How to Make a Smooth Transition When Adopting an Older Child

adoptions_logo_icon_il [PURPLE]Adopting an older child can definitely has its own blessings and challenges than compared to infant adoption. Many adoptive parents choose to adopt older children for many different reasons. Some may feel that older children are often forgotten about and there is a greater need to find these children permanent homes or because it simply fits their family dynamic better. Adopting an older child is considered to be when a family adopts at the age of three and over.

Every child that is adopted comes with a past, no matter what age they are adopted. However, the older a child is, the more history they bring. Older children will probably have a strong recollection of their history – whether it was having lived in foster care, orphanages, or with birth parents. Their pre-adoptive experiences could leave the child with some unresolved emotional issues. These could include the loss of a birth family or siblings, change in culture and religion, or the effect of witnessing violence, substance abuse, etc. You may find that transitioning with older children is a little more difficult. Below are some really great tips to making a smooth transition when brining an older child into your family.

5 Tips for a Smooth Transition:

Be prepared:

Like infant adoption, it is equally important that you and your family are prepared. There are a number of ways to do so. Immerse yourself in the process. You can read books, attend classes, and educate yourself on the child’s background in which they are coming from like their religion, heritage, and culture. A really great way to learn about what to expect when bringing your child home is by attending classes. Adoptions From The Heart offers a variety of classes for pre adoptive parents in many different locations along the east coast. To find a class offered at an office near you visit the AFTH calendar of events: Another great way is to connect with a child therapist in your so you have a local resource that can help you and especially your child with the transition.

Here is a list of great resources for adopting and older child:

  • Adopting the Older Child- By Claudia Jewett
  • Attaching in Adoption – By Deborah Gray
  • Parenting the Hurt Child – Gregory Peck
  • “What we wish we would have known” by Judy and Sara Myerson

Be patient:

One of the most difficult aspects of parenting an older child is the patience it takes for a mutually satisfying attachment to occur. It is important to not overwhelm your child. It is true that it may take your child a good amount of time until he/she feels like a part of your family. The time cannot be predicted and truly depends on the child, and the situation that occurred before the adoption. It is very helpful if you understand your child’s pre-placement story and are prepared to encounter their child’s stories from before. For example, in the child’s pre-placement environment they might have all eaten dinner in front of the TV. If your family eats together around the table, it may be an adjustment that has to be made. Having patience and understanding the differences will help you explain how your family operates. Your child could also have many difficult questions regarding their adoption. Visit our blog and read about how to answers some of the common questions.

The Honey Moon Phase:

Just like newlyweds, your child and family could experience a “Honeymoon Phase.” When the child comes home he/she may be shy and reserved, or happy and excited. For the weeks or months following placement, it is common for the child to be on their best behavior, known as the “honeymoon stage.” As the family becomes more comfortable with one another, it is common for the child to start testing boundaries. This can all stem from the grief of the loss of old traditions, family dynamic etc. It is important to be aware of this stage, so that you and your family can prepare. In some cases, therapy could be recommended. Although the honeymoon stage can be a bit scary sounding, grief is generally a positive sign. It shows that the child was able to form a strong attachment to the life that they had before the adoption, and that they will be able to form an attachment again, to their new family.

Show How Much You Care:

While telling your child how much they mean to you is important, showing them how much you care can go a long way. There are many things that you can do to show that you care about your child such as:

  • Cooking their favorite dinner: especially if they have a different culture. Preserving a piece of the child’s previous life can really help make the transition smoother
  •   Display art projects or good test grades on the fridge
  •   Create family memories – take the time to do an activity that the child loves to do. This could be going to a sporting event, going to the park, walking the dog etc.
  • Be open to incorporating some of the child’s traditions, wishes, and rituals into your family’s life

Set Limits:

It’s ok to set limits. Sometimes new adoptive parents are afraid to say “no” to their child because they feel like so much has been taken from them already. Discipline does not mean punishment. It is important to set boundaries to make a smooth transition. Boundaries will give your child responsibility and accountability, which will result in providing structure and stability. To give responsibly you could assign your children chores, set a bed time or a designated time after school for homework.

