Category Archives: Open Adoption

Opening Your Heart to Open Adoption

Opening Your Heart to Open Adoption

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Open Adoption (n): the sharing of information and/or contacts between the adoptive and biological parents of an adopted child, before and/or after the placement of the child, and perhaps continuing for the life of the child.

As a prospective adoptive parent (or even as a new adoptive parent) navigating your adoption journey, the concept of openness can be intimidating. Many adopters struggle internally with questions about openness. How do I explain my child’s story, and their birth parents’ identities, to them? Will I know the right things to say? Will I ever selfishly struggle with the special bond between my child and their birth parents? Is there for a manual for how to do this right?

For every family struggling with the concept of openness, there is a family reaping the benefits of open adoption. A recent study conducted at The University of Texas at Arlington found that birth parents benefit greatly from openness upon placement of their child. Of the 223 birth parents surveyed, approximately 4 out of 5 relinquished their parental rights for financial reasons. Many of these birth parents are in an open adoption agreement with their child’s adoptive parents and they are not the only ones positively affected by openness.

According to Professor Harold D. Grotevant of the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project, open adoption comes full circle for all. “Open adoption requires us to rethink the meaning of family. Adoption doesn’t simply mean adding a child; it means extending the family’s boundary to include a child’s birth relatives. We have found that adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents alike are all more satisfied when they have opportunities for contact.”

As you consider openness in your own adoption plan, take these key pieces of advice from the adoptive parents who have chartered the waters of open adoption in the past.


Toss Aside What You Think You Know

It’s human nature to think that you have it all figured out. As individuals, it can often be difficult to admit that we don’t know everything. Many families who have experienced successful open adoptions admit that much of their initial hesitance resulted from a belief that they completely understood the process. No one adoption journey is the same and there isn’t a clear-cut process for how yours will pan out. It’s important to be open to as much information as possible. If you’re considering an open adoption, reach out to a social worker from a private adoption agency specializing in openness. These social workers are great references and you may find that you still have a lot to learn about open adoption. Oftentimes, the negative connotations surrounding openness are misguided.

Ask Yourself the Biggie – “What Am I So Afraid Of?”

This question is a soul-searching one where many areas of your life are concerned. This is especially true in the case of open adoption. A common factor regarding openness in many families is fear. Some adoptive mothers fear that they’ll be viewed as second best if their child knows their birth mother. Some adoptive fathers wonder if a child can ever truly be theirs if openness is a factor. Can I be a real parent if there is another father or mother in my child’s life? Identifying your true fears is a way to address them head on and discover ways to combat them in the quest to do what is right for your child and, ultimately, for your entire family.

Dive into the Unknown

Think for a moment about some of the greatest things that you have done in your life. You may be reflecting on falling in love, skydiving, pushing your body to limits that you didn’t think were possible. There’s one common denominator in many of the most life-changing experiences – they require a leap a faith. Open adoption isn’t any different.


Every day, families all across the United States form an indelible bond through open adoption. These families grow together, they get strong together, they ask the tough questions together. In all of the research that has been done on open adoption, the results are the same. Open adoption is the best option for every member of the adoption triad. If you are struggling to make a decision regarding open adoption, reach out to agencies like Adoptions From The Heart for a second opinion. Adoption is a difficult process for everyone involved. With open adoption, however, you create a larger support system for yourself and your family.

Holiday Tips for New Adoptive Parents

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The saying goes: it’s the most wonderful time of year – and with the crisp smell of winter pine, freshly baked sugar cookies and warm family gatherings, it’s hard not to be of good cheer. But for parents who recently adopted, the holiday season can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting.

Many new adoptive parents wonder how extended family will treat their child, and whether or not they will respect your child’s adoption story. If you adopted along transracial lines, you might wonder if you should incorporate cultural traditions from your child’s heritage.

Here are a few tips that might help ease those worries, so you can have the happiest of holidays!

Educate your family

It is not uncommon to have to educate or teach family members about adoption. Unknowingly, our family may use insensitive adoptive terms or ask invasive questions about the adoption process. It is ok to politely decline sharing details of your journey that you are not comfortable revealing, as well as, helping your family to recognize and utilize more adoption friendly language.

If you’re not quite ready for large family gatherings, you can plan the holidays at home this year or arrange to visit relatives at different times.

Create traditions

If you have adopted a child whose race or background is different from yours, you may find it hard adjusting to cultural differences. However, if you have a relationship with your child’s birth parents – it might be beneficial to learn what holidays they observe and ways you can incorporate that into new experiences with you and your family. You can also find out what holidays are popular within your child’s culture by doing a little research. Talking to other adoptive parents or joining a support group are other great ways to discover how to implement new holiday traditions.

