Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

What You Need to Know About Open Adoption

April 17, 2024 Creating a Family Season 18 Episode 31
What You Need to Know About Open Adoption
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
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Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
What You Need to Know About Open Adoption
Apr 17, 2024 Season 18 Episode 31
Creating a Family

Click here to send us a topic idea or question for Weekend Wisdom.

Are you confused about having an open adoption? Do you worry about what this means for your family. Join us today to talk about open adoption with Sara Easterly, an adoptee, Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard, a birth parent, and Lori Holden, an adoptive parent. In addition to co-authoring the book, "Adoption Unfiltered", they host a podcast of the same name.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What is meant by the term “open adoption”?
  • Contact vs. openness.
  • What open adoption is not:
    • Co-parenting
    • A courtesy to birth parents
    • Confusing to the kids
    • About/for the parents
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the birth parents’ perspective?
    • Lack of understanding of what open adoption means when they place their child.
    • Renewed pain after each contact
    • Two vs. one
    • Lack of power
    • Fear
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptive parents’ perspective?
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptee's standpoint?
  • What are some of the benefits of open adoption from the adoptee’s perspective?
  • What are some benefits of open adoption from the birth parent’s perspective?
  • What are some of the benefits of open adoption for adoptive parents?
  • How to establish healthy boundaries with an open adoption, including both ways.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptive parents’ perspective.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the birth parents’ perspective.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptee standpoint.
    • Keys to establishing healthy boundaries.
  • How do you handle “openness” when birth parents are unreliable?
  • How to maintain an attitude of openness or the spirit of openness without contact.
  • Importance of birth siblings. How the existence of children that the birth parents are parenting affects adopted children.
  • Allow space for change and growth on all sides of the adoption constellation: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.

This podcast is produced by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

Please leave us a rating or review RateThisPodcast.com/creatingafamily

Support the Show.

Please leave us a rating or review. This podcast is produced by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them.

Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

Show Notes Transcript

Click here to send us a topic idea or question for Weekend Wisdom.

Are you confused about having an open adoption? Do you worry about what this means for your family. Join us today to talk about open adoption with Sara Easterly, an adoptee, Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard, a birth parent, and Lori Holden, an adoptive parent. In addition to co-authoring the book, "Adoption Unfiltered", they host a podcast of the same name.

In this episode, we cover:

  • What is meant by the term “open adoption”?
  • Contact vs. openness.
  • What open adoption is not:
    • Co-parenting
    • A courtesy to birth parents
    • Confusing to the kids
    • About/for the parents
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the birth parents’ perspective?
    • Lack of understanding of what open adoption means when they place their child.
    • Renewed pain after each contact
    • Two vs. one
    • Lack of power
    • Fear
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptive parents’ perspective?
  • What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptee's standpoint?
  • What are some of the benefits of open adoption from the adoptee’s perspective?
  • What are some benefits of open adoption from the birth parent’s perspective?
  • What are some of the benefits of open adoption for adoptive parents?
  • How to establish healthy boundaries with an open adoption, including both ways.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptive parents’ perspective.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the birth parents’ perspective.
    • Examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptee standpoint.
    • Keys to establishing healthy boundaries.
  • How do you handle “openness” when birth parents are unreliable?
  • How to maintain an attitude of openness or the spirit of openness without contact.
  • Importance of birth siblings. How the existence of children that the birth parents are parenting affects adopted children.
  • Allow space for change and growth on all sides of the adoption constellation: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.

This podcast is produced by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them. Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

Please leave us a rating or review RateThisPodcast.com/creatingafamily

Support the Show.

Please leave us a rating or review. This podcast is produced by www.CreatingaFamily.org. We are a national non-profit with the mission to strengthen and inspire adoptive, foster & kinship parents and the professionals who support them.

Creating a Family brings you the following trauma-informed, expert-based content:

Please pardon any errors this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport  0:00  
Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show as well as the director of a nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about what you need to know about open adoption. This is especially geared for those of you who are thinking about adopting our guest today are Sara Easterly. She is an adoptee Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard who is a birth parent, and Lori Holden, who is an adoptive parent. They live work and advocate and lead in the adoption space in different ways. And together, they understand much of the history, challenges and trends experienced by people living in adoption. In addition to co authoring the groundbreaking book adoption unfiltered, which came out in December 2023. They host a podcast of the same name. Welcome, Sara, Kelsey and Lori to Creating a Family.

Unknown Speaker  0:56  
Thank you. Thanks for having us back.

Dawn Davenport  0:59  
Yeah, it's good to have you. Alright, let's start with you, Sarah, always good to start at the beginning, what is meant by the term open adoption.

