The History of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month is quickly approaching which led us to wonder, how did this celebratory month get its start? Join us on an exploration into our favorite month of the year!

The History of NAM

The Beginning of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Week

National Adoption Month didn’t actually start off as a month long celebration of adoption, but instead was celebrated during one week out of the year. In 1976 the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proclaimed that his state would have an Adoption Week in hopes to promote awareness for the needs of children in foster care and the lack of adoptive families. Some reports say that later in 1976, President Gerald Ford announced that the Adoption Week started by Dukakis would be celebrated nationally in the United States. The Child Welfare National Adoption Month page explains that President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week on November 13, 1984. Proclamation 5280 states:

Families have always stood at the center of our society, preserving good and worthy traditions from our past and entrusting those traditions to our children, our greatest hope for the future. At a time when many fear that the family is in decline, it is fitting that we give special recognition to those who are rebuilding families by promoting adoption.

More children with permanent homes mean fewer children with permanent problems. That is why we must encourage a national effort to promote the adoption of children, and particularly children with special needs. Through the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, some 6,000 children have been adopted who otherwise might not have been, and the number is growing. The recently enacted Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act will provide further assistance to couples who adopt children with special needs. …

National Adoption Week gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to give every child waiting to be adopted the chance to become part of a family. During this Thanksgiving season, let us work to encourage community acceptance and support for adoption and take time to recognize the efforts of the parent groups and agencies that assure adoptive placements for waiting children. Most importantly, let us pay tribute to those special couples who have opened their homes and hearts to adopted children, forming the bonds of love that we call the family.

National Adoption Month

After President Reagan’s proclamation, more and more states began participating in Adoption Week activities and there just didn’t seem to be enough time to fit in everything that activists wanted to accomplish in one week. In 1995 November was proclaimed as National Adoption Month by President Clinton. Proclamation 6846 states:

For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community. Adoption also enables adults to experience the unique joys of parenthood.

As many as 70,000 children in America’s foster care system may need adoptive families in the next few years—young people of all ages and backgrounds who, for whatever reason, cannot return to their original homes. Many, but not all, are children with special needs. These young people long for the same affection, security, and stability that most of us take for granted, yet too many have waited—and will continue to wait—for years to be adopted.

My Administration has taken important actions to encourage adoption and to support the wonderful families that choose to open their hearts and homes to waiting children. The Multiethnic Placement Act, which I signed into law in October 1994, helps to facilitate adoption for all children and families, regardless of their race or ethnic origin. We will continue to champion and improve programs that break down barriers to adoption through aggressive recruitment of families, financial aid to support placements, and technical assistance to agencies committed to special needs adoption.

As we observe National Adoption Month, we celebrate these achievements and recognize the rewards of adoption, but we must also remember that much work remains to be done. Citizens from all communities and organizations from the public and private sectors must join together to renew our commitment to finding permanent homes for each one of America’s children.

Celebrating National Adoption Month

There are a lot of ways to celebrate National Adoption Month and one of those ways includes National Adoption Day. National Adoption Day occurs with courthouses throughout the country where hundreds of adoptions are finalized simultaneously. According to the official website, National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. A coalition of national partners – Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network – sponsor National Adoption Day. Adoptions From The Heart had some wonderful families participate in Adoption Day last year and you can read more about their stories here and here.

Adoption Day
During the month of November, families can celebrate and bring awareness to the beauty of open adoption, the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care and just general support for the states, communities and agencies that make resources available for those touched by adoption. Keep an eye out for the activities planned by your agency, or engage in social media contests, sharing your adoption experiences. For example, Adoptions From The Heart celebrates National Adoption Month with the Paper Heart Project. This fundraiser encourages local business sell purple hearts cut from paper by local students and have supporters sign their names before displaying, showing their support of adoption.
Paper Heart Project

How have you celebrated National Adoption Month?

10 Thing Every Birth Mother Wants Adoptive Parents to Know

Patricia Dischler, author of “Because I Loved You: A Birthmother’s View of Open Adoption”, chose an open adoption for her son in 1985. While she has had the opportunity to build an open and meaningful relationship with her son’s parents, she knows that many parents do not get the opportunity to have a positive relationship with their child’s birth mother; which, she believes, can often lead to uncomfortable situations when parents cannot answer some of the important questions that begin to ask when they begin to explore the issues of being adopted.

