[00:00:00] Have you ever wondered how open adoption or closed adoption works and the differences join us today as we talk about modern adoption and how adoption has changed over the decades, today’s panel includes four adoption industry experts with over 155 years of adoption experience.
What did a traditional adoption look like? And how does that compare to a modern adoption today? I, I was, I gave a little thought to this today and you know, I go back maybe 54 or 55 years, uh, when I did my first home study. And also, uh, back then, when I first sat in on a, an adoption planning meeting. and at this meeting and it was at, uh, Bethany Christian services and I was a beginning social worker there.
Uh, we, we really, [00:01:00] uh, this was a high level meeting every Monday morning where we did the matching and it, it took on, we’re talking mostly, um, uh, white babies newborns, and they were then matched. Uh, to, to weighing families and, um, the group of social workers there, the staff were entirely in charge of this and the birth mother had absolutely no input.
Um, she was, uh, relieved of the baby and, um, after the planning had happened, she would be given. Information, but it would be absolutely non-identifying. Uh, but we would, uh, as I think about it now, uh, we would talk about, um, the appearance of the [00:02:00] families and the height and their, uh, sort of their background Northern European.
And, and we did. What we thought was this careful matching. And now in looking back on it, um, it, it really was kind of silly, uh, but it did totally, totally excluded the birth mother. And, um, that was really before openness started to March forward. And, um, and we then began to see changes. uh, that happened more and more over the years and, um, became so very important.
But I think that, uh, it’s important to emphasize that, um, the birth mother was given almost no [00:03:00] information about the couple. It would be very general and there was concern there that she would. Uh, have any identifying the term used, always identifying information so that she might somehow make contact.
And, uh, that’s the way it, it was when we go that, you know, that far back. And I think that adoptive families, uh, resisted it, um, because out of. , they didn’t want that birth mother to have any information about them. Um, and then we’ll just over all these years together, we’ve seen this, you know, radically change and we’re now into what we’re calling modern adoption.
And I think that’s the contrast are the comparison traditional, which maybe so many people still. [00:04:00] and where we are today is important to talk about so that, um, especially women who are, uh, ha having an unplanned pregnancy, uh, really understand what adoption offers today. I also think in, in just the 25 years that I was doing, um, adoption work, it had also grown and, and almost evolved from, from the traditional, just having a meeting with the adoptive couple and getting.
Updates through the mail from the, through the agency. Um, and now it is much more, um, much more open where, uh, a woman has the, she is empowered to make the decisions about where her child goes and, um, the kind of contact that she wants in the future. Mm-hmm I, I would have to say that I think this change came a lot.
Uh, what birth mothers were wanting and asking for. [00:05:00] And in the adoption community, we began to learn that, um, by honoring, uh, these needs, that birth parents had, we began to open up a whole situation that was better for everyone. Dick talks about the fear of adaptive families in having an open adoption.
And I think that drove. What we did in adoption years ago, you know, that we were protecting the family, but we lost sight of what was best for children and what was best for birth mothers. And, um, as we began to learn more about that, because birth mothers were asking for it. And so agencies were changing their policies to do more open adoption, picking families, giving them the opportunity to.
We as a professional community began to learn more about openness and how it really had healthy benefits for [00:06:00] everyone. Open adoption was good for children because they could know about their birth parents. It was not some deep, dark secret that, you know, what do you keep a secret? You keep a secret. What you’re ashamed of.
We should not be ashamed of our adoption. So we bring the details out and share them and honor birth parents and that relationship with their children and the fact that they made a decision for their child to give them this wonderful life and future, we should honor them and honor that and know that it’s okay.
To have a relationship as birth parent. It does not take away from the relationship that the parents raising the child have, and it’s taken the adoption community years. You know, I worked with Adoption Associates for 27 years, but also worked with pregnant women, choosing adoption in a different capacity before that.
So over those, you know, 43 [00:07:00] years, I saw great changes in. And realize that all of us in the adoption community were learning a better way to do things. And then birth mothers feel that, and they get that appreciation that honoring of them for making a difficult choice. And this is really beneficial to them in the ability to make those decisions.
And in addition to that, Paula, you touched on the, um, secrecy that goes along with a, a real close adoption sometimes or traditional adoption. Um, in addition to that, that child, at some point is wanting to look into their, I, you know, figure out their identity and as they are maturing and going off to college or getting married, they, they typically want to learn more about, well, where did, where did.
