Open Adoption Interruptions Due to COVID-19

Birth parents are devastated when visits get postponed, here are some work arounds for families

The challenges are endless during these crazy COVID times. I don’t think anyone was fully prepared for the difficulty that has come with all the new restrictions and everyone is doing their best to become accustomed to their “new normal.” As an Adoption Counselor, I have seen many birthparents reach out to me who are really struggling with their new everyday life. While there has been a major financial burden placed on a lot of people, it is also important to realize the emotional and mental strains that have resulted from being quarantined.

Many birthparents have had to face postponed or cancelled visits with their children and their families.

And while they completely understand it’s out of everyone’s hands, they are still often left feeling more isolated and alone than ever. The indefinite timeframe of when everything will “get back to normal” is adding additional weight and fear to the situation. “Is everyone healthy? When will I get to see my son again? Will he forget who I am until then?” The unanswered questions can turn into an unending spiral. While we cannot “fix” the pandemic visiting limitations, there is still a lot that families can do to help.

What Can Families Do?

As we are experiencing, even outside the world of adoption, feeling connected from afar is vital to maintain connections and relationships. Everyone is craving human interaction to help stay grounded. People “coming together” in out-of-the-box ways are constantly streaming stories online. Families seeing relatives in nursing homes through windows, grandparent visiting their grandchildren by standing on the other side of the street, birthday party car parades, Zoom weddings and baby showers…the list goes on and on.

For a birthparent who might already struggle with anxiety or depression or who is living on their own without the support of family, this can be an extra challenging time. Even for birthparents who might have strong family and friend circles, missing a visit with their child due to the pandemic can be devastating.

Now more than ever, it’s important that adoptive families make a strong effort to maintain that connection with their child’s birthparents. Even if it’s not officially time for a visit or update, checking in to see how he or she is doing, would really go a long way.

We have already seen many adoptive families who are doing such an amazing job of trying to support birthparents during these hard times.

Mary, an AFTH Birth Mother, Explains How Her Daughter’s Family Is Making a Point to Stay Connected

I am a proud birthmom of a beautiful 3-year-old baby girl. I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic relationship with her parents. We text a few times a week, video chat and we normally have 2 visits a year. This year, I got up the courage to ask for another visit. Not that I was worried about their reaction or answer, I’m just always very conscious and aware of our boundaries and I never want to push too hard. That being said, they were very excited to set up another visit for May 2nd. We were going to meet halfway (they live in Virginia and I live in Delaware) at the Baltimore Aquarium. I was so beyond happy to have another visit with my baby girl and honestly, I adore and love them as people so getting to see them is equally important to me.

However, with everything going on now, obviously that visit has been cancelled. To say I was heartbroken would be a huge understatement. I already suffer from bad depression and the entirety of the situation has really been a challenge. I’ve been so honest with them about my mental health struggles that they have been very concerned about how all of this was affecting me. We talked about it and we’ve been having video chats almost daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes. We do it after dinner and I’ve been reading her books before bed. Their kindness and understanding of my feelings is more than I could have ever expected when I began this journey 3 years ago. I could not have picked better people to be her parents, but I am beyond blessed to have them in my life. They genuinely care about me as an individual, not just her birthmom. They give me unconditional, no judgement love and I try my best to make them proud and return the love. Everything about this quarantine has been difficult, but I’m trying to stay positive and with their love and support I think I’m doing alright.

Offering More Connection During Quarantine Can Have a Profound Impact on Your Relationship

While every open adoption is different, taking the time to reach out now can be very meaningful. It won’t look the same for every family. Sending an email to your social worker with extra photos or videos to be passed along to your child’s birthparent would be a great way to brighten up their day. Maybe your child has been busy making crafts and you could pass some along. If comfortable setting up a “virtual meeting” with the birth family, Facetime, Skype, and Zoom make seeing each other from afar easy. Private Facebook groups and 23Snaps are other ways to keep autonomy however create a space for back and forth communication and sharing of videos and photos.

Many people, including adoptive families, are facing personal struggles during this time, but taking these small steps can really go a long way for a birthparent. Please remember that COVID is affecting everyone, and it is during times like these that we must reach out to our loved ones, including birth parents!

