Finding the Best Attorney for your Adoption Journey

One of the best ways to learn more about working with an attorney in the adoption process is to get insight on some of the basics straight from the source. This resource from Adoptions From The Heart is an interview with an attorney, Debbie Spivack, on important elements of working with an attorney…

What is the attorney’s role in adoption?

An attorney advises clients on the legal options to achieve their goals in family planning, and helps them implement a plan which is safe, legally secure and designed to achieve permanency for a child in a healthy and safe home as early in their life as possible.  My role is pursuing my clients rights under laws of the state in question to achieve termination of parental rights and adoption finalization. Read more on the role of attorneys here.

Couple meeting with financial advisor

How can prospective adoptive parents find an attorney?

First I would say that adoption law is not about kissing babies all day!  The laws are complicated and there are many potential landmines only an attorney with specific adoption experience will recognize.  While adoptive parents may be inclined to ask their family lawyer to handle an adoption case, I would suggest the family find a lawyer with a wide array of experiences in adoption specifically.

computer-1185626_1280One good resource for finding an experienced adoption attorney is the website for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, which is an invitation-only organization that requires its members to have substantial experience representing different parties in many kinds of adoptions.  We also have ethical responsibilities we must uphold to maintain our membership.

Also, just talk to adoptive families and adoption professionals and get references.

 

What should you look for in a good attorney?

I already mentioned diverse experience but I would specifically ask if that attorney has worked both private and agency cases, interstate cases, and represented different parties, such as adoptive parents, agencies, birth parents and children.  Ask them how many on a yearly basis.

I would also try to determine whether the attorney shares your values and goals, and is empathetic and understanding.  The adoption process requires working together when parties are at their most vulnerable.  You want to be sure your attorney can advocate on your behalf if things get tough, and who can offer you sound advice and guidance with an understanding what you may be feeling.

I would suggest selecting someone who is up to date on current law since adoption law is constantly evolving, not only on the state level, but sometimes on the federal level.  Make sure they value continuing education by attending conferences and speaking at conferences attended by their peers.

 

What is some advice you have for clients looking to adopt?choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920

  • One size (process) does not fit all. Know yourselves and explore all options.
  • Define your goals up front and do research.
  • Pursue a course that is tolerable and achievable for you and your family.
  • Talk to someone willing to give objective advice, even if they don’t end up being your attorney.

 

What is one thing you wish more people knew about adoption in general?

For people who are not involved in adoption directly, I wish they would understand it is a deeply personal subject for all parties and does not lend itself to invasive questions or judgments

Share in their joy, offer support and allow them to achieve their dreams.

 

Anything else?

Pursue adoption from a child-centered mindset of becoming the best possible parent for a child who needs a family.  This mindset will help guide you through the process as an advocate for your future child and be excellent preparation for parenting!

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To find out more about the attorney who provided insight for this interview, visit this resource.

August Book Reviews 2016

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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.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews – This is a riveting tale of courage and triumph.  After Anna’s mother dies she decides to return to the place of her birth and try to locate her birth family.  This trip takes Anna to a run-down apartment in Seoul where she learns of a tragic and resilient history, meets her biological grandmother and discovers her legacy.

Beautiful and well written this story tells the tragic history of Korea and what happened there. It is sad, hopeful, beautiful and full of life.  I couldn’t put it down and was sucked in from the beginning. William Andrews captures feel of this tale and really makes you believe it.  I almost forgot I was reading a book of fiction.  The characters jumped off the page and I could see the dust and feel the pain, courage and spirit to survive.

You don’t have to be adopted to relate to this story.  It’s about learning your history.  Whether you don’t know it due to adoption or if you are learning it from a distant relative this story is more about the strength of the women in this family and their will to live.  Very well done. amazon.com price $9.21 (paperback), $4.99 (kindle)

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp – Two couples both desperately wanting a child, but the actions of one father changes the lives of both couples forever. To complicate matters even further the child these couples find themselves battling over is the biological child of Cat and her husband, but was born and raised by Diana and Liam. Through Embryo donation Diana and her husband got pregnant and gave birth to Noah and raised him until the day he disappeared.

