Tips for an Open Adoption

 The most common types of adoption agreements are open, semi-open, and closed. Each of these agreements affect you and your child differently. With an open and/or semi-open adoption agreement, fostering a relationship with your child’s birth parents is important. This is the biggest distinction between open and closed agreements. Given the open nature of this adoption agreement, the child can explore their background more freely. However, when discovering they are adopted, children often need support and reassurance. There are helpful tips from both the birth and adoptive parent viewpoint to consider at each stage in the adoption journey.

Before Placement – From a Birth Parent’s Perspective

Before you place your child, try to form a relationship with the adoptive parents and have a clear understanding about how involved you would like to be in the child’s life. You guys can plan the first couple of visits with each other. Talk about the frequency of visits, photographs, and updates during the child’s life. Of course these plans may change as the child gets older, but do your best to be understanding and flexible with the situation at hand. If both parties are consistent, this will also offer peace of mind to the child(ren).

After Placement – From a Birth Parent and Adoptive Parent’s Perspective

“I just placed my child up for adoption, now what?!” After placing your child in an adoptive parents’ care, there are a ton of questions running through a birth mother’s head about what’s next: “Will they stick to our agreement?” “Is my child going to understand my decision?” “What can I do to make this experience better?” With so many lingering questions, it is easy to be overwhelmed with emotions. Remember, you are not alone in this situation. There are other birth parents experiencing these same feelings.

As the adoptive parent(s), be sensitive to the birth parent(s)’ emotions. They have empty arms, changing hormones, bodily pain, and potential postpartum depression. While on the other end, as the adoptive parent(s), you are filled with excitement because of your new addition to the family. Keep in mind the grief the birth parent(s) may be feeling at this time, so don’t be alarmed if they begin to pull away. Try to be sensitive to their feelings and respect their needed time and/or space.

 If They (The Birth Parents) Begin to Become Distant

Don’t feel at all offended when a birth parent seems to be become distant or taking time for themselves. This could be a very confusing time for them and they may be feeling a sense of grief or anger. This is very normal in most adoption cases and can occur at any time, even years after the adoption.

Although they maybe distant and pulling away, keep the lines of communication open. They may not respond, but that is okay. Seeing that you put forth effort may encourage them to respond eventually. It is important to not bombard them repeatedly. Have patience and reassure them that they are welcome in their child’s life.

Stay In Touch

In the adoption journey, it is good to stay in touch, keeping in mind that the birth mother is no different than anyone else. Most likely, they have their own issues and events in their lives. There is no harm in becoming a friend to them. Do your best to show that you are interested in their lives and care about what is going on. If you are both comfortable, set a date where just the two of you go out for lunch or meet in the park. This can be a great way for you to get to know each other better and bond over things you have in common.

In the end, adoption plans don’t always go as expected but remember to be considerate. Enjoy those precious moments to remind you during hard times. Ultimately, both the birth and adoptive parents want what is best for the child – unconditional love.

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Adoptive Parents Offer Open Adoption Advice to Prospective Adoptive Parents

For those  just beginning the process, open adoption can seem scary at first. We asked AFTH’s Facebook followers:

What is your advice to those just beginning the process? What would you tell them about open adoption?

Here are their responses:

Zarah: As a birthmother, it is very difficult at first. You are very unsure the relationship and where you stand. But as time goes on and I got more comfortable, it is a wonderful blessing. Figure out the amount of openness you would like, and as time grows so does the relationship.

Erin: We went into adoption with the mindset that we would have a closed adoption. From the first moment that we met our child’s birthmother, we feel in love with her and all of our fears of “open adoption” were gone. It’s an incredible feeling to know that when/if our daughter ever has a question about her birth family, we have access to get those questions answered for her by loving people that want nothing more in life than to see her prosper.

Ashley: The expecting mother that chooses you as the adoptive family will feel the same way. Wondering if they are choosing the right family. Talk to as many adoptive parents as you can and hear all of the fears and joy! The classes are amazing and the information and knowledge you receive is priceless.

***click here to see upcoming Open Adoption Panel details**

Joni: When my daughter decided to place my grandson for adoption, I was devastated, but she chose Open Adoption. It’s the best decision she ever made in her life. It wasn’t the end like I thought. When you do your face to face meeting, make sure you get all your questions on the table and out so there are no questions in your mind when you leave.