When making the decision to place their child for adoption, there are a multitude of thoughts and emotions that birth parents go through. For those parents who have gone through an open adoption, these feelings may be familiar. For those who have not gone through an open adoption, here are 10 things that Dischler believes that adoptive parents should know:

1. I did not place my child because he or she was “ unwanted” I wanted my child so much that I continued a pregnancy filled with unanswered questions

2. I chose adoption because I loved my child. This paternal love allowed me to put his or her needs before my own when making my choice

3. This choice affected more than just me. He or she has a grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles who love my child as well, and he or she will be missed.

4. I wish for the day I can look into my child’s eyes and say “I love you” one more time.

5. I hope you will teach respect to my child by showing respect for me in your discussions

6. I wish I could be there to answer my child’s questions about adoption, but I trust you to answer them truthfully as best you can.

7. I will never stop thinking about my child. He or she will always be a part of who I am.

8. I would never try to disrupt my child’s new family with you. I put too much emotion and suffering into making this choice to allow anything to disrupt it- including me

9. I hope that you will teach my child about his or her beginnings—about where he or she was born and who I am.

10. In my eyes, you will always be my child’s Mom and Dad and that thought brings me happiness.

While Patricia is able to provide some insight into her personal experiences as a birth mother, it is important to remember that everyone’s experience is unique.

What is some advice that you would offer adoptive parents from a birthmother’s point of view? What are some things you’ve learned from your child’s birthparents?

Older Child Adoption Guide: Adopting an Older Child & Parenting your Adopted Child as They Grow

Older Child Adoption Guide

Adopting a Pre-School or School-Aged Child

There are special challenges present when adopting a pre-school aged child. Deborah Gray, author of Attaching in Adoption and Nurturing Adoptions presents ten tips for the first year of placement that we suggest adoptive parents take time to read and discuss with family members. Here is an excerpt of her article, Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement.

  1. Spend ample time in nurturing activities.

    The most significant process of the first year home is creating a trust relationship. Intentional and ample nurturing promotes this goal. Restrict your hours away from the little one. Do not leave your child for overnight trips for this first year.
    Meet your little ones needs in an especially sensitive manner. Feed on demand. Respond quickly to fussing. Allow the toddler or child to regress, bottle-feeding, rocking to sleep, lapsitting, and being carried. Play little games that promote eye contact, like peekaboo, ponyride, and hide-and-seek.

  2. Teach children to play with you.

    Many little ones have missed the joys of play. Act as an amplifier, teaching toddlers and children the pleasure of play. Most children have missed the experience of having parents express joy as they played. Because of this, their reward centers were not stimulated. This restricted the association of exploration and play with pleasure. Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for play with your children.

  3. Talk to your child.

    Talking with KidsParents of infants use exaggerated voice tones to emphasize important concepts. Their “amplifier system” helps children with attention to most important parts of the whole environment. After children move into the preschool age, some of this “cheerleader” amplification diminishes. Continue to use this brighter emotional tone with your child as she understands your shared world even if she is not an infant.
    Explain things to him, even though you might think that the meaning of what you are doing is obvious. Not only are you conveying information to him, you are revealing your view of the world to him. Your voice tones guide him to better understand the context. Be sure to use your fingers and gestures to point out important things to him. This helps him to both attend to and understand the meaning of the context around him.

  4. When toddlers or older children have behavior problems, use your body to stop them.

    Be gentle, but be consistently and predictably competent in stopping negative behaviors. Gently move their bodies to where you want them to be. For example, if your little one is reaching for an item, move the child or the item. Use the voice for a back up. Do not remind or repeat several times. Instead, describe in a pleasant manner how precious or pretty the item appears to you as you move your child. Teach boundaries of respect from the beginning.

  5. Get enough sleep, good food, and exercise to stay in a good mood.

    Little ones who have been moved and/or neglected tend to be irritable, fussy, and hard to soothe. Parents use their own positive, well-regulated moods to help calm and engage these little ones. Your own emotional stability will help to steady your child’s moods. A depressed parent struggles to form a positive, secure attachment with her baby or child. Depression makes the parent emotionally less available. The parent who is tired, eating junk food, and inert by day’s end does not give a child a competent source of emotional regulation. Parents who find that their moods are slipping, even with good self-care, should see about counseling and/or an antidepressant. It is simply too hard to do this essential, nurturing parenting while being depressed.