The best thing to do when adopting an older child is to educate yourself. Books are a great way to learn about not only adopting an older child, but the adoption process in general. It is also beneficial to surround your family with others who have gone through the adoption process as well. Here you will find an instant support group where you will be able to find answers to questions that you may have from families who have first hand experience with adoption, and adopting an older child.

Despite the challenges that stem from adopting and older child, the process can be deeply rewarding for families that have realistic expectations. Adopting older children has many benefits and it is another wonderful way to build and grow your family.

April Book Reviews 2015

2015 afth book reviews

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.

conquering chaosConquering Chaos by Catelynn Lowell & Tyler Baltierra – I loved Catelynn and Tyler’s very real story of adoption on MTV.  It wasn’t sugar coated, you saw the pain. the hardship, and the strength it took to place their baby for adoption.  This book covers their earlier years and a little of the adoption journey.

Tyler definitely doesn’t hold any punches and tells things like it is.  Their childhood was not all sunshine and roses and their story could have turned out very differently.  The pregnancy seems to have been the wake up call they both needed to get their lives on a different path and break the cycle of addiction, teen parenting and dysfunction in their families.

With the support of only one parent each and the other set actively fighting against them, they managed to make it through a very difficult decision and seem to have gone on to help others.  They give speeches about their struggles and their time on MTV has helped bring new awareness to adoption, the adoption process and how it is not like it was years ago.  It also helps to dispel a lot of the myths surrounding adoption and the rosy or sometimes downright nightmarish way adoption can often be portrayed in film and on tv.

I liked this book but I wish it had been more.  While it gives a good insight and perspective into the lives of birth parents and reasons why they made the decision they did it didn’t give me enough about what has gone on since.  Yes they finished high school but that’s about all I know.  I wish it had given me more on how they have pulled themselves out of the situations they were in.  Did they go to college? I know they aren’t married yet are having an other baby, how long has it been since they placed their daughter for adoption?

I also found the book to be a bit repetitive in places.  Each chapter has an introduction, the story from both Catelynn and Tylers perspectives and then a conclusion which is just a summary of everything that was just said which could have been eliminated and made the book flow a little better. All in all though I think that this is a good read for anyone who feels they are stuck having to repeat the past or is starting to notice that they are on their way to repeating a cycle in their family that has been passed down for generations.  There is hope, there is a way out.  It may not be easy, it may not feel comfortable but it can happen. amazon.com price $15.47 (HC) kindle price $9.99

garbage bag kidsThe Garbage Bag Kids by Virginia Jeffers – Virginia Jeffers has been a foster parent for over 30 years.  These are some of the stories of the children she has taken in and helped to heal.  While not every story has an ending that is known Virginia did the best she could in the time she had to help teach those children in her care that there is love in the world and they are worthy of it.

Each story is deeply touching, and if you ever wondering how or why people choose to become Foster Parents these stories will give you a glimpse.  The abused, neglected, and often forgotten children whose lives are caught up in the foster care system need people like Virginia and her husband who are willing to open their homes and their hearts, even if its just for a short time to these children in need.

No child should have to experience the pain of having to pack their things in a hurry (often in garbage bags because there aren’t suitcases available) be escorted by strangers to a new place and told that you are going to stay with these people for an indefinite period of time, yet this happens every day in the US. At least there are people out there who try to help these scared children find light and love in a world that hasn’t been so great to them so far.   amazon.com price $7.16 (PB)

wonton and chopstickWon Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw -This is a fun little book about Won Ton the cat whose owner brings a puppy, Chopstick, home. Won Ton is not thrilled at all with the new addition and feels very displaced by his arrival.  He finally realizes that they have some things in common and that maybe this dog isn’t so bad.

