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September 04, 1996 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-09-04

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NATION/W ORLD The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 4, 1996 - 9
Adoption reflects family changes]
More adopted children learning identities of birth parents :

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Becca Price and
her husband, Christopher Clayton,
decided that they wanted to see a
movie. As parents typically do when
planning a Saturday night out, they
arranged for a baby sitter.
But Thea Grimes-Tenney, the woman
who sat with David, 5, and Tori, 4, was
anything but typical. She is the chil-
dren's biological mother.
The Claytons and Grimes-Tenney,
who live near each other in the Ann
Arbor area, have added an unusual twist
to the idea of the "extended family."
Theirs includes the Claytons and
their two children through adoption -
and the woman who gave birth to them.
"Thea is their birth mother, and I am
their mommy" Price said.
Adoption policies have undergone a
stunning transformation from the not-
so-distant past, when records were
sealed and children's biological roots
were shrouded in secrecy.
In increasing numbers, those adopted
today not only know the identity of their
birth parents but, with their adoptive par-
ents' blessing, often maintain a relation-
ship with them. The majority of domes-
tic adoptions, experts in the field say,
now feature some degree of openness.
The extent of the openness varies
.greatly. At the low end, the birth and
adoptive parents merely know each oth-
ers' first names and exchange informa-
tion through a third party.
At the high end, it is the sort of
arrangement maintained by the
Claytons and Grimes-Tenney, the "fam-
ily Thanksgiving dinner" model, as one
adoption agency director calls it. In this
category, she said, "the West Coast is
probably five to 10 years ahead of the
East Coast."
The term "openness" is, "unfortu-
nately, a scare word that sounds like
some crazy thing ... like 'open mar-
riage;" said Bruce Rappaport, execu-
tive director of the Independent
Adoption Center, an agency based in
Pleasant Hill, Calif.
"For years, we tried to call it 'nor-
malized' adoption because it means
approaching adoption the same way

you do the regular part of your life," he
said. "Open adoption makes adoption
normal. As in the rest of our society,
secrecy and shame are avoided unless
absolutely necessary."
The trend "is not so far apart from the
communal living" embraced by many
cultures and "fits what other societies
do, where there is no nuclear family,"
said Yale University child-development
specialist Edward Zigler.
Before secrecy laws dating to the
1940s, "most adoptions were done
within people's own families or with
someone close by in the church or com-
m u n i t y,"
Rappaport said.
"Everyone did At firs
know everyone
else, and they little frea
were, in fact,
open adoptions, te idea t
although they
weren't called adoption,
The new wave was base
of openness ,
began after adults Ignorance
who had been
adopted as chil-
dren initiated
searches and
legal battles,
seeking to find the missing pieces of
their lives. Experts now recognize that
adopted children often are vulnerable to
emotional and psychological damage if
they grow up denied this information.
"Adoptees came out of the closet,just
like many other groups in society -
gays, single parents - that didn't fit
into the '50s, and said they weren't
going to suffer in silence anymore,' an
agency director said.
Also, the growing incidence of spe-
cial-needs adoptions, typically involving
the placement of older children "who
know where they come from," showed
that "the sky didn't fall in," said Ann
Sullivan, adoption program director for
the Child Welfare League of America.
Experts recommend extensive coun-
seling in advance so the limits of the
arrangements are defined. No matter
how well the ground is prepared, howev-

er, there can be tremors along the way.
"It's like getting a set of in-laws,"
Sullivan said. "Some of us love our in-
laws, and others grit their teeth and
communicate only at Christmas."
The Claytons and Grimes-Tenney
acknowledge that their arrangement rep-
resents the most extreme degree of open-
ness. Others are more comfortable when
there is more distance between the adop-
tive parents and the birth parents.
"Being geographically thousands of
miles away works for us, but I think the
dynamics would be the same if we were
closer," said Chris Keene, an actor from

I I Wa;
ked b'
of ope
d on
---Chris I

Santa Monica,
Calif. He and his
is a wife, Susan, a
city planner,
bring their 20-
month-old son,
1n James, to Dekalb,
Ill., occasionally
hat to see his birth
"At first I was a
little freaked by
the idea of open
adoption, but that
Keene was based on
Actor ignorance,"
Keene said. "It
works for us."

that, despite anxiety on the part of'
adults, children for the most part seem
to do just fine.
"The kids are real clear who the parenf
is," she said. "It's who gets up with theni
at night, who makes sure the teeth are
brushed and gets them off to school."
To be sure, not all such arrangements
have been trouble-free.
One family, for example, agreed i1
advance to weekly visits from the birth
mother. Then, without notice, the moth?
er and father moved the family to anoth-
er state and failed to disclose the loca-
tion or even their phone number. The
birth mother has not seen the child, of
even photographs, for more than ayeir.
Much rarer, experts say, is the night-
mare that spooks many potential adop-
tive parents: the prospect that the birth
parents will change their mind and wait
the children back.
"In talking to birth mothers, I find{
they truly believe they made a wel'
thought-out decision that they could not
parent, and the last thing they would
want to do is cause a disruption',"
Sullivan said.
Brenda Romanchik, a birth mother
who relinquished her son, Matthew;
after he was born 12 years ago, main:
tains a relationship with him even
though he lives in another city. '.
"People always think that once you're
on your feet, you're going to want this
child back,' said Romanchik, who edit§
a national newsletter for birth parents
"I can speak for a vast majority of
birth mothers. The reason most chodse
adoption is not because they think it will
be the best thing for them but becauseit
will be the best thing for the child. With
that in mind, to go back five yegXs later
and try to get the child back is ridiculous.
They are not going to do that."
But even ongoing involvement can
be viewed as threatening unless the
roles of all parties are clearly defined.
Adoptive parents "have exactly the
same kinds of ties as biological par;
ents," Zigler said. "In fact, the psycho-'
logical ties are even stronger."
Some parents worry that their adopt-
ed children, during turbulent adolescent
years, might flee to their birth parents.

