Everytime I take one of those Personality/Skill assessments like Meyers Briggs or Strengths Finder a key element for me is Feeling. I go with my gut as a default reaction, I care deeply about the soft side of things and have to work really hard not to take things personally. At work I push myself to remain objective and make decisions based on data. Going with my gut has served me well in my personal life and is a big part of what makes up my personality. The concept of Open Adoption is one of the first things in my personal life where I've had to really push myself to think about the situation outside of my instinctual reaction.
My husband and I have to always ask "Are we making this decision because it's good for the kids or because it's good for us?". Traditional closed adoption is based around what is good for the adoptive parents. A generalization for sure but just go with me. Bringing a child into your home and making their world what you would for a biological child is what feels natural to an adoptive parent because you view that child just as you would a biological child. There are countless stories around the feelings of those who have been adopted ranging in everything from this is 100% ok to being their biggest struggle in life. I want to focus here on what it feels like to support open adoption as an adoptive parent.
We have made the choice to support contact with our kids' birth family because we know in our hearts it's the right thing to do for them. This is not an easy task because we need to carefully evaluate what that contact means and determine what is best for our situation. There's no instruction manual to reference. This means careful consideration of each and every type of contact. This is where that element of questioning your gut comes into play because if I used only that I probably wouldn't have had any contact other than email.
Last week we had an email request from the kids Great Aunt whom we've had frequent email contact with and met in person on a few occassions. She asked for our address so her parents could mail the kids cards directly for their birthday. They have mentioned wanting this info at some point when we felt comfortable since our first in-person meeting. They respected we didn't want to give that out yet but did think it was something they may eventually be able to get. Until that time we've provided the address and instructions to exchange packages and cards through our agency which provides anonymity for both sides.
My immediate reaction was no. If I'm being honest it was "Hell NO" accompanied by a sinking feeling in my stomach. Then kicks in the logic and I have to start digging deeper. On one hand I can understand why they want this. It's a generational thing and the Great Grandparents don't use email. They rely on the kids Great Aunt as their sole contact point to get printed photos I send and the updates. She has a family of her own and is the pastor of her church so she has got a lot on her plate. The instructions for the agency are admittedly confusing and complicated. They have given us their family history, full names, and address & phone numbers without us asking for it. I'm sure in their mind asking for just an address to mail something directly to is not a big deal in light of what we are privy to.
In questioning why I felt the reaction not to share I needed to think about the facts and then vocalize them since thoughts in your head can be pretty extreme. By having our address you can do all kinds of reverse look ups for free and know when we bought our house and for how much, find out our last name, if we're registered to vote and the last time we did that, google search our name and discover my blogs, my public Facebook profile, my job profile on linked in, photos and records of when I've attended professional meet up events, and my marathon records. This is all stuff any novice person who knows how to use google could do in about 10 minutes (and I'm sure there's even more I haven't thought about). Then I had to question why that scared me because really anyone who knows my last name can get all that info just like they could. It came down to my comfort in having control over of what information they have about us now. I don't worry about them trying to take my kids because I know they can't legally do that and I also know they fully support us as the kids parents.
There are of course several other things at play with this being a Foster Care adoption. There are dangerous people that could enter our lives should we share too much who may have motives to cause our kids and/or family harm. This alone allows me to justify the control of our privacy for now. I'll have to continue to weigh these risks as the kids get older and they request to have members of their biological family involved in meaningful events. I don't want to deny them this if it's what they want but I'm going to have to fight that urge to not share the kids lives with them. All this needs to be done while making sure I keep them safe which is the primary responsibility of any parent.
The instruction book I think we'll have to start following is this -
1) How does the interaction benefit the kids?
2) What are the risk associated with that contact and potential impact?
3) Benefits for the kids always take priority over risks of insecurity of adoptive parents feelings.
4) Legit safety risks trump benefit for the kids until they are 18.
I'm sure there will be many failure points along the way but if we keep these principals in mind at all times I think we can forge ahead on this adventure and feel good about our choices.