This book is the 2nd in the Won Ton series and is written in Haiku. I’m not quite sure why this book was listed under adoption other than it does explore the feelings of getting a new sibling and how siblings don’t always look the same.  This may be a good book for families adopting for the second time.   amazon  price $13.49 (HC) Kindle edition $9.99

my family your familyMy Family, Your Family (Cloverleaf Books TM – Alike and Different) by Lisa Bullard – Filled with fun illustrations and talking points on each page, this book discusses different types of families and how not all families look the same.  Some have kids, some don’t, some are divorced and have step- parents and step-siblings, some children are adopted and don’t look like their parents, some have 2 dads, some are bi-racial, some are loud, some are quiet.  No matter what type of family you have there is something special about yours.

This is a great way to help children understand the wonderful diversity we have in the world and the different ways families are created and the different ways they live.  One isn’t better than the other they are just different.  Amazon.com price: $6.99 (PB) kindle edition $5.59

Another Perspective of Open Adoption: How Birth Grandparents Stay Involved and Build a Relationship

The popular news column, “Dear Abby,” featured a post by a caring grandmother that read:

Dear Abby: My teenage daughter will be giving birth soon, and she has decided to place her baby for adoption. I have told her that whatever she decides, I will support her decision. Here is the difficult part: This will still be my biological grandchild. When this beautiful child is lovingly handed over to the adoptive parents, I will be losing a grandchild. I am already in mourning. Are there other grandparents out there who are going — or have gone — through this and how are they coping? I already see a therapist, but I would still like to know how others are coping. — Un-grandparent in Ohio

Dear Un-grandparent: I wish you had told me more about the kind of adoption your daughter has chosen for her baby. If it is an open adoption in which she will be kept informed about the child’s milestones and progress, ask the adoptive couple if they would welcome you as an “extra” grandparent for the child. If I hear from others who have gone through this process, I will let you know, because I’m sure they will write to help you through your heartache.

This exchange inspired the following blog post about open adoption, adoptive families and birth grandparent’s involvement in life post placement.

Birth Grandparents and Open Adoption

The Early Stages of the Adoption Plan

Answers to Some of the Tough Questions

Learning of your child’s choice to make an adoption plan might leave you wanting to ask a lot of questions, here are some common questions and answers that other people in a similar position had about what adoption meant for them as grandparents.

Will I still be a grandparent if my child creates an adoption plan?

• What does being a grandparent mean to you?
• Does this vision fit with your child and the adoptive family’s vision?
• How do you see yourself being involved in an ongoing relationship with your birth grandchild?

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Your grandchild will always be a part of your life regardless of whether your child chooses to parent or place the child with an adoptive family and open adoption gives you the option to send updates and be updated on their life.

Can my child handle the emotional strain of making an adoption plan?

• How has your child coped with grief and loss in the past?
• How have you managed loss in your own life?
• Are you in some ways blaming yourself for your child’s current circumstances?
• What family rituals are in place to commemorate losses?

5
The life experiences of your child may be very different from your own. It is important to step back and realize that this will be one of the biggest and most difficult first decisions as a parent that your child will make. They need to decide what the best thing will be for their child.

How can I best demonstrate my love and understanding for my child?

• How can you support your child no matter their decision?
• What can you do to prepare yourself for this life change?
• What role does your child want you to play while they are contemplating their decision?
• What expectations does your child have of you should they choose to parent or plan an adoption?

5
Give yourself permission to grieve the upcoming changes in the life of your child, no matter their choice. Ask for help if you need it and if you don’t know what to say sometimes just being there shows you care. Birth grandparents usually have some kind of influence the birth parents’ decision to parent, abort or place the child for adoption. It is important to not to have your wishes pressure or sway your child during the decision making process. They might be make a different choice than you believe to be right, but in the end it is their decision and having you, the grandparent, as a support system for them is what they need most.

How can I stay involved with my birth grandchild and their adoptive parents after placement?

“We have experienced parenting, so we know what we’ll miss, whereas a young birth mom doesn’t always realize this,” said Janice Widner, whose daughter placed a child for adoption years ago, in a Chicago Tribune article. “So for birth grandparents, adoption can be harder emotionally.” It is not uncommon for birth grandparents to feel less important in the adoption process because the birthparent’s have the final say when it comes to open adoption. Keep in mind that this is your grandchild and that is different than being a parent again, help and support your child make the best decision for their life.

