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Birth Grandparents — How can I stay involved?

Your daughter or son is facing an unplanned pregnancy – what do you do? The question shouldn’t be what do you do, but what are your child’s options. A couple or single who is facing an unplanned pregnancy has thropen adoptionee options: parenting, aborting, or placing. If your child has decided on adoption it is important to realize that through open adoption this does not mean that you will never see your grandchild or know how they are doing.

Here are some specific examples from our AFTH social workers on how birth grandparents stayed involved before, during, or after placement.

  • One AFTH birth grandmother has email contact and 1-2 yearly visits with her grandchild’s adoptive family as well as receiving picture updates. She gets these contacts even though her son and his girlfriend have decided to not have a relationship at this time with the adoptive parents.
  • Another AFTH birth grandmother helped her daughter through the adoption option and was able to meet with the adoptive parents in the hospital. She and her daughter will be coming to our annual picnic this summer as a yearly visit with the adoptive family.
  • Even if you are long distance from your child who is looking to place, birth grandparents can help through the adoptive family selection. A couple shared their two adoptive families profiles with their parents who viewed and were helpful in the couple’s final decision.
  • An AFTH expectant mother did not have a license so when appointments were made the woman’s mother would drive and attend as well. They were each other’s support system through every step of the pre-placement and post-placement. As a birth grandmother, she attended birth parent support groups with her daughter to cope with the post-placement.
  • An AFTH birth grandfather and his daughter (birthmom) do their annual visits with the adoptive family together. Raised by only her father, the birthmother and her father were each other’s support through every step of the way during the adoption process.

Other ways that birth grandparents can get involved, depend on the relationship that you and the adoptive family have created. Some birth grandparents visit on special occasions such as birthdays, school plays, or sports events. Some birth grandparents and adoptive families meet up to go on adventures such as to the zoo or aquarium.

Building a relationship with your grandchild’s adoptive family may seem difficult but the key to starting the relationship is honesty. When meeting or speaking with your child’s adoptive family pick, let them know what you would like to receive out of this adoption plan and be completely open.

Teens and Adoption

Adoption adds another layer of complexity to the teen years, but as a parent you can understand and communicate with your child during this stage of development, strengthening your love and relationship.
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Try and think back to when you were a teenager…It was rough wasn’t it? Growing up never seems to be a walk in the park and as a parent sometimes just remembering that can be the first step. A constructive way to parenting adopted teens is to use an understanding of child development as a foundation and then add the layers of adoption, ethnicity and culture. Here are some common obstacles teens struggle with, paired with parenting strategies you may find helpful.

1. As an adolescent, the task of forming an identity moves to the forefront of our minds. Parental authority is questioned and teens often wonder, “who am I?” To help establish a sense of belonging for your teen, parents will have to learn to “decode” the messages. Pay particular attention to statements ending with “…but it’s no big deal.” (Hint: it could be a big deal). Navigating the closeness of the parent-child relationship in a way that offers your teen respect and consideration, may lead to your child being more willing to open up and share with you.

2. Peer influence increases as a child enters the teen years and parental influence decreases. Parents are still important and they should not give up on being influential. It is critical that parents stay involved. A common fear for adolescents can be unattractiveness, leading them to question, “who will love me?” As a parent, you have looked past or not even notice all the little things that your teen may view as flaws, but sometimes the world isn’t always so kind. By widening your own social world it will show your child that you appreciate the challenges they’re facing. Talk and more importantly listen when you ask your child where they feel the most comfortable.

3. Part of asking, “who am I?” can amplify an adoptive teens interest in asking and learning more about their birth parents. As we mentioned, adolescents are preoccupied with physical appearance and identity formation happens by comparing ourselves to others. With a lack of a physical marker, a picture in their mind’s eye of what they’ll look like, they begin to think about, “who are they?” and “who will I become?” This is an understandable question to be curious about. This may be a good time to share more information about your child’s birth parents and to share more frequently as it could open up more conversations for you and your child.

