Category Archives: Parenting

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.

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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.”

 

October 2016 Book Reviews

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

thicker-than-bloodThicker Thank Blood: Adoptive Parenting in the Modern World by Marion Crook – Author Marion Crook is an adoptive parent to two sons, using her experiences this book gets to the heart  of parenting in today’s world.  While there are other books out there that are similar its always good to have reinforcement of some of these tips, feelings and experiences.  While much of this book relates to adoption of older children there are some things that are still the same such as fear of birth parents, and addressing issues of abandonment with children.

Ms. Crook is from Canada so many of the organizations and agencies she refers to are not relevant to the US, the US may have something similar but the names are not the same. I did feel that some of her advice was a little judgmental or skewed when it came to birth parents. Overall however this is a good book that has some great advice and a well researched information.  Amazon.com price $18.15 (pb) $17.24 (kindle)

images (98)99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Choosing Adoption by Robert & Jeffrey Kasky – This is a quick read with some good information about legal risk, termination of parental rights and what expenses you can and can’t pay for with regard to potential birth parents. There is information on special needs adoptions, future contact agreements, and surrogacy as well.  While much of the legal information varies from state to state and these authors are in Florida its a good starting point.  You may want to check with your agency or attorney to see what the regulations and laws are in your state. Amazon.com price $14.97 (pb) $2.99 (kindle)

99-dos-and-donts99 Adoption Do’s and Don’ts by Russell Elkins – This is a short book packed with a lot of great advice. In fact we liked it so much that we at Adoptions From The Heart have started giving this book out to our clients! This book is really geared toward adopting infants through open adoption directly from the hospital.  The advice is easy to read, and the book is only about 50 pages long.  These are things we really want all prospective adoptive parents to know. Great book Amazon.com price $5.99 (pb) $2.99 (kindle)

Second Parent Adoption: LGBTQ Edition

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What is Second Parent Adoption?

As defined by the Human Rights Campaign, “a second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights. In this way, the child comes to have two legal parents. It also typically grants adoptive parents the same rights as biological parents in custody and visitation matters.”

Very often people hear of second parent adoption when referring to step-parents adopting their spouse’s children from previous relationships. However, second parent adoption can occur for other parents as well.

What does Second Parent Adoption mean for LGBTQ couples?LGBT ISTOCK - LGBT FAMILY 2 (1) cropped

Second parent adoption gives the same parental rights to both parties in same-sex parenting. Take for example a lesbian couple. One is pregnant and gives birth to their child through a variety of avenues such as artificial insemination. The other does not have biological ties to the child in such a case, but through second parent adoption would have the rights of the biological parent.

The HRC explains… “for same-sex couples, it is often the case that there is only one legal parent even though two people may equally parent the child and think of themselves as co-parents. This is because the status as a legal parent is automatically conveyed to the parent who has a biological connection to a child, such as a biological mom or biological dad. Similarly, while some couples raise an adopted child together, only one of them may have officially become the adoptive parent because some agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting together but permit an LGBTQ individual to do so.”

According to FamilyEquality.org:

  • “Parents in legally recognized same-sex relationships can petition for stepparent adoption statewide; relies on access to marriage or relationship recognition in 50 states + D.C.”
  • “LGBT parents can petition for second-parent adoption statewide in 15 states + D.C.”

aa-male-gay-coupleWhile many second parent adoptions with same-sex parents involve a biological tie to the child, it is not always the case. Some states allow one parent to adopt a child they are not biologically related to. Then, the other parent can pursue second parent adoption. Other states allow same-sex couples to go through the process together from start to finish.

See more on standards for each state on this interactive map.

Second parent adoption allows both individuals the same rights as parents.

What is the Process for Second Parent Adoption?

Different states have different laws and procedures regarding second parent adoption. You can find out more about the process of your state here.

Is Second Parent Adoption Necessary or Fair for LGBTQ families?

Many people feel that their marriage/partnership and dedication to the child and home is what makes them a parent, not an official adoption. While many adoption agencies and professionals would agree this to be true, a second parent adoption can ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

In emergency cases that would leave the person who is the legal parent unable to care for the child, their partner would be able to continue caring for the child and retain legal rights as their parent. Second parent adoption also protects the rights of both partners in instances of separation or divorce. Or even the extreme case of death.

Adoptions From The Heart, a non-profit adoption agency headquartered in PA, saw this need first hand. Two same-sex couples hoping to adopt petitioned for the state to allow second parent adoption so that they could pursue a secure adoption through what was already an LGBTQ friendly agency. Of these families, one did end up losing a parent in a horrible plane crash. Thankfully, there were standards in place to keep the children safe with their other parent. You can read more about the couple and their journey here.

