My wife and I adopted two of our four sons, Z and J, in 1998 and 2003, respectively. (Back to our dating days, we decided that we wanted to adopt two and have two the more conventional way-- and the Lord honored that desire. We'll see about more in the future; stay tuned!)
Both adoptions were trans-racial and semi-open through a private agency, Childplace. We received good training through them and the state of Kentucky. We talked to adoptive parents; we listened to panel discussions; we read the literature; we got involved in a trans-racial adoption support group; and so on.
We didn't get to meet Z's birth-parents initially. I was at a conference, scheduled to hear Margaret Thatcher speak that evening (!), when the call came. They were willing to meet us that day, but despite me rushing home, they found it too difficult to hang around and meet us the next day. We did get to meet J's birthparents at the agency-- after she had given birth and he had been placed in the foster home, as we awaited the court's work to be done. That was an amazing experience!
Once we had our children, like most adoptive parents, we were leery to have direct contact with the birth-parents. (I think we were less leery than average, but still not fully at ease with it.) We wanted photos and cards/letters from them, through the agency. But meeting them, with our son, was somewhere between exciting, mysterious, worrisome, cool, and weird. If the occasion had arisen, we would have done it, but not without some fears and worries.
Once the boys got older, we started to realize that we didn't have anything (significant) to worry about. When your kid is X years old, it would scare the tar for him/her to think of living with people, who to him, are complete strangers. And we heard stories from friends who had open adoptions and glowed about the opportunity to meet the birth parents. We grew more and more interested in meeting with them.
Unfortunately, but understandably, we weren't getting much contact from the birth-parents through the agency. (I can't imagine how tough it would be, in their position.) We received a letter or two and some photos from J's birth-parents. But Z's birth-parents had a rough life and went underground (from the agency's perspective) when he was a year old. All of the letters and photos we had sent to them remained in a file at the agency.
Making things more challenging, it seemed likely to us that J's birth-father (and perhaps his birth-mother) would be willing to meet-- if we asked for that. But this would have been really tough on Z, who is about 4.5 years older and far-darker-skinned, and thus, has wrestled much more with adoption. So, we laid back-- waiting, hoping, and praying that Z's birth-parents would emerge.
In March 2010, the agency found Z's birth-mother on Facebook! The case worker asked whether she was interested in receiving the pictures and letters from the last decade. She said yes. Then, she wrote us! Very exciting-- for us and for Z. We would exchange letters every few months-- us writing soon after receiving her letters, and then her, after some weeks. We were angling to meet her, but it seemed like we were treading water. Finally, we pushed by giving specific dates-- and after another long wait, she agreed.
In the meantime, we had an exceedingly rough year with Z. His behavior at home was really difficult: punching holes in walls, intimidating my wife, scaring the other boys, and so on. It got to the point where I would not leave him alone with my wife and other kids. His grades were not good; he would occasionally refuse to go to school; and so on. It was UGLY!
So, here's the wild thing. When we finally met her in May 2011 at a McD's, Z was immediately and completely of a different heart. He apparently felt tremendous peace and resolution. Looking back, we hadn't caught that his gradually increasing agitation and behavioral problems seemed to stem from having contact with her, but not having yet met her. While he still had/has some bad habits to work through-- in terms of how to respond to frustration-- it was like night and day. Crazy!
After a second visit with her, we then moved to ask for a meeting with J's birth-father. In the same time period, he had found me on Facebook and we exchanged more messages and pictures. We met him with J-- again at a McD's-- and it was excellent.
So, what should adoptive parents take from our story:
-If you haven't already, continue to talk openly with your kids about adoption.
-If you haven't already, read some of the literature on adoption, the sense of loss and gain for the child, etc.
-Pray for wisdom and courage. Ask others to join you.
-Be open to meeting the birth-parents.Consider that your adoptive child will probably want to meet his/her birth-parents. Do you want to do that with him/her now, when they're a little older-- or do you want them to do it by themselves when they're 18-22? What signals does it send if you don't aim to do it if you can?
-Continue to persistently love your children-- no matter what they feel, what they claim to feel, what they say, what they do.