4. Engaging in risky behaviors and considering, “what can I get away with?” is often times part of teen culture. Parents shouldn’t be reluctant to intervene or to be clear on where they stand on these matters. Adoptive parents may fear being told “you’re not my real mother; you can’t tell me what to do,” just as ALL parents fear their teen spitting out the words, “I hate you!” However, as parents it’s your responsibility to talk about your child’s behavior if it contradicts with your family’s values or rules. Discussing these matters early on and often could be beneficial.

5. Adolescents can have a hard time articulating what is going on because their newly formed personal view may lack a solid foundation. Asking “does anyone understand?” doesn’t necessarily mean parents should seek out a therapist, maybe seeking out an older adoptee who could act as a mentor would be the most helpful. Another approach would be just focusing more on listening to your teen, even if you don’t agree because letting your child feel heard can make all the difference.

Creative Ideas to Keep Connected with your Child’s Birth Family

Open adoption is a relatively new idea, becoming more and more popular in the last few decades. Open adoption used to mean a letter and a few pictures exchanged through the adoption attorney or agency once or twice a year and sometimes a mediated visit. Today, families are thinking outside the box when it comes to keeping connected with their birth families.tips

  • Use a ‘huggable growth chart’. A family shared their story on Adoptive Families’ website with how they used a stuffed animal to stay connected with their birth family. Buy three of the same stuffed animal, one for your child, and one for each of your child’s birth parents. As your child gets older, keep sending pictures of your child with the stuffed animal. This can allow their birth parents to see just how big the child has grown, and allows them the comfort of having something in common. As your child gets older, remind them that their birth parents each have the same special stuffed animal, so your child feels like they have a connection between them and their birth parents.
  • Be ‘Linked by Ink’. I’ve read stories about adoptive and birth families getting the same tattoo. Adoptive Families showed a family where the birth mother and the adoptive mother got their child’s footprint from the birth certificate tattooed on their feet. They went together the get the tattoos and say that the tattoos are a permanent and daily reminder of their lifelong connection.
  • Create a private blog. With a private blog you can upload photos and share events and send the link to your blog to whomever you feel comfortable with sharing. You can send it to your child’s birth family as well as your extended family or friends. Your child’s birth family can have the option to post replies and pictures. Blogging is a great way to create a history and a connection with your child’s birth family.
  • Create a Facebook page. Some families create a Facebook page under their child’s birth name and make the settings private. Then, your child’s birth family can become friends with the Facebook page to keep up with your child’s life. The page is private so you can post pictures, videos, and written updates without any outside comments. This is another great way to create history and a connection with your child’s birth family.
  • Design a calendar. Design a calendar with photos that highlight the events of your child’s life over the previous year as holiday gifts for the birth family. The calendars photos can be framed after the year is over.
  • Find a connection with your child’s birth grandparents. Often times birth grandparents would like to be involved in the open connection. Adoptive Families had a story about a birth grandmother who was a hair dresser so they went to her every six to eight weeks for their child’s haircut. As their child got older he was able to have a great relationship with his birth family.
  • Recordable Storybook. Send your child’s birth parents a recordable storybook that lets them record them reading the story. Let your child read the storybook as often as they would like.
  • Decorate Your Child’s Outline. When your child gets a little older, once a year trace the outline of your child’s body and let them decorate it to look like themselves. After they are done decorating their outline send it to the birth family so they can see how your child portrays themselves. This can be more exciting than pictures because it is directly how your child sees themselves.
  • Make Skype/FaceTime Dates. By having Skype or FaceTime dates, your child and their birth parents can talk directly. This can be very beneficial for all sides of the triad. As your child gets older they can set their own dates up if they would like.
  • Send Care Packages. Send your child’s birth parents care packages. Be sure to include your child’s latest art projects (because we all know you have plenty) and any of their latest school pictures! Your child’s birth family will enjoy these care packages, especially if your older child helps put them together. Sent with love!
  • Use Apps like Tweekaboo. By using an app like Tweekaboo, you can send out your child’s first moments, messy moments, the tender moments, or your proud moments. This allows your child’s birth family to feel involved in these amazing milestones that your child is going through.

