Wow am I behind on these... Well, not time to catch up like the present! In this Open Adoption Roundtable, we've been asked to respond to the following: 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?
What a topic! And one that so many people are always interested in. I think this is the question about our open adoptions that we get the most questions around... so here goes!
Our family is the happy product of two open adoptions - both with open adoption agreements. The first agreement (with our oldest daughter's birth mother) was created out of a whole lot of uncertainty. We weren't really sure what a "typical" agreement was supposed to look like. We were on the fence about how much contact we wanted. And really, we had just met days before and that fueled a lot of anxiety. What if we agree to a lot of contact and we don't like her? What if she we liked her a lot and wanted to see her more but we didn't agree to that? What if she didn't like us? What if our child didn't want to see her when she got older? We had no idea what we were doing. Our attorney guided most of the process and helped us to decide what was "reasonable" and common. We ended up with an open agreement that was quite a bit more open that the typical case in that agency, but one that everyone felt comfortable with in our arrangement. We would have monthly visits in person and contact via email. And initially this was incredibly helpful. It helped us to determine our roles in this unfamiliar process.
Three years later that agreement has certainly evolved. While we never changed anything on paper, we visit whenever we feel like it. Maybe that's once a month. Maybe more. Maybe less. We frequently share pictures and stories via Facebook. We text occasionally. Once in a great while we might talk on the phone. We attend their family get-togethers. We are no longer strangers trying to figure out how to navigate this relationship. But if I had to do this over, would I change anything? Probably. I probably would have just given them my phone number right off the bat. I wouldn't have worried about meetings being in public locations. But I think those boundaries probably helped us to gradually build our relationship. And it's hard to say since we were still navigating based on fear back then. Fear we wouldn't get to keep our baby. Fear that we wouldn't be liked. Fear that we were going to mess up. If we only knew then what we know now, right?
Our second adoption agreement was also a bit odd. This was not an agreement with strangers but with neighbors. We wanted an agreement that was the same as our first child's for no reason other than ensuring that the girls were treated equally. While we knew that in practice things weren't likely to be the same with our second daughter's birth mother living two doors down, we wanted it to be the same on paper. In the end, we agreed to visits every 2 weeks for the first two years and once a month after that. Just like in our first arrangement, it tends to be much more flexible than that. Sometimes we see them more often, sometimes less. We share photos and stories on Facebook almost daily. And things changed a bit when we moved 40 minutes away making visits a little more difficult.
In both relationships, I'm not really sure that the agreements were necessary. They did provide us with some initial structure and that was probably necessary as we figured out how these relationships were going to work. But we consider both birth families part of our regular family. We don't have agreements on when my grandparents come visit. They just do when it works for all of us. And that's pretty much how the relationships with the birth families are. They come visit when it works for all of us. They come to birthday parties. We plan holiday celebrations. It's really no different than it is for our other family members.
How would you respond to the topic?