What to expect: choosing to parent after placing

Emotions are running high throughout the early stages of a birth parent’s adoption journey. What most women are not considering when placing, are the emotions they will feel later down the line when starting a family. If you’re a birth parent on the road to parenting, this is our advice:

Brace yourself for the question of, “Is this your first pregnancy?” For some, it’s easier to reply with a simple yes. If you’re choosing this answer to avoid explaining yourself to strangers, don’t feel guilty. Your journey is your own. Share it as you please.

Don’t let your parenting journey be consumed by your adoption journey. Remind yourself of your reasons for placing often. Appreciate your role as a parent, this is something you longed for. Use the struggles you’ve overcame and lessons you’ve learned to allow yourself to be the best parent to the child you can parent.

Eliminate the feeling of betrayal. If you find yourself feeling guilty for being ready to parent, return to your initial motives. Just because you are ready to parent now, does not mean you are betraying the child you placed. Situations change. Decide to hope that with time, the child you placed will be able to come to terms with the decisions you made in their best interest.

Don’t compare your children’s upbringing. Appreciate your children’s upbringing and their differences. This is what will help to shape them into the people they will become.

Don’t use this child to try to fill the void of your firstborn. It’s common for birth mothers to experience baby fever after placing. The yearning for motherhood can be especially strong post-placement. A new pregnancy will not erase the void you are feeling. Your birth mother identity will always be present.

Remember, no matter how motherhood reaches you, it is beautiful in its own way. Your journey is yours. Own it.

How to make the most out of birth parent visits

As an adoptive parent, it is natural to want to show your child’s birth parents that your child is happy, healthy, and loved. As visits from birth parents’ approach, many find themselves feeling nervous and unsure of what to say or how to make the visit enjoyable. Relax, your child’s birth parents will see what a great job you are doing. Here are some tips on getting the most out of these special occasions.  

Choose a fun activity. Having something specific to do will take the pressure off trying to force things. Try to pick a recreation that everyone will enjoy doing. Ideally, something that the child will enjoy, but will also allow for time to get to know one another. Not only is this a time of bonding for your child and their birth parents, but it’s also a time for you to bond with your child’s birth parents. Some activities we suggest include:  

  • Taking a trip to the zoo or aquarium  
  • Take a day at the beach 
  • Have a picnic and throw a frisbee or fly a kite 
  • Bowling 
  • Spend a day at the amusement park  
  • Plan a DIY arts & craft 
  • Go to the playground or a nearby park 
  • Visit a museum 

Consider your child’s feelings. Sometimes adopted children have complex feelings surrounding their birth parents. Take the time to ask your child if they understand the reason for the visit or if they find they find the visits enjoyable. This will give you a better understanding of the emotions they are experiencing, good or bad. Reassure your child that they can talk about their feelings, whatever they may be. Talking about our emotions allows us to process them in a healthy way.  

Address your own feelings. Some adoptive parents are afraid of birth parent visits. They worry that the visits might make the birth parent regret their decision or confuse the child. Voice these fears with your partner, but remember that birth parent visits are massively beneficial for all members of the adoption triad. Rest assured; they will not confuse your child about parental roles.  

Help the birth parents to feel at ease. Building the foundation of your relationship with your child’s birth parents is vital to a successful and healthy relationship with one another. Work to get passed the initial awkwardness that may exist. If you need a conversation starter, your child is perfect. If you’re worried about how to keep the conversation alive, come up with a few questions beforehand. If they are in school, ask them how classes are going. If they have a new job, ask them if they like it. If they have other children, ask them how they are doing. Find out if you have any mutual hobbies or interests.  

The most important thing to remember throughout the process is to be yourself. If you let your authentic self shine, the birth parents will have no problem realizing what a wonderful job you are doing.  

Adoption-Related Family Ideas for Quarantine

Written by Rebekah McGee, a New York Adoption Consultant with Adoptions from the Heart. She and her husband adopted an infant son from Ethiopia in 2012 after a 2.5 year adoption process. Their family then had two biological daughters in 2013 and 2017.

All of America is being faced with a change in routine as we address the Coronavirus. If you are suddenly faced with extra time at home as an adoptive family, here are some ideas.

