open adoption roundtable: professional support

I’ve been wanting to write something about this since I first saw the most recent Open Adoption Roundtable prompt. Better late than never, I suppose.

We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?

We were so fortunate to find an adoption professional truly dedicated to ethical and honest child-centered adoption. While we worked with a state agency to complete our home study and finalization paperwork, we did not rely on our agency to connect us with an expectant mother or mediate our relationship. In fact, we opted out of our agency’s outreach program and chose instead to do our own.

At the time we made our decision mainly so we could be more proactive. While 99% of our agency’s adoptions were “open,” we soon learned this meant minimal openness rather than real exchanges with ongoing contact. Plus our agency had more than 70 families “waiting” to adopt. Yet other prospective adoptive parents we encountered in workshops seemed to fear and/or feel threatened by the level of openness we were hoping to find. We believed that our desire for a fully open adoption would help us stand out.

We also wanted to ensure that any expectant parents we met would have adequate support. While we liked our agency social worker and case manager, it was unclear how they might serve the needs of expectant parents.

We were referred to an independent adoption counselor by a former co-worker. Well regarded as a highly ethical, child-centered adoption social worker, she counseled both expectant and prospective parents about ethical open adoption and provided extensive support before, during and after potential placement. She did no advertising, relying instead on her professional relationships from over 30 years.

There were so many things our counselor did to encourage and support openness, from advising us as prospective adoptive parents to educate ourselves about the benefits of real openness for everyone involved; educating K, our daughter’s birth mom, about the importance of ongoing involvement to her child, should she decide to place; educating extended family members about openness and participation; creating an environment where birth and adoptive families could be supported as they work through challenging issues; urging honesty, trust, communication and persistence in maintaining open relationships; ensuring that we complete and file an enforceable contact agreement with the court before finalization; and providing tremendous ongoing support to all family members after placement.

Truly, we were so fortunate. I wish every expectant parent and prospective adoptive family, including adoptees, had such support.

I can contrast this to K’s experience with the attorney she consulted before finding us. Not only did the attorney try to “match” K with one of her “waiting” families after her consult (= total conflict of interest), but she did not once advise K about her rights in an open adoption or inform her about the enforceability of a contact agreement that could be filed in court.

When we learned about this, we encouraged K to find another lawyer. Once she spoke with our counselor (who is not a lawyer), she was able to see how the attorney she consulted did not have her best interest at heart.

To read the other entries, click here.

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~ by luna on August 7, 2010.

6 Responses to “open adoption roundtable: professional support”

  1. Wow. Your adoption counselor sounds like quite a lady. I’m particularly surprised to hear about filing an enforceable openness agreement. I was told by our counselor, in as many words, such things don’t exist. My thoughts have been provoked. Thanks for sharing this part of your experience. More so thank you for being so dedicated to ethics and compassion in your adoption. Your daughter sure is lucky.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, our counselor is pretty wonderful. She also helped us establish productive contact with some extended members of the birth father’s family, who were not at all supportive initially.

      The enforceable contact agreement is under state law (California). Apparently it can’t be used to set aside an adoption (without fraud or duress), but a judge could decide to enforce the contact. Here is a link to the form that is filed in court: http://www.formsworkflow.com/d26627.aspx It includes only basic information such as who is covered, but we also filed an attachment with more detailed information re: frequency. In truth, we’ve never even consulted that form as our contact has been pretty consistent on our end, but I can see how it would be good to have. I think the process of completing it together was valuable too.

      Thanks again!

  2. wow. i am so impressed with this part of your story. very different from mine. how wonderful though to know that good ethical people in the “industry” with an understanding about open adoption really do exist.

  3. […] important, how to maintain a positive relationship over time. (We were fortunate to work with a highly skilled and ethical professional who is an exception to this perhaps broad […]

  4. […] like many, we turned to adoption because we wanted to love a baby. We worked with the most ethical professionals we could find. We provided a loving home for a child in need, offering “peace of mind” […]

  5. […] adoption, then agreeing to a closed adoption wasn’t really an option. We found an ethical professional to help navigate the system and ensure support to any expectant parents we encountered (including […]

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