Understanding Open Adoption

The words “open adoption” can often strike fear in the hearts of prospective adoptive parents who are just beginning the adoption process. Since the mid-1970s, open adoptions have been widely accepted as more beneficial for all those in the adoption triad than the secret adoptions of the previous generation. According to recent research, openness appears to help adoptees understand adoption and answer their question; relieve the uncertainty of adoptive parents and help birthmothers resolve their grief.

family portrait kissing

There are several basic types of adoption in regards to communication: closed, semi-open, and open.

• A closed adoption is one where no identifying information is shared between the birth and adoptive families and there is no communication. Occasionally, the birthmother selects the adoptive family, but the two do not meet and there is no agreement for any form of ongoing communication over the course of the child’s life.
• A semi-open adoption is one where two families usually meet and agree to communicate going forward. All communication takes place through an agency or attorney and is on first name basis only. Typically adoptive parents send letters and photos the first few months after the child’s placement and then annually around the child’s birthday.
• An open adoption is one where there is a more open sharing of information and a desire by both families to maintain communication and a relationship. Names and identifying information are often exchanged and there is an initial mutual desire to have ongoing and direct communication between the families and the child over the course of the child’s life.

Most open adoptions lie somewhere in the middle of spectrum, exchanging letters, pictures, phone calls, and having face-to-face meetings once or twice a year. Communication in adoption, as in all relationships, may change over time, for example a birth mother who initially wanted a closed relationship may change her mind later and ask the adoptive family for communication or an adoptive family that starts out with a semi-open relationship may want to open it further.

Here are some important things to remember as you embark on your open adoption journey:
• Open adoption eliminates the factors that may have caused adoptees to focus on a lack of answers surrounding their life. Since the open lines of communication are already established, there is no need to search for clues or answers to their questions.
• Being open about your child’s adoption and keeping connected with their birth family sends a powerful message to your child about how you view their adoption and the way they came to be part of your family.
• Birth families do not want to co-parent your child. They cannot reclaim your child after adoption. Openness helps them to be able to move forward with their lives and provides the extra blessing of knowing the child they brought into the world is loved, happy and safe.
• The continued communication with your child’s birth family is you responsibility when your child is young however as your child grows up, they will be able to become more active in the communication process and developing their own relationship with their birthparents.
• Maintaining honesty in your open adoption is also very important. You don’t want to set a level of open adoption that you aren’t comfortable with and promise things that you cannot follow through with.

Most importantly, biological and adoptive parents must remember that open adoption is about meeting the needs of children, not adults. Open adoption has proven to have amazing benefits for adoptees as well as for adoptive parents and birth parents too. Many adoptive parents say they were able to work through their fear of openness through education about its benefits. We would love to hear your open adoption fears, experiences and/or advice!


July Book Reviews 2014


All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.


After Isaac by Avra Wing - This book succeeds in taking you through the process of recovering from the loss of a child to flying half way around the world to adopt another.  The main character of Aaron is realistic, observant, and relatable. The story actually takes place a year after Isaacs death as the family continues to struggle with their loss and to stay together and heal. This is a refreshing and emotional read about death, the emotions of those left behind and ultimately healing and learning to love again. While this book is considered a young adult book it is really suitable for adults as well. amazon.com price $8.09 kindle price $4.99

01LDbook_zpse37ad423Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell & Jennifer Anastasi  
Stories from a wide and diverse range of female adult adoptees.  This book is honest, sometimes difficult to read and often times validating.  Some of these women have had difficult experiences some have had fabulous experiences but what they all share is that they are adopted and their adoption effected them in different ways.  Since each story is only about a page long this is an easy book to pick up randomly read a few pages, put it down and come back to it later. amazon.com price $11.69 Kindle Price $9.99

9781630631963medNot many adoptive parents have been on the other side of the adoption process as a birth parent nor can they imagine it.  Yvette has literally come full circle with adoption.  When she was a young woman she made the difficult decision to place her child for adoption.  Then after a marriage, divorce and medical issues that left her unable to conceive she found herself on the opposite side of the adoption table, as a prospective adoptive parent. Ultimately Yvette adopts three children but her struggles and her story really show both sides of the adoption story. amazon  price $8.99 Kindle edition $7.19 

Answering Awkward Adoption Questions

disappointmentIf you are any part of the adoption triad – birthparent, adoptive parent, or adoptee – you’ve most likely been asked some awkward or insensitive questions, even if it is just out of pure curiosity the questions can still be inappropriate. It is always good to educate those who are curious about adoption when possible however depending on your mood or the way the question is phrased you can answer in three ways: humor, educational, or private.