This is a complicated story that reminds me of the Baby M case from many years ago.  Although that case was a surrogacy case and the mother of baby M was the surrogate.  Who has more rights to Noah? His biological parents or his “adoptive” parents? This is a difficult story that leaves you struggling to figure out what is right and what is just. The ending was completely satisfying and believable. amazon.com price $17.23 (Hardcover) $13.99 (Kindle)

 

 

Simple and Creative Ideas for Adoption Fundraisers

Simple Fundraiser Ideas

If you’re like any of the thousands of Americans considering adoption, there’s a possibility that the associated costs are weighing on your mind. Let it be known – you are not alone. So what exactly can be done to qualm these financial fears? Look no further than these ideas for creative and fun ways to raise money along your adoption journey. These simple fundraisers are the perfect way to focus MORE on your future family and LESS on the fees.

T-Shirt Fundraiser

T-Shirt fundraisers are ALL the rage today, and with good reason. They’re simple to design, easy to sell and let’s get real – who doesn’t love a good t-shirt? Web designers like Custom Ink and Bonfire Funds offer tools to get this fundraiser off the ground.

Yard Sale

Are you tired of staring at your old clothes from high school? Do you desperately want to get rid of your spouse’s Star Wars collection? With a yard sale, you can have your cake AND eat it too. You’ll get immense satisfaction from knowing that you’re purging those unwanted belongings, while also raising money in the process.

Dine & Donate

Many restaurants, especially local small businesses, are dedicated to helping out the community in any way that they can. Reach out to your favorite eateries and see what they can do for you! Food chains are often interested in these types of events as well. Information regarding chains and their dine and donate offerings can be found here.

Charity 5K or Marathon

Team up with a local adoption agency and see if they host a 5K event throughout the year. Sign up for the 5K and then ask that friends and family sponsor you for each mile that you complete. Want to up the ante? If you’re a runner by nature, participate in a marathon or half marathon and, again, ask for those sponsors from your inner circle. Bonus: ask friends and family members to run with you and also seek out their own sponsors. The dollars can add up quickly!

Online Fundraising

Online fundraising tools such as GoFundMe allow individuals all around the world to raise funds for the things that mean the most to them. Personalize your website with photos and information about your family and watch the donations as they arrive. 1 in 6 families are touched by adoption – use this statistic to your advantage and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE.

Affording adoption can seem impossible, but with tricks like these (and a multitude of others), the fundraising process can be a fun and seamless one. For more fundraising ideas, visit the following blogs: No Hands But Ours, Walking by the Way, and Highlights Along the Way. Further financial resources can also be found by visiting these sites to learn more about the adoption tax credit, as well as Julie Gumm’s best-selling book “Adopt Without Debt.” 

Adoption Resources That Should Be On Your Radar

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Let’s picture it for a moment. You’ve decided to expand your family and immediately begin researching adoption. Your excitement is palpable, your
friends and family members are sharing in your happiness, and then you have a thought that never occurred to you before: How in the world am I going to afford this? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. For thousands of families exploring adoption, cost can be a scary factor. Luckily, with these grant options, these hurdles can be easily maneuvered. Read on to learn a bit more about four different grant opportunities that help adoptive families around the United States on a daily basis.

Non-Profit Organizations and Foundation Grants

Many non-profit organizations and foundations offer grants to adoptive families to aid in the adoption process. These grants generally cover between $3,000 and $7,000 of adoption costs and operate similarly to student loans in terms of eligibility. Grants are offered to families depending on certain demographics and occupations. Teachers, for example, are often given these grants, as are military families. Non-profit and foundational grants are offered for domestic and international adoption. For more information on these grant opportunities, please visit the Child Welfare website.

Employer Benefits

In today’s competitive job market, we often see employers doing their best to give their employees amazing job perks. These can include on-site daycare for children, on-site gymnasiums and casual Fridays. Luckily for those considering adoption, these benefits can also include adoption grants. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer if they offer adoption benefits. More information regarding adoption friendly workplaces can be found here.

