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Adoption Reunification: Questions to Consider Before Beginning the Search for Birth Parents

Adoptions today are frequently open or semi-open with continued communication after placement between birth and adoptive parents, but adoptions 20 years ago often looked much different. Many birth and adoptive parents consented to closed adoptions, but with recent widespread availability of genetic testing, ancestry searches, and open adoptions becoming the new normal, many adoptees born in the 1990s and 2000s are turning 18 and beginning to search for their birth parents, and in the age of technology this can create challenges with adoptions remaining confidential.

But this raises several important questions for all parties in the adoption process. A birth parent may have signed an agreement to release their contact information should their child begin looking for them once they reach adulthood, but a lot can happen in 18 years. A birth parent may be experiencing other stressors in their life that might cause them to feel unprepared to begin communication with their child after all these years, or they may have started their own family who may or may not be emotionally prepared to begin a relationship with the child. The birth parent may have other children who may not yet be aware of having a half sibling, or their children could be at an age where they may not yet understand. Although a birth parent may have signed a consent for communication at the time of placement, they may be in a different frame of mind now regarding what they are capable of coping with emotionally, or what they feel would be best for their child or family.

Adoptees also have several questions to consider regarding their emotional readiness for reconnecting. Is the adoptee prepared if their birth parent is unable to be located, or if they do not feel comfortable reconnecting? If their birth parent is prepared to begin a relationship, has the adoptee considered the frequency or type of communication they are looking for, and what types of boundaries all parties may want to discuss in the development of their relationship? Is the adoptee ready to meet their birth parents in person, or would they prefer to continue messaging or talking on the phone for a period of time while getting to know each other? What level of connection would the adoptee like if they discover they have half-siblings? The adoptee may also want to discuss their plans with their adoptive parents, and consider how reconnecting with their birth parents may affect family dynamics.

With genetic testing now available that can connect people with others who share their DNA, confidentiality in adoptions has become more complicated, and sometimes impossible, to maintain. Many adoptees who complete genetic testing have been connected to half siblings, cousins, and grandparents, and therefore discover the identity of their birth parents. With this in mind, families who have been involved in the adoption process may want to begin considering how completing genetic tests may lead to unintentional connections to biological family members.

For those interested in pursuing reunification with their biological parents, considering these questions may be important before beginning the search. But despite the emotions and anxiety that may surface during the process, reunification can result in meaningful connections that can be a positive experience for all involved. Biological parents may have been thinking of their child frequently over the years, wondering about how they have grown, and they may be holding out hope that their child will one day reach out to them.

If you are interested in beginning the search for your biological parents and you have worked with Hausmann & Hickman, please feel free to reach out with questions about your specific situation. For Florida birth parents and adoptees who have not worked with our office, the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry can provide an opportunity to reconnect.

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Faith, Loss, Love, and Open Adoption – An Adoptive Mother’s Story

This blog was written by an adoptive mother about her family’s spiritual journey to creating their forever family through adoption! We are grateful to be able to share her story, and we thank her for her openness in writing about her family’s experience with open adoption.

We started our adoption journey, just like so many other couples before us – emotionally filled with a mix of excitement, trepidation, anxiety, and most of all, a longing for a precious child to call our own.  Little did we know, our journey would not be so typical.  Oh boy, was it not!

After years of emotionally preparing for adoption, saving money, and getting our quintessential proverbial ducks in a row, here we were one afternoon with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in our home. She was a warm, educated person, with a soft compassionate voice, and a sincere heart for adoption. She truly was and is an advocate for Birth Families. When we got into the crux of it, she asked us if we wanted an open adoption.  Without hesitation, we said No.  Yep, we were that couple.  We had been through so much already with years upon years of infertility and various treatments, that we simply wanted to be a family of three and move on with life.  While I thought I had read every book and blog on adoption, she said “have you read Dear Birthmother (by Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin)?”   Needless to say, the book was ordered, and a few days later I spent the entire weekend reading this book, cover to cover, always in tears. Just like that, the decision was made that we could not adopt a child WITHOUT knowing the birthparents and experiencing some sort of openness.

