Special Assignment

Open adoptions on the rise

CREATED Mar 10, 2014 - UPDATED: Mar 10, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Rachael Henderson has 3 young kids, who are full of energy.  The way her family came together might be different than you expect.

"I never thought I'd build my family through adoption," she says.

More than five years ago, Rachael and her husband Steve tried to get pregnant.  Treatment after treatment, it wasn't working.  Rachael recalls that very difficult time, "I miscarried at 9 weeks and I went to the doctor to make sure the baby had passed after I miscarried, and I had found a lump when I was taking a shower, and I never had a breast exam.  Find out, I have breast cancer, and I lost the baby, all in a week."

On top of that, she'd have to be on toxic meds, and wait 5 more years to have a baby.

"Growing up, my dream was to get pregnant and have babies, and my twin sister she had 5 boys.  You take it for granted you think, I can do it.  And when you can't it's just devastating," Rachael laments.

The couple turned to a domestic adoption agency specializing in open adoption.  A month later they were matched with Georgia's birth mother in Detroit.

"She was 37 years old, already had grown kids and didn't want to start over," Rachael explains.

Rachael's talking about her daughter's adoption right in front of her.  That's a big part of open adoption--letting the kids know early on where they came from.  But, as you can imagine, the Hendersons share common concerns that many who go through open adoption do.  Rachael admits, "I was afraid the birth mom would change their mind.  That's the number one fear. You invest all this time energy, your hopes, your fears, your dreams, and in a second it could be gone."

Sabina Hardesty works for 'Right Turn', which provides post-adoption and guardianship supports and service.  She explains, "That adoptive parent is their legal guardian so they have those legal rights to them."

Right Turn is just one of many organizations that offers post adoptive services like counseling.  It encourages open adoptions, saying it not only helps the birth parents and adoptive parents bond, Hardesty points out, "It also strengthens that relationship between that adoptive parent and the child."

Three kids, three open adoptions later, Rachael and Steve Henderson wouldn't have it any other way.

Rachael says, "I never wanted my kids to know, 'OK I was told by my parents at this day, at this time that I was adopted.  Because then I would feel like I was duping them, or that it was a shameful thing.  Or a secret."

Twenty years ago, 1% of domestic adoptions were open.  Now it's 60-70%.  

To learn more about open adoption, click here