How to Help Your Family Cope with Your Decision to Place your Child for Adoption

Making an adoption plan for your child is a very courageous, yet difficult decision. Expecting parents often describe a variety of emotions felt when placing their child for adoption. It is to experience feelings such as a sense of loss, grief, and even guilt. These feelings are all common even when you know that an adoption plan will provide a better life and future for not only their child, but for themselves as well. Many times, expecting parents not only have to find ways to cope during the adoption process, but assist their family members as well. It is common that family members will experience the same feelings, and will need help understanding and preparing for this decision as well. Families of the birth parents can feel the same sense of loss, grief, and guilt. Below are steps that families could benefit from and certain tools and steps to help your family adjust to your decision to place your child for adoption.

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6 Steps to helping your family adjusts to your decision to place your child for adoption:

  • Invite your parents to the adoption agency – Bringing your family members along with you to your adoption agency could give them a sense of feeling involved in your decision to place your baby. It would also give family members a chance to meet your social worker and would be an opportunity to ask questions that they may have which will aid in understanding the adoption process from a professional point of view.
  • Bring your parents to doctor appointments– Much like bringing your family members to an adoption agency, allowing family members to come along to doctor appointments could help them feel involved with the progress of your pregnancy and development of your baby.
  • Share your feelings- It is important not to shut off from family members. Include your family members in your feelings. They too may have similar feelings and can become a great support system for you. A great way to do this is by writing your family a letter that explains your thought out decision and feelings toward why you chose this adoption plan. At times it helps to share your goals and dreams and how these would not be achievable given your choice to parent your child.
  • Educate about open adoption- Open adoption allows birth parents and family members to stay involved with your child’s life. Educating your family members about open adoption could help them feel at ease. Your family will be better prepared to help you and understand your feelings if they feel prepared, informed, and educated. To read more about open adoption visit the AFTH Blog!
  • Find a local support group- There are many agencies, and even online groups, that offer support to birth parents and their families. These groups will offer the support that you and your family may need to cope and understand your decision to place. These groups are designed to help birth parents and their families come together to share similar feelings and experiences through their own adoption stories. A great resource is birthparentmeetup.com. Here you can find what cities in the United States have birth parent support groups. Also, check with the agency that you are placing though. Many times, agencies will offer support groups as well.
  • Establish Rituals- According to Childwelfare.gov, having rituals is a great way to not only include your family members with your adoption, but help them cope and understand even more why you made the decision to place. Birth parents may find it helpful to create a tradition that honors the child and the decision that was made. Birth parents also may choose to establish other ongoing or finite rituals, such as commemorating certain days or milestones in the child’s life, such as the child’s birthday or a high school graduation or writing a letter to the child. Including your family in these rituals is a great way to keep family members involved.

Unfortunately, sometimes when expecting parents make an adoption plan for their child, their family members are not on board with the decision. In these situations expecting parents may not receive the love and support needed to get through this difficult decision. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting parents, who are choosing adoption, with alternative ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

There are many tools available to help your family members adjust to and understand the decision of placing your child for adoption. When the adoption plan has been made, there are also many ways to keep you and your family members involved in your child’s life. With open adoption, you can send letter and even have visits at least one time per year. Reassuring your family members that they will still be involved with the child’s life may help them understand your adoption plan better. Like birth parents, family members will have to cope with the loss from the adoption as well. With the help from support groups, keeping family members involved, educating the family on open adoption, and keeping them involved with your own feelings will help them understand your decision to make an adoption plan for your child.

Birth Parents and Placing a Child for Adoption without Family Support

Deciding to place a child for adoption is not a decision that is made overnight. Birth parents are extremely strong individuals that sacrifice so much for their baby’s future, but just because they are strong it does not mean that they do not need support during the adoption process. Sometimes when a expecting mother shares her adoption plan with family members, she doesn’t receive love and support. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting mothers who are choosing adoption with other ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

Placing Without Support


 

When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Adoption

Telling your family you are pregnant can be an overwhelming task if you don’t feel you are prepared to parent. Will they support your decision to consider adoption? Will they want you to raise the baby on your own? Will they want to raise the baby? There are a lot of questions rumbling around in your head before having that conversation with your family and it is important to know you are not alone. There are great resources available online like this one that can help you figure out the best way to broach the topic with your family members. They might even benefit from online resources too. Pages like Adoptions From The Heart can provide family members with a wealth of information about adoption and how to be supportive through the process.

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Comments from family and friends like, “I could never give up my child because I love them too much,” are extremely hurtful. It is important to remember the real reason you are considering adoption- you want what is best for your child because of how much you love them.

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Sometimes it is helpful to understand why friends and family might be saying intentionally hurtful things or feeling uncertain with your adoption plan.