Several months passed and then we got “the call” that a Birth Couple had chosen us, but before making their final decision they wanted to meet us.  This was like the biggest interview of our lives, and an important step in showing our honesty to facilitate an open adoption.  A lunch date was set, we continued praying, and within a week or so, we drove three and half hours to meet this couple, and their three daughters, ranging from 18 months of age to age 5.  As quiet and reserved people, we knew we had to be ourselves, but at the same time we could not miss this opportunity to get to know this couple and express just how warm, loving, trusting, and capable we were to be given the privilege to raise their daughter. Turns out they were nervous too!  At the end of the chaotic lunch and the glares from bystanders within ear-shot of the conversation, we headed outside to say our good-byes.  However, to our surprise, the Birth Parents needed no time to decide.  The Birthmother embraced us and told us right then and there – she chose us!!!!  We hugged and cried and took our first family photo.

With three young children already, this couple had made the difficult decision to place their fourth child for adoption very early in her pregnancy.  Consequently, we had this amazing opportunity to get to know this couple before the arrival.  We texted often, we were invited and went to all of the prenatal appointments for six straight months.  We heard the baby’s heartbeat, and learned the sex of the baby at the very moment the Birthmother had heard it.  The Birth Mother was young, but seemed so committed to this process.

During the next six months we drove across the state to visit often, have lunch together, and play with the girls at the park and local bounce house facilities.  As the birth date was approaching our visits were occurring weekly.  There are many definitions to open adoption, but we were experiencing a seriously open adoption triad.

Then at 36 weeks of pregnancy the Devil stepped in.  It was a cool night late in the year, about 9:00 p.m., and we received the most anticipated call – she was in labor!  However, something was not right and she was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  So, we did what we had done so many times before, we prayed, oh did we pray, and traveled three and half hours, in the dark of night.  About an hour into our trip, something had changed.  The excitement turned to pure panic. No matter how hard we prayed, we could not get this nagging feeling to subside that something was terribly wrong.  We kept saying, this is not happening.  Nope, this is not happening! Devil, leave, this is not happening!!!  It was almost as if God was preparing us for what was ahead. Shortly after midnight, we finally arrived and entered the hospital.  It was like the movies, the halls were dark and no one was present, just the receptionist with a glowing light above her.  Somehow, she knew our names, which spooked us (as you could imagine) and she proceeded to take us down the dark hallway to where the Birth Father was sitting with his head in his hands crying, and he was being consoled by his Mother-in-Law. He looked up, came to us crying, and while simultaneously hugging us he said in a whisper, “she did not make it”. We knew nothing of what transpired, we had not received any texts since the initial call, so of course we were filled with questions.  What do you mean? Who did not make it? How is the Birth Mother? What happened? Where is the baby? And, just like that, our adoption journey took the biggest dive.  Our daughter was born a Sleeping Angel.

We spent the remainder of the night at the hospital consoling each other, and worried for the Birth Mother’s health as her life had come close to an end as well.  In the morning the hospital staff came into the room and advised of the next steps.  At that moment, the Birth Mother looked at us, tears in her eyes, and said “she was yours, please make the decisions”.  Really, we had all been through so much and now, instead of planning for the arrival of a baby, we were planning and responsible for a funeral.  How could this be! As God is our witness, we could not turn our back on this precious baby, whom we named Katelynn, or the family, and so we made plans and carried out the Funeral Service the day after Thanksgiving.  After Katelynn’s service unfolded, we gave the family long, deep hugs, cried, and gave them the Christmas presents we had purchased for their three girls, and said our final good-byes.  We texted a few times after the service, but very few, as we each had this internal compass pressing us to move on.

This experience left my husband and I in a very dark and lonely place.  Seriously, most people don’t know how to deal with death, and they certainly don’t know how to deal with the death of child through adoption.  So, unfortunately, we found ourselves going through the grieving process essentially alone.  Each day, as the cliché goes, we put one foot in front of the other, and emotionally carried ourselves forward, praying.

We were at a cross roads – do we take this as a sign and jump off the adoption journey now, or forge forward.  After sleepless nights and endless prayers, we decided to keep going.  We contacted our Adoption Attorneys to let them know that we were probably not emotionally ready, but we needed to keep going, we needed to stay relevant in the adoption search since it can be lengthy. Heck, we were already nearly 12 months into our journey.  And, so they did their part and continued to put our profile in front of other Birth Parents.  A few possibilities were presented, but it just did not feel right in our hearts, the stars did not seem to align, and so we continued to wait.

