All posts by Adoptions From The Heart

Interracial Adoption: A Need for Adoptive & Birth Parents to Bond

This is an article written by Brittany Brooks. She placed her son for adoption in 2013. Since then, she decided to work at Adoptions From The Heart to help create more awareness about birth mothers and interracial adoption. She wanted to write this article to help those that are looking to adopt outside of their race or are currently raising a child outside of their race. Brittany and her son’s adoptive parents figured out the key ingredient to a healthy and fulfilling interracial adoption…bonding between the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

Back in 2013, I placed my son for adoption. Race or sexual orientation didn’t matter to me when I was looking at families and I was hoping to find adoptive parents that felt the same way. Fortunately, for me I did. I found the best adoptive parents for what my son and I needed, and they just so happen to be white.

In the beginning, we didn’t know what our situation was going to look like. However, we were willing to work toward the best scenario we could give our son. My son’s adoptive parents and I have a very open adoption. We text and talk a few times a week. His adoptive mother texts me pictures of whatever crazy thing he did that day. She even tells me about his little attitudes and the not so “nice” side of him. I enjoy all of this, the good and the bad.

Over the years, we’ve learned how to talk about the hard things with each other. It all started with his adoptive mother addressing the elephant in the room. She told me, “Brittany I’ve never been black. I can’t pretend like I understand the underlying problems and issues that you face every day. But, I’m willing to learn and I want to learn for the sake of our son.” That warmed my heart in more ways than one. One, hearing her say that validated my decision in choosing them to be my son’s parents. Two, I was happy that they realized that there is a problem in our society that won’t allow our son to be accepted by all people. We know we can’t change society as a whole, but we can be the drop in the bucket that initiates change.

Give & Take

Early on we knew that the only way this was going to work was if we stayed in contact and worked toward being as open as possible. Openness to us is more than sharing addresses and telephone numbers. Openness for us includes staying in constant contact. Throughout the adoption, there were times when I didn’t reach out for a while, but his adoptive parents would always check up on me. But to me that wasn’t fair to put the burden on them all the time, so I started putting more effort into reaching out. In doing so, we all felt comfortable to ask each other certain things.

His adoptive mother asked me what would I teach him if I was raising him. I told her that in my family we teach our children about the great kingdoms of Songhay, Mali, Kush, and the Mende people. We teach these things, because these are facts that are often left out in grade school history. She was utterly shocked. She had never heard of any of those things and wanted to learn for herself. Over the past few years, I’ve sent her books to educate herself, so in turn she can later educate our son on his self-identity.

This made me think about all the times I went months without speaking to the adoptive parents. It wasn’t because they did anything wrong, I wasn’t upset with them, but for some reason I just pulled back. It made me think, what if I continued to pull back and never developed a comfortable level for his adoptive parents to ask me these questions? Would my son know where he comes from? Would he know his history or the history that’s only taught in schools? I noticed I would be doing my son a disservice.

I was also glad to have chosen adoptive parents that kept pushing for openness even when I closed up. And it really wasn’t for them to keep reaching out to me with no results. Like all relationships, open adoption is a lot about give and take. Both parties have to put in a constant effort for openness. It doesn’t work if it’s one sided. Especially in interracial adoptions. There is a need for openness in interracial adoptions. There is a need for adoptive parents and birth parents to bond in interracial adoptions. We can’t change what race or color we are, but we can learn about each other. And yes, I mean each other. Just because I’m black doesn’t mean only his white parents have to learn about me and my culture. I had to learn about them too. I’ve never been white and I’d like to know how my child is going to be culturally raised.

What We’re Working Toward

We are working towards a common goal. We have to bond for his sake. We have to bond to discuss the best ways to deal with racism in society. We have to bond so he can learn his self-identity, so he doesn’t feel misplaced in his environment. We want him to be fully equipped for whatever society may throw at him.

Our goal is for him to grow up feeling loved from both sides and understanding that he does come from two worlds that came together. He’s racially black and he is growing up in a white home. And together we’re making this the best situation that we can for him.

My first birth mothers day (an outsiders perspective)

Let me introduce myself…

My name is Mayra and I am Adoptions From The Heart’s Events and Marketing Coordinator. Although I went to school to be a journalist, event planning has always been a great passion for me. When I had the opportunity to join this amazing agency; I knew that this was the job for me. AFTH has giving me the opportunity of incorporating both my passions into one job.

