Tag 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?

 

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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.

How to Spot An Adoption Scam

When we think of adoption, we think of someone choosing to grow their family. We think of the expectant mother who wants to give her child a better life. We think of a child receiving love from all angles. Rarely, do we consider a person taking advantage of someone’s need or want to adopt. It is sad to say, but adoption scams happen all the time! Scary, right?! But don’t worry, we are going to give you helpful tips on how to spot warning signs and red flags down below.

Warning Signs

One of the first warning signs you could receive is a vague or questionable email address and subject title. If you receive an email with a subject titled “Baby waiting for you!”, an eyebrow and a question should be raised. If the email address ends in @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com, or anything other than the company’s name, make sure to do your research on the facilitator or agency. Also, beware of generic messages. These are emails that lack specifics. You could be one of many receiving the same message. The usual scammer makes their first point of contact via email.

A sure-fire warning sign is the recipient requesting money. Money should never be exchanged without discussing it with an adoption professional first. At this point, all communication should cease until you speak with an adoption professional. The recipient may also request a plane ticket. This is common for overseas scams. The recipient may explain they want to have their baby in your country. Only problem is the baby may not actually exist or the recipient does not plan to complete the adoption process.

An expecting mother approaching you about adopting her twins could tug at your heart strings. Unfortunately, this is a classic scam that happens around major, sentimental holidays like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Scammers rely on these holidays to lower your guard. They hope you want a child bad enough that you will agree to the situation quickly with little to no objection.

 

Red Flags

  • Pressure to sign documents you don’t understand.
  • If any guarantees are made.
  • If they rush to the topic of you paying expenses.
  • If they refuse to meet with the adoption professional or agency.
  • If agency or facilitator refuses to return your phone calls or emails.
  • If birth mother doesn’t provide proof of pregnancy.
  • If agency or facilitator says they will be in touch with you instead of giving their phone number.
  • If anyone is selling a baby online for money.

 

Suggestions

Whether you choose to go through an agency or use an adoption professional make sure to do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or the professional. Learn your legal rights to adoption. You can join groups online that discuss tips on how to avoid adoption fraud. If you are a prospective adoptive parent here are a few ways to avoid “Birth Mother Scams”. Set up a phone conversation. Get confirmation of pregnancy. You can request a copy of her ultrasound. If she can’t send it or doesn’t want to, find out if your adoption professional has the right paper work to request the ultrasound. If she refuses to speak with your adoption professional and refuses to send an ultrasound, things may not be as they seem. When in doubt always contact your agency or adoption professional. They have more experience in these situations and can help you navigate through the process. Adoption professionals don’t have any emotional attachments to the situation, so they can ask the expectant mother the hard questions.

Relax & Breathe…

Don’t let the possibility of a scam scare you away from adoption. Adoption is a great way to expand your family. Just keep in mind, never jump into a situation that seems too good to be true. Do your own research on whomever you choose to use as an agency or as an adoption professional. Take the time to learn adoption laws in the state you reside. Find adoption information meetings that you can attend to familiarize yourself with the process. It’s unfortunate, scams like these make adoptive parents leery of posting their profiles, specifically on the internet. Remember, that the internet is just a tool being used. Scams can happen at any time, on any platform, and can involve professionals. I can’t say it enough… DO YOUR RESEARCH!

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.

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.

 

 

Degree of Openness in Adoption

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In previous generations, adoptions were often stigmatized and kept secret. This practice reflected the cultural ideal at the time that adoption illegitimated the connection between parents and their adoptive children. Most children did not know their birthparents or information regarding their birth family. Many were not told they were adopted until they were older, or were never told at all. It was believed that lack of openness would make it easier for birthparents, children, and adoptive parents to adjust and move forward. However, the secrecy in previous closed adoptions left children and adoptive parents with many unanswered questions and unresolved feelings of loss, as well as the inability for adoptive children to access their medical history, familial medical history, or obtain information about their genetic background.

Today, society has become more accepting of adoption. Studies show that about one third of adoptive parents and adoptees have contact with their birth families. A newfound trend to openness is adoption can be attributed to prior negative effects that secrecy has played on adoption and the realization that openness can help to improve the adoption process for all parties involved.

Benefits of Having an Open Adoption

levels of openness

Open adoption benefits children, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

Benefits to children adopted through open adoption:

  • Lessening a child’s need to fantasize about their parents and where they came from and instead giving them opportunity to view them as real people.
  • Giving them the resources to ask questions directly to their birthparents as they grow
  • Allowing them to have a knowledge of their history
  • Allowing them to have a deeper understanding of their identity
  • Allowing them to gain access to their genetic and medical history
  • Helping them to understand the reasoning for their placement and decreasing their sense of abandonment
  • Increasing the number of adults in their lives that can offer them a support system
  • Contact with biological siblings in the future

Benefits to birthparents:

  • Helping to gain peace of mind by knowing that their child is doing well by receiving updates and photos and even have visits
  • Allowing them the opportunity to remain in their child’s life and develop personal relationships with their child and their child’s adoptive parents throughout the course of their child’s life
  • Assists a little in easing the loss

 Benefits to adoptive parents:

  • Allowing them to build healthy relationships with their child’s birth families
  • Obtaining important medical and background information about their child
  • Giving them the opportunity to contact their child’s birth families in order to answer questions they may have regarding their child’s history
  • Helping them to gain a shared respect for child’s birth family
  • Increasing their sense of confidence and permanency in their parenting

Deciding On a Level of Openness

When deciding on a level of openness within an adoption, it is important to determine what will work best for you and your family, not just in your current situation but going into the future. An adoptive parent must take into consideration when they will share information regarding their child with their child’s birthparents and to what degree. This conversation should take places before you are matched with a birthmother, when the decision can be made based on logic and not emotion. Agencies will require prospective adoptive parents to decide on the level of openness as well as other decisions that will define the situations the family is open to prior to being presented with a match. Social workers will then use your key to dictate which expecting parents to show your profile to be considered. This ensures that both families desire a similar level of openness which helps to create a positive match. Be honest about the commitment you are willing to have and create limitations that you are comfortable with. For instance, if you believe that due to distance you are only able to really commit to one visit a year, don’t promise two visits.