Kevin: I would advise people to examine their fears and find common threads with birth families. Are you feeling you won’t get picked or that you are being judged by strangers? Birth families might be struggling with those same issues. Are you worried that you will be picked by someone who, as the TV movie scripts go, changes their mind? Birth families have to put a tremendous amount of faith in you, too, and hope that you won’t “change your mind” as well. You and your child’s birthparents — because you WILL get picked — are always going to have one thing in common: All of you will always put your child’s needs first. So you might as well find common ground from the get go.

Dina: There are so many varying degrees of open adoption. The openness of each situation is really a comfort level between birth family and the adoptive family. It will also change and develop as your child grows.

Mitzki: Open adoption can mean a LOT of things, from limited contact through an agency to complete openness, to the many places in between. As far as starting the process, educate yourself as best you can, ask questions, and make copies of everything!

Pamela: The cons of open adoption seem to be about the communication and social issues between adoptive and birth parents. While the pros all seem to point to possible benefits to the adoptee and to the overall best interest of the child. You can work through any “cons” if both sets of parents always put the child first.

Sharon: Fear is a normal part of an open adoption, but the benefits completely outweigh any fears that you may have. Go with an open mind and not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how small or silly you may think it might be.

Cynthia: When my husband and I first heard of open adoption it scared us to death. Would someone come and just knock on our door to see our child? We learned through our info sessions and talking to other adoptive families how unique this journey could be. Two unique journeys and a very huge family now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Melissa: We looked at “open” adoption as an amazing gift. We often thought about how the birth mother must feel about placing her baby and how scary it is for her… this way she would always know how her baby is doing and growing.

Stephanie: My first bit of advice is to meet with couples who have been through the process. Listen to their stories; ask very open and honest questions about their process. The process can be very overwhelming and it’s certainly educational. You learn a lot about yourself during this time. It is a very emotional journey but certainly one worth taking.

So as you can see, open adoption means so many different things to so many people. Over and over again, AFTH social workers hear adoptive parents say how fearful they were of open adoption but how that fear began to disappear once they learned of the benefits and heard from others with open adoptions. So take time to listen to the voices of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees involved in open adoption.

How to Spot An Adoption Scam

When we think of adoption, we think of someone choosing to grow their family. We think of the expectant mother who wants to give her child a better life. We think of a child receiving love from all angles. Rarely, do we consider a person taking advantage of someone’s need or want to adopt. It is sad to say, but adoption scams happen all the time! Scary, right?! But don’t worry, we are going to give you helpful tips on how to spot warning signs and red flags down below.

Warning Signs

One of the first warning signs you could receive is a vague or questionable email address and subject title. If you receive an email with a subject titled “Baby waiting for you!”, an eyebrow and a question should be raised. If the email address ends in @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, or anything other than the company’s name, make sure to do your research on the facilitator or agency. Also, beware of generic messages. These are emails that lack specifics. You could be one of many receiving the same message. The usual scammer makes their first point of contact via email.

A sure-fire warning sign is the recipient requesting money. Money should never be exchanged without discussing it with an adoption professional first. At this point, all communication should cease until you speak with an adoption professional. The recipient may also request a plane ticket. This is common for overseas scams. The recipient may explain they want to have their baby in your country. Only problem is the baby may not actually exist or the recipient does not plan to complete the adoption process.

An expecting mother approaching you about adopting her twins could tug at your heart strings. Unfortunately, this is a classic scam that happens around major, sentimental holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Scammers rely on these holidays to lower your guard. They hope you want a child bad enough that you will agree to the situation quickly with little to no objection.

 

Red Flags

  • Pressure to sign documents you don’t understand.
  • If any guarantees are made.
  • If they rush to the topic of you paying expenses.
  • If they refuse to meet with the adoption professional or agency.
  • If agency or facilitator refuses to return your phone calls or emails.
  • If birth mother doesn’t provide proof of pregnancy.
  • If agency or facilitator says they will be in touch with you instead of giving their phone number.
  • If anyone is selling a baby online for money.

 

Suggestions

Whether you choose to go through an agency or use an adoption professional make sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professional. Learn your legal rights to adoption. You can join groups online that discuss tips on how to avoid adoption fraud. If you are a prospective adoptive parent here are a few ways to avoid “Birth Mother Scams”. Set up a phone conversation. Get confirmation of pregnancy. You can request a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, find out if your adoption professional has the right paper work to request the ultrasound. If she refuses to speak with your adoption professional and refuses to send an ultrasound, things may not be as they seem. When in doubt always contact your agency or adoption professional. They have more experience in these situations and can help you navigate through the process. Adoption professionals don’t have any emotional attachments to the situation, so they can ask the expectant mother the hard questions.