Why There Might Be a Lack of Support After Placement

Before and after placement, it can be hard for your family and friends to really relate to your thought process and what you are going through. Kacey Bailey a contributor for Adoption.com, outlined some reasons why they just might not be understanding you in one of her posts. Here is what she gathered from her own experiences:

1. They’re afraid to feel what you are feeling or what you’ve felt.

The first time I attended a group of birth mothers was when I was pregnant. I sat there, staring at these girls, terrified to be where they were in just a few short months. Pain was written in their eyes and I was literally afraid to feel that way. I had no words for them. I yearned to reach out and comfort these precious souls, yet was terrified to open myself up to them as they were doing for me. The reality of what birth moms have done for a child, to willingly allow another person (or persons) to stand in her shoes, is unimaginable. It seems unfair of birth moms to expect their friends and family to attempt empathy, especially when it’s so frightening to be that distressed.

2. You’re an individual.
The story of how I became a birth mom isn’t too exciting, nor is it uncommon. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy become friends. Girl and Boy have a one night stand. Boy leaves when Girl gets pregnant. While it’s so very basic, it’s also exceptionally complex. Allow me to be selfish while I say that what I experienced was different than what anyone else will ever know. My personality led me to where I needed to be, my thinking process is what guided me to my son’s parents, and my pain was felt in a way that nobody else will feel. I’m an individual. Take anybody else whose story lines up with mine in every manner, and we will have two different experiences. Birth moms should not expect someone who hasn’t experienced a similar situation to try to grasp the amount of hurt that is endured daily.

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3. They wish they could help more.
I had many friends abandon me when I became pregnant. Others stood awkwardly at the sidelines. It’s been 5 years since placement and I know now that most of the reasoning behind it was simple. They wanted to offer me the world. They wanted to offer me food, a job, a place to stay, a way to provide for me. In my pride, I refused it all and they were left not knowing how to help. It’s one thing to tell them “just be there for me” when nobody knows what “there” is. They gave the advice they would have given to themselves and since they couldn’t do it all, some did nothing. Not out of spite, or anger, but rather out of fear. People fear what they don’t know. Let them know that you just need a shoulder to cry on. When that’s all they offer you, be appreciative.

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4. Everyone handles grief in her own way.
Yes, there are the 5 stages of grief that we all experience after a loss. How we work through them are different. There was a fellow birth mom who dived into school just days after placement. I laid in my bed and cry for a few weeks, then stood up one day and went back to my life as well as I could. Some people may start up a new hobby while others will invest themselves into an old one. There are many ways to cope with loss, everybody is unique. Thus, there aren’t any people out there who know how I handled the loss of a child—nor how I’m handling it right now. My friends don’t know that my sudden outbreak of tears is actually a healthy release. It’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to know, that while my tears are a sign of frustration and longing, they’re also a sign that my healing process is an ongoing process.

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5. Sometimes, they think you need to “get over it.”
I have been told to “move on” from this child more times than not. As I stand there, in tears, I see a friend roll her eyes and look away. It’s not as if my pain is interrupting her life. It’s more that her healing process is different from mine, and she doesn’t understand that. While there’s part of me who wants to cut those people out of my social group, there’s a smaller, smarter part of me that uses this as a teaching opportunity. I explain, and while explaining, I heal. Talking has always helped my mind to organize emotions. While she may scoff and respond with, “I just don’t understand why you can’t move on.” I just smile and say, “I don’t want to”. That child is my heart and soul. He is part of me in a way that he will never be part of somebody else. I hold him sacred in my heart and if I were to cut ties with his memories, I would lose part of who I have become.

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A lot of what Kacey felt and still feels is not uncommon for birthparents. If your family or friends don’t understand, it is important to realize that sometimes…they just don’t understand and then to explore options for other types of support during your adoption journey.


Finding an External Support System

Birthmother Quote

When you place through an adoption agency, many will offer some sort of continued support for birth parents before, during and after placement. Taking advantage of these resources might not always feel natural or like something you want to do, but it has proven successful for so many birth parents. In a previous blog  we discussed the importance of support. One AFTH Birthmother remembered the feelings she had surrounding her first support group meeting:

“I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.”

Whether you need support before or after placement, there are options for everyone. Use links like this one to find support group meetings or counselors in your area. Birthmombuds  is another great online resource where you may find support. And if you get the courage and are brave enough, share your story. Often times, people don’t know who they can turn to for support and you might find other birthparents or others who have been touched by adoption who will then become your support.

Adoption Laws and Requirements: Domestic Adoption Compared to International Adoption

sunset skiesAdoptive families come in all shapes and sizes. There are single parents, couples, same-sex couples and domestic partners. Some families already have birth or adopted children and others might just be beginning to grow their family. Requirements for the adoptive parents differ from state to state and country to country depending on where you are adopting from. One of the first dilemmas families face is whether to pursue domestic adoption or international adoption. There are many factors adoptive parents must consider which includes the wait time, children available, cost and legal concerns. There are also lot of myths about these two different adoption processes in which we wanted to clear up in this blog along with provide statistics and hard facts about both so that families are able to make the best choice that is right for their own family.