Government Adoption Tax Credit

Over the years, this adoption tax credit has made it financially easier for families in the United States to adopt. Though the maximum amount offered peaked at $13,400 in 2016, it is important to note that these taxes are nonrefundable. Visit the IRS’ webpage for more information about this credit.

Military Subsidies

While military families may benefit from non-profit and foundational grants, there are other opportunities available to them as well. If you are a member of a military family, it is important to note that the United States government offers up to a $2,000 reimbursement for adoptive families. These military subsidies also include a guaranteed adoption leave of 21 days. More information regarding military subsidies can be found here.

Adoption can be a daunting process where finances are concerned, but these resources can significantly help individuals seeking to expand their families. For additional resources and information, visit Resources4Adoption. To learn more about adoption and the different services offered, please visit http://www.afth.org or call 610.642.7200.

The Home Study

What is the home study?hyacinth-1369537_1280

The home study is “an assessment of prospective adoptive parents to see if they are suitable for adopting a child.” It covers many elements of the prospective parents’ lives to not only ensure that they are ready and able to take care of a child, but that they will be placed with a child that is the best fit for everyone involved.

What is the process?

While a portion of the process, as the name suggests, is in the home of the prospective parents, there are other steps as well. In the “home” portion of the process, a social worker or case worker will evaluate where the family lives and plans to raise the child. They will check to ensure everything is safe for children, such as child locks on cabinets containing cleaning supplies, as well as the home is up to code, if that state requires that type of check. You can find out more about the laws in each state here.

Outside of the check of the home itself, there are many pieces of the home study. There will be several documents and statements the prospective parents will need to provide the social worker such as health statements, income documents, background checks, and potentially more depending on the particular state or agencies standards. The prospective parents will also have multiple interviews with the social worker, and potentially write an autobiographical statement about themselves, to provide more information. Information from interviews and statements include but are not limited to; family background, education, previous and current employment, daily lifestyle, past experience with children, previous and current relationships, religious affiliations or belief system, their surrounding family and friends, and their feelings about adoption and welcoming it into their lives.

In addition to these logistical measures, there will be aspects of the home study that explore the character of the prospective parents. This portion is not in place to discriminate who is able to adopt a child. Rather, it is to help ensure that the parties involved are ready to be parents and that they will be matched with the right child based on their abilities and lifestyle. References from people who have known the prospective parents but are not related will give the social worker more background as well as give them a view of the network of loved ones that will be around.

Other aspects may be included on a case by case basis. For example, if the prospective parents already have children, those children may be interviewed to gauge their thoughts about welcoming a new family member as well as helping to ensure the safety of the home by how they have been raised so far.

What’s the purpose?

LGBT ISTOCK - LGBT FAMILY 2 (1) croppedThe purpose of the home study is to prepare the prospective adoptive parents while assessing the fitness of the prospective adoptive parents to adopt and match them with a child who they can responsibly care for.

I really want to start my family, how long does this process take? Is it expensive?

The time and cost of home studies can vary dependent on the type of adoption, state laws, specific agency fees, and more. The average time of compiling a home study report is 3 to 6 months. For domestic infant adoption through a private agency, $1,000-3,000 can be expected but that may also include other fees. For foster care into adoption, it can less, and for international adoption it can be similar or more.

How can I make sure I get approved?

There are no set standards for who gets approved to adopt a child through a home study, other than elimination of those with history of abuse and certain crimes. Different agencies and states may have varying views and guidelines they must follow. Race, religion, sexuality, gender, and other identifying elements are not in any way accounted for in someone’s ability to be approved for adoption. These aspects may help a social worker see what children could be a potential match, but they will not affect the approval process.