Below are some questions that are commonly asked about adoption and some suggestions on how to respond to those questions:

  • “Aren’t you worried his birth parents will come and take him back?” The person asking this question most likely does not know much about adoption and adoption laws. There are ways to go about answering this question, such as giving the person a breakdown of the laws in which you live in, for example: Well in New Jersey after birthparents terminate their rights the child is legally the adoptive parents. You can learn about other states laws by searching adoption laws.
  • “How much was she?” Again, the person asking this probably has no connection to adoption. You could answer with “I think you are referring to the fees associated with the adoption process” and the you can choose to share about the amount of fees if you are comfortable responding that way. Many who find this question much too personal can simply respond with : Don’t you think that’s a personal question? or How much was your house or how much do you make yearly? to drive the its-too-personal point home. Or our personal favorite, “Priceless!”
  • “Her birth mother was a teenager, right?” Unfortunately this is a myth that many assume to be true. You can share your child’s birth mother’s story if you feel comfortable, or you can let the person know that it is a common myth and that a majority of birth parents are between the ages of 25 and 35. You could also let the person know that it is a private matter by saying We’re keeping his birthmothers information private right now out of respect.
  • “You’re adopted? Oh, I’m sorry..” This statement is usually not meant to be negative but can be very hurtful for adoptees. A fun way to go about it when your child gets asked this question is to let them say Well my parents chose me, yours got stuck with you. Or they could respond with I’m lucky enough to have two sets of parents who love me or simply “Don’t be sorry, I’m not.”
  • “Who’s her real mother?”You could respond with, I’m right here! Or Am I not real? Another way to approach this question is to reply by answering the question using the positive adoption language by saying that both her mother and birthmother are real but play very different roles in her life.
  • “Where is he from?” An easy response is to tell the person where your child was born, if domestically, which state. Another response that is common is From our hearts. Finally, you can rephrase their question and say, If you are asking which country he was born in, it was ___.
  • “Why didn’t her parents want her?” A simple and easy response to this question is, Her birth parents very much wanted her but they decided that they were not ready to raise a child right now and choose to place her for adoption. Another response could be that the personal reasons around her adoption story is private information that you aren’t sharing with others.
  • “Wow you’re lucky.” Responding to this question, no matter which part of the triad you are from, can be summed up into There is a lot of loss in adoption, it is not necessarily lucky. If you are an adoptee, you could respond with Well actually my parents are the lucky ones, they got me!
  • “Well, that’s all in the past now.”This can be a very hurtful comment from all side of the triad. The easiest way to respond is to let them know that your story of adoption has not ended, it is a piece of who you are, it is a lifelong journey for all those involved. You do not need to go into detail. Another response could be Sorry I have to go or This is a personal topic I’d prefer to not talk about.
  • “What do you know of her parents?” This is a question that could go both ways. You could keep your information private by responding with We’re keeping information about her birthparents private, out of respect. If you want to take a humorous approach you could reply with “Well I’m 5’5 and have blonde hair…”
  • “Does he like you?” This is a rather silly question, but you’ll probably get asked it. You can respond educationally, talking about the bonding process and how you chose to bond with your child. You could also reply with a humorous, Only when I let him eat chocolate. Finally, you can answer without actually giving information with a response such as Do you like your parents?
  • “How will you teach her English?” Depending on the age of your adopted child, this could be a very humorous question to be asked. If you child is 9 months old and someone asks you this, they are most likely not asking in a hurtful way. A quick and easy response could be What language are you teaching your 9-month old?
  • “Do you want him back?”This question can be very personal and hurtful when birthparents are asked this question. There are many ways to respond to this question. You could reply with It’s not always easy, but I made the best decision for my son. Or I’m still his mother and I think about him every day. Finally, you could take the silent approach and tell the person that you need to go.
  • “It’s too bad you couldn’t have a child of your own.” A quick and easy response to this question: My child is my own.
  • “I could never give up my child” An easy response is I did not give my child up, I placed her for adoption. Or Well everyone’s paths are different. Another reply could be Not everyone can make the decision I did.

Most of the time people who ask these questions are asking because they are curious and do not know much about adoption. They might not understand how personal and unique each adoption story is and can come off as being rude. As we said before, you can educate, keep private, answer without actually giving information or respond jokingly. Keep in mind that it might be a different dynamic if your child is with you when someone asks the question. If your child is old enough to understand, you could open the question up to them to answer: Jamie do you want to answer that question about your birthmother? Or by responding to the person asking: It is my son’s story to share so you can ask him if you would like.

