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Exploring Openness in Adoption

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Openness in adoption part 1

OPENNESS IN ADOPTION:WHAT A CONCEPT!

Part I: Exploring Openness in Adoption


Openness in adoption part 1

WELCOME

Thank you for taking the time to learn all you can about openness in adoption and to incorporate this concept into your extended family of adoption.

This curriculum has three parts:

  • Part I: Exploring Openness in Adoption

  • Part II: Experiencing Openness in Adoption

  • Part III: Living Openness in Adoption

    As you go through each section, you will find audio and video clips, reflection questions and exercises (found in your User’s Guide). The User’s Guide contains important information about this curriculum as well as key concepts and terms. Don’t forget to review before starting!

    Thank you again for joining us as we explore

    Openness in Adoption: What a Concept!

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Openness in adoption part 1

OBJECTIVES

  • To discuss and explore participants’ thoughts and feelings about openness in adoption

  • To learn some history surrounding openness in adoption

  • To review facts about openness in adoption

  • To define the concept of openness in adoption

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Thoughts feelings and facts about openness in adoption

THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND FACTS ABOUT OPENNESS IN ADOPTION

Module One


Openness in adoption part 1

LISTENING TO AN OPEN ADOPTION EXPERIENCE

In this NPR clip, you will hear from real families who have experienced openness in adoption and how they worked to build ties to extended family members.

Click above to listen

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REFLECTION

  • What benefits did openness bring to the families featured?

  • What questions are going through your mind as you consider the open adoption experience?

  • What worries do you have?

  • What benefits do you think openness could bring?

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THE ROOT OF FEARS…

can probably be found in a few different places

  • Stereotypes/stigma about adoption such as:

    • All first/birth parents are “bad” parents

    • Adoptive parents are the “rescuers”

    • Adopted persons will be confused if they know and are connected to extended family members

  • Media/Entertainment

    • The dramatic fairytale or the cautionary nightmares that often serve as headlines, storylines or punch lines

  • Experiences that came before adoption

  • Experiencing differences in race, class, and culture

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TRUE OR FALSE?

Openness in Adoption…

  • Increases confusion.

  • Means an adoption isn’t permanent.

  • Leads to identity confusion for children.

  • Always leads to intrusive behaviors by first/birth parents and adoptive parents.

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ALL FALSE!


Openness in adoption part 1

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER

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SOME RESOURCES

Here are examples of research and fact-based resources that can help you learn about open adoption.

Facts help us as we process what is an emotional journey and experience.

  • DAI’S Openness in Adoption Report

  • Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP)

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COMMONALITY

  • More openness is an aspect of most adoptions today, regardless of type

    • 95% of agencies offer some form of open adoption

    • There may be some different challenges in each unique adoption experience, but openness is inherently a concept that transcends private domestic adoption, intercountry adoption and adoptions from foster care

  • Best practice recommendations support children’s basic human right to connect with and have information about their biological roots

  • The reality is “openness” happens whether or not you are open to it

    • Social media, the Internet, DNA testing and overall identity exploration which is so much a part of our universal experience (not just related to adoption)

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GENERAL FACTS FROM RESEARCH

  • Open adoption is beneficial for all family members (birth and adoptive)

  • Collaboration among all family members involved is key

  • Child-focused arrangements are critical

  • Open adoption does not negatively impact a child’s behavioral adjustment

    • May even help ease some adolescent transitions

(Siegel & Smith, 2012)

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(CONTINUED)

  • Openness is found to increase understanding and enhance communication between children and parents

  • One size does not fit all

  • Flexibility is desired… like any relationship, these connections may change over time

Remember

  • We reduce our fears through gaining knowledge!

  • The more we learn about and practice openness, the less we have to be afraid of.

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THE PATH TO ADOPTION

  • Arises from many different places:

    • For some, it is the only way they can experience being a parent.

    • Others very much want to be a parent but cannot take on that role.

    • Some parents have that role taken away from them by state authorities.

  • Remembering that the child did not create the circumstances necessitating an adoption, it is important to reduce our fears and plan in a way that most benefits the child.

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FOR ALL PARENTS…

  • Put a child’s needs ahead of their own.

  • Maintaining connections between first/birth and adoptive families is a way to keep your child’s best interests at the heart of the matter.

  • Always make sure the child is at the center of everyone’s planning.