Some general tips to keep in mind for a positive home study experience are:

  • Know the laws and requirements for home studies in your state
  • Be completely yourself and 100% honest
    • Whether it be about your income, previous relationships, or potentially even matters of your criminal history, always be honest. Social workers can help, even with criminal activity if one is rehabilitated, dependent on the crime, of course.
  • Stay organized and have any potential needed documents readyfriend-1107005_1280
  • Ask for references from people who really know you and have for some time, not those who you think might have nice things to say about you
  • Keep your home clean and safe but do not try to be perfect
    • Social workers are not looking to eliminate applicants based on normal household clutter. They are looking for an environment that is clean and organized to a degree that is safe for a child while adhering to safety measures such as a working smoke alarm.
  • Start thinking about your parenting style, what your capabilities are, and how a child will fit into your current lifestyle.
    • No matter how much you want to grow your family, not every child being placed for adoption will be a good fit for you, nor you for them. Being open and honest with yourself and your social worker will help ensure you are placed with the child who will become part of your forever family.
  • Be flexible and have a sense of humor

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The home study can be a stressful process, but if you keep an open mind, be yourself, and let your social worker help you, you will find relief. For a more detailed view of home studies, check out this resource and be sure to research the home study services of your local adoption agency!

Secret Revealed: What Women are Looking for in Adoption Profiles

What women are looking for in adoption profilesOnce families are far enough along in their adoption process to begin working on their adoption profile, the number one question asked is, “What are women really looking for?” The adoption profile can range in length however includes photos and details about a family to help give expecting parents a view into their lives to see if they might be the right family for them. There are lots of articles and blog posts out there about what to and not to do when creating your profile. One of the best we have seen which includes lots of information and helpful guidelines is How to Create a Successful Adoption Portfolio by Madeline Melchner. Agencies offer classes going over the specific information that should be included in profiles and many different companies have sprouted up offering professional profile design services which some families may feel they want to utilize.

Even a long time adoption professional who has seen thousands of profiles over the years found herself stumbling when it was time for her and her husband to put pen to the paper to create their own profile. Even though 10 pages seem like a lot, it’s hard to capture who you are as a family in that limited space. How you met, why adoption, information about your professions, community, families, and what makes you different than the many other profiles he or she may also be looking at.

Truth be told, there is only one answer to the question “What are women looking for?” and that is…drum roll please…it could be ANYTHING! Ok, that may seem like a cop out but it’s so true. Over the past 30 years, Adoptions From The Heart social workers have seen families chosen for so many different reasons. Behind each and every reason is that it made a deeper connection.

One social worker even said that often when she is preparing profiles for expecting parents to review, she will guess the family that the expecting parents will choose however 9 out of 10 times she is wrong. “Even if I’ve been working with her for month and think I know her really well, so often she will find something about a family that I never noticed or will connect on a level that I have overlooked.”

Take a look at this very real list of why families’ profiles have been selected. And it’s probably not why you think.