A few months had passed, and we prayed for answers, we prayed for directions, and we prayed for strength.  Someone once said to me “Maybe you should be happy for what you have”.  She was referring to our happy marriage of 12 years, and inseparable relationship.  This was true, we were very grateful for each other, and the simple life we had together, but that desire to be parents would not go away.  God put that desire in our hearts for a reason. So, we kept praying and waiting.  Ugh, the waiting game is tough.

In early Spring of the following year, I had this feeling come over me (just as on that frightful night) that I needed to call the Adoption Attorneys.  So, I did, I picked up the phone, and Mrs. Michelle Hausmann answered the phone. When does that happen!  It was usually the team that answered. I told her that something or someone, God, was prompting me to call.  It was a divine moment, as she shared that she had a potential case on her desk, that very moment, and she was contemplating calling us, but not sure if it was the case for us for various reasons.  However, she told me that she knew how I operated (intuition) and she proceeded to share the details of the case and set the expectation that we had a very small window of time to consider the case because she was meeting with the Birth Parents on Monday morning (it was then Thursday afternoon). We slept on it, and we called her in the morning, asking her to please present our profile with all the other couples.

Monday afternoon, we received a call that we had been tentatively chosen and the baby would be born in approximately six weeks.  Oh boy! We were so scared, yet so excited, and sooooo impatient!  Could we wait six more weeks – of course we could, but we did not have to.  God was at work!  Wednesday morning, not even 72-hours after learning of our acceptance, Michelle called with the exciting news that the baby was born.  Later that day, at dusk, we walked into a very busy, hustling and bustling hospital.  The place was huge!  We were told to go straight to the nursey, several floors above, where we would meet the Social Worker and she introduced us to our daughter.  Our daughter was tiny, 4 pounds 6 ounces, approximately 6 weeks premature, and she had every imaginable IV and medical cord attached to her precious body.  At that point, we were not allowed to hold her, we just gazed at her, and then we meandered through the sea of hospital hallways and elevators to find her Birth Parents. We stepped out of the elevator, and from down the hall, we heard our names being called in excitement.  Our Birth Mother was almost running towards us, we hugged for a long moment, as if we had known each other for some time. Right there in the hallway, we met for the first time, we spoke for the first time, and it was the first moment of our open-adoption triad.  She quickly whisked us down the hall to her room were we meet the Birth Father.  He, too, seemed so excited to meet us and share the story of the birth. But, it was adoption after all, it was bitter-sweet, it was deeply emotional for all.

These two souls cared so deeply for our (theirs and ours) Daughter.  They genuinely cared for her and loved her unconditionally.  God gave them the strength to fulfill their adoption plan and place her into our care. A privilege of a lifetime!!!  God would also give us the strength and guidance to fulfill an Open Adoption – as this was desired by all, but there are no instructions on how to go about it.

It has been six-years since our daughter was born, and in those six-years we have paved the way for an incredible Open Adoption, and I mean open.  Most recently, we have flown our Birth Mother into town, for a few days. We invited her into our home, she ate dinner at our kitchen table, she said Grace with us, and saw the very world that our daughter lives.  This was an AMAZING experience – almost surreal – and something we will plan to do again.   Prior to this visit in our home, we always (annually) traveled out of State to visit in their home towns. We have been blessed to have met our daughter’s two siblings, her Grandparents, her Aunt, and her Uncle.  Each visit is filled with love, love and more love, and kid friendly stuff, such as painting rocks, feeding ducks, gently riding ATVs, swimming, picking sea shells, boating, and having meals together.  Each visit is perfectly perfect in every way.  When we experience our daughter saturated in this love, and connection, we can see that she deeply needs the connection.  God is guiding us is such a way to protect her, yet allow her to grow in this life knowing the very roots from where she came from, knowing the very person she inherited her curls from, or the very person she inherited a certain behavior or facial expression.

As we have learned, Adoption is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those with a deep desire to be parents, and for those willing to fight for a child they have never met.  Adoption is not like fertility treatments and “if” it is going to happen, Adoption is about “when” it is going to happen. We hope our story of persistence and God’s Will comforts you in knowing that no matter what path your Adoption Journey may take, God is always with you.  He will protect, guide, and fulfill a plan for you that is far better than you could have ever imagined.