catapult magazine

catapult magazine


My Son, Jacob


May 08 2005
01:15 pm

glad you appreciated the article. Anonymous, I’d like to add some info on the history of adoption that I’ve learned in the past few years.[/size:947ff5c427]

Anonymous, you wrote:
[size=9:947ff5c427]It wasn’t long ago that adoptions were completely closed and the adopted child was not able to find out the motives for their parents’ placing them in adoptive homes or more likely perhaps, with agencies. Without firm confirmation of a parent’s love, love which may or may not be discussed in the adopted home, it is difficult for the adopted person to stay on the sunny side of this scenario and not feel like the victim and the unwanted. I hope Ms. Landini may understand the next time she hears an adopted person talking in this passive way. There is often pain on both sides and at times it is difficult for the adopted person to escape it. [/size:947ff5c427]

When I was pregnant and reading about adoptions, I discovered that adoptions used to be wide open, as in, for hundreds of years. That all changed in the 1920’s through the 1950’s. There was a movement, unfortunately it was an outgrowth of a moralistic, Christian revival, and the prevailing wisdom of the day was that children who were placed in adoptions should have absolutely no contact with their birthparents (mothers in particular) because there was a fear that the child would turn out like their ‘immoral’ birthmother.

It was in the 1920’s that closed adoptions here in the USA began. (probably Canada too, but I don’t know as much about Canadian adoption laws & history) It’s a painful, ungracious history. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, closed adoptions were beginning to be questioned by professionals in the adoption community as well as members of the adoption triad (birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptive children). Reunions were sought out on many sides (sometimes for crucial medical information). Professionals began to see that closed adoptions didn’t seem to be in the best interests of the individuals they were serving.

I don’t know about all adoption agencies, but Bethany Christian Services (BCS) did begin doing open adoptions in the late 1970’s beginning with their Grand Rapids, Michigan office. The woman who was Bethany’s first open adoption has gone on to graduate from college now and speaks often about her experience growing up in an open adoption. I think she is even on the board for Open Adoption Insight. (Go to for more info) As a side note, BCS has a spotty record in most of their other offices, although they are working hard to be considered more professional. They don’t have the greatest reputation within the adoption community between individuals who have been clients as well as with other professionals.

It’s a very slow process for adoptions to become open once again. There is a Haitian proverb that states, “A man sees from where he stands” and in the adoption world, there are still many people who think that in order for adopted children to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, they need to have closed adoptions. There are also adoptive parents who choose closed adoption because THEY feel more comfortable with it, not out of any selfless interest for their children.

Of course, there are also many legitimate reasons for choosing closed adoptions—if the child’s life would be in danger, it is an extreme situation where it would be better to not have contact, etc. But, those are in the minority. Most often, fear is the single reason. It is scary, it’s uncomfortable, there isn’t too much security at the beginning of the relationship(s). But, that’s the secret—it’s a relationship. Relationships are organic and can’t be controlled, only nurtured.

I have friends who are plagued (or have been plagued) with unanswered questions concerning their pasts because of closed adoptions or because of absentee parents in general. A lot depends on personality. I do know some adoptive children/adults who have never had a second thought about it.

The most intimate reason I chose OPEN adoption for my son is because I’ve grown up plagued myself by the absense of a relationship with my father. Many years were spent agonizing over why I was (what I perceived to be) unwanted by him and endless wondering of who he was or is.

Steve, Diane and I decided long ago that Jacob could never be loved too much or by too many people. My goal was that Jacob would never need to fixate or create imaginary ideas about where he came from-he has his story, it’s his. He deserves to know everything, eventually. For right now, he knows that I’m his “belly mommy”, that he grew up inside my belly, not Diane’s. We go through the pictures of his birth and placement together every few times we visit. Right now, he could care less, he just wants me to play with his trains.

In general, I do believe children deserve information about their stories/backgrounds and need that information to put together the picture of who they are. Thanks for reading this long post, I hope I don’t come off as too defensive! There is a lot of misconceptions about what open adoption is and many people (some of my friends and family included) are still scared of it. I hope I portray things in an honest, open light.