  6. Be part of an adoption support group.

    The relationships between families are invaluable. The relationships can be emotional lifelines on hard days. If possible, find a mentor who is positive, and who likes you and your child. Ask her to be part of your circle of support. We all need to feel understood and authentically accepted. A mentor who can provide that sense of nurture for the parent helps the parent to be a good nurturer. The mentor relationship provides a sense of being heard and accepted, and tips and information. Parents are working harder emotionally when parenting a baby or child who has lived through uneven parenting. Parents need someone who cares for them. Sometimes this can be mutual support, and sometimes one-to-one.

  7. Keep a calm, but interesting home.

    Match the amount of stimulation in the home to the amount that is within the childs ability to tolerate. Many children have been massively understimulated before they came to parents. Neglect massively understimulates children. They do not build neurology to process as much sensory stimulation. After adoption, their worlds can suddenly be overwhelming. Things are too bright, too loud, move too much, and tilt too much. Slow things down, buffering your baby or child to the extent that they can process the information coming their way. Often children who are overwhelmed by noise will begin shouting, or those overstimulated by too much movement will begin running with arms like windmills. Lay out predictable, consistent events for the day. Some children find the movement of the car to be disorienting. If your child is having difficulties, try a couple of days limiting the car, determining whether or not this makes a difference.

  8. Explain to children basics of your relationships as they gain language.

    For example, “A mothers job is to love you. I will always come back home to you when I leave in the car to go shopping. You will live with me until you are as big as I am. I will not let anybody hurt you. I will never hurt you. We will always have enough food.” One mother told me of her sons relief and better behavior when she told him that she would never allow others to hurt him. “Why didn’t I think to tell him the first year?” She questioned. “He was afraid every time we went to the mall. He has been thinking for two years that just anyone could haul off and hit him.” Another parent told me of the melting smile that her daughter gave her when she said that a mothers job was to love her child. “I just assumed that she knew that. But she didn’t. She looked at my face much more after that.”

  9. Do watch for signs of an exclusive attachment by the end of the first year.

    Children should be seeking out their parents for affection and play. They should be showing off for positive attention. They should prefer being with the parent. They should show some excitement about time together. When hurt or distressed, the child should seek out the parent. In a secure attachment, the child will calm with the parent and accept soothing.
    Trauma and traumatic grief are the common culprits when children are remaining wary, fearful, and controlling of their parents. Signs of trauma with younger children include regular night terrors, dissociation (child shuts off emotionally and stares away), scratching, biting, extreme moods, freezing in place, and destructiveness. Parents who see these symptoms should be finding a mental health counselor to help their child. If the child is under the age of three, the parent is given special parenting advice. Usually therapy with an experienced child therapist can begin not long after the age of three.

  10. Enter your little ones spacepositively.

    This often means getting low and looking up for eye contact. It means trying hard and trying patiently for a longer time. You are the one who has the responsibility of engaging your child positively. Do not use punitive techniques to try to build relationships. After all, no one wants to attach to a mean person. Instead, be strong, dependable, available, and kind. Veer away from advice that is strong, controlling, and mean in tone. Sensitive and kind parents gradually build empathy and security in their relationships with their children. That process takes time and the type of parenting that caused you to want to be a parent in the first place!

To read a more complete version of her article which is extremely helpful for parent’s in this situation, you can find it here. We also wrote another blog post about making a smooth transition when adopting an older child which is a great resource, you can find that here.

Parenting Your Adopted Child as They Grow-Up

Talking About Adoption

As a parent you will share information in an appropriate way for your child’s age and abilities. You have the responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of your child including what to share and when and how to share the information. It is a parent’s job to help the child make sense of the information and that can be done by explaining things in a positive way and answering any questions your child has.

Telling the Story during the Preschool Years

Adoptive Mother and Daughter

Our friends at Adoptive Families wrote a great piece about Telling the Tough Stuff  to your adoptive child. They explain that there are two keys to sharing adoption information with preschool aged children.

  1. Tell the child’s story as a story, not as cut and dry facts. Make sure your child understands that the story you are telling is true and not a fairytale.
  2. Tell no lies. You don’t want to risk confusing your child so make sure your story is truthful. At this age you also want to limit the amount of negative details you share.

Elementary –age Kids

As your young ones grow, they make a cognitive leap around seven to nine years of age. They are able to understand the concepts you described when they were younger and will likely have more questions about their adoption story. Kids are highly resilient at this age and it is often considered the ideal age for sharing tough realities.


This is the time to continue to fill in details. Just like with nearly every teenager, parents should be prepared for some rough patches as your child struggles to figure out who he is. If the adoption conversation has been open and honest from the beginning, it is likely to remain so and only expand as your child becomes a teenager. Talking to teens can be a difficult task and we wrote a blog post not too long ago on how to best approach the conversation, you can find post here.

