Monday, April 8, 2013

Adopt a Family

The first time Erica and I had lunch together, at the beginning of our open adoption relationship, we discovered that we shared a vision, and it is something that we have talked of numerous times since then. Though in our case open adoption has worked well as a means of creating a non-traditional family structure that encompasses both a biological and a non-biological definition of family, we are both also drawn toward the possibilities of another model: supporting mothers together with their children. I believe in family preservation; I believe in keeping children connected to their biological parents, siblings, and other family members whenever possible. But I also recognize that sometimes families need support. Yes, it's true that there are times when it is necessary to separate the child from a dysfunctional family situation for the safety and well-being of the child, but that is not the case in all of the situations the result in adoption. Sometimes, it's not that the parent is unable to parent so much as it is that the parent is unable to do so alone, without support. Is the separation of the parent and child really the best solution in such cases? What if a model existed that would pair them with people who were willing to help them both? What if instead of adopting a child alone you could adopt a family?

imagerymajestic at

Since that initial conversation with Erica, I've been pleased to discover others who share our vision, including adoptees Laura Dennis and 7rin, the latter of whom recently introduced me to the following touching story, submitted by someone named "Bobbi" at
My husband and I, grateful for our own circumstances, met a young woman and her baby son 16 years ago. They had a rented room, but not much support in their lives. We were childless. We moved to a bigger house and became a family. The woman was able to get off of public assistance, get some experience and get a job (...and now is a very experienced bookkeeper and office manager). Our young boy, now 16, was able to go to school and get a solid foundation that now supports him in high school. We got the best gift...the joy of a little boy running to us when we got home from work, a Christmas morning with a child, the hope for the future in his eyes. After five years of living together, the woman and the little boy got their own place and continued their growth and development. They have allowed us to remain in their lives. Kind of godparents, kind of grandparents. Four lives changed forever from a chance meeting and a willingness to be open to give. We made a choice - they made a choice - and everyone (including the resources of the government) benefited. Although we gave them a place to live, some financial assistance and some needed support, we GOT way more than we GAVE.
Now that's what I'm talking about!

But this is one situation. Adoption, on the other hand, is a SYSTEM ... a well-oiled (and well-funded) machine.

I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do have a lot of questions. If we truly understood and valued biological family, if we were to really listen to the many adoptees and original parents who are speaking out today about the pain and disorientation of their separation from one another, if we (as a society) were as focused on the "best interest of the child" as we claim to be, what structural systems might we create to support vulnerable families?

Brainstorm with me, people! What would real support of parents who want to parent look like?

Master isolated images at

Am I saying that adoption should never take place? No. I understand that there are adoption critics who do go that far -- who believe that guardianship should replace adoption in cases where the biological parents are truly unable or unwilling to care for their children -- but through I respect that point of view, it doesn't happen to be mine. I am not prescribing a one-size-fits-all template. I am simply inviting us all to think outside of the adoption box. What might the alternatives might look like?

What say you? What's your vision?


  1. Gosh, I feel this -- all the way to the inside of my being! I practically shouted, "Yes! Yes, this!" while reading this post ;)

    I love the idea of adopting a family. I love the idea of being able to empower the woman and child/ren at the same time, of treating them with love and compassion, of keeping them together to help them out of the weeds and to the other side. Oh Rebecca, I am here with you, and stand with you in the desire for family preservation!

    Also, I feel it important to mention that I am writing from the perspective of being the daughter of a woman who relinquished her first daughter 3 years before my birth whom I never knew of until this past November. We do not know my sister, and I can only wait for her to look for us (because of a promise my mother made many years ago), and I've thought about reunion every single day since learning of her existence.

    I can look back and feel and see the ghost of my sister in our family. I can feel her presence in the way my mom raised me and my brothers, and I can see her in my mom's eyes now, and I can better understand why my mom is who she is.

    I don't have any real answers for you, but I stand with you, not as an adoptee, or as a first mother, but as a sister who wants to see families whole, together, and supported. I stand with you in hope that we will create alternatives to adoption as we know it. Thank you for writing this!

  2. You are welcome, and again, I say, thank you. As I've begun to learn the realities of adoption in the last few months I find myself wanting to speak about and comment on and talk about adoption/adoptee/first mother life, but I feel like I'm on the outside looking in because I don't actually know what it's like to be a first mother or adoptee. I still don't know where my place is, in all this... I just know that I am, indeed, in this, it's just a little different for me :)

  3. I agree. Your point of view is a much needed voice in this whole adoption thing. I can say that from the point of view of a first mother. I don't have any other biological children, but if I did, I would value their voices MUCH more than my own!

  4. YES!! I love this idea SO much...just like I love the idea of keeping the biological family on the certificate of adoption...of including both biological and adoptive families instead of having to choose one family over another.

    I, too, feel a real heart for family preservation and feel that the push in society should be if adoption happens that a child is adopted within his or her biological family instead of outside. I know that I would NOT have chosen that situation and would have placed my daughter outside her biological family (especially since I placed her with people that continue to value our existence in her life). However I think that would fix a lot of societal attitudes surrounding adoption if the focus was on family first and then outside when necessary.

  5. Monika, we may have to chat some time :) Perhaps my comment today is a coming out of sorts, we'll see.

    To bring this all back to the post at hand and away from me (sorry, I didn't mean to do that) -- It seems that we've got to figure out a way to help preserve families that won't get turned into "just-another-social-service" where the women/children/families who are in need won't be afraid to ask for help, where they will feel welcomed and not like a burden, where they won't feel judged, or feel pressured to believe or think or feel certain things in order to receive the support... there needs to be safety and above all love, compassion, empowerment and understanding. Adopting a family seems like a most wonderful way to start :)

  6. We can chat anytime. :)

    But I agree completely. I think if there's a focus on adopting the whole family that it would fix so much of what is wrong in adoption today!

  7. I can't explain the difference it would have made in my situation to have a support system where I didn't feel a burden to. To parent I needed regular child care that didn't cost money - I needed help figuring out hospital bills and housing, I needed someone who would be there any time I needed it. Especially living as an adult away from any family, consistent support I could count on was a scarce resource, the only way I could see to fix that was an abundance of money.
    When thinking about things I go back to social programs a lot - paid maternity leave, affordable day care, affordable health care, even affordable housing - but something like this could create a workable situation without the use of social programs. Great idea.

  8. At one point, when my husband and I were looking to move to the UK, we found that parent/child foster is a thing there. Apparently, parents whose children enter care for the first time are (in some situations) eligible to have the parent and the child live with a family for a while to learn new skills and interactions,and then continue to have visits and support. Crazy good idea! (Though not for us, as we're pretty young and not ready to teach someone else to parent).

  9. Thanks for the comment. Do you have any more information about this? I'd love a URL, if you have one.