ADOPTION EDUCATION, LLC
OPENNESS IN ADOPTION
by Patricia Irwin Johnston, MS
THE COMMITMENT - continued
I've been putting myself on the line for years with my child-centered position. It is important for would-be adopters to do their basic adoption decision-making as early as possible in the infertility treatment or family-planning process and to put adoption itself and then various styles and approaches to adoption in or out of the mix while still in treatment. Then, no matter how large they hope that their family will actually grow, to actively pursue (the key word is "actively" here) only one family-planning option at a time. Engage in treatments. Plan a private adoption. Accept an intercountry referral. But do so one at a time.
The core of my beliefs on this topic is this: Every child deserves to be wanted, to be dreamed about, to be prepared for, for who he is and will become, not as a substitute for a child one might have had, not as a prize in a race to see how quickly one can become a parent against great odds. The biggest difference between the two anecdotes shared above is not with the adults involved at all; the adoption story would be just as applicable to single adopters as to coupled-adopters. Instead the most important difference between these anecdotes is that the various possible outcomes of the adoption story each put an innocent child at substantial, and completely avoidable, risk. At risk how?
- At risk physically because of the hormonal effects (increased cortisol and other stress-produced hormones) on his prenatal environment of this confusion and betrayal to his already-stressed expectant mother.
- At risk because his adoptive parents didn't "believe" enough in his coming to fully prepare themselves (through a psychological pregnancy), their home, lives, and their family and friends for him and him alone, and so they may be slow in developing a comfortable sense of entitlement and/or attachment.
- At risk for the negative effects of being "artificially twinned" (see section which follows)-parental stress and divided attention for the first few months after birth are obvious, but artificial twinning carries potential long-term problems, too.
- At risk because his birthmother may or may not be able to resolve this crisis in his best interests over either the short or the long term. What if her sense of betrayal leads her to decide that the falling apart of a carefully made adoption plan means that adoption itself was the wrong choice; will she be prepared to parent effectively when she didn't think she was before? Even more, might she feel powerless, in the face of crisis, to change her mind and feel "forced" to place her baby with people she no longer trusts? What if she does say no to the first couple and follows through with a plan for adoption; will she have enough time and support to find another couple without feeling "pushed into it"? Will the second-chosen adopters have enough time to prepare adequately? Will the birthmother regain her ability to trust?