Definition of openness is changing…

13 Jul


Within the last six months, I have read several posts on the difference between open adoption, what defines openness, and what closed adoption means.  I’m seeing this explained on personal blogs, FB pages, and elsewhere.

When I first came on-line the definitions seemed pretty clear.  Open meant knowledge of who each party was, meeting and getting to know each other, after the adoption, direct communication and some visits.  Semi-open was kind of vague, but usually just first names and written communication usually through the agency, but each was slightly different.  Closed meant no communications, although a few did meet the first mother at the hospital once.

The shift I am seeing appears to also include a rewriting of historical adoptions about how families in closed adoptions actually lived.  Kind of disturbing that history is being rewritten when those who lived it, are still alive and talking about it today on blogs, message boards, FB pages, memoirs, conferences, what have you…

The new shift in the definition of “open adoption” now includes (gasp) telling the child they were adopted, and talking about it in the home (double gasp)…

I’m using this post because it drives home the point of how history is being rewritten…

P.s. – yes, there are late discovery adoptees from my era, and since then, and there will be late discovery adoptees from this era as well, because “some” still think they don’t need to be honest with their kids…





Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Adoption


Tags: , , , , , ,

17 responses to “Definition of openness is changing…

  1. TAO

    July 13, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Do read the post linked. HOW on earth could anyone assume that prior to 1980 no parents told their kids they were adopted? Didn’t talk about being adopted in the home? How did my school friends know they were adopted? How did all the adopted kids I met at camp know they were adopted? How can anyone think that way?


  2. JavaMonkey

    July 14, 2014 at 1:58 am


    I think they are setting up a classic strawman fallacy. By redefining closed adoption, the author has effectively lowered the bar for open adoption. Typical, considering the source.

    My BSE era adoption was closed. It was not a transracial adoption, so I guess I could have “passed”. Yet, my adopted parents told me I was adopted when I was three years old and never hid the fact from anyone. Does that make it open? Of course not!


    • TAO

      July 14, 2014 at 3:12 am

      That’s kind of what I was thinking, because by that definition, most adoptees from the BSE were raised in open adoptions which telling and talking about it does not make it open, it makes it honest.

      For a while I couldn’t quite understand how various people were defining open adoption as telling the child and talking about it in the home – it made no sense, now it does.

      I was shocked when I read that, truly shocked…and I know my post is somewhat unclear but after reading a blog post this morning explaining that telling and talking about adoption meant it was an open adoption I decided to look deeper…and found the post on an agency site…not good rewriting history…

      …if anything, not being told was a minority…


  3. cb

    July 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

    It sounds very similar to information about open adoption on the American Adoption agency’s website (I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some connection):

    I do believe that in the very early days of the post-war form of newborn adoption that it was suggested that parents not tell their children but by the50s/60s, it was generally considered best to tell a child they were adopted so it is ridiculous of AA to say that because adoptions were closed that that meant that children weren’t told. Btw note the first half of the last paragaph and one see the true appeal of “open adoption” to agencies “Open adoption has quite literally saved adoption in the United States”

    I think I was told when I was about 6-7 and wasn’t particularly surprised. My parents were honest and kept within the facts which has helped me to look at the situation with a clear head as an adult.

    I do worry about some of today’s adoptees because, judging by some blogs, the sanity of some of their APs and BPs seem to rely on the adoptees living a perfect life. I prefer the practical approach of me ancient old parents.

    I’m not a perfect adoptee and I like it that way 🙂


    • TAO

      July 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Wow, very similar. So wrong. I wonder how they explain away the thousands of adoptees who have applied for and received their original birth certificate after other adoptees have successfully (after decades of work) to reverse the laws? If it was one or two they could explain it, thousands, not so much.

      Or, you know, they could actually study the history of adoption, talk to adult adoptees, stuff like that. Or, just visit the adoption history project by the University of Oregon.