Once you have decided on a level of communication, the agency will create a Future Contact Agreement which will be used to document the openness levels both parties have agreed upon. Agreements typically plan out the precise number of times per year and forms of contact that the adoptive parents will have with birthparents. For instance, the agreement may state “ Birthparents may visit no fewer than three times a year until the child reaches the age of six, and then afterwards no fewer than one time a year, on mutually agreed upon dates and times, with visits totaling no less than four hours per visit”.

Some parents choose to have all communication between the birthparent and the child be filtered through them until the child reaches the age of 18, and then allowing the child to determine the nature of their future communication.

There are no set requirements that an adoptive parent must put into place within the agreement, but instead the agreement should be used to be specific in details regarding open communication and to reach a level of agreement with the birthparents.

It is important to note that in most states, these agreements are not legally enforceable. They are set up to be a show of good faith in keeping the promises made to each other.

 

Levels of Open Communication

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Fully Open Adoption – This means that the adoptive and birthparents exchange identifying information such as last names, phone numbers addresses, etc. The majority of adoptions do not begin full open however many do become more open over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Over Initial Fears of Open Adoption In Order to Gain the Benefits

It is important to remember that although open adoption may seem like a scary concept at first, it’s important to dive into the fear and break apart the insecurities in order to really see how the benefits of open adoption typically outweigh the negatives. Most importantly, it is about the child and helping them to be able to securely establish a sense of identity as they grow and continue to ask questions.

 

The History of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month is quickly approaching which led us to wonder, how did this celebratory month get its start? Join us on an exploration into our favorite month of the year!

The History of NAM

The Beginning of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Week

National Adoption Month didn’t actually start off as a month long celebration of adoption, but instead was celebrated during one week out of the year. In 1976 the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proclaimed that his state would have an Adoption Week in hopes to promote awareness for the needs of children in foster care and the lack of adoptive families. Some reports say that later in 1976, President Gerald Ford announced that the Adoption Week started by Dukakis would be celebrated nationally in the United States. The Child Welfare National Adoption Month page explains that President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week on November 13, 1984. Proclamation 5280 states:

Families have always stood at the center of our society, preserving good and worthy traditions from our past and entrusting those traditions to our children, our greatest hope for the future. At a time when many fear that the family is in decline, it is fitting that we give special recognition to those who are rebuilding families by promoting adoption.

More children with permanent homes mean fewer children with permanent problems. That is why we must encourage a national effort to promote the adoption of children, and particularly children with special needs. Through the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, some 6,000 children have been adopted who otherwise might not have been, and the number is growing. The recently enacted Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act will provide further assistance to couples who adopt children with special needs. …

National Adoption Week gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to give every child waiting to be adopted the chance to become part of a family. During this Thanksgiving season, let us work to encourage community acceptance and support for adoption and take time to recognize the efforts of the parent groups and agencies that assure adoptive placements for waiting children. Most importantly, let us pay tribute to those special couples who have opened their homes and hearts to adopted children, forming the bonds of love that we call the family.

National Adoption Month

After President Reagan’s proclamation, more and more states began participating in Adoption Week activities and there just didn’t seem to be enough time to fit in everything that activists wanted to accomplish in one week. In 1995 November was proclaimed as National Adoption Month by President Clinton. Proclamation 6846 states:

For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community. Adoption also enables adults to experience the unique joys of parenthood.

As many as 70,000 children in America’s foster care system may need adoptive families in the next few years—young people of all ages and backgrounds who, for whatever reason, cannot return to their original homes. Many, but not all, are children with special needs. These young people long for the same affection, security, and stability that most of us take for granted, yet too many have waited—and will continue to wait—for years to be adopted.

My Administration has taken important actions to encourage adoption and to support the wonderful families that choose to open their hearts and homes to waiting children. The Multiethnic Placement Act, which I signed into law in October 1994, helps to facilitate adoption for all children and families, regardless of their race or ethnic origin. We will continue to champion and improve programs that break down barriers to adoption through aggressive recruitment of families, financial aid to support placements, and technical assistance to agencies committed to special needs adoption.

As we observe National Adoption Month, we celebrate these achievements and recognize the rewards of adoption, but we must also remember that much work remains to be done. Citizens from all communities and organizations from the public and private sectors must join together to renew our commitment to finding permanent homes for each one of America’s children.

Celebrating National Adoption Month

There are a lot of ways to celebrate National Adoption Month and one of those ways includes National Adoption Day. National Adoption Day occurs with courthouses throughout the country where hundreds of adoptions are finalized simultaneously. According to the official website, National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. A coalition of national partners – Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network – sponsor National Adoption Day. Adoptions From The Heart had some wonderful families participate in Adoption Day last year and you can read more about their stories here and here.

Adoption Day
During the month of November, families can celebrate and bring awareness to the beauty of open adoption, the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care and just general support for the states, communities and agencies that make resources available for those touched by adoption. Keep an eye out for the activities planned by your agency, or engage in social media contests, sharing your adoption experiences. For example, Adoptions From The Heart celebrates National Adoption Month with the Paper Heart Project. This fundraiser encourages local business sell purple hearts cut from paper by local students and have supporters sign their names before displaying, showing their support of adoption.
Paper Heart Project

How have you celebrated National Adoption Month?