Although the label may feel unnecessary and even degrading, it can ensure the stability of your family and home. Second parent adoption is hopefully only the beginning for progressive parental rights for LGBTQ couples.

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Celebrities Adopt: Inspirational Quotes About Adoption

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” – Oprah Winfrey

“I have a lot of respect for my birth mother. I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give what she felt was a better chance.” – Faith Hill

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“We look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It was not done lightly on either side.” – Jamie Lee Curtis

“They’re as much my blood as I am theirs.” – Brad Pitt

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“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” – Valerie Harper

“You don’t have to give birth to someone to have a family. We’re all family – an extended family.” – Sandra Bullock

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“I don’t think of them as adopted – they’re our children. Deb and I are believers in…I suppose you call it destiny. We feel things happen the way they are meant to. Obviously, biologically wasn’t the way we were meant to have children. Now as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but everyone’s in the right place with the right people.” – Hugh Jackman

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.

Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process: Know Your Options, Know Your Rights

Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process

Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process: Know Your Options, Know Your Rights

There is a common misconception in today’s society that a child’s birthfather has less rights than birthmothers do and that they are unable to make choices regarding their baby. Did you know that the birthfather starts out with the same legal rights as birthmothers? Birthfathers have a right to parent their child and a right to object to an adoption of their child even though statistically, many adoptions take place listing unknown birthfathers or birthfathers who choose to be uninvolved in the process after being notified and some men who voluntarily relinquish their rights and choose to be involved in some level of an open adoption. As a birthfather, it’s important to be aware that you do have a choice and there are laws to protect your rights and even more important is knowing what those laws are and how they affect you.Birthfathers’ Rights in the Adoption Process (1)

Notifying the Father of the Adoption

Whether an expecting mother is working with an attorney or an adoption agency, the representation for the adoption will do whatever possible to make sure that the father is aware and decides either to consent or contest the mother’s decision to make an adoption plan regardless if both parents are in a relationship or even speaking terms or not. This is done in advance to avoid a situation in which an absent or uninvolved birthfather steps back into the picture and challenges the adoption. With that said, there are occasional situations when a birthfather reaching out to the agency to contest the adoption after the child is already placed in the home with an adoptive family and this is called a disruption. However, if the birthfather knows about the adoption and his rights, receives counseling, is made aware of all his options, and feels adoption is the right choice for his child, chances of disruption are significantly lowered. Adoption is less likely to be disrupted or challenged if the child’s birthfather participates in the planning and is fully aware of his rights along the way. Adoptions From The Heart welcomes the father’s presence and participation in making the adoption plan. Whether or not the child’s mother wants an open adoption, the father is able to decide the level of openness he would like as well as the number of visits each year. Even if the father isn’t in agreement with the adoption, he still needs to be kept well informed of the events and be very much aware of his rights.

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Laws of Birthfathers’ Rights Vary by State

Every U.S. state and territory has a statute providing for the termination, surrender, or relinquishment of the parental rights of the birth mother and birth father. What termination means is that the parental rights end the biological parent-child relationship. Each state has its own requirements that must be met regarding making this decision. Only when this relationship has been ended, the child is legally free to be adopted. Even though these laws differ in all US states, please find a few highlights of child adoption laws for the states where we are licensed in below.

To check the laws of the state in any of the other states, feel free to check out www.childadoptionlaws.com.

Pennsylvania

“…(d) Putative father.–If a putative father will not file a petition to voluntarily relinquish his parental rights pursuant to section 2501 (relating to relinquishment to agency) or 2502 (relating to relinquishment to adult intending to adopt child), has been given notice of the hearing being held pursuant to this section and fails to either appear at that hearing for the purpose of objecting to termination of his parental rights or file a written objection to such termination with the court prior to the hearing and has not filed an acknowledgment of paternity or claim of paternity pursuant to section 5103, the court may enter a decree terminating the parental rights of the putative father pursuant to subsection (c).”

New York

“…(d) Of the father, whether adult or infant, of a child born out-of-wedlock and placed with the adoptive parents more than six months after birth, but only if such father shall have maintained substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child as manifested by: (i) the payment by the father toward the support of the child of a fair and reasonable sum, according to the father’s means, and either (ii) the father’s visiting the child at least monthly when physically and financially able to do so and not prevented from doing so by the person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the child, or (iii) the father’s regular communication with the child or with the person or agency having the care or custody of the child, when physically and financially unable to visit the child or prevented from doing so by the person or authorized agency having lawful custody of the child. The subjective intent of the father, whether expressed or otherwise, unsupported by evidence of acts specified in this paragraph manifesting such intent, shall not preclude a determination that the father failed to maintain substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child. In making such a determination, the court shall not require a showing of diligent efforts by any person or agency to encourage the father to perform the acts specified in this paragraph.”

