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Open Adoption

SAUL GONZALEZ: It’s a scene captured in countless home movies: a mother in the hospital with her newborn infant. But this mom, Sarah Kastner, isn’t keeping her son named Bo. Twenty years old, single and worried she’s not ready to raise a child, Sarah’s giving her baby up for adoption, personally passing him on to his new adoptive parents just after she gives birth.

SARAH KASTNER: You think, “Oh, yeah, baby is going to be cute, and everyone is going to help you.” But it’s, like, you have that child for 18 years. This kid is going to be needing to go to school. He’s going to be needing to go to college. You have to do medical bills if he gets sick, and it’s, like, there’s no way right now if I’m still, like, barely supporting myself. How I’m going to support this little baby and give him everything he needs in life?

Sarah Kastner

GONZALEZ: Although she’s giving him up, Sarah’s playing a critical role in Bo’s future. That’s because Sarah’s chosen what’s called an open adoption. It allows a birth parent, often the mom, to choose the people who will adopt the child and, if she wishes, stay in contact with the adoptive parents and the child.

For Bo, Sarah picked John and Loren Halleran of Los Angeles. When they first considered adopting after years of trying without success to have their own child, the Hallerans assumed they’d have little to no contact with their adopted child’s birth parent or even know her identity. That’s called a closed adoption.

JOHN HALLERAN: We thought, you know, the mother—she has the baby, she never sees it again. You know, cut 20 years down the road, there’s this search for the birth parent, and it could go really well or really badly.

GONZALEZ: Kind of like a movie-of-the-week story?

Mr. HALLERAN: Exactly.

GONZALEZ: Like other birth mothers involved in open adoptions, Sarah reviewed dozens of personal profiles and appeals written by prospective adoptive parents before settling on the Hallerans.

(to Ms. Kastner): How many birth parent letters did you get?

Ms. KASTNER: Probably like 75 to 85, and it was like a big stack.

GONZALEZ: When you got that stack of 75 to 85—

Ms. KASTNER:  It was overwhelming. It was, like, oh, my gosh, I’m going to change one of these people’s lives.

GONZALEZ: Sarah was struck by the Hallerans’ honesty in their letter to her.

John Halleran

Ms. KASTNER:  I liked how it said by no means are we perfect, but we want to honor your commitment of how open you want this to be. So that was something that I liked.

GONZALEZ: Although her legal rights as a parent have been terminated, Sarah plans on a continuing relationship with Bo and his adoptive parents. Weeks after the birth, and living four hours drive away from each other, technology allows Sarah to see Bo regularly.

Mr. HALLERAN (speaking in computer conversation): I think he got to be like at least 10 or 12 pounds now. He’s getting heavy. He’s ready for pre-school.

Ms. KASTNER (responding): I thought we weren’t going to have a fat kid.  What happened?

GONZALEZ: Staying in touch with Bo is important to Sarah, and not only because she’s his birth mom. Sarah herself was given up for adoption when she was an infant and was raised by an adoptive family. Like many other adoptees, Sarah grew up having no contact with her birth mother. That absence created questions.

Ms. KASTNER: I kind of do wish I knew my birth mom growing up a little bit, just so she’d, like, check in, and it’s like, “Oh, hey,” because it makes you feel like you just weren’t given up. If the birth mom does check in on you, she does care about me, and she does care about my well being. She just didn’t just dump me and start a new life and not ever think about me.

GONZALEZ: So that closing of the door completely between you and Bo was never an option?

Ms. KASTNER: Yeah, no, it wasn’t. Because I would always wonder, and I think it would drive me nuts always thinking, “What is he doing now?  What is he going do to tomorrow and stuff? Like, oh, is he gaining weight? Is he okay? Is everything fine with him?” Yeah.

GONZALEZ: Open adoption relationships can range from an occasional exchange of photos and emails between birth parents and adoptive families to regular visits. The Hallerans believe Bo will only benefit from having contact with Sarah.

Loren Halleran

LOREN HALLERAN: Bo will always know, always know his birth mother. He will always know that he was placed out of love. that it was never, ever a question of not being wanted, but more an issue of Sarah wanting more than she could provide at this time.

GONZALEZ: The open adoption movement, which started in the 1980s, has largely transformed the culture of infant adoption in the United States. Experts say open adoptions have helped remove the anxieties of adoptive families and the shame of birth parents.

ADAM PERTMAN (Author, “Adoption Nation”): We didn’t used to talk about this stuff. This was all considered secret or private.

GONZALEZ: Adam Pertman is the author of “Adoption Nation” and the director of a nonprofit institute that’s dedicated to improving adoption practices.

Mr. PERTMAN: We really transformed it, right? It has gone from a stigmatized, still too often stigmatized, very secretive process — I mean people didn’t tell their own kids they were adopted, and that was more a norm whether they told their kids or not, it was not a subject for public conversation — to one in which it is a subject for public conversation. And I think that’s a very, very good thing, because we keep secrets about things that we are ashamed of and embarrassed about.

GONZALEZ: Pertman cites an American Psychological Association study released last year which concluded open adoptions helped mitigate birth parents’ feelings of pain and loss. But some in the adoption community believe there’s still a place for secrecy—sometimes because the birth parents want to remain anonymous, other times because of safety.

(to Kerri Dunkelberger): Are there occasions where it is a good thing to simply close the door on the biological parents or the biological parent?

