*For those unfamiliar with the phrase, Urban Dictionary explains “Like it’s my job” to mean,
to do something excessively, repeatedly, or to an extent that it becomes one’s trademark.
Example: I sometimes eat cake LIKE IT’S MY JOB! (No, seriously I do…but I digress…)
I recently attended the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative 2013 Conference: Reframing the Adoption Discourse. In fact the first draft of this post was typed on the bus and at various airports while I was coming home this weekend. However it got lost in the interwebz, so bear with me in my sleep-deprived-less-than-coherent recreating of it.
During one panel Tara Linh Leaman said, “It’s not the adoptee’s job” She was referring to the expectation some have that those who were adopted trans-ethnically must educate others about race, but it reminded me of so much more. I often hear things from parents like, “We’ll take our child’s lead when it comes to openness.” It sounds good on the surface and I’m sure it’s mostly said in well meaning ways, however let’s delve a bit deeper.
We’ve turned our children into adoptees either by relinquishing them or by adopting them. We did it. We chose this, they didn’t. So how could it possibly seem fair to stop exerting effort at that point and force the child (or adult depending on when it occurs because, yes–adoptees do grow up) to initiate all the next steps. What if we embraced our roles in openness like it’s our job? What if we knew that when we signed up for this life, we signed up to maintain it for life?
What if at the beginning instead questions being asked about *if* openness is desired in the adoption, we treated it as a given. Asking, “How do you plan to make visits work for this child?” or something similar. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t hear the voices of our children, only that we shouldn’t place such a heavy burden on their shoulders from the outset.
What do you think? Should establishing openness to maintain an adoptee’s genealogical legacy as intact as possible be the job of the birth and adoptive parents? Or is there benefit to waiting until the adoptee brings it up or turns a certain age?
About the author:
Kat Nielsen (neé Cooley), MSW writes here at Open Adoption Bloggers twice a month. She previously worked as a social worker providing comprehensive all options counseling to those experiencing unplanned pregnancy and is now pursuing a PhD in Social Work with a focus on adoption related research. She is also a birth mom over a decade into an open adoption. She is always open to suggestions for topics; you can leave them in the comments, at the OAB Facebook page, or tweet her @KMNielsenMSW.