What other questions have you been asked? How did you respond?

Your Loved One Is Considering Adoption

iStock_000002987587MediumWhen your child or a loved one is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and are considering adoption, you have may have a strong reaction or disagree but support them. We understand that this is a difficult time for you and your loved one and hope that the following suggestions can help you provide the support that your loved one needs at this time.

Our first suggestion is assure them that you love them. This might sound like a silly suggestion, but when your loved one comes to you, they are most likely coming to you because they trust you and value your support. Your loved one might have been scared to tell you in fear of rejection or disappointment. You should feel honored that s/he made the choice to tell you about this unplanned pregnancy. Assuring them that you love them and are there for them can help them in ways you would never imagine.

After you have covered the basics, explore their feelings before telling them yours. This loved one might be coming to you because they need to talk their options over or just let some emotions out. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to say or do the right thing but at this point your loved one might just need to let their feelings out. Remember that s/he might not be sure how they feel and that the feelings they are having are okay.

This next suggestion can be the most difficult part of helping your loved one. Put your emotions on the backburner. Your loved one came to you because they felt they needed you as a support system. This is your time to focus on them and what they need from you. This is difficult to do for some because it can be an emotional time and you may have many emotions running through your head. It is important for you to also work out your emotions (most agencies have counselors you can talk to).

We would suggest that you find a support system outside of the adoption plan. You need space to grieve and take care of yourself. Compassion fatigue is a real thing. Helping others without taking care of yourself can take a big toll on your body and emotions. By finding a support system outside of the adoption plan, you can take care of yourself without harming your loved one’s feelings.

An unplanned pregnancy can be very overwhelming. Considering adoption can lead to many questions that your loved one may want to get answers from. This leads us to our next suggestion get as much information on adoption as you can. You can do this by calling your local adoption agency or researching online. Speaking to an adoption professional would be your best source of information. By gathering information to learn more about the process and what open adoption is, you can help your loved one through the adoption process.

When your loved one is at the hospital for the birth, it may be when you will be hit the hardest with emotions. Leading up to the hospital, your loved one might be thinking logically and with their head about their adoption plan without getting their emotions involved. The birth and after-birth is where emotions might come colliding with their logic. Now is when they need you more than ever. It is now that they need your comfort in whatever decision they make, whether it be terminating their rights or parenting. It’s important to know that even if your loved one has been working with an agency, they are under no obligation up until they sign paperwork terminating their rights. And likewise, if they had planned to parents and after birth decided they wanted to make an adoption plan, it is not too late to contact an agency.

After the termination of rights has happened, your loved one may still need you as a support system. The most important thing that you can do is continue to talk with your loved one about the adoption if they want to. Your loved one might need to know that you care and that the baby is always a constant thought. S/he is still a parent even though they are not parenting daily. Encourage your loved one to seek support groups or counseling if need be. While placement is in the past, adoption is a lifelong journey.

Don’t Forget About The Dad’s

Parenthood is a big step in life and celebrating soon-to-be dad’s, adoptive and birthfather’s is important to do every day of the year.



Feeling Fearful is Okay, You’re Not Alone
Every parent can experience cold feet, or nervousness about having children. There are financial worries, potential stress on your relationships and the intimidating notion of being responsible for someone else’s life. Adoption can add some additional layers to the already overwhelming step into parenthood, but the nature of the adoption process doesn’t have to be a scary thing for soon-to-be dads. Combating the fear head on means starting with the basics first. Birthfather’s should know their rights when making an adoption plan, and should take advantage of counselors and all other resources that are offered for them. Take the time to understand and educate yourself on adoption, parenting and whatever all topics have your stress levels rising as due dates or travel dates for families adopting internationally approach. The internet can be a fantastic resource for meeting other adoptive parents, taking the time to ask them questions specific to their experiences can help to ease your worry and to help prepare for all that fatherhood will bring. No one is perfect and everyday will bring new challenges, but with an open mind and open heart you are capable of being a fantastic parent.