    • Beth

      July 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      “I do worry about some of today’s adoptees because, judging by some blogs, the sanity of some of their APs and BPs seem to rely on the adoptees living a perfect life. ”

      I’ve noticed that too. And I witnessed a young amother freak out on our family vacation when her 8 yr old was not happy. Having a tantrum and boo hooing even. He was not happy because he could not swim as fast as his cousin of the same age. And for some reason it was like he was blaming his mom, it was her fault, a habit learned from her I imagine, from what I witnessed later.

      Mom freaked that he was so distraught – and not happy or perfect. She does this with everything he is unhappy about – gotta make it perfect! I saw panic go thru her entire body, it was shocking to me. She instantly googled the area and started making phone calls and had him signed up in $$$$$special private swimming lessons$$$$$$$ that afternoon and for the rest of the week. WE (28 of us, omg what a nightmare) WERE ALL ON FAMILY VACATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      My suggestion of getting back in the pool with the cousins and practicing for the rest of the week while having tons of fun was ludicrious – “He can’t learn properly like that! It must be perfect and that is lame, that’s what lazy parents do.”
      I pointed out that she just insulted several parents in the group. Not me! I own up to my “lazy” common sense parenting style. And pointed out that’s how cousin swims so well, because he stays in the pool at home and on all vacation weeks since he was a baby with his cousins! You know, those awful things called competition and practice – work! In the past the adopted one’s mom wouldn’t let him near the water without her in there with him, and tons of floaties and every safety precaution known to man. (There were always several kids in the small pool, and many adults sitting around keeping an eye on them all, including his DAD!) When he was 6 he had to wait for mom to get in before he could get in the pool – he was the only kid not in the pool… and embarrassed.

      Just shoot me 🙂 but I asked her if his bparents were good swimmers. Huh, even with “their” open adoption that they mention to me all the time… she didn’t know. (sealed obc, semi-annual non-identifying emails thru agency, she’s not happy that I don’t think it is really open… to her son at all)
      I suggested she should ask, if I were her son I would want to know if either of my parents, or my sibs were great Olympic swimmers to non-swimmers! She said it could take months for a response, she had just sent her required semi-annual email in June. I asked if she could send an additional one with a question – “that’s not how they do it”. And said does it really make a difference? swimming is something you learn. She chose hundreds of dollars worth of private lessons tho, and a major family-public freak out for her sons oh so sad imperfection.

      Looking back at it now, to me it seems his so-called imperfection and sadness of it was more about her parenting, to her, than him not being able to swim as well as someone else’s kid. Like he is merely a reflection of her. With her being a loud and proud Competition-Is-Evil-Mom, I’m a bit confused now!

      My mom was insane before my imperfections showed buahahahaha
      can’t blame it on me:)


      • TAO

        July 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        Helicopter parenting to the extreme, perhaps more likely in adoption due to infertility, or guilt, or external pressure. Sucks to be the kid. The older I get the more validity all those sayings that stood the test of time make sense, like practice makes perfect.

        I often wonder how any of us survived, I grew up in a town with a local outdoor swimming pool, we all had season passes and could be found there most days, often with mom and dad having to come to find us/have a quick swim in the evening. If we weren’t doing that we were off biking with friends or something else. How did we ever survive?


        • cb

          July 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm

          Actually, I did almost drown once (we had a swimming pool at the back of our block of flats). My dad saw me from a distance (he had been cleeaning the car) and leapt over the fence and pulled me out.

          Having said that, they weren’t helicopter parents by any means – we all spent time in the pool with the other kids or riding our bikes around the local area. Nothing wrong with a bit of “benign neglect”.


          • Beth

            July 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

            Ok, finally, a sensible mom!!!!!!!!!
            sending this link to someone I know LOL

            “And here’s the biggest tip for Beneficial Neglect: Your child’s boredom is your child’s responsibility. Boredom motivates. Motivates exploration, autonomy, creativity. Well, it does unless the parent falls into the trap of being the solution to boredom”

            I love this! I’ve always tell mine when they cry “I’m bored” – “Only lazy boring people are truly bored” and walk away, cause there is too much fun stuff to do for me to be bored.
            Drives the kids bonkers – and leads to all sorts of ideas for them.
            I can’t even list all the things that have come from my comment, zip lines, slip and slide, rafts and forts, wilderness adventures, truck bed pools, crazy fun vehicles, there is too much fun around here to be had for anyone to be bored/lazy.


