#flipthescript: new concerns
“When you know better, you do better.” -Maya Angelou
The more books and blogs and articles I’ve been reading (by adoptees, first moms, and adoptive parents), and the more I get to know M’s family, the more and more I’ve been thinking about M’s adoption and the exclusion of her first family from the process. There is, of course, so much I still don’t know. For example, did the agency truly vet all possible potential kinship placements? If they did, did they encourage or discourage (or neither) them from taking on the responsibility? Did the ones who were asked refuse because they didn’t have the resources, even though they wanted to? Did they get turned down based on background checks and formalities? And even if they were on board with her adoption, did they ever feel that they could inquire about my openness to maintain contact? Did Cindy (first mom)? Did the case workers even ask them? I doubt it.
My foster/adoption agency was very pro-bio family in my first foster son’s case. They encouraged me to meet the parents from the first visit, and applauded me privately and publicly for including them in doctor’s visits, giving them rides, and being a source of encouragement and pride in their parenting. I guess I assumed that they would support an open adoption unless the family was truly volatile and dangerous. I appreciated their support and faith in me as a parent, but also thought that they would assess a situation fairly enough to at least allow me to decide for myself the amount of openness that would be safe for M.
After many many months of Cindy not responding to the agency’s attempts to communicate, they got a hold of her and she stated that if Aunt K couldn’t take M, then she wished for her to “stay where she is” (according to the social worker). She requested a photo of M, and I was eager to comply. I composed a letter to her, and mentioned my desire to have an open adoption if possible. I gave the letter to the agency to give to her. A month later I was informed that the letter was never sent, because the supervisor would worry that it would inspire Cindy to come back and interfere with “permanency”, when everyone “knew” that she would just disappear again. Not only that, she specifically said that “open adoption” was not possible with this family.
What was I to think? They had all the info on the family, I had none. They were implying that this family was so inappropriate that any contact would be harmful to M. On another occasion, I was told, “M should just focus on being around her new family,” in response to visiting with her half-sister. A thinly veiled accusation disguised as a compliment to me and my “more appropriate, much better” family.
Of course, I’m not totally innocent either. I loved little M, and wanted to adopt her. I was told that kinship placements weren’t obtainable, but still I worried that something would happen to take her away from me. My longing for open adoption competed with my selfish desire to keep her as my own child. But looking back, I did ask. I did try. I attempted in the only way I knew how to write to Cindy and tell her that I wanted an open adoption. I created the facebook page for M’s first family to see pics of her and communicate with her before the adoption was final. I saved photos of them that were public, photos of Cindy and any siblings, just in case they were all I had to give to M some day. I had the same fears and reservations that so anger adoptees and first families, but I also wanted to overcome them.
Now I look back and wonder if the adoption could have been different, if it could have been inclusive of these family members who also love M. The agency, and admittedly myself, was afraid that someone would change their mind and decide to fight to have M. That makes me feel… so guilty. They should have had the right to make that decision. Even though I “won”, that doesn’t mean M “won”. But all I can do now is try to build those bridges and give back to her what she lost, before it’s too late. Before she remembers her family as “strangers”. I almost feel like that would be truly on me, and those angry adoptee bloggers might one day include my daughter.