Whatever Happened To ... the family in the open adoptions

By Amanda Long
Sunday, February 27, 2011; W04

On this particular day, 8-year-old Jonathan Goldfarb's birth mother has arrived from Michigan for a visit. He has given her the hug she asked for, and, unlike a few years ago, is not clamoring for the attention of the gift-bearing, wild storytelling visitor who is eager to get down on the floor and play.

Instead, Jonathan plays Nintendo in the family room, elbow to elbow with his 11-year-old brother, Daniel, also adopted, as their parents, Larry and Ann Goldfarb, catch up with birth mother Hava Leichtman in another room of their Great Falls home.

As a 2007 Post Magazine article by Liza Mundy chronicled, the Goldfarbs' sons are from open adoptions from two birth mothers. In open adoption, "the spectrum runs from total access ... to just a name on a birth certificate," Larry explains. "Obviously, we're on the way-open end of the spectrum."

A recent trip to Disney World, for instance, included Daniel's birth father, Brad, and Brad's family. Family photos show trips to see Melissa, Daniel's birth mother, and Hava's mother. In 2008, when Ann and Larry celebrated their 20th anniversary with a two-week trip to Europe, Brad and his mom stayed with the boys one week; Melissa and her mom stayed the second.

"We want as many people who love the boys in their lives as possible," Ann says.

It isn't always Disney vacations and hug fests. Hava has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bouts of severe depression and an eating disorder. She was hospitalized in 2008 when her eating disorder became life-threatening, and the Goldfarbs, ever open, prepared the boys for the worst. "Before I left to see her, I told them, 'Hava is very, very sick, and we may not see her again,'" Ann says. "I didn't want this to hit them out of the blue."

Another challenge has been the absence of Jonathan's birth father, Bruce. Never comfortable with open adoption, Bruce has "disappeared, for good," Hava says. Ann says she is left to tell Jonathan: "Bruce just doesn't know what to do with kids. It has nothing to do with you.'"

Hava's boundaries with Jonathan have changed, too. She no longer aches for him to run to her with every stomachache, happy to let Ann and Larry deal with it, allowing her to be "the fun one."

Once "wrecked" after a visit, Hava now says leaving can be a "a relief," knowing she can return to her separate life, which includes trying to finish grad school and find a job as a child caregiver.

She says that at some point she would like to adopt an older child with special needs.

Does she worry Jonathan will someday ask why she gave him up? "No. It's the smartest decision I've made," she says.

"How could I not give him a better life when I knew they could? How could I not let him have this healthy family?"

READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: Open (Secret) (Post, May 6, 2007)

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