New Jersey

“…(b) The birth parent, except one who cannot be identified or located prior to the placement of the child for adoption, shall be offered counseling as to his or her options other than placement of the child for adoption. Such counseling shall be made available by or through an approved licensed agency in New Jersey or in the birth parent’s state or country of residence. The fact that counseling has been made available, and the name, address and telephone number of the agency through which the counseling is available, shall be confirmed in a written document signed by the birth parent and acknowledged in this State pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-2.1) or acknowledged in another state or country pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1991, c.308 (R.S.46:14-6.1) a copy of which shall be provided to the birth parent and the agency conducting the adoption complaint investigation pursuant to section 12 of P.L.1977, c.367 (C.9:3-48) and shall be filed with compliance.

Delaware

“…(2) The biological father and any presumed father of a child; provided, however, that the consent of the alleged biological father or presumed father need not contain an admission that he is the father. In the event that the named biological or presumed father disclaims paternity, an affidavit signed by him to that effect shall be attached to the petition in lieu of a consent from the natural or presumed father. It is further provided that in the event of a petition containing statements described in § 906(7)b.(ii), (iii) or (iv) of this title, after a hearing in which it is established on the record that the mother and father of the child are not living together as husband and wife openly and that they have not done so nor married since the birth of the child, the Court may, following consideration of the social report, dispense with the requirement of the father’s consent in compliance.”

Connecticut

“…(b) A petition for termination of parental rights shall be entitled “In the interest of …. (Name of child), a person under the age of eighteen years”, and shall set forth with specificity: (1) The name, sex, date and place of birth, and present address of the child; (2) the name and address of the petitioner, and the nature of the relationship between the petitioner and the child; (3) the names, dates of birth and addresses of the parents of the child, if known, including the name of any putative father named by the mother, and the tribe and reservation of an American Indian parent; (4) if the parent of the child is a minor, the names and addresses of the parents or guardian of the person of such minor; (5) the names and addresses of: (A) The guardian of the person of the child; (B) any guardians ad litem appointed in a prior proceeding; (C) the tribe and reservation of an American Indian child; and (D) the child-placing agency which placed the child in his current placement; (6) the facts upon which termination is sought, the legal grounds authorizing termination, the effects of a termination decree and the basis for the jurisdiction of the court; (7) the name of the persons or agencies which have agreed to accept custody or guardianship of the child’s person upon disposition.”

Virginia

“…B. No consent shall be required of a birth father if he denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. Such denial of paternity may be withdrawn no more than 10 days after it is executed. Once the child is 10 days old, any executed denial of paternity is final and constitutes a waiver of all rights with respect to the adoption of the child and cannot be withdrawn.”

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Have Courage and Be Strong

Now that we have researched the specific laws in our state, we are now confident and capable of exercising our rights. Although each state differs in law, the rights of the birthfather are clearly stated in all 50 states. Birthfathers start out with the same legal rights as birthmothers and have a right to parent their child and a right to object to an adoption of their child. Adoption law has a processes for establishing and terminating a birth father’s parenting rights, but the law does not eliminate all uncertainly.

One problem that birthfathers face is that everyone around them assumes that they don’t care and often times, birthfather pay a price for not exercising their rights says Mary Martin Mason, the Minneapolis-based author of Out of the Shadows: Birthfathers’ Stories. “They were incredibly guilty and incredibly guilty to have lost their children” according to Mason. “This had affected their adult lives-their marriages, their jobs, their relationships.” They weren’t able to move on. It can take a lot of courage for a birthfather to walk through the doors of an adoption agency and we understand that and recognize the immense strength of the brave birthfathers who do take that step.

Adoptions From The Heart wants to personally become more birthfather friendly and cater to their specific needs since much of what is out there focuses on adoptive parents and birthmother needs. We believe by implementing birthfather focused literature, support groups, creating a “Birthfather Friday” marketing campaign, and encouraging general, open communication we can help empower the often forgotten birthparent. If you are an expecting mother struggling to find the courage to tell the father that you are pregnant, realize that you are not alone. Often times than not, your social worker can help you. If you are a birthfather, we hope this article helped you and shed some light on your very real and legal rights in the adoption process. Yes, it may put you out of your comfort zone at first but we assure you, the benefits of knowing all of your rights and exercising your ability to help create an adoption plan for your child if you choose is well worth being as involved as possible. It’s important not become the forgotten half of the story. Your voices is just as important and needs to be heard.

For help or advice please contact us today at 610-642-7200. If you are a birthfather and would like to share your story with us or participate in our “Birthfather Friday” series, please call us or email us Adoption@AFTH.org.