  4. Beth

    July 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I just want to scream lately. What the hell is wrong with people. How can they possibly think or expect that an adopted baby/person will not want to know about their genetic roots? How can they think that openness in adoption is about what they can handle instead of the adopted one? I rarely hear from any of them about openness FOR the Adopted one, at any age. They go thru so much effort wiggling around it or out of it and trying to rationalize their craziness.

    “Open” adoption is used regularly as a great sales pitch. It works too.

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to be fully open about another persons entire family, their beginnings????? I mean really! It must take more effort avoiding it than just doing it.
    I have no patience with these people anymore, they seem to be everywhere I go.
    I see the donor conceived fighting this same fight, and they are really having to fight hard for openness, and rights and trying to make sense with people. If you think some of the born baby adopting parents are not so understanding of this, check out some of the donor conceived parents attitudes, and the public’s, holy moly. Many insist it is completely different than adoption is. Maybe for them, but for the one born, for the one with anonymous parent/parents?????? I think not.

    My age is showing, I know…
    I’ve been hanging around with many outstanding young adults lately in their late 20’s and 30’s.
    OMG I feel like a history teacher. They get all kinds of things mixed up, cooked up in their own way to suit them now in this day. It was impossible Not to explain history to them, so they can get their opinions closer to reality and history. I’m tired, I’m going to the old folks home to visit, so I can be the young dumb one 🙂 and hear some history lessons…….. which I happen to really love hearing!


    • TAO

      July 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Rewriting history isn’t a new concept, a dangerous one, but not new. Having the gall to rewrite history when the history they want to change still has people alive who lived it and say otherwise…kind of unwise.


  5. cb

    July 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    “If you think some of the born baby adopting parents are not so understanding of this, check out some of the donor conceived parents attitudes, and the public’s, holy moly. Many insist it is completely different than adoption is. Maybe for them, but for the one born, for the one with anonymous parent/parents?????? I think not.”

    Believe me, I know. I’ve been trying to explain to some online people that anonymity in DC affects the child and I keep getting told that I’m interfering with their reproductive rights.

    Still, I’m trying to be patient and trying to explain it in different ways. I have a feeling that if their children should one day ask “Mom and dad, why did you deliberately chose an anonymous way of conceiving me when you had the choice of not doing so – did you not think that I might want to know my origins?”, they might then think “What have I done?”. I have asked people what their response would be if their child said the above and have had no answers – perhaps they just don’t want to think about it.


  6. Tiffany

    July 16, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I think it’s a pretty typical article. I read it twice, though, and didn’t see anything stating that open adoption is telling your children they are adopted. Am I missing something? I do think that while all adoptions were not kept secret, many were. That’s at least my understanding. Many adoption agencies specifically matched a child to parents that looked similar. The sentence could have been phrased better though to not imply that ALL adoptions were this way because that certainly isn’t the case.

    What I have never liked about the presentation of open adoption is the attitude that it is some sort of fix. As though, now that a child will know her first parents in some capacity, all those pesky adoption issues just fly away. Open adoption is simply fixing one of the wrongs- a child should only be kept from her biological family in very extreme cases, and otherwise, children deserve to know their family and their roots. But it doesn’t mean there are not issues from adoption, and that the open relationship in itself won’t cause issues for the child. It’s not some magic wand.


    • TAO

      July 16, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Tiffany,

      The opening paragraphs stated what happened in adoption prior to 1980, no qualifications, no exceptions, none knew they were adopted. No one told in closed adoptions…
      “Adoptive parents were expected to raise the children “as their own” without ever mentioning where they came from. And the children themselves had no idea about anything until the truth would accidentally slip out. Sometimes it would come directly from the adoption record. Other times it would come out as part of their parents’ deathbed confession.”


      “All because they realize that openness is in the best interests of their child, the litmus test for any adoption. By letting a child know where he or she came from and who his or her parents are, open adoption helps build a strong sense of identity, security and self-esteem.”