  1. Create a Family Book or read yours together! Our family used “My Family, My Journey” (link . Like all good intentions, sometimes a baby book just never gets finished. This is the time to get yours organized! Maybe it would be a good time to physically print pictures to have on hand and create a family scrapbook!

2. Watch some Adoption – Friendly Movies – Grab some popcorn and make a special night! Watch Annie, Elf, Babe, Tarzan, Kung Fu Panda 2, Meet the Robinsons, or the Odd Life of Timothy Green.

3. Have a Culture Day! Celebrate your child’s birth culture. Try to learn fun facts and each person give a presentation; listen to a cultural song playlist, or start to learn a new language together!

4. Find an Adoption Pen Pal and write letters to each other! Your child may have friends from school or you might have connections from your adoption agency. Take the time to draw a picture, write a story and mail or email them to others! Perhaps ask the recipient to film their reaction!

5. Send a letter to your social worker! They love updates about how you are doing, even if it has been years since you have been in touch!

6. Plant a garden or pot some plants and talk about how your family is like a garden! Perhaps you weren’t born in the same plant bush, but what a beautiful garden you are all together!

7. Clean out your Closets! No parent enjoys the closet cleanout process of what doesn’t fit anymore, but this is a great chance to clean up a little. Think you might grow your family again? Then put those items in storage! If you’re looking to pass on your clothes, many foster care agencies would benefit from your unwanted clothes!

8. Clean up your files! How many copies of your homestudy paperwork are you still holding on to? Is your important paperwork in a random pile, then let’s put it in a safer place! Now is the best time to get organized!

9. If you’re a waiting family, now is the time to go over your hospital bag list!

10. Take some new family photos! You don’t need a professional photographer, you can put a self-timer on your phone. When was the last time mom/dad were in the picture? Make it a goal to take one SILLY, one SWEET, one SERIOUS and one with funny outfits? Get creative, take the time to document your family as you grow older.

Creating a new routine can certainly be a challenge, we hope these ideas will help you make the most of your extra time together during the COVID-19 crisis. We hope that everyone reading this stays healthy during this difficult time.

Adoptive Families General Newborn Care Guide

Becoming a parent can be an intimidating role to take on. If you haven’t thought about it already, it’s important to take some time to educate yourself on the basics of parenting. Even if your match doesn’t become a placement, understanding the fundamentals of infant care is crucial during your transition to parenthood.

Loving Your Child:

It is important to take time to bond with your newborn. Keep your newborn close to you and exercise skin to skin as much as possible. The skin to skin method will allow your newborn to become familiar with your scent, warmth, heartbeat, and voice. Baby wraps can be a great tool to use when exercising the skin to skin method with your baby. Another way to create this bond is to practice good eye contact. Keeping eye contact with your newborn will help them recognize you. In addition to recognition, your newborn will start to associate love, care, and protection with you during good eye contact.


Contrary to popular belief, adoptive mothers can breastfeed. A woman can breastfeed without ever having been pregnant or given birth. This concept is defined as a woman’s ability to induce lactation also known as, “adoption breastfeeding.” However, before breastfeeding, it is important to speak with your doctor and your newborn’s birth mother. A birth mother might view adoptive breastfeeding as offensive. They need to be recognized as the child’s biological mother and in some cases, adoptive breastfeeding would go against that. However, some birth mothers are accepting of the act. Having this discussion will help you to figure out what’s best for you and your newborn. If breastfeeding is not an option, formula is a perfect alternative. Again, speaking with a doctor about what kind they recommend can be beneficial in the beginning stage of purchasing formula. However, do not become panicked if the first formula you try isn’t working. It is normal to switch formulas until coming across the perfect match with your newborn. Tip: Reach out to different formula providers. Often when you reach out, they will send you formula coupons.