Celebrating and Embracing Change
Scott and Bill may not be the type to go all out for holidays or take time for themselves this Father’s Day because they simply don’t have the time. Priorities change after you start a family and that was all too clear after Scott and Bill adopted two sons through Adoptions From The Heart. “I always thought I’d go back,” Bill said in reference to his position as a music teacher, “but now I can do that part-time at church and stay home with the boys.” Now, every day is different and filled with surprises, always out and about with plenty of adventures to be had. “We are so busy and time goes so quickly, I really cherish tucking the boys in at night. It gives me special time with our oldest where he’s more affectionate and we can reconnect.” Adoption and parenting in general has taught Bill and Scott to be a lot more flexible, to go with the flow in a lot more aspects of their lives. “When we adopted, we had to completely change everything about our lives. We welcomed the change, but it was still a change none the less. I think that all families considering adoption should know that everything will work out in the end.” Birthfather’s face changes in their lives when an adoption plan is created and also after placement, but the advice from Bill still holds true. We may never have seen ourselves in a particular situation, but when faced with a big change like guiding an adoption plan, it is important to welcome and accept all the new experiences with an open heart.

Reflect on the Road Taken to Appreciate the Present
“I remember the day like it was yesterday, January 17th 2013, our first educational class at Adoptions From The Heart. We walked in so nervous not knowing what to expect, we left with two huge smiles on our faces and went right home to write the application for adoption,” adoptive dad Jeff, recalls. “The summer came and our social worker told us we had been looked at a few times and that was a great sign. It was hard to know we had been looked at and not chosen, we wondered what they didn’t like about us and it was tough to deal with sometimes. Then we got a call in late July that we had been chosen by a family in Delaware, the excitement levels were off the charts, for us and our families too. We immediately went shopping and bought all of the furniture we had waited so long for. It was the most exciting week for us. Later that week, we got another call from our social worker saying that the expecting parents had changed their mind and were planning to parent, we were devastated. We went into a depression spiral and it got really bad, but we went to a support meeting at AFTH and it really boosted our spirits and we found out that we are not alone with this happening to us.” Having a support system helped Jeff to better handle the disappointment and accept that everything will work out in the end, which it did!

“On Black Friday 2013, we got the call again and this time it was the one!! We met our birth mother the next day and the rest is history. We instantly loved her, and we felt she had the same feelings for us, and we later found out she did. We took our baby boy home on December 4th and it has been a wonderful dream scenario since. They always said that it will all work out when it’s supposed to, we never really believed that but it turned out to be 100% correct. We have an amazing little boy that we love with all of our hearts; we have an amazing birth mother that we also love with all of our hearts. We email with her, send her pictures and updated and we go out to dinner together so she can see him growing. We can never thank the great people at AFTH enough, they have helped give us a family and we are forever grateful to them for that.”

WE are forever grateful for every dad and for all of the amazing things they do every day! What does fatherhood mean to you? Feel free to share your stories with us here or on our other social media pages. We look forward to hearing your feedback and highlighting more birthfather journey’s specifically in the future. Thank you for joining us in celebrating parenthood and adoption!


June Book Reviews 2014


All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

51rFfKEPocL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe #1: Moldylocks and the Three Beards (A Branches Book)- by Noah Z. Jones – This is a fun book that would appeal to both boys and girls. While it doesn’t have anything to do with adoption it does have to do with diversity.  The main character Princess is a girl of color which is rare to find in most books these days – So bravo! The story is whimsical and a great weird take on fairy tales.  I’m sure this series is going to be a huge hit.  Its a beginner chapter book geared toward kids in grades 1 -2. The second book in this series is due out in August 2014.  retail $4.99 amazon price $4.49 kindle price $3.82

cleo01_frontcoverCleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack – this is a graphic novel geared toward kids 8-12 in grades 3-7. Once again this book has nothing to do with adoption but does hit on diversity of characters.  Cleopatra from Egyptian history finds a special scroll as a young girl and is thrust forward in time to become the savior of the galaxy.  This is just the first of her many adventures.  For fans of comic books with female heroines this book is fun and empowering. Cleo, as she likes to be called, is an excellent shot and great at hand to hand combat but really wants nothing to do with book learning, most of all algebra!  Unfortunately we are going to have to wait until 2015 for her next adventure. retail price $12.99  amazon price: $10.68

41zy04SzxsL10 Adoption Essentials: What You Need to Know About Open Adoption (Guide to a Healthy Adoptive Family, Adoption Parenting, and Relationships) by Russell Elkins – This book is a good starting point for families exploring open adoption.  It is very short and gives a great overview of some very important elements to open adoption, sharing information, taking the open adoption relationship seriously, working through jealousy etc..  There is some good information in this little snippet of a book.  A great way to start exploring the world of open adoption and really diving into the different feelings that it can invoke. amazon price $4.32 kindle price $.99

51XqArOQnVL Finding A Family: A Journey Through Infertility and Adoption by Tina Nelson - Tina and her husband struggled with infertility, the tried adoption but waited for years with no results when Tina heard about a new option, Embryo adoption. They contacted an agency and decided to give this a try.  Through Embryo adoption Tina and her husband were able to experience pregnancy and give birth to twins.