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Create bonds

Just because your child does not have a biological relationship with extended family members, does not necessarily mean he or she doesn’t possess similar traits as your relatives. Your daughter may have the same passion for cooking as Aunt Sue. Maybe your son is just as funny as Grandpa Tim. Despite, physical similarities, you and your child can connect and build strong relationships with family members in many other ways.

Remember the birth parents

Some birth parents may feel a sense of sadness during the holidays, while others may feel pressured to be more involved than they would like. As an adoptive parent, it is completely up to you when deciding how much you would like to involve the birth family. However, if you have a healthy and open relationship with your child’s birth parent, sending something as simple as a “season’s greetings” or “thinking of you” card, enclosed with a photo can make a birth mom or dad feel included and valued.

Finally, as a newly adoptive parent, the holidays will be a unique experience. Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned or the holidays are not picture perfect. You will learn what works for you and your child along the way. Always have realistic expectations, keep a good spirit, and make sure your child knows they are loved. Lastly, just enjoy the season, after all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Birth Parents in Your Life

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                The season of giving is officially upon us. While many adults devote their next few weeks to holiday shopping for their children, parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, there are other individuals who deserve recognition. Many adoptive parents grow contemplative over the holidays,wondering what they can offer to their child’s birth parents. What gift can you give someone that can possibly convey how much you appreciate them and how thankful you are for the ultimate gift they’ve given you? Holiday shopping for birth parents can be difficult, but as we all know, sometimes the simplest gifts are the ones that matter most. Here are some ideas for heartfelt holiday presents for your child’s birth parents.


Symbolic Teddy Bear

                Teddy bears are often synonymous with young children. Why, you ask, are we recommending a teddy bear for an adult? Because it’s possible to create a bear that birth parents will not only love, but cherish forever. If your child is a toddler who no longer uses their baby blanket, it is the perfect time for this gift. Use your child’s blanket to create a teddy bear to give to their birth parents. Another possibility? Ask your hospital for your infant’s baby blanket prior to discharge. Use this infant blanket from the hospital to create a bear. Trust us, there won’t be a dry eye in the room when this gift is opened.

Handprint Calendar

Calendars are a useful tool for everyone. Create a calendar template on your computer for the upcoming year. Place paint on your child’s hand and decorate each month with their hand prints in a unique way. Create an American flag handprint for the month of July, a turkey handprint for November, or snowflake handprints for January. Bypass creating the template and purchase a handprint-ready calendar here.

Homemade Photo Magnets

Think again before you begin throwing out your bottle caps and drink lids. Save these items to make custom, homemade magnets with your child. Paint caps and lids before adding an adhesive magnetic strip to the back. Cut out photos of your child and glue them to the front of the caps. This unique present will be sure to warm some hearts. Visit a tutorial here.

Friendship Bracelets

Friendship bracelets are a childhood favorite that even adults can appreciate. Buy some string from a local craft store and help your child make matching bracelets for themselves and their birth parents. This present is one that birth parents can take with them anywhere as a reminder of their child’s love.

Send a Hug

Sometimes, we aren’t able to be with our loved ones during the holidays. In this case, children have the opportunity to send “hugs.” This easy craft allows children to make hugs to send in the mail. This gift is perfect not only for the holidays, but also as a “just because” present as well. It’s never a bad idea to show someone how much you love them and wish you could be spending time with them. For a tutorial on this easy craft, click here.

Matching Holiday Ornaments

For many families, it is a tradition to let children pick out a new holiday ornament each year. When you take your child to pick out their new ornament, buy multiples of the same ornament and give the others to your child’s birth parents. This gift allows birth parents and children to have a special item that connects them each holiday season.


Holiday shopping for birth parents can be a difficult, but with these unique and heartfelt gifts, you can have fun while knowing you will make someone else so incredibly happy.  As Winnie the Pooh once said, “sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

 

I Want to Adopt…Now What?

I Want to Adopt – Now What?

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Men and women all around the United States make one life-altering decision every day. Oftentimes, this decision is an amazing one: I want to adopt a child. With this choice comes relief for some and anxiety for others. What will this mean for me and my family? What does the process look like? What sort of things do I have to look forward to? With this step-by-step guide to the adoption process, you will be able to more readily navigate your own adoption journey.