  • The expecting mother noticed in the background of a family photo that their refrigerator was full of their child’s artwork. The fact that they took such pride in her creations was enough to show her they were the right family for her.
  • Recently a family was selected because they included a Ron Burgundy quote from a Will Ferrell movie. When the family had asked for feedback from social workers about their profile as they were getting ready to update it, it was one of things suggested the family might consider removing from their profile. However the family decided it was important to keep it in because it really captured who they were and in the end it actually became the reason they were picked!
  • The way the couple interacted in the video. It wasn’t forced, they made eye contact and smiled at each other and you could see their love. You’d be surprised how many couples don’t even look at each other during the video.
  • The expecting parents noticed a picture of the prospective father making cookies in the kitchen with kids from the neighborhood and loved how involved the couple was with children in general.
  • The couple showed goofy photos of themselves and she loved it! She knew they would bring so much laughter to her child’s life.
  • We have seen families picked because of their pets. Whether it was the type of animal they grew up with or even the pet they had wanted and never had when they were little.
  • A women chose a family because she noticed a photo with the father wearing a kilt at the Renaissance Faire. She had gone to the Faire each year and even suggested they host their visits there.
  • The family liked Mexican food and so does she.
  • The moment she heard the prospective adoptive father’s voice on the video, he reminded her of her dad and immediately she knew they were the right family for her.
  • The couple went blueberry picking and that was something the expecting mother had done with her family as a child.
  • The prospective adoptive mother was so put together, makeup and jewelry, in many her photos but this one photo she was holding a giant fish on a fishing pole. The woman thought it was awesome that she was a girly girl who wasn’t afraid of getting a bit dirty.
  • They were fans of the same sports team.
  • The woman who would classify herself as Gothic saw a photo of the prospective adoptive mother in her younger years dressed in Goth.
  • The prospective adoptive father’s mother, who would become her child’s grandmother, resembled her own grandmother.
  • The family lives in the state the expecting parent looking at profiles grew up in or visited and had special childhood memories from.
  • After seeing their Halloween-themed wedding, she knew they were the ones because that was her favorite holiday.
  • The family rode horses and the expecting mother had ridden when she was little and really wanted a family who would take her child riding.
  • She loved the beach and chose a family that vacationed at the shore each year.
  • The expecting parent played piano and when she saw a piano in the couple’s profile and found out the mother was a pianist, it made an instant connection.
  • She chose a single female who was a college professor for two reasons. One was that she was well educated and that was important. And two, because during her video she was so nervous her voice shook terribly the entire time and the expecting mother found it funny that she was so nervous even though she was a college professor.
  • The couple loved the outdoors and they were also very athletic which mirrored the expecting mother’s passion for both.
  • Names can often be a reason a connection is made. The prospective adoptive father’s name was the same as her father’s name who unfortunately has passed away and in another situation the prospective adoptive mother’s name was the birth grandmother’s name.
  • Sometimes a family is chosen because they already have children, especially if they had another child brought into the family through transracial adoption.
  • A same-sex male couple was once selected because it was the expecting mother really wanted to feel like she was her child’s only mother.
  • They were a military family and the expecting mother was in the military and it made an immediate connection between the two.

So you can see that it can really be anything big or small that makes a connection between the two families. It’s not to say that those men and women are choosing families for their children on a whim or without giving it much thought. It’s more about looking for signs and making a connection. Honestly, when making the extremely difficult decision to place your baby into another family’s home, 100 pages isn’t even enough explanation of the family one is choosing to entrust their child with.  It’s much deeper than that. It’s taking a leap of faith based on a gut feeling to choose to place a precious piece of yourself with another family and trust that the promises will be kept and that their profile was as real representation of who they are in real life.

So take Dr. Seuss’ advice:

SUESS1And just be YOU. You are not a PR person who is trying to make a pitch. The best adoption matches come from genuine connections. And you can never predict what it will be that makes that special connection and leads to the phone call that you’ve been waiting for.

If you want some more inspiration, take a look at lots of different varieties of profiles here.

If you are a birthparent, we would love to hear what it was about the family’s profile that created a connection for you?

How to Choose the Right Adoption Agency for Your Family

Choosing an Adoption Agency or attorney to work with you through your journey of building a family is not an easy decision. These are the people that will help join you with your future child. There are many elements to consider when deciding what agency to work with during your journey.

Explore Different Adoption Paths 

Different Types of Adoption– There are a few different avenues for adoption and it’s important to research them all in order to find the best fit for your family. Are you looking to adopt internationally or domestically? Would you be interested in starting as a foster parent? Are you willing to have an open adoption? Are you looking to adopt a baby or an older child? Would you consider a child with special needs?

If you are looking to adopt internationally, there are only certain agencies and attorneys who work in such capacities. Find out more about Intercountry Adoption through the US Department of State website.  

If you would be interested adopting from foster care, there all ages of children who are in need of homes. Please be aware that while there are some children in the system who are immediately available for placement, the intent of foster care is reunification and so in many cases fostering does NOT equal permanent placement. Find out more here.

Open adoption is more often than not how domestic adoptions are being done, so if you do think closed adoption is best for you, your options are more limited, and you may find international adoption is generally, not always, a more closed process. However, there are many misconceptions and fears around open adoption which may cause families to want to steer toward closed adoption, so before settling on closed adoption, please consider some of the important benefits here.  If you are looking for an open domestic adoption that usually places prospective parents with infants, there are many agencies who can help you learn more and start you journey, including Adoptions from The Heart.

