Adoption - Part I, with Shelby Dickinson



In this week’s episode, I dove into the first part of our adoption series with adoptive parent Shelby Dickinson.  Shelby lives in California with her husband and two children. Her 3-year-old son Owen is adopted. She shared with me the process of Owen’s open adoption and the dynamic that she has worked to establish with his birth mom and family. 

Shelby and her husband had a unique experience with Owen’s adoption. From the time they first started pursuing adoption, to the time that they had Owen in their arms was only 7.5 weeks. Adoption is typically a multi-year process. They did use a facilitator rather than an agency, which does tend to speed up the process, but Shelby shared that even still, 7.5 weeks is incredibly fast. 

Shelby walked us through the differences between using an agency versus using a facilitator for an adoption. An agency tends to be more comprehensive in that it manages the legal side of things. However, it can be less personal and leave less opportunity for connection between the adoptive family and the birth family. Shelby also explained the difference between open and closed adoptions. She shared that rather than simply being closed or open, it can often be more of a spectrum. Particularly in open adoptions, there is a wide spectrum and things can change or be in flux depending on life circumstances. 

Shelby and her husband used a facilitator in part because they desired a more personalized experience and an open adoption was very important to them. She shared that their desire for an open adoption was also a big part of the reason they chose a domestic adoption. 

Shelby shared the way she has navigated their relationship with Owen’s birth mom and family. Shelby’s desire has been to keep things as open as possible, despite the fact that Owen’s birth family lives in Arizona and Shelby and her husband live in California. They have a private facebook group where Shelby keeps Owen’s birth family up to date on him and how he is doing. Shelby has also used facebook groups to learn more about how to best support Owen and his birth family. She has learned a lot from groups run by adoptees and first families and has examined her own privilege as an adoptive parent. She has worked through her own discomfort and insecurities in an effort to do what is best for Owen. Shelby believes that keeping a positive relationship with Owen’s birth family is very important to his wellbeing and works hard to continue to facilitate that. 

Shelby spoke about the current cultural narratives surrounding adoption, particularly the savior complex that many adoptive parents are inundated with and believe. That thought process can be toxic to adopted kiddos and can be a barrier to learning how to best support kiddos through the more traumatic aspects of adoption. She shares that the facebook groups that she joined have been a great resource for her to avoid that narrative in Owen’s adoption.

Shelby also shares some of the differences in her parenting experience between her son Owen and her biological daughter Margot. Although the amount of love is the same, there have been differences that Shelby has noticed and continues to be aware of. Although it is a popular notion to say that adoption is no different than having a biological child, there are differences. And it doesn’t mean that the amount of love is different, but there are different challenges with each situation.

We finished up with Shelby sharing that although it can be challenging to find resources as adoptive parents that do not subscribe to the savior complex, the groups she found on Facebook are a great place to start if you are willing to work through your own discomfort. She is also open to being contacted as a resource if folks who are pursuing adoption have questions or concerns. 

FB group | Shelby IG


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