You might be thinking.. how is your job title relevant to celebrating Birth Mother’s Day… well let me tell you about it.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to celebrate Birth Mothers Day with the amazing women from our Delaware Birth Mother Support Group.

As part of the marketing team, I don’t typically have the opportunity to interact with birth mothers one on one. I have worked behind the scenes of event planning and fundraising and although I’ve always understood that what I am working for is a very important cause, I never knew how important it really was.

My expectations

As part of the celebration we decided to bring a little pampering for the ladies in the Support Group. When we got the invitation be a part of the celebration I thought that maybe we would just have some fun “girl” time and that was it.

As a person who really enjoys serving other people, I was excited to pamper them and to give something to them! What I was not expecting was everything I learned and received from attending that meeting…

My takeaway

From the moment I got there, I was received with open arms by these women. Even though I have never been through some of the things they go through all the time, I was able to connect with their experience.

They were all so helpful and supportive of each other and that is something I really admired about them. I did not expect to get there and relate to their lives as much as I did.

What I took away the most from this experience was how strong birth mothers are. Unfortunately, this is not the way society paints them and that is something that needs to change. It didn’t take me long after listening to some of their stories and struggles to realize how powerful and selfless they are.

I did not know Birth Mother’s Day was even a holiday a couple of months ago. Now, I know the meaning behind it and how important it is to celebrate Birth Mothers all around the world.

If you haven’t before, I invite you to learn more about Birth Mothers and the importance to celebrate them this Mother’s Day weekend.

Tips For Hopeful Adoptive Parents Just Beginning the Adoption Process

1) Arm Yourself with Information

You can never ask enough questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the agency you choose. When you think of a question, write it down so you don’t forget to ask later. Dive into any fears or concerns you have as well. It’s important to feel comfortable with the process.

2) Find Support in Others Walking the Same Path

It can be hard to find other people who truly “get it” unless they have traveled a similar path. Get to know other waiting families, join support groups, connect with others adoptive parents online, and lean on your social worker.

3) Make an Effort to Learn About The Other Parts of the Adoption Triad: Adoptees and Birth Parents

Read birth parents’ and adoptees’ adoption experiences. If you are adopting transracially, read not only articles written by adoptive parents in transracial adoptions but also from adoptees brought up in that environment. It’s important to understanding what other members of the triad may be experiencing.

 4) Keep Your Promises

One of expecting parent’s most common fears is “will the adoptive parents keep their promises”. Be genuine in your profile and in your promises. Do not agree to something if you are not ready to back it up with action. It not only will hurt your child’s birth parent but in the end it hurts your child as well.

5) Don’t Hold Back Love

The pre-placement education touches on the importance of protecting yourself emotionally for the possibility of a placement falling through. It isn’t about holding back love. It’s about a way of thinking that reminds adoptive families they have been asked to be the temporary caretakers of a child who may indeed come into their family while his or her parents are ensuring they are making the best and final decision. If a disappointment or disruption happens, allow yourself to grieve but do not turn it into anger towards the child’s parents. They are making a tremendously difficult decision and it is important to respect their wishes.

6) Let Frozen’s Theme Song Be Your Mantra…Let It Go

Release all your expectations and embrace the unknowns in the process as a part of the journey. You will need to be flexible and remember that it isn’t your journey alone.

 7) Most Importantly, Remember Adoption is Bittersweet

Adoption stems from a loss that cannot and should not be ignored. Fully respecting that aspect of the journey and the adoptee and birthparent experience as well is vital.

“All You Can Ever Know” Book Review

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, NPR, Time, The Boston Globe, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, Jezebel, Bustle, Library Journal, Chicago Public Library and more…

 

In her 2018 memoir “All You Can Ever Know”, Asian transracial adoptee Nicole Chung digs into issues of race, identity, and motherhood through the lens of adoption. Nicole was adopted through a closed, domestic adoption and was always told “Your birth parents were very sad they couldn’t keep you, but they thought adoption was the best thing for you”. Her adoptive family shared this positive narrative about her birth parents, but had no interest in an open adoption relationship with them. They had some insecurities about the birth parents’ roles in Nicole’s adoption story, making it uncomfortable for Nicole to ask in-depth questions.

