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Open adoption expands a family.

Posted by Lori Maas | Last updated April 28, 2017

By Matt Dorbin and Ben Crandall. On a sunny weekend day, you’re most likely to find Matt, Ben, five-year-old Zachary, and almost-two Cordelia at the zoo. Cordelia adores animals of all shapes and sizes – she’s just as fascinated by the ducks as the tigers, and Zachary takes his big brother responsibilities very seriously, pointing out everything he sees to her. Zachary also loves going to the beach with Matt to collect ‘treasures’ in a pail, while Ben takes Cordelia out after her nap for a frozen yogurt break. Zachary’s birthmother lives only twenty minutes away, but Cordelia’s birthparents are in the Midwest. It’s meant managing two different styles of relationship: Matt and Ben schedule time with Zachary’s birthmother more casually, whenever everyone can get together (though she never misses the annual Zach’s birthday/Super Bowl party), and make scheduled, longer trips every other year to visit Cordelia’s birthparents. Birthparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all friends of Matt and Ben on Facebook and get a steady stream of cute kid pictures and stories, which helps everyone feel connected, especially people hundreds of miles away. “One of the things that really warms our hearts is the way our children’s birth families have embraced not just their child, but their sibling as well. It’s been an expansion of what family means for everyone involved.”

At the start of our adoption journey, we’re pretty sure OA&FS was first “the agency Dan Savage used” to us, though neither of us can remember who actually told us that anymore. We came to the first informational meeting in Seattle and the concept of openness in adoption (which seemed much less mainstream then than it is now) clicked for us immediately; Matt has four adopted cousins and we both have adopted friends as well, and that desire for connection with their birth families was present in so many of them to greater and lesser degrees. It felt like the best possible outcome for everyone concerned.

We really appreciate OA&FS’s focus on the well-being of every part of the adoptive triad. Adoption is a life-changing experience for everyone involved and we would never have been comfortable proceeding with it without feeling completely confident that the agency had the best interests of the birth family firmly present in their minds. We felt that every step of the way with OA&FS. The first woman who chose us ultimately decided to parent, and as hard a time as that was for us, it ultimately strengthened our confidence in the agency and our own principles. Knowing that the agency would respect and honor a decision to parent made us sure that when our time came to be chosen again that it was a fully informed decision made freely.

We donate to OA&FS because we want to support the outreach OA&FS does and help them spread their visibility. Our daughter’s birth family specifically wanted to place her with a same-sex couple, an option that was not legal under their state’s laws at the time. Having OA&FS as an option meant that they got an outcome more in line with their desires than local agencies would have been able to offer. We also believe strongly that women facing an unplanned pregnancy and unsure what to do deserve to have all their options placed in front of them in a nonjudgmental manner, and we trust OA&FS to do that.

On a practical level, our open adoption experience has changed our family’s life by giving us access to our children’s medical histories and to genetic relatives. This has saved them from the prospect of a few unpleasant-at-best medical procedures. (You haven’t lived until you’ve sent a text to a woman you’ve known less than three months asking her to measure her head circumference!) But that’s just the surface. Open adoption to us is another expression of our belief that it’s up to each of us to choose what relationships are most meaningful, and to embrace those possibilities even when they’re unexpected. Our children are learning – and we’re learning too – that family is what you make it.

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