Tag Archives: prospective adoptive parents

Adoption: Changing Perspective & Broadening My View

When I first began working in the field of adoption, most of my personal experience had been from the viewpoint of adoptive parents. Growing up I had family members and friends who had adopted children both internationally and domestically including foster care. So, I had seen what the process was like from that side of the experience. It wasn’t until I fully dove into the world of adoption entering the field as a professional at age 24, when my perspective began to change. It wasn’t that I discovered what I thought I had known wasn’t true, but I saw a much broader experience which included expecting and birth parents as well as adoptees.

I stepped back to see the bigger picture. I have had the joy of witnessing thousands of families brought together through adoption over the years. I saw children growing up and families come back to expand their family a second and third time. What impacted me the most was also seeing another side of the experience as thousands of women facing unplanned pregnancies entrusted the agency to help walk them through all their options. These women were confronting one of the most difficult decisions in their lives and they needed support no matter what they chose in the end. I was hungry for even more knowledge to continuing broadening my view. I sought out adoptees willing to share their stories, mostly through online forums, and I listened. It can be challenging to listen, I mean really hear what is being said especially what it’s not all rainbows and sunshine but it’s so important.

Now as an adoptive mother, my perspective continues to change and develop having first hand experience with open adoption. Seeing my daughter’s mother’s experience and growing together through open adoption has deepened my perception. I don’t just see adoption from the viewpoint of adoptive parents anymore as I did when I was younger. When I’m moving through life with my young daughter, I push myself to see from her point of view. What is it like for her growing up as a transracial adoptee? Are there things I find celebratory like Mother’s Day and her birthday that might have a complex duality for her as she grows up? When we text, videochat or visit with her birth mother it’s evident how complex adoption can be. My daughter’s birth mother has become a part of our family and we love her deeply. If someone sat us down and asked us both to “walk us through your adoption experience,” we would have starkly different answers. If you charted our journeys on the same timeline, my moments of greatest joy would most likely correspond to her deepest times of sorrow.

To realize it’s not just about me is humbling.  Much of the time, I’m the least who matters because the impact for my daughter and her other mother is so much deeper because of the loss they have experienced through adoption. I’m not saying that adoption isn’t a beautiful thing. It has amazing and joyous aspects for everyone involved. But what I do want to press upon prospective adoptive parents is that isn’t all that adoption is. The journey for every member of the triad is shockingly different.

Simply put, adoption is bittersweet. I don’t mean that to say one side of the equation is always feeling happy while the other side is always feeling down. It’s not a seesaw. The exact moment I’m feeling so joyous to hold my daughter in my arms and introduce her to her new family I can feel devastation for  her other mother who is most certainly in pain. When we video chat, Momma J may experience happiness and excitement when our daughter shows off her newest superhero move and at the same time heartbroken that the circumstances weren’t different when she made the decision to place. My daughter is still too young to voice too many adoption related thoughts but when she is a little older her birthday might be a time of celebration and sadness. Opposite feelings can be meshed together at any one time adding complexities to our lives.

As I continue to grow as a professional and as a mother through adoption, I am committed to a simple life motto: Know Better, Do Better.

So if you are just beginning the process as a prospective adoptive parent, I would encourage you to challenge what you already know by seeking out voices of birth parents and adoptees and take it all in. Every story is unique but there are often common themes connecting each experience. It won’t be easy, but it will enrich your journey and better prepare you to raise a child who comes into your home through open adoption.

The more stories you hear from adoptees and birth parents the more opportunity your viewpoint has to stretch and grow. I found myself thinking differently, with a higher level of empathy for others touched by the same process but in very different ways. Personally, the biggest impact first hit me while I navigated the waiting process. Instead of focusing solely on the loss for prospective adoptive parents, which would have been my primary focus before entering the world of adoption, when hearing the terms “disruption” or “disappointment ” I found myself thinking about the happiness the child’s mother was feeling in her decision to parent.

You might notice your thoughts during your process shifting too. After rushing to the hospital for an emergency placement, you might find yourself struggling when asked to wait in other room for an extended period of time while the biological family is bonding with the baby. Understandably, you just can’t wait to hold the child in your arms. It may help to remember that in that moment, the child’s mother and family are squeezing in precious time before preparing to say goodbye.

As you are hopeful in counting down the revocation period until you can celebrate becoming a forever family, remember that “forever” decision is weighing heavily on the woman who is making sure she is certain that adoption is the right choice.

I’m not asking readers to completely shift their beliefs about adoption. I would just encourage prospective adoptive parents to actively seek out adoptee and birth parent voices whether it be online or in-person to gain a better understanding of all the sides of the adoption experience. Keep in mind, someday soon you hope to be a parent of an adoptee and in a life-long relationship with parents who have chosen adoption through openness and so learning about those experiences now from those who lived it will only help you when that time comes.