 The Requirements Needed to Adopt Domestically

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In order to even think about adopting, it is important to remember that there are a lot of requirements that you will need to pass before any adoption agency will take you on as a client.

Age – Prospective parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older If you are adopting for a private adoption agency. the agency may have an age cutoff but not always. Be sure to check with the agency you are considering working with.

Physical Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. If there is a history of serious or current chronic illness, a doctor’s letter indicating physical stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority (which is the age of 16). If there is a history of substance abuse, proof of rehabilitation is needed.

Emotional Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating emotional stability is needed. If there was or is use of medication, a doctor’s statement of current emotional stability and ability to parent a child is needed.

Criminal History – As part of the adoption home study, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident are required. Rehabilitation will be evaluated, if appropriate. There are certain criminal charges that can prevent someone from being eligible to adopt.

Child Abuse History – All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. where they have lived for the past 5 years. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent someone from adopting.

Marital History – Each adoption agency and U.S. state has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Depending on the state, singles, same-sex and domestic partners may also be eligible adopt.

Financial Security – There is no specific income requirement. The adoptive family’s income and assets will be assessed to ensure they have the resources to raise a child. Proof of medical insurance for the child is also needed.

Home Environment – The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child, inside and out. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements.

Adoption and Parenting – As part of the adoption home study, most prospective parents are asked to complete Adoptive Parent Education, including but not limited to the lifelong implications of adoption on the child and the family, attachment and bonding, sharing adoption with the child and others, open adoption, and medical, emotional and academic developmental issues.

It is important to remember that even though this is domestic adoption, the same laws and rules don’t apply for all fifty states. If you would like to find more information about a certain state, check out this awesome website that will allow you browse every state individually. http://statelaws.findlaw.com/family-laws/adoption.html

 Adopting Internationally, the Rules and Process

Adopting Internationally

Intercountry adoptions are governed by both the laws of the child’s home country and the laws of the United States. When you are adopting international, you must comply with THREE different sets of laws: U.S. federal law, the laws of the child’s country of birth, and the laws of your U.S. state of residence.

Age – parent(s) must be of legal age (21 years old) or older, some countries may have higher minimum requirements. Age cutoffs are agency and country specific.  Adopting as an older parent in an intercountry adoption might lead to adopting an older child.

Medical Health –For all adoptions, a doctor’s letter indicating physically stability, ability to parent and expectation to live to a child’s majority are required.  Prospective parents need to be in stable medical condition. Individual countries have limitations on medical history and current health. Many restrict adoptions to those with a history of cancer.

Emotional Health – Prospective parents need to be in stable emotional health. If there is current or history of psychiatric illness, a statement indicating you are emotionally stable is needed.

Criminal history – As part of the adoption home study, state and FBI clearances will be conducted. Should there be an arrest history, dispositions and personal statements of the incident will be needed. Rehabilitation, if appropriate, will be accessed. There are certain criminal charges that will prevent someone from adopting.

Child Abuse History – All household members over the age of 18 will be asked to do a child abuse clearance for every state in the U.S. and every country where they have lived for since the age of 18. A “finding” on this clearance may prevent you from adopting.

Marital History – Each country has their own requirements, including the number of previous marriages and length of current marriage. Some countries allow singles to adopt, however may limit the parent to adopting a child of the same gender. Unfortunately, the majority of international countries will not allow LGBT couples to adopt.

Financial Security – Some countries have specific income and asset requirements, which will be assessed as part of the adoption homestudy and documents for the dossier. Income and expenses must show the ability to meet a child’s needs.

Home Environment – The home must be a safe and secure environment for a child. Some U.S. states have specific space and safety requirements. In addition, some countries require proof of ownership.

Adoption and Parenting – As part of the adoption home study, prospective parents are asked to complete at least 10 hours of specific Adoptive Parent Education.

As you can see a lot of the requirements change depending on what country you are adopting from .That is why it is important to do your research on each country before deciding where you would like to adopt from. To see a breakdown of the rules and requirements in each country, you can go to www.adoption.state.gov.

Important Areas to Consider as you Make the Decision Between a Domestic and International Adoption

Now that we talked about the requirements that need to be filled before choosing domestic or international adoption, we would like to go over the different factors that might help you and your family choose what option best fits your family.  Some of the more important questions to ask yourself are; How long do you want to wait? How much do you want to spend on your adoption? How important is it to adopt a newborn?  We would like to touch on the 5 most important topics that we think a family should think about before deciding between domestic and international adoption.