Since 1992, it has been recommended that infants be placed on their backs for sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age. Even though there is no way of knowing which babies might die of SIDS, there are some things that you can do to ensure your baby’s safety. Babies need to be placed on their backs to sleep in a safety-approved crib. Your baby cannot sleep in bed with you or with anyone else. Your baby’s sleep area should be next to where parents sleep. Always place your baby on their back to sleep. Some mothers worry that the baby will roll over during the night. However, by the time your baby can roll over by themselves, the risk for SIDS is much lower. During the time of greatest risk, 2 to 4 months of age, most babies are not able to turn over from their backs to their stomachs. Do not use a pillow when putting your baby to sleep. Do not cover the baby’s head with blankets. A good alternative to blankets for babies is a sleep sack. Your baby should not be over bundled, and the temperature of the room should be comfortable. Do not be alarmed if your baby’s sleep schedule is sporadic. Your newborn will spend the majority of their time sleeping, and their other time eating, especially in the first few weeks.


Your baby should have at least 6 wet diapers every 24 hours. However, the number of bowel movements your baby has may vary. Many bowel movements could occur, but at least one should happen every day. The stool may appear pasty, runny, seedy, mushy, green, yellow, or brown. That is all considered normal. However, if your baby’s belly is bloated or if the stool appears bloody or different from the stool described previously, contact your doctor.

Cord Care:

Keep the cord clean and dry until it falls, which usually occurs after 10-14 days. If your newborn has an accident and gets messy with stool or urine, the cord can be cleaned using a cotton ball/ cotton swab with alcohol to avoid infection.


Babies only need a bath 2-3 times per week. To ensure this, make sure you are keeping up with diaper changes and cleaning your baby’s spit-up. Do not give your baby a tub bath until after the umbilical cord has fallen out and the belly button looks normal. Until then, use a sponge or warm rag to bath your baby. Be gentle around the eyes of your baby using clear water. Do not use soap on their face.


Do not overdress your baby. The best way to dress your newborn in layers. A good guideline to follow is dressing your baby in one extra layer than what you would normally wear depending on the weather. Using this technique will ensure that heat is trapped between the layers of the clothing on your newborn. If your baby’s skin feels damp and warm, your baby is too warm and will be restless. Regarding sizing, newborns grow very fast. It is not uncommon for a 6-month-old baby to be wearing 9-12-month clothes.

Common Illnesses and Concerns:

Bringing home a newborn will keep you on your toes. Common illnesses that occur in newborns are colds, coughs, vomiting, and fevers. Skin irritations can also occur due to diaper rash. You know your baby best. If their symptoms aren’t going away or worsening, call your pediatrician for guidance. Common health concerns in babies can be skin conditions, jaundice, and feeding. Contact your healthcare provider if your baby has pale, cool, or blotchy skin, is not eating well, doesn’t produce enough wet or dirty diapers, has a high-pitched cry, has unusual swelling, smell, oozing, or bleeding, or performs forceful vomiting.


The key points for keeping your baby safe include two main points. The first key point includes how to hold your baby, ensuring safety standards, and attentiveness. When holding your baby, be sure to support their head. Make sure all of their baby equipment meets national safety standards. Lastly, never shake your baby and never leave your baby alone. The other key point of baby safety is abiding by the baby’s sleeping rules to reduce the risks of SIDS.


The relationship between your other children and your newborn is important. Introducing the idea as soon as possible can help this transition run smoother. Preparing your child by talking about what’s going on will help them adjust when your newborn is placed with you. Being as transparent as possible with your children has been a helpful tactful amongst many families.

Accepting Help:

You might feel trapped within your responsibilities. It’s important to make time for yourself. Take your parent’s offer up on babysitting, let your partner take a shift, let your trustworthy friends take the baby out for a few hours, etc. Taking some time for yourself is healthy and nothing to feel ashamed of. It will leave you coming back more refreshed and missing your newborn.


Your newborn is sweet and innocent and a lot of the things that they do, they cannot help. It’s important to cater to their needs because they do need your care. Discipline isn’t about punishment, but instead, it’s about setting a guideline. This can begin with differentiating between wants and needs. (4 – 7 months old) Your baby might be tugging at you and want to sleep with you, but he/she doesn’t need to. A tip for when your baby starts crawling, it is time to baby-proof the house. (7 – 12 months old) This is a smart safety precaution to take and will give your baby the freedom to crawl around. However, your baby doesn’t need the freedom to roam the entire house at a time. Making sure one or two rooms are completely baby-proofed will allow you to let them go. You won’t have to say “No” as much because you know they are in a safe spacious area. Learning how to switch gears can be another helpful trick. (12 – 18 months old) Babies have a very short attention span. Therefore, if your baby insists on trying to get into the dog food, try to switch gears with them. Invite them to play with a toy or to dance instead. They will most likely forget about the dog food.