Step One: Find the Type of Adoption That Works Best for You

There are many different types of adoptions and it’s about finding the right fit for you. While many domestic adoption plans in the 1980s and 1990s primarily focused around closed adoption, the adoption climate today has changed. Many private adoption agencies, such as Adoptions From The Heart, specialize in open adoption. This unique adoption journey allows children to stay connected with their birth parents after their adoption has been finalized. Studies have shown that open adoption is the best option for adoptees, as many struggle with their identities when they are unsure of their roots. To determine which adoption plan works best for you, ask yourself a series of deeply personal questions to guide your decision-making. Would I feel comfortable allowing my child to reunite with their birth parents throughout their life? Am I the kind of person who would be able to adequately answer my child’s questions about their background? What are my biggest fears about open adoption that may be holding me back?

Step Two: Research the Cost

There is a great difference in cost between foster care, Christian services and private adoption agencies. There is also a difference in cost between domestic and international adoption. Factors such as your home state and the use of an attorney can also affect the total cost. Whichever route you choose, be sure to do your research so as to prevent any surprise fees associated with your adoption. While adoption can be costly, it is important to note that there are resources available to manage the fees.

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Step Three: Select an Agency and Work Closely to Create Your Plan

Now that you’ve discovered what type of adoption plan you would like to follow, as well as the local costs for adoption, it’s time to choose your agency. Google local adoption agencies and search online to read reviews from former adoptive families. Social workers at these agencies are incredibly helpful. Reach out to, and meet with, local adoption social workers to determine which agency best fits your family’s needs.

Step Four: The Homestudy

The homestudy is an integral part of the adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents open their homes to social workers who conduct thorough home research and background checks to ensure that an adoptee will be properly cared for. Guidelines differ by state, so be sure to ask your adoption agency which documents you will need prior to the homestudy. Many waiting families experience anxiety throughout the homestudy process. This article offers tips on how to pass your homestudy with flying colors.

Step Five: Put Yourself Out There

Many adoption agencies do their best to help adoptive parents create profiles to make their information readily available to expecting mothers. Websites such as Adoptimist help families create a unique online presence to show others about the things that make their family a wonderful fit for a child. Take advantage of these online resources as some birth mothers may seek out families individually on the internet before reaching out to an agency.

Step Six: Make Preparations for Your Child

As the months tick by, families get closer and closer to meeting the child they are waiting for. Be sure to keep some basic necessities on hand that cater to the age of the child you are planning to adopt. Be mindful that emergency placements do occur. Expecting mothers go to the hospital, give birth and decide that they would like to place their child. Don’t be surprised if you get a seemingly random phone call telling you to come meet your baby. While it is not the most common experience, it happens. Prepare accordingly.

Step Seven:  Petition to Adopt/Finalize Adoption

There is nothing better than finally meeting the child that will join your family. Your agency, social worker and lawyer will help you officially petition the court for adoption rights. Once your petition has been approved, you are officially parents!

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Adoption can seem like a daunting process when you’re not sure what to expect. Remember that there are always resources and individuals who are willing to help you sort through any questions you may have. Do not be afraid to reach out to local adoption social workers, agencies and attorneys for guidance. With 1 in 6 American families touched by adoption, the support network is larger than you even know.

Adoption and Back to School

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

“Will my child be made fun of?”

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

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

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

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

Prepare your child

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

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

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

Connect with their teacher

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

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

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

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

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

Get involved in the classroom

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

Talk with other parents

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

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

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

Celebrate adoption!

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

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

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

 

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

Finding the Best Attorney for your Adoption Journey

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

What is the attorney’s role in adoption?

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

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How can prospective adoptive parents find an attorney?

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

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

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

 

What should you look for in a good attorney?

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Anything else?

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

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

How to Choose the Right Adoption Agency for Your Family

Choosing an Adoption Agency or attorney to work with you through your journey of building a family is not an easy decision. These are the people that will help join you with your future child. There are many elements to consider when deciding what agency to work with during your journey.

Explore Different Adoption Paths 

Different Types of Adoption– There are a few different avenues for adoption and it’s important to research them all in order to find the best fit for your family. Are you looking to adopt internationally or domestically? Would you be interested in starting as a foster parent? Are you willing to have an open adoption? Are you looking to adopt a baby or an older child? Would you consider a child with special needs?

If you are looking to adopt internationally, there are only certain agencies and attorneys who work in such capacities. Find out more about Intercountry Adoption through the US Department of State website.  

If you would be interested adopting from foster care, there all ages of children who are in need of homes. Please be aware that while there are some children in the system who are immediately available for placement, the intent of foster care is reunification and so in many cases fostering does NOT equal permanent placement. Find out more here.