      I’d be surprised if most semi-open adoptions have all that much more info than we had, perhaps more truthful (some were, some weren’t), but surely not enough to know who they really are any better than we did. I could be wrong – my story was wrong but I always knew my last name, others had the story right no name, and everything in between. Profiles I have read and blog posts – speak to telling the child they were adopted and talking about the birth parents and adoption. I don’t see a big difference.

      I do not like that history is being rewritten in absolutes that allow for “openness” to be defined as telling the child they are adopted and about the people they came from.

      As to telling, if so many of us had never been told, then there would be no adoptee rights, there would not be thousands of adoptees seeking their original birth certificates when laws change. There wouldn’t be so many adoptive parents who were adopted. There wouldn’t be studies on us adoptees or descendants of adoptees seeking to find where they came from. Some didn’t tell, some did, I’d guess far more did than didn’t. Up in one of my comments above is a link that speaks to telling from the adoption history project.

      Some still don’t tell them that were adopted in this century and have no intention of doing so.


      • Tiffany

        July 16, 2014 at 7:52 pm

        I think the problem is that the article is written poorly to the point where it can be inferred that an open adoption is defined as telling your child they are adopted. But I don’t think that’s what the author is saying because she specifically defines open adoption as “The birth parents and adoptive exchange identifying information about each other and keep in contact — through emails, phone calls or face-to-face meetings — before and after the placement of the child.”

        I think all she was doing was comparing a bad stereotype of adoption pre-open adoption, when some agencies encouraged secrecy (not ALL, but some, and as I said, she should have clarified that) to today’s open adoption atmosphere where only the most disreputable agencies or social workers would actually recommend not telling a child they are adopted. Some parents still don’t tell their children, but I would consider those to be in the minority. She’s incorrect in that, and that’s clear, but my question is where is she re-writing history to define today’s open adoption to be simply telling your child they are adopted? I don’t see her writing that statement.

        As for semi-open adoption, I agree with you that there is not necessarily any better info provided. I’ve personally never read or heard any adoptive parent defining their adoption as open simply because they tell their child their birth story. I understand you say you have seen that, and I believe there might be, but I’ve never seen that defined anywhere, nor do I think this article is seeking to define it that way.

        I think the article is very confusingly written, and, like I said, I disagree with the tone it sets that open adoption, or semi-open which is really nothing, fixes everything. I also, upon a third reading, hate this statement: “Plus, open adoption gives them [adoptive parents] a voice in the selection process and, in some cases, shorten the wait to become a parent.” THAT sets my teeth on edge. Open adoption is not meant to be some trick to get you a baby faster. It’s meant to be a heartfelt commitment to maintain a relationship with the parents of your potential child not just while it’s convenient, but for life. You choose an open adoption because you believe it is the right and best thing for a child of adoption to have a relationship with their first family. I despise the attitude that it’s something prospective adoptive parents need to use as a way to get a baby.

        I want to be clear that I don’t like the article at all, and I don’t disagree with your premise. I just don’t see that in this article- that open adoption can be defined as simply telling your child she is adopted.


        • TAO

          July 17, 2014 at 4:22 pm


          I looked for the blog post that spoke to it clearer than the article did above but it has cycled out of my wordpress reader and I didn’t save the link. I should have posted the link but I didn’t want her to feel badly either, and why I don’t generally post links that have that potential. To me it is the rewriting of history as only the way they painted it – open adoption is the opposite…I’m not finding the words to express it better because my head has been pounding for several days now. All I can say is that is the collective message that I hear from starting with their definition of closed and what open is, and I expect many will as well. Then there is also the pushback of prospective adoptive parents who want closed but agencies push openness – look we have a compromise kind of deal…send pictures for a while and tell the child they are adopted and talk about adoption and we’ll call that open adoption.


          • Tiffany

            July 17, 2014 at 10:37 pm

            I understand, that’s why I said I’m sure you read it, I just haven’t seen it myself. But I know how it goes when you wander around the internet and know you saw something but can’t recall where. I do hope you are feeling better!

            Like I said, it really angers me when open adoption is used in that manner. I am strongly for legal, enforceable (and easy to enforce) open adoption agreements.



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