  1. Cost: Many mistakenly believe that international adoption costs far less than domestic adoption but that is very untrue. The different in cost between international and domestic adoption is one of the most common misconceptions. Both have them have similar costs typically ranging from $25,000-$50,000 but the costs are unique to each specific program and agency.
  • International Adoption Costs
    • Obtaining a Visa
    • Travel and hotel costs to a different country more than one time
  • Domestic Adoption Costs
    • Birth parent living expenses
    • Travel to different states depending on where the baby is born
  1. Waiting Time: The time it takes for an adoptive family to receive a child domestically or internationally depends on many factors. It is difficult to assess exact wait times for both adoption plans because it all depends on what agency you are working with and how open you are to various situations. For international adoption, the wait time depends on your families’ adoption plan as well as country-specific issues. For example, adopting a child from China may take more than four years while adopting a child from Russia can take less than a year.
  1. Child’s Age and Children Available: Because of all of travel and waiting you will have to do if you choose international adoption, it is very likely that you will be adopting an older infant, toddler or even a teenager, depending on the origin. According to the latest research by the National Council for Adoption, private domestic agency adoptions have risen steadily from 14,549 in 1982 to 20,254 in 2007 .While domestic adoption continues to grow, international adoption has decline significantly over the past several years.
  1. Medical Background: One of the biggest concerns when adopting internationally is that the medical background of the child is minimal. Social and medical histories will be provided on children whether you adopt domestically or internationally. Often within an international adoption, there is not much information even though the child is older because often the child has been abandoned and there is no information on his or her biological relatives. In a domestic adoption, you are often able to receive both an extensive social and medical history.
  2. Legal Concerns: A lot of the myths that we mentioned in the beginning of the blog come into play when speaking about legal concerns in adoption. This is why it is very important to research the unique legal issues involved in both adoption plans. For international adoption, each country has its own set of laws governing adoption that must be met. Some families have said one of their main reasons they chose international adoption is because they were concerned about openness and birthparents coming back to claim their child. The large majority of domestic adoptions are not revoked or disrupted and each state has their own set timeline on when the birth parents rights are terminated. It is important to research so you are fully aware of all the aspects when choosing your path to adoption.

As you can see there are many factors to consider and you may have a longer more personal list to explore. Remember whether choose either the international or domestic route, there are still additional choices within that path such as working with an agency or attorney or gender and age of child, etc. In addition to all the research and weighing the pros and cons, the decision ultimately comes down to what makes you feel the most comfortable and which option best fits your family.

July 2015 Book Reviews

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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.

Joy of adoptionChicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption: 101 Stories about Forever Families and Meant-to-Be Kids by Amy Newmark & LeAnn Thieman – The book is filled with short stories about the joy of adoption.  It does not talk about the whole process, it does not touch on all the steps, frustrations or pitfalls, it only focuses on the positive aspects of adoption.  This is a good book to help you see the light in adoption, by focusing on the positive aspects, joys and celebration of adoption it doesn’t give you an accurate picture of adoption but it might be a nice gift for someone who is just starting the process, just finished the process or somewhere in between who wants to remember the joy that adoption does bring. It has a strong religious slant as all the Chicken Soup for the Soul books do. amazon.com price (PB) $11.76 (Kindle) $9.99

How I was AdoptedHow I Was Adopted (Mulberry Books) by Joanna Cole – This is a cute childrens book with adorable bright pictures.  This is not only a story about adoption but also about birth, telling the story of how Sam grew in another woman’s uterus and then after she was born was placed for adoption.  Along the way the book asks questions that can spur conversation about a child’s own adoption.  It is a nice way to talk about how everyone’s story is different.  There is a nice mix of diversity in the pages and the story talks about how there are special things that came from her birth parents and special things that she got from her parents.  This book would be a nice addition to any library. amazon.com price (PB) $6.99 (HC) from $.01

Giving up BabyGiving Up Baby: Safe Haven Laws, Motherhood, and Reproductive Justice by Laury Oaks – Laury Oaks is not an advocate of Safe Haven laws.  She looks at them from what she calls a “reproductive rights” perspective. The problem, she feels is that they put the focus solely on the infant and disregard the wellness of the mother.

She thinks that while well-meaning, the laws reinforce the idea that some mothers are “bad” and should give up their children so that “good” parents can raise them.  Oaks believes that a better use of resources would be to invest in programs that lift up disadvantaged mothers. “Safe Haven laws are not the only thing we should be looking at. I think our job as a society is to say, ‘How can we make it so that women and men and extended families aren’t so resource poor?’”

While this is a new perspective it isn’t new to many countries around the world.  Finland gives a “baby box” to all new parents that contains clothes and diapers that the child could use for up to a year, the box itself doubles as a crib. While not a total fix for the problem it certainly helps.