Adam Pertman

KERRI DUNKELBERGER (Executive Director, Foster & Adoptions, Olive Crest Foster Family Agency): Yes. Yes. Absolutely, and we’ll work with the child’s attorney to say either it works in a counseling center or it doesn’t happen at all.

GONZALEZ: Kerri Dunkelberger is the director of adoption and foster care programs for Olive Crest, a charity that works to place often abused children with families. Although she supports open adoption, she says some birth parents are simply too dangerous to have contact with adoptive families.

Ms. DUNKELBERGER: We want the child to have as much information around that experience and honest information as possible. But there are case scenarios where either there is an incarceration, or it’s not a safe family, or it would somehow put the children or the entire family at risk where the biological family cannot be included.

GONZALEZ: Because the biological family could be a threat to the child or the adoptive parents?

Ms. DUNKELBERGER: Right. Right.

GONZALEZ: As families and experts wrestle with just how “open” open adoptions should be, other concerns persist. They include the widespread reluctance to adopt older or minority kids, the growing commercialization of the adoption process, and the rising price tag of adoption, with some adoptions costing upwards of $30,000.

Mr. PERTMAN: I think when you put human beings and dollar signs in the same sentence you are walking on perilous ground, and so I think that in many ways, many ways, money has supplanted secrecy as adoption’s own worst enemy.

GONZALEZ: Sarah Kastner feels too many people still believe birth parents who give up their child for adoption do it out of neglect or apathy.

Ms. KASTNER: You give him up for adoption out of love, not out of, like, selfishness, that you just don’t want to be responsible, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. Like, I have had to explain that a lot. I benefited so much from being adopted, and so I know Bo is going to benefit. Nothing bad can come from adoption.

For RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, I’m Saul Gonzalez in Los Angeles.

  • Pamela Thiel

    Bo is blessed in that he has parents who really wanted him and are ready for him, with the added bonus of knowing where he came from, and that his birth mother cared enough to unselfishly give him up but not completely.

  • Ros Brawn

    So, ‘nothing bad can come out of adoption’? I lost my son to adoption when he was 10 days old in 1968. We were reunited two years ago. He suffered nightmares and abandonment issues all through childhood. He has regular counselling now and support for nightmares and anger management directly related to feeling ‘wrong’ all his life. I had low-level depression from age 18 attempting suicide a few months after he was taken. I am in therapy now. We are in no way unusual – most people touched by adoption are damaged, some seriously. My son’s adoptive father is receiving psychiatric help resulting directly from the harm he now knows breaking the link between mother and child does. Ms Kastner’s entire life will be changed if she gives up her child. Please, please think again.
    Ros Brawn (birth mother in reunion)

  • Dfrost

    Great story!

  • Alexandra

    This is a great step for adoption. I was adopted in an open adoptiion while being a minority. Growing up I never felt anything was wrong that my birth mother talked with my mom. However once I talked with other adopted children I found out how unique I was. I hope more children get the chance to have their birth parent know about their lives, because giving up a child is one of the hardest thing anyone could do.

  • Patrick

    hey sarah don’t listen to the media or anyone for that matter. It’s within your heart to do what’s right and you have done that.

  • Christina

    I think that what you did was an extremely unselfish act, done for all the right reasons — your child. Bravo to you!!!

  • Lorraine

    This story portrays an idealized and misleading portrait of open adoption. Some very important facts about open adoption have been left out. These facts are vital for expectant parents and parents to know before “choosing” an open adoption. Nowhere in the article is it revealed that OPEN ADOPTION IS NOT AN ENFORCEABLE CONTRACT; rather it is a MORAL contract between the adoptive and biological parents. When all parties honor the spirit of the open adoption agreement, all parties can benefit from this arrangement. However, and this is extremely important, the BIOLOGICAL PARENTS DO NOT HAVE ANY LEGAL RIGHT TO ENFORCE THE OPEN ADOPTION AGREEMENT (if there is any state that DOES enforce open adoption agreements, I have not heard of it). If the adoptive parent decides to slam the adoption shut, then that is their right and their privilege. It is coercive and immoral to sell open adoption as a choice that the biological parents gets to make and live with, when the reality is that they can choose anything that they want, but they cannot force the adoptive parents to honor that choice. I personally know several biological mothers who were promised open adoption by the prospective adoptive parents, but were immediately shut out of their child’s life as soon as their infant was legally “owned” by the adoptive parents.

    Nothing can or does prepare a mother for the consequences and the long lasting grief and loss that results from “choosing” adoption for her child. Even if adoption truly was the best choice for a particular child, the biological parent is left to deal with the loss and grief that ANY parent naturally feels when their child is taken or dies. Adoption is not a “win-win” situation. The biological parents LOSE a child forevermore. They also lose their future grandchildren as well. Their position in their own child’s life is controlled by the whim of the adoptive parents, and they walk on eggshells, trying to please and never say the wrong thing so that they can keep receiving the crumbs thrown their way. The child loses their biological parents – especially the mother they have bonded with in the womb – and loses their biological history and place within a family who genetically and emotionally reflects that child. Open adoption can address SOME of these losses, but not all by any means.