Tina and her husband are very religious and rely on their faith to get them through this difficult period in their lives.  They felt that their Heavenly Father would see them through and enable them to have children and raise a family.  You really live Tina’s grief of being unable to have children and the joy of finding out she is pregnant.  If you are interested in embryo adoption this is a good first hand account of what it entails. List price $6.99 Amazon.com price $6.29, kindle price $2.99

Creating an Adoption Lifebook

One does not need to be creative or crafty, only motivated to create a important lifebook for their child.

profile making
What is a Lifebook?
A lifebook is an actual, tangible book that parent’s can create, sometimes with the assistance of their child. A life book is a celebration of your child’s past, and shows your beginning as a family. Typically they begin with the journey before your child is born as your child’s story begins before they even met you. It is important to remember to not only include your side of the journey but to also include details of their birth parents. The lifebook can also include a letters from birthparents or your recounting of the reasons why an adoption plan was made for your child. Keep in mind, this is a lifebook for your child and it is important to share his whole story in a child friendly way.

Even though your child may have not entered your family for days, weeks, months, or even years after he or she was born, their story began before then and it is an important part of their life to know about as well. There should be pages that include any details about your child’s birthparents. Of course, it should also have plenty of pages to include the day you first met, your travels if you adopted internationally, finalization day, visits with birthparents, and the many very special moments that follow placement. Once your child is old enough, get them involved as well. Ask them what adoption means to them and include their wording in the lifebook. They can draw a picture or choose the pictures they want included in the book. Here are some additional ideas to help you get started:
• Pre-adoption information, items from the placement process
• Date and Location of child’s birth, health records and photos
• Details of the adoption experience, where were you when you got the “call,” prior meetings with birthparents, meeting with your child for the first time, be sure to include lots of dates and photos
• Information about your child’s birthparents
• Things your child’s birthparent(s) did after they were born and things they continue to still do
• Your parental reflections and reactions to moments up to meeting your child for the very first time

Why Make a Lifebook? Why is it Special?
This is a life history book that will tell your child’s story from even before they first entered the world. It is a tool to pull all the pieces of your child’s story together and to help them make sense of all the events in their life. Preserving their history by gathering a memoir of images, thoughts, and information will be one of the most meaningful gifts you can share with your child.

Because you child’s adoption journey is life-long, you can keep the lifebook active by adding to it each year. Working together with your child to add information can be a therapeutic process. It can also open up dialogue between you and your child about their adoption. You might be surprised to find that your child may say things or ask questions they might not normally ask or talk about while working on this project. The exercise provides an opportunity to build trust and attachment while countering misinformation and fantasy. Parents can decide how to share certain information with their children and the lifebook can help foster adoption discussions as well as helping to strengthen a child’s identity because they are able to claim their own story.

What a Lifebook Isn’t:
You might be wondering what the difference between a lifebook and a scrapbook is. In a scrapbook, the pictures are the most important part and in an adoption lifebook, the words are equally if not more important. Scrapbooks also tend to be more public, often given as a gift or kept on a shelf in the living room to pull out when guests come over; where a lifebook is special and really only meant for the child and their family. Now, this doesn’t mean that some pages can’t be scrapbooked by you or your child because that can be a very fun activity and documenting special memories and moments can really enhance the lifebook.

When Should You Get Started?:
There is no right or wrong answer here. If you have a baby or a toddler, get started by writing the text in a way that a school aged child would be able to read. Then you can always go back and select photos or mementos that fit the best. Pulling details of your child’s story together before they start to fade from your memory is a little motivation to get started early. Depending on their age, having your child help write their lifebook is the best way to get started. Even if your child is only three, he or she can help pick a title-page picture, draw pictures, stick stickers, etc. The most important thing is to start a lifebook; there never is a wrong age to start a lifebook for your child.

Creating a lifebook may seem like a daunting task, but once you get started things will start to flow! Share some of your lifebook ideas or language with the adoption community; we are each other’s best resource! Happy lifebook making!