Things Adoption Social Workers Wish Prospective Adoptive Parents Knew

SpringThe adoption process is full of highs and lows as well as paperwork and classes and then of course the waiting. At times, things may feel overwhelming or you may be struggling with all the unknowns. We have asked several social workers to share what they wished prospective adoptive parents knew throughout each phase of the process.

 

  • Pre-match

Your social worker is always here for you! Don’t be afraid to check-in, ask for updates or even request a pep talk once in a while during your wait.

Birthparents are not what you see on TV. They are not irresponsible, selfish, inappropriate individuals. They are loving peopleselflessly putting their child’s needs first.

Educate your family and friends on positive adoption language and open adoption. Your child need  a support system of accepting family and friends who are informed about adoption.

Even though we cannot predict how long a family will wait, we do understand how hard an unbearable the wait can be for prospective adoptive parents.

It can be hard for prospective adoptive parents not to take it personally when their profile isn’t selected. Remember that women choose profiles for such very different reasons and one day an expecting parent will look at your profile and have that special connection too.

Adoption is a leap. Trust your social worker.

This is an incredible journey with many twists and turns. Embrace every part of the experience because it will be the foundation of the story of how you became a family.

You will be matched with the child that is truly meant for you.

Fully open adoptions are becoming the new normal and more commonly requested by expecting parents. Dive into what fears may be holding you back educate yourself of the benefits as well as the challenges about open adoption. It is important to be honest with the level of openness that you are really comfortable with.

We are rooting for you and are just as thrilled to tell you that you have been matched as you are to hear it!

Make sure to focus on all the information discussed during the classes and the education courses and not just the end goal of having a baby. A lot of times, once families do get the call and are placed, they look back and wished they had really listened.

  • Time of Match and/or Placement

While it is an exciting time for you, it is an incredibly sad and heartbreaking time for the birth parents. Respect their time to make sure adoption is the right decision, refrain from celebrating with a baby shower or “brother/sister” language until after the revocation period has passed.

The excepting parents are just as nervous to meet you. They think you will not like them or judge them. It’s funny how similar fears can be.

There are certain aspects of the delivery, health, hospital experience etc. completely out of everyone’s control. Patience, a healthy attitude and your support system will help you get through it.

Become familiar with the phrase “Cautions Optimism.”

Respect the birth parent’s time in the hospital – this is their time with the baby, you will get a lifetime.

Get to know the expecting/birth parents as best as you can as this may be the only experience you have to meet them and you will want to remember as much as possible to pass along to your child one day.

Be careful not to make promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep. The excitement of being matched may cause you to want to agree to things you weren’t initially open to. Make sure this doesn’t happen! If an expecting/birth parent asks you for something you are unsure about, just say that it is something worth considering and that you’d like some time to think it over. Lean on your social worker to help you sort out your feelings.

This is more than just the day they meet the baby that may become their child, but it’s also the beginning of their journey with their child’s birth parents. These are the beginning moments that they will be able to tell their children about and these are the stories their children will love to hear over and over again.

Medical records take time to retrieve. We cannot dictate how quickly a hospital or doctor’s office will respond to our request.

Respect the wishes of the expecting parents. Even though this is an amazing and wonderful time for your, remember that the birth parents are struggling with one of the hardest decision of their lives.

We cannot force a woman to get prenatal care. We strongly encourage it and offer to help in any way we can however there could be a variety of reasons she chooses not to.

Remember, remember, remember it is not yet your son or daughter until after the revocation period is complete. Shower the child with love and remind yourself each day that his or her birth parents are struggling with the life-long decision of placing or parenting and should not be shamed or made out to be a villain no matter what they decide in the end. Either way, they will be grateful that you were there to love and care for their baby.

  • Post Placement and for Years to Come

Birth parents never forget about their child, even if they don’t follow up with visits or future contact. Adoptive parents should remember this when approaching their child’s story and their updates for their child’s birth parents.

Birth parents should not be forgotten. They should always be a part of your story and deserve your life long respect. Do not minimize their role in your family.

Do not go back on your promises of updates and visits. We have seen the pain caused to birth parents when families do not keep their promises and it can be unbearable and cause doubts. Do what you say! It’s not only a commitment to your child’s birth parents but also a commitment to your child.

Be open with your child and ready to discuss their circumstances surrounding their adoption. If you would like help, don’t hesitate to call your social worker.

Leave space for your child to have a full range of emotions about their adoption story. When a child shares “big feelings”, even the negative ones, don’t override those feelings with a rainbow and unicorn speech about adoption. Adoption is love but it’s also loss and your child needs to feel comfortable speaking with you about ALL their feelings.

Do not talk negatively about your child’s birth parents. This is your child’s blood. Without them, you would not be a parent. Explain things in a way that shows that even through struggles, your child’s birth parents are important to you.

Be honest and loving. Don’t get tripped up on the hard questions. Your child deserves the truth and deserves to explore their story in their time and own way.

Open adoption is about removing the fear and stigma  and providing children with their identity and history. Base your decisions about the open adoption journey in hope and positivity rather than fear.