    Articles such as these serve an agenda – the agenda of the adoption movement. I respect PBS, but I would like the author to understand that unless the journalist understands and reveals the pro-adoption agenda of the parties interviewed, then these articles are not journalism but instead are just misleading “advertisements” for adoption. If open adoption is NOT enforceable, then that is the FIRST thing that should be discussed in an article. Put it in capital letter for all expectant parents to see. Tell them that they are subject to the whims and desires of the adoptive parents, and that their “choice” of open adoption is illusory and not legally enforceable. It is the adoptive parents who have control over what type of adoption will ultimately exist. Tell the expectant parents that while they are making a superhuman sacrifice for their child, that this sacrifice will very likely results in a lifetime of grief and loss for them – a grief and loss that will NOT be understood or supported by the community at large. The biological parents will be faced with a lifetime of being misunderstood by the general public, who glorifies adoption but does not understand or care about the losses involved. They will face a lifetime of being told that “I could never give my child away” and suspicion that their child must have been actually taken by the state, because no parent willing gives a child they love to another, even if it is to benefit the child. Everything is supposed to be done for the child in adoption, but the expectant parents are not prepared for how their life will change in such a profoundly negative way.

    I am sure that there are those biological parents, new in adoption, who will dispute this. Come back and talk to me 30 years later, after you have lived with this “choice” you are making for that long. Tell me then how wonderful adoption has been in your life. Tell me then how your child has been BLESSED with the loss of their mother who they are profoundly connected to at such a pivotal time in their life.

    My child sought me out when he reached the age of majority. My son is profoundly angry and hurt by the adoption experience and the loss of family and genetic connection. He was raised by people who are nothing like him and did not recognize or nurture his gifts. He is a hurt, confused and angry young man. I was severely hurt as well by an unnecessary separation from my infant child because I was a month too young to be of legal age. My child’s adoptive parents denied me the one picture of him that was offered to me by the agency. That little bit of compassion the agency was willing to offer was denied to me. I had no right to enforce that offer.

    Please do your research and present all sides of open adoption. Talk to biological mothers who have lived with the loss of their child for decades. Find out what the realities and REAL legalities of the open adoption contract entail. I would like to see a follow up to this article that talks about the ugly, but all too real, side of open adoption.

  • Julie

    I think that she has a good idea of what she is doing and I hope that she continues to be in her son’s life. I also hope that the adoptive parents do not shut her out of there life at anytime. Open adoptions are only as good as the adoptive parents allow them to be. No state enforses open adoptions and once the mother surrenders her child and her legal rights, she can be shut out at any time without any legal repercusions to the adoptive parents. That said, my hope is that more adoptive parents see that having the adoptive childs natural mother in the picture will only benifit all involved. I am a natural mother and I am reunited with my daughter which I surrendered when I was seventeen in a closed adoption. Not a day went by that I didn’t regret surrendering her, and after hearing that she had nighmares and was sick very often among many other issues, I realized that maybe an open adoption would have been better for her and I, but that wasn’t an option. So, I think that the adoption industry should really take a harder look at how they do things and try hard to unite families through adoption instead of tear one family apart to build another.

  • Kathleen Verderosa

    Thank you Sarah for sharing your heartfelt story. I think you are a smart, brave, courageous woman to place your child’s needs over your own. I just wanted to comment about the woman who wrote about open adoption and that the adoptive family can “shut the door” on the birthmother after the child is legally adopted. While I believe it does happen, what I have more often seen in open adoption is that the birthmother “moves on” and chooses not to remain in contact the the adoptive family. Many adoptive families who want a relationship with the birthmother are saddened by the fact that she does not want to continue contact with them or their child. I think it shouldn’t be portrayed that only birthmother’s are “shut out”.

  • -mk

    This really reads and plays like an extended infomercial for open adoption. It’s highly misleading, and frankly nauseating. Shame on WNET.
    This is not journalism it’s a puff piece..

  • Marsha

    I had a child when I was young, had no money and was barely making ends meet. I kept my child and he’s 14 years old now. I’ve got 4 other kids too. We’re not still poor and he and his siblings aren’t doing without anything. Being young and poor is TEMPORARY, but losing your son is forever. Just because you can’t afford college now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to when he’s 18. And if you still can’t, that’s what loans, grants and scholarships are for. Your baby only needs food (which is free if you breastfeed, or you can get assistance), diapers (you can cloth diaper), somewhere to sleep (and it doesn’t have to be an expensive new crib!) and its mothers love. Plenty of young mothers without a lot of cash have successfully kept and raised children. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t just because they want to adopt out your baby. If giving up a baby is so great, how come everyone doesn’t do it? Listen to your heart.

  • Gilla

    It’s interesting how the rhetoric used on pregnant women to give up newborns would be consider outrageous and rediculous if it was said to those with children getting divorced or when a spouse dies. But seeing how the demand to adopt newborns and not children in need it makes perfect sense.

  • Carmen

    This article was offensive. Why on earth are people excited about and celebrating the separation of mother and child?

  • Gaye Sherman Tannenbaum

    I’m happy to see Open Adoption promoted – even if it isn’t legally enforceable yet. But what would be wrong with helping young women like Sarah actually KEEP their children? Aren’t there families out there who could provide for Sarah AND her baby until she was able to make it on her own? What is standing in the way of that other than prospective adoptive parents wanting exclusive ownership rights?

  • Sarah

    I am wondering if Open Adoption is actually legally observed in her state. Unfortunately, it isn’t in most states so it is all based on good faith that the adoptive parents will allow the mother access to her child. Far too often, adoptions that begin as open become closed by adoptive parents no longer wanting the mother in their life for whatever reason: feeling threatened by the relationship, moving out of state.
    People really need to know their legal rights before agreeing to something like an Open Adoption as they are not enforceable in a court of law. Once the rights are signed away, they are gone forever.
    Most so called open adoptions, are actually closed adoptions in disguise.