Additional Resources

Book Reviews September 2015


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

Growing up SocialGrowing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane -While I am not a huge fan of most Christian lit this book peaked my interest and honestly it wasn’t until I was about half way through that I realized it was a Christian book.  Not overly preachy of any type of religion it gives some startling statistics about what screen time is doing to our children. “The average american child and teenager spends fifty-three hours a week with media and technology.”

This statistic is alarming to me because it also coincides with research that shows that “before mobile phones and computer apps were popular, the average person’s attention span was 12 seconds. Since then, our attention span has dropped by 40 percent.” Read that line again, our attention spans have dropped by 40%!!! That’s crazy.  And we wonder why the rate of ADHD is increasing in children.

By setting limits on electronics and teaching our children to interact in the real world instead of just the virtual world we will actually raise more empathetic, social children with decreased anxiety and depression. Social interaction in the real world has been shown to decrease feelings of isolation and depression but so many children are relying on virtual interaction and are losing the skills of being able to relate to people in the real world.

Limiting children’s screen time isn’t enough though we also have to limit our own since we as adults need to practice what we preach and lead by example.  This book shows different ways we can encourage our children to limit their screen time and how to be consistent.  What they find is that when we as parents put down our phones and tablets and interact with our children we not only have increased patience we  have better relationships with them as they grow.  Imagine how much we miss while staring at our screens.

I freely admit I am addicted to my phone and feel lost if I forget it and will actually go back for it…it takes a concious effort on my part to keep my phone in my bag during dinners out etc…and I didn’t grow up with this technology, imagine if this was the world we grew up in? It would be normal, I actually pity so many of today’s children for not playing outside, riding bikes and wading through creeks. This interaction with our world is so important to our well being – getting our hands dirty, making mud pies, using our imaginations, instead of blankly staring and being entertained.  Playdates shouldn’t consist of ipads, they should consist of making forts and baking cookies, playing tag, or visiting museums and parks.

The authors have great ideas for how to talk to kids about technology and how to not get mad at them or “punish” them for using it but setting limits and talking about how it affects us as people.  This book IS NOT anti-technology its about using technology wisely.

This book is filled with some great ideas and some wake up calls to help our future generations.  Me and the authors may not agree on religion but we agree that we are harming our children with all of this technology and putting them at a disadvantage in the world instead of what tech companies are trying to push us to believe.  You don’t need tech to learn you just need someone to teach you. price $9.89 (kindle) $13.06 (pb) $11.61 (Audio)

WantedWanted: A Journey to Surrogacy / Un viaje hacia la subrogación by Carolina Robbiano – This is beautifully written book about surrogacy and different types of families.  First this book explores different types of families, where they may live, and how they are made up then it gets into how this family came to be with the help of a surrogate.  While some of the words may be a bit big for young children it is a book that you could come back to again and again and it gives you things to explore.  You can look up how they live in the different parts of the world that are mentioned in the book and take your own journey.  This book is also written in spanish and english so it can help support your child learning a 2nd language. There are very few books out there dealing with surrogacy and most are one size fits all this book is really well done as it really explores that families aren’t always the same.

I read this book on my Kindle Fire and I think if I were going to add it to my library I would splurge on the paperback.  The kindle just doesn’t do justice to the illustrations. prices $3.99 (kindle) $17.45 (paperback)

Gal and NoaGal and Noa’s Daddies by Shosh Pinkas – This is another surrogacy story, but this one is a bit different.   This story tells the story of two little girls born in India to a surrogate there, to two daddies.  The little girls try to explain how their family is made up to their friends at school and while trying to explain they realize they don’t know their birth story so their daddies tell them how they came to be.  This book tackles surrogacy and gay parents with grace, ease and beautiful illustrations.  Written by the grandmother of two girls born through surrogacy this is the story of her family.  Well done with adorable picture that work well on both the kindle and the paperback formats. price $9.13 (pb) $2.99 (kindle)

Prospective Adoptive Parent’s Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption

Frequently Asked Questions about Adoption

Adoption can be one of the most rewarding and overwhelming experiences of your life. Without a doubt, it will change your family forever. Adoption may be the perfect choice for your family but it may not be the best option for every family. The adoption process is a rollercoaster of emotions, paperwork, and love. The whole process can seem extremely overwhelming but in the end it will all be worth it if you do decide that adoption is the best route for you and your family.