Where did I start from? And we, um, have found how important it is that they [00:08:00] do know more about their roots and to be proud of, ’em not to be ashamed of their roots, where they came from, and to honor that and not feel that it’s in conflict with the relationship they have with their parents. Exactly. Raise them.
Have an important standing, but so do birth parents exactly through featured families. What is the process that a birth mother goes through to pick a family for their child? Always like to look at adoption when we are presenting it to, to women in unplanned pregnancy, as a plan. If they’re gonna parent their baby, they have to have a plan.
And it’s really the same in adoption. And we like to look at our role as it, uh, helping them put their plan in. And so part of that plan is to choose their family and the featured families. They can go in and scroll and, and find, um, the family that just is perfect for them and for what they envisioned their child to be in.
And we help guide them. We, we find out, um, what it is they [00:09:00] might be looking for what they, for their child, what kind of family. What that looks like. And in addition to that, we learn about their circumstances. Where are they coming from? Um, for example, what is the race of the child? Um, has there been substance use that sort of thing?
And we, we help guide them to match them with families that would be good fits for them so we can give them names of families. Um, they go online on featured families, scroll through. With our guidance, um, to help make that good match. Don’t don’t you think, Sally, that they, they really begin to see when they get to, to their profiles and they read about the families.
They begin to imagine that child, their child and that family, exactly their pictures make it very real and, and therefore in their story out. And there’s that connection that just happened. It’s really quite magical. And oftentimes we have videos, families have videos as part of their profile and, um, [00:10:00] even.
For the birth mom to hear their voices, that the sounds, it, it really helps, um, put them at peace with their decision where it’s not just some. Stranger out there, some unknown, um, it really helps with them at peace of their decision, if they can learn about who the family is. And like you said, they can picture what their child would be like growing up in that, in that family.
Mm-hmm yeah. I, I think what you said there is super important that, um, adoption is no longer giving their baby to a stranger. Adoption is choosing the future they want for their baby by selecting the. Who they believe can give the baby the best future. And part of what happens is at a time when a birth mother’s life may feel very out of control.
She was not planning to be pregnant. Her life is not going the way she wanted, whatever her situation is. Now she begins to regain some control of her life by [00:11:00] making that plan. Nancy referred to a plan for the future of the baby, which includes choosing the parents and envisioning the future that this baby’s gonna have.
And it, it makes all the difference in the world, in her emotional healing. Because as she goes on, you know, never forgetting this baby, she knows of the life her baby has. And in open adoption, which includes whether it’s pictures and letters, visits, whatever kind of contact she can be reassured personally, that her child is doing well, having a great future.
And, and that helps her emotionally. Mm-hmm at the outside of our, uh, discussion here today. Um, We, we touched on the, the, the matter of openness and fear that, uh, years ago families had, uh, of being, uh, contacted by a birth mother, [00:12:00] uh, where there might be interference. Um, and, and that was a, a significant factor in the families having far more information.
Uh, also non-identifying about the birth mother then, uh, the birth mother received about the family and it was, it was this fear, but something, uh, developed in the mid seventies, there was a research project funded by psychology today, and it was later, it was then written up and it was a tremendously significant.
Um, study, which basically said to, um, to adopting families, it addressed this issue of fear. And it said you need to understand that with [00:13:00] openness and contact, moving forward, contact periodically, uh, with information going back, um, to the birth mother. um, adopting families had to understand that let’s say they were to meet the birth mother in late teens or thereabouts, and she was, I’m going to have more, uh, more contact.
Uh, the finding was that you can’t in adulthood, reas go back and, and establish a parent child relat. With the child. Uh, and so families had to understand that there’re always gonna be mom and dad to the child, even in, as a child, moves into adulthood, that’s mom and dad. And [00:14:00] that, um, most likely the relationship with the birth mother will be that of a good friend.
The point then is that you would not deny that sort of a relationship, uh, to your child, but it addressed this whole matter of, of fear of somehow losing your child. And I want to emphasize that that’s just, that has been so important in the field of adoption and the feelings of many, many adopting couples.