A child should not have fear that they will hurt your feelings by asking about their adoption story or birth family. Start the discussion early and explore their thoughts with an open heart and open mind.

It’s helpful to establish friendships along the way with people who have adopted.

If you have adopted transracially, do not be scared to ask questions. Your child deserves to know that you are doing everything you can to understand the challenges a child of transracial adoption may face.

Better your child’s experience by challenging yourself to really seek out other adoptee’s points of view. Unless you have been adopted, you cannot fully understand your child’s experience and so listening to many other adoptee’s experiences may give you a better understanding.

What are adoption facilitators?

MiddleMan

There are more and more adoption facilitators popping up throughout the adoption world leaving many families confused about what would be the best option for them.  Unlike adoption agencies, adoption facilitators are unlicensed and unregulated companies who charge money to match prospective adoptive families with women considering adoption.

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.

Why not to use an Adoption Facilitator

  • Adoption facilitators are not annually or periodically reviewed by an objective person, government or organization.
  • Adoption facilitators only match pregnant women and adoptive families. The adoptive family is on their own without the support of a counselor. They must find their own local agency to provide a home study and possible counseling for themselves, the pregnant woman and her family.
  • Once referred to a local adoption professional, adoptive families must pay more, and their facilitator fees are at risk if the adoption doesn’t work out.
  • Families often get frustrated with facilitators because they are not social workers and lack the empathy and skill to guide and educate them through the process and don’t help guide pregnant women through the process either.
  • Families are often matched with women who aren’t a good fit for their families or women who aren’t really certain about an adoption plan.  There is often no proof of pregnancy either.
  • Unlike many adoption agencies, adoption facilitators often work with women who need significant help with living expenses (well over $10,000) and other needs or requests. Higher expenses mean more finances are at risk if the adoption disrupts.
  • An adoption facilitator’s cost estimates are “best-case scenario” and rarely reflect what clients may actually end up paying and they may also experience several disruptions and lose thousands of dollars before an adoption succeeds.
  • Facilitators work with attorneys in various states who are expected to drive birth families to appointments, welfare offices, etc. at the hourly rate that an attorney usually charges.
  • Some adoption facilitator contracts expire.  Families then have to pay again or move on to an agency, attorney or renew with the facilitator.
  • Facilitators for adoption usually provide less than a fourth of the services of licensed agencies, and therefore prospective adoptive parents often end up spending more money.
  • Adoption facilitators do not have the skill set to properly counsel, support and explain the adoption process to pregnant women and their families, which leads to more failed adoptions.
  • Most facilitators work alone or as part of a two- or three-person adoption facilitator agency, which makes them overworked, burned out and not responsive to clients in a timely fashion.
  • Facilitators for adoption can easily go out of business with no repercussions.
  • States like California have even developed specific certification to help regulate these entities, but certification has done little to regulate these providers.
  • Adoption facilitators typically lack expertise in the complexities and differences in adoption law state to state. They sometimes give ill advice as they try to match couples with women seeking to create an adoption plan.
  • Two States (Delaware and Kansas) strictly prohibit any use of facilitators or intermediaries. Eight States prohibit their use by restricting the placement of children to licensed agencies only (Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, and

Wisconsin). Nebraska limits the placement of children to either an agency or a member of the child’s birth family. Minnesota and Nevada restrict the placement to a parent, legal guardian, or agency. The District of Columbia and New York limit the placement to an agency, parent, legal guardian, or birth relative. Arizona and Ohio restrict the placement to an agency or an attorney. Oklahoma limits the placement to an agency, family member, or attorney.

  • Fifteen States and American Samoa regulate the activities of intermediaries by limiting the compensation that they are allowed to receive (Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana,  Maryland,  Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia).  It is illegal for these persons or agencies to receive any payment for the placement of the child; reimbursement for actual medical or legal services is the only payment that they are allowed to receive. Nine States allow the use of adoption facilitators but detail in statute the activities they are permitted to perform or the services they are required to offer (California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington.)

These requirements may include:

  • Providing written information about the adoption process to all parties (California, Florida, Michigan, and Washington)
  • Providing to the adopting parent any available background information about the child’s birth parent (California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania)
  • Making sure that the adopting parents have completed home studies that have been approved (New Jersey and Pennsylvania)
  • Reporting to the court all fees and expenses paid (California, Florida, and Pennsylvania)
  • Providing to the adopting parent information about the background of the child, to the extent available (Florida, Pennsylvania)

In Florida, where adoption facilitators are frequently attorneys, the law requires facilitators to obtain all necessary consents, file petitions and affidavits, and serve notices of hearings. In North Carolina and Vermont, the law explicitly states that a birth parent or guardian must personally select a prospective adoptive parent; the role of a facilitator is limited to either assisting the birth parent in evaluating that choice or assisting a prospective adoptive parent in locating a child who is available for adoption.