We wanted to go over the most frequently asked questions about adoption from those considering adopting because power is knowledge. If you fully understand the adoption process than it will make it that much easier to decide if this is the path you would like to go down. First ask yourself, “Is adoption right for me? Remember, it’s equally important to explore the other side of the question: “Am I right for adoption?”

 Who can be an adoptive parent?

Most people are eligible to adopt, regardless of whether they are married or single, their age, income, or sexual orientation. Determining eligibility to adopt is based on a process of mutual assessment and preparation by the prospective adoptive parents and social worker or agency, called a home study, which will be explained in detail further into this blog. You can be experienced parents with children in your home, or first-time parents or even have grown children. Having a disability does not automatically disqualify a prospective adoptive parent. If considering international adoption be aware each country has specific requirements and restrictions. Prospective adoptive parents are usually in the 25 to 50 range, but age requirements can be even more flexible depending on the age of the child. Many countries permit older adoptive parents adopt older children.

 Who Are the Children Waiting for Adoption?

More than 101,666 children currently in fostercare are waiting for permanent homes in the United States. Most are school-aged children or older or may even be a sibling group that should stay together. Many have emotional, physical, or learning disabilities. More than half of the children come from minority cultures.

Most children waiting for adoption live in foster or group homes because their parents were unable to care for them. Often, personal and family problems made it impossible for the parents to maintain a home for their children. Some of these children have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Not all children seeking homes are older children. There are also many adoption agencies that only work with infant adoption which is when the mother determines that she is not ready or able to parent and chooses to place her child for adoption. We will go into detail about infant adoption later in the blog.

Can the Biological Parents Come Back to Take a Child?

In order for a child to be officially adopted, the child’s birth parents rights have to be relinquished either voluntarily or through the courts. For many older children needing homes, the child may already be legally available for adoption before a placement occurs. In domestic infant adoption, that is not the case. Each state has different laws regarding the relinquishment of parental rights. Many states have a revocation period, the time after placement when birthparents can change their minds. Here is a great blog post from an adoption professional and new adoptive mother about why the revocation period is important. In the event that a birthparent changes their mind after placing the child in a home, this is call a disruption and happens in only a small percentage of adoptions. It is important for prospective adoptive parents to remember that this may be the most difficult decision someone is making and the revocation period is a time for birthparents to be absolutely certain it is the right decision for them.

Can I Adopt a Child of Another Race?

Yes. In October, 1995, the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA) became effective. This act and subsequent revisions bar any agency from discriminating because of race when considering adoption opportunities for children, if the agency receives federal funding. Another law affecting transracial adoption is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which establishes provisions for the placement of Native American children. It is vital to not go into considering transracial adoption as being “color blind.” Here are some additional resources to explain why:

Moving Beyond Color Blind Parenting

Should We Be Color Blind

Can I Adopt a Child in a Different State?

Adopting Around the World

Yes. The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), passed in 1998, requires state agencies to speed up a child’s move from foster care to adoption by establishing time frames for permanency planning and guidelines for when a child must be legally freed for adoption. Among the new law’s provisions:

  • shortens the time-frame for a child’s first permanency hearing;
  • offers states financial incentives for increasing the number of adoptions;
  • sets new requirements for states to petition for termination of parental rights;
  • reauthorizes the Family Preservation and Support Program.

How Long can it Take to Adopt?

The timeframe to adopt an infant domestically in the United States includes many different factors. Most prospective adoptive families are able to go from the application process to being “in the books” which means they are ready to be shown to expecting parents in about 6 months.

The wait after going in the book can range from a few days to a few years. The wait time can be affected by many factors, one of the largest being how open the adoptive family’s profile is.   The wait time also depends on what type of adoption you are pursing, the agency that you are working with, and how many placements that match your key are being made.

There are two stages in the adoption process: pre-placement and post-placement. Placement is when the child enters your home, pre-placement describes the time before and post-placement the time after. There is a pre-placement waiting period for all adoptions. The time frame, like the cost, varies with the type of adoption being pursued. With a completed homestudy in hand, the process to adopt a child with special needs can often proceed quickly and be completed within a few months. On the other hand, for families who are only open to Caucasian infants with zeroe prenatal drug/alcohol exposure, the wait can take much longer with 3-5 years passing between going in the books and a placement.

After placement, your agency will have to supervise your family for a legally-mandated length of time before finalization can occur. Typically this post-placement time period will be no less than six months from the time of placement.

