Wendy Owens and I co-presented at the conference, the subject being openness in international adoption. Wendy covered the practical considerations of opening a closed international adoption, and maintaining that relationship across borders and cultures. She's given me me permission to share her INVALUABLE outline with you here!
Preparing and Navigating Open International Adoption
by Wendy Owens
Ph.D. candidate, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Opening a Closed Adoption
Coming to the Decision to Search/Opening the Adoption
Assuming you are an adoptive parent, who are you doing it for?
Is the child asking?
How do you deal with the unknowns and sometimes small chance at finding first families when speaking to your child?
Examine the whys beyond the curiosity.
Is there really a window of opportunity?
What are you hoping to achieve? Openness? Medical information? History?
Planning Ahead/The Possibilities
Do you know the language? If not, do you have a trusted translator?
Do you have the time/money to devote to the search?
What are you willing to do to get the information you seek? Lie? Bribe? “Donate”?
Can you travel in-country? Researching adoption culture in the country. If you locate them, will you tell the child? Will you tell them you are looking?
What if they are addicted/sick/dead?
Will you ask for DNA? Navigating that request. Locating companies/policies.
Hearing the hard…circumstances of abandonment/relinquishment.
What if they do not want a relationship (assuming you do)?
If your goal is information only, what do you do when they ask to meet/see/visit the child?
What if they ask for money or are in desperate need of it?
How often can the child visit? Have contact--what type?
Dealing with siblings that are being raised in the first family home.
During the Search/Location
Exhausting all avenues/checking every lead
Logistics of obtaining DNA
Will you travel to meet them? Who will go?
Study/learn about birth culture
Establishing and Maintaining Relationships
Recording those first moments.
Honoring their wishes while meeting your child’s needs
Establishing snail mail, email, telephone/Skype calls
Sharing your family and values/culture
Holidays and birthdays
Relationships with other children in the home.
Trust Building/Cultural Barriers
Balancing obligations--keeping focus on the obligation to your child
Privacy--within the birth culture and at home with family/friends
Acceptance and tolerance of different parenting expectations
Taking the Western hat off--coping with privilege Protection--does not equal seclusion/exclusion.
Balancing/maintaining the child’s relationship until they are old enought o write/call/visit on their own.
--establishing ground rules
--changing stories or “saving face”
Sharing and Community
Finding community--adult adoptees, first parents, AP’s helping their children through reunion
Loneliness--coping with ignorance and society
Loss of friends--adoption community fleeing.
I really appreciate Wendy sharing her experiences in search and reunion in international adoption. She has thoughtfully laid out the many difficult issues in deciding whether to search, the considerations in how to search, and the challenges of maintaining an open relationship over miles, through language barriers, and around cultural differences. Thank you, Wendy.