  • Sandra Hanks Benoiton

    Fair and balanced piece, although I do take issue with some of the language. “Give up” a child for adoption grates … I far prefer “choose” adoption, both for birth parents and adoptive parents, and keeping the option of choice open is vital.

  • Mara

    Marsha is right on target. I was given up for adoption by a young single woman who already had one child. She didn’t think she could afford taking care of me. (She ended up having 3 other children, one a year after me.) Financial problems and youth are temporary, giving up a child is a horrible trauma for an infant to endure for convenience. PS: I was adopted by an extremely abusive man. Social services told my birth mother that they were checking on me regularly and that I was a very happy child. No one EVER checked on me because if they did I would have told them about the abuse. The adoption industry makes a huge profit off of the pain and loss suffered by it’s “product” which is innocent babies and children. Wake up America, it’s not the fairy tale they want you to believe.

  • May

    Yet another puff piece about the wonders of infant adoption. Talk to mothers who have lived with the loss of their child to adoption – talk to them 10, 20, 30 years later. Many suffer from depression, secondary infertility, and relationship difficulties. (This has been well documented but the media refuses to discuss the harmful effects on the mother and the extended family. I suggest you talk to mothers at Origins USA and Origins NSW.)

    As to the poster who wrote, “while I believe it does happen, what I have more often seen in open adoption is that the birthmother “moves on” and chooses not to remain in contact the adoptive family.” This is due to depression, anxiety, and anger. Is it not because she has “moved on” as so many would like to believe, it is due to the enormous wound on her soul, a wound that can only be created by the loss of a child. And yes, giving up a baby for adoption is an incredible loss, one I would not wish on my worst enemy.

    Best wishes to Ms. Kastner in dealing with the repercussions of this decision. I only wish young women would listen to those of us who have lived this nightmare for decades.

  • VHM

    When adult adoptees are asked (which is seldom), a large percentage say that they would rather have grown up with their family than without them but with a wealthier family instead.

    The cost to help a young mother-to-be is tiny in comparison to the total purchase price for adoption. Why is breaking apart a family so important and protected by law in this country, just because some people have enough money to pay for what they want?

    Do what most people with infertility do: accept reality and move on with your life. Don’t take someone else’s child. That just transplants the hole in your heart to their heart instead.

  • Elizabeth

    All adoption (of minors) should be illegal. Open adoption is just as evil as closed. Being a “birth” mother is the worst kind of mother.

  • Launa Prince

    When being raised by birthparents is not an option, adoption becomes a wonderful, and tragic alternative. Many of us adoptees did not feel a natural fit with our adoptive families. I’ve heard many friends raised by their own biological parents express those same feelings of being misunderstood or out of sync with their families.
    The relationship with the birthparent/s is fraught with potential land-mines. What if the birthparent/s try to be too involved and don’t give the adoptive parents the room necessary to establish their own sense of family? How do the adoptive parents handle things if the birthparent/s go missing in action? Worse yet, is the likelihood of the birthparent/s having inconsistent involvement in the life of their child and the adoptive family. Birthparent/s can cause a huge amount of confusion and instability if they bounce in and out of the child’s life.
    With all of this said, I am still in favor of open adoption. Though being in contact with one’s birthparent/s can be painful so is NOT being in contact with them. Even in the absence of birthparent/s the adoptee still has fears, hopes, anger, and love for those non-present birthparent/s; the lack of physical presence does not remove the emotional/physic/spiritual aspects of connection/disconnection from those parents.
    If the adoptive parents have the capacity and sensitivity to help their adopted child navigate the turbulent waters of relationship with the birthparent/s then, the adopted child is indeed blessed.
    Having an open adoption relationship is a huge risk with the potential for disaster, yet every child deserves as much assurance of love and support as possible, and adoptees often carry the extra burden of having experienced great loss so early in life.
    As an adult, I’ve connected with both birthparents. As is typical, those relationships are complicated. One is a joy and one is a heartache. Would I rather have not connected with the parent who has subsequently opted out? No, openness is best, even when it is difficult.

  • sarah

    I have a son named Bo, too! He was adopted at birth. Now that we are in reunion, I realize how wrong adoption is! He never should have been separated from me and adopted: I thought it was the right thing to do then but it was not! It affects adoptees for the rest of their lives. We must all stop suggesting and believing that adoption is a societal good that helps all triad members. It is not and it does not. We should support women who want to raise their children and not separate them from their babies!

  • mom iversan

    as a birth mother i have chosen to not live the rest of my life with a “hole in my heart” but i have chosen to be very happy and very proud of the gift i gave my son. there is no regret and there never will be. i pity the birthmothers who have chosen to live a wounded life and wallow is self pity and loss. It is unfortunate and it is their CHOICE- it is not the “outcome” of adoption, open or closed. i would encourage any woman of any age (i was 28 when i placed) who wants what is best for her child to weigh all her options, including adoption. i welcome sarah kastner to the fold of my fellow amazing birthmothers who put the needs of our children above the wants of our heart – us birthmoms and our babies are and will be forever blessed. Adoption is not a story of grief loss or a profiting industry, its a story of love, love at it’s greatest!

  • Shannon

    I am so glad to hear your story!! I am also adopted as an infant and a birthmother. I have been waiting to find someone else who is an adoptee and a birthmother. I put my birthdaughter up for adoption in 2005. It is an Open Adoption also. I would like to email you and we can support each other in this!! Hope to hear from you soon!!!!

