Monday, March 19th, 2012
Two families, one daughter
Open adoption allows teen to grow up with two families
By Shelley Grieshop
In the right photo, Rachel, far left, poses with her birth mother, Molly Briner. . .
Editors note: The last name of the adopted child and her adoptive family were not used in the story at their request.
An untimely birth 15 years ago led to a unique union of two families 300 miles apart.
Rachel, a premature infant born to an unwed Fort Recovery teen, was adopted by a Michigan couple through an open adoption arrangement. The two families have shared numerous events in Rachel's life since her birth in 1996.
Rachel's birth mother, Molly Briner, now 32, admits the situation is unusual but feels blessed with the outcome.
"I couldn't have asked for any better relationship with the adoptive parents I chose and my birth daughter," said Briner, who resides in Fort Recovery with her husband and their three daughters ages 4, 7 and 10.
Not only has she attended Rachel's birthdays and First Communion, she also was her Catholic Confirmation sponsor. Rachel spends a week each summer with Briner and her family, and Briner's daughters enjoy a week with Rachel's adoptive family in Michigan.
The adoptive couple, Meri and Jon, also are pleased with the arrangement and credit its success to mutual respect.
"It's as open as it is because of the relationship we developed," Meri said. "Molly respects our boundaries. It's just a good fit."
Ohio allows open, closed and openness adoptions, according to Nancy Burley, a licensed independent social worker/supervisor at Adoption Circle in Columbus. In closed adoptions, parties only exchange the basics such as medical history. Open adoptions often involve an in-depth exchange of information and child visits.
Openness adoptions are the most common today; they allow parties to share as little or as much as they desire.
"Probably 95 percent have some type of openness," Burley said.
The agreements can be verbal or written and are legal but not binding in the state of Ohio, she added.
Burley believes the technology and social media available today makes it nearly impossible for any adoption to remain closed. Personal information is "out there" whether we like it or not, she said.
"If you want to find someone, you can find someone," she said.
More than 1,600 children are adopted each year in Ohio. Statistics on open and closed cases aren't made public because most adoptions are conducted by private agencies.
Burley believes open and openness adoptions can be beneficial for everyone but have risks.
"It takes a lot of courage, compassion and common sense," she said.
Meri and Jon found out firsthand that every adoption is different. Three months before the couple brought Rachel home, they unexpectedly became adoptive parents of another infant, Kori. The relationship with Kori's birth family hasn't developed in the manner they'd hoped, Meri said.
"They are two very different situations," she said.
Despite the outcome, Meri is pleased that both of her daughters know their birth mothers. Being adopted herself, she realizes the importance.
"Years back, I wanted to know. There's a curiosity there to find your own mother," she said.
Meri eventually found hers and learned the details that led to her own adoption.
"The best thing she ever did was to give me a better life," she said.
Briner is certain she, too, made the right decision. When Rachel's teenage father abandoned her, she initially contemplated keeping her baby. Then a nurse at one of her doctor visits "laid it all out on the table," she said.
"She was tough on me. She asked me where I got the nice shoes I was wearing and who bought my clothes," Briner said. "I said my mom."
After a series of questions, tears flowed and she realized she couldn't provide for her baby. She sought guidance from the former Harbor House in Celina and made the decision to place her child for adoption.
It wasn't easy.
"I cried almost every night, knowing that soon this little life inside me that's kicking me would no longer be with me," she said. "It wasn't an easy decision for me, by all means, but I knew in my heart it was the right one and I would bless a wonderful couple with a child."
She chose Meri and Jon from albums full of eligible couples. When Rachel was born, she held her, kissed her and told her she loved her. Six months later Meri and Jon brought her to Briner's home for the first of many visits.
In a few weeks, the blended families again will unite as Rachel turns sweet 16.
"I didn't think it would be like this in the beginning," Meri said. "It's not for everyone. I think you have to do what's in your own heart."