Relax & Breathe…

Don’t let the possibility of a scam scare you away from adoption. Adoption is a great way to expand your family. Just keep in mind, never jump into a situation that seems too good to be true. Do your own research on whomever you choose to use as an agency or as an adoption professional. Take the time to learn adoption laws in the state you reside. Find adoption information meetings that you can attend to familiarize yourself with the process. It’s unfortunate, scams like these make adoptive parents leery of posting their profiles, specifically on the internet. Remember, that the internet is just a tool being used. Scams can happen at any time, on any platform, and can involve professionals. I can’t say it enough… DO YOUR RESEARCH!

How an NBC Sports Competition Allowed One Man to Find His Biological Family

American Ninja Warrior (ANW) is an athletic competition that is nothing short of entertaining and exhilarating. If you haven’t heard of it before, the show consists of intense, qualified athletes who compete through extremely difficult courses consisting of balance, agility, strength, and speed tests. While it may not sound too different from a regular obstacle course, only 2 contestants to date have completed the full course in every round and achieved “Total Victory”. To some contestants, the show may be just another adrenaline rush, an excuse to stay in pristine shape, or an extreme competition, but to competitor Dan Jager it turned out to be much more.

American Ninja Warrior has not only allowed Dan to express his immense level of fitness, but has also helped connect him with his birth family in South Korea. Dan was adopted at the age of 5 and was hiking mountains and snowboarding down the slopes by the time he was beginning elementary school. He started competing on American Ninja Warrior in 2015 to free some built-up adrenaline, but the further he advanced, the more widely known his name became. As Dan went on to compete in his second season of ANW, his adoptive parents, Ray and Cherie, received a letter from the agency revealing that Dan’s biological father, Young Il Kwon was interested in meeting with him. Dan soon received a Facebook request from, a woman named Jihye Kwon, who he later found out through messaging was his half-sister. Their conversations were difficult due to the language barrier, so their conversations mainly revolved around using Google Translate. Jihye informed Dan that their father had been searching for him for nearly 13 years! When the agency confirmed the 2 were his biological family, they began video chatting frequently. Dan revealed, “I couldn’t believe it. It’s one of those things where I know I’m adopted. As a kid, I wanted to find my biological dad. But I always wanted to wait until I was older, maybe in my later 20s. Old enough to handle and be at a maturity level to handle it. As I aged, I kind of lost interest. I just kind of let something go, and here it comes to find you.” Dan’s biological family had searched for him many times before, but it wasn’t until he advanced in the finals that his name became easier to find. Dan states that American Ninja Warrior, “projected me into a space that I could be more easily searched.”

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In October of 2016, Young Il and Jihye Kwon came all the way from South Korea to visit Dan in Colorado. As Dan picked them up from Denver International Airport, he saw his biological father for the first time, in person, in nearly 30 years. While meeting with his father, Dan revealed that, “He doesn’t understand like any English, so we had to use our phones for our entire trip, typing in stuff on Google Translate and showing the translated Korean on my phone, and they would do vice versa for English.” One night, Dan took both his biological family and his birth family out to dinner. Cherie, Dan’s adoptive mother, stated that they were very happy for Daniel and how she felt like, “That was the early part of his life, and he needed to have that.”

This experience was important for all members of the adoption triad. Dan emphasized this by revealing that, “It was a cool moment because my parents got to meet my (biological) dad. It was reassuring for him because they were good people, and I had a good life here.” The show allowed Dan the opportunity to be more widely known in the public and if it wasn’t for his success, Young Il may never have been able to connect with his son. American Ninja Warrior may just be an entertaining competition to most people, but for Dan Yager, it brought his entire family together in the best way possible.

What Happens Next: Domestic Adoption for First Time Applicants

Choosing to adopt is a big decision. You have explored all the roads to adopt and have determined that Domestic Adoption is the right path to expand your family. We are sure you will have plenty of questions about the journey including the process and so we have created a step-by-step guide for first time families working with AFTH. Know that our social workers are always there for you whether it’s one simple question or a list of 100 questions you’d like to talk about.

1) Complete your application. Read and sign each form including Description of Services for Fees Contract and Agency Policies for Domestic Adoption. Return completed forms to AFTH with your application fee.