While I am not a fan of Safe Haven laws for other reasons this book gives you a new perspective and an interesting take on a continuing problem.  Is there a way for the government to help new parents find the resources they need to raise their children? Or is there a better way than encouraging women to abandon their children instead of promoting other alternatives? This is a very informative book that could really spark some good discussion and debate. amazon.com price (PB)$21.60 (Kindle) $20.52

Adoption Leave and Knowing Your Options

There are a lot of questions that many adoptive families may have before deciding to adopt a child. One very common question is, “Will I get maternity leave and be able to stay home to care for my new child?” As adoption professionals, we wish the answer was YES but the answer is really… Probably, but it depends! Many employers recognize adoption maternity and paternity leave just as they would for a pregnant employee. In the event that they do not, blog pic- adptn lawsthe Family and Medical Leave Act extends its protections to adoptive and foster parents, offering 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for newborn or fostered children. However, it is important to note that new employees of those of smaller companies might not be protected under the act and for many, the option of leave without pay isn’t ideal.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was created to help employees balance work and family life, by allowing employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. Falling under this category is adoption maternity/ paternity leave of adoptive families and foster parents. According to the United States Department of Labor, “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. The FMLA also requires that the employee’s health benefits be maintained during the leave.

According to the United States Department of Labor, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, “Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) principles for determining compensable hours or work. Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave.” –US Department of Labor

How does FMLA apply to adoptive families?

Becoming an adoptive family takes a lot of planning. In regards to the FMLA, many families will need time off from work because they may need to plan to stay in the state where their child was born, which is on average 7 to 10 business days to comply with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).

There are many ways that the FMLA applies to adoptive families. Below is an excerpt taken from Adoptivefamilies.com that explains what you need to know as adoptive and foster parents under the FMLA and workplace rights that are important to familiarize yourself with.

Know Your Workplace Rights

BASIC REQUIREMENTS: Both you and your employer must fit certain criteria for FMLA to apply. On the employer side, FMLA applies to private sector businesses with at least 50 employees, to all state and local governments, and to all public and private school employees. With respect to individuals, the act applies to employees who have worked for a covered employer for a total of 12 months (not necessarily consecutive), and for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the leave.

WHEN IT TAKES EFFECT: Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during the 12 months following the birth or placement of a child. The leave can occur any time in that period. If both parents are eligible, the law will allow a newly adopted child to have at least 24 weeks with at least one parent at home full-time. An employer may, but is not required to, allow an employee to take her 12 weeks intermittently, for example, by working half-days for 24 weeks. If a husband and wife work for the same employer, the employer may limit them to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave, unless the child has a serious medical condition, in which case each parent is entitled to take 12 weeks.

WHAT ADOPTIVE PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: For any type of adoption, covered employees may begin their leave period before the child comes home, as long as the absence is necessary to the adoption or placement. This is particularly helpful for parents who need to travel to adopt. Early leave can also be used for meetings with attorneys or with prospective birth parents, counseling sessions, doctor visits, and so on.

Employers are entitled to ask for proof that a requested leave qualifies for FMLA. For adoption-related leave, a letter from your agency or attorney should be sufficient.

WHAT FOSTER PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: Foster parents are eligible for FMLA leave, as well, regardless of the age of the fostered child. However, there must be some involvement by the state or by a court for the placement to qualify — informal placements with relatives do not count.

If parents adopt a child whom they have fostered, they are probably not entitled to one leave period at the time of the foster placement and another at the time of formal adoption. FMLA would apply at the time of the initial placement.

JOB PROTECTIONS: FMLA ensures that employees cannot be penalized for taking leave. That means you must be allowed to return to work at the same level of pay and benefits that you had when the leave began. An employee is not entitled to continue accruing additional benefits during the leave period, but if an employer offers group health insurance, that employer must maintain the insurance during the employee’s FMLA leave.

ACCRUED TIME: FMLA allows employees to substitute accrued (sick/vacation/personal) paid time off for a corresponding portion of their leave. And while biological mothers are usually entitled to substitute paid medical disability leave, as well, while they physically recover from childbirth, adoptive mothers are not generally eligible to do so. Employers can also require employees to use accrued vacation or other personal time as part of their 12-week leave period. In other words, you can’t take your usual vacation in addition to 12 weeks of FMLA.

BONUS PROTECTIONS: FMLA sets a minimum standard. Depending on where you live, you may be entitled to even greater benefits. Many states have expanded the availability of family leave benefits by requiring smaller businesses to comply, providing that some or all of the leave be paid, or mandating a longer leave period. You can check your state’s laws on the National Conference of State Legislatures site.

(information source: adoptivefamilies.com)

What About Adoptive Fathers?

Many times in society it is a misconception that only mothers take maternity leave. The great thing about the FMLA act is that is recognizes BOTH parents! Adoptive and foster fathers can also take advantage of the FMLA and enjoy the same benefits that women do under the FMLA. Adoptivefamilies.com (link) states that “Men who exercise their rights under the FMLA will chip away at the lingering misperception that the father plays a less critical role in early parenting.” adoptivefamiles.com

Paid Leave Options:

While the FMLA is a great benefit, it does only offer unpaid leave. Many families are looking for paid options while taking adoption maternity leave. In these situations there are two options. According to babymed.com (link) the options are:

  • Paid vacation time – Most employers will allow you to take some or all paid vacation during the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA.
  • Sick pay – Laws and policies on using sick pay for maternity leave when adopting vary by state and employer. Contact the human resources or personnel department of your company to find out if sick pay is applicable during maternity leave.

