In the new year, we all strive to make resolutions in hopes to transform our outlooks on life. We may want to exercise more to become stronger or reach out more frequently to friends and loved ones. Awareness is one of the most popular resolutions with which we want to utilize to our advantage, whether it be cultural, political, or social. With 1 in 25 American households with children have at least one adopted child, adoption is a topic of which so many want to become more aware. What many of us do not know is that the common language and phrasing associated with adoption is not only insensitive to all involved parties, but it also conveys the long-rooted ignorance towards the subject.
- “Real” or “biological” vs. “birth” parent
Individuals who have not yet experienced adoption often misconceive that birth parents are lazy and do not want to raise their children. This cannot be further from the truth. Everyone’s familial situation is unique, and we cannot judge books by their covers. Just became a child does not share the same genetics as his or her parents does not make him or her any less of that parents’ child.
- “Give up” vs. “place”
The phrase “give up” is one of the most commonly misused phrases when discussing adoption. A birth parent does not simply give up his or her child out of convenience; the adoption process takes up to several months of careful thought and planning. The birth parents also have much more of a say when selecting the family with whom they want to place their children.
- “Adoptive” parent vs. “parent”
Each family’s dynamic is different and special in its own way, whether built through adoption or biologically. The phrase “adoptive parent” not only invalidates the parent’s status; it additionally isolates that person in terms of his or her ability to raise a child. A parent is a parent, regardless of how he or she built a family.
For many expectant adoptive parents, the mention of a home study could be confusing and intimidating at first. If you are a prospective adoptive parent and are feeling anxious about the home study process, getting all of the information you need will ease your worries and ensure a smooth, well-prepared home study.
1.What is a home study?
To start off, a home study is simply the process of making sure you can become an adoptive parent and live in a stable environment to raise a child. It requires a full criminal background check, a look at your finances, family background, and a review of your personal relationships. It is encouraged for prospective adoptive parents to start the home study process as soon as possible because it is the longest step that needs to be completed before connecting a family with a child or pregnant birth mother.
2. What is a home visit?
During this process you will meet with a social worker and certified Home Study Provider who will visit your home to review and verify that is a safe environment to raise a child. Don’t worry, your house does not have to be perfect — simple cleanliness and safety are most important. You want to make sure you:
- Store chemicals, cleaning supplies, and medicine out of reach
- Cover electric outlets
- Install gates and safety railings for stairways and fences around pools
- Inspect window screens and locks on windows and doors
- Check smoke and carbon detectors to make sure they’re fully functioning
- Examine any tall and heavy furniture bolted to the wall\
3. How to prepare for your interview.
Your social worker will meet with you or any member of your family who may be living in the same household as the adoptive child (family members exclude any young child who is not able to understand the adoption process) to conduct an interview. The interview will take place with each family member together and individually so that the social worker can learn more about your family history, personalities, goals for adoption, and knowledge on adoption.
Here is a list of sample interview that may come up during your home study interview:
- Biographical/Family Background
- How was your family as a child?
- Share your best childhood memories.
- Share your worst childhood memories.
- Do you have any other children?
- Are you married? If so, for how long?
- How do you feel about child discipline?
- Why have you decided to adopt?
- What are your wishes for the future?
- How would you rate the safety of your community?
- Describe the school system.
- What school would your child attend?
- What activities are available for your child?
- Do you have any health issues? If so, how are you handling them?
- Will your family history cause you to potentially develop any health issues?
- What is your plan in case of any health emergencies?
- Have you ever been arrested? If so, what were you arrested for?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Is so, what were you convicted for?
- What is your annual income?
- What is your educational background?
- What is your profession?
- Are you prepared for any unexpected expenses that may arise?
- Are you able to provide for what a child will need?
You should become familiar with these questions to better prepare yourself for the interview. During your interview remember to be honest, relax, and be yourself!
4. What you’ll need.
Getting your appropriate documents in order will ensure a smooth home study and allow it to move quickly. Here is a checklist of the documents you will need:
- Autobiographical statement
- Parenting plan statement
- Driver’s license(s)
- Birth certificate(s) of everyone who lives in your home
- Social security card
- Marriage certificate if applicable
- Divorce decree(s) if applicable
- Military discharge(s) if applicable
- Past adoption decree(s) if applicable
- Green card(s) if applicable
- Financial information
- Latest income tax return and tax returns for the last 2-3 years
- Verification of employment (most recent pay stub, letter from your employer, or a statement stating that you are not working)
- Proof of insurance: (home, health, life, auto)
- Medical statement(s) of health status for applicants and everyone living in the home
- Immunization records
- Passport(s) if adopting internationally
- Pet vaccination records if applicable
5. Who to choose as a reference.
It will be important to prepare a list of references for your social worker to contact. You will want to make sure you ask your references beforehand if it is okay to use them as a reference. You should choose people who are close to you, know your personality, and who are supportive of your decision to adopt.