Open adoption is more often than not how domestic adoptions are being done, so if you do think closed adoption is best for you, your options are more limited, and you may find international adoption is generally, not always, a more closed process. However, there are many misconceptions and fears around open adoption which may cause families to want to steer toward closed adoption, so before settling on closed adoption, please consider some of the important benefits here.  If you are looking for an open domestic adoption that usually places prospective parents with infants, there are many agencies who can help you learn more and start you journey, including Adoptions from The Heart.

Financial Need– Adoption can be an expensive process and varies depending upon the type of adoption you choose to pursue. It’s important prior to jumping into the process, to really explore the financial aspects. What can I manage financially, will I be borrowing out of my retirement or do I have another way to cover the initial expenses? Is international adoption too expensive? How will the federal tax credit of over $13,000 benefit me personally? Are there adoption grants or loans I qualify for or does my employer offer an adoption benefit? What are the agency’s fees and what do they cover? Are their additional legal fees I will need to  save for as well?

Find out more about financing an adoption here.

Accessibility– Does your career allow for you to travel to faraway for international adoption or even an out of area domestic placement? How much time will you get off work both before and after being placed with a child? Are you willing to make traveling arrangements for visits with the birthparent if you choose open adoption? Do you want your child’s birthparent close enough that they can attend special events in your child’s life should they want to?

If you want accessibility in your adoption journey, during and post placement, whether it be for work, your child’s ability to connect with their roots, or any other reason, you should consider working with a local adoption agency. Find one in your area here.

 

Know your options and ask for help

Adopting a child is no doubt a big milestone in life. Asking for help from those around you who are in some way related to adoption can make all the difference. You may know someone who has adopted a child, or who was adopted as a child. You may even know someone who placed their child for adoption if they are open about it. 6 out of 10 Americans are touched by adoption in some way, so chances are, you know someone! Ask that person if they are comfortable answering some of your questions. If they aren’t, that’s okay; there are other connections to adoption in your life.

Reaching out to your doctor or OB/GYN to ask questions and get recommendations is always a valuable place to begin. From working with expectant parents considering adoption, or other families like yourself, looking to adopt, they probably have some ideas of agencies people have enjoyed working with, and knowledge about the adoption process in general.

You can also call a local adoption agency, even if you don’t end up working with them, just to get some general questions answered from a social worker who works in adoption every day. Many agencies host free information meetings or online webinars where you can learn even more about the process.

There are also great support groups and blogs online where you can read and chat with people who have experience with adoption from all around the world! Check out some of the best adoption blogs out there!

 

Gauge what level of support is available to you, your child, and the birth parents

Some agencies will help you get placed with a child, and that is their main purpose. Others want to support you, the child, and the birth parents throughout the whole process, even after placement. Consider what services they provide outside of placement. Do they offer counseling, education opportunities, or support groups? Do they act as a contact liaison between your family and the birth parents in an open adoption? Are their services available to EVERY person involved in the adoption triad? If the answer is yes, you’ve found a great agency. If the answer is no, but you aren’t looking for that level of involvement, that’s okay too. Just know that even if you don’t think you want that level of support, working with an agency that offers it means they will always be there to help if you change your mind.

Consider how they make you feel

Adopting a child and building your family will no doubt be one of the greatest journeys of your life. However, that does not mean it is easy. Prospective adoptive parents could be in waiting for just a month while others wait more than two years. You may be chosen by an expecting parent, but they may decide to parent before the child is placed or the adoption is finalized. You may go through post-placement depression, similar to post-partum, after having a child placed with you. The journey to adopting a child is not easy, but the agency you choose can help you through the difficulties and share the joy with you during the good times.

If you find an adoption agency that makes you feel overly-optimistic, like nothing could go wrong and you’ll be placed with a baby in a matter of weeks, know that this positivity is not always good. They might be over promising and you might only discover a different reality once they have collected large fees. On the flip side, if an agency makes you feel defeated and hopeless and makes you wonder why you’re even trying adoption, that isn’t good either. Having realistic expectations is important, but you should also have a support system that encourages you to put your heart into adoption and rejoice in the growth of your family so that you can put your best most truest self forward in your adoption profile and when meeting expecting parents. If you find an agency that encourages your excitement about adopting, but is real with you about the difficulties of adoption, and teaches you about the losses involved for everyone in the adoption triad, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

 

Ultimately, every family is different and you have to be honest with yourself about what is best and most comfortable for you. However, you should educate yourself on all of your options before making the all-important decision of what agency will help you grow your family.

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