Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adoption: How much info is too much info?

I've been thinking about this topic for a while. As an adoptive parent and an adoption coordinator I have the privilege of seeing things from both sides. As as result, maybe I see things different than an adoption coordinator who isn't an adoptive parent, or an adoptive parent who isn't an adoption coordinator.

As a parent, I want as much information as I can possibly get about my adoption. Seriously, I would eat up any tiny tidbit given to me. I would crave to know every step of the process. Was a photocopy for my case made today? Good! Let me know! [But is that good for me? Is that healthy??]

As an adoption coordinator, I sometimes feel like it is possible to give parents too much information. Information is good and bad. The thing is, the more information one has, the more control they want. Adoptive parents have absolutely no control in the process, so it doesn't serve them well to crave it. I find that I want to protect my families from information that could cause them needless worry. [Is that my job though? Should I have the "power" to choose that?]

I have to admit, if I knew everything that went on in Ghana in order to make one adoption process from beginning to end, I think my hair would be white. In America we are used to order. We are used to a set process from start to finish. It's hard for us to understand how something gets done without process and order. I'm not saying that there isn't process and order in Ghana, but it's not one that Americans easily understand! When I spend a few weeks shadowing our adoption coordinator I come out completely frazzled. I don't remember the specific event, but something happened during my last trip to Ghana. The news was very distressing to me. I totally lost it and just bawled my eyes out. My staff came to comfort me. "Oh Ani! It's okay! This type of thing happens all the time and it always works out." They were right. They deal with ups and downs everyday that I cannot imagine. I digress...

My point is, now that I see things "from behind the scenes" I have changed my mind a bit about what is really healthy for an adoptive parent. I don't have a double standard here. Even when I was my own adoption coordinator for Kendi's adoption I held my own case to the same standard. With my AAI families, I update on every slightly significant thing throughout the adoption. If we get a death certificate; a passport; a court date; a call from the embassy; any movement on the case is relayed to the adoptive family. But if there is some nitty gritty detail that *MIGHT* cause a problem for a case, I don't necessarily share that. I've learned that telling families news that includes words like "might" or "possibly" or "there's a chance" is really not reporting news at all. It just causes worry. I give families updates when I have concrete information because 95% of the time any small worry that myself or my staff in Ghana carries for a few days works out fine in the end!

So this is my philosophy. What do you think? Can an adoptive parent have too much information?

P.S. Most of the time I don't get daily (or even weekly) details on a case. I just get the major stuff, which I report to parents. When Kendi's case was in process my coordinator knew to give me the same info--just the big stuff not the small daily hurdles he had to get through to process the adoption.


Laurel 12:38 AM  

I absolutely agree with you. We sometimes got too much info ... that was just the director processing the "what if's". Then, if I blogged about the "what ifs" I got reprimanded. :)

So ... better to just give the concrete info.

Also ... good to give timeline estimates that could be much longer than it takes, than to give the family the hope for a short and quick adoption. It was very difficult for us to be told ... kid's could be home by Thanksgiving ... kid's should be home by Christmas ... oops ... kid's didn't come home until the following March.

You're doing a GREAT job, Anita. Keep helping those children ... and helping the families ... and leave the nitty, gritty, ugly day-to-day details to the Ghanaians to figure out. :)

When I traveled with a friend for her adoption, we were involved in the day-to-day nitty, gritty, ugly stuff and it was NOT fun. So. Not. Fun.

mama of 13

Cat 7:44 AM  

I think I agree. Although I can say that now that I have 3 adoptions under my belt, fully complete. At the time...during the process... I wanted news. ALL NEWS. I was mad I wasn't getting it. My definition of important and your definition of important may be different. My definition of important included pretty much everything and anything about my child and the process! ;o)

I think adoptive parents can easily become hyper-sensitive. I sure was! I think I was more emotional/hormonal than when I was pregnant! So, maybe it's good that someone is looking out for the mental well-being of in-process APs. But I wouldn't expect too many in-process APs to agree with you.

