Second Parent Adoption: LGBTQ Edition

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What is Second Parent Adoption?

As defined by the Human Rights Campaign, “a second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights. In this way, the child comes to have two legal parents. It also typically grants adoptive parents the same rights as biological parents in custody and visitation matters.”

Very often people hear of second parent adoption when referring to step-parents adopting their spouse’s children from previous relationships. However, second parent adoption can occur for other parents as well.

What does Second Parent Adoption mean for LGBTQ couples?LGBT ISTOCK - LGBT FAMILY 2 (1) cropped

Second parent adoption gives the same parental rights to both parties in same-sex parenting. Take for example a lesbian couple. One is pregnant and gives birth to their child through a variety of avenues such as artificial insemination. The other does not have biological ties to the child in such a case, but through second parent adoption would have the rights of the biological parent.

The HRC explains… “for same-sex couples, it is often the case that there is only one legal parent even though two people may equally parent the child and think of themselves as co-parents. This is because the status as a legal parent is automatically conveyed to the parent who has a biological connection to a child, such as a biological mom or biological dad. Similarly, while some couples raise an adopted child together, only one of them may have officially become the adoptive parent because some agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting together but permit an LGBTQ individual to do so.”

According to FamilyEquality.org:

  • “Parents in legally recognized same-sex relationships can petition for stepparent adoption statewide; relies on access to marriage or relationship recognition in 50 states + D.C.”
  • “LGBT parents can petition for second-parent adoption statewide in 15 states + D.C.”

aa-male-gay-coupleWhile many second parent adoptions with same-sex parents involve a biological tie to the child, it is not always the case. Some states allow one parent to adopt a child they are not biologically related to. Then, the other parent can pursue second parent adoption. Other states allow same-sex couples to go through the process together from start to finish.

See more on standards for each state on this interactive map.

Second parent adoption allows both individuals the same rights as parents.

What is the Process for Second Parent Adoption?

Different states have different laws and procedures regarding second parent adoption. You can find out more about the process of your state here.

Is Second Parent Adoption Necessary or Fair for LGBTQ families?

Many people feel that their marriage/partnership and dedication to the child and home is what makes them a parent, not an official adoption. While many adoption agencies and professionals would agree this to be true, a second parent adoption can ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

In emergency cases that would leave the person who is the legal parent unable to care for the child, their partner would be able to continue caring for the child and retain legal rights as their parent. Second parent adoption also protects the rights of both partners in instances of separation or divorce. Or even the extreme case of death.

Adoptions From The Heart, a non-profit adoption agency headquartered in PA, saw this need first hand. Two same-sex couples hoping to adopt petitioned for the state to allow second parent adoption so that they could pursue a secure adoption through what was already an LGBTQ friendly agency. Of these families, one did end up losing a parent in a horrible plane crash. Thankfully, there were standards in place to keep the children safe with their other parent. You can read more about the couple and their journey here.

Although the label may feel unnecessary and even degrading, it can ensure the stability of your family and home. Second parent adoption is hopefully only the beginning for progressive parental rights for LGBTQ couples.

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Things Adoption Social Workers Wish Prospective Adoptive Parents Knew

SpringThe adoption process is full of highs and lows as well as paperwork and classes and then of course the waiting. At times, things may feel overwhelming or you may be struggling with all the unknowns. We have asked several social workers to share what they wished prospective adoptive parents knew throughout each phase of the process.

 

  • Pre-match

Your social worker is always here for you! Don’t be afraid to check-in, ask for updates or even request a pep talk once in a while during your wait.

Birthparents are not what you see on TV. They are not irresponsible, selfish, inappropriate individuals. They are loving peopleselflessly putting their child’s needs first.

Educate your family and friends on positive adoption language and open adoption. Your child need  a support system of accepting family and friends who are informed about adoption.

Even though we cannot predict how long a family will wait, we do understand how hard an unbearable the wait can be for prospective adoptive parents.