2) Upon receiving your application, you will be contacted by an adoption social worker to schedule an individual adoption counseling session.

3) After meeting with a social worker, you will be required to attend an Education Course, Home Study Sessions and Transracial Adoption Course for those considering adopting a child of a different race.

The Education Course dives into the topic of open adoption from the perspectives of all three members of the adoption triad: adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees.

 

The Transracial Adoption Course discusses topics related to raising a child of a different race necessary for prospective adoptive parents considering transracial adoption to explore. The interactive training debunks the idea of being colorblind, discusses strategies for becoming a multicultural family and reviews how to talk with children about race and racism.

 

The Home Study Sessions cover topics including your road to adoption, parenting and discipline. They are typically held in a group setting with other families. Additionally, you will be given a list of the required paperwork to complete for your home study. Once your home study paperwork is received, a social worker will visit your home.

 

4) After your home visit, you will come to a Profile Meeting. The focus is your profile (which is a 10 page visual story of your family for expecting parents to view) and profile key (guide for social worker indicating your preferences regarding expectant parent situations). Meeting topics include the dos and don’ts of creating your profile, overview of the profile key, the process after being selected and what to expect at the hospital.

5) Then, you will come into the office for a Video Session to create a 5 minute video. It allows you to talk candidly about your family and let your personality shine. Expecting parents have the ability to view videos in addition to seeing profiles when selecting a family.

6) Families submit their profile to their social worker for approval. Your profile will be shown to all expecting parents agency-wide whose situations match your profile key. You will be given the opportunity to have your profile and video on our website as well to increase your exposure.

7) During the wait, you will have access to your social worker for any questions and concerns. You are also encouraged to take advantage of support groups and continuing education classes.

8) When selected by expecting parents, you will have a match meeting with your social worker to review background information about the placement. In the case of Emergency Placements, which currently account for nearly 50% of our agency’s placements, all of the information will be discussed with you over the phone and recapped in a follow up email due to time constraints.

9) At the time of being matched, you will be given escrow forms to submit your placement and miscellaneous fees which will be placed in an escrow account until the time of placement. In the event of an Emergency Placement, the fees are be deemed earned at that time forgoing the escrow account.

10) Upon the expecting parent’s request, if time allows, a pre-placement meeting will be held with the social worker, prospective adoptive parents and expecting parents. In the case of Emergency Placements, the prospective adoptive parents may have an opportunity to meet the expecting parents at the hospital.

11) When it’s time to travel to the hospital, you will meet with a social worker at the hospital to complete the placement paperwork and then meet the baby and possibly the biological parents as well.

12) After the birth parents sign their legal consent to adoption, the baby will be discharged with you from the hospital. IMPORTANT – Keep in mind that during this time the child’s birth parents have a revocation period which varies from state to state. The revocation period is time for the birth parents to be certain of their decision. During this time, birth parents may legally change their mind(s) and choose to parent.

13) If the baby is born outside your state of residence, you will be required to stay within 2 hours of the hospital and will be unable to return home until interstate paperwork is processed and approved by both states.

14) When you do return home, your social worker will conduct post placement visits with your family.

15) The adoption will then be finalized between 6-8 months after placement. AFTH hosts ongoing events and classes to bring families together for support. Your social worker will continue to be available for you to answer any questions you may have as your child grows.

 

“Building Families Through Adoption” – Miss PA and Her Journey to Miss America

Katie Schreckengast has a full resume – she’s a rising senior at Penn State University, plays the alto saxophone in the Penn State Blue Band, as well as serving as the Public Relations Officer for the organization. To add to this impressive list of activities, Katie was just crowned Miss Pennsylvania 2017 this past June. She began her journey when she was just thirteen years old, winning Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen in 2013. This past January, she received her first “Miss” title, winning Miss Central Pennsylvania 2017. In September, she will compete in the Miss America Pageant under a very personal platform – “Building Families Through Adoption.”

Miss PA Headshot

Miss Pennsylvania 2017, Katie Schreckengast, will be competing in Miss America this coming September.

Adopted at just six months old from South Korea, Katie now travels the state speaking about her adoption journey. Seen in a social media post on her official Miss Pennsylvania Facebook, Katie posted a heartwarming video about a couple adopting with the quote, “I may not have had them in my belly, but I have them in my heart. #AdoptiveFamily #BuildingFamilies.” Quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Katie added that, “I want to share my story throughout my year just so people understand that just because you’re an adoptive family doesn’t make you any less of a family.” And adoption is just that – another way to build a loving, strong family.