Birth Grandmother with grandchildren
If your child is placing through open adoption, it might be a good idea to have a conversation with your child about your desire to be a part of your grandchild’s life after placement. You and your child could approach the adoptive parents and ask them how they feel about grandparent involvement in the child’s life as well and agree upon something that works for everyone involved. One grateful birth grandmother responded to the Dear Abby post explaining that each summer the adoption agency her daughter and son-in-law placed through sponsors a picnic that is attended by birth and adoptive parents as well as grandparents, other family members and of course the adopted child. Adoptions From The Heart hosts a picnic just like this one in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Connecticut.

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Other ideas of ways to stay involved and connected from actual adoptive parents who have maintained relationships with their child’s birth grandparents include:
• Crochet a baby blanket, sew a quilt or if you aren’t crafty head to a nearby store and purchase a baby blanket.
• A photo album, collage, or just pictures of the baby’s birth parents as they were growing up. It will be wonderful for your grandchild to see themselves in their birthparent’s at different ages and adoptive parents like to have photos of other members of their child’s birth family!
• A family tree and compete medical history from your perspective would be an invaluable gift because birth parents don’t always know as many ins and outs as you might.
• Write letters. Some adoptive parents keep scrapbooks or binders with letters, cards and items from birth families for their children
• We keep in touch via email and visits; sometimes we meet halfway in between our homes to go to the zoo or aquarium.

Building a Relationship to Last a Lifetime

Having a relationship with a grandchild is a desire for some birth grandparents and building that relationship through honest communication with birth parents and adoptive parents can help make that possible. Whether it is letting the adoptive family know of your love and support through letters and visits, or establishing a valued friendship by going the extra mile, it might just make all the difference.

Similar Building Beautiful Families Blog Posts:

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/bith-grandparents-how-can-i-stay-involved

Outside Resources:

http://withlove-birthgrandma.blogspot.com/
http://oliveyouforever2011.blogspot.com/
http://birth-grandma.blogspot.com/

Adopting as an LGBT, The Growth of Change From Past to Present

family is a family quote

There is always a lot of controversy and different opinions that get riled up when talking about LGBT couples and singles adopting.  Although society does form their own opinions, statistics show we have made a huge jump in progress from where our country was decades ago in allowing LGBT couples to adopt. Did you know that every state except Florida permits SINGLE gay and lesbian parents to adopt? And although the other states permit the LGBT community to adopt as singles, many of those same states ban LGBT couples from adopting. Confusing right?  In this article, we hope to better clarify the different state-to-state laws and demonstrate the progress we have made as a nation opening up the world of adoption to the LGBT community.

 The Change of Laws from Past to Present

Historically, gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual persons have been marginalized and punished by the judicial systems for expressing their sexuality. Within the past several decades, there has been a global movement toward greater visibility and increased civil rights for those considered sexual minorities. One of the most controversial issues around gay and lesbian parenthood has been the fight for equal adoption rights. Did you know in the past decade the number of LGBT individuals adopting children has nearly TRIPLED?

Statistics and Facts about LGBT Adoption and Parenting

Lesbian and Gay Parenting, a publication of the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that there is no credible research suggesting that lesbians or gay men are any less adept at parenting than heterosexuals. Research studies from the APA’s 2004 Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation, Parents and Children reported that lesbians and gay men may have superior parenting skills to their matched heterosexual peers, and that they are just as likely as non-homosexual parents to meet the emotional, physical, and psychological needs of their children. So why does a large portion of a society frown upon LGBT couples parenting? The beliefs held generally in society about the LGBT community and parenthood are often not based in personal experience but are frequently culturally transmitted based on stereotypes of what a family should look like.