These are just a short list of creative ways to stay connected with your child’s birth family. Other ways could be to display pictures of your child’s birth parents and birth siblings in your house to honor them, help your older child write letters to their birth family, or help your older child decorate and send their birth parents cards on Mother’s or Father’s Day. Connecting with your child’s birth parents through social media sites or text is a great way for you or your older child to stay connected. A final idea is to take a photo with your child’s birth family at the same location around the same time every year or to celebrate or incorporate holiday traditions with your child’s birth family.

We hope these ideas give you some options in which you can stay in touch with your child’s birth family. Let us know if you have any creative ideas that we didn’t mention! All of these ideas are ways to stay connected and are interactive ways to get your child’s birth family involved in your child’s life. And remember, there are ups and downs in all relationships but keeping communication open can be beneficial for all involved in your adoption triad!

2nd Annual Find Her Footing 5K

In just 11 days, the staff at Adoptions From The Heart will be getting up bright and early to prepare for what will be a family fun-filled day at Delaware County Community College in Media Pennsylvania. Adoptions From The Heart will be hosting our 2nd Annual Find Her Footing 5K on April 6th from 9:00am-12:00pm.
Find Her Footing started last year as a way to raise money for AFTH’s Birthmother Fund. AFTH has worked with thousands of pregnant women considering adoption and The Birthmother Fund is a way to keep our work going. The Birthmother Fund supports women, both during and after their pregnancy, who have worked with our agency. Many of these women are in need of extra financial assistance for food, housing, transportation, and medical care; they are often parenting other children at home. With the help from our Birthmother Fund, AFTH offers lifetime support and guidance for the women we work with. The Birthmother Fund is used to help a woman “Find Her Footing” before and after making an adoption plan.
Last year, over 100 supports of all ages walked and ran our course with parents pushing strollers and carrying their children on their back the entire length of the course! With the support of the community, we were able to raise over $2,000 for Adoptions From The Heart’s Birthmother Fund.
Supporters do not have to run, or even show up to the event! You can support our mission simply by registering for the race, sponsoring a runner or walker, or making a “No Sweat” donation. Recruit your family, friends, and coworkers for join in the fun and support AFTH’s Birthmother Fund!

We’re getting ready for a morning of fun for the whole family. Boing! Bounce Rentals has donated a moon bounce for the kids. There will be other activities for the families from our many sponsors. Awards will be given for the top finishers (all ages), Kid’s Dash participants, top individual fund raiser, top team fundraiser, and more. For every $25 participants raise, they will receive an entry for a chance to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet. There will also be other raffle prizes available! There will be bagels and refreshments from local shops. XTU radio station will also be at the race to provide music and will have some giveaways to a few lucky participants!
The race will be taking place starting at 9:00am with the start of the Kid’s Dash! Registration for the day of begins at 8:15am but you can register online at this link. If you would like to donate please do so by going to our AFTH store here.

If you have any questions you can email Jessica at JessicaA@afth.org!

Scroll down to check out some pictures from last years event!

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Birthmother Shares Her Post-Placement Experience

This is a guest blog written by one of Adoptions From The Heart’s birthmothers, Kelsey. You can visit her Tubmlr account for more highs and lows of going through post-placement as a birthmother.

As I watched my son’s adoptive parents leave the hospital, hand in hand, with a baby carrier between them, I wasn’t sure if my heart was bursting from the light that had slowly been building up during my three-day hospital stay or if my heart was breaking into a thousand pieces. Two years later, I’m still not really sure. There’s something to be said about watching near strangers walk away with your child. It’s just unfortunate that I don’t—and probably never will—have the words for it. It’s a strange mixture of life-ending sadness and pure elation.