It is true that many companies are in support of adoption leave. The first thing that you should do is check with your company’s human resource department to see what kinds of adoption leave is offered. In some cases companies will offer additional adoption benefits as well. Organizations such as the Dave Thomas Foundation make it possible for companies to become adoption friendly workplaces. Companies can purchase a tool kit that will help them become adoption friendly workplaces. This took kill shows organizations how to implement financial reimbursement and paid leave for employees who adopt. The Dave Thomas Foundation released this 2014 list of the top 100 Adoption Friendly Workplaces. The organizations recognized on this list provide an average of $7,000 in adoption assistance and four weeks of paid leave. Financial reimbursement varies from $500 to $25,300, and paid leave from one to 18 weeks. Unpaid leave for adoption, beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act, ranges from one week to three years.

If you find that your company does not offer short term disability benefits if the parent is not giving birth to the child, you find ways to combine vacation, sick and the 12 weeks given by the Family and Medical Leave Act. It is important to educate yourself as much as possible when considering adoption leave and choose an option that works best for you and your family. If your company does not provide additional adoption benefits the FMLA is designed to help families and allow both mothers and fathers the appropriate time to care for their newborn child.

Sometimes families are hesitant to adopt because of the finances needed to fund adoption, and their uncertainty of adoption leave. Adoptions From The Heart is a great resource to learn about not only how to fund your adoption but also tax credits that come from adopting as well.

Dealing with Infertility and Contemplating Adoption Options

When people are faced with fertility problems, it can be difficult to decide what steps to take on the journey to growing your family. Whether you are exploring infertility treatments or creating an adoption plan, we gathered together some resources for you that will hopefully help!

Dealing with Infertility and

Accessing Infertility Insurance Benefits via Fertility Within Reach

There are many options infertility patients can pursue and resources they have access to. Some important things you need to keep in mind before gaining insurance benefits include:

  1. Consider all of your options in terms of accessing insurance benefits to treat infertility
  2. Think strategically, determine what your needs are, what works for you and make sure you are prepared
  3. Practice optimizing communication with employers and insurance companies

Gaining Insurance Benefits through your Insurer

  •  If you have been denied benefits before, you can file an appeal with your insurer
  • If that appeal is denied, you can request an external appeal through the state in which you live
    • With an external appeal, a medical professional who is not associated with your insurance company will review your claim
  • If your insurance company lacks infertility benefits entirely, they can request a predetermination of benefits from the insurer
    • This means they will acknowledge that you don’t have benefits, but that you would like them and hope for them to make an exception in your case and explain why
  • If patients believe the insurer has made an error in denying benefits based on reasoning that goes against the state’s insurance regulations, they can file an official complaint against the insurance company.

Gaining Insurance Benefits through your Employer

  • The human relations department can help you understand the benefits your employer offers and you can share with them information to help them realize while offering IVF insurance coverage is in their best interest.
  • HR can then discuss with an insurance broker if there are additional policy options that cover infertility treatments including IVF and prescriptions
  • With knowledge of the different options available, some employers may be willing to write a letter to your insurer on your behalf, pay for your care themselves, or change benefits offered to all of their employees.

With all of these options, it is important to think strategically about which option best suits you and prepare accordingly. Communication may come easier to some and not to others, but it is important to have the conversation and have research to support what you are explaining. Perhaps after going through infertility, treatments, and the potential struggle with insurance companies will lead you to considering other options to grow your family.

Adopting after Infertility

Adopting after Infertility

The decision to adopt does not happen overnight in most cases. For some, they have always prepared themselves for adoption and for others it can take time, a lot of time to transition from infertility treatments to adoption. There are a lot of questions that one will ask themselves when pursing fertility treatments and then when the decision is made to pursue adoption. Some of these questions don’t really have easy answers either. We pulled together some of the most common questions families ask and have some answers we hope will help!

How long do you pursue infertility treatments? How far do you allow technology to enter into the business of conceiving a child?

To answer these questions it really depends on the people who are asking. For some it might come down to money, if your insurer doesn’t cover treatments despite your attempts, like the ones we outlined earlier, it might be a deciding factor. An article on Adoption.com explained that although some people may view halting fertility treatments as “giving up,” others will see it as the push needed to move on to another chapter of life. When they stop fertility treatments and begin actively pursuing adoption, many couples report feeling unburdened, as if by focusing on adoption they are once again focused on the positive instead of constantly ruminating on the negative outcome of their fertility treatments.

