Can We Talk?

OK, hands up: Who thinks open adoption needs reform?

If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. Lots of people who have gone through the process (and even those who haven’t) believe that open adoption is ripe for an overhaul. Here are some of the common complaints:

Waiting adoptive parents shouldn’t have to wait so long. The application and home study process needs to be streamlined. Decisions need to be made faster, easier. There needs to be less red tape and more pre- and post-adoption education and support. Building a family shouldn’t take forever, cost a fortune, or sentence unsuspecting parents to a lifetime of uncertainty and problems.

As for a pregnant woman who may be considering adoption, don’t make any assumptions about her. Just because she’s thinking about placing her baby for adoption doesn’t mean she will. And don’t call her a birth mother until she’s relinquished her child. Explain her options, including parenting (especially parenting), and give her all the information, guidance and support she needs to make an informed decision.

And whatever she chooses to do in the end, don’t pressure her or judge her. If she decides to parent, so be it. If she decides to place her baby with an adoptive family, don’t pander to her. And afterwards, don’t forget her. Even if adoption is her decision, it doesn’t come without a cost. Help her grieve her loss, deal with the pain and move forward with her life.

And that’s just on the adoptive parents and the birth mother side of things. We haven’t even touched on the most important — and overlooked — part of the equation: the children of open adoption and their best interests, whatever that means.

So, lots to consider. Just thinking about it kind of makes your head spin.  Where to start? What difference can  one person make? There’s just too many obstacles, too many barriers, too many complicated things to worry about, too many…

But hey, isn’t that how open adoption looks when you’re just starting out? Just Google “open adoption” and “overwhelming” and see for yourself. You wonder how in the world does anyone ever get through it. But they do.

Well, as one of those people who has gone through the process and made it back more or less intact, why don’t I start? Right here, right now. I don’t have any grand idea or manifesto. Heck, I don’t even have an editor. What I do have is this little virtual soapbox. And a boatload of questions. Over the next little while I plan to use this  space to ask them. And, every now and then, to come up with a few answers of my own.

Let me know what your questions are. And when I do stick my neck out and suggest something new or novel let me know if you agree with me. Let me know if you don’t. If you think I’m completely out to lunch or you have a better idea about how to do things, feel free to weigh in with your comments. I don’t pretend to know everything, most of the time anyway, although my sons may beg to differ.

I’m hoping that once we get talking, others will join in. Maybe it will change things. Maybe it won’t. This is National Adoption Month, after all. Anything’s possible. At the very least it could introduce us to new people and points of view. And who knows, it could get us thinking about open adoption in ways we might not have considered before. I’m looking forward to it. I hope you get something out of it, too.

What do you think of open adoption? What do you like or don’t like about the process? What needs to be changed? How would you make it better? Please leave your comments in the section below.

(Photo credit: lawgeek)