Although my boyfriend Zach and I really only met them that day, Mike and Amanda didn’t feel like complete strangers to us. They never did. Not in all of the awkward in-between months where I tried relentlessly to find my place in their lives, while trying to live my own. As we were about to leave the hospital, Henry swaddled in his seat carried by his parents, followed by us, his birth parents, I knew the smiles on Mike and Amanda’s faces would make up for the pain I felt in my chest. Zach stood with his arms around me, helping to keep me upright after my long hospital stay, steadying me as the image of our son and his parents walking away into their lives was forever seared into my memory. Zach and I watched until we couldn’t see them any longer, then we left the hospital. Left our son with his new parents behind. That was two years ago.

Having already taken off several days from school, Zach wasn’t afforded anymore time off, and the next day he was back in class. The day after placement, I was alone in a city where none of my friends lived, awake at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, unable to go back to sleep. I was proud that I was able to hold off crying for a few hours before it finally got to me and I let the tears go.

The first few weeks after placement were the hardest, and there was only so much that Zach could do to help me. Luckily, I had a great caseworker who made sure that I never felt alone. Still, it was a constant struggle not to let myself slip into the dark place that I often found myself in, even before the pregnancy. I felt like I had to be strong for my best friend, who was the only reason I made it out of the hospital in one piece. I had to be strong so that I could prove my family—and their doubts—wrong.

The problem with being “strong” was that I was so unforgiving to myself when I felt weak. I was teetering on a very precarious edge of despair, and everyday I am thankful that I was able to get through those dark periods. As the weeks passed, it became a lot easier to suppress (or at least manage) the overwhelming emotions, and learn how to cope with my feelings. I don’t think he ever realized it, but Zach’s unwavering support and every attempt he made to make me laugh kept me from falling off the edge. Much like there will never be words to tell Mike and Amanda how much they mean to me, there will never be words to tell Zach how he kept me from falling into myself, how he kept me from giving up. A lot of birth moms go through the adoption journey without the support of the birth father, and I can’t imagine the incredible strength those women possess.

If the moments leading up to placement were heartbreaking, there’s no way to describe the feelings after relinquishment. I made it through some days in a daze. For the first two weeks, I was still working out the various drugs in my system from delivery, so I slept a lot. I can’t sugarcoat my feelings and say I was without doubts during those first few weeks post-placement. There were days when all I wanted was to take it all back. The only thing getting me through it all was knowing that Mike and Amanda loved our son just as much as we did. I knew they would be able to give Henry a better (different) life than I could ever imagine. If I had chosen to parent, I would have loved him just as much and done everything I could have for him. But I feel like I would have always struggled, and my son didn’t deserve that. Now he has all the love in the world AND parents who can provide for him in ways I possibly couldn’t.

Honestly, I wish there was some magical thing I could do that would take away the pain of post-placement life. There isn’t, though. Most birth moms will tell you that the pain never goes away, and it doesn’t. There are simply good days, and then bad days. As time goes on, though, the good days start to outnumber the bad ones.

Everyone copes and deals with things differently. There were times where I couldn’t bring myself to write back to the letters we got because it was too hard to separate myself from the bad days. I am thankful for my son’s parents for never giving up on me, for continuing to write even when it was silence on my end. I am so grateful that they are just as eager for openness as I am. I remember there was a time when I didn’t think I wanted that level of openness. I thought it would hurt me too much to see how Henry was flourishing without me in his day-to-day life. If anything, the openness has helped me to heal. It reassured me that it was the right choice for Zach and I.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son at least once. But I never worry because I know he is in the best possible place that he could be. I know a lot of adoptive parents are afraid that birth parents won’t like them, but trust me, the feeling is mutual. There would be times where I would sit for an hour trying to compose a reply to an e-mail or letter because I was too afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I didn’t chose to parent. Those days are the hardest, when the guilt is unshakable and relentless. But there are so many things that I’ve been able to do that I wouldn’t have done if I chose to parent at this stage. Adoption has changed my life in ways I never thought it would. Making an adoption plan gave me the motivation to find a real job and live on my own. Not a lot of people can say this, but I am 22 years old and I am completely independent. Because of my placement, I discovered that I have a genuine passion for adoption, and I hope to go to school so I can work as an adoption counselor one day. I would have never found that drive toward independence and focus if I hadn’t been in that situation. I really think I would still be living in my mom’s basement, working 10 hours a week at a pharmacy.