Financial Need– Adoption can be an expensive process and varies depending upon the type of adoption you choose to pursue. It’s important prior to jumping into the process, to really explore the financial aspects. What can I manage financially, will I be borrowing out of my retirement or do I have another way to cover the initial expenses? Is international adoption too expensive? How will the federal tax credit of over $13,000 benefit me personally? Are there adoption grants or loans I qualify for or does my employer offer an adoption benefit? What are the agency’s fees and what do they cover? Are their additional legal fees I will need to  save for as well?

Find out more about financing an adoption here.

Accessibility– Does your career allow for you to travel to faraway for international adoption or even an out of area domestic placement? How much time will you get off work both before and after being placed with a child? Are you willing to make traveling arrangements for visits with the birthparent if you choose open adoption? Do you want your child’s birthparent close enough that they can attend special events in your child’s life should they want to?

If you want accessibility in your adoption journey, during and post placement, whether it be for work, your child’s ability to connect with their roots, or any other reason, you should consider working with a local adoption agency. Find one in your area here.

 

Know your options and ask for help

Adopting a child is no doubt a big milestone in life. Asking for help from those around you who are in some way related to adoption can make all the difference. You may know someone who has adopted a child, or who was adopted as a child. You may even know someone who placed their child for adoption if they are open about it. 6 out of 10 Americans are touched by adoption in some way, so chances are, you know someone! Ask that person if they are comfortable answering some of your questions. If they aren’t, that’s okay; there are other connections to adoption in your life.

Reaching out to your doctor or OB/GYN to ask questions and get recommendations is always a valuable place to begin. From working with expectant parents considering adoption, or other families like yourself, looking to adopt, they probably have some ideas of agencies people have enjoyed working with, and knowledge about the adoption process in general.

You can also call a local adoption agency, even if you don’t end up working with them, just to get some general questions answered from a social worker who works in adoption every day. Many agencies host free information meetings or online webinars where you can learn even more about the process.

There are also great support groups and blogs online where you can read and chat with people who have experience with adoption from all around the world! Check out some of the best adoption blogs out there!

 

Gauge what level of support is available to you, your child, and the birth parents

Some agencies will help you get placed with a child, and that is their main purpose. Others want to support you, the child, and the birth parents throughout the whole process, even after placement. Consider what services they provide outside of placement. Do they offer counseling, education opportunities, or support groups? Do they act as a contact liaison between your family and the birth parents in an open adoption? Are their services available to EVERY person involved in the adoption triad? If the answer is yes, you’ve found a great agency. If the answer is no, but you aren’t looking for that level of involvement, that’s okay too. Just know that even if you don’t think you want that level of support, working with an agency that offers it means they will always be there to help if you change your mind.

Consider how they make you feel

Adopting a child and building your family will no doubt be one of the greatest journeys of your life. However, that does not mean it is easy. Prospective adoptive parents could be in waiting for just a month while others wait more than two years. You may be chosen by an expecting parent, but they may decide to parent before the child is placed or the adoption is finalized. You may go through post-placement depression, similar to post-partum, after having a child placed with you. The journey to adopting a child is not easy, but the agency you choose can help you through the difficulties and share the joy with you during the good times.

If you find an adoption agency that makes you feel overly-optimistic, like nothing could go wrong and you’ll be placed with a baby in a matter of weeks, know that this positivity is not always good. They might be over promising and you might only discover a different reality once they have collected large fees. On the flip side, if an agency makes you feel defeated and hopeless and makes you wonder why you’re even trying adoption, that isn’t good either. Having realistic expectations is important, but you should also have a support system that encourages you to put your heart into adoption and rejoice in the growth of your family so that you can put your best most truest self forward in your adoption profile and when meeting expecting parents. If you find an agency that encourages your excitement about adopting, but is real with you about the difficulties of adoption, and teaches you about the losses involved for everyone in the adoption triad, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

 

Ultimately, every family is different and you have to be honest with yourself about what is best and most comfortable for you. However, you should educate yourself on all of your options before making the all-important decision of what agency will help you grow your family.

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