If we have contact, if we allow for information back and forth and actual meetings, somehow we might lose our child. And, and so this study was tremendously reassuring. It was very broad based and it really said, relax. You’re never gonna be, you’re never gonna lose your child, [00:15:00] your mom and dad period. And, and perhaps the birth mother will be a continuing friend.
Do your child. I wanted to mention that because, um, it’s so important. And I remember when I used to, uh, do the group meetings with families prior to adopting during the home study process, I’d really emphasize that. And, and I would be able to see the heads shaking in terms of acceptance of that, understanding that relieving being relieved by that too.
So I wanted to get that in here. um, I think is a great advantage. And for those families who don’t get the opportunity to meet their birth mom, I think they come away from it a little disappointed mm-hmm yep. I agree. And by them meeting their birth mom, that very fear that they had to have any sort of openness that very fear can be greatly relieved by meeting their mom.
Because again, that birth mom becomes, um, someone [00:16:00] other than a stranger. She’s not just this person out. Right. In the middle of nowhere that they have no idea who she is. So it really gives them the peace that, you know, she’s a real person. She’s just in a, in a situation where she’s not the best option to raise this child right now.
Um, What would you recommend that a birth mother does so that they can begin to discover what a birth plan might look like for their child re reach out to us, call text, email, whatever, um, method of communication is most comfortable to you. Go ahead and, um, reach out to us. That’s not making you obligated.
We’re not gonna pressure you. We just want to share information about what this process can be like with our help. Um, that would be the first. and I would add to that the most important thing they can do while trying to make a plan for their baby is learn what this option of adoption is all about.
Mm-hmm and knowing [00:17:00] that it’s changed so much from the general idea of what people have in the past of adoption. So doing that, reaching out like Sally. Learning, uh, more about what kind of options do they have, what kind of situations, you know, can they create, um, will help them decide if adoption is right for them?
Mm-hmm, , mm-hmm, , it’s a huge decision. So they, you know, we would encourage them to be fully informed on what all the options are, regardless of what decision they choose. Um, just to make an informed decision and we’re here to help inform them and walk them through it. If they decide to go this route, They also need to, to anticipate or know that continuing contact after placement can be incredibly gratifying mm-hmm and reassuring, uh, and, and joyful in the sense of getting to see how, uh, their child has grown and developed [00:18:00] and, uh, to see the life that the child is having as she’s or he is flourishing.
that’s something that we do touched on really, right from the start. We talk with them about what, you know, what their thoughts are on openness. Do they understand what those options are? You know, where where’s their, um, where’s their mind on that at that time? Now that could change throughout the process.
Many times she might say she wants it to be a real close adoption, but the more she learns and the more she, um, educates herself, she might. You know, openness does sound pretty good. And that does sound like more, um, a better plan for, for me and for the baby and that, and that she has a say, she has a say about her plan.
She has some control in what, what she wants, not what the agency wants for her, but what she wants. I’d also like to touch on the fact that, um, you know, it started out as Dick was saying for our traditional adoption where the mom would have no [00:19:00] say, and then it obviously has evolved where she chooses a family.
In addition to that, the openness that happens afterwards, it used, used to be only through the agency, like Nancy talked about sending pictures, letters, updates through the agency. At this point, it’s by far more common that they are exchanging phone numbers and they’re texting, they’re sending, uh, texting pictures back and forth.
Uh, adoptive mom might check on the birth mom. Hey, you, I know you had a doctor’s appointment today. How’d that go? It’s, it’s a real, a lot more direct communication both during the pregnancy and afterwards, and, and that’s really what starts the relationship. And that just evolves through the years then.
Right? And I, I, I say to parents by adoption that their mom and dad, they’re not the adoptive mom and the adoptive dad over against, or by comparison to the birth [00:20:00] mom or the birth father, their, their mom and dad, dad. And I, I like to mention that. Um, and I, but I think it’s, I. Dick when you were, um, first working in this field, um, when the baby was born in the hospital, did the birth mom typically spend any time with the baby or was the baby Whis off to the, you know, out of the room?
What, what did that look like? In the beginning? The child was WIS. You used the word WIS cough mm-hmm uh, and there was almost sometimes there was no contact at. Maybe, um, maybe she would see the child and there would be the tears and crying, and that would be the end of it. And it’s today. It’s hard to imagine that mm-hmm but, um, I think all of that pain affects even [00:21:00] today, how people are misinformed about how adoption works, you know, and that’s why we’re talking about, uh, modern adoption.
mm-hmm so, yeah, that’s how it was. Right. And I, and I think our stories and the more we talk about this erases the stigma of that and, um, then people can, women can imagine a future for themselves and their baby. Right. Right. So a big part of the process is we sit down with a birth mother prior to, uh, birth and, and talk with her.