Workmen put up metal shutters at the Adam and Eve boutique at the Harbor Bay
shopping center in Nassau, Bahamas, as Hurricane Fran approached the island
chain yesterday. The hurricane picked up strength yesterday and headed toward
*he southeastern United States.
Sger Fran
spins toward coast

Although experts agree that secrecy
is bad for the children, no one can know
yet whether open adoption will stand
the test of time. "The history is too
short to know completely how well all
of these arrangements are going to
work," Sullivan said.
"It's complicated, and it's too new,"
Zigler said. "We didn't know for 50
years the great harm that closed adop-
tion was doing. There is no research,
and that's what we need. It solves the
'Who am I?' problem, but does it intro-.
duce a new cost of ambiguity? 'Where
do my affections lie?'
"With exactly the right people, the
right child and the right circumstances,
this might work. But I tend to be cau-
tious about these kinds of social
changes, because we don't have a
research base."
Nevertheless, Sullivan is convinced

* With 115 mph winds,
hurricane could cause
extensive damage
MIAMI (AP) - Hurricane Fran
roared at 115 mph last night and its
winds were expected to get even stronger
as it aimed to make landfall along the
southeastern U.S. coast tomorrow,
9 A hurricane watch, meaning the
storm could hit within 36 hours, could
go up for Georgia and South Carolina
by this morning, meteorologist Robert
Molleda said last night at the National
Hurricane Center.
Much of the Bahamas, a mecca for
American gamblers and other vacation-
ers, was bracing for a possible hit even
though it appeared that Fran would pass
north of the islands.
* Heading west-northwest at 13 mph,
Fran was expected to take a gradual
turn to the northwest by early today,
Molleda said.
"That would take it into either
Georgia or South Carolina sometime
Thursday night," he said.
Fran's winds jumped quickly from 85
mph early yesterday to 115 mph, mak-
ing it a Category 3 hurricane on the
Saffir-Simpson scale, capable of caus-
ing extensive damage.
The U.S. Navy sent ships to sea for
safety, and disaster officials in some
parts of the Southeast fretted that peo-
ple may not take the threat seriously.
"Our concern is that the public may
become less responsive to evacuation
orders," said Joe Farmer, a spokesper-
son for South Carolina's Emergency

Preparedness Division. "We recognize
that as the public is exposed to more
and more of these, the need for us to
reinforce this message is greater."
Hurricane Bertha, which killed nine,
came ashore in North Carolina in July
with sustained winds of just 75 mph,
causing millions of dollars in damage.
At 8 p.m. EDT last night, Fran was
centered about 275 miles east of
Nassau, Bahamas, and 700 miles south-
east of Charleston, S.C.
A hurricane warning was in effect for
the northwest Bahamas, including the
casino havens in Nassau and Freeport.
Whitecaps in the water off San
Salvador island in the Bahamas forced
Club Med to declare its beach off lim-
its. Residents throughout the country
were told to stay indoors.
San Salvador administrator Charles
King said winds were near tropical
storm force yesterday afternoon.
"Apart from that, things are pretty
much the same," he said. "We feel as
though it will be a minimal hurricane,
but we are watching and listening to the
reports. We are ready to take the neces-
sary precautions."
The Navy wasn't waiting. In
Jacksonville, Fla., 14 ships from
Mayport Naval Station headed for the
open sea.
In North Carolina, business owners
already suffering the effects of
Hurricane Bertha were bemoaning
more tropical weather. "It was the worst
Labor Day I've ever had, and I've been
in business 41 years," said Carol Dillon,
owner of the Outer Banks Motel on
North Carolina's Hatteras Island.


'Demand for primary
care doctors rising

this isn't


General practitioners
on par with specialists
due to managed care
CHICAGO (AP) - Because of the
growth of managed care, the demand
for general practitioners is catching up
to the demand for specialists.
Researchers studied recruitment adver-
tisements in medical journals and
found that in 1990 there were four ads
for specialists - such as anesthesiolo-
.mists and orthopedic surgeons - for
every generalist position advertised. By
1995, the ratio dropped to 1.8 to 1.
The researchers, led by Dr. Serena
Seifer, a professor at the Center for
Medical Education Research at the
University of Washington in Seattle,
aibuitedlthe shf t to he nrad of man-

too few are going into primary care,
such as family practice, internal medi-
cine and pediatrics.
Dr. Jerry Goldstein, president of the
Council of Medical Specialty Societies,
said the study would be useful to med-
ical students considering career choices.
Specialists' income dropped as much
as 5 percent from 1993 to 1994, accord-
ing to a new study in the journal Health
Affairs. Still, most specialists make
more than general practitioners, and the
gap is as much as $100,000.
Primary-care physicians made an
average of $129,353, compared with
$243,828 for some surgeons, the study
In another study in the same journal,
nearly half of the medical students, res-
idents, clinical faculty and administra-
tors suirveyed said gneralists re not

this is.
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