Below are just a few more positive facts about LGBT adoptions and parenting taken from http://gayadoption.org/facts-supporting-gay-adoption/

  • Approximately 2 million LGBT people are interested in adopting.
  • An estimated 65k adopted children are living with same sex / gay parents.
  • LGBT adoptive parents represent 1 in 6 single parents raising children.
  • There are 5 states that represent the top percentages of LGBT parents
    • Washington DC: 28.6%,
    • Massachusetts 16.4%,
    • California 9.8%
    • New Mexico 9%,
    • Alaska 8.6%.
  • LGBT are raising 4% of all adopted children in the United States.
  • Gays and Lesbians adopt at a slightly higher rate than married heterosexual couples. The racial/ethnic breakdown of children adopting by same-sex couples is 53% White, 14% African-American, 18% Hispanic/Latino, and 11% Asian/Pacific Islander.
  • Gallup poll from May 2014 found 63% of respondents believed same-sex couples should have the legal right to adopt a child!

Different Types of LGBT adoption

LGBT couple

Joint LGBT Adoption

69% of the LGBT population lives in states where LGBT parents can petition for joint adoption statewide. A joint adoption is when a LGBT couple adopts a child who was not previously the legal child of either member of the couple.  After the adoption, the child has two legal parents. Joint adoptions by LGBT couples are tied to whether the couple has a legal status like a civil union or marriage.

Second Parent/ Stepparent Adoption

Second parent adoption, also known as co-parent adoptions, refer to a legal process in which a child who is already the child of one member of an unmarried LGBT couple is adopted either through a joint petition by both members of the couple or through an individual petition by the member of the couple who is not yet the child’s parent. After the adoption, the child has two legal parents.

Courts allow the same principles to apply to same-sex couples: just as in a stepparent adoption, the non-legal parent would petition to be a parent, and when that petition was granted, the child had two legal parents — the birth parent or initial adoptive parent, and the second adopting parent.

 Support Groups

 https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/tips-for-same-sex-couples-looking-into-adoption/

 Getting support from a group of like-minded individuals can be very beneficial for same-sex couples looking to adopt. The adoption process and post-adoption placement can be overwhelming. Having a support system made up of individuals who have been through the process before can be very helpful. You can check for support groups run by local adoption agencies, LGBT advocacy groups, and fertility clinics. Support groups and events for your children when they get older can also be very beneficial. You should also consider joining a support group that includes same-sex couples with children so that your child knows that he or she is not the only one who has two moms or two dads and has other families to identify with.

To view a complete list of organizations providing social activities, meeting groups, events and gatherings for LGBT parents and children click here. http://www.gayparentmag.com/support-groups

See below for just a few of the many organizations that are working hard to end discrimination against LGBT marriage and adoption all together.

Birthmother Support Quote

Last Minute Thought

Just keep in mind, whether you are a member of the LGBT who is looking to adopt or an expecting parent looking for that “perfect” family, there are not statistics out there that show that LGBT parents are any less suited to parent that their heterosexual counterparts. Sexual orientation does not affect one’s ability to parent.

Looking to adopt? Read more about some of our LGBT singles and couples that are waiting to adopt, check out our website where you can read more into their profile books and learn about their journey and how they ended up deciding to adopt.  www.afth.org/meet-our-families

A teacher’s Guide to Introducing Adoption in to the Classroom in 4 Easy Steps!

2 different kinds of strengthThe start of a new school year means many different things for families, like new classmates, new teachers, lunches, hectic schedules, homework assignments and school projects. With all of these changes, some adoptive parents can also experience a little concern when sending their child off to school. Sometimes children are given assignments that require personal information, such as family tree projects, tracing your family heritage, bringing in baby pictures, or timeline projects. For an adopted child, many of these common school assignments may cause them to feel left out and uncomfortable. Many adoptive parents have given their children the tools at home to answer difficult questions about adoption, but as teachers it is equally as important to educate the entire class on adoption.

Before you start: 

Before you start introducing adoption into the classroom, it is important that you, as a teacher, understand positive adoption language. As many of us know, while words not only convey facts, they can transmit negative feelings as well.