What, you know, what would you like the hospital experience to play out? Um, do you, would you like to spend time with a baby? If, if so, how much do you want the adoptive couple at the hospital? Do you want them caring for the baby as well? Um, and often what happens is the birth mom chooses both. She wants to spend time with the baby.
She also wants the adoptive couple to spend time with the baby and kind of share that care during the hospital stay. Um, and what’s real important in [00:22:00] that situation is oftentimes a birth mom will. Um, being the same, like the, the, the adoptive couple will be in her room visiting and she can actually eyeball see them holding that baby and caring for that baby.
And that’s just a really great start for her to, um, be at peace again with this decision envisioning what, how her child’s being cared for. So that hospital plan is a big, big piece. I’m just gonna mention the fact that we’ve been talking now about the. and what goes into it today in, in modern adoption?
Um, it’s really important also to mention that, uh, this is the way adoptions are done the service of adoption to birth mothers and children, um, in progressive agencies. And I’ll mention, uh, that’s not likely to happen in, uh, a strictly only a, um, an attorney. um, the birth mother, uh, [00:23:00] does not receive anywhere near the kind of, uh, service and assistance, and even the idea of, uh, developing the plan for, uh, the hospital and for continuing contacting after that.
So I wanted to mention that, uh, that that’s very, very important that you get with a progressive, um, licensed agency today. What does an open adoption look like? Does an open adoption include extended family as well? That that’s still up to the birth mother to make that choice. And so if she has a desire to include her other children in that relationship or those visits, what they might do, um, then she builds that relationship, uh, with, with the family, same thing, maybe her.
You know, we are talking all about birth mother, but open adoption can also include birth father and, um, you know, she drives the plan [00:24:00] and makes the decisions about how she wants that relationship to go. And, um, you know, it can, can be anything from sending multiple sets of pictures and letters so that multiple people get them or including visits that are like, you know, kind of a family picnic where there’s a lot of people present and.
And so she chooses, um, what she wants for her child based on what that extended family, her other children or extended family members are. And that’s very individual, you know, no one’s gonna tell her, oh, you should do this. She’s gonna be able to pick the type of relationship and kind of the way it wants we’re ex exchanging pictures, texts, you know, visits, et C.
Um, and she creates the parameters for that relationship and contact mm-hmm and no two stories are the same. Exactly, exactly. And so what might work and be [00:25:00] best for one woman might not for another. Exactly. So that’s the advantage of having an agency? That has had experience in open adoption. Sometimes we have the, uh, birth grandparents that are resistant to the adoption plan, and that is oftentimes based out of fear or ignorance.
They, they don’t know what modern adoption can look like. So if we have a birth mom we’re working with and her parents are, um, not necessarily supportive of the adoption, sometimes that can help for her parents to understand that if the birth mom chooses. Her parents can also be part of this openness and develop a relationship with their birth grandchild or with a birth mom or the I’m sorry, the adoptive couple.
Okay. Just, just for, uh, as a point of interest, maybe for me, but all of us, how many years are represented by the four people right [00:26:00] now on the screen, in the field. H how many? So for me, 27 years with the agency. And how about before that? Paula? In, uh, yeah, 16 years working at a maternity home. So you’re up to how many then?
That’s 43 43. Wow. S five, add 25. Okay. With the agency. Okay. I met about 25 for the agency and then about six years of crisis pregnancy counseling prior to that. Wow. Who’s, who’s writing him down. I I’m gonna throw in there 56 years. Holy cow. I hope that women can walk away from, um, this conversation knowing you, they’re not giving your baby up, not giving your baby away.
You’re just, you’re giving your baby a. and yourself a bright future. [00:27:00] Yeah. It’s not a rejection. It’s not abandonment it. Goodness. But you know, it in the field has taken on some terminology. That’s been very, um, misinforming and hurtful, um, and, and has been effective in, um, influencing adoptions. Not to. . Yeah.
I hope that the narrative changes from, um, shame to hope. Yeah.