Speaker 1  1:08  
I actually kind of want to punt this to Lori as our open hearted way to open adoption expert. But I will just say from the adoptees perspective, and open adoption is there's the logistical, that your family has contact with your birth parents, but there's also the broader openness where the child feels that they can talk about adoption, that they can talk about missing their parents and yearning for their birth parents, and that there's open dialogue about adoption and the effects of adoption for us. And I have a lot more to say about that. But that's at a high level of what openness means to me. Okay,

Dawn Davenport  1:42  
excellent. Laurie, as the author of the open hearted way to open adoption, would you add anything to Sarah's discussion? And then I specifically want you to address the concept of contact versus openness and how that fits together?

Lori Holden  1:59  
Yeah, this is such a great question to start on, Don, and thanks for having us here today to talk about this because there is no consensus or like authoritative definition of open adoption, which is why I think it's, we have a hard time really talking about what it is and then therefore doing it well. And one of my mantras is that every adoptive family can and should be in an open adoption, whether they have contact or not. Because contact and openness, as Sarah was mentioning, are not the same thing. We've always measured it by when do we have contact do adoptive families invite in and have the possibility of having contact with present opted in safe birth parents, and even if they don't, they can still do what Sarah was talking about, which is open up conversations open up space to have conversations with their adoptees about their adaptiveness about their birth family. So open adoptions is for if we include this more expansive definition, openness and adoption is really for families who were formed by intercountry adoption and foster child welfare adoptions, where birth parents may not be known may not be available may not be alive may not be in all the ways able to have contact. That's because there's a difference between contact and openness, as you said,

Dawn Davenport  3:14  
Laurie, I think there is, especially with people at the beginning who are considering adoption, I think there is confusion between open adoption and co parenting. Can you make a distinction there?

Lori Holden  3:25  
Yeah, I think I remember having that fear. And it comes from being not the only parent and having other parents out there. So the only model we have really to look at is step parenting and parenting after divorce. And that kind of co parenting that happens because there is a legitimate connection to the child for more than one set of parents. But it's not that legally, the full responsibilities and rights of parenting reside in only one place with only one set of parents. So it's not inviting in all the day to day decisions. When I talk about open adoption, and I think Kelsey and Sarah may agree is that we're talking about an openness and an invitation for the adoptee and also for birth parents, if they're around to be part of the family life. Anybody who's important to the adoptee gets to be in.

Dawn Davenport  4:17  
Okay, Kelsey, I think another confusion, especially by newbie, or potential adoptive parents, and quite frankly, some parents who are already adoptive parents, is that open adoption is really a courtesy that we are doing to the birth parents. It's something we are giving them. What are your thoughts on that? I

Speaker 2  4:39  
think that concept ties into a greater misconception that I placed my child to give a gift to parent or I hear all the time. It's like, well, you did this wonderful thing and you allowed these people to become parents. And I was like, well, that's not at all why I did Ted and I think that that has net Get of effects as well as a narrative on adoptees. And so I think it plays into an idea that I've given you something and you feel this weight of giving something back to me, doing me a favor. And it's not that at all, it's that I'm an important piece of this greater family. And I also have answers to questions that you as an adoptive parent maybe don't have. And I also have the potential to form a meaningful relationship with my child as they have that opportunity to form one with me. And really, it's not to be discounted the value of that connection. And so it's reframing a lot of things more than just that one little piece. It's it's reframing the concept of adoption at large the concept of family and have, you know, relationships without transactional aspects.

Dawn Davenport  6:01  
Sara, another thing that we hear about open adoption to those who are new to the concept, or are opposed to the concept is that it is confusing to the kids, what are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 1  6:12  
I would say, adoption, in general is confusing to the kids. So I think, you know, it is the number one question is Why wasn't I kept? And that's going to be a confusing question that we wrestle with for our lives in, we answer it in different ways, whether it's an open or closed adoption. So I think adoption is confusing to begin with, in terms of if it's, you know, I think it lessens the confusion because there's less wandering, and there's less fantasizing. And there's less coming up with answers to questions that you have in an open adoption, when we're speaking purely of an open adoption, because there are answers, you know, what does my mom look like? What does my father look like? Do I have their traits? Where do I get this quirky thing from, you know, those things you get answers to, and those are really important things in terms of figuring out our identity. So I think any adoption, there's going to be confusion for the child that's unavoidable. And so there is a way that open adoption mitigates a lot of that confusion. And it can add challenges, that's for sure. But I think at the end of the day, having access to one's genes and some questions, and also just feeling that our roots matter, and they're being honored, and that they're seen as a part of us, and we're looked at as a whole child, and we don't have to segment parts of ourselves like we would in a closed adoption, then that does mitigate the confusion.

