No Secrets: Open Adoption Shuts Out the Shame
Originally Published: October 4, 2010
Revised: November 17, 2014
It’s a story baby Henry will surely hear over and over again. And when he’s old enough to understand, the words “birth mother” and “open adoption” will be as normal to him as “mom” and “dad.”
The story starts with a young woman named Tamera Alvarez, who lives in California. She was 18 when she discovered she was pregnant. She and the baby’s father were best friends who dated for a few months.
Tamera knew she couldn’t raise a child alone, but was unsure about what she wanted to do.
“I was ignorant when it came to open adoption,” she says. “Originally, I considered abortion.”
But the more she peeled apart her feelings, the more she realized abortion was the wrong choice for her. So, she researched her options.
In a town just a few miles from where Tamera lived, husband and wife Jan Newberry and Carroll Moore were writing a letter to a birth mother they had not yet met.
They were filling out papers at the Independent Adoption Center in Pleasant Hill, CA. As Tamera was going through morning sickness, struggling to finish high school, and filling out college applications, Jan and Carroll were praying for a child.
After weeks of soul searching, Tamera decided that keeping the baby would be unfair. She could never give the child the life it deserved. Tamera and her boyfriend, Eric, chose to create an adoption plan for their child.
Once a match is made, both parties decide together what kind of relationship they want after the birth.
“At first, I planned to just give the baby up and forget about it,” says Tamera. “I thought that would be easier for me and the baby.”
Then she discovered open adoption.
Open adoption allows birth mothers to choose their child’s adoptive parents. Typically, they meet the parents and work out an agreement to keep in touch. For some, that means yearly letters. For others, it means regular visits.
For Tamera, open adoption seemed like the best solution.
So, she began wading through more than 150 letters from possible adoptive parents.
Finally, Tamera narrowed it down to three potential parents and arranged meetings with them. When she met Carroll and Jan, something clicked.
“The thing I liked right away about them was how open they were about everything,” Tamera says, comparing her relationship with Jan and Carroll to falling in love.
“It was like that feeling when everything just seems perfect and you feel like you’ve known them forever.”
Jan said she and her husband wanted an open adoption from the beginning. She wanted her son to know where he came from. And she wanted to take the shame out of adoption.
“We didn’t want any secrets,” Jan says. “Henry will grow up knowing all this, and he’ll accept it. We’re giving up the drama that goes with adoption.”
Jan and Carroll attended the required counseling sessions at the adoption center, went to birthing classes with Tamera, and were by her side when Henry was born.
They became a family—not a conventional one—but one created out of love and a need for each other.
“Tamera is great,” says Jan. “We really love her a lot.”
“After just four or five months, I was 100-percent comfortable with having these people raise my child,” adds Tamera, who now has a new boyfriend, is attending school, and living the life of a typical teenager. “They were ready to be parents. I wasn’t.
“I won’t lie and say it was easy for me,” admits Tamera. “But knowing where he is right now and that, in 10 minutes, I can be there, means a lot to me.”
Adoption agencies typically give birth mothers free services, including counseling, legal fees and, in some cases, hospital fees, says Grace Allen, outreach coordinator for the Independent Adoption Center, one of the largest open adoption agencies in the U.S.
Birth parents decide what they want in an adoptive family. They get letters from families that seem like a good fit, no matter where they live. Birth parents also review forms that adoptive parents fill out.
Once a match is made, both parties decide together what kind of relationship they want after the birth. They have a counselor who helps them come to an agreement that makes both sides happy.
Even though both parties sign the agreement, it does not give birth parents any legal right to the child or to visitation, explains Allen, whose agency arranged Henry’s adoption. But in the nearly 20 years that the agency has been doing open adoptions, most people work out agreements that last a lifetime.
“Usually, it’s a win-win situation,” says Allen.
Editors’ Note: Fewer pregnant teens are choosing adoption today than years ago. But adoption is a good choice for many, especially as open adoptions like Tamera’s become more popular. Most adoption agencies now offer this option.
For more information, visit the Independent Adoption Center website.
Krissy Stautz, 17, is a Contributor from Gresham, OR.
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