Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Foster Care Open Adoption - Is it possible?

I am active in online adoption and foster care forums plus I am beginning to meet more people locally foster care arena. When I share our foster-adopt story, most are amazed at how open our adoption is compared with most foster care adoptions. Yes, we have a rare, extremely open, dynamic relationship with our son's maternal biological family, not just his biological mother. These relatives we treat as extended family members of our own family. They are welcome to visit us, we visit them, we exchanged contact information. Keeping these relationships going is healthy for our son.

We are also re-establishing Junior's relationship with his biological mother. While there are awkward moments, there are laughs and smiles from all of us. We two moms enjoy embarrassing our 14 year which is easy to do without trying, and he hasn't even started dating! While Mike and I have the privilege of raising Junior,  we share video and photos on Facebook so all our "family" can keep up with his happenings. I keep in touch with his biological mother via email and text throughout the month. We provide her with a list of school events and she attends when she can considering we live several hours apart. As Junior matures, he will define and refine his relationship with his biological mother. His relationship with her will be different from his relationship with me, but we all realize he has two mothers, in fact he has several mother figures, women who have raised him through the years prior to him joining our family. They are all important. For Mother's Day we sent off six cards to women who are important to his life - biological and adoptive. For Father's Day we will send off four cards to men who are important to him.

For his biological family, not all members are genetically related. His mother was adopted so his mother and sister are biological, but all other members are not related by blood. Some are just related by marriages that have since dissolved, but the people are still important to Junior.

Just as any extended family, our family has expanded to include Junior's maternal family of origin whether they are genetic relatives, adoptive relatives, stepfamily, or just important people. Family is created through love and hard work and lots of prayer.

For Junior, the open adoption is beneficial. This year he has blossomed as an 8th grader! His grades are decent, he presented to several hundred people at a safety conference with his Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club, and he learned to play an instrument on a Tuesday then marched in the high school Marching Band on the following Saturday. He is a likable, funny, intelligent, caring, sometimes helpful son. Junior has adjusted well to joining our family and admits his nana (my mother) is zany.

No, my son does not thank me for adopting him or for providing for him, he is 14 years old. Most teens are not grateful for what is provided until they have to provide for themselves as adults. I am grateful to be his mom and that he still talks; I know many teenage boys who switch to grunting at about age 15. Oh, does the kid talk!

Yes, open foster care adoptions are possible and can work. No, they are not beneficial for every child being adopting from foster care. The amount of openness can vary tremendously from adoption to adoption. One case may be an exchange of annual letters without photos to PO boxes to a few letters, photos, and visits a year to a very open adoption like ours. The key is to consider the beneficial health, welfare, safety, and development of the child involved. Also, the openness can fluctuate over the years depending on how the child handles the development stages. There may be times that minimal contact is beneficial while other times more openness is better. We are navigating through our first year so we will see how the openness of our adoption will fluctuate as our son progresses through adolescence.