It can be hard for prospective adoptive parents not to take it personally when their profile isn’t selected. Remember that women choose profiles for such very different reasons and one day an expecting parent will look at your profile and have that special connection too.

Adoption is a leap. Trust your social worker.

This is an incredible journey with many twists and turns. Embrace every part of the experience because it will be the foundation of the story of how you became a family.

You will be matched with the child that is truly meant for you.

Fully open adoptions are becoming the new normal and more commonly requested by expecting parents. Dive into what fears may be holding you back educate yourself of the benefits as well as the challenges about open adoption. It is important to be honest with the level of openness that you are really comfortable with.

We are rooting for you and are just as thrilled to tell you that you have been matched as you are to hear it!

Make sure to focus on all the information discussed during the classes and the education courses and not just the end goal of having a baby. A lot of times, once families do get the call and are placed, they look back and wished they had really listened.

  • Time of Match and/or Placement

While it is an exciting time for you, it is an incredibly sad and heartbreaking time for the birth parents. Respect their time to make sure adoption is the right decision, refrain from celebrating with a baby shower or “brother/sister” language until after the revocation period has passed.

The excepting parents are just as nervous to meet you. They think you will not like them or judge them. It’s funny how similar fears can be.

There are certain aspects of the delivery, health, hospital experience etc. completely out of everyone’s control. Patience, a healthy attitude and your support system will help you get through it.

Become familiar with the phrase “Cautions Optimism.”

Respect the birth parent’s time in the hospital – this is their time with the baby, you will get a lifetime.

Get to know the expecting/birth parents as best as you can as this may be the only experience you have to meet them and you will want to remember as much as possible to pass along to your child one day.

Be careful not to make promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep. The excitement of being matched may cause you to want to agree to things you weren’t initially open to. Make sure this doesn’t happen! If an expecting/birth parent asks you for something you are unsure about, just say that it is something worth considering and that you’d like some time to think it over. Lean on your social worker to help you sort out your feelings.

This is more than just the day they meet the baby that may become their child, but it’s also the beginning of their journey with their child’s birth parents. These are the beginning moments that they will be able to tell their children about and these are the stories their children will love to hear over and over again.

Medical records take time to retrieve. We cannot dictate how quickly a hospital or doctor’s office will respond to our request.

Respect the wishes of the expecting parents. Even though this is an amazing and wonderful time for your, remember that the birth parents are struggling with one of the hardest decision of their lives.

We cannot force a woman to get prenatal care. We strongly encourage it and offer to help in any way we can however there could be a variety of reasons she chooses not to.

Remember, remember, remember it is not yet your son or daughter until after the revocation period is complete. Shower the child with love and remind yourself each day that his or her birth parents are struggling with the life-long decision of placing or parenting and should not be shamed or made out to be a villain no matter what they decide in the end. Either way, they will be grateful that you were there to love and care for their baby.

  • Post Placement and for Years to Come

Birth parents never forget about their child, even if they don’t follow up with visits or future contact. Adoptive parents should remember this when approaching their child’s story and their updates for their child’s birth parents.

Birth parents should not be forgotten. They should always be a part of your story and deserve your life long respect. Do not minimize their role in your family.

Do not go back on your promises of updates and visits. We have seen the pain caused to birth parents when families do not keep their promises and it can be unbearable and cause doubts. Do what you say! It’s not only a commitment to your child’s birth parents but also a commitment to your child.

Be open with your child and ready to discuss their circumstances surrounding their adoption. If you would like help, don’t hesitate to call your social worker.

Leave space for your child to have a full range of emotions about their adoption story. When a child shares “big feelings”, even the negative ones, don’t override those feelings with a rainbow and unicorn speech about adoption. Adoption is love but it’s also loss and your child needs to feel comfortable speaking with you about ALL their feelings.

Do not talk negatively about your child’s birth parents. This is your child’s blood. Without them, you would not be a parent. Explain things in a way that shows that even through struggles, your child’s birth parents are important to you.