Perhaps as a sign of the times, Nicole’s white parents took a colorblind approach to their life as a transracial family and rarely spoke about their difference. Of her race, her parents would say “It wouldn’t have mattered to us if you were black, white, or purple with polka dots”. Because of her parents’ silence about race, Nicole did  not feel comfortable enough to share with them the racial slurs she heard on the playground, or the feelings of difference she felt in her school, community, and family. Nicole often felt out of place in her adoptive family but also disconnected from her Asian peers.

Almost all adoptees have some curiosity about their biological roots; transracial adoptees without mirrors in their communities may feel this even more strongly. Having a secure attachment in their adoptive families does not reduce this curiosity. Seeing their adoptive parents’ insecurity about their birth parents can cause some adoptees to choose not to search, or to search in secrecy.

Nicole describes her curiosity about her biological family throughout her childhood and adolescence. Her racial difference and lack of mirrors in her community makes her especially interested in learning about her Korean heritage through a connection with her biological family and their culture. Nicole understands that she must tread lightly with her parents on the topic, and when she does address it, realizes they don’t know much, and don’t want to discuss it.

While still in high school, Nicole attempts to get more information from the attorney who handled her adoption. When this attempt is relatively unsuccessful, she puts it to the back of her mind until after college when she begins her pursuit again by requesting non-identifying information about her biological family through the court. With each baby step, it seems Nicole hopes she will feel satisfied, but instead finds she has only whetted her appetite for more information.

It isn’t until Nicole is pregnant with her first child that she realizes how important her desire is to have more information about her biological family. She knows nothing of her birth mother’s pregnancy or her early delivery – things that feel monumental now that she is pregnant herself. It begins to hit her that she has little information about her biological family’s history to share with her future child. She also begins to feel a different connection with her biological mother during pregnancy as she realizes the strong bonds built during that time, stating:

“I was going to be a mother. Someone would depend on me. Our relationship would last for the rest of my life; though it had yet to begin, I could not imagine it ending. Yet that was exactly what had happened to the bond between me and my first mother: it had been broken. We had both survived it, learned to live apart, and while I knew this – had known it for as long as I could remember – it had never struck me as unnatural until I heard my own child’s heartbeat.”

All of these realizations during her pregnancy push Nicole to actively search for her birth family. Due to the laws in the state of Washington, she must do so through an intermediary who will help mediate the communication between the parties. The discoveries Nicole makes through this process are at once beautiful and challenging, enlightening and difficult. Nicole navigates the unknown territory of building new relationships with biological relatives and shares thoughtful insights along the way.

Nicole is generous in sharing her journey and its impact on her relationship with her adoptive family, her own motherhood, and her identity. She shares this passage near the end of the book:

“Reunion has done more than restore relationships that had once been beyond my ability to fully imagine; it has enabled a shift in existing ones. It has forced my adoptive parents to think about my birth parents not as poor, pitiable immigrants or people who might steal me away, but real people with their own feelings, fears, and failings. It’s forced them to think about how I must have felt when I lost not only my first family, but all knowledge of my roots.”

This book is a must-read for prospective adoptive parents, especially those considering transracial adoption and openness. We can learn a lot from the way that other have done things well and the ways they could have improved, and we can always benefit from listening to the voices of adult adoptees.

 

The College Fund: How to start saving for your child’s future

The thought of saving for your child’s education can be overwhelming. Maybe your child isn’t even talking yet. How can you begin to imagine them going off to college? Or perhaps your child is rapidly approaching college age, and you have no idea where to even begin the planning process. In cases of adoption, your situation may feel different than the “normal” experience. Maybe you adopted your child at an older age and have not had as much time to begin saving. Don’t let that scare you! Did you know that there are scholarships available specifically for students were adopted? Wherever you may be on the college preparation timeline, there are endless resources available that can help you and your child reach their education goals. Listed below are some different options to help you along the journey of saving for college.

529 Savings Plan

A 529 plan is an educational savings plan that provides tax and financial aid benefits. These plans are sponsored by state and allow your investment to grow free of federal tax. Additionally, some states offer tax deductions for contributions made to your plan. 529 savings plans vary by state – check out the  options available to you based on your state here.

