Category Archives: Open Adoption

Adoptive Parents Offer Open Adoption Advice to Prospective Adoptive Parents

For those  just beginning the process, open adoption can seem scary at first. We asked AFTH’s Facebook followers:

What is your advice to those just beginning the process? What would you tell them about open adoption?

Here are their responses:

Zarah: As a birthmother, it is very difficult at first. You are very unsure the relationship and where you stand. But as time goes on and I got more comfortable, it is a wonderful blessing. Figure out the amount of openness you would like, and as time grows so does the relationship.

Erin: We went into adoption with the mindset that we would have a closed adoption. From the first moment that we met our child’s birthmother, we feel in love with her and all of our fears of “open adoption” were gone. It’s an incredible feeling to know that when/if our daughter ever has a question about her birth family, we have access to get those questions answered for her by loving people that want nothing more in life than to see her prosper.

Ashley: The expecting mother that chooses you as the adoptive family will feel the same way. Wondering if they are choosing the right family. Talk to as many adoptive parents as you can and hear all of the fears and joy! The classes are amazing and the information and knowledge you receive is priceless.

***click here to see upcoming Open Adoption Panel details**

Joni: When my daughter decided to place my grandson for adoption, I was devastated, but she chose Open Adoption. It’s the best decision she ever made in her life. It wasn’t the end like I thought. When you do your face to face meeting, make sure you get all your questions on the table and out so there are no questions in your mind when you leave.

Kevin: I would advise people to examine their fears and find common threads with birth families. Are you feeling you won’t get picked or that you are being judged by strangers? Birth families might be struggling with those same issues. Are you worried that you will be picked by someone who, as the TV movie scripts go, changes their mind? Birth families have to put a tremendous amount of faith in you, too, and hope that you won’t “change your mind” as well. You and your child’s birthparents — because you WILL get picked — are always going to have one thing in common: All of you will always put your child’s needs first. So you might as well find common ground from the get go.

Dina: There are so many varying degrees of open adoption. The openness of each situation is really a comfort level between birth family and the adoptive family. It will also change and develop as your child grows.

Mitzki: Open adoption can mean a LOT of things, from limited contact through an agency to complete openness, to the many places in between. As far as starting the process, educate yourself as best you can, ask questions, and make copies of everything!

Pamela: The cons of open adoption seem to be about the communication and social issues between adoptive and birth parents. While the pros all seem to point to possible benefits to the adoptee and to the overall best interest of the child. You can work through any “cons” if both sets of parents always put the child first.

Sharon: Fear is a normal part of an open adoption, but the benefits completely outweigh any fears that you may have. Go with an open mind and not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how small or silly you may think it might be.

Cynthia: When my husband and I first heard of open adoption it scared us to death. Would someone come and just knock on our door to see our child? We learned through our info sessions and talking to other adoptive families how unique this journey could be. Two unique journeys and a very huge family now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Melissa: We looked at “open” adoption as an amazing gift. We often thought about how the birth mother must feel about placing her baby and how scary it is for her… this way she would always know how her baby is doing and growing.

Stephanie: My first bit of advice is to meet with couples who have been through the process. Listen to their stories; ask very open and honest questions about their process. The process can be very overwhelming and it’s certainly educational. You learn a lot about yourself during this time. It is a very emotional journey but certainly one worth taking.

So as you can see, open adoption means so many different things to so many people. Over and over again, AFTH social workers hear adoptive parents say how fearful they were of open adoption but how that fear began to disappear once they learned of the benefits and heard from others with open adoptions. So take time to listen to the voices of birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees involved in open adoption.

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How To Tell Your Child’s Adoption Story

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.

Ages 0-4

            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.

Ages 5-11

            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.

 

Ages 12-18

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.

Talking With Your Kids About Adoption

Having that first talk about any subject matter with children is difficult. The “adoption talk” can seem daunting. However, it does not need to be this way. There are certain steps you can take in the adoption journey, especially when explaining it to children. We are here to alleviate some of that stress for you because we know it not an easy subject matter.

Do it Early and Do it Often

Being able to talk about your child’s adoption story early and often is important. By utilizing adoption terminology as early as when they are an infant, they can slowly become accustomed to the words as they grow older. By reverberating their adoption story from a young age, this can help them better understand where they came from.

It’s also important to anticipate – children ask a lot of questions. By being prepared for questions they may ask, you, as parents, can feel better equipped to answer them. If you are in a two-parent family, it’s also good to be consistent with your child’s adoption story. This prevents confusion and miscommunication. Coordination is key.

Keeping all of this in mind, it is also important to realize the developmental aspect of it. In other words, keep the talks “age-appropriate.” One of the most common questions kids start asking is about being in their “mommy’s tummy.” At that age (around three or four), kids are obviously still figuring out the world around them. By utilizing story-telling language to explain their journey to this world, it can aid in the child’s understanding.

It is also seen through developmental and behavioral psychology that repetition for a child is crucial. Certain aspects of life must be explained repeatedly to a child, and that’s okay. That’s normal. Explaining their adoption is no different in that way. It is a complex concept, and sometimes the information is emotionally laden for a child. Talk when they are ready or bring it up.

Be Honest and Let Them Express Their Feelings

Understanding adoption as a parent is hard. Understanding adoption as an adopted child is even harder. It’s important to be honest with them when you need to be. They have a right to know their story, but it’s important to realize that what you tell them when they are six years old is a lot different than when they are thirteen.

As parents, we want to make every boo-boo better, every bad day a good one, and every sad face a smile. Children are little people; they have bad days, sad days and everything in between. Help them express those feelings when beginning to tell them their adoption story. They may feel anger, sadness, betrayal, along with many other negative emotions. It’s always good to find outlets for those feelings – drawing is helpful, as well as writing. As they get older, an adoption journal may be beneficial.

If they ever feel a need to express those emotions, utilize it as a teaching moment. Ask them why they feel that way, and go from there. Give them an opportunity to sort through their thoughts. Of course, every child is different, and we learn from that.

Adoption can be tough to talk about with your child, but there are ways to alleviate that stress building up. By taking a few of these tips, you may find it easier to explain their adoption journey. We love our children, and ultimately want what’s best for them. We learn from them and feel what they feel. Remember, you’re all in this together. Family is family, no matter where or how it started.

Saying Things You Think Are Helpful, But Actually Hurt

worried-girl-413690_1920              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.

 

 

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

holiday-gift-guide-for-the-birth-parents-in-your-life

                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.”