Be honest and loving. Don’t get tripped up on the hard questions. Your child deserves the truth and deserves to explore their story in their time and own way.

Open adoption is about removing the fear and stigma  and providing children with their identity and history. Base your decisions about the open adoption journey in hope and positivity rather than fear.

A child should not have fear that they will hurt your feelings by asking about their adoption story or birth family. Start the discussion early and explore their thoughts with an open heart and open mind.

It’s helpful to establish friendships along the way with people who have adopted.

If you have adopted transracially, do not be scared to ask questions. Your child deserves to know that you are doing everything you can to understand the challenges a child of transracial adoption may face.

Better your child’s experience by challenging yourself to really seek out other adoptee’s points of view. Unless you have been adopted, you cannot fully understand your child’s experience and so listening to many other adoptee’s experiences may give you a better understanding.

Book Reviews September 2016

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.
Separated Lives by Lynn Assimacopoulos – Fans of genealogy may find this book very intriguing. This book is a short glimpse into how Lynn helped her sons friend track down his birth parents through perseverance and the internet. With the help of Google and several genealogy sites and other genealogy hobbyists, Lynn was able to track down Ryan’s birth parents.

Short, sweet and to the to the point this is an interesting story of how one person can use the internet to help someone find the separate pieces of their lives and put themselves back together. Amazon.com price $9.00 (pb)

Megan’s Birthday Tree: A Story about Open Adoption by Laurie Lears -Many adoptee’s wonder about their adoption, their past, their birth parents and why they were placed for adoption.  Open adoption helps to answer those questions for families and adopted children by giving them access to their birth parents.  In this story Megan loves looking through the letters she gets from her birth mother and gets excited when she receives a picture every year of her birth mother standing next to a tree she planted when Megan was born.  Megan loves to see the tree grow.  When she learns her birth mother is moving she is scared that her birth mother will forget her.

This story is sweet and honest.  The fears that Megan shares are real and they are handled very well in this story.  In the end Megan’s birth mother assures her that she could never forget her that she is very important to her.  Then she shows her that she had dug up the birthday tree to take it to her new home.  This book shows how important open adoption can be to help eliminate children’s fears and answer their questions. Nice story. amazon.com as low as $.01 (HC used) kindle price $6.99

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Letters to their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon –   Uplifting letters from authors to their younger selves.  These letters cover everything from self-acceptance, keep pursuing your dream because it will happen, to stop being a bully and hanging out in parks at night.  For every kid who thought they were weird, different or didn’t know where they fit in this shows that it does indeed get better. I also like the idea of writing to yourself, one of the authors actually wrote a letter to his older self when he was 13 then stumbled upon it later and used it when writing his piece in this book.  What an amazing find and what a great idea.  To see where you are in 10-20-30 years and look back on what you thought was important to ask at that time.   amazon.com price $10.99 (pb) Kindle price $6.99

 

Celebrities Adopt: Inspirational Quotes About Adoption

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” – Oprah Winfrey

“I have a lot of respect for my birth mother. I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give what she felt was a better chance.” – Faith Hill

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“We look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It was not done lightly on either side.” – Jamie Lee Curtis

“They’re as much my blood as I am theirs.” – Brad Pitt

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“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” – Valerie Harper

“You don’t have to give birth to someone to have a family. We’re all family – an extended family.” – Sandra Bullock

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“I don’t think of them as adopted – they’re our children. Deb and I are believers in…I suppose you call it destiny. We feel things happen the way they are meant to. Obviously, biologically wasn’t the way we were meant to have children. Now as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but everyone’s in the right place with the right people.” – Hugh Jackman

Adoption and Back to School

Back to school means new friends, fun projects, and of course lots of learning. Despite the excitement of this time of year, it can also be a nerve racking one for adoptees and their parents. If your child is old enough to understand the concept of adoption and its role in their life, you might start to wonder if and how to go about discussing adoption with their teachers and classmates.

“Will my child be made fun of?”

“What if there is a family tree project in history class?”