Have you moved on from infertility treatments?

Adoption needs to be a decision that is agreed upon by all involved. Sometimes, people grieve and handle hard situations in different ways and that includes infertility. It is not uncommon for one person to be ready to move forward with adoption and their partner to remain a little uncertain. Everyone should be able to grieve and process the loss at their own pace. Coming to terms that one won’t have a biological child can be a huge loss to some, so it is important for time to be taken to really come to terms with that. If adoption is pursed when one partner isn’t ready, it can lead to complications in the process down the road and no one wants to feel pressured into make a decision that impacts the rest of their life. American Adoptions suggests that couples or singles who struggle to move on from infertility are encouraged to see an infertility counselor or a marriage and family counselor.

Do you and your spouse have similar adoption plans?

Similarly to the previous question we investigated, it is important to have similar adoption plans with your partner when moving forward with the process. Discussing aspects of your adoption plan, like the following, will help you to evaluate if you are on the same page.

  • Do you want to adopt domestically, internationally or through the state foster care system?
  • Do you want to adopt a newborn or an older child?
  • Do you want to adopt a baby of a particular gender?
  • Do you want to adopt a baby of a particular race or races?
  • Will you want to have contact with the birth parents, and how much?

Just like it can be helpful to speak with counselor after infertility, American Adoptions suggests speaking with an Adoption Specialist will help you and your spouse better understand certain aspects of the adoption plan and may help you ultimately agree to pursue the same adoption plan.

Are you financially prepared for adoption?

Saving Money for Adoption

Infertility treatments are expensive and fees for adopting can be too, so it is important to be prepared for that when choosing to purse adoption. Whether you are adopting domestically or internationally, there are expenses that should be carefully researched so you can create an adoption budget of sorts for your family. Take some time to research different opportunities that could help to offset the cost of adoption, including the federal tax credit and specific adoption grants and loans (Resources 4 Adoption is a great tool for this). If moving forward with adoption will put a strain on your finances, you might consider waiting until your situation is more stable. Also keep in mind that a lot families fund raise for their adoption, we even wrote a blog post about it.

How much do you tell your child about adoption and attempts to conceive? Will your adopted child see himself or herself as your second choice, as second best?

It is natural for adopted children to ask questions as they get older. They want to know about where they came from, why you wanted to adopt them. If struggling with infertility played a part in bringing your child into your life, it is okay to be honest and say so. As you are about to read, parents who build a family through adoption, and they will say they couldn’t imagine their lives without the children they adopted.

Adoptive Parents Weigh in on Adopting after Infertility

“When we started on the adoption journey, I questioned what type of love I would feel for my daughter. Would it be different from the love of my birth boys, would it be like loving the next door neighbor’s kids – what kind of love would it be?” After she adopted her daughter she found the answer to her questions. “Now I know what kind of love it is and I would shout it from the mountain tops to everyone if I could. It is the SAME kind of love that I experience with my boys. There is absolutely no difference!” Sue A.via Come Unity
“When we first started having trouble getting pregnant we said we would do ‘whatever it took’ to get pregnant. At that time we had no idea it would go on for 4 years and have such an effect on us – physically and mentally… We realized we had lost sight of our goal which was to parent a child, not necessarily become pregnant. When we decided to adopt it was like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. Our social worker also asked us if we had resolved our infertility issues. Although I don’t know if you ever resolve anything major like that, I had finally gotten to the point where I could say, “I’ll probably never get pregnant and that’s OK.” I remember how good it felt when I was able to actually say that out loud for the first time.” Cindy D. via Come Unity

Conclusion

The moral of the story is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to growing your family. You need to do what is right for you and find support along the way. Please feel free to leave questions or comments about this post and visit any of these support sites for more information.
http://www.resolve.org/support/support-group/support-groups-list.html
http://afth.org/community-education/support-groups/

The Effects of Attachment and Developmental Trauma and Ways to Heal the Adoptee

The Effects of Attachment and

With National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day approaching on June 19th, we thought it would be beneficial to write about the effects of an attachment disorder on an adopted child. Did you know that one out of fifty infants nationwide suffer abuse and/or neglect annually? Often these children are so hurt that it takes more than typical parenting to heal their wounds. Without the proper knowledge of what attachment and developmental trauma actually is, these children could go their whole lives with this unresolved suffering that can continue to increase exponentially with each generation.  With some understanding of attachment theory, the adoptive or pre-adoptive parent can help their child avoid getting an inappropriate label and/or the wrong type of treatment, which can in fact be harmful.

History of the Attachment & Trauma Network

The Attachment and Trauma Network (ATN) is the nation’s oldest parent-led organization that supports families of traumatized children.  This network was actually formed by three mothers who were all adoptive parents that were struggling to raise their children that had attachment disorders.  The ATN has grown internationally in the past 20 years.  The organization provides trainings at regional and national adoption conferences, operates online support groups, maintains database of worldwide therapists and is the premiere network for all families raising traumatized and attachment disordered children. Their mission is to promote healing of families through support, education and advocacy.

