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Tips for an Open Adoption

 The most common types of adoption agreements are open, semi-open, and closed. Each of these agreements affect you and your child differently. With an open and/or semi-open adoption agreement, fostering a relationship with your child’s birth parents is important. This is the biggest distinction between open and closed agreements. Given the open nature of this adoption agreement, the child can explore their background more freely. However, when discovering they are adopted, children often need support and reassurance. There are helpful tips from both the birth and adoptive parent viewpoint to consider at each stage in the adoption journey.

Before Placement – From a Birth Parent’s Perspective

Before you place your child, try to form a relationship with the adoptive parents and have a clear understanding about how involved you would like to be in the child’s life. You guys can plan the first couple of visits with each other. Talk about the frequency of visits, photographs, and updates during the child’s life. Of course these plans may change as the child gets older, but do your best to be understanding and flexible with the situation at hand. If both parties are consistent, this will also offer peace of mind to the child(ren).

After Placement – From a Birth Parent and Adoptive Parent’s Perspective

“I just placed my child up for adoption, now what?!” After placing your child in an adoptive parents’ care, there are a ton of questions running through a birth mother’s head about what’s next: “Will they stick to our agreement?” “Is my child going to understand my decision?” “What can I do to make this experience better?” With so many lingering questions, it is easy to be overwhelmed with emotions. Remember, you are not alone in this situation. There are other birth parents experiencing these same feelings.

As the adoptive parent(s), be sensitive to the birth parent(s)’ emotions. They have empty arms, changing hormones, bodily pain, and potential postpartum depression. While on the other end, as the adoptive parent(s), you are filled with excitement because of your new addition to the family. Keep in mind the grief the birth parent(s) may be feeling at this time, so don’t be alarmed if they begin to pull away. Try to be sensitive to their feelings and respect their needed time and/or space.

 If They (The Birth Parents) Begin to Become Distant

Don’t feel at all offended when a birth parent seems to be become distant or taking time for themselves. This could be a very confusing time for them and they may be feeling a sense of grief or anger. This is very normal in most adoption cases and can occur at any time, even years after the adoption.

Although they maybe distant and pulling away, keep the lines of communication open. They may not respond, but that is okay. Seeing that you put forth effort may encourage them to respond eventually. It is important to not bombard them repeatedly. Have patience and reassure them that they are welcome in their child’s life.

Stay In Touch

In the adoption journey, it is good to stay in touch, keeping in mind that the birth mother is no different than anyone else. Most likely, they have their own issues and events in their lives. There is no harm in becoming a friend to them. Do your best to show that you are interested in their lives and care about what is going on. If you are both comfortable, set a date where just the two of you go out for lunch or meet in the park. This can be a great way for you to get to know each other better and bond over things you have in common.

In the end, adoption plans don’t always go as expected but remember to be considerate. Enjoy those precious moments to remind you during hard times. Ultimately, both the birth and adoptive parents want what is best for the child – unconditional love.

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“Building Families Through Adoption” – Miss PA and Her Journey to Miss America

Katie Schreckengast has a full resume – she’s a rising senior at Penn State University, plays the alto saxophone in the Penn State Blue Band, as well as serving as the Public Relations Officer for the organization. To add to this impressive list of activities, Katie was just crowned Miss Pennsylvania 2017 this past June. She began her journey when she was just thirteen years old, winning Miss Pennsylvania’s Outstanding Teen in 2013. This past January, she received her first “Miss” title, winning Miss Central Pennsylvania 2017. In September, she will compete in the Miss America Pageant under a very personal platform – “Building Families Through Adoption.”

Miss PA Headshot

Miss Pennsylvania 2017, Katie Schreckengast, will be competing in Miss America this coming September.

Adopted at just six months old from South Korea, Katie now travels the state speaking about her adoption journey. Seen in a social media post on her official Miss Pennsylvania Facebook, Katie posted a heartwarming video about a couple adopting with the quote, “I may not have had them in my belly, but I have them in my heart. #AdoptiveFamily #BuildingFamilies.” Quoted in the Detroit Free Press, Katie added that, “I want to share my story throughout my year just so people understand that just because you’re an adoptive family doesn’t make you any less of a family.” And adoption is just that – another way to build a loving, strong family.

In fact, Katie’s younger brother is also adopted from South Korea. She adds that, “Every single adoption story is different and mine has been so positive and wonderful.” Her family has been incredibly supportive every step of the way. Additionally, when looking back, Miss Pennsylvania 2014 was ALSO adopted! Khari Siegfried, a Temple University graduate, was reunited with her biological family while competing for the Miss America Pageant. The irony of it all being – while promoting a personal platform of adoption, Khari’s own adoption story was unfolding behind the scenes.

Khari Miss PA

Miss Pennsylvania 2014, Khari Siegfried, was also adopted.

 

It is empowering and heartwarming to hear so many stories of adoption, especially on a national stage. By sharing these stories, adoption becomes just another beautiful way to build a family. Not everyone who finds themselves pregnant is in a position to parent, and, on the other side there are many loving couples and singles who desire to have a family who are unable to traditionally. Katie and Khari’s stories solidify the complexity and joy that encompasses adoption.

Adoptions From The Heart is honored to have Katie in attendance at our First Annual Find Her Footing Sweat-A-Thon. Katie will be joining Zumba, Pound, and Hip Hop instructors to help everyone Break a sweat in support of birth parents just weeks before she makes her way to Atlantic City for the Miss America. The event will be held at the Greater York Center for Dance Education on Sunday, August 20th from 1-4 pm. To learn more about the event and to register, visit our website here. To follow Katie on her amazing journey to Miss America, check out Miss Pennsylvania’s website.

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.

I thought I couldn’t either…

If you are a birth mother that’s involved in a post placement, hopefully you are beginning to make peace with your decision. If you’re in involved in an open adoption, you realized the family you chose was a great a fit for your child. For some birth moms they gain more family through the adoptive parents. This can make your decision feel worthwhile as time goes on. Getting updates, letters, and pictures help tremendously on keeping you involved in your child’s life. Let’s not forget about the chat with the adoptive mother about the characteristics you and your child share. I am four years post placement and I must admit I am not the same person I was when I placed. I am different in the best of ways. I have matured and always keep an open mind. I love speaking to my son’s adoptive mother about all the crazy, cute things he does.

Unfortunately, from the outside looking in people don’t see the bright side of your story. Most people still have the negative misconception of adoption. The belief of all birth mothers are on drugs, homeless, or worse is untrue, unfair and yet people still believe it. The belief that you “gave up your child” because you didn’t want to be a parent is another common misconception. It cuts deeper when it comes from close friends & family that share the same misconceptions. What hurts worse is hearing the all-time line “I could never do that”. Once upon a time, we didn’t think that we could “do that” either. Fortunately, us birthparents thought with our heads instead of our hearts, so our child could have more opportunities in life. The further you get through post placement you begin to figure out good ways to dodge certain questions and even better ways to respond to them. I have chosen to discuss the two best ways to respond to people regarding your decision to use adoption.

  • Silence!

There is no better way to combat negativity or ignorance than with good, old silence. Especially with the statement I mentioned before the “I could never do that” line. I have heard this time after time and I always respond with silence. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about anything. Keep in mind, that most people that say this have never been in the circumstances you have experienced. Also, this statement implies they are solely speaking with their hearts rather than their head. Placing your child because you wanted him/her to have a better life, both parents, or a loving & compassionate home is a great thing. It means that you are thinking past your own feelings and emotions for the good of your child. So, if your boyfriend’s sister wants to mention something about your adoption, ignore her to the high heavens. Some people may never truly understand.

 

  • Think about it, smile, & be kind when you speak.

I have had a few instances where some people weren’t being negative at all. They are generally surprised by our courage and call us brave. They are eager to learn more about your situation with adoption rather than shunning you. I have encountered people that wanted to hear about the brighter side of adoption rather than the side they are accustomed to. It’s okay to answer the questions you are comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to set the record straight and dispel the misconceptions. These conversations can be very therapeutic and make you feel empowered. You will be shocked at how some people look at birthparents as heroes. Your child is a blessing that made someone’s family whole.

 

 

Coping with post placement isn’t about struggling with your own emotions regarding your decision. It mainly consists of learning to deal with people who think you should feel a certain way. People have told me that I should be ashamed of myself, but I’m not ashamed. People have told me I will regret my decision in the long run, but I don’t. After all this time, I couldn’t imagine being without the adoptive parents I chose for my son. I wouldn’t change that for the world. Embrace your strength as a birthparent and everything negative will become a breeze in the wind.

Reasons To Choose Or Not To Choose Adoption

Deciding whether to parent or make an adoption plan can be a difficult decision. There are many factors that play into finding the right fit for your situation. Am I financially ready to parent? Will my family & friends support my decision? Better yet, does my partner support the idea of adoption? These are all very important questions to consider. Although it can be overwhelming, take your time to research and weigh all of options. Down below are reasons to choose or not to choose adoption.