Coverdell Educational Savings Account

A Coverdell Educational Savings Account is a trust account used to fund educational expenses. While the ESA has some similarities to the 529 plan, such as the fact that it is tax-free, it has many distinguishing factors as well. Earnings from the ESA can be used for a multitude of educational expenses for grades K-12, in addition to college expenses. Contributions to an ESA have a maximum limit of $2,000 per year and may be made up until the beneficiary turns 18. Here is some more information on Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts.

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Savings plans are a great way to begin preparing to pay for college, but they are not the only way. Scholarships can also be incredibly beneficial tools for affording college, and there are a lot more of them out there than you may think. While most schools will offer scholarships to accepted students based on sports or academic achievements, there are also endless opportunities to apply for scholarships that are not specific to one school. For example, there are scholarship opportunities for students who have a learning disability, such as ADHD or dyslexia, students who hope to pursue a specific area of study, students who are adopted, and so much more. Below are some of the scholarship opportunities available to students who are adopted or have been in foster care.

Also-Known-As Adoptee Excellence Scholarship

“Also-Known-As is establishing a scholarship program to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of young dynamic adoptees attending college in the coming academic year. The Also-Known-As Adoptee Excellence Scholarship is a $1,000 scholarship for an outstanding graduating high school senior or undergraduate student who was adopted to the United States from another country.” Read more about the scholarship and how to apply here.

Casey Family Scholars Program“Foster Care to Success (FC2S) has provided scholarships to deserving foster youth since 1987. Casey Family Programs provides funding for students in community colleges, public and private universities, and technical/career programs in all 50 states. FC2S provides the encouragement, mentoring and practical support these students need to do well not only in school but in their personal lives.” Find more information about the application process and requirements here.

 

 

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The savings plans and scholarship opportunities listed above are only a few examples of the different ways you can begin planning for your child’s education. For more options and information, check out the resources listed below.

Scholarships for Adoptees and Foster Children:

25 Great Scholarships for Adopted Students

Scholarships for Adopted and Foster Children

Top Scholarships For Adopted Children

Scholarship Finders:

CollegeData

CareerOneStop

College Board

Helpful Guides:

How to Cover College Expenses For Your Child Adopted From Foster Care

How and When to Start a College Fund For Your Child

 

 

 

Adoptive Parents Who Are Contacted By Their Agency About a Sibling Placement & Struggling with Decision

Adoption social workers often build deep genuine relationships with expecting and birth parents, with the hope that they will extend far past the  placement process.  Because of their closeness and the  positive support received in the past, birth parents feel  often feel less hesitate to reach out if they find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy again in the future.

As an agency we support the idea of keeping siblings (full or half) together, if and when that is an option. When presented with a situation of a birth parent returning with the potential to place again, we always ask if they have considered the possibly of placing with the same adoptive family they previously placed with.

It is common for birth parents to want to keep siblings together by placing again with the same family especially if they have had a positive open adoption experience. It is important to remember that through our discussion, we always prepare the birth parents that not all situations allow placing with the same family, though that is our priority when possible and if desired by the birth parents. We don’t necessarily want to build their hopes up, however, we can always pose the question to the adoptive family.

Making that phone call to a previous adoptive family is exciting. After the common initial reaction of shock, most families are extremely appreciative that they were reached out to first and presented with the opportunity to make a decision.

The decision to accept another placement that is presented out of the blue can have layers of questions that need worked through to come to a decision. While initially most people want to say “YES” to keeping biological siblings together, it is crucial that a family really takes some time to consider all the factors involved:

Are you emotionally prepared to add a child

It is important to consider your current child(ren) before deciding if you would take in a sibling. Some children do struggle, emotionally and medically, and those are important factors in determining the responsibilities of a parent and whether they are open to adding a child.

Not only that, parents often have a general idea of their family dynamic and the number of children they envisions when creating their family. Families may have been in a place of being content with the size of their family and may not have been planning to add more children. It can be hard to work through all these thoughts and emotions. Social workers are there to help talk it out and come to the decision that’s best for your family.