The home study process may seem overwhelming but keep in mind that it is a necessary step in the adoption process and is not as scary as it might seem! It may feel invasive but keep in mind it is just to ensure a child will be placed in a safe home with a loving family. Remember you are not alone! If you have any concerns along the way reach out to family, friends, other parents who have been through the adoption process, or your social worker for support along the way. Relax, be genuine and when all is said and done, it will all be worth it. Good luck!
“He who can reach a child’s heart can reach the world’s heart.” -Rudyard Kipling
The holidays are a stressful time of year, especially with the busy schedules, financial stress, and all-around holiday chaos. As charming and wonderful as the holidays are, they bring upon these feelings of anxiety. However, holidays are also the time of tradition– incorporating the oldest family rituals into each holiday festivity. This is what makes it so unique. With the addition of your adoptive child, it is paramount to involve them in these traditions from their infant stages. As malleable as babies are, they are constantly learning and growing from their environment and family interaction. Make them feel a part of something wonderful.
Start the Traditions Young
Being involved from the beginning is crucial. As a baby, they are experiencing the world through emotion and physical interaction. As children, they will thrive on family rituals and routines that add extra meaning and emotion to the holiday season. By starting early, you are ensuring that he/she is a part of something special. Whether it’s making custom-made ornaments every year, preparing the holiday meal, or baking a batch of their favorite holiday cookies, children will find joy in these festive activities.
Let Them Play a Role
Adoptive children can sometimes feel a sense of estrangement, especially around the holidays. Add a unique touch to your holiday traditions. If their birth culture is different from yours, incorporate new dimensions into your celebration. You may also choose to add a ritual in recognition of his/her birth parents. By incorporating this part of their life into your new traditions, it will give them a better sense of identity.
Make it Personal
Make them a photo album, or a memory book of their adoption journey. Tell them their adoption story repeatedly to verbalize the unique way they became a part of the family. It also might be nice to schedule a meal with their birth parents – schedule a date at their favorite restaurant. It is good to nurture this relationship with your adoptive child and their birth parents this time of year, especially if you were involved in an open adoption. It adds an element to them understanding their identity.
The holidays are a fabulous time of year – food, family, and friends. With your recent adoption, make them feel wanted and special in this new family tree. Add them into traditions, make them feel a part of a close-knit unit, and tell them stories of their journey. As fabulous as they can be, holidays can also add some stress and anxiety to adoptive families. By incorporating these little, but meaningful gestures, the holiday season will be something to look forward to all year long for you and your child.
When we think of adoption, we think of someone choosing to grow their family. We think of the expectant mother who wants to give her child a better life. We think of a child receiving love from all angles. Rarely, do we consider a person taking advantage of someone’s need or want to adopt. It is sad to say, but adoption scams happen all the time! Scary, right?! But don’t worry, we are going to give you helpful tips on how to spot warning signs and red flags down below.
One of the first warning signs you could receive is a vague or questionable email address and subject title. If you receive an email with a subject titled “Baby waiting for you!”, an eyebrow and a question should be raised. If the email address ends in @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, or anything other than the company’s name, make sure to do your research on the facilitator or agency. Also, beware of generic messages. These are emails that lack specifics. You could be one of many receiving the same message. The usual scammer makes their first point of contact via email.
A sure-fire warning sign is the recipient requesting money. Money should never be exchanged without discussing it with an adoption professional first. At this point, all communication should cease until you speak with an adoption professional. The recipient may also request a plane ticket. This is common for overseas scams. The recipient may explain they want to have their baby in your country. Only problem is the baby may not actually exist or the recipient does not plan to complete the adoption process.
An expecting mother approaching you about adopting her twins could tug at your heart strings. Unfortunately, this is a classic scam that happens around major, sentimental holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Scammers rely on these holidays to lower your guard. They hope you want a child bad enough that you will agree to the situation quickly with little to no objection.
- Pressure to sign documents you don’t understand.
- If any guarantees are made.
- If they rush to the topic of you paying expenses.
