Category Archives: Open Adoption

Adoption Updates: What to Send

At first when our open adoption was brand new, it was hard to know what to include in our updates. Especially since the only big things that changed between month 1 and 2 were our daughter’s weight and height. It’s hard to know what to write when the relationship between adoptive and birth parents is just beginning.

After the first few months of struggling through the updates, I simply began to think WWIW, meaning what would I want to see and hear about when I’m away from our daughter. I love to hear about everything. The blowout after daddy just changed her diaper, how our puppy gave her a slobbery kiss on the head, how her face scrunches up when she first gets into her bath. You are painting a picture for your child’s birth parents with your words and photos

Now this is where the “open” part of open adoption can be applied to your communication. As your relationship develops with your child’s birth parents, you will get to know what they really enjoy hearing about. You can even ask if there is anything specific they would like to know.

Once we moved from monthly to yearly updates, it was easier to write as so much had happened in a year. The only problem was, I found it hard to remember everything. So what I started to do was keep things in a note section on my phone so when something happened (like her first word or first tooth) I could make a note and then use those notes to write my yearly update.

Holding Back

Sometimes people will ask “isn’t it painful for her birthparents to hear those things” or “won’t it make them to change their mind”. I also knew of a family who only sent “ok” photos with their updates because they were afraid that the adorable pictures they were posting online and sending to grandparents would make their daughter’s birthmother regret placement. More often than not it is our own insecurities and fears at play. I have known several birthmothers who have said that while there is a sadness that comes with the updates there is also a great joy in seeing their little one growing up. Adoption is mixed with complex emotions and both joy and sadness can be present at the same time. If you genuinely have a concern about upsetting your child’s birthparents, contact your social worker to talk more in depth.

Ways to Stay In Touch

In addition to the yearly update, our relationship has progressed to where we text and Skype with each other. We discovered that creating a private Facebook group just for us and our daughter’s birthmother was perfect for us. We can share videos and photos and only those we allow can see them. When our daughter is older we will include her as well. We also have the CVS near our daughter’s birthmother stored in our favorites so sporadically throughout the year we send photos directly there to be printed and then let her know she has photos waiting for her.

Over Time It Will Become More Natural

So the next time you text a photo of your child to a grandparent or you are changing out the drawings he made that are hanging on the refrigerator, take a minute and think about your child’s birthparents too. Would they like a surprise mailing? Do you have a place you can store it until your yearly update or visit comes around?

I understand that each open adoption relationship is different and what we have found to work for us might not work for others. So find a system that works best for you.

Tell me, what tricks have you found to stay in touch and make updates easier to pull together?



Open Adoption – Remembering It’s NOT Just About Me

When we began the adoption process, we kind of had a leg up in knowing so much about open adoption. I had been working in the field of adoption for years and we knew several families that had different levels of contact with their children’s birth parents. We knew of the wonderful benefits of openness and were also aware of the familiar challenges. We were excited at the idea of open adoption and envisioned Thanksgiving and birthdays gathered together as a family.

The day we got “the call”, our dreams of growing our family through adoption became real. In that same moment, a large part of our adoption dream had the door slammed shut, or so we thought. As we learned more about our match and the woman who made this extremely difficult decision, we discovered that she didn’t desire openness. She wanted to choose a family and leave it at that. For a moment when I heard the news, it was like a weight was crushing my chest making it hard to breath. In an instant, my “picture” of open adoption disappeared. I was heartbroken. Not only for me but for our child as well.

I had to remind myself that my specific vision of openness was only one of the many paths our adoption journey could take. I re-framed my thinking with a focus on the birth mother’s needs and desires. For whatever reason, she was choosing to shut the door on contact, at least for now. The great thing about doors is that they can also open. I held hope for what might be while I centered the here and now in what was.

We were picked for an emergency placement, meaning that Little Miss was already born and we only had a few hours between the call and getting to meet her for the first time. When we arrived at the hospital, the incredible woman who had just made one of the most complex decisions of her life had already left. We were walked to the maternity floor and shown to our room by our social worker. Moments later they wheeled in a bassinet with this gorgeous little girl. Even now the tears still flow thinking about this moment. Tears of joy for our growing family and this precious little girl. Tears of sadness for the pain her mother must be feeling after saying goodbye.

From the hospital to a hotel and then finally home. We took each moment a day at a time. Revocation period passed then the court date for finalization came and went and we were officially a family. All the while we sent photos and letters to the agency regularly. It went on one-sided for quite some time. We never hesitated to keep our promise to send updates even when they seemed to be responded to with silence. Then nearly 4 months after our daughter was placed in our arms, we received a message from her birthmother through her social worker. I wept as I read each word. She had been reading each update we sent and holding the photos close to her heart. Each time we offered contact if and when she was ready. It took some time but she was now desiring to exchange emails and was looking forward to a day when she might be ready for a visit. It was almost like receiving “the call” again. Our family was getting ready to expand even more! It wasn’t long before our emails turned into text messages which developed into phone calls and Skype sessions. We created a private Facebook group for the three of us to share photos and videos. It was amazing.