Becoming an Adoption Counselor after being an Adoptive Parent

Written by Rebekah McGee a New York Adoption Consultant with Adoptions from the Heart. She and her husband adopted an infant son from Ethiopia in 2012 after a 2.5 year adoption process. Their family then had two biological daughters in 2013 and 2017.

When I graduated from college as a social worker, I worked in elder abuse prevention and senior adult advocacy. It was during this season that my husband and I decided to adopt first to build our family. We ended up moving states during our adoption process, so we had to complete two full homestudies. Throughout our 2.5 year adoption process, we worked with many social workers and adoption consultants. I saw firsthand the impact of a motivated, compassionate social worker and also the importance of those who work with the birth parents. I returned to school to get my master’s degree in hopes to work with adoptive families and birth parents.

As an adoption consultant, I have had the honor of working with adoptive parents and birth parents. I believe that my experience as an adoptive mother has allowed me to empathize with those who are knee-deep in the paperwork process. When I work with expecting parents, I am able to reassure them that if they choose to make an adoption placement, the adoptive parents will 100% love their child as if he/she was born to them. I know this because I experience it in my life!

I am lucky enough to have the wisdom of people in my life who are birth parents and adoptees. I have received advice from those involved in all aspects of the adoption triad, in addition to the training that I have received. When I meet with expecting parents who are considering their options, I always try to understand where they are coming from and try to help them see the bigger picture of their life. I always ask if there was something that could change that would allow them to parent, what would it be? It could be something that can be done with simple changes or just an outsider identifying their support system. Sometimes there are too many factors that prohibit an expecting parent from being in the right timing and place for them to parent. As a social worker, I want to ensure that any limitations are explored so that the birth family is making the right choice for their child.

As an adoptive parent, I believe that I can offer empathy because I realize what great cost it is to make this decision. I am parenting a child at the great sacrifice of my child’s birth family. I have great admiration and respect for anyone who makes an adoption plan. After talking with a friend who made an adoption plan during her college years, I saw that over a decade later, she still thinks about how things were shaped by her social workers in the hospital. I want to be a social worker that positively helps a birth parents navigate this sensitive time. One of the benefits of working with a reputable agency such as Adoptions From The Heart is that the counselors are compassionate and ready to meet birth parents where they are. They are ready to help each expecting parent navigate the situation that is most respectful to the plan they have in mind.

When my husband and I left the orphanage with our son in 2012, we hoped we would return one day to adopt again (Ethiopia is now a closed country) but I believe that my desires to help children in need are being fulfilled in an even more rewarding way as I get to walk beside birth parents and adoptive parents in such an impactful time of their lives.

Did You Know… Adoptive Parents Can Hire a Doula Too?

Valerie Trumbower is a DONA Certified Postpartum Doula, a Certified Lactation Counselor and the mother for three, including a set of twins.  Her online courses Expecting 101™ and Expecting 101…You’re Adopting™ have helped many families prepare for life with their newborns.  For all things baby follow her on Instagram @newparentsacademy

Some people have never heard of a doula.  “You do what?” Is something I’ve gotten used to hearing.  When I explain what I do as a Postpartum Doula, most people who have lived through the first weeks at home with a newborn think having a doula sounds like a dream. I’ve realized recently though, maybe because of the word postpartum, that adoptive families are unsure of whether a postpartum doula is “for them”. 

Let me tell you, without hesitation, you would absolutely benefit from a doula and here’s why…

Life with a newborn is hard. There, I said it.  I realize that some families are afraid to say it.  Maybe even more so in the cases of adoption.  You’ve waited so long for this baby to arrive, you’ve invested so much and now he’s finally here and well, maybe you’d feel like a jerk if you complain. Listen there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, like the first weeks home with your new baby.  Yes, there’s joy and cuddles and A LOT of cuteness, but there’s also crying and confusion and a major learning curve as you all get to know each other. Getting to know each other, not because you didn’t carry the baby for the last 9 months, but because he is adjusting to life on earth!  He has never drank milk or even breathed air! And you are adjusting to life as a parent.  