“Will their teachers understand how to be inclusive to all types of families?”

“How will my child react if his or her friends and teachers don’t seem accepting or understanding of adoption?”

These are all questions you may be asking yourself. However, there are many great resources and ideas for you and your child to utilize. After all, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible so they can learn as effectively as possible.

Prepare your child

Talking with your child is the first step you should take in preparing them for back to school. Answer any questions they may have themselves and then discuss possible questions others may ask them. The answers you arm your child with depend on what makes sense for your family, but below are some questions you can expect other kids will ask…

  • “Who are your real parents?”
  • “Why did your real parents give you away?”
  • “Where did you come from?”
  • “Why is your skin a different color that your mom’s?”
  • “Do the parents you have now love you like my mom and dad love me?”

These questions can be tough to answer even with positive adoption language. With unknowing children, it can be even worse. Prepare your child for what they may hear and how they can answer when they want, in a way they are comfortable answering.

Connect with their teacher

The first thing you can ask your child’s teacher for is a curriculum and/or summaries of lesson plans. Let the teacher know your family’s situation and go over the planned classwork with them. If and when you see potentially exclusive lessons to “traditional” families, offer up some ideas to welcome everyone, including your little one.

Some projects you may see in the classroom to discuss with your child’s teacher are…

  • Family tree
  • Timeline projects
  • English or Art biography assignments that involve
    • Illustrating your family
    • Writing a story about your family
    • Etc.

Click here to find more adoption friendly versions of these long held school projects.

You may also consider speaking with your social worker or attorney on educational materials you can provide to your child’s teachers and administrative staff.

Get involved in the classroom

Offer your personal experience and expertise and get involved in the classroom. Many teachers will have parents come in as a guest for story time. Offer your time and read an adoption related story. Check out some great ones here. Contribute to your child’s career day by asking your social worker or attorney to come in and talk about adoption and what they do to build beautiful families like your own!

Talk with other parents

Take time to introduce yourself to other parents in your child’s class. If and when you feel comfortable telling them your experience with adoption, be willing to tell them more about adoption in general and answer questions they may have. If the parents know and understand about adoption, it will glean a positive influence on their children.

When you’ve found other parents who are understanding to your family dynamic, try setting up play dates. Your child can make a new friend and you can have the peace of mind knowing the family will make sure both children are as comfortable as possible!

Paint a picture for other parents. They may be step parents, single parents, an interracial couple, have multiple religions in their family, or other non-traditional dynamics. Explain that adoption is just like their family. It’s “non-traditional,” but it’s just another way to build a wonderful family in a loving and happy home.

Celebrate adoption!

Schools are often looking for volunteer and community service opportunities for students, their families, and faculty. Suggest some local events and fundraisers through adoption agencies like the Adoptions From The Heart Paper Heart Project, or Find Her Footing 5K , which includes a kids dash!

You may also want to talk to your child’s teacher about celebrating your little one’s adoption day at school, similar to a birthday. Offer to come in and explain to the class what an adoption day is and bring in a special treat.

Understanding and celebrating others begins with you and your child. Encourage your child to be welcoming to all of their classmates and open to all different types of people, just as they hope their classmates will accept them.

 

No matter what steps you may take to help your child with back to school, the most important aspect is their ability to learn and grow. Make sure to check in with your little one and ask about their day and what they learned. School can be tough for any child. Parenting a child having school difficulties isn’t easy either. Reach out to your agency and social worker for more resources and specific thoughts on how to help your child thrive in school.

Things Adoption Social Workers Want Expecting Parents to Know

SpringSometimes, the decision to place your baby for adoption can feel lonely. Even if you have friends and family who are supportive of your decision, it still may be hard for them to truly understand what you are going through. We asked our social workers what are some of the most important things they want expecting parents who are considering adoption to know during the different steps of the adoption process.

  • When Considering Adoption

You social worker is your advocate. They are there to help you make the decision you think is best, not to force your decision in any way.