Then almost 6 months to the day that Little Miss was born, Momma J and I found ourselves in an embrace that seemed to last forever. It was our very first face-to-face meeting. None of our surroundings mattered, we were together at last. Our daughter returned to her arms for the first time since being held in the hospital. It was the most joyous and heartbreaking visit. The pain of placement came with the happiness of being reunited as they are often intertwined.

My original dream of being together to celebrate birthdays later came true to as we all celebrated Little miss turn one and have her very first bite of cake.

Our social worker told us at the beginning of the process that open adoption is an ever-changing path with highs and lows. Times of abundant contact and times of scarcity. The contact and visits ebb and flow on Momma J’s end depending upon her situation at that time, however we have vowed to always keep the door open.

Once when a planned visit didn’t work out at the very last minute, we had some well-meaning family members ask why we keep doing it. Was it worth the 6 hour drive round trip only to find out she couldn’t make it. Without a doubt, yes. It’s not just about spending our time and gas, it’s about keeping the door open for all the benefits open adoption can have for our daughter. It’s about keeping our promises and doing the right thing even when it’s hard. As our daughter gets older, we will also make sure listen to her needs and feelings as well in relation to openness and contact. For now she enjoys when we Skype and likes to show off her new super hero moves and dance spins.

For all those adoptive parents who send updates and photos and never hear back…please don’t assume they aren’t worth doing. Momma J told us that even when she didn’t have the strength to be in touch, those updates meant the world to her. For prospective adoptive parents just beginning the process, remember to be flexible to the changes that open adoption will go through over time. It’s not just one way of being, it’s a lifestyle that over time changes and develops and hopefully grows. Open adoption can not simply be defined by one thing. For us, I’m glad that a door that began as closed has now opened.

Guiding You Through the Home Study Process











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?
  • Community
    • 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?
  • Health
    • 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?
  • Criminal
    • 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?
  • Finances
    • 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


Easy-To-Do Fundraisers to Help With Adoption Costs

If you are like any of the thousands of families considering adoption, you may have one of the same overwhelming fears – the costs. Let it be known – you are not alone in this thought process. It can seem daunting. So, what is the next step? How can you help mitigate that fear? Here is a list of some easy-to-do fundraisers that can help you lessen the costs, and calm those nerves.

Online Fundraiser – Crowdfunding (GoFundMe)


This is a hugely popular option. With so many people scrolling through their social media feeds in a day, it would be hard to pass by a personal fundraiser through GoFundMe. The key is – share as much as you can! Get the word out there on all social media platforms. Let your story be heard. Friends, family, and coworkers alike will donate. And this is a wonderful way to spread awareness about the unknown costs associated with adoption.

Host a Meal

Dinner Party

Who doesn’t love to eat a delicious meal? Host a spaghetti dinner, a pancake breakfast, or even a breakfast for dinner. Invite your family, friends and co-workers and enjoy a night of good food and good company. Charge a few dollars for attendees, and leave a donation jar on the counter for those who want to donate a little bit more. Every little bit counts!

Kickball or Dodgeball Tournament

Dodgeball tournament.jpg

Want to get more active with your fundraiser? You’re in luck! There are a lot of ways to do so. If it’s cold out, find a local gym and utilize their basketball court for a night of dodgeball. Have people form teams, and sign up for a fee. Everyone loves some healthy competition. If it’s on the warmer side, head outside for a game of kickball. Find a baseball field, and you are set. Have local groups come out form a team for a fee. Like the dodgeball tournament, this is a fabulous way to get the community involved.

Karaoke Night


For all you singers out there, this is a spectacular way to steal the show. Host a karaoke night at a local bar, or even in the comfort of your own home. Charge people individual or couple fees (for all those who love duets). Leave a little donation jar at the stage with a write-up of your story. Have fun singing your hearts out while raising funds for your adoption journey!


Affording adoption can seem difficult, but with these few fundraising ideas, you are on the way to helping your costs! Of course, there are other ideas to consider (whatever fits your lifestyle most!). Visit to navigate 101 Adoption Fundraiser Ideas. There will surely be one that suits you.

A Guide to Meeting an Expectant Mother for the First Time

First impressions are crucial and they are even more important when you are meeting an expectant mother who is considering you for adoption. This is a nerve wrecking stage in adoption. You wrack your mind with questions such as: “Will she like me?”, “What do I say?”, and “What should I wear?”. This is your big shot at becoming a parent and you don’t want to let it slip through your fingers. Below is a guide of do’s and don’ts when meeting an expectant mother for the first time.


  • Be yourself
  • Find a comfortable location
  • Don’t just talk but listen
  • Bring photos of your family and pets
  • Be honest and respectful
  • Dress professional
  • Ask questions
  • Be open-minded and optimistic


  • Make prejudgments
  • Be insensitive
  • Meet at an unfamiliar location
  • Rush her to make a decision
  • Jump right into tough questions
  • Lie

Meeting a potential birth mother can be scary and it is important to be prepared. Remember that it is just a meeting and there is no guarantee that you will hit it off. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to grow your family and it will happen when the time is right. Adoption is both an exciting and nerve-wrecking time for all members of the adoption triad, so be sure to stay open-minded and be yourself!

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.

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.