Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #26

How do/would you talk with children about siblings in open adoption? How do you approach this as a (first or adoptive) parent, or how was it handled in your family if you grew up with siblings who didn't live with you? For prospective adoptive parents or first parents without other children, has this been something you've thought about how you would approach?

I have not shared many details of the situations we've been shown and I am going to be annoyingly non-specific here, to the point of boringness, nay tediousness, but I can definitely say that siblings were involved. Of the three situations we've been given details of, at least one had a child/ren that were being raised by their parents, at least one had child/ren that had already been adopted, and at least one had a child protective services order that meant no further children would be raised (at least not unless circumstances changed drastically). We saw a couple of pictures (and though all of the expectant parents were, still, expecting, and we didn't see any ultrasounds, it was a bit heart-wrenching to see what a child might look like).

So we have already had to think about siblings.

We were given full details including general living area of the placed sibling/s (and obviously the parented sibling/s). We knew how many and how old, not just for the purposes of getting a full health/pregnancy history but seemingly for the purpose of getting a better idea of the situation. All three sets of expectant parents asked for at least some degree of openness, but we don't know how much they already have with their placed child/ren - though at least one picture was of a placed child so in at least one case there are at least pictures being shared.

So we can know that our child, if any of these situations had worked out, or indeed in future situations, would be able to know about all older sibling/s (unless there are some that the expectant parents are not disclosing to the agency). We would have to address issues of, why was A raised and not me, and/or why was my mother not "allowed" to "keep" me.

If the future repeats the past, there could be further siblings but we would have no idea if we would get to know about any that were placed (in the one case not voluntarily). I think from our side, we would try to get in touch with the adoptive parents of the placed child/ren.

Contact with birth siblings is actually far more common in the UK than is contact with birth parents. It would be very rare here for adoptive parents not to have information about birth siblings, either older or younger, and adoptive parents here would understand that more (and do express frustration with the adopters of their child's siblings, who won't keep contact).

So I guess you could say we have a plan, or at least we've thought about the issues. But the practicalities are different. At least one of the placed child/ren lives in a different state to their birth parents. So although we are definitely planning to visit at least the state of our child's birth, even if we can't visit birth parents, that would mean we'd have to try and visit multiple locations to have direct contact with sibling/s - is that even practical in the long term? Would their adoptive parents want that? I know I've connected with cousins I saw rarely growing up, but is that inevitable assuming you are both willing, or does it assume some similar values in your upbringing?

But as far as talking to our child/ren, we have definitely had to think about that. Even in the UK, where most birth siblings of a child who was removed will also be removed, some will still be in the home (perhaps if half siblings, with their father). Some will be living with birth relatives. So we have been asked to think about how to talk to children about parented siblings.

In some ways that's harder than placed siblings - though of course we know children (whether birth or adopted) have all those impractical questions that make parents weep or despair, about why their parents can't have another child, have five more children, adopt their sibling/s.

I know it is all handwaving at this stage and it's easy to say it will all be fine and dandy if we are open - and I'm sure it won't - but I'm hoping that one aspect of "open" will be "open about the whole birth family" right from the start.


Twangypearl the Elastic Girl said...

Interesting to see your thoughts on this. I hadn't considered this level of detail at all up till now - each situation is so different and it's so hard to think about it in the abstract.

There are so many THINGS TO CONSIDER at this point. SO MANY! I have consideration fatigue.

DrSpouse said...

I think you haven't done your preparation course yet have you?

Because when you do they will make you think about this until you are really done...

DrSpouse said...

Gah. My mistake. I see you have done your course. It is in a lot of ways just what they told you... only more so.