Find the person in your life to lean on who will support you no matter what decision you make. This person may be a family member, best friend, therapist, coworker, or something else. You may need to “float” the idea of adoption first to determine their level of support about adoption before disclosing your plan but it is important to find support during this difficult time.

This is not a decision that you will enter into lightly. It is a life changing decision not only for your baby but also for you.

We know this is the hardest decision you will ever make.

You can be a part of your child’s life through open adoption. There are even some states that have enacted laws to make future contact agreements legally enforceable.

Our services to you cost nothing. We are here to help you any way we can.

No matter what you decide, whether it be to parent or to place for adoption, we understand and support your decision.

This is entirely your decision, don’t ever feel pressures in your decision by anyone. We are here to help and support you any way we can.

This will be such a bittersweet decision for you as the pain of letting go and the comfort in knowing your child has all you hoped for battle against one another.

Openness is a way to stay in touch with your child, see how they are growing up and even visit with them and make a connection throughout their childhood.

Putting your child’s needs before yours makes you selfless, not selfish.

Establish openness expectations if you are ready for that. That way a social worker can show you families that have similar openness hopes.

You can call us when you are 3 months pregnant, 8 months pregnant, at the hospital after delivering your baby, or even weeks or months later when you are thinking that adoption might be the best option.

We really do care about you and want to help you when you are struggling.

  • Time of Placement

Take it one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Each day will get just a little bit easier, but some days might feel especially difficult. During those times, rely on your support system and your social worker.

You control the hospital experience. This is your time to be with your baby. Your child won’t be taken from your arms as soon as you deliver. Feel free to spend all the time you want with your child.

You will find that you are often much stronger than you think and have much more courage than you will ever know until you are faced with a tremendously difficult decision.

Adoptive parents are filled with love, gratitude and ultimate respect for you.

It does get easier. Lean on us, that’s what we are here for.

Ask your social worker for resources to be able to connect with other birthmothers. They are the only ones who truly know and fully understand what you are going through and their support can be invaluable.

You have just made the ultimate sacrifice for the love of your child.

Even if you made a hospital plan, emotions and circumstances change and that’s ok. If you need time alone or more time with your baby or more or less time with the prospective adoptive family, just let us know. We are here to advocate for you and what you want.

Your child will always know that you wanted what was best for them.

It is ok if you change your mind and decide to parent. You are the only person who can decide what is best for you and the baby. Talk with your social worker. And although you may be worried about hurting the prospective adoptive parent’s feelings, you need to make this life-long decision for yourself. Their social worker will be there for them too. You don’t want to have regrets for not speaking up.

  •  Many Years After Placement

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your child and his or her adoptive parents even if it has been a long time since you’ve last reached out. It is never too late to reach out!

We are always available. We can’t help you if you don’t reach out.

It is ok to be sad, it doesn’t mean you made the wrong decision it means you miss your child and that’s perfectly normal. The pain will often never disappear but does get better over time. There will be more and more “good” days as time passes but you will still have “bad” days too. Find your release (journaling, talking with friends, going through photos and updates) to help you get through them.

We still think of you. We are so proud of you as you grow and continue to reach your goals in life.

We are here for you to help you even years after placement. Anytime you want to know how your child is doing or would like to have pictures that the agency has held for you, just call us.

Write letters to your child telling him or her how you feel and how much you love them. It is important for your child to hear from you that you love them and think about them all the time and not just having their adoptive parents tell them that you do. Also send us any photos of you and other family members so that we can share them with your child.

Keep in contact with us and send us any updated contact information (phone and address) so that we can continue to update you about your child.

If now years later you have decided that you would like to receive pictures and updates, don’t hesitate to reach out to your social worker.

If you are struggling in any way in your open adoption relationship, contact us. We want to help you.

Finding the Best Attorney for your Adoption Journey

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

What is the attorney’s role in adoption?

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

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How can prospective adoptive parents find an attorney?

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

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

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

 

What should you look for in a good attorney?

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Anything else?

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

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