 

  • I’m not emotionally ready.

Like all new experiences adoption may seem scary at first. This is a normal feeling to have and you will overcome with time. The best thing to do at this point is get all the research you can. The internet is a great source of information. Read adoption blogs by expectant/birth parents. Research the advantages of open adoption. You will discover that open adoption can be a happy journey. Most adoptive parents respect their birth mothers enough to view them as additional family members. Both adoptive & birth parents join together in the best interest of the child.

  • The belief of taking responsibility for your own actions.

Fact of the matter is making an adoption plan takes great responsibility. By setting aside your own needs and wants to consider what is best for your child is taking full responsibility. You may have already considered your financial status, your educational future (if deciding to further your education), and support from your partner or family. These things factor into whether you should choose an adoption plan. The next big step is choosing a family that will give your child a loving, safe, & secure environment. Not to mention choosing a family that aligns with what you would like to provide your child. Completing these tasks mean that you love your child and that you are taking responsibility for their care & happiness.

  • My partner doesn’t like the idea of making an adoption plan.

Your partner may not feel comfortable making an adoption plan. If at any point he doesn’t feel ready to parent or able to financially/emotionally support the child, adoption may be an option. Discuss the concerns that may arise. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an adoption agency to go over your options, rights, and questions.

  • I was raised that if I get pregnant I keep the baby.

Family values can either persuade or dissuade your decision on adoption. It is important to remember that this is your choice to make. What works for one person may not work for others. Everyone’s situation is unique in its own way.

 

  • Wanting someone to love you.

There is nothing that can compare to a child’s love. However, having a child that will love you isn’t always in the best interest of the child. You have to prioritize the child’s needs over your own. Placing them with a secure and stable family is the most important aspect.

 

Consider these aspects when deciding if adoption is right for you or not. Make sure to do your research on adoption and other options that may be available to you. Talk them over with your partner and/or someone that you trust. If you choose open adoption, be aware that you are not leaving your child, but expanding your family. Find an adoption agency that best fits you and talk to a social worker about any concerns.

 

 

Family Films About Adoption That Teach You A Little Bit More

How does one portray adoption on the big screen? To do it with care and finesse is difficult, but attainable. There are movies that do not portray it in the best light. However, there are others that pinpoint major themes in an adopted child’s journey. Not only that, but they also accurately highlights the birth mother’s journey and adoptive family’s journey. These three movies, although possessing a comedic element, depict adoption in a unique, but relatable fashion.

Juno (2007)

Juno is a story about a high school girl (Ellen Page) who experiences an unplanned pregnancy with her crush (Michael Cera). Throughout the movie, Juno’s wit never fades as she’s faced with multiple decisions regarding her baby. We also see every step of her pregnancy. She chooses a family that seems like they fit the “American Dream” ideal pretty closely. While getting to know them, she learns that the adoptive father isn’t ready to have a baby, and thus, asks for a divorce from his wife (Jennifer Garner). But all ends well, as Juno realizes that as a single mother, the wife would do an excellent job raising her baby.

Elf (2003)

Although a bit more unrealistic, this story follows the life of “Buddy (Will Ferrell),” the estranged baby from New York that makes his way into Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve. Upon his return the North Pole, Santa realizes that an infant had crawled his way into the sack. They grow to love the child and raise him as their own. However, Buddy, like many adoptees, soon realizes that he is not like the others. After a discussion with “Papa Elf,” Buddy embarks on a journey to find his birth father in New York City. Although his reception is not initially a warm one, Walter (Buddy’s birth father) learns to love his elf son. In the end, Buddy maintains a healthy relationship with both his birth father and adoptive elf father.

The Blind Side (2009)

This beautiful story of adoption follows the life of Michael Oher, a present-day professional football player. Throughout the movie, we see the struggle of Michael and his birth mother. Many nights, he is left on the street without food or a place to sleep; that is, until his adoptive mother finds him. After staying a few days in their beautiful place, Michael feels out of place. He retreats to his birth mother, who only turns him away once more. Throughout the movie, the viewer develops a sense of empathy for Michael, who struggles to find his identity in this world. In the end, Michael is adopted by the loving birth mother (Sandra Bullock) and her family, and experiences a new take on life. He even develops a relationship with his birth mother so she can stay in his life.