Are you financially prepared to add a child

Most adoptive families, who are not already in the process of adopting again, are not necessarily ready to grow their family. Being financially stable, is one of the important reasons most birth parents choose adoption to begin with. You may have had a financial change since adopting the first time that will impact your decision. We would not want  a family to jeopardize their financial stability and the future of their child through a second placement.

Support

It is really important for a family to consider whether they have the right support and resources around them to adopt again. Since going through the adoption process the first time, they have a better understand of what it actually takes and what they need in way of support to feel comfortable

Age & Health of Adoptive Parent(s)

Some time has passed since you first began the adoption process and your current state of health  may be different. Maybe you started the adoption process later in life and being presented with raising another child from infancy at this point in time might not be the right fit.

Details of Current Placement in Question

The first time you adopted, you wrestled with the questions presented on the profile key and completed it to show the situations you were open to. Just because this is the same birth parent now considering placing for a second time doesn’t mean all the details are the same. This situation might lie outside of your comfort level for some reason and that’s incredible important to explore. Your social worker is able to help you navigate this decision as you gather the details and weigh the options.

It is so important that adoptive families are really honest with themselves and their social worker when facing the opportunity of a surprise placement. They need to consider themselves as a parent, their current child(ren) as well as the new baby and birth parents. In the event that a family is unable to move forward with adopting again, social workers work hard with the birth parents to find another family they are comfortable placing with.  And with the birth parent’s permission, the agency will also connect the adoptive families together for support and to allow the siblings to know each other.

 

For Birth Parents with Other Children: How do I talk to my children about placing their sibling?

Placing a child for adoption can be one of the most difficult decisions of a woman’s life. It is also important to recognize how challenging it may be for a birth mother to talk with her other, children that she is parenting, after placing a child for adoption.

Often times a mother’s natural reaction is to do her best to shield her children from any pain or discomfort. Many birth mothers may not feel ready to have those difficult conversations with her other children about a sibling that she placed for adoption. However, while one may think she is protecting her child, not being honest can sometimes create distance between her and her child and ultimately lead to a mistrusting relationship.

There are important factors to consider when thinking about talking to a child about their sibling being placed for adoption:
  1. Positive Adoption Language– children are like sponges, and it is really important that parents are very conscious of their word choice when talking either around children or to children about their sibling being placed for adoption.
Common Phrases Positive Adoption Language
“I gave up your brother or sister” “I made a positive plan for your brother or sister”
“this other baby” “brother or sister”
“they aren’t his or her real parents” “they are his or her adoptive parents”
“I am his or her real parent” “I am his or her biological parent”
“you have a sibling out there in the world” “you have a sibling who is being loved on by amazing parents that I chose for him or her, just like I love on you”
  1. Age Appropriateness– It is important to recognize that age/personality of a child plays a huge factor in when/how you discuss an adoption plan to a sibling. A parent must recognize how much a child can comprehend, as well as their emotional stability.
  1. Open/Honest Communication– creating a safe space to be open and honest with your children is really important. A child should feel comfortable to be able to come to a parent to discuss/ask questions about a sibling that was placed for adoption.
  1. Free Expression: A child should feel comfortable to express their emotions, good or bad, about a sibling being placed for adoption. Often times birthparents forget that their other children have to go on their own journey of grief/loss and it is important to allow a sibling to do that at his or her own pace. This is a poem a birth mother wrote about her young son’s emotions surrounding the placement of his younger sister:
  2. Reassurance: It is really important that a birth parent continues to reassure their children that they are loved and safe. In explaining how and why a sibling was placed for adoption, a child should be reminded that they are not going to be placed elsewhere.
  1. Sibling Connection: Part of open adoption is allowing birth family to connect with an adoptee, which includes siblings. Allowing a birth parents’ other children to partake in the open relationship (visits/pictures/letters) is really valuable to all the children involved. A child placed for adoption should still be given the ability to bond and connect to siblings that his or her birth parent is parenting.

 

A birth parent’s fear of what emotions might re-surface, can get in the way of her other children’s processing of everything. Children are really resilient, and we have to keep that in mind when preparing to talk with a child about a sibling adoption plan. Your social worker will be able to help guide you as your children begin to process the experience.

Reading can be a valuable tool in talking with a child about their sibling being placed for adoption.

Helpful Children’s Books for birth parents to read to children they are parenting: