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.

June 2015 Book Reviews

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.

Murphys three homesMurphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman – This is supposed to be a book for foster children to explain the move from home to home but while its intentions were good it just didn’t deliver.  From the very beginning of this book Murphy seemed to be blamed for why he needed to be moved from home to home.  First it was because his mother couldn’t handle all of her children, the second home it was because he couldn’t learn where to go to the bathroom and the people abused him leaving him malnourished, the third home was with a family who wanted him to be perfect and when he wasn’t they gave him away, the third family finally accepted him for who he was but that was a little too late.  Using a dog story to start a conversation about Foster Care is a good idea but this book put too much emphasis on what Murphy did wrong, and while kids may feel that they did do something wrong they didn’t and I’m not sure this book emphasized that enough. As far as books for foster children I think there are better ones out there. Amazon.com $9.95 (PB) $13.55 (HC)

search for dixie leeThe Search for Dixie Lee by Sharolyn L. Sievert – Written for her mother Sharolyn Sievert researches the past to find her mothers birth family.  What she finds is a story of a birth mother trying to keep her family together, and a system that was more interested in taking it apart than helping them stay together.  Sharon (Dixie Lee) and her sister were placed in an orphanage by the court system stating that they were the youngest and therefore the most likely to find a new home.  Sharon’s birth mother didn’t want to lose her children but with 6 young children a missing husband and no money it was easier to give in than to fight.

Sharon’s adoption wasn’t ideal, her parents cared for her but were strict, religious and not very warm and loving.  When she was older, like most adoptee’s Sharon searched for her past and in doing so uncovered some shady dealings within the courts, and a whole posse of siblings that she had longed for as she grew up an only child.

Sharing court documents and old family photos this book takes you on a journey that was Sharon’s life. In the end she discovers her siblings and her family, most of who remember her and had lost hope of ever reconnecting.  While a little faith based and preachy in places for me it is an interesting story of searching for your roots and discovering family.  Unfortunately it doesn’t paint a very nice picture of adoption but unfortunately there were many such stories as this from that era, luckily adoption has since changed.

Hannah and I'm AdoptedHi My Name is Hanna and I’m Adopted by Angie Barton– This is a cute book with adorable illustrations that tell the story of Hannah who was adopted from Ethiopia.  I really like the book which talks about birth parents, different foods, and other differences from Ethiopia to America.  It also allows Hannah to feel sad when thinking of her birth parents and miss them and not like all the food in the USA.  This could really help empower children to feel comfortable with their mixed feelings about adoption and their new home.  Allowing children to express their feelings in a positive way and being able to express any negative emotions can help children not feel bad or wrong.

This book also comes with an audio version which may be nice for children who aren’t yet fully reading on their own they can follow along with the story.  The only negative that I found to this book is that I wish that the illustrations better depicted Hannah’s skin color which would make the story easier for children from Ethiopia to relate to. amazon.com  $9.99 for the paperback

Adoption & Choosing a Name: Hints and Tips for Naming Your Child

adoption is a blessingAll expecting parents want to create the perfect name for their new baby. Parents spend days – even months listing out old family names, sorting through baby name books and writing down names that they hear in passing that they like. Families will debate the spelling, nicknames, and middle names that could potentially choose for their new child. A name is typically the first gift a child receives and adoptive parents often want to be a part of that important decision.

Adoptive parents may face a range of circumstances that are different than naming a biological child which may make deciding on a name a bit more challenging. Families may be adopting an older child which means that a child comes into your family’s life he or she will be bringing with their own culture, identity, and, name.

There are no strict guidelines to naming your child, but many questions arise from prospective adoptive parents on this issue. Adoptive parents often wonder if they should keep the original name given to the child by the birth parents, switch it to the baby’s middle name, or create their own unique name all together. Whatever your family chooses, these tips may help you to make a decision and pick a name that works best for your child and family.

4 suggestions for choosing the perfect name for your adopted child:

Consider these suggestions before choosing the perfect baby name:
• Provide your child with a name that will have a positive meaning to it
• Pick a name that you think will he/she would feel comfortable with
• If the birthparents suggests a name consider incorporating it as a middle name
• Incorporate a name that blends with the ethnicity of the child
• Pass along a name that has been in your family ex: Jr, IV, or Sr.

Blogger Kim Grundy answers many different tricky questions that many adoptive parents may have trying to pick the perfect name for their child. She collected many different insights from adoption professionals and adoptive parents regarding this topic. For great information on this topic visit her blog and read her blog post “Adoption baby name tips: Birth name dilemmas and more”.

Different Options to Consider:

Family Traditions:
Family names are a great way to pass along a tradition to your new child. Many parents will often follow a family name tradition such as Sr, III or Jr. At time families could a have a name that has been in the family for years. By giving your new baby this name as a first or middle name will give the baby a direct link and form an even tighter bond to your family, and your family’s history. Incorporating a family name is a really great way to form a bond between your adopted children and give them a connection to your family forever.

Keeping the original birth name:

Some families choose to keep the name given to the child by the birthparents to preserve a connection to the child’s past. While there are many ways to preserve a link to your child’s past, some families find it important to keep the name given to them by the birthparents. Keeping the birth name of the child is also important when adopting a baby that is 2 years and over. At this stage the child typically recognizes their name. It could be a big transition for the child and adjusting to a new lifestyle and name could complicate the transition process, and at times cause identity issues for the child in the future. There are families who do decide to change the name of children over 2 who were adopted. It is just important to do some research on how that name change might affect the child and make the best decision that you think is right for your family.
Combining Names:

Often times in newborn adoptions the birth parents and adoptive parents are able to come to an agreement about how the name will be chosen. Sometimes the birth mother picks the first or middle name and the adoptive parents combine it with a name that they chose. In many cases open adoption allows the both birthparents and adoptive parents to weigh in on the naming of the child. This would allow the child’s name to reflect both parents. In other situations, birthparents might decide not to name the child and pass that decision on to the adoptive parents.
International Adoption & Cultural Considerations:

When adopting a baby internationally or from a culture that differs from your own you should consider a few things during naming process. An infant coming from a different country will probably already have a name, or maybe your family wants to incorporate a name from the child’s culture into their name. In some cases the infants name could be difficult for American’s to pounce. An option is to use the baby’s middle name as a reflection their culture and heritage. You can research different names of that culture and incorporate one into the middle name that fits with the child’s first and last. Another option is to find the American name that is similar to the baby’s nationality. For example, in an adoptivefamilies.com article one adoptive family adjusted the Russian name Andrei, to Andrew.

Legal Considerations

Though there aren’t any strict laws regarding choosing the perfect name for your child, there are a few legal considerations to think about regarding both domestic and international adoption.

The following is a great excerpt from adoptivefamilies.com where they gathered information from two lawyers, Denise Seidelman and Peter Wiernicki who weighed in on this topic.

Domestic:

Denise Seidelman, an adoption attorney in Westchester, New York, sees two common situations in domestic adoptions:

  1. A birthmother names the child, and that name appears on the birth certificate. In some cases, the birthmother and adoptive parents-to-be agree on the child’s name by the time of birth.
  2. A birthmother does not name the child, in which case the birth certificate says “Baby Girl” or “Baby Boy.” The adoption petition refers to the child as such.

The judge’s adoption decree will include a change to the name chosen by the adoptive parents (“and the child shall henceforth be known as…”) Until finalization, domestic adopters can’t get passports or Social Security numbers in their child’s name. After finalization, the original birth certificate is amended to reflect the child’s new legal name.

International:

Peter Wiernicki, an adoption attorney in Washington, D.C., says that foreign adoption decrees usually include a legal name change. Two issues that may arise:

  1. The child’s English name may be misspelled on the adoption decree and/or the alien registration card. Adopting parents should check the spelling of their child’s name on all documents.
  2. In Latin-American countries, courts may identify the child with the adoptive mother’s, rather than the adoptive father’s, last name, in keeping with local custom.

In a case of incorrect or inconsistent spelling or incorrect last name, parents can petition the court in their state for a name change and may correct the child’s name as part of a U.S. re-adoption proceeding.

There are no strict guidelines when choosing the perfect name for your baby. Every family approaches this topic differently and has different ideas for what they would like their child to be named. There are ways to incorporate a name suggested by birthparents, ways to Americanize foreign names, or passing along a family name that your family has had for generations.

The Birth Parent Perspective in Open Adoptions: A Focus on Birth Fathers

Birth mother’s are often times front and center when open adoption is being discussed, but it is important that birth father’s are not left out of the conversation.

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A Deeper Look at the Emotional Impact for Birth Fathers

Mary Martin Mason, the author of Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers’ Stories, conducted in depth interviews of several birth father’s.

Mason defines birth fathers as “men who have fathered a child whom they are not parenting.” Her in-depth interviews of birth fathers include those of various ages, races and backgrounds. While most have no contact with their children, a few are participating in open adoptions. Three of the men married their child’s birth mothers after relinquishment, but the majority of those interviewed have lost contact with the birth mother and child.

The Post-Placement Experience

Mason explains that because the birth father experience is an unknown to most people, few support systems exist.

• Despite the existence of millions of birth fathers as a subculture, these men continue to stay “under wraps.” One of the reasons that many of them keep their experience a secret is that to speak about it publicly can result in baffled silence or worse, criticism. Even well-meaning friends and co-workers are perplexed as to how to respond to a birth father.
• One birthfather explained that “nobody knew how to approach me. They all knew we were pregnant. They all knew we were giving the baby up for adoption, so nobody came down and understood how to say….” — Randy chokes on the words he needed to hear — “Congratulations, and I’m sorry.”

The grief and sadness felt by birth fathers after relinquishment and placement can fall along a spectrum and varies depending on the individual. Professionals suggest that healing can really begin once the individual has had the opportunity to address and process their pain. Finding positive outlets for your energy is another way birth father’s can move forward. Take an active role in the adoption community and share your story with others!

“Being a birth father has come to be a thing of pride,” one birthfather said to Mason. “As we come out of the shadow, we can say we are men who have gotten into difficult situations and considered the best option for our child. We should take pride in that.”

Birthfather Pride

Becoming a Birth Father

Darrcik Rizzo is a birth father who became an advocate for adoption and how beautiful it can be, but it didn’t always start off that way. In an excerpt from one of his blog posts, he outlines his initial struggle with comprehending exactly what adoption would mean for his son.

After immense persuasion from my girlfriend, I reluctantly found myself browsing for information about open adoption. The more I read about it, the more I found myself questioning my initial reaction and trying to figure out fatherhood through open adoption. When I realized that open adoption allowed me to be a part of my baby’s life from the very beginning, I felt that open adoption might be the right way to go for my child and also myself as a father. So I gave in, and agreed to the concept of open adoption. Through this experience I found myself wholly involved in each and every step of the adoption process.

Through the process we learned about couples interested in adopting as well as the two kinds of open adoption. One kind of open adoption was totally open while the other was semi-open—where letters and pictures would be facilitated between the birth parents, adoption agency and the adoptive parents. At first I was quite apprehensive of the couples who were interested. I had no clue of how I would be able to know that they would care for my child like their own. And unlike other adoption processes, I was without any professional that provided counseling through the entire adoption procedure. Through the process, my girlfriend and I got to sit with five potential adoptive parents, interview them, and then decide on who would be perfect for our child. Out of the five couples, we found the perfect parents, who were in a biracial relationship just like my girlfriend and I.

The decision-making process was complicated, emotional, and overshadowed other activities in my life. The pregnancy and adoption were happening while I was in school and I could hardly concentrate because this was about more than just books and making it big in life. This was my child we were talking about. I wasn’t willing to “give up” my child; I felt responsible for his well-being. Thank God for open adoption. Through it I knew that my child would know his birth father from the start and I would not have to miss out on the important days of my child’s life.

Birth Father Rights in the Adoption Process

Birth fathers have legal rights during the adoption process and it is important to address that in this post. Most agencies and attorneys have specific procedures to make sure that birth fathers are indentified, located and that they are made aware of the adoption plan. In those situations, birth fathers are also informed about their rights. The birth father’s involvement and participation in the adoption plan is often times welcomed because when there is agreement, and legal papers consenting to the adoption are signed, his rights are being acknowledged. However, many adoptions proceed even if the birthfather is not located and has not signed consent forms and these situations carry a degree of risk. If you are a birth father and want a better understanding of your rights or if you are an adoptive family and want to gain a better understanding of adoption law, explore these links further:
http://afth.org/pregnant/info-for-fathers/
http://www.americanadoptions.com/adoption/birth_father_rights
http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/adoption-and-fathers-rights.html

Conclusion

Open adoption is a lifelong journey for all members of the adoption family, including birth fathers. Their stories should be told and their rights protected. If you have any helpful resources for birth fathers please share them with us, we are always looking for new ways to help all members of the adoption community because we must not forget, adoption is love!

The Different Adoption Costs and How to Adopt Without Going into Debt

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As a prospective adoptive parent, you are likely researching various adoption agencies and professionals with one big question in mind: How much will this adoption cost, and will it fall within our budget? Many people say that they would really like to adopt but they automatically think they can’t afford it because the one word that comes along with adoption is EXPENSIVE. The one important piece of advice we urge our readers is to not just choose one specific adoption route because it is less expensive than the path you feel most. There are a lot of other important factors to think about when picking out the right adoption plan for your family. Be very honest with yourself and choose the adoption plan that you feel most comfortable and then focus on the cost associated with that choice. There are so many different ways that you can raise money throughout your adoption journey to help offset the cost and stay out of debt!

Statistics on the Cost of Different Adoption Plans

After making the decision to adopt, your family should understand and anticipate the financial costs associated with the different kinds of adoption. Costs of adoption may be minimal or can total more than $40,000, depending on a number of facts. The wide range of cost is dependent on the type of adoption, type of placement, agency, child’s age and many other different factors. Below are just a few statistics of how much adoption can cost, which are based on the different types of adoption.

  • Licensed private agencies- Fees range from $4,000 to $30,000.
  • Independent adoptions- This type of adoption is not allowed in most states but adoptive parents report spending $8,000 to $30,000. Fun fact, they spend over $5,000 in advertisement alone!
  • Intercountry Adoption Costs- If you’re adopting a child from another country, the range of adoption cost is $15,000 to $40,000+.
  • Foster Care Adoption- If you’re adopting through foster care, which generally involves becoming the parent of an older child, the cost is much lower: zero to $2,500.

Why does Adoption Cost so Much?

So what exactly are you paying for, other than the opportunity to become a parent? Breaking down the total cost into universal expenses and adoption-specific expenses might help you better understand where the costs come from and the best plan to pursue for your family.

1. Universal Expenses: These are the type of expenses that occur for every type of adoption, including the home study and court costs
  • Home Study: A home study must be completed for all prospective parents no matter what type of adoption you pursue. For a public agency adoption a home study may be waived or cost a minimal of $500. With other types of adoption it might cost $1,000-$3,000 for the home study alone.
  • Legal Fees: All domestic adoptions and some intercountry adoptions must be finalized in the court in the US. The cost for court document preparation can range from $500 to $2,000, while the cost for representing adoptive parents in an open adoption can range from $2,500 to $6,000.
2. Adoption-Specific Expenses: In addition to the costs common to every adoption, adoptive parents incur costs to the specific type of adoption that they choose.
  • Public Agency Adoption Costs: Most public agencies focus on placing children from foster care. Up-front fees and expenses for this type of adoption can be as much as $2,500 which includes attorney’s fees and travel expenses.
  • Private Adoption Costs: These costs widely ranges depending on the type of agency used. There is a licensed private adoption agency, an independent adoption agency and a facilitated/unlicensed adoption agency. The cost of private adoption agencies can range from $5,000-40,000 depending on which agency you choose to go with. Working with a private adoption agency definitely comes with a lot of benefits as the fees cover basically everything.
    • Free services provided to the birth parents
    • Educational Courses
    • Advertising and marketing
    • Home studies
    • Post placement support and paperwork
  • Intercountry Adoption Costs: Agencies that provide intercountry adoption services charges fees that ranges from $15,000-$40,000+. These fees generally include immigration; court costs and in some cases a required donation to the foreign orphanage or agency.

Tips on How to Save Money While Adopting

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Prospective adoptive parents may be concerned about to costs of adopting a child, as is understandable based on the range that was given in the beginning of the blog. The important thing to understand is that to become a parent in general is rarely free of expenses, as pregnancy and childbirth can be extremely expensive as well. However, with the proper planning and knowledge about the different types of adoptions and available resources, it will be easier to develop a budget and set a plan in motion. A great book that has helped a lot of our hopeful adoptive parents afford adoption is the book Adopt without Debt written by Julie Gumm.

1. Adoption Grants: Adoption grants are basically “free” money for your adoption. But free doesn’t mean they don’t come without work. There are three basic grants that are available for any adoptive parent looking to help with the payment of their adoption.
  • Direct Grant: Direct Grant organizations review applicants and award money outright. The money is never paid directly to families, but is paid to your adoption agency or attorney. These are usually the hardest grants to receive. Resources4Adoption is a great go-to database for adoption grants and loans. Some organizations that reward direct grants are; Gift of a Adoption, Show Hope and a Child Awaits.
  • Fundraising Grant: This gives you an account with a non-profit grant organization to which people can donate. This provides your friends and family with the added benefit of a tax deduction when they give to your adoption fund. Some examples of great fundraising grant are; Lifesong for Orphans and His Kids Too!
  • Matching Grant: basically a combination of direct and fundraising. The grant organization allows you to fundraise and provide the tax benefit to your donors. Then they match a certain dollar amount of donations received.
2. Adoption Loans: Loans may make sense to cover large and immediate expenses that may be reimbursed later by your employer, the military, or the government’s reimbursement of non-recurring adoption expenses. One source of loans is the National Adoption Foundation which can be accessed through nafadopt.org.
3. Fundraisers are a great way to raise money for your adoption while having a great time! Here are just a few ideas we found that helped raised a lot of money, while getting the whole community involved!
  • “Tag The Bag”: Pick out the bag you are going to use for travels and get your family and community together. Put a price on how much you would like to raise and put a specific amount together per signature!
  • “Adoption Fund Garage Sale”: We had an adoptive family hold a garage sale teaming up with their local church and they raised over $5,000. You would be surprised how many people would donate used clothing and toys and even more surprised on how many people would be interested in purchasing used clothing and toys!
  • “Puzzle Piece Fundraiser”: Your family, friends, coworkers, and strangers can sponsor puzzle pieces for $5, $10, or any amount that helps you reach you goal. Then, you can hang your completed puzzle in your child’s room as a constant reminder to all of the people who worked to bring your child home.
4. Employer Benefits: A growing number of companies and government agencies are offering adoption benefits to their employees. Benefits may include:
  • adoption information and referral services
  • legal expenses
  • agency fees
  • medical expenses
  • post adoption counseling
  • paid of unpaid leave time for the adoptive parent
  • financial reimbursement
5. Tax Credit: Adoption federal tax credits may be available to defray some adoption costs. As of 2014 the Adoption Tax Credit is $13,190 per child.  Whether you adopt domestically or internationally you are eligible for a $13,190 tax credit the year you complete your adoption.  The credit amount can depend on a family income, whether the child has “special needs” and any other adoption benefits. Even now several states have enacted state tax credits for families adopting children from the public child welfare system in that state!

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Putting the Pieces Together

The majority of people work their entire lives to prepare for starting a family one day. Whether you have a baby through traditional means or through adoption, there will always be an expense involved. Don’t let the cost of adopting effect your decision to follow your dreams in creating a family. Like you can see throughout this blog, there are so many resources out there that will help you adopt without emptying your bank accounts