Lori Holden  7:41  
I just like to say too, I remember being a little bit hung up on the words and the people in our family constellation and thinking it would be hard for my kids, it would be hard for them to put the pieces together in the way that I hoped that they would. But I don't think we give our kids enough credit. They understand having two grandmas. It belongs to dad and grandma that belongs to mom, and a lot of families understand step parents and step siblings and all of that. And so, you know, at the beginning, it is just words, if you using the word birth mom, or birth dad, the kids at one developmental stage thinks everybody has a birth mom and a birth dad. And then as they go on, you fill in and you you know, if you have cultivated this openness and this closeness with them, you will be able to be attuned to them. And they'll feel free to talk and wonder about this as the questions start to occur to them. Like Sarah says, truth and transparency is always going to be less confusing to our kiddos, then obfuscation and fancy words like tummy mummy and things like that. I

Dawn Davenport  8:44  
think what we fail to recognize is that in an open adoption, this is our children's normal. They don't know anything different. So it's not confusing to them, because it's not unusual. This is what they were raised with. So the confusion aspect, I've always felt like, like I say they can have two grandmothers and that's not confusing. That is their normal. I am loving this interview. So I hate to interrupt, but I wanted you to know about the creating a family newsletter. It is a monthly e newsletter free, we curate what we think are the best resources available that we have found that month. If you subscribe, you also will receive a guide the guide differ right now we're offering a guide to prenatal exposure, but there are other guides that you also may receive, you can sign up for the newsletter at creating a family.org/newsletter All right, Kelsey, I wanted to talk with you about some of the challenges of open adoption from the birth parents perspective. Before I do that, I wanted to say how much I loved your section of the book adoption unfiltered where you talked about that. Honestly, that section of the book is worth the price of the book all by itself. So for our listeners out there, you just jump right in there. And because it is worth reading that section of the book completely. So I want to talk about some of the challenges of open adoption from the birth parents perspective. One of the things you start with facts, I think it's the first thing you start with, is just the lack of understanding of what open adoption means. When you first were making the decision of whether or not to place your child. So can you talk some on that?

Speaker 2  10:26  
Yeah, I think we've placed a lot of emphasis in recent years on educating adoptive parents before they adopt. And we've spent essentially no time talking about what we should be telling moms before they place and there's a larger theme in our book that we all touch on is the lack of informed consent. And we have a real lack of well rounded, informed consent with adoptive parents, but we have zero informed consent with moms. And so when we are not told what open adoption is like, it's used in marketing, to tell us, Oh, this is something you can have. But beyond that, it's really a lot of nothing on how do I navigate the most complicated relationship I'll ever be in? What do I do when things get difficult? How do I communicate with them? How do I deal with an underlying reflex that I always have that I should just, you know, ditch the scene, which many as we know, I'm sure many of your listeners know that this does happen. Birth moms do fall off the map, as we often say, so how do we help these expectant and soon to be birth parents understand how to engage in this relationship, and why we engage in this relationship, what the benefits are, and what the benefits are working through those really tough things that will come up inevitably. So

Dawn Davenport  11:54  
another thing you talk about is how birth parents have renewed pain after every contact. And I think that is something that adoptive parents often don't think about, can you talk a little about that.

Speaker 2  12:06  
It's not always predictable, just leaving a visit, or having a particularly difficult conversation, there's a lot of things that can sort of compelled that pain. But I think if you go through it once, and it's really debilitating, it does take a lot of courage to re enter again. So if I leave a visit, and I'm depressed, I'm down and out for weeks or a month or more, for me to go back in that space willingly takes a lot. And so sometimes it feels like ripping off the band aid, leaving again, it feels, we have potential to experience some like effects from just PTSD or like the hospital, which can be such a traumatic event, the partying that occurs in the hospital, or wherever you are, when you finally separated, that first time that separation on a continual basis can be really hard to experience over and over again. And so I think it's important to be sensitive to that. It's a continual loss that we feel the effects from. I think sometimes when somebody dies, you have these milestones of like, I have to go to the funeral, and I have to go to the burial. And I have to get through the first year. And with an adoption, not saying that, it's worse, but you are experiencing a frequent loss in a frequent separation, especially with openness.

Dawn Davenport  13:45  
It makes sense. Another thing you talked about, and honestly, I had something I had not thought about. And that is you said the two versus one, whereas many birth parents are single, it's a single mom, not always the can be a couple. But it's not infrequent that it is a single mom who made the decision and is involved in the open adoption. And usually, again, not always, but the adopting family is two parents. So you've got a situation of two versus one. Talk to us a little more about that. Explain your thinking on that. Yeah,