To shine light on the millions of children who are diagnosed with this disorder every year, the ATN along with supporters and partners designated June 19th as the second annual National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day.  A few highlights that occur on this special day are as followed.

  • Volunteers will host screenings of award winning films that show the impact of early trauma on children.
  • Volunteers will spread the word through social media with the hash tag, “#NATADAY2015”
  • Volunteers can send a personal letter to an elected official, pastor, school principal or other civic leader to advocate for this cause.
  • They will wear blue ribbons or string around their fingers to symbolize the ties of love and importance of building attachment to help traumatized children become more resilient.

NATA-Logo-header

RAD vs. Attachment Theory

Attachment between a parent and his or her child is the bond formed between them, and the foundation of all future development. If you are the parent of a child with an attachment disorder, you may be exhausted from trying to connect with your child. A child with insecure attachment or an attachment disorder lacks the skills for building meaningful relationships.

RAD

Attachment disorders come in degrees of severity, with the most severe being Reactive Attachment Disorder. Very few children, even those with RAD, have all of the symptoms. Since a number of the major psychiatric disorders have overlapping symptoms, you should take your child to a psychiatrist to get the full diagnosis, The Mayo Clinic best describes RAD as “A rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don’t establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers. A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. RAD develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met, and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurtling the ability to establish future relationships.”

Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners. John Bolby was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” The most important tenet of attachment theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for the child’s successful social and emotional development, and in particular for learning how to effectively regulate their feelings.

Signs of Attachment Issues in an Adoptee

Signs of Attachment Issues in an Adoptee

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t smile
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
  • Rejects your efforts to calm, soothe, and connect
  • Doesn’t seem to notice or care when you leave them alone
  • Cries inconsolably
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • Doesn’t follow you with his or her eyes
  • Isn’t interested in playing interactive games or playing with toys
  • Spend a lot of time rocking or comforting themselves
  • An aversion to touch and physical affection
  • Anger problems
  • Difficulty showing genuine care and affection
  • An underdeveloped conscience

This is a great chart created by an adoption training coordinator that outlines overlapping behavioral characteristics of an adoptee.

Therapy for Parenting a Child with a Attachment Disorder

Therapy for Parenting a Child with a

Parenting a child with insecure attachment or reactive attachment disorder can be exhausting and emotionally draining. With concerned effort, time and patience with your child, attachment disorders can be repaired. The key is to remain calm, yet firm as you interact with your child. This will teach your child that he or she is safe and can trust you. The most important thing you can do for your child is show them unconditional LOVE.

There are studies that do show specific healing treatments that will help your child get through the attachment disorder. Below are just a 6 different “needs that you will need to full fill for your child.

  1. They need to know that you are in control of your own feelings and will not, under any circumstances, attack them in any way
  2. They need to know that you are going to keep them safe in the world
  3. They need help managing their anger
  4. They need the opportunity to “tell you” about what happened to them.
  5. They need your reassurance that their body won’t be violated
  6. They need your reassurance that you will not abandon them, no matter what.

Treatment for reactive attachment disorder usually involves a combination of therapy, counseling, and parenting education. While there might be medication to treat depression and anxiety, there is no quick fix for treating attachment disorders like explained in the beginning of this bog. We have found in the research done that there are specific treatment plans that could help your child. See below for our top 5 plans that we believe are the best therapy for your adopted child.

  • Family therapy: Therapy often involves fun and rewarding activities that enhance the attachment bond as well as helping parents and other children in the family understand the symptoms of the disorder and effective interventions.
  • Individual psychological counseling: Therapists may also meet with the child individually or while the parents observe. This is designed to help your child directly with monitoring emotions and behavior.
  • Play therapy: Helps your child learn appropriate skills for interacting with peers and handling other social situations.
  • Special education services: Specifically designed programs within your child’s school can help him or her learn skills required for academic and social success, while addressing behavioral and emotional difficulties.
  • Canine Therapy: Canines are sometimes used as service animals for medical and emotional purposes but they also serve as therapy for adopted adolescents that have an attachment disorder.

Recommended Next Steps to Parenting an Adoptee with an Attachment Disorder

As many as 1.5 million children are diagnosed with an attachment disorder or development trauma each year and it is important to remember that early trauma can lead to a spectrum of conditions with unfortunate consequences for not only the adopted child but the families and society as a whole. Without the proper therapy and support of loved ones, the unresolved trauma of the adoptee can not only affect their emotional well being the rest of their lives but there is a huge physical effect as well. We mentioned in the above excerpts the therapy that we would suggest for your adoptee but there are other ways to help you through what might seem like the most difficult time of your life with your adopted child. Please take a look at this compiled list of attachment and trauma specialist throughout the country.