  • mrs. r

    bless sarah for her choice. she put herself aside and thought of her child.

    it’s not about money. it’s about every child having a right to grow up in a home with a mom and a dad.

    “Adoption is not a breaking of trust but a keeping of faith… not the abandonment of a baby but an abandonment of self for a baby’s sake.” – Curtis Young (2001)

    adoption. it’s about love.

  • Lucy

    I placed my baby for adoption 2 months ago. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the only good and right thing I could do for my baby. I was married to an abusive man when I got pregnant. We are now divorced, but how could I allow my baby to suffer with an abusive father just because I couldn’t let him go? I had to. I miss him every second, but because of an open adoption, I am blessed to be able to see pictures and talk to his parents, hear him cry, and even see him when I’d like. I believe that when adoption is done right, it can bless lives!

  • Ashley

    For those birth mothers who have placed and regretted the decision, I am sorry for your loss. I am seeing though that most of the comments made by people who are so angry about placing were made by those who placed 20+ years ago.

    Adoption has changed. Drastically. Even in the last ten years. Even in the last five years.

    I am blessed to be a mother. I am a mother because an amazing young woman who made some very bad decisions found herself with child in a time and situation that she wasn’t ready. I won’t go into details. It’s her business. Time may change her situation, but the child wouldn’t wait to be born then. She was coming sooner and Our Angel felt that it was best for BOTH of them that our Princess be raised in a stable home where she was the world. Because that’s what Our Angel felt Princess deserved. Not more money, not more things, but love and time. Princess never would have been short on love. No, she would have been loved to pieces. But that was all she could have given. She couldn’t give Princess a home where a daddy walked through the door every night and lifted her into the air giggling and screeching with laughter. She couldn’t promise that Princess would have food on her plate, or clothes, or diapers or medicine. She couldn’t keep Princess in a home that had proved abusive to herself. She didn’t give Princess up. She would have been good enough then, but she wanted Princess to have more.

    So she looked. And she found us. We’re not perfect. Heaven knows, we make mistakes. But Princess is our world. She belongs in our home. She IS our home. Our lives revolve around her and there is not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about how much we love Our Angel. We pray for her every night. We write to her several times a week. We visit her when she allows us. Yes, ALLOWS US. Because it’s all her call. Not ours.

    How blessed I am as a mother, to know that someone else loves my daughter as much as I do? How blessed am I to have an amazing example of someone who actually stepped outside of herself and did what she felt was best for OUR daughter? How blessed am I to have a daughter whose picture is on the wall of her birth family’s home? That they think she’s just as smart and beautiful and perfect as we do?

    I don’t know what I did to be so blessed as to have both Princess and Our Angel in our lives, but I hope that I can one day live up to what Our Angel has taught me. She gave us the gift we couldn’t give each other and I will love her forever for that.

    If you feel so strongly about your decision even now, perhaps some professional counseling may be in need? And as for those who were placed and feel like you’ve been shafted; it’s not adoption’s fault. You just have crappy parents. That’s not adoption, that’s life.

    I was dealt a crappy hand in life. I have chosen to use it to make me stronger. I know that there is “the norm” and what people feel is expected. Statistically, I should be being beaten by my husband and I should be beating my child. But I choose not to. I choose to not let decisions others have made dictate who I am. I’m bigger than that and I am able to take responsibility for my own actions. You can’t change what others have done, but you and ONLY you are in complete control of how you respond. Blaming adoption is a cop-out.

  • Becky

    Adoption is a valid and beautiful choice for Sarah and she should be supported in her choice. Mothers have the inspiration to know what is best for their children and I applaud Sarah for doing what is difficult, but right.

  • Rebecca

    Sarah is wise beyond her years. Placing a child for adoption is a miracle. I’m sure there are negative stories out there, but most of the results of adoption are positive. I wish there were more women like Sarah with the love and sacrifice it takes to place a baby.

  • Brad

    I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, whose job it is to work with all members of the adoption triad–birth mothers, adoptees, and adoptive parents.

    Let me just tell you that adoption has come a LONG way in the last decade or so. Adoption-related issues of depression, anger, and other ways of acting out have decreased exponentially since open adoption became the norm. It really does benefit everybody.

    Women are not forced or pressured to place their babies for adoption anymore. It is a well thought out, often prayed-over decision. Of course it hurts! It does run contrary to every womanly instinct–but they do it anyway, because they want a future for their child. They want their child to have a mom and a dad. And most of the women I have worked with that have placed, come out the other side a much more mature, spiritual, and content human being. They feel good about their choice, because they did the least selfish thing they could do. It most definitely helps to have an open adoption. So many questions and fears subside when they see their baby with its new parents.

    As for the adoptees, open adoption allows them to know where they came from, and embrace it. When adoption becomes something to celebrate rather than hide from and be embarrassed about, it’s no big deal. Having a relationship with their birth family allows the adopted children to just have more people that love them. They don’t have to fantacize or wonder anything, because that piece of their life is right there.

    Open adoption is a beautiful thing. No one can convince me otherwise. I’ve seen it again and again and again.

  • Jessica

    I am shocked to see all of these awful and extreme comments on here. I feel sorry for those who have had a bad experience with adoption. I hope that people aren’t blaming all of the bad things in their lives on adoption. I have two beautiful adopted children who both have VERY open adoptions with their birth families. We LOVE their birth parents and wouldn’t even imagine our lives without them in it. We could NEVER imagine treating our children or their birth parents in a negative way. We have been so blessed by adoption. I hope that all of the negative comments don’t ruin the name of adoption because it can be a beautiful option for many families and birth parents.

