Did the Department of Children and Families Use Me as a Pawn? Sure Looks That Way!
By Rebecca Hawkes on July 14, 2011
They probably didn’t expect that my daughter’s birth mother Erica and I would one day be on such friendly terms that we would be sitting at lunch together talking about the time before my daughter’s adoption was finalized. But that’s what happened yesterday. And I received a surprising piece of news. During that pre-finalization ever-agonizing waiting time, Erica was told that my husband and I had refused to sign an open-adoption agreement, and that we were unwilling to do so unless she dropped her suit against the department. (She had sued because she had been denied visitation with another one of her children who was placed with a different foster-adopt family.)
Things were never difficult between Erica and us. She had relinquished her parental rights before we came into the picture in exchange for an open-adoption agreement with the department, which we were willing to continue. She had met me and my husband, had received positive reports about how Ashley was doing with us, and felt positive about the placement. Ashley had adjusted well to life with our family, and we were ready to finalize. But things dragged on and on. Why was it taking so long? My husband and I asked each other this question time and time again. We chalked it up to bureaucratic inefficiency. But I now believe it was something more.
It seems that our situation had become tied to that of the other family. Erica was told (though we never were) that the goal of the department was to finalize the adoptions of the siblings on the same day (even though they were placed separately and weren’t having visitation with each other). It makes sense, in a way. If you’ve got one adoption situation that’s chugging along nicely and another that has come to a grinding halt because of failed mediation between the adoptive family and the birth mother, why not use one to pull the other along?
But do good intentions justify deceptive means? Here’s what actually happened on our end. We were contacted by DCF and told that Erica’s lawyer had proposed a visitation agreement. My husband and I discussed the offer and considered it very reasonable. We actually would have been willing to agree to more visitation than she had requested, but as there was nothing to prevent us from doing more on our own, we were happy to sign the contract as a base starting point. We told the department that we were very willing to sign.
But, until our discussion yesterday, Erica never got this information. Instead she was led to believe that if she didn’t comply with the department’s requests, she was at risk of losing everything - visitation with the other daughter AND with Ashley. So she backed down.
I’ll admit - I wasn’t there. Maybe there’s a crucial piece of information that I’m missing. Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding. But however it played out, I’m saddened by it. I’m sad that Erica doesn’t have visitation with her other daughter, and I’m especially sad to think that words and intentions that were inaccurately attributed to my husband and me may have played a part in that outcome.
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