compassionate, are good communicators, able to establish clear boundaries, have appropriate supports in their lives and are able to genuinely accept that the child has two sets of parents and what each role is with this responsibility. That isn’t too much to ask for….is it??? That is why Adoption Options is part of the process and here to help.
As Silber and Dorner discuss in their book, The Open Adoption Experience, open adoption evolved from the belief that people handle their lives and their destinies best when addressed with trust and honesty, instead of protective secrecy and half truths. In open adoption, all of the control and the choices are in the hands of the birthparents and the adopting parents. The birthfamily is extended family like other relatives within the adoptive family, and like all relationships this one will evolve and change over time. Relationships need the same kind of nurturance and cultivation as gardens.
Adoption is not for everyone, and every adoption is unique. But with professional counselling and establishing a solid adoption education base, it can be a very positive option. It is time to debunk the adoption myths that continue to hold our society back from viewing adoption as a possibility and thereby inhibiting a real understanding about adoption today.
As a birthmother and an adoption professional, I hear on a regular basis from very well meaning individuals, statements such as… “I could never give away my baby”, “who is the child’s real mother?”; “I would never allow the birthparent near the child, that would be confusing for the child and scary.” All such comments or statements are cloaked in the theory of shame and fear of the unknown. Misconceptions and misunderstandings about human nature, a child’s best interest and the fact that society has demonstrated that family can be successfully defined in many ways and a child can love and be loved by many people.
Myths and Facts: The importance of positive adoption language...
Myth: The birthmother does not care or she would not have placed her child.
Birthparents care enough to want the best life possible for their child, even if they cannot provide it.
Myth: Secrecy is necessary in every phase of the adoption to protect all parties.
Over the many years, secrecy from the traditionally closed practice of adoption has proven to have been harmful to the child, the birthparents, and the relationship between the child and the adoptive parents. People are able to manage their lives best when living with honesty and the security of trust.
Myth: The birthmother will forget about her ‘unwanted’ child with time.
The loss of the child is revisited at every stage of the birthparent’s life. They are never forgotten and never were unwanted. They are forever loved with hopes of having the best life possible with a stable, loving, committed family able and ready to meet the child’s needs.
Myth: If the person who was adopted really loved his / her adoptive family, he/she would not have to search for their birth family.
Wanting to know or have a relationship with birthfamily has nothing to do with a person loving their adoptive parents. It is about wanting to know where they come from and establish a solid sense of self and identity.
Myth: Birthparents don’t care.
Birthparents make an adoption plan in the best interest of their child because they love the child, and because this is not the right time for them to parent.
Myth: It’s better for birth families not to see the child.
They need to connect before and after the birth, for their well-being and the baby’s. One cannot say good-bye until one has said hello.
Myth: Birthparents will forget over time.
Birthparents and their families will never forget their child, and need to be able to express this love throughout the child’s life with a healthy and understanding support system.
Myth: Only the birthmother grieves.
Grief affects all members of the adoption circle and each member comes to adoption with some loss. The birthfather and other birthfamily members care about the child and therefore are also deeply impacted by the adoption plan.
Myth: In open adoption there is nothing to grieve if they are still seeing the child.
Open adoption does not take away the pain and loss of one’s primary role in the child’s life. It may lessen it somewhat, as the birthparents know the child is safe and loved.
Five basic principles that ground open adoption practice are:
- The child owns the story
- Importance of positive adoption language / Advocacy
- The ability to have healthy and genuine relationships
- Respect for birthparents and birthfamily
- Understanding grief and loss for all members of the adoption circle
The philosophical beliefs that guide open adoption practice and its principles are:
- Children have a connection to their birthparents.
- Children need information about their origins.
- Children need to know that their birthparents care.
- Birthfamilies need not represent a threat.
- Birthparents need to know the outcome.
- Adoptive parents feel more authentic when they receive permission from the birthparent to be their child’s parents, and see that the birthparents’ involvement with their family does not diminish their parent-child relationship.
- Openness and honesty = healthier relationships.
- Open adoption is NOT co-parenting, joint custody, babysitting or confusing for the child.
Accurate and sensitive adoption language to incorporate into your everyday vocabulary:
Positive adoption language: Birth or biological parents/ family
NOT: ‘Natural’ or ‘Real’ parents / family
Positive adoption language: Biological or birth child
NOT: Natural or Real child
Positive adoption language: My / Our / Your child
NOT: My / Our / Your adopted child
Positive adoption language: He / She was adopted
NOT: He / She is adopted
Positive adoption language: Chose to parent the child
NOT: Kept the child
Positive adoption language: Made an adoption plan or placed for / chose adoption
NOT: Adopted out, surrendered, or put up for adoption
Positive adoption language: International adoption
NOT: Foreign adoption
Important decisions are best made when there are two essential components: knowledge and then action. Possessing the right knowledge and having the determination to follow up with the right action are crucial to making an informed decision that is right for you and your family.
If you would like to help develop our adoption awareness campaign in our communities, please contact our Outreach Director, Jean Lucas at: firstname.lastname@example.org with subject title Adoption Awareness Campaign. Together we can make a positive difference in our community and ensure there is a positive awareness about adoption today!
Sheryl Proulx BSW, RSW
Executive Director, Adoption Options