Speaker 2  14:20  
I think, especially when you're entering a hard conversation, if there's been a miscommunication, or if you've been hurt by somebody in your relationship and your constellation birth, parents are very aware of the power that we do not hold and the power that they do. So walking into a situation where I have to bring up something that has hurt me or that I need clarification on or reassurance on. It's very intimidating. The power dynamics really complicate things and so if there is disagreement, it can really feel like I'm being ganged up on, not just me in my hand. This isn't a dig is a universal use. But that's a universal Yeah, I can feel like that can feel really intimidating in a lot of times, it's why I have so many birth parent friends that say, I wish I could say something, but I just, I don't feel like I can. And as adoptive parents, I think the goal is to get to a place where you're making space for them to come approach you, you're approachable, you're making them feel comfortable with having open communication with you. I do see a lot of adoptive parents in open adoption, that are really confident and convicted that they have this wonderful relationship and not to discount that. And I'm sure that they do. But I think that when they are settled in that they're resting in that confidence, I think that sometimes it's possible that they lose sight of any sort of potential intimidation, they feel. And it can also create this problem where birth parents are just being agreeable, and not making waves. And so I think to, to do check ins with them, and to foster that open communication and honesty in your relationship. I think it just goes a long way. It's something I've done. It's a huge risk for a birth parent to initiate that. But it's something that we've done in my own personal open adoption, and it's just made all the difference for us, I feel like we're in such a good place because we've carved out that space for each other.

Dawn Davenport  16:20  
I'm glad you expanded the two versus one to the general power imbalance because as Laurie pointed out at the very beginning, once the adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents are the legal parents of the child, they are the ones who are making the decisions. And any agreements, even if it's in writing type of agreements are hard to enforce. And most of them are not in writing. And that goes back to often a lack of understanding at the beginning. From both parties standpoint, the adoptive parents and the birth parents of really what their options are for open adoption. I wanted to read a section that you wrote on fear, because I think it is so well said and also so powerful. This is from page 142 of adoption unfiltered fear is ever present for birth mothers and open adoptions, no matter how sturdy the relationship may be. When asked about their worst fears, many birth parents and open adoptions, me included, would answer without hesitation being cut out. And here's a quote from a birth mom named Aaron, she said, I felt some sense of agency in the process because I was determined to be an active involved in discerning and finding the right parents for my child. However, she felt the colossal dynamic shift after placement, noting that over time, her stance and the power dynamic fizzle away. She said, I felt I had less leverage and less visibility. The correspondence became less frequent over the years until eventually almost none. I felt powerless, never wanting to overstep anyone's boundaries. My only option was to wait. I can't imagine that I just can't imagine the fear. So talk to us some about the fear that you see a lot of birth parents have. You said a perfect I don't want to be cut out. I don't have any power here. So I'm not the one who gets to decide. It's

Speaker 2  18:11  
such a sensitive relationship, too. And everybody has different insecurities. Everybody has different buttons that we really don't want pushed. And so I don't want to push those for the awkward parents, I'm sure that they don't want to push those for me. And so I think a lot gets unsaid because of that fear. And then you never know what step is too far that line, the boundary line is so often invisible. And maybe it moves.

Dawn Davenport  18:37  
I was just gonna say it's not only invisible, but it often shifts. Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2  18:41  
Yeah, that fear is ever present. I spent a lot of time with just people in my birth mom, community talking, they all talk about this fear. They all talk about how they're afraid to say sometimes even the simplest of things where I'm like, I want to shake them be like you are allowed to say those things like you're allowed to voice that. But that fear can be so crippling, I have friends that they don't even have visits, they've never had visits, they only get pictures and letters and I say, what would it look like for you to ask for a visit or ask for more frequent pictures or whatever it is that you think would benefit the most? And they always like, Oh, I don't want to ask because if you ask for too much, they might just close the whole thing down. And it's just it's such a hard spot to be in really impossible, because how do I tell a woman to get over her fear? When that's a very real possibility? And I don't know these people that could be their last straw.

Dawn Davenport  19:36  
Such a good point. All right. Laurie, is the adoptive parent on the panel, what are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptive parents perspective? So

Lori Holden  19:47  
as I hear Kelsey talking and fear is at the bottom of all of that, I think that that's probably what's at the base of our behaviors and demeanors as well as at the base of all of our challenges to us. On top of that as often control, and I think I'm speaking specifically to, especially to people who come to adoption through infertility, because that's such a loss of control and a loss of dreams, we don't get to have our dreams that we thought maybe from the time we were little girls or little boys, and we're trying to hang on to control where we can. And then on top of that might be some insecurity because you do have another legitimate set of parents and grandparents and siblings out there. So all of that is the inner world of the challenges of adoptive parents, the outer world is trying to come up with healthy boundaries, that are respectful, and that are workable, that are adoptee oriented, and not adoptive parent oriented as much for our convenience, or what's going on underneath the surface. For us. If insecurities are masking, what we call safety issues is what happens a lot, they're not safe. So we're closing it down. So I think a lot of the challenges of open adoption come from inside ourselves. And so the more we can cultivate some inner curiosity, some self reflection. And you know, I was thinking also, when I was listening to Kelsey, that with birth parents that we're in contact with, we can't control how the birth parents feel in our configuration, but we can control the vibe we give off to them. And that vibe is going to feel much more inviting and expansive when we are doing this inner inquiry as to our motivations behind anything regarding boundaries or contact or anything like that. So can we hear things from our child's birth parent? That it may be difficult? Like, could my child's birth parent come to me and say, I'm not comfortable with the way you introduce me at that party? Or even maybe not even that nice. I don't like what you did at that party? Could we hear that with curiosity instead of with defense without having to defend ourselves? Because the more we're doing that, the better. We're showing up the better vibe we're giving to our child's birth parents. And this is the kicker, I think the more we're going to be able to do that for our adoptee as they grow up and start to challenge us and want to tell us hard things. Have we made that space for them to tell us their hard things? Such a good

