I grew up in a military family, moving around a lot. My older brother, following in a few of my father’s footsteps, also signed up for the Navy. He happened to get stationed near Charleston, SC where my family lived when I was kindergarten age. For fun one day, my brother took his little family for a drive to our old stomping grounds- taking pictures of his school and other places he remembered. Among those places, of course, was our old house.
“What ya doin?” A young man came out of the house next door to our old place to chat. It was a lighthearted conversation at first, talking about who still lived there and those who had moved away. Then, suddenly it dawned on my brother who this young man was.
“I remember you! I remember when your parents brought you home. I remember when you were adopted.”
“You must have me mistaken for someone else.”
“Oh. I guess it must have been the people who lived here before you guys.”
“No, no. My parents have been the only ones in this house for 30 years.”
In our family adoption is a fun word. It’s a word accompanied by joy and love. So when my brother brought up this young man’s adoption, he was bringing up a topic of celebration. A little troubled by the thought that he may have been the one to accidentally bring this young man’s history to light, my brother called my parents later that day to ask and their answer was yes- that was unmistakably the same little boy my brother remembered being adopted.
That adoption took place about 1980 and even though 30 years isn’t very long ago for many aspect of society, with regards to adoption it might as well be a thousand years ago. The days of avoiding the word “adoption” in conversation are gone, and so are the times when parents would pretend to the world that their adopted child was born with their own DNA.
The process of shifting from these “closed” adoptions, where biological parents no longer have any contact with the child they placed for adoption, was a slow process at first. Right about the turn of the century, though, that shift jumped into hyper speed and now 95% of adoptions are open. Most of those open adoptions have continued contact directly between the adoptive family and the biological family.
Still, even though the vast majority of adoptions are open, very few people know what adoptions are like now. And those people who do have some knowledge about open adoption still don’t know what it’s like to be involved in one unless they’ve been there.
That’s why I wrote Open Adoption, Open Heart. My wife and I were among those people who didn’t understand open adoption before we went through the process. We didn’t really know why people did it. We didn’t know the benefits or the difficulties accompanying the process.
Open Adoption, Open Heart is not a “how to” book on adoption. It’s not meant just for those considering adoption. It’s our story in all its detail- the good and the uncomfortable as we built relationships with the biological parents. Open adoption is not something that just happens, where you fill out papers and wait for the agency to show up at your doorstep with a baby. Nope nope nope. It’s a process. It’s a journey, and this book takes you on that journey along with us. It’s written in a way that the reader is able to go through the entire process with us, from our troubles with infertility up through a year after the adoption takes place. This book doesn’t stop when the baby comes into our home because the placement of the child is the middle of the story, not the end. Relationships with biological parents are not automatic because it’s not really instilled into us as human beings to want to “share” the concept of parenthood. It took time and effort on everybody’s part to figure out where we all fit into the adoption puzzle.
Open adoption is not for everyone. We realize that. Still, next to the day when my wife and I were married, the process of adoption is the best thing to ever happen to me.
We are raising our two adopted children in a way that we celebrate their history- we don’t hide it. If someone shows up 20 years from now and talks to my children about adoption, it’s not going to be a revelation or a shock to them. Our goal with having everything so open is to help our children see how wonderful a blessing they are in this world. They will see firsthand the incredible love we have for their biological parents and they will know them personally. We feel strongly that they will be more likely to love and embrace their biological roots when they see how we do too, avoiding the thought that they were once “abandoned.” Our children were not abandoned. They were placed for adoption out of love by people who realized they weren’t in position at the time to give them what they deserve in life.
There are so many ups and downs, twists and turns in Open Adoption, Open Heart that you would think it was fiction, but it’s our true story. Anybody who reads it, whether interested in adopting or not, is going to enjoy the ride and will close the cover being more aware of what the adoption is like now. It wasn’t easy, and our story will never completely be finished, but what an amazing ride it is! What a wonderful place the adoptive world is!
About Russell Elkins: Russell Elkins was born on Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., in the fall of 1977. Along with his five siblings, he and his military family moved around a lot, living in eight different houses by the time he left for college at age 17. Although his family movedaway from Fallon, Nevada, just a few months after he moved out, he still considers that little oasis in the desert to be his childhood hometown. He and his family now live in the Boise, Idaho area.
Russell has always been a family man at heart, looking forward to the day when he could be a husband and a father. It took him a little while, but eventually his eyes locked onto a beautiful blonde, and he has never looked away. Russell and Jammie were married in 2004. Years of struggling with infertility left Russell and Jammie with a decision to make and their lives changed dramatically when they decided to adopt.
Russell and Jammie have adopted two beautiful children, Ira and Hazel, and have embraced their role as parents through open adoption. Both are actively engaged in the adoption community by communicating through social media, taking part in discussion panels, and writing songs about adoption. Russell also writes a weekly post for Adoption.com and contributes regularly to Adoption Voices Magazine.
Book Description: The world of adoption has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. No longer do biological parents have to say goodbye to their child forever. They now have more options when deciding the type of adoption to pursue, such as open adoption. Open adoption creates the opportunity for a special relationship between biological parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.
Open Adoption, Open Heart is an inspiring and true story, which takes the reader deeper into the feelings and emotions experienced by adoptive parents. As you read this incredible story, you will experience the joys, difficulties, and amazing victories facing adoptive couples. Russell and his wife, Jammie, invite you to share in their inspiring and heartwarming journey.