Here are 3 positive adoption language terms:

  • Birthparent, Birthmother or Birthfather – rather than “real mom or dad”
  • Adoption plan- instead of “give up” or “put up for adoption”
  • Was adopted – rather than “is adopted”

For more information on Positive Adoption Language visit the AFTH Blog !

Now that you understand adoption language, here are some easy steps to incorporating adoption into your classroom! November is National Adoption Month, making this a great way to incorporate adoption discussions into the beginning of your school-year!

4 EASY STEPS TO INCORPORATE ADOPTION INTO THE CLASSROOM:

 1). Give a presentation:

One of the easiest ways to educate your students on the topic of adoption is to give a presentation. There are many different avenues that you can explore when creating an adoption presentation. You can bring in a guest speaker such as a birthmother or father that you may know, adoptive parents, someone that was adopted, or even a social worker that specializes in adoption. For younger children, use props, such as puppets, to create a story relating to adoption.

2). Read Adoption Books to the Class:

A book is always a great way to engage children of all ages. You can even use a book to kick off an adoption presentation! Make sure that you choose books that incorporate adoption. For middle school to high school aged students, you can assign journal entries, or  essays relating to the theme of adoption, in correlation with the book that the class just read.  Read about recommended publications relating to adoption!

3). Educate the Parents:

Not only is it important to educated the classroom on the topic of adoption, but it is equally as important that the parents understand as well. When you teach a lesson on adoption in the classroom, or show a video, send home a flyer with the students to give to their parents that have a simple Q & A on them. It’s a great way to show the parents what topics you covered, and what the students learned about in class. Parent involvement is really important at any age in the school system. To educate the parents you could also invite them to sit in on presentations, or hold and after school presentations with the same speaker you used for your classroom.

4). Start a Community Service Project

A really great way to educate not only students, but the community on the topic of adoption is by involving people with a community service project related to adoption. This can be something as simple as finding your local adoption agency to see what fundraisers they have going on, and how you can set up volunteers for their events. Another great way to involve students in the community is through National Adoption Month, which happens every November. To read more about what AFTH did for National Adoption Month visit our blog!

When teaching adoption in the classroom, be sure to make lesson plans that are grade level appropriate. The way in which you present the topic of adoption to a preschooler it will be very different than teaching it to a high school student. You can also read about how to teach adoption at different educational levels.

Teaching adoption in the classroom can provide students with useful information that they may not have had access to before. By educating our children on adoption they can open their eyes to the many different and beautiful ways to build a family.

March Book Reviews 2015

books-heart-mood-hd-wallpaper

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.

tummy mummyThe Tummy Mummy by Michelle Madrid Branch -This is a gentle introduction into adoption and birth parents that many families may enjoy.  It has a very calm and relaxed feeling to it that I’m not sure I can attribute to the illustrations or the writing. The story isn’t one of my favorite and I think there are better books our there for children explaining adoption but given that there seem to be so few books that involve birth parents this could be a nice addition to your library.  amazon.com price $11.67 (HC)

breakwater_bay.jpgBreakwater Bay: A Novel by Shelley Noble –  This is a fiction book that focuses on adoption and a mystery surrounding a woman who learns that her mother isn’t her biological mother and that a pregnant teen washed up on a beach and begged her family to care for her daughter. Its a story of what does family mean? Is it who gives birth to you? Who raises you? Or maybe a combination of both. This was an engaging story but it is fiction. Unlike most of the other books reviewed here this book is purely for enjoyment purposes and not meant to really teach anything or help raise an adopted child however it does do a good job of allowing adoption to shine and not be made to seem less than.  It is definitely adoption positive even though the legal issues in the book made me want to scream. If you are looking for a good beach read that will engage you and speak to your adoption heart than this is a good chick lit book. I doubt many men would find this an engaging read but I am always happy to be wrong.  amazon.com price $11.97 (PB) kindle edition: $3.99

bird _crystal_chanBird by Crystal Chan – Bird is a middle school grade novel by first time author Crystal Chan.  Jewel was born on the day her brother, Bird died. His real name was John but Jewel’s grandfather called him Bird and after he jumped to his death from a cliff pretending to fly Jewels grandfather hasn’t spoken and her family is steeped in grief and despair.