  • Kristin

    First off, lets not categorize ALL adoptions as bad or good. Or that adoption or parenting is right for ALL birthparents. Every situtation is different. “Being poor” on its own isn’t grounds for placing an infant for adoption. But “loving your baby” enough to know you can’t give them everything you think they deserve (in some cases that may simply mean a mother AND father in a stable relationship) might be. Please don’t judge a birthparent for loving their baby so much that they want something better than they can provide. Yes, I personally know of adoptees that had closed adoptions and have had to deal with some emotional issues. Again, every situation is different. No fair slamming open adoption as a scam either. If an adoptive mom is able to build a relationship with the birthmom/dad, why wouldn’t they allow interaction (with the person who gave them the greatest gift possible – with the the person who is their hero)?! Thanks for sharing your positive story!

  • missmyra

    I am a birthmother and am so grateful for that loving wonderful family that my little guy belongs in. I didn’t choose adoption because I wouldn’t be a good mother to him. I didn’t choose adoption because I didn’t have enough money. I would have been a great mother to him. And I was the best mother to him that he could have ever wished for. I thought of his needs versus my wants. I thought of what he deserves not just what I could give him. I am part of an open adoption and even if it were closed it would not have changed my choice. He has RIGHTS that I refuse to sacrifice because I want something to cuddle at night. It is the best of both worlds for everyone involved. He has more people than he can count that love and adore him. And I KNOW that he is getting EVERYTHING he deserves. I am so blessed that he chose me to be his path into this life and trusted me to be his family. Knowing that I would not compromise his best interest. I love him and I know he loves me. The little angel just turne two and a half, he gives me something to worker harder for, he inspires me to be better and to make him proud to know where he came from some day. I love him and this is my heart felt, special and personal adoption story. Please be respectful towards MY choice. I’m not here to say it is for everyone, but for some of us it the solution we have prayed for, so please let us be.

  • Laura

    Adoption has come so far in the last couple decades. The new attitudes toward open adoptions and genetic ties instead of the age of assimilation are truly progressive. I’m grateful for this article!

  • Andee

    I just placed a baby for adoption 4 months ago and it makes me sick to read some of these comments. How can you say that adoption is a horrible thing? I have friends that were adopted and have turned out to be AMAZING people. They are all so grateful for their birth parents.
    I can tell you with a 1000% surety that placing a child for adoption when you are an unwed single young woman is a WONDERFUL thing.

    Some of these comments are by woman who have chosen to parent their child. financial issues is about 2% of the reason I chose to place. It’s not about MONEY. it’s about the child having a loving father AND mother. Parents that love eachOTHER. I have a cousin that goes back and forth between parents every weekend because her mom chose to parent her, and let me tell you she is suffering from it. I’m not saying that choosing to parent your child is a bad thing, because it’s not. at least you gave your child LIFE, but Adoption is a GREAT option. It’s about giving your child more.

    It is SO much different now than it used to be. Open adoptions are AMAZING. I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have an open adoption with my sweet little Angel. Her parents are amazing and I feel 100% at peace with my decision.

    I was not separated from my child. I just gave her a better life. I am not suffering because I know without a doubt that she is where she is supposed to be.

    Please do research instead of just assume that adoption is bad.

    Just because you hear of a few stories that are bad, doesn’t mean that all of them are.

    99% of them are wonderful and amazing.
    and the few WERE bad, most likely happened years ago when they weren’t as open or safe as they are now.

  • becca

    What’s more remarkable to me than anything is the amount of criticism here. If Sarah felt like she shouldn’t raise her child, but rather give him what she considered a better life, then Sarah should be the one to make that decision. All these people saying, “Listen to your heart…” have you considered that maybe she did? Her heart might be different than yours. And clearly, it is.

  • rw

    Adoption is not for everyone, but it was for me.
    If the choice is between Open and Closed adoption, open adoption wins Hands down.

  • RJ

    It’s startling how some people view “pro adoption” as an anti-abortion, right-wing extremist campaign . . . hmmmm. I guess people with a chip on their shoulders hear what they want to hear.

    My four children are adopted from the foster care system. Reunification with their birth families was impossible and no other family members were available to take them in. I wonder what those adoption naysayers would propose become of those children?

    With so many children living without parents, it seems ludicrous to cry that adoption hurts families. You know what else hurts families? Neglect, drug abuse, alchoholism, prison terms, and mental illness.

  • Rissa

    Adoption is the most beautiful wonderful thing in the world. As a Social worker, I agree with everything Brad says. What’s in the best interest of a child should always trump a parent’s rights. And I find Elizabeth’s comments on #20 offensive.

  • Sarah

    Hey everyone.. this is sarah, the one who was in the interview… i continue to see Bo all the time and will be flying with the family to watch him be baptized in may! i feel that i did the right thing placing him in open adoption, i could have let a family friend who already has kids raise him so that i could see him all the time.. but i felt giving a family who was unable to have children would be best. I have the best adoptive parents i could have ever picked and i continue to talk to them almost everyday, either it be text, email, or phone.

  • Kim

    adoption is beautiful.