Dawn Davenport  22:14  
point. Sara, it's time for you. What are some of the challenges of open adoption from the adoptees perspective,

Speaker 1  22:21  
I want to preface this by saying that I did not grow up in an open adoption. I grew up in the closed era of adoption. But I consider myself in an open adoption now that I'm in Reunion as an adult with my maternal side of my birth family. And I'm also in community with a number of adoptees, and birth parents and adoptive parents who are in open adoptions now, in addition to Kelsey and Laurie, of course. And so one of the challenges that I've seen over the years is kind of a mindset that open adoption is the panacea, and that it resolves everything. And it certainly does resolve some things. So you know, it resolves that questioning and the longing that I mentioned, but in some ways, it adds complexity. You know, I think Kelsey and Laurie have been touching on that. I would say, from my perspective, you know, I do write a lot about attachment and child development in the course facilitator for the Neufeld Institute. And in our book, I write about some of the primal emotions regarding separation. And two of them in particular, I think, come into play in different ways in open adoption, one is alarm, and the other is frustration with alarm, you know, we have a lot to be alarmed about as adoptees, one thing can be comparison. And what I see come up a lot in my circles with parents who have open adoption relationships is that there's a lot of comparing. So the child if they see a birth parent actively raising another child, there's just natural comparing that siblings do siblings do a lot of comparing, it can lead to wondering whether blood matters more. And if there are two open adoptions to different birth families and the relationships are different, you know, the contact is different. The people are different, their level of openness together the

Dawn Davenport  24:09  
level of presence that you receive. That's when we hear all of that, yeah, that

Speaker 1  24:14  
just leads to more comparing and that can be really alarming for us, of course, adoptees are already prone to feeling rejected. And so it can be one more way that it can reinforce this kind of confirmation bias for this sense of feeling rejected. I will just say, you know, back to why I brought up the reunion is I consider, you know, this open reunion that I'm in this open adoption through reunion and that stuff's complex for me and I'm 51 years old. It's complex for me to see my siblings get treated in a different way by my birth family than I am treated and I'm an adult and so it's a lot it can be alarming and put us on that kind of feeling like outsiders perpetual outsiders. frustration comes up to Kelsey mentioned To the renewed pain after every contact. And I definitely see that when I'm talking with parents of young children, you know, navigating open adoption, there's the tantrums, there's the fallout after a visit, that's that renewed pain and the separation again, and just the frustration of that. And so I know that there's a tendency to see that as hard and maybe this isn't working for the child, you know, maybe this is a sign we need to close things or shouldn't do these visits. And I guess to that, I would just say that the answer to separation is always connection, more connection is always the answer to separation. And then also that part of open adoption and that openness we were talking about is openness to the feelings, and letting those feelings come out because they need to be expressed. That's the key to healthy development. We've

Dawn Davenport  25:46  
talked about some of the challenges. Let's talk some about the benefits. And Sarah Hsinchu ended, we'll start with you. What are some of the benefits of open adoption that you see from the adoptee perspective? Is that

Speaker 1  26:00  
lack of wandering? It's that lack of Who do I look like? And where do these traits come from, you know, we have 1000s of genetic differences from our adoptive families. And sometimes it's, you know, even just really subtle things that you wouldn't even think of, it's that just knowing and that confidence that's so important to our identity development, especially in that starting in adolescence. But I think even just prior to adolescence, I just want to go to just knowing your origin story. That's a really important developmental milestone. And when my children were, I have teenagers now, but when they were really young, they just over and over and over wanted to hear their origin story. And that's just developmentally a milestone, and to be able to have access to that through an open relationship with your birth family to know the story of how you came to be, that's really grounding. And it does help set the stage for healthy development to come later. When the when things get more advanced in that identity formation and adolescence, it's always good to have more adults and adults who were really connected to that's always important. So I think other people to turn to other people to make sense of yourself, who shaped who you are, and who are a part of you, as you understand who you are hugely important.

Dawn Davenport  27:17  
Kelsey, what are some of the benefits of open adoption, from the perspective of birth parents?