On the eve of her 12th birthday Jewel leaves the house late at night to climb a tree and look at the stars.  In the tree she meets John, a young African-American boy who was adopted by a white family.  Jewel thinks it’s weird that she met a boy with her brother’s name in a spot out near where he died but the two become good friends. Jewel’s father doesn’t trust him though.  He believes that John is an a duppy (spirits trapped on earth who cause trouble) who has come to cause more trouble in their family. He goes out of his way to keep John away from his family.

John is visiting his Uncle while his parents get ready to have a baby.  Which brings up many feelings of abandonment, his adoption, and anger in John. While the drama going on in both children’s lives at first appear the same by the end you see how very similar their concerns are.  Jewel lives in a house that hasn’t let go of the grief and sadness of losing their son, and John believes his parents don’t really want him now that they are having their “own” child.

This is a beautifully written book and a well thought out story that really touches on what it means to feel different, how children view the world around them and how we are all connected and can help each other to be whole.  Many books deal with identity and parent and child relationships but Bird is on a completely different level. Bird is a compelling story about values, traditions and relationships that redefines what it means to be a family, I loved this book.  amazon  price $7.99 Kindle edition $10.99

Birth Parents in Open Adoptions and the Importance of Ongoing Support

There are many important conversations to be had when discussing open adoption, including that of the wellbeing of the individuals creating an adoption plan for their child—birthparents. With Birthmother’s Day (the day before Mother’s Day) quickly approaching it was time to delve deeper into this topic. By hearing from actual birthparents about their experiences with their adoption plan and support groups, as well as a scientific exploration of why a strong support system is crucial in an open adoption we are doing just that.

Birth Parents in Open Adoption

Birthmother’s Share Their First Hand Experiences with Open Adoption

Heather, an AFTH birthmother, on her open adoption

I was pregnant and because of the situation I was in I couldn’t handle another baby and I turned to the AFTH Chesapeake office. Because of the laws in Virginia, I ended up disappointing an adoptive family when the birthfather wouldn’t sign away his rights at first. After some time and some hard situations, I was able to choose another family, a same-sex couple this time, and place my son with them. I am so grateful for open adoption. At first I experienced some guilt about placing, but overall I am grateful that my son has such a full life and that I can still be a part of it. It was the best and hardest decision I have ever made.

Tabitha, an AFTH birthmother, on Birthmother’s Day and her support group experience

Being a mother prior to placing, I had never known about Birth Mother’s Day. And so the first year after placement, I really wanted to be validated in my choice and to be recognized that day.
The support groups are amazing for me! They let me know that I am NOT alone in this process and everyone has different ways of dealing and healing from the grief. More often, I am the one who has the longest placement and the other ladies are pretty new to the process or are still in a raw state of emotion. I get it, I’ve been there (sometimes I’m still there) and I cherish that I am able to be there for someone to lean on during those moments, making them aware that they are NOT alone. I truly enjoy these times with these special, beautiful and courageous women.

Stephanie, an AFTH birthmother, on attending her first support group

When I was first told that an ongoing support group would be offered to me after placing my daughter for adoption, I pushed the idea away. I felt like it was something I could never do. The adoption was hard enough to come to terms with myself, or to even discuss with people who knew me. How could I sit in a room full of strangers and try to explain myself and my decision? I knew I wanted some kind of therapy after the adoption took place, but I wasn’t sure that a group setting was right for me. I was dealing with a lot of guilt and embarrassment and couldn’t fathom putting that out there for other people, other women to hear and see and judge. I was very skeptical about whether or not it was the right thing for me and how soon I would be ready.

Then I had my daughter and placed with her new family. I received an invitation in the mail a month after I placed her, inviting me to a meeting that was only a month away. 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.