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THE HEART OF THE MATTER

This clip from the trailer to the documentary, “Unlocking the Heart of Adoption,” by Sheila Ganz shows the different things that can come up for members of the extended family of adoption, particularly when they don’t have answers or connections.

Click above to watch video

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REFLECTION

What came up for people in the video clip based on not having answers or connections?

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From secrecy to knowledge

FROM SECRECY TO KNOWLEDGE

Module Two


Openness in adoption part 1

A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT ADOPTION

  • Adoption initially was a largely unregulated system.

    • The Orphan Train movement was a widespread practice in which poor children were sent from urban environments to farm families for “adoption;” there was little to no oversight of this practice.

  • Changes in beliefs about child welfare and development, controversy surrounding the orphan train movement and professionalization of services are some of the factors that led to many changes in the child welfare system and the development of regulations surrounding the placement of children for adoption.

  • Adoption was still not a popular family-building option until about the middle of the 20th century.

    • Early in the 20th century, people valued nature over nurture.

    • Beliefs about unwed motherhood as well as the stigma attached to a child born “out of wedlock” are some of the other reasons that led to reticence surrounding adopting children.

(Carp, 1998; Kahan, 2006)

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ADOPTION BECOMES POPULAR

  • Around the middle of the century, adoption became a more popular option.

  • Reasons for its increased popularity included embracing the notion of the “tabula rasa” and the idea that “nurture” outweighed “nature.”

  • The American ideal at the time was two heterosexual parents with children; when couples were unable to biologically have children, adoption was a needed solution for them to ensure they were living American values.

  • However, there was a great emphasis on keeping the adoption “secret” and creating families that appeared “as if” they were biologically connected to one another.

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ADOPTION THEN & NOW

Adoption in the Mid 20th Century

Adoption Today

  • Differences were denied and professionals sought to match children with families they would likely resemble as they got older.

  • People only shared the happy story; the “chosen” child and the joy of adoptive parents becoming parents.

  • Adoption was thought to have no impact on identity development.

  • Searching for birth family members was viewed as a sign of pathology.

  • Differences are acknowledged and celebrated.

  • Staying in contact with birth family members is normal.

  • Losses for all involved in adoption are acknowledged and discussed.

  • Adoption is thought to be critical to identity development.

  • Diverse, blended and “modern” families are the norm.

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HOW DID WE GET TO OPEN ADOPTION?

  • Social forces

    • Decline in unintended pregnancy rates and social support for single parenthood

  • Research/psychological forces

    • Research notes that closed and secret adoptions have created difficulties for all members of the extended family of adoption

  • Market forces

    • Agencies needed to be “open” to open adoptions if they wished to continue to provide adoption services meeting the needs of parents today

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OPENNESS IN ADOPTION…

Is about:

  • Understanding that the extended family of adoption includes many members

  • Acknowledging those members, celebrating the uniqueness of this family form, and staying connected is in everyone’s better interest…

  • Most especially, the CHILD’S!

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Defining openness

DEFINING OPENNESS

Module Three


Openness in adoption part 1

EXERCISE

Please go to Appendix One of the User’s Guide.

  • Review the family example in Exercise ONE.

  • Which of these scenarios feels like “open adoption” to you?

  • Are any uncomfortable for you?

  • How do you define openness in adoption?

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IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS

  • Not a one-time transaction, a life-long journey – relationships may change and grow over time

  • Frequency of contact and types of contact can change as relationships change

  • As relationships and circumstances change, members of the extended family may change

  • Remember: it is important to work at these relationships

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ONE SIZE FITS ALL?

  • Like any relationship, experiences between extended family members will differ.

  • One way to define open adoption is based on type and level of contact.

  • The best way to consider this is in the same way you experience other relationships in your life.

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THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX…

About the relationships between first/birth and adoptive family members.

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OPENNESS IN ADOPTION

  • Becomes a new relationship in your life, focused on a child’s well-being, with different ways of communicating and staying in touch.

  • Every experience of openness will be unique. However, at the heart of this “concept” is a shared commitment to honoring all of the connections inherent in building a family through adoption.

Remember:

In order to love all parts, you have to know all parts!

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Coming up next

COMING UP NEXT…

Part II: Experiencing Openness in Adoption


Openness in adoption part 1

REFERENCES

  • See User’s Guide

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