- If they refuse to meet with the adoption professional or agency.
- If agency or facilitator refuses to return your phone calls or emails.
- If birth mother doesn’t provide proof of pregnancy.
- If agency or facilitator says they will be in touch with you instead of giving their phone number.
- If anyone is selling a baby online for money.
Whether you choose to go through an agency or use an adoption professional make sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professional. Learn your legal rights to adoption. You can join groups online that discuss tips on how to avoid adoption fraud. If you are a prospective adoptive parent here are a few ways to avoid “Birth Mother Scams”. Set up a phone conversation. Get confirmation of pregnancy. You can request a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, find out if your adoption professional has the right paper work to request the ultrasound. If she refuses to speak with your adoption professional and refuses to send an ultrasound, things may not be as they seem. When in doubt always contact your agency or adoption professional. They have more experience in these situations and can help you navigate through the process. Adoption professionals don’t have any emotional attachments to the situation, so they can ask the expectant mother the hard questions.
Relax & Breathe…
Don’t let the possibility of a scam scare you away from adoption. Adoption is a great way to expand your family. Just keep in mind, never jump into a situation that seems too good to be true. Do your own research on whomever you choose to use as an agency or as an adoption professional. Take the time to learn adoption laws in the state you reside. Find adoption information meetings that you can attend to familiarize yourself with the process. It’s unfortunate, scams like these make adoptive parents leery of posting their profiles, specifically on the internet. Remember, that the internet is just a tool being used. Scams can happen at any time, on any platform, and can involve professionals. I can’t say it enough… DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Explaining a child’s adoption story can be overwhelming for the adoptive parents. Some don’t know when is a good time to tell their child, while others are unclear on how to tell them. For starters, there is no right or wrong way to discuss adoption with your child. However, it is best to start introducing positive adoption language as soon as possible. Your child should be familiar with adoption language because it is a part of their story & their identity. Down below are a few tips to help you tell your child their adoption story.
How & When to Explain
Make sure to take your child’s age and maturity into consideration. The story should be simple and age appropriate. Give them details that you can elaborate on as they get older. The details should be truthful, so that you don’t contradict yourself later. Share the excitement with an upbeat tone. Understand what your child is asking. Let them know that it’s okay to ask questions and talk about their adoption at any time. Don’t be afraid to revisit topics you may have explained at an earlier time. This will happen as your child’s curiosity grows and their understanding develops over time.
This is the best time to start sharing your child’s adoption story. Let’s face it kids love being the center of attention. They’ll be more eager to listen to their own story. Whether it’s the story of their birth or the story of the magnificent time they made your family whole, they want to hear it. The meaning of adoption doesn’t quite sink in yet, so keep the story basic. Let them know they were born the same way everyone else is. They grew in their mother’s tummy, but she couldn’t parent at that time. Explain that you wanted to be a parent very much, so you adopted him/her. Include that their birth and adoption were both awesome events that will never be forgotten.
Within this age group, the concept of adoption and having two sets of parents becomes clear. As your child gets older and mentally develops you may notice them experiencing more complex feelings of loss and feeling different. Make sure to have open dialogue with your child. It is essential to see how they are putting the story together. Your child’s stage of development, emotional & intellectual maturity may determine how they piece the information together. Answer any questions regarding their birth parents appropriate for their age. If any misconceptions of their birth parents form, offer alternative views to address the situation.
Around this age children in general begin pulling away from their parents to form their own identity. Children who have been adopted may have a difficulty forming an identity if there is any information lacking. Parents can help by understanding the need for this information. Help them attain the information they are searching for. Also, give them the freedom to explore it. As for any age, make sure to keep the line of communication open. It is vital to hear what your child is saying and what they are asking. Allow them to share their feelings with you. Help them with any struggles they may be having regarding their adoption or their birth parents.
Time is of The Essence
When talking to your child about their adoption story timing is everything. It’s best to start as early as possible. Don’t let your child’s adoption story be a family secret. If you didn’t tell their story when they were young children, start telling them soon. It is important to let them know that they can come to you with any questions they may have. Always leave an open line of communication regarding their adoption or birth parents. As children get older, their questions may become more complex. Be open and accepting to whatever they may want or need to know.
Adoption can be a difficult road to navigate. For birth parents, this can be a rocky road with highs that we appreciate and lows that can reach the deepest valley. Some of us are lucky enough to have a support system that is set in place. Other birth parents either make their own support system or have learned better ways to cope with the grieving process. I am a birth mother that is 4 years post-placement. You never truly “move on”, but you can “move forward”. As I look back on my adoption journey, there were times I thought I was coping well. You know, when you miss your child, but it doesn’t paralyze you or depress you. You miss your child in a healthy way and want nothing but the best for them like any other parent would. Adoption is mentioned in a conversation and today you feel confident enough to mention you had an adoption placement. Then someone says this thinking they are being supportive, “You will have more kids later in life.”
Before I continue, most comments I heard during my pregnancy & after my adoption placement were from people with good intentions. These comments were from close friends and family who thought I needed encouragement. When they said these things, I had to remind myself that they didn’t mean any harm, but it doesn’t stop these statements from being painful. I’m going to list some statements and explain why they hurt. I’m also going to give an expecting parent’s point of view with a comical twist. As time goes on, you learn to forgive people and laugh.
“Why are you upset, you’re doing a good thing?”
Response: “Gosh, let me stop moping around. All this good I’m doing is the prescription I needed.”
We are upset, because who truly wakes up and says “I’m going to give my child to a stranger today.” Trust me, no one in their right mind says that. We love our children so much that we trust the adoptive parents to provide a better life for our children. We are filled with joy to complete a family that once thought having a child was a distant dream. However, it doesn’t stop our mind, body, and soul from missing and loving our child.
“You know it’s going to be hard, right? You’ll end up regretting it.”
Response: “Really?! That never crossed my mind. I almost thought it was going to be easy. Thanks for the advice.”
A nurse said this to me during one of many third trimester check-ups. She knew about my adoption plan and worked with other expectant parents choosing adoption. I was truly shocked when she made this statement. I wasn’t shocked by what she said, but by who it was coming from. As expecting parents, some of us don’t have the best support system and that’s if we have one. My doctor was supportive and kind. He told me about support groups he thought would be great for me. He confirmed that the agency I chose was not only a credible agency, but a good agency in general to work with. For once I was feeling good about my decision. It is a shame that one comment made by the nurse could fill my mind with so much anxiety. She made me feel like I didn’t understand what I was planning to do. When in reality, I had already weighed my options and adoption was the best decision for my child to live a better life.
“You’re stronger than I am. I could never do that!”
Response: “I would have never guessed with the three kids standing behind you.”
This statement carries a powerful sting. For most birth parents, if our circumstances were different we wouldn’t do “that” either. Adoption isn’t for everyone the same way as abortion isn’t for everyone. When people say, “I could never do that” it makes you feel like you did the unthinkable. I spoke with other birth mothers who mentioned this made them feel sub-human and unworthy. We are worthy and very human, which is why it is painful to hear.
“So you don’t want your child?”
Response: (Blank stare)…..Really?!
Naturally as parents we want our children. We want to raise them, care for them, and provide for them. Even after adoption, birth parents feel the same way, but we understand that we can’t. Every birth parent comes with a unique story that leads to adoption for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean we are bad people. It does mean that we are selfless enough to think past our emotions to provide what our child needs, which is a good family.
When someone finds out you did an adoption and the room falls silent with uncomfortable stares.
In my head: Maybe they’re waiting for the punch line.
I think this is the worst reaction. As quiet as silence can be, it speaks volumes. Silence and stares can feel like a guilty brick being thrown in your direction. And let’s be honest, who wants to catch a brick. Most people who don’t say anything, typically don’t know what to say. It’s like the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This is true, but people tend to ignore what was said and move on to the next topic, so they don’t feel uncomfortable. If anything, at least converse with the birth parent. Talking about our adoption is a form of therapy. It is us accepting our situation and being able to live with it.
Time Heals, People Change, and Forgiveness Allows Understanding
As cliché as it sounds, time does heal all wounds. Some days are harder than others, but you learn to cope with the hard days. The biggest piece of advice I ever heard was to allow myself grieve. On my sad days, I allow myself to cry, scream, yell, etc. Once upon time, I would bottle it up believing if I cried I was slipping backwards. In turn, when I did cry I was a neurotic mess that could barely get out of bed. We must grieve in order to live a healthy life. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you feel. It’s okay and it’s normal. We must learn to forgive ourselves in order to live a healthy & happy life. I even forgave the people who said these things to me. This too came with time. To anyone that has or had an adoption, life does get better. The situation you are in makes you stronger. After a while, comments like these will roll off your back and make you laugh. Joy and laughter are key components in the grieving process. Without them life is just bland no matter how you look at it.