Welcome to week three of my Summer Interview Series. Each week I'll post an interview with someone touched by adoption. I hope that you will enjoy learning about them as much as I have. Please let me know if you would like to participate or would like to suggest someone else for me to interview.
This week - Adoptive parent and adoption attorney
What is your name/title as you'd like it to appear on my blog? Gregory A. Franklin Ashcraft Franklin Young & Peters, LLP
What are some of the adoption-related challenges you have faced as an adoptive parent, and what are some of the things you've done to overcome the challenges? The biggest challenge was the realization that my son did not necessarily share my joy at being a parent! Adoptive parents need to remember that many adoptees experience feelings of loss, disruption and inadequacy, among other issues, and that we adoptive parents must be sensitive to the presence of those feelings.
What about being a parent has surprised you? What about being an adoptive parent has surprised you? I don’t see many material differences in being an adoptive parent than being a non-adoptive parent. My biggest surprise was how all-consuming it is to be a parent - I could barely remember my life before I became a parent, and how inconsequential that life had been!
The socio-political tide seems to be turning against international adoption, with a variety of factions citing a variety of reasons. What are your thoughts about the current state of international adoption? How is it different than when you adopted your son? What do you think the future holds for international adoption? I am saddened that those steering international adoption apparently believe that it is better to allow a child to fester in an orphanage than to be given the chance to thrive in an adoptive home. Between greed, bureaucratic barricades and homophobia, international adoption is a pale shadow of its former robust self, and I am saddened that this situation shown no sign of changing.
As an adoption attorney, you connect with a lot of newly adoptive parents. In general, how well-prepared are they for the experience of being adoptive parents? Do you notice any commonalities in terms of how they prepare themselves, their understanding of birth parents' experiences, and/or their views about openness in adoption? I think that adoptive parents are least prepared to understand that their joy may not be shared by their child, and that any issues which their child may have are not a reflection on the adoptive parent or the parent’s parenting abilities. With respect to openness, I have certainly observed the trend towards greater openness in adoptions, and the fact that most pre-adoptive parents are more open to openness.
The media makes much of "adoptions gone wrong", which feeds misunderstanding about the legal permanence of the adoption bond. Would you comment on that (the legal permanence of adoption)? There is one adoption thrust into the media spotlight for every 20,000 “silent”, successful adoptions. I just made up those numbers, but the media, and people in general, focus on the abnormal and notorious, as opposed to the uneventful adoptions which happen every day. The huge likelihood of success will not stop adoptive parents from being paranoid, but a finalized adoption in New York can never be challenged unless the adoptive parents themselves were part of the chicanery.
I hear different opinions about whether or not post-adoption agreements are legally binding. Opinion aside, would you clarify the facts? Every state has its own laws, but the answer is clear. Post-adoption Contact Agreements (which have the awkward acronym PACAs”) are enforceable in New York agency adoptions, if the agreement is approved by a court. They are not fully enforceable in private adoptions, but a well-written agreement can clearly delineate the expectations of the parties, despite its limited enforceability.
I'm interested in your thoughts about the issue of access to original birth records. What do you think is the best way to balance a birth parent's expectation of privacy and an adoptee's desire for information about their beginning? I’m not so sure that a birth parent necessarily has an expectation of privacy in this day and age. Most adoptions today have at least a degree of openness. The perception exists that birth parents in years past were told that the adoptions were completely closed and that they would not have to worry about contact, but that was presented as a fact, not as an option.
In my experience, there are few birth parents who do not welcome some degree of contact with their adult biological child. The bottom line for me is that a child is entitled to know who they are, where they came from and how their adoption came to be. Open records are a way to provide some answers to these questions if the adoption has not been open and the child unaware of these answers. Some adoptive parents feel threatened by their child having access to this information, but the balance should be tilted towards providing that information to the adoptee – adoptions are, after all, always supposed to be in the best interests of the child.
What resources do you suggest for adoptive parents and their adopted children? While it may sound self-serving, I think that pre-adoptive parents should consult with an adoption attorney at the very beginning of the process. Neither the Internet nor an adoption agency will offer unbiased information and present the widest range of realistic options.
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