What Is a Homestudy?

The home study is a written document your caseworker writes about your family and includes basic information drawn from interviews with your family and information provided by third parties. Generally, a home study includes:

  • Family background, statements, and references
  • Education and employment
  • Relationships and social life
  • Daily life routines
  • Parenting experiences
  • Details about your home and neighborhood
  • Readiness and reasons about your wanting to adopt
  • Approval and recommendation of children your family can best parent

Here are some suggestions regarding the home study from adoption social workers.

How Does Foster Care Differ from Adoption?

Foster care is meant to be temporary shelter for a child with the end goal focusing on reunification. When reunification is not possible, the child awaits adoption.

Foster parents may be able to adopt the child in their care if the child becomes available, through a foster-adopt program with their agency. In fact, most adoptions in the United States are by children’s foster parents. Beginning as a foster parent is also one way that you may be able to adopt a healthy infant or toddler. But you are not required to be a foster parent in order to adopt.

Adoption happens when a person is granted legal and permanent parental custody of a child along with all rights, responsibilities, and filiation. The adoptive parents take on all responsibilities of raising the child. Adoptions can occur between family members or strangers. Adoptions can happen privately or through public adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, or through an adoption facilitator.

How Can I Adopt an Infant?

Depending on several factors, such as your openness to race and disabilities, you have a number of options available for adopting infants or toddlers. They include agency adoption (both public and private), private adoption, identified adoption, inter-country adoption and foster adoption.

Whatever option you choose, you will need to complete the homestudy process to be eligible to adopt. We suggest that you contact a number of agencies to learn about their procedures for approving families for adoption. Building Your Family offers great tips when contacting agencies to find the right fit for your family. Remember, it is important to obtain fee information in writing from any agency, attorney, intermediary or consultant before starting the process.

Why should I use an adoption agency instead of an attorney or a facilitator?

Adoption agencies can be public or private. They are regulated by state law and are overseen by a licensing department that ensures that they follow the laws of the state. Some states even require adoption agencies be involved in adoption procedures regardless of an attorney or facilitator being used. Using an adoption agency cuts out the middle man. Facilitators are normally people who are not licensed or regulated to do adoptions. Facilitators act as intermediaries between prospective adoptive parents and expecting parents, they must outsource the Home Study and use an attorney to finalize the adoption, which often results in high fees. Using facilitators in many states is illegal. Attorneys also must outsource their home study services and many do not provide counseling to expectant parents. Attorney’s fees can be unknown since they usually charge an hourly rate as opposed to a fee for service like most agencies. Using attorneys to facilitate adoptions is also illegal in several states. The financial benefit of using an agency is that in the event of a disruption, most agencies have policies which count the fees you have already paid towards another placement whereas facilitators and many attorneys consider the fees earned and families would need to pay again for another match.

What will it Cost to Adopt?

Saving Money for Adoption

The total fees for an adoption consist of multiple elements. Each adoption is unique and the fees vary. It is important to be aware of all of the costs related to an adoption and you must make sure that the entities you compare are quoting all fees involved, not just their service fees. Adoption costs may include:

  1. Adoption professionals’ service fees
  2. Marketing expenses
  3. Home study fees
  4. Expecting mother expenses
  5. Legal fees
  6. Travel expenses

Is There Financial Assistance to Help Me Adopt?

Since we just mentioned above how expensive adoption can be, we wanted to reassure you that there are ways to raise money for your adoption through fundraising, grants, financial assistance and tax returns.

A growing number of companies and government agencies are offering adoption benefits, which can include a financial reimbursement for legal expenses, agency fees, medical expenses, post adoption counseling, and other expenses, as well as paid or unpaid leave time and help finding resources and referrals. Check with your employer to find out your company’s policies.

Federal legislation was passed in June, 2001 that increases tax credits and exclusions for all adoptive families. The Hope for Children Act taking effect on January 1, 2002 provides an adoption tax credit of $10,000 for all adoptions from 2002 and thereafter, and a tax exclusion of up to $10,000 for employer-provided adoption benefits, effective in 2003. Learn more about tax benefits for adoptive parents visit the IRS. Resources4Adoption is another great spot to find all the available adoption grants and loans.

Most children registered with agencies as having special needs have already been classified as eligible for financial assistance, also called subsidies. Sources of assistance may be federal or state funds. It is important to discuss subsidies with your social worker and local department of social services and to have a written adoption assistance agreement prior to adoption. Many children many also receive medical assistance in the form of a Medicaid card. A child’s eligibility for adoption assistance is based on the child’s need and not that of the adopting parents.