Speaker 2  27:24  
National, the main one is like, I get to see my child grow up. You know, my dad is an adoptee from the closed era, he was born in 1964. He didn't enter a unit until he was 27. And his birth mother never even knew what he looked like, had never seen him before she delivered him behind the sheet. So there are stark differences and like very obvious ones like that, where I get to see him grow up. And also, I get to answer his questions. I just saw him last week. And one of the first things he asked me was like, What time was I born? And I'm the only person in the world that knows the answer to that question. And now, I'm not. Now there's two people in the world that know the answer to that question. And I think that that's really such a privilege to be able to hand that over to him at his request, you know, my dad never had that information. And I think it's something that if you're born to your biological family, and raised by your biological family, like, it's something you take for granted, I never had to wait a certain period of time to go ask I just asked my mom, she was in the next room, and she knew she remembered. So it's something we definitely take for granted, just the ability to have those questions answered. And the benefits. I'm almost eight years post placement. I think there's so much I don't know about the benefits as well. I think a big one for me right now is the ability for my daughter to have a relationship with him. I also have a sister that I didn't know about till I was 12. And she wasn't raised in our home. And she was actually adopted by her stepdad. And we are as close as two sisters can be for never having known each other in childhood. But there's a huge gap there. And we didn't have the privilege to know one another as we were growing up, and that that always, I think for both of us, it makes us really sad. And that's not the case for my kids, which is great as well.

Dawn Davenport  29:29  
Laurie, can you round us out then about benefits that you see to adoptive parents for open adoption?

Lori Holden  29:36  
This is such a great time to ask me that because my son, my youngest recently turned 21 My daughter is about to turn 23. So in all legal ways, they are adults. We still have some prefrontal cortex development going on, but they're like they're, they're done. And so I can look back on these 23 years and say that, and I could be proven wrong as my kids develop in began to process their story and to come back and tell me differently. But I feel like we, through openness in adoption, which included contact for us, we dealt with a lot of these things along the way. We didn't have fantasy birth parents, because they were there, they were known all aspects of that. Also, I tried to show up in a way that they could talk to me, without me being defensive about things and try to hear it, I could have done better today than I did back then, because I'm working on it. But I think they could come to me with stuff about adoption, which helps you deal with other things that are hard to talk about to his parents. So I think those are some of the benefits is that we were dealing with things all the way along. And it's not like they reached the magic age of 18, when they can look up their records, or just find out on their own or through social media. But we've been dealing with it all the way along. And I've been alongside them, they didn't feel like they had to do any of that processing in secret. Without me without my husband, they did it with me. And I was able to kind of advise and they'll continue doing this. And I hope they invite me along as an advisor if they come up with things that are hard.

Dawn Davenport  31:07  
Well said,

Speaker 1  31:08  
can I add to that, John? Absolutely. Just hearing Bose, I love working with Kelsey and Lorie because they do such wonderful modeling for other parents. And it just, it just reminded me of one more really big benefit. And that is just the divided loyalty that we so often feel. And when parents are doing the things Kelsey and Lori are talking about in their relationships, then we the adoptees, don't feel stuck in the middle. And we feel like the whole class is accepted. It's not on us to bring them together. They're doing the work. And then altogether, they're building a foundation of trust for our relationship and that we know they're looking out for our best interests. And so anyway, I just on the heels of what they said, it just reminded me of that.

Lori Holden  31:49  
Just add one more sentence to what Sarah just said, the more work we as adoptive parents can do on that inner reflection I was talking about, the less work the adoptee is going to eventually have to do. Because we're owning our stuff, that's all I mean, is that we're owning our stuff, and they don't have to do our stuff. And it's not theirs to do. Yeah.

Dawn Davenport  32:10  
Let me pause here for a moment to thank our listeners. Thank you guys, we wouldn't be doing what we're doing without you. And I mean that for our old time listeners, you have made us one of the top ranked if not the top ranked podcast in this space of adoption, foster and kinship care. We truly appreciate you and we also appreciate our new listeners. Thank you. Thank you for joining us. And please tell your friends. All right, I want to talk about boundaries. Laurie, I think you were the one who brought it up at the beginning, that all relationships need healthy boundaries. And boundaries need to go both ways, which a lot of adoptive parents don't realize. So let's talk through examples. And I'll start with you, Laurie, what are some examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptive parent perspective. You

Lori Holden  32:57  
know, boundaries are such a tricky thing done because it's almost like trying to define the terms of your marriage before you've met your groom or your bride, your partner. That's kind of how open adoption brings us together. So having these preconceived hard ideas of what is and isn't okay is probably going to get in your way. If I were just to say a general principle is I intend to be as open as I can to experiences to people and form my boundaries from a place of security and self reflection as much as I can. These things are journeys that we're all on for the rest of our lives. And

Dawn Davenport  33:32  
I would also add that boundaries shouldn't be written in stone, people change. And that includes adoptive parents changing our children change our child's birth parents change. So boundaries should be written in light pencil with a firm eraser, easy to change as the situation changes. So I would throw that out there as well.