I probably wouldn't have at the time. ;o)

I think the issues is further complicated by the fact that, sometimes, there is truly important info that does NOT reach the agency (thus, not the parents). There were things we found out after our court date and while in ET that we really wish we had known sooner. But the agency couldn't have done anything about it... yet, it was still very frustrating.

Ah, the fun of international adoption!

Good post!

Kait 8:45 AM  

I think that when in process, we think we want more news then what we actually want. Because we want our kids home, we want to know every single little thing about them. But having been on the other side, working in a Haitian orphanage while adoptions were processing, I can say that parents don't really need to know every little thing unless it is absolutely certain.

I learned a hard lesson once when I sent out an update email to a group of ladies I was on a yahoo group with. One of the ladies had a child that had been sad and clingy that day and I mentioned that I spent the day with that little girl because she seemed sad. The mother spent the next day emailing and calling all day, wanting to talk to anyone who could reassure her that the child was not sad anymore. I learned that adoption parents are sometimes incredibly neurotic and that there are certain things you just don't tell them.

When we can't have our kids in our arms, we get obsessive. We think we want to know everything but if we did, we would go even crazier during the process. I'm sure you've achieved a good balance.

fullplatemom 10:35 AM  

I SO wish I didn't know all that I do about my adoption, and all the other (some who make REALLY poor choices) parents who are doing independent adoptions. The nitty gritty will make you go gray.

I think that's the difference between an agency and an independent adoption though. If you're working with an agency, you're paying for someone (like you) to worry about the nitty gritty. If you're doing it on your own, you had better do it yourself, or it doesn't get done. Some days I would pay BIG BUCKS to make other people deal with the problems (and ethical dilemmas) that I have had to deal with, but other days I'm thankful for the details that I'm getting and the control I feel (since I'm a little bit of a control freak). There a trade offs to each route.

Obviously, I wouldn't change my route now since it has led me to my kids, but the headaches have been large. So, I guess which route you chooses depends on where you find your child(ren).

But, you're doing your job, Anita, by dealing with this for your adoptive parents. While that's not all of what they're paying AAI for, it's a large part of it.

Michelle 11:49 AM  

I don't want all of the itty bitty details! At least right now....I might change my mind once I have been waiting for my decree more than a month! haha

KamPossible 1:02 PM  

I think it is all relative... I agree with your philosophy. Case and point: my first adoption (not with AAI) compared to my adoption with AAI, I felt like I was informed of everything all the time. Whether that was the case or not, I had come from an agency that didn't allow much, if any, information to be passed, and traveling families were not allowed to pass info between families about the children. No photos, no stories, nothing. A medical upfront with a photo and then a height and weight every 6-8 weeks. End of story. All other information was given AFTER the events occured and no predictions of timelines were offered beyond the general information on their website. If there was any reason to get an update you could call a recorded message that was updated once a month. Oh... and DON'T bother your country coordinator (equavalent to your role for AAI Ghana) because you MIGHT take up a second too much of their time and slow down ALL adoptions.

So what do I think? I think there IS a possibility of too much information. And that it is up to the agency to decide what is best to share (per country, per child and per family). I think of a doctor in surgery... would the nurse update that the cut was a little deeper than the doctor expected, and then report slightly more blood than anticipated? No, the doctor would focus on the surgery and let the family know if there were real issues actually impacting the outcome of the surgery. And do you really want to know if one suction machine went out and they had to run to another room to find one??? Not in the middle of a surgery you don't want to know that. You don't!
And one other example I have to add, if the patient woke a little or had trouble going under anesthesia and the patient kept muttering things about dying, the doctor also would not share that. RIGHT? Why torchure parents with information that cannot be controlled or changed.

So, I've been a waiting parent and I do want to know everything, and I want to ask everything. But I hope the professional on the other end is making professional decision about what I do and do not need to know. Is it power? No, it's respect and professionalism.

(And I think you are great at it)