 Remember that you will have Support throughout the Process

Not only is your social worker going to help you through the whole adoption process, but they should be there right by your side after the adoption as well. They will be able to provide you with names of other adoptive parents or suggest different adoptive parent support groups in your area. Some agencies will pair a waiting family with a “buddy” family who has already adopted a child with similar circumstances, while other agencies sponsor their own parent groups. If for some reason you have trouble finding adoptive parent support groups in the area that you live, The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides a searchable database of parent support groups throughout the United States and Canada.

Most importantly, it is key to remember that adoption is not a one size fits all process. Each family will need to decide what the best path is for them.




Adopting Out of Birth Order

charlotte gray quote

In the past, many professionals in the adoption field encouraged adoptive families to adopt within birth order. If a family had existing children, professional recommend those families adopt an infant or a child who was younger that their youngest child already in the home. Changing the birth order of children in families was discouraged because of the thought that it would have psychological effects on the children. However, as time has passed, more social workers and therapists started to switch their point of view on the topic. Today, it is now becoming more common for families to adopt children out of birth order, especially when dealing with foster care adoption and older child adoption. Many parents have successfully integrated older children into their home even if it means the altering the original birth order. For example a family with a 7 and 4 year old adopts a child who is 5. In many cases, how you prepare your existing children, your new adopted child, and yourselves is the key to making a smooth transition. Below are five tips to consider when you make the decision to adopt out of birth order.

Five Tips for Adopting Out of Birth Order:

1). Assign Responsibilities on the basis of ability not age – When adopting out of birth order  it is important as adoptive parents to treat each child as an individual, and assign responsibilities to the children on the basis of ability, rather than age. For example, if a younger sibling is cut out for a babysitting role, let that child take on the responsibly. Don’t feel obligated to give the oldest child that role just because of birth order. Chores are also a great way to assign responsibly to children without having to emphasize age order. Adoptive Families states that, “At the same time, parents have to be conscious of not over-burdening the more mature children in the family, and dispense privileges in the same manner as they do responsibilities.” Have a balance and evenly distributing chores and responsibility among your children is key.

2). Treat your children as individuals – It is important in any family for the children to develop their own interests and find their own hobbies. This will create individuality between siblings. When children in the family start to share hobbies it becomes easier for parents to begin to compare their ability. For example, if both siblings join a soccer team and one begins to excel, the other child could feel left out.  It is also important to remember this in academic situations.  “When older children are adopted, frequent moves in their past can mean academic skills  below the standard for their chronological age.  Comparisons between the academic achievements of children are always inappropriate, but in no case should a younger child be held up as an example to an older brother or sister.” –

3). Prepare your children – it is important to help your children understand what it means to not only adopt, but explain to them what it will be like having a sibling that is older or younger than them. If you plan to adopted an older child, it is important to make as smooth a transition with your existing children as possible. Preparing them for this transition will only ease the change in the family dynamic. You can involve your children and think of ways that each child can help their new sibling adapt, and feel like a member of your family. This could be involving the new child in group play dates or  do arts a craft projects together as a family.

4). Keep open lines of communication – prepare yourself for disputes between children. It is common for any child in a family to feel left out at times when a new sibling comes along, not matter what the birth order is. Communicating through the hard times will be a huge tool for you family in older child adoption, and will help you keep a strong bond in your new blended family.

5). Read books on sibling adoption – There are many resources and books available to educate not only adoptive parents, but siblings on adopting out of birth order. In many cases, stories of adopting siblings can assist them understand how their family is going to grow. Creating a Family has a great list of books about sibling adoption, that could help your family when adopting out of birth order!

While changing the birth order of your family through adoption can be challenging, it can also be very rewarding. With more children in the foster care system it is common for many families to follow through with older child adoption, which at times may disrupt the birth order of the family. When adopting out of birth order it is important for adoptive parents to educate themselves on the complications that could occur in the family, rivalries between siblings, and how to not let children feel left out. When adoptive parents learn all of the scenarios that occur when adopting out of birth order, they can teach and prepare their children for the adoption, which will allow a smoother transition of the new adoptive sibling into the family.

Back to School Tools for Adoptive Parents

The summer is coming to a close and that means it is time for the kids to head back to school. As a parent, you might be curious about ways to make sure your child’s classroom is an accepting environment for their adoption story and we wanted to give you some of the tools to ensure a safe and happy school year!