In fact, Katie’s younger brother is also adopted from South Korea. She adds that, “Every single adoption story is different and mine has been so positive and wonderful.” Her family has been incredibly supportive every step of the way. Additionally, when looking back, Miss Pennsylvania 2014 was ALSO adopted! Khari Siegfried, a Temple University graduate, was reunited with her biological family while competing for the Miss America Pageant. The irony of it all being – while promoting a personal platform of adoption, Khari’s own adoption story was unfolding behind the scenes.

Khari Miss PA

Miss Pennsylvania 2014, Khari Siegfried, was also adopted.

 

It is empowering and heartwarming to hear so many stories of adoption, especially on a national stage. By sharing these stories, adoption becomes just another beautiful way to build a family. Not everyone who finds themselves pregnant is in a position to parent, and, on the other side there are many loving couples and singles who desire to have a family who are unable to traditionally. Katie and Khari’s stories solidify the complexity and joy that encompasses adoption.

Adoptions From The Heart is honored to have Katie in attendance at our First Annual Find Her Footing Sweat-A-Thon. Katie will be joining Zumba, Pound, and Hip Hop instructors to help everyone Break a sweat in support of birth parents just weeks before she makes her way to Atlantic City for the Miss America. The event will be held at the Greater York Center for Dance Education on Sunday, August 20th from 1-4 pm. To learn more about the event and to register, visit our website here. To follow Katie on her amazing journey to Miss America, check out Miss Pennsylvania’s website.

How To Tell Your Child’s Adoption Story

Explaining a child’s adoption story can be overwhelming for the adoptive parents. Some don’t know when is a good time to tell their child, while others are unclear on how to tell them. For starters, there is no right or wrong way to discuss adoption with your child. However, it is best to start introducing positive adoption language as soon as possible. Your child should be familiar with adoption language because it is a part of their story & their identity. Down below are a few tips to help you tell your child their adoption story.

How & When to Explain

Make sure to take your child’s age and maturity into consideration. The story should be simple and age appropriate. Give them details that you can elaborate on as they get older. The details should be truthful, so that you don’t contradict yourself later. Share the excitement with an upbeat tone. Understand what your child is asking. Let them know that it’s okay to ask questions and talk about their adoption at any time. Don’t be afraid to revisit topics you may have explained at an earlier time. This will happen as your child’s curiosity grows and their understanding develops over time.

Ages 0-4

            This is the best time to start sharing your child’s adoption story. Let’s face it kids love being the center of attention. They’ll be more eager to listen to their own story. Whether it’s the story of their birth or the story of the magnificent time they made your family whole, they want to hear it. The meaning of adoption doesn’t quite sink in yet, so keep the story basic. Let them know they were born the same way everyone else is. They grew in their mother’s tummy, but she couldn’t parent at that time. Explain that you wanted to be a parent very much, so you adopted him/her. Include that their birth and adoption were both awesome events that will never be forgotten.

Ages 5-11

            Within this age group, the concept of adoption and having two sets of parents becomes clear. As your child gets older and mentally develops you may notice them experiencing more complex feelings of loss and feeling different. Make sure to have open dialogue with your child. It is essential to see how they are putting the story together. Your child’s stage of development, emotional & intellectual maturity may determine how they piece the information together. Answer any questions regarding their birth parents appropriate for their age. If any misconceptions of their birth parents form, offer alternative views to address the situation.

 

Ages 12-18

Around this age children in general begin pulling away from their parents to form their own identity. Children who have been adopted may have a difficulty forming an identity if there is any information lacking. Parents can help by understanding the need for this information. Help them attain the information they are searching for. Also, give them the freedom to explore it. As for any age, make sure to keep the line of communication open. It is vital to hear what your child is saying and what they are asking. Allow them to share their feelings with you. Help them with any struggles they may be having regarding their adoption or their birth parents.

 

Time is of The Essence

When talking to your child about their adoption story timing is everything. It’s best to start as early as possible. Don’t let your child’s adoption story be a family secret. If you didn’t tell their story when they were young children, start telling them soon. It is important to let them know that they can come to you with any questions they may have. Always leave an open line of communication regarding their adoption or birth parents. As children get older, their questions may become more complex. Be open and accepting to whatever they may want or need to know.