  • Emily

    I am really appalled at some of the comments on here. I am the proud Mom to babies born with birth defects that took both of their lives before their they were even two months. Because of the high risk of again having a baby with heart defects, my husband and I have chosen adoption. We know what it is like to say goodbye to your babies, and although it hurts, we are able to make life happy. We do have our hard days. We are about to adopt, and our birth Mom is actually older than we are, and has other children but has made some choices in her life that sadly have impacted her life so that she cannot be their Mom everyday. Adoption is not for everybody, but it should be considered when faced with an unexpected pregnancy. I do think adoption has come a long way, and we have chosen to have an open adoption. The grandparents of our baby are very much involved and are pleased that their grand-baby will be able to be raised in a home, with a mom and dad. We are not rich, and are both in school for nursing. The reason our birth-mother CHOSE us is because she wanted her baby to be able to feel the love of both parents. We were not chosen because we were are wealthy (b/c we are not). She knew we would love this little baby as our own. I know the pains of saying goodbye to your child. But I know also how beneficial talking to someone about it is. And not everyone chooses adoption because they are infertile. We could get pregnant, but we could not face losing a third child. I do think it is HORRIBLE to agree to openness and take it away just because. My baby will always know how much he is loved by his birthmother and family, and I hope we will have a healthy realationship with them.

  • Sarah *Birth Mom Of Bo*

    If anyone would like to get in touch with me… you can find me on face book under Sarah Kastner… or on myspace.. where there are tons of pictures of Bo up, and information on why i chose to give up Bo. i stand firm by my choice of giving him a better life, because i am still a part of it. there was no “shutting of the doors” he will know me his whole life and i will know him…

  • Tarrin

    It really comes down to choice. We’re all entitled to choose for ourselves what we feel is right. Adoption is a choice that many brave, courageous and selfless women make. Not for the glory, or because they had no other choice. But because they felt like it was the right thing to do for their child.

    As an adoptive mother, I am grateful that my daughter’s mother made that choice. I am also grateful that she chose an open adoption. And while most people in her life are unaware that any adoption took place, she and I have each other to support, lean on and share the joy adoption has brought us both.

  • elka

    i believe that open adoption is ideal for the child to have both a mother and father to provide for him/her and also to have a connection to why they were adopted. we live in a time were have a mom and birth mom can be accepted. i can imagine that placing a child is the hardest most selfless thing birthparent(s) can do, but i believe that a child should have the opportunity to have both a loving mom and dad.
    it’s extremely sad in situations were the child is adopted into abusive homes; just as it’s awful for a child to be born into an abusive situation. but it doesn’t mean we should stop having children or that babies should stop being placed. open adoption is a good thing.

  • Lindsay

    Lorraine: I am sitting here with tears in my eyes as I read your comment. I am so sorry that your experience with adoption was not a good one. My husband and I enjoy a beautiful open adoption with our child’s birth mother, birth father and their families as well. It can be a wonderful thing. We love our son’s birth parents so much and are so grateful to them for the precious gift they gave us that we could not have otherwise. I would caution couples out there who have adopted or who are hoping to adopt that they not promise more than they are willing to do. Once you decide on a level of ‘openness’ honor that and don’t disrespect your birth parents by going back on your word. I personally know one of the birth mothers that has commented and others I know through the blogging world. They are the most unselfish people I know and should be honored and shown respect for the choice that they made to place their babies. I applaud Sarah for her choice and the adoptive couple for keeping their word to have an open adoption. I think what Loren said sums up open adoption, “Bo will always know, always know his birth mother. He will always know that he was placed out of love. That it was never, ever a question of not being wanted, but more an issue of Sarah wanting more than she could provide at this time.”

  • Sarah *Bo’s Birth Mom*

    Hey its sarah again, if anyone has any questions… i saw that a birth mom is trying to get a hold of me… anyways… my personal email is
    feel free to email me!
    I’m Going Up To See Bo in a few weeks!
    i cant wait!

  • birth MOM

    I am Sarah Kastner’s birth Mom. I wish that I could have been a part of the interview. Her words on adoption are my words to her coming from her mouth to you. Yet she acts like she was abandoned by me. Adoption, open or not, was not the same 20 years ago. The whole story is not being portrayed here. I am not trying to be malicious, but rather honest!!

  • sal

    I have a true blessed adopted son. He was not given up…He was relinquished. I have great empathy for you, Sarah’s birth mom. I think most people have no idea how hard it was for birth mothers years ago. You had no choice. As my Catholic mom said, my friends went away to stay with an aunt for a year or to private school and came home. yes, they had relinquished (usually not even their choice) their baby. I believe it is the birth mother that endlessly sends vital life energy to their unseen-closed-or seen-open- child that adds to their lives. Thank you Sarah’s mom! Two mom’s, two giant hearts to one child.

    Lovies one of Austin’s mom’s

  • Liza Kuchler

    Hi! I wanted to thank the woman that responded to my e-mail. When Sarah was born I was already a young mother. Obviously, being 19 years old and pregnant with another child was not a very smart decision. When I made the decision to give her up for adoption it was not because I didn’t love her, it was because I lived her so much, as well as my other daughter Vanessa. I wanted for US to have a chance in life. ALL THREE OF US!!! The odds were already against me. I had not graduated from high school, but had a small child to raise. I was raising Vanessa, alone. Low paying jobs and never being able to see her because she was in daycare. I was too proud to be on welfare. I gave Sarah to a wonderful family in California, trusting that they would take care of her. I knew that they had the means to give her what she needed to grow up healthy and happy and to have a stable life, more than I could give either child. I am now 41 years old. I thank God every day that Vanessa grew up to be a well adjusted child. People feel so sorry for children that get adopted, but why can’t the focus be on the good that comes of it?? I could have been on welfare, living in the projects, having more kids, neglecting them, not being watched, or cared for, but I didn’t, and I believe that Vanessa suffered for my mistakes more than Sarah ever did. Our circumstances were not the same (mine and Sarah’s) But I am very glad that she gave Bo a chance instead of trying to raise him when she clearly was not ready. At twenty four I had my tubes tied and vowed not to have another child, EVER!!! Because of the guilt that I carry over giving Sarah up for adoption. I hope that anyone can understand this, and not pass judgement on individuals unless they have walked in their shoes!!!! Sarah has a good life and wonderful parents, my life is good, as is my oldest daughter Vanessa. It’s a shame that people have negative opinion’s about adoption…could they be the one’s I see in the stores ignoring their children, or the one’s that beat their children, or the one’s molest and kill their children????