Birthmother Support Quote

The meeting ended up going very smoothly, but I did use all my tissues and then some. I told my whole story at my first meeting, teary eyes, trembles and all. And now, I actually find myself looking forward to them very much, to the point of wishing they were more often. I know that if I didn’t force myself to that first meeting, I wouldn’t be attending them today. I have come to realize that nothing helps more than telling my story from start to finish, over and over again. There are always new girls at the meetings, and it makes me feel good to know that they might pull some strength or hope from my story. The support groups force me to address my emotions, recognize my progress, and come to terms with making the best decision for my daughter. I hold my support group friends very dear to me. I trust them with a big part of my heart, and they trust me with theirs. I love that my support group isn’t just for receiving support, but also giving it. Showing up to my group is just as much for the other women, as it is for me.

Adoption Agencies Find Ways to Celebrate and Support Their Birthmothers

Support Groups that Provide an Outlet for Birth Parents Yearlong

Adoptions From The Heart is an agency that is dedicated to everyone involved in the adoption process and their Virginia office has been holding a birth mother support group quarterly. Gathered around pizza, the women open up and share their stories with one another in a space where they feel safe. Sometimes the stories are repeated, but the focus shifts to highlight something significant that had not touched them before. Being able to decompress after events or visits and being able to share after the Annual Picnic or the Holiday Party has really brought the group of women together.
One birth mom explained, “I was really nervous about coming to the first meeting, it took everything I had to not back out. As soon as I was able to tell my story with women who understand me, I felt great. Everyone is so supportive and it’s nice to be able to be there for others too. This is something that I look forward to now, being with people who know how I feel.”
The group continues to expand with new attendees joining every meeting, encouraging and supporting from the moment they sit down. With Birth Mother’s Day on the horizon, the group is hoping to plan a fun event to celebrate, they may even go roller skating! This combination of discussion and fun group activities has provided a perfect balance for the women of this particular support group.

Birthmother’s Day: A Celebration of Strength and Love

Birthmother’s Day, the day before Mother’s Day every year, is a very special day at Adoptions From The Heart. They have the pleasure of working with amazing birthmom’s who are beautiful on the inside and out and at their Cherry Hill office, they have been taking time to celebrate their adoption journeys by hosting an annual Birthmother’s Day Brunch.

AFTH Birthmother's Day Balloons
Women came and enjoyed light refreshments while fostering conversations about placement and what open adoption has meant to them. At the brunch, the birthmom’s took time to release balloons and tied to each balloon was a hope, dream or wish they had written for their child. Are there ways that you celebrate on Birthmother’s Day or adoption all year long?

Why is Support and Counseling Important for Those in an Open Adoption?

Pre placement counseling and support is commonplace for both adoptive parents and birth parents, most times it is required by law.
Here are some statements pulled from the National Council for Adoption and The Counseling Psychologist in support of birthparent counseling to consider:
• Quality adoption counseling is an essential service that enables birthparents to make pregnancy decisions in an informed manner, after personal reflection, with all the facts on the table.
• The best birthparent/adoptive parent relationships are respectful, flexible, and built on trust. With trust, they can weather the normal ups and downs that occur in most relationships – counseling can help to build that trust.
• When a birthmother faces the reality and pain of her decision, she often feels a need to talk through all of her emotions. Eventually, if the grieving process is healthy, she will begin to withdraw energy from grieving and focus on moving beyond it.
• Through working with a therapist and/or a birth mother support group, more women are able to express their feelings. They are also given the opportunity to accept and own their decisions, get past blaming others for their circumstances, and become able to share their story and defend their decision.

Together We Can Support Each Other

Birthmother’s deserve to be celebrated and supported and that is what Birthmother’s Day, and every day is all about. As an adoption community we can dispel the stereotypes and judgment of open adoptions and birthmother’s. Share with us your stories and your photos and together we can support each other!

For other blogs on similar topics visit the links below:

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/pregnant-what-to-expect-at-the-hospital-if-you-are-making-an-adoption-plan/

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/a-birthfathers-story/

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/open-adoption-the-birth-parent-perspective/