Lori Holden  33:53  
And it's a tall ask because we're continually looking for that Goldilocks spot where it's just right. I think I probably erred on the side of to open it sometimes in terms of contact with birth parents, when there were times when I probably should have asserted a little bit more and said, This is not wise right now. But I wanted to be open. So it's always finding that Goldilocks spot each time. Yeah,

Dawn Davenport  34:13  
each time is a good way to say it and airing both ways. It's easy, because as you walk the path, sometimes you don't know you're off the path until you hit the dirt on the side. And then you have your as your back end towards the center. Kelsey, one of the things that you did a good job of pointing out in your section of adoption unfiltered, was that boundaries go both ways. So can you give us a couple of examples of boundaries that birth parents have a right to expect? Yeah,

Speaker 2  34:39  
I think they have the right to privacy first and foremost. But yeah, the adoptive parents may or the line drawers and I have boundaries too. I have parts of my private life. I would like to keep that way. And I think that that's kind of an every human's right type of situation. But in this unique dynamic, it gets a little overlooked and So yeah, on a fundamental level, like, I don't wish to be mothered, I don't wish to be surveilled. I want to be seen as an adult in the relationship. And I don't feel the need to share every part of my life with you. And I don't need you to share every bit of my life with other people. I see a lot of overstepping and other adoption, relationships, over sharing details about the birth parents life, there's a lot of things like that, that are just a violation of privacy and personal information. And I think it exercises a superiority dynamic like that you are smarter, better all knowing, and I'm this lowly person, as a

Dawn Davenport  35:45  
birth mom once told me, she goes there perfect. And I'm a screw up? Well, that's the premise. Yeah, that's the premise. Exactly. That's

Speaker 2  35:51  
the premise of how we all enter this space. However true, it may be or not, I'd really do reject that on a relationship level, because there's just got to be mutual respect. And if you don't know her boundaries, you should just ask a lot of this relationship is trial and error. And it can be really painful. But back to what, you know, we said at the beginning of this, fostering that open communication with each other. That's how people begin to feel comfortable with drawing their own line in the sand. And

Dawn Davenport  36:21  
Sarah, as a representative of the physician in this constellation, we're all supposed to be working towards the adoptee. What are some examples of healthy boundaries from the adoptive person standpoint,

Speaker 1  36:34  
it's very similar to what Kelsey just shared in terms of not over sharing our stories, that happens a lot, you know, where parents share too much, and it could go hand in hand with over sharing the birth parents story, some of that oversharing may not be appropriate for young ears. And for young years, who could pick up on judgment, who could pick up on some shame and take that on and feel like now they've got to choose, it puts us back in the divided loyalty. But then the oversharing of our stories, too, and not respecting what is ours to tell and ours to grow into, and where those boundaries lie. So I guess those are two of the really big ones that I see and feel.

Dawn Davenport  37:16  
Did you guys know that in addition to doing this podcast, we also have a library of free courses sponsored by the jockey being Family Foundation, each course is an hour, there are 12 of them 12 different topics, if you need a certificate of attendance, because you're going to use it as continuing ed, you can get it you don't have to have it though. Check it out at Bitly slash j, b f support, that's bi T dot L y slash J VF support. So how do you handle openness? When birth parents are unreliable, for whatever reason, birth parent can be unreliable, because, as Kelsey pointed out, the pain of separating again is too much. They can be unreliable because of substance abuse, they could be unreliable because they don't have transportation. There's any number of reasons that birth parents could be unreliable. But it does make it hard. And this is not just with contact, but there have to be some form of having made a promise that one is not able to be at a meeting or be it is a letter or a gift or whatever, a card on the birthday, something along those lines. Kelsey, you want to start us off with that. And then Lori and Sarah jump in, when you have thoughts as well.