Back to School
Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

Write a letter to your child’s teacher

Your child’s teacher could greatly benefit from a brief explanation of your family’s background and this will give you an opportunity to make it be known that you are available as a resource for their classroom. You can even provide the teacher with the correct language to use when discussing adoption in the classroom setting. Children might ask questions and arming your child’s teacher with the right responses is invaluable.
Q: “Where are Julia’s real parents?”
A: “Julia’s real parents are the parents who are raising him, Matthew and Caroline, who pick him up from school each day. She also has birth parents who gave birth to her.”
Q: “Why didn’t Julia’s first family want her?”
A: “They probably wanted her very much but weren’t able take care of any baby at that time. Julia’s birth parents wanted her to have a family to love her and take care of her forever.”
Q: “Where is Julia from?”
A: “She’s from Pennsylvania. She was born in China, but now she’s a U.S. citizen, like you.”
Q: “Does she speak Chinese?”
A: “No. Julia came to the America when she was a baby. She was not speaking any language at the time just like most babies.

Educate the school’s faculty

While you are in letter writing mode, consider reaching out to the school principal or the parent-teacher association suggesting an adoption training session for staff. Some open adoption agencies, like Adoptions From The Heart, offer educational courses for families that could be attended by your child’s teacher or the school faculty.
Adoptive Families outlined five viral points for education professionals to understand (you can communicate these in your letter):

  •  Adoption is an open and natural topic in your family. Teachers should not be afraid to discuss it or to answer students’ questions.
  •  Children born in a different country are not experts on the language or culture of that country.
  • There are neither real families nor fake families. Adoptive parents are parents like any others.
  • Genetics can be taught without requiring students to trace their nuclear family’s roots.
  • Parents of all types will appreciate more inclusive versions of “star of the week,” as well as autobiographical timeline and family tree projects.

Navigating tough assignments with your child’s teacher

Like we mentioned above, more inclusive versions of classic school projects are better designed and you can discuss and present your child’s teacher with multiple options for the entire class, not just your child. Adoptive Families provided yet another great list of more inclusive projects that you can share with your child’s teacher:

  • Family Tree: Students can draw themselves on the trunk of a tree and someone whom they love on each branch, regardless of biological or adoptive relationships. Or they can place names of adoptive family members in the branches of a tree and birth family members in its roots. Using a house metaphor in lieu of a tree allows flexibility to incorporate all members of a child’s family.
  • Timeline: Instead of starting with their birth dates, children can cite memorable events from each calendar year they’ve been alive; older students can create a timeline that includes a national or world event from each year they have been alive.
  • Star of the Week: Request that students bring in photographs of themselves from a year or two ago, rather than baby photos.

Class Room Activities

Read or Donate an Adoption Storybook to the Classroom

Read an Adoption Storybook

Stories are a great way to introduce new topics to younger children. You can simply read to your child’s class during their regular story hour time or consider giving an adoption presentation which we will explain further. We review popular adoption books on this very blog, our most recent post has some great suggestions or feel free to bring your child’s favorite!

Give an adoption presentation

Give an Adoption Presentation

This is a creative way to explain adoption to your child’s classmates. Adoptive Families suggests you explain adoption in a general way, rather than tell your child’s particular story. Using dolls or other props will help non-adopted kids relate.
Here’s their simple, parent-tested presentation to use as a model:

  • Bring in one of your child’s dolls or stuffed animals. Tell everyone her name — Sandy, for example — and let each student hold her.
  • Ask the kids to help complete two lists on the blackboard: “What babies need” (bottles, food, clothes, hugs, and so on) and “What parents do” (feed, clothe, change, hug and kiss, and so on). If the kids don’t say “bring babies into the world,” add it to the parents’ list.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s birth parents brought her into the world, but that they realized they could not do all the other things parents do.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s forever parents wanted to do all those things for her, even though they didn’t bring her into this world.
  • Finish by explaining that Sandy has two sets of real parents — her real birth parents and her real forever family — and that she needs both to be who she is.
  • Don’t forget food! End your classroom presentation with a snack.

Staying Involved

Throughout the school year, you can make sure to keep adoption in the conversation. Here are some suggestions for you to explore!

  • Educate other parents who might want to talk to their children about adoption
  • Spearhead a community service project during National Adoption Month
  • Donate a packet of materials for educators at the school

Are there other ways that you stay involved in your child’s school? Let us know in the comments!

Additional Resources