I won’t say it’s been easy, because it hasn’t been. I feel like everyone in the “adoption triad” can agree with that statement. But it has been life-changing in so many good ways, even when it’s hard. To me, that makes it worth it in the end. Despite the bad days, I can sleep at night knowing that I’ve already done the hardest thing I could do in life, and if I managed to get through that, nothing can stop me.

 

Adoption 101

WINTER Dreamstime - boy bundled up for winterOne Size Does Not Fit All – What worked for your friends or relatives may not be right for you. There are many variables that determine which option is the best fit for your family. Domestic adoptions from the U.S. offer families the opportunity to know their child’s medical background, meet their child’s birth family, and parent their child from infancy. International adoptions offer more predictable time frames, no chance of disruption, the opportunity to get to know a different culture and provide a home for a child in need.

Do Your Homework -Learn as much as you can from reliable sources- not just the Internet. There are few decisions in your life as important as this one, so turn to the experts for help. Attend free adoption information meetings or webinars, read books, ask questions.

Separate Fact From Fiction -Myths surrounding all aspects of both domestic and international adoption are plentiful. Don’t rely on preconceived notions, hearsay or sensational stories. Be open-minded, ask questions, and get the facts. Internet support listserves are wonderful sources of information, but they can also spread rumors and panic. Check your facts and contact your agency if you have questions.

Adoption Professionals Are Not All Created Equal -If you plan to adopt through an agency, be aware that their requirements and programs are not all created equal. When choosing an agency, consider factors such as number of years in business, the number of yearly placements, help preparing necessary documents, counseling and treatment of potential birth parents. Be sure that your agency is state licensed and non-profit, also Hague accredited if you choose international adoption.

If you are choosing to use an attorney, make sure that they understand the adoption laws of the state that you reside in and the state that the potential birth parents are in.  Using an attorney who is part of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys is a good place to find an attorney versed in adoption. Ask what support the potential birth parents will receive before and after placement. Often attorney’s can partner with agencies to provide counseling for women who are considering an adoption plan.

If you are choosing an Adoption Facilitator, find out if this is legal in your state. Adoption facilitators are usually small organizations with one or two staff members who often have no counseling background. Most adoption facilitators advertise to locate pregnant women on behalf of their adoptive clients. Once a woman selects a family, the facilitator will refer both the prospective adoptive family and pregnant women and their families to a local professional (a law firm or licensed adoption agency) and remove themselves from the rest of the adoption process. They are middle men who charge families extra money to facilitate their adoption.

Taking The Fear Out Of The Homestudy – You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to own your own home, or make a million dollars annually. A home study is a written evaluation regarding the suitability of your family to become adoptive parents. This may sound scary but the reality is that a home study is an education process to help you understand the type of adoption you have chosen, the differences between adopted and biological children and, to make sure that your home is a safe environment for a child.

Know The Numbers – Understand the fee schedule and make sure all the costs are listed to avoid any surprises down the line. Steer clear of adoption professionals who aren’t forthcoming about fees. Don’t let fear of expenses keep you from adopting – get the facts, check out tax credits, employer reimbursements, grants, low interest loans, military subsidies and creative financing.

Build A Support Team – In the beginning of the adoption process there is a lot to do, paperwork to fill out, meetings to attend and documents to gather, when this is completed you wait. This may sound simple but many families find it the most stressful.  Join a support group either online or in the area, surround yourself with family and friends who can support you during this emotional time.  Never be afraid to reach out and call your social worker. They are there to support you through this process. Remember you are not alone!

You Can Be Successful – Be patient, and persistent and it will happen. It may take time, but if you are persistent you will complete a successful adoption.