The first three months after the baby is born are often referred to as the fourth trimester.  This is your trimester! As new parents, this is when you will learn about your baby.  How does he like to be soothed? What does that cry mean? How do you know that he’s getting enough to eat? Yes, there are things you can do to prepare for life with a newborn: read books and take classes. (I might be a bit partial, but I totally recommend my online course Expecting 101…You’re Adopting!).  But one of the greatest things about having a doula, especially during this fourth trimester, is having your own expert on the scene

When I get to someone’s house, typically one of the first things Mom or Dad does is whip out their phone and open the notes section where they’ve jotted down some questions.  Is it weird that his skin is flaking on his head?   Last night he was so gassy, any ideas how we can help him at times like that? I feel like we need a bouncy seat, any recommendations which one?  Life with a newborn will be a temporary stop for you.  Before you know, it he’ll be rolling and crawling and you’ll be off to the toddler years.  As postpartum doulas newborns are our life.  Having an expert to walk alongside you during this transitional period can help things go much more smoothly!

But What Does a Doula Even Do?

The answer really depends on what will help your transition as a new family. Sometimes this means a doula works during the day so exhausted parents can take a nap knowing that the baby is well cared for. Doulas prep bottles, handle baby laundry, help with meal prep, the list goes on.  I work primarily overnights.  This means my shift is usually from 10:00pm to 6:00am. Typically, I arrive and have an info download with the parents.  We talk through how things are going and I answer any questions they have. Maybe it’s time for the baby’s first bath, but the parents are nervous to handle it alone so we do it together.  Maybe they want to start using the new sling that they got but aren’t sure how to get the baby in and out so I help them get comfortable. Then they’re off to bed, to get some much needed sleep! While they are asleep, I care for the baby. I also usually throw in a load of baby laundry, get bottles prepped and start the dishwasher. I am always asking parents what will make their day feel less overwhelming and go more smoothly.  If they mention that they keep running upstairs every time they need to change the baby, then I set up a changing station on the first floor.  If their day is so busy that they’re not eating enough, I might cut up some veggies or prep dinner for the next night.  It is a constant communication of where they feel they need help.

“For us the most valuable thing about having a doula was that you were there in our home coaching us through the whole process. It was like a crash course in having kids really fast. It’s not just the help caring for the babies and helping us learn how to bond with them– The part that made such a difference was you saying: here’s what to do, here’s what to buy, don’t be nervous about this, I’m here to talk you through it.  It felt a lot like coaching, having a coach on call in your home.” – AFTH family who utilized Valerie’s services post placement

How Do You Find a Postpartum Doula?

Two sites that I highly recommend are and  Generally, you will reach out to someone by phone and then meet with them in person.  It is very important that you feel comfortable with your doula.  This person will be coming into your home at a very sensitive time. If you meet someone and feel like they aren’t a good fit for your family that’s okay, just keep looking! If it is important to you, you will want to confirm that your doula is certified, insured and has background checks. You can also ask for references and speak with families that the doula worked with previously.

One of the challenges of hiring a doula as an adoptive family might be that you are matched just before or right after delivery and don’t have time to look for a doula. If you are in the process of adopting and think that you might want to hire a doula, my advice would be to reach out to a few now and meet with them.  Since you won’t know the due date yet the doula cannot guarantee availability but you can have a plan in place to call her as soon as you get news of the baby’s arrival. 

The cost of a doula varies based on where you live.  On average you can expect to pay $25-50/hour.  This is an investment for sure, and I understand that it’s not feasible for everyone. If it’s something that you think your family can afford I encourage you to consider it.  Be open with your doula about your budget and she will be able to help you allocate it. She can help you ensure that during challenging times, like when most babies experience growth spurts, you will have support in place. There is no minimum timeframe for working with most doulas.  I’ve had families that I worked with 5 nights per week for months and families that I have helped for only two overnight shifts.  You really can customize doula care depending on your needs and your budget!

Valerie’s Expecting 101…You’re Adopting! course qualifies for Adoptions From The Heart’s childcare class requirements.

A blog by Adoptions From The Heart to help families interested in Adoption and to support those who have adopted