Friday, 27 June 2014

Should we really open up for Openness

I have been busy collecting photos and writing updates/letters about 7 of our children.  We have an openness agreement with their birth parents which we are required to spend photos and updates twice per year.  Our updates are sent to a third party and then forwarded to the birth parents as we were advised not to share our personal information with them.  Within the agreement the birth parents are also expected to send letters to the children which are shared at our discretion with the children, assuming the content is appropriate.  Unfortunately the birth parents have not fulfilled their obligation but this does not stop us from keeping up with our part.

We have a range of openness agreements with foster and birth families related to the children we have adopted.  Some, like the one I have been currently been working on, is very limited and non disclosing.  This type is ideal if there is a protection or boundary issue with the parties involved.  It is also beneficial in a situation where emotions are very high and the other party doesn't know if they can participate in an openness agreement.  This type of agreement doesn't have the pressure involved of having to meet face to face but it can be a great starting point that can expand if both parties are in agreement.

With other family members we have scheduled visits 2 times per year in a public location.  For these types of visits with young children we try and pick a location with a play area so the children have a place to burn off steam.  We also find it helpful to have a second support person at the visit.  This second person can be a sibling, friend or another adult.  This is beneficial when you don't want the child to be in a situation where they are one on one with the family member.  If they need to go to the bathroom for example they can go with the second person, this also gives us time to speak privately if needed with the family member.  In our family having multiple children that have been adopted it has been helpful for them to participate in their siblings openness visits.  The children are given the choice of inviting one sibling to the visit with them, the invited sibling is support to the child.  The invited sibling is able to gain a better understanding of what life was like for their sibling and this encourages communication about their past.  This also helps the children feel these visits are a normal part of life "not just for the adopted child".

With other family members we have completely open relationships where we invite them to our home or go to their homes.  With these family members they have adopted our whole family and we have adopted their whole family.  These relationships are like any other relationship our family has.

Some of our openness agreements are written "good will" contracts and others are verbal agreements.  We feel it is important for our kids to have an ongoing connection with their past.  For some of our children the connection with the birth family is very limited and the connection with the foster parents is stronger.  For some of the children the connection is with grandparents, aunts or uncles and others it's with birth parents.  Some relationships have developed over the years and others have waned but the kids have these connections that they can choose to continue when the become adults.  When you adopt there is a huge emphasis that you are the forever family and I agree that when you commit to adopt that it is forever but all the people that  have been in your child's life are also there forever and it is important to support that in a positive fashion.

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