Sunday, February 2, 2014

Open Adoptions

Mrs ERJ and I adopted all four of our children.  Every once in a while I get asked, "How did you manage to adopt four kids?  I have a sister who has been trying for years to just adopt one child."

The magic

We were introduced to the Open Adoption process by a couple of fantastic Social Workers, Avelyn Marshall and Mike Hall.  They had a cook-book recipe that has worked pretty well.

Foremost, keep in mind that you are helping a birth mother make a parenting decision.  The birth mother is choosing parents who will raise her child in the way she wishes she was able raise him/her.  It is a cruel-hard decision.

Second, throw away the stereotypes.  Just as you found a mate who was the key-in-lock fit for you, your family is the perfect fit for somebody out there.  A birth mother will not give up her baby to an abstract, statistically normed family...unless that is exactly what you are.

Example:  One of our birth mothers was still living with her parents.  We were invited over for ice cream.  Our birth mother did not say much, but one thing she asked was "What is your idea of a perfect Sunday morning."  We told her our perfect morning was to go to Mass at a church with great music and then eat breakfast (Huevos Rancheros) with friends at the restaurant around the corner.

Later, our birth mother's dad told us that answer is what broke us out of a three-way tie.  God/Religion/Church was important to her.  Her grandmother was a devout Catholic.  Our birth mother wanted her child to have a solid moral grounding similar to the one she was raised with.  The other two prospective parents painted verbal images of lounging around in bed, eating pop-tarts and reading the paper.

Be authentic.  Be honest.  Be you.  In a way, you are "dating" to bring another member into the family....just like you brought your spouse into the family.

Three, hit up all your friends and families for pictures of you and your spouse doing things.  Hey Sherlock, you don't have very many pictures of you and your wife on your camera.

You will use those pictures to put together a collage of what brings you joy.  Think VERBS!

Pictures pulled off the internet from multiple sources.  Try for a mix of You+Spouse together and a few separate.
Get help.  Ask around.  You probably know somebody who scrap books who would be delighted to help you.

You will also be incredibly blind to many of the photogenic activities you do.  Do you play in a brass band?  Do you quilt or bake?  Raise any kind of animal?  Act in plays?  Carve wood?

I have a fourth cousin who was trying to get a teaching job.  She neglected to include the tidbit that she proficiently played 23 different musical instruments.  Playing musical instruments came easily to her and she did not perceive it as anything special.

How the collage gets used

I favor fewer pictures and bigger pictures because of how these collages get used.

A typical adoption agency will have many (even hundreds) of applications on file.  The social worker will make a rough match between what the birth mother says she wants and the applications on file.  The applications that most closely match will be pulled and the 10 best fits will be offered to the birth mother to sort through.

They always look through the pictures first.

In my mental picture, the birth mother will sort through the 10 possibilities and separate them into A pile (3 or 4) and C pile (better luck next time) in less than a minute.  That means your pictures have 6 seconds to communicate a vivid, coherent, three dimensional message to your birth mother.  Twelve pictures and relatively little text can do that.  Sixty pictures and paragraphs of text will not.

Wrap up

To any who are/were birth mothers:  Thank-you!  I pray that we have been able to honor the vision you had for your child.

To any who are considering adoption:  We would do it again.

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