In this week’s blog, GIFT is pleased to feature a guest blogger. Jody Cantrell Dyer, author of Eye of Adoption, Parents, Stop and Think and Field Day. Jody is a mom by both birth and open adoption, and a teacher; she blogs at Theories Size 12. Jody writes with honesty, wit, and wisdom and is a vibrant voice for adoption. We asked Jody to write about her open adoption experience. Enjoy her insights.
Open Adoption: What it is not. What it is.
Jody Cantrell Dyer, author of The Eye of Adoption
As fascinating and difficult as six exhausting years of infertility treatments and two years of the arduous domestic adoption process were for me, almost all the inquisitive remarks I receive from other people these days surround one topic: my family’s open adoption with my son Scotty’s birth parents, Bryant and Kerri.
Only two days ago, a colleague asked me, “What exactly does ‘open adoption’ mean?”
I gave my usual response, saying, “Open adoption simply means that there is direct contact between a child’s birth family and adoptive family. The level of contact in each situation is as unique as the people involved.”
I consider it a privilege to enlighten others and create kinship within and around the adoption community. Because each adoption is different, and I am an adoptive mother (not a lawyer or social worker) I only feel qualified to write about my family’s open adoption. After my inquisitive colleague’s question, I reflected on the most common misconceptions people have. Almost always, they mention what open adoption is NOT, perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of worry on my behalf. Almost always, I end up improving their understanding.
Open adoption is not co-parenting. Scotty’s birth certificate reads “Jeff and Jody Dyer” as his legal parents from birth. We have an older, biological son, Houston (12). Our “rights” with both boys are identical. Kerry and Bryant make no decisions regarding Scotty. They do share, however, in the joys of watching him learn and develop.
Open adoption relationships are not legally binding. My and Jeff’s obligation to Kerri and Bryant is one of a moral promise, not a legal contract. Honestly, I do feel obligated to them. Why wouldn’t I? They made us parents again and made Houston a brother. Jeff and I genuinely respect and care for Kerri and Bryant and are honored to keep in touch with them. We consider them friends.
Open adoption relationships are not confusing. In fact, the situation is clear. We met Scotty’s birth parents about four months before he was born. In that time, we got to know each other and built a relationship of trust. We refer to Kerri as Scotty’s birth mother and Bryant as Scotty’s birth father. He calls them by their first names. Scotty is only four years old, so his understanding is basic and sweet.
A few months ago, I said to him (as I often do), “Houston grew in Mama’s tummy, right?”
Scotty said, “Right!”
I asked, “Where did you grow?”
He happily shouted, “In Kerri’s tummy!”
Then, unprovoked, he added, “Kerri loves me!”
Open adoption is not always simple for adults to understand, but Scotty seems to comprehend quite well. He knows he’s loved by his birth family and his adoptive family.