Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable 36: Agreements

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The most recent Open Adoption Roundtable Prompt is as follows: "Write about open adoption agreements. Is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?"

Here is my response to this prompt:

The most significant thing that I want to express about my post-adoption agreement with Erica, my daughter's first mother, is that although it provides some protections to my husband and myself, as well as to Erica, and, most importantly, to our daughter, it is only a starting point. It is not the glue that holds us together. Our real commitment to openness is not on paper; it is in how we live.

To illustrate that point, I'd like to share a story about something that happened on the first visit following the finalization of Ashley's adoption from foster care:

Our contract was adapted from a template suggested by our social worker and contains some fairly standard language stipulating that the agreement will be invalidated if Erica fails to show up for a certain number of visit. So, how do you suppose I responded when Erica arrived late for that first visit?

Here's how it could have played out. Nothing obligated us to wait for her. I could have left before she arrived. Erica would have lost her visit and ended up with one strike against her.

Here's what actually happened. Erica woke up that morning absolutely certain that she knew where she was supposed to meet us. (We had arranged to meet at a local roller rink.) She drove to the meeting place on time, presumably happily anticipating a visit with her daughter. She arrived at what she thought was the designated meeting place only to discover that she was not in the right location. (Anything like that ever happened to you? Yeah, me too.) You can imagine her panic. Worse, she had NO way to contact us. Our contract says that my husband and I will maintain a P.O. Box for Erica to use to communicate with us; at this point in our relationship, we had progressed to email, but I had not yet shared my cell phone number with her. She had no means of letting me know she was on her way.

Meanwhile, Ashley and I waited at the roller rink. I can honestly tell you that I had no desire to leave before Erica arrived. I wanted this visit to go well, with every fiber of my being. I was prepared to deal with the visit and with some degree of visit backlash, but I was not prepared to spend the afternoon supporting and putting back together a child who was crushed and heartbroken about a visit that didn't happen ... though, of course, that's what I would have done if necessary.

The roller rink we were at had an arcade area. Normally, I'm reluctant to spend the extra money on the games, but on this day I kept handing Ashley money for tokens so she could distract herself as we waited. As for myself, I sat there, eyes on the door, willing Erica to walk through it.

Eventually she did, and you can hardly imagine two women who were more relieved to see each other. Our immediate, instinctive response was to fall into each others arms in a true embrace. When we released from our hug, we looked up to see Ashley standing there, looking at us. It was her first glimpse of her two mothers together.

You might guess that that was a significant moment in my relationship with Erica, and it was -- but more importantly, it was an pivotal moment in my relationship with Ashley. That was the moment she stopped pushing me away, that the wall that she had erected between us out of loyalty to Erica crumbled. That was the moment she realized that she didn't have to choose, that if her two mothers loved each other, it was okay for her to love both of us, too. 

I realize the request was to write about open adoption agreements and I've barely mentioned ours. But in a way, that's the way it should be. Open adoption agreements are important, and I believe, above all, that they should be legally enforceable documents, not meaningless pieces of paper. But open adoption relationships are just that -- relationships. They ask much more of us than our signatures. 

Please visit Open Adoption Bloggers to read more responses to this prompt.

9 comments:

  1. "But open adoption relationships are just that -- relationships. They ask much more of us than our signatures. "

    Exactly. Exactly! These are the things that should be included when these things are signed. It's a relationship, and the agreement should just be a "fall back" item if something goes awry!

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  2. The penultimate paragraph was when I started tearing up. What a powerful moment and image.

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  3. Have I told you recently how much I ♥ you?

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  4. TEARS!!! Your relationship is so beautiful!!

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  5. I was holding my breath, willing Erica to walk in, too.

    "It was her first glimpse of her two mothers together." -- I love how this moment dissolved the wall of loyalty your daughter had erected.

    Illuminating post, Rebecca.

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  6. This was beautiful - thanks for sharing. It is so refreshing to see people truly putting the child's needs first.

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  7. Beautifully said. Personally, I have no experience with adoption of any kind, and yet reading this, I could relate to a lot of the points you've made. Somehow, I think this is what it means to have a good approach - it's only human. Like you say, it's about the relationships between the three of you, and that is basic and human. I really appreciate your open-minded attitude.

    ~Diana

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  8. Open Adoption Roundtable is about open adoption agreement, you have shared a useful information Agreements

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  9. This is the kind of relationship we had hoped to have with our adopted son whom we placed with another family, that never happened. We made the mistake of trusting them to allow us to be a part of his life, but once the adoption was final they would not let us see him or him see his two siblings who he was very close to. We were only allowed to send gifts for birthday's and Christmas. I had high hopes that because they were a Christian couple that they would uphold our wishes to be in his life as an aunt/uncle. To anyone who is considering giving a child up for adoption, if you want an open adoption, be sure to get it all in writing, legally.
    Make sure you don't go with just the promise of the new parents, you may end up just as we did. In the end, it only hurts the child,especially since there was already an established relationship there with us and his siblings. It's sad, even after contact with us 10 years later, he still felt like he needed to chose due to the fact that the mother will not welcome us as an extended part of his family. If she was to open up and model that she is friends with me then I don't think he would be so torn. She has made him feel he has to chose, which is so sad. She treats us like we are a threat and he has got to pick up on that as well.

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