  • Maggie

    My perspective is one of a woman that has gone through three years of infertility and dearly wants to be a mother. As I read through these comments I become more and more confused. First, let me say that we have chosen to pursue adoption recently. Infertility treatments in the state that I am in are comparable to infant adoption in price. (I know it is horrifying to everyone to hear the word “price”, but when you are faced with infertility and infertility treatments aren’t covered in your state, that’s a consideration you must make). I felt that adoption was a socially responsible thing to do. I could spend tons of money making a baby through fertility treatments, or I could give a child that already exists a home, help a woman that might have been considering abortion before she decided on adoption. I thought about overpopulation and children that go hungry. So we decided on adoption over fertilty treatments.
    It is disconcerting to read so many negative views on adoption here. I get it that the story was biased; I’m not arguing that, reading many of these stories makes me balk at open adoption. I get it that there are a lot of biological mothers out there that are torn apart after adoption, but does that mean that adoption is such a negative thing?
    Frankly, I was very into the idea of open adoption before I read a lot of the comments posted here from parents that have chosen adoption for their children (I understand some had the choice made for them, and I recognize that for the tragedy that it is), but now I’m not so sure.

  • Cheri

    Just to clarify, there are states with legally enforceable open adoption agreements. Oregon is one of them. Also, no matter what we feel personally about adoption it is important that we show respect for Sarah and her decision. If you are not in her shoes, you don’t know what she’s going through, no matter how similar the experience. Your decision is extremely honorable Sarah!

  • Lori

    I have read through these comments both good and bad. Many of these women think that they are giving their babies a stable home a Mother and Father truth is many end up in single parent families. Single people adopt. Married adopters get divorced at the same rate as anyone else 50% and people die and since adopters are usually older than birth parents it happens. Sory to burst your bubble on that one.

  • Amanda

    As others are reminding others to “do some research,” I will do the same. Adoption has evolved in a series of eras. Women who surrendered in the post-war, pre-roe v. wade era experienced an extremely hard time in American history to be unwed and pregnant. There were very few choices and institutionalized discrimination against women made parenting and finding support extremely difficult. Unprecedented surrender rates occured in this era. People can chide these mothers for being “bitter” and “angry” but needless to say, this was not a good era to be an unmarried pregnant girl in the middle class. I am humbled by the courage of the women who have told their stories. Especially because historical literature reviews in professional literature often give credit to them for helping change adoption. One might not like what they have to say, but they’ve spoken out for everyone’s rights. Adult Adoptee and First Mother organizations speaking out is the very reason why we have open adoptions today.

    Why does adoption have to be “all positive” or “all negative?” There are things that are both good and bad about adoption. I love my Adoptive Parents and had a good life. What I did not love? My birth certificate being sealed. The stereotypes that others oppress upon me for being adopted. For being chided for pointing out ethical issues in adoption. The institutionalized discrimination 44 states hold on their books against Adult Adoptees. The antiquated laws, some 70+ years old still on the books in some states. That pressuring women to choose adoption still, yes, really does occur in this day and age. That a “better life” means a richer one–despite the fact that families all over this country are of various incomes and priviledge and do a darn fine job raising perfectly happy children. That, since the 1930’s, we look to adoption to solve the problems of dependence and poverty instead of providing adequate support for women and children. That mothers can’t raise their children because of poverty; poverty sucks. There is no “miracle” about it.

  • Danna

    Open adoption is just a new way to take babies away from unexpected young mothers. the lawyers work for the agencies and the law needs to be changed. Women should have to be present in front of a judge who tells them that that they have no rights to the child and that if the adoptive parents no longer want them in their childs life, good bye!! This happened to my sister. She is an emotional wreck. She wanted to make a family happy and in return she could watch her son grow up. 2 months into his life they told her not to come around anymore. Her paper work was read to her over the phone and swears even though a tiny box is checked on the adoption papers that says that the contract is not upheld by the law, she doesn’t remember them telling her this. This is a woman with a 150 IQ but young and naive. this type of adoption can be heartless, and the practice needs to be changed. This was thought up as a way to get more young women to give up their children.

  • Sarah (the girl in this video)

    I’m still a huge part of my son’s life. i do not regret my choice at all. I see him all the time. he looks and acts just like me! i’m still very happy with my choice. I’m currently almost finished with college and doing great in life. Bo is a smart funny energetic little boy that i love to death!

  • Saul Gonzalez


    So glad to both you and Bo are doing well. It was a pleasure profiling both of you.

    Saul Gonzalez

  • hannah

    to the mother of Bo: i am doing a report on school on whether or not society should encorage open adoption and i was wonder ing if you would let me do an interview of you for my report please e-mail me at thank you!!!! btw Bo is super cute!!!!