Speaker 2  38:33  
I think context is always something to start out with, like you said, it could be for any number of reasons. It also could be a combination of reasons it could be not what you think it is at all. And I think remaining open to the possibilities of whatever reason that it may be that she's not super reliable, I think is a good place to start. I sometimes on I scan those adoptive parent groups on Facebook, and people often ask these kinds of questions like, you know, she's not responding to my text messages, or she didn't show up to a visit, or I think that she's using again, there's all sorts of fill in the blanks sort of issues that she may be grappling with. Or I've also heard, like, she asked me if I could give her gas money to get to the visit. And so I think that there are some people that make these really hard lines in the sand that they're not willing to cross. So they're like, no, never do this. This is the advice that we often give it up to parents. Everything's very black and white. No, you never do this. If she does this, then you do this. And I don't think that that's realistic. I think you have to determine like what is going to work best for you and your family. What's the most important thing if the most important thing is to get her to visit and she doesn't have transportation, get her an Uber or figure it out or do something that's closer to where she lives to make it easier for her do something along the bus route, the train route, whatever it is, I think that if you are in a position of power of which adoptive parents are, you may have to go the extra mile to make that openness happen for your child. And you are responsible to do that. With other things like substance use, I think that utilizing a professional and adoption competent therapist or social worker that can help you work through some of those issues, I think that's a really good place to start as well. I don't have all the answers for every single issue that can arise. But I know that there are professionals that really truly do and they can help you. And also getting second and third opinions doesn't hurt either. So when necessary, calling someone that specializes in these issues, and also has a lens of they they understand things like poverty, they understand things like addiction, that's huge. I think it's very possible to have an open adoption with someone that's dealing with really unfortunate life circumstances. And if you're determined to do that, you will,

Dawn Davenport  41:01  
Laurie or Sarah do either if you have anything to add,

Lori Holden  41:04  
yeah, I'll just say, Don, a guiding principle for setting boundaries in open adoption, for me has been, and this is what I tell the parents that I work with, too, is for what you can control be wise and for what you can't control be compassionate. So Kelsey covered all those parts about being compassionate look for the context, and how can you meet them where they are, the parts about being wise is I can control when I tell my child that we're going to have a visit, it might be at the moment, we're driving up to wherever it's going to be. And I see that the birth mom is there, the birth that is there, gradually, I'm going to have these conversations with my child as they get more developmentally advanced, so that they are able to deal with this too, we're turning over the reins of these boundaries in the reins of these relationships to our child over time. So you don't want to keep them as an infant where you're doing all the work. But gradually, you're going to bring them in, you're going to bring them into your wise thinking of why you're making the decisions you are, you can have influence over where you meet, you can have control over some of the things but not all of the things but do boundaries with both wisdom and compassion as a way to try to find the Goldilocks spot.

Speaker 1  42:10  
All right, I would say just taking the lead, you know, I write a lot about assuming a leadership role. And you know, for some of those reasons you mentioned, it could be a matter of maturity and immaturity and some growing up to do or some struggles, but making up for that and still honoring the roots. So a lot of talking it might be, it's compensating for whatever's going on in a way, but making sure that the child feels held and feels that love even if you're having to say that for them, and you're speaking those words until they can or your fill is filling in for that it could be just speaking about them often or noticing similarities that you might have with a parent, helping them with holding on when apart. Again, separation is significant for us. So helping to bridge that separation until it can be bridged physically is a really important aspect. So maybe it's a necklace or it's you know, just something that you get for both of you, but getting creative on ways to just continue matchmaking and honoring the birth parents because they are a big significant part of the adoptees world.

Dawn Davenport  43:19  
Sara, you did a great job of talking about how to maintain the attitude of openness, or the spirit, I guess of openness, when contact is not possible. Laurie, do you have anything? You covered this in your first book, The Open Hardaway to adoption? But are there any other things you could throw out? How do we maintain the spirit of openness if contact is not possible?

Lori Holden  43:45  
Yeah, I think I'll quote who wrote the play the good adoptee. When she was talking to me, she said, even if you don't have any contact, even if you're in a fully closed adoption, carve out space for birth, parents wonder about them. If you did have contact with them. At one point, put pictures up, have them open conversations with your child once in a while to see if they're ready to enter in that with you and a signal that you're willing to enter into that with them. So carving out space for birth parents, even when they're not their birth family. That's another one as you can, if you if you can't have a contact with birth parents, is their birth family out there that you can be a little bit more expansive and bring in other people that are important to that child and the genetics of that child to the ancestral line.

Dawn Davenport  44:30  
And I'll end by just reminding to allow space for change and growth on all sides of the adoption constellation because we all are growing and we all are changing. And that includes birth parents, adoptive parents, and especially adoptees so allowing that space is a way of entering into openness and possibility of greater openness as time goes on. Thank you so much. Sarah easterly, Kelsey vanderley lanyard and Laurie Hall Thanks for being with us today to talk about all things open adoption. I really appreciate your time.

Lori Holden  45:05  
Thank you for having us done. Thank you.

Dawn Davenport  45:09  
Wait, wait before you shut down the podcast before you leave, please hear my thanks. I'm sending out to hopscotch adoptions. Hopscotch has been a partner for creating a family for a long time. They are a Hague accredited international adoption agency, placing children from Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Guiana, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia, and Ukraine. They specialize in the placement of children with special needs, including Down Syndrome and they also do a lot of kinship adoptions. They place kiddos throughout the US and they offer home study services and post adoption services to residents of North Carolina and New York.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai