Christmas Wish

Christmas Wish

As we enter the Christmas season, many of us are caught up in the hustle and bustle of wish lists, shopping, baking, attending parties or family gatherings, wrapping presents, and shoveling snow (depending on where you live!). Some of you reading this blog may already have a house full of children while others are eagerly awaiting the adoption of your first child and look forward to celebrating your first Christmas together.

I find that the older I get I really can’t come up with a tangible item that I “want” for Christmas; instead, I just want my family together around me and I look forward to experiencing the magic of Christmas through my own children’s eyes. The fact that I can’t articulate a physical item on my wish list, however, drives my kids bananas. They have begged me to please come up with at least one thing. While I’d be just as happy with a hand-made card, I understand and want to respect their desire to reciprocate. So, as I was thinking about my wish list this year I began to ponder all the things that adoptive families often wish for, as well.

For example, you may be wishing for a chubby baby to cuddle and kiss, or you may be wishing for the last Invitro treatment to end. You may be wishing and praying for the child you’re already been matched with but haven’t yet adopted, or you could be wishing for the moment when you get to see your adopted child’s face for the very first time and hold his/her hand. You may be wishing thoughts of hope and compassion for a birthmother who is struggling and you may be wishing for your adoption social worker to stop asking you so many questions!! Truthfully, you are probably wishing for the waiting to end and for your life with kids to just begin. I think we all wish that children everywhere would find loving homes where they will be nourished, nurtured and held every day of the year.

Whatever your wish this holiday season, I suggest you write it down, pray about it, tell your close friends and family about it, guard it in your heart until it comes to pass. Someday you will share that story with your adopted child and he or she will know they are the beautiful result of your Christmas wish.

Adoption Matters wishes you and yours all the best this Christmas season and we look forward to another exciting year of working together. Merry Christmas!

 

  1. Groff
Advertisements

National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and we are so privileged to help celebrate this important month by giving a shout out to all of our clients: birth parents, adoptees and adoptive parents alike. The purpose of this month is to draw attention to the thousands of children who are in foster care waiting to be adopted. For 2017, Child Welfare is placing particular emphasis on the teenagers who are often overlooked and forgotten in foster care. Please follow the link below to learn more about this program and to read about adoption, in general. As always, if Adoption Matters, Inc. can be of any assistance to you or your family during your adoption journey, we would love the opportunity to speak with you and serve you.

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/about/

Things Adopted Children Wish Their Parents Knew…

Things Adopted Children Wish Their Parents Knew…

In this blog, we talk a lot about adoptive parents and birth parents, but I also believe it is important to understand adoption from the perspective of the individual it affects the most: the adoptee. Children growing up in an adoptive home from infancy or toddlerhood will most likely find their adoption situation very normal and may not question their story until they reach adolescence or young adulthood. It is often at that time, however, that adoptive parents feel bombarded with their child’s “sudden” curiosity, as if it awakened overnight and is now here to haunt them. As we know, the truth is rarely that black and white. Some children either hold off on asking certain questions because it never occurred to them to ask when they were younger, or they sensed some level of resistance or hesitation on the part of their adoptive parents in discussing these matters. (Children who were placed out of foster care or at an older age will certainly still have questions, but they are often more aware of the circumstances surrounding their relinquishment and placement.)

From young children to adult adoptees, there are many patterns in the issues raised regarding one’s adoption story. Many of the same questions regarding background, reasons for relinquishment, feelings of abandonment or rejection, and curiosity about appearance and ability can be heard across all types of adoption, regardless of the adoptee’s demographic.

In interviews with adoptees, there are some common threads that get expressed about not only the questions these individuals have, but also statements of things adopted children wish their adopted parents knew (or had known) when they were growing up. Below is a list of just a few of these sentiments:

  • Birthdays or “Gotcha Days” may be difficult for me.
  • I am afraid you, too, will abandon me.
  • I want you to initiate conversations about my birth parents, placement and adoption story.
  • Don’t overreact every time I act out…it isn’t always adoption related. Sometimes I’m just being a normal kid.
  • Please don’t act weird when I ask questions about my birth parents. I’m just curious.
  • Don’t introduce me as your “adopted child.” I’m just your child.
  • My curiosity about my birth parents or desire to search for them is not a rejection of you as my parents.
  • It’s normal for adoptees to struggle with issues of self-worth, identity, control, and shame.
  • Be my advocate. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for a lifelong commitment to me and my adoption.
  • Adoption is not a secret or something to be ashamed of.

At Adoption Matters, we are committed to our families for the life of your adoption. If we can ever help you get connected with counseling and other adoption related resources that would benefit your family, please let us know

S. Groff

Meeting In the Middle

Meeting in the Middle

Over the past several months, I have found myself having multiple conversations with folks about the perceived “conflict” between birthparents and adoptive parents. While I am not oblivious to this point of view, I am hoping to challenge it in today’s post. I think it’s unfortunate that society seems to pit these two groups against each other, when, in reality, they are two entities working towards the common goal of creating a permanent placement in a loving and stable home for a child.

I’ve heard adoptive parents sheepishly admit they don’t feel advocated for and have been made to feel ashamed by certain agencies whom they see as very “pro birthparent.” On the flip side, I’ve heard birthparents express concern that their needs will be trumped for those of the adoptive parents when it comes down to the details of matching and placement. This “us” versus “them” mentality is really not helpful and actually gets in the way of transitioning children from birthparents or foster homes to permanent adoptive homes. If you can remove yourself from the emotional context for just a few moments, I’d like to mention some factors that may help all of us to see this issue in a different light moving forward.

Traditionally, we’ve talked about the three parties involved in adoption as the adoption triad: birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees. The problem with this analogy, however, is that it doesn’t fully address the interaction between each. It denotes a relationship, but a distant one without any overlapping. In a recent discussion of this matter with an adoptive father, we decided a Venn diagram more accurately describes the connection between each member of an adoption. In this diagram, each party comes with their own individual background but also connects around the center, which in adoption is the child.

The reason I mention this is because I think we often mistakenly think of adoptive parents and birthparents as opposing parties, with opposing interests and lifestyles, values or backgrounds. The truth is there are often more commonalities than at first meets the eye. And, even if no similarities can be found, the fact that both sets of parents love this child and want the best future for him/her should be enough to break down some of the barriers that are often put in place long before an expectant mother ever meets a potential adoptive parent.

As prospective adoptive parents, if you find yourself feeling squeamish about birthparents and their role in your future child’s life, perhaps you need to take a step back and examine the underlying reasons behind those feelings. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize that by focusing on the adopted child as the center, you will feel more relaxed and rational about any sort of interaction or relationship with the birthparents. On the other hand, if you are an expectant mother trying to plan an adoption or a birthparent who has already placed a child for adoption, you may be having feelings of obligation or resentment, in addition to the grief that is certain to accompany your decision. I encourage you to learn as much as possible about your birthchild’s future family and to maintain some form of contact (even if it’s texts and pictures) so that you can be reassured of your child’s development as he/she grows older. Having this personal connection will help to lessen the fear that the adoptive parents are unfeeling or can’t relate to your situation.

I fully recognize the emotions involved in adoption cannot be worked out with just a few simple analogies or mental exercises; however, sometimes a perspective switch allows us to move forward in a more positive manner and to ultimately experience healthier interactions with others. I challenge all of us, therefore, to view the relationships in adoption as a “meeting in the middle” and let’s see how far we can go.

S. Groff

Making the Most of Your Wait

Making the Most of Your Wait

This is a post for all those adoptive parents who have waited. Maybe you waited to get pregnant or waited to hear the disappointing news that the last round of IVF didn’t take. Perhaps you waited to get your home study approved and now you find yourself waiting some more…waiting for a referral, anticipating that call from your placement agency, waiting to get on a plane and meet your sweet child for the very first time. Others of you who are past these initial stages of adoption may now be waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the day your adopted child asks the really “BIG” questions that you feel unprepared to answer or are scared to address. Wherever you find may yourself in this journey we call adoption, waiting is inevitable. There’s just no other way to slice it.

Waiting doesn’t have to be a negative thing though. In fact, it is often in the waiting that we become better prepared for the goal. For those of you who may have just signed the last piece of paperwork for your home study and for those families who have been waiting for over a year to receive a placement, I challenge you to hold onto hope in a time that can otherwise be filled with anxiety and impatience.

To begin with, the decision to grow your family through adoption is an exciting and hope-filled one in and of itself. While it may sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster, try to remain focused on the goal, which is becoming parents. I have often talked with prospective adoptive parents who are experiencing the angst of waiting and question whether they made the right decision or have grown weary with not knowing when a child will join their family. I am certainly not negating the emotions of this difficult time, but I have noticed a pattern over the years in the approach of those waiting families who are able to make the most of their wait. Below is a list of some of the things that seem to help many adoptive families. Also keep in mind that Adoption Matters, Inc. is always available to answer questions and to connect you with resources that can empower you and your family along this adoption journey.

  • Start a children’s library with some adoption related books included
  • Write a blog (or follow an adoption blog—There are so many beautiful and personal adoption blogs out there to benefit from!)
  • Take the trips you’ve always wanted to go on
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Become a Big Sister or Big Brother
  • Go to church. Pray. Ask others to pray for you.
  • Join a waiting family support group
  • Host a group of other adoptive and waiting families in your home on a monthly basis—Building a community of friends who understand what you’re going through and who can provide encouragement, answer questions, etc. is a HUGE help!
  • Begin a life book for your future child, detailing your adoption journey up to this point, leaving plenty of space to include your child’s story and how he/she joined your family
  • Laugh. Journal.
  • Go on date nights
  • Get together with friends

 

  1. Groff

Capacity to Love

Capacity to Love

Last week I had the amazing privilege of going to Buenos Aires, Argentina as part of a mission’s trip with my church. The purpose of this trip was to visit an orphanage that we help to support there. We took 15 huge suitcases full of donations and supplies and spent the week playing and doing projects with the kids, interacting with the staff of women who have dedicated their lives to these children, and creating memories that will be carried with all of us for a lifetime. While many different types of service oriented groups like ours often carry out construction projects or set up health clinics to help meet the needs of the local population, our intent was to fill these kids up with love, affection, laughter, and lots of play. While the goal may not sound ambitious to some, I can honestly say it was the most important.

Now that I have returned home, I find myself pondering this experience and the things I’ve learned. Although I believe strongly in the value of international travel and exposure to other people, places, customs, and cultures, I also believe it is incumbent upon us to do something with these experiences once we come back home. While America may appear to be the “land of plenty” (and in many ways, it is), the truth remains that we have scores of children right here within our own borders who need love and attention, mentoring and compassion.

I realize we can’t all go on a trip like this one and not everyone has the desire to do so. If you are reading this blog right now, however, you obviously have some connection or interest in adoption. Whether your motives to adopt are based upon infertility or pure philanthropy, something within you is compelled to choose this unique alternative to building your family. As you continue to research adoption and figure out the best method for pursuing that option, please take a moment to reflect on all you have to offer a child who, for some reason, needs an adoptive home.

The reasons for making an adoption plan are as varied as the children and families who find themselves linked together; however, the needs of these kiddos, whether here in the United States or abroad, are pretty much the same: At the core of every one is a need for security, affirmation, love, affection, and kindness. Those of us who possess the capacity to provide these critical elements of nurturing may find ourselves volunteering as mentors, providing respite foster care, applying to become foster parents, or even adopting. Whatever path you may choose, please keep Adoption Matters, Inc. in mind as a wonderful adoption resource. We would love to answer any adoption-related questions you may have and to serve you in this exciting journey.

 

  1. Groff

 

 

Adoption 101

Adoption 101

For many of you reading this blog, this may be the first adoption related website you’ve ever visited. You may find yourselves in the very beginning stages of adoption research and trying to make heads or tails of the plethora of information available on-line. While this is an exciting part of the process, the “information gathering” stage can also be an overwhelming one. The internet has made adoption information accessible to everyone, but has propagated a good deal of conflicting (or misinformation), as well. Some of the most common questions people have when making an initial inquiry is about the type of agency they should use. They also want to know the difference between using an adoption attorney, facilitator or an adoption agency. Wading through all of these details can be tedious and confusing, so in this blog I will do my best to define three of the most common adoption entities that exist, as well as to offer guidance as to how you can best know what you are getting into and ultimately, what is the best choice for your family.

  • Adoption Agency

Let’s begin with perhaps the most common adoption resource: the adoption agency. Whether large or small, there are many similar traits to be found across the board when working with an adoption agency. First of all, this is the primary place for getting your adoption home study completed. Without a home study, you cannot adopt a child. Once this important step is finished, many adoption agencies will then attempt to match you with a birthparent from their existing pool of pregnant birthmothers or they will work on your behalf to find a placement from an outside resource, perhaps a national or out-of-state agency, depending on the situation. An adoption agency will be responsible for walking you through placement, completing necessary adoption paperwork, helping you to negotiate the terms of an open adoption, performing post-placement duties, and ultimately submitting reports leading to finalization of your adoption. Some of the advantages to working with an agency include greater representation, someone holding your hand throughout the entire process, available counseling to birthparents regarding their adoption decision, and the assurance that an accredited, licensed agency is being held accountable to certain laws and standards governing adoption.

  • Adoption Attorney

First of all, you will always need to retain an attorney in order to finalize your adoption. Whether or not you speak to an attorney before that point depends on the state you live in and the particulars of the adoption situation you are involved in. Some folks engage in what we call a private adoption, which in its simplest form means that the adoptive parents have been matched with the birthparents privately, outside of an agency, and desire to complete an adoption by mutual consent. Sometimes the attorney will refer the birthmother to an agency for a minimum number of counseling sessions or at the least, an assessment prior to signing relinquishments. Oftentimes, the case will be referred to an adoption agency for post-placement supervision and finalization. These types of adoptions occur frequently and are successful; however, a few things to be aware of are that not all attorneys, even a family law attorney, is familiar with and understanding of the unique nuances of adoption. We recommend using an attorney who is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Additionally, not all attorneys or adoptive families are taking into consideration the best interests of birthparents, so they do not always advocate for a birthmother receiving counseling prior to her adoption decision.

  • Adoption Facilitator

Technically, an adoption facilitator is a person who assists with, or “facilitates,” the matching of a birthmother with an adoptive family. Unlike a licensed child placing agency or even a licensed attorney, however, adoption facilitators are not licensed. In fact, if they accept payment for their services it is illegal in some states, including North Carolina. If a person is voluntarily acting as a facilitator, without compensation, then most states accept their role. Some examples include nurses, ministers, family members, and friends. Most states prohibit the compensation of an adoption facilitator and in states like California or Ohio where it is allowed, there are strict laws governing payment to these individuals.

While the potential dangers of this scenario may appear obvious, unfortunately it is not always obvious to the prospective client that this person or entity is indeed a facilitator. Many facilitators have sophisticated websites and brochures that give the impression of being an agency, when in fact, they are not. The improper use of a facilitator can cause a multitude of problems and could negatively impact the finalization of your adoption. As an adoptive parent, therefore, be sure to do your homework and know what kinds of questions to ask.

In closing, it is important to do your research and to ask a lot of questions as you gather information about the best adoption route for your family. Adoption Matters, Inc. would love to answer any questions you may have and to assist you in your adoption journey.

S. Groff

 

Happy (Birth) Mother’s Day

Happy (Birth)Mother’s Day

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all mothers a very special and happy Mother’s Day. To those of you who have already adopted and to those who are waiting for a child to be placed in your home, we are grateful. We would like to especially thank those women who often fly under the radar on this special holiday: birthmothers. Although many of us do not traditionally think of birthmothers on Mother’s Day, the truth is that each and every birthmother thinks of her child on this occasion. While most mothers celebrate Mother’s Day with family, receive flowers or homemade cards or even attend a Mother’s Day Tea at a child’s school, birthmothers often go completely unnoticed and unrecognized. As many of my adoptive clients over the yeHappy (Birth) Motars have admitted, however, it is because of birthmothers that they are able to feel the warmth and love of Mother’s Day. What was once a day of loss and sorrow for many adoptive mothers becomes a day of thanksgiving, celebration and wholeness because of the child that is now a part of their lives. Let us not forget the sacrifice birthmothers make by giving life to a child, as well as the gift of permanent parents, through adoption. One woman’s grief becomes another woman’s joy. One woman’s loss becomes another woman’s gain. Despite the circumstances or judgements that society often makes about birth parents, the bottom line is that a birthmother’s tears sown in loss become an adoptive mother’s tears of joy harvested. So, for all of you adoptive families please take a moment to remember your child’s birthmother today. Send her a text or a card or give her a call, if you can. At the least (and perhaps at the most) say a special prayer of thanks for her in the light of the beautiful gift you are able to enjoy this Mother’s Day

S. Groff

Debunking Adoption Myths

Debunking Adoption Myths

Whether you are interested in doing a domestic, international or foster care adoption, chances are you’ve heard some “horror” stories along the way. Unfortunately, these are the stories the media tends to flock to and the ones that nag at your mind, causing you to question adoption in its entirety. Admittedly, adoption is a big commitment and requires a good deal of education and knowledge to do it successfully. Since fear is never a good place to work from, this post will attempt to dispel some of the adoption myths that continue to linger in our society today.

  • Domestic adoption means an excruciatingly long wait.

Although international adoption often receives more attention, the truth is there are so many children right here in the United States waiting to be adopted. Whether through your state foster care system or through a private adoption agency/attorney, the wait to do a domestic adoption is not as long as many assume. More than 18,000 American families adopt children domestically every year, negating the misperception that domestic adoption is too expensive or time consuming and risky. Although costs and wait times vary from one agency to the next, the average family receives placement within two years of starting the process. Not only are birth parents actively seeking positive adoption resources, but the entire adoption triad benefits from the ability to have some level of openness and transparency allowed in domestic adoption.

  • Open adoption is co-parenting

Many of the families I work with consistently express the same concern about birthparents. They are afraid that any contact, however minimal, will invite birthparents to believe they will be able to continue parenting their child on some level and to have a consistent say in how they are raised, etc. I always explain to adoptive parents that first of all, open adoption is not co-parenting. Once relinquishments are signed, the adoptive parents are the parents. They’re the ones feeding, getting up during the night, taking kids to school, planning social activities, mediating behavior, and so on. Birthparents, in my experience, are generally very aware of these distinctions and don’t want to overstep the boundaries. However, if both parties are willing to invest some time and effort and graciousness, then having an open adoption can be highly beneficial to all. In fact, adoption has changed so much in the past 20 to 30 years that it is almost impossible to do a domestic adoption without some level of openness these days. While no two adoptions or open adoption relationships look alike, adoptive families do find that having access to their child’s medical background and details about their child’s placement is extremely helpful. Birthparents are reassured that their child is happy, well cared for and developing; adopted children can obtain direct answers to their questions as they grow and mature. This overall transparency is highly preferred over the secrecy and confidentiality of the past.

  • Domestic adoptions can be overturned at the whim of birthparents

It is extremely difficult to overturn an adoption once relinquishments have been signed. After the requisite number of days prior to placement have passed, a birthparent would have to prove fraud or duress in order to overturn an existing adoption. (This is one reason, by the way, why it is so important for birthparents to receive counseling prior to making an adoption decision, even though it is not required in all states.) Although there are not any exact figures on this, it is estimated that less than one percent of domestic adoptions in the United States are legally contested following relinquishment of parental rights.

  • Birthmothers are down-and-outers

Unfortunately, this is a myth we may forever be fighting. There are many negative stereotypes about birthmothers, in particular, in the United States. What I try to always remind people is that adoption doesn’t happen because everything is perfect. There is some compelling reason (perhaps multiple reasons) why adoptions occur, both for birthparents and adoptive parents. This does not automatically assume, however, that birthmothers are impoverished, uneducated, drug addicts who recklessly get pregnant and can’t wait to “get rid” of an unwanted child. There are so many variables involved that it would be a complete disservice to slap the same label onto all birthmothers. I have worked with 40+ year old birthmothers with Master’s degrees; college girls; immigrants and refugees literally fleeing for their lives; victims of rape, incest and domestic violence; homeless women victimized by men on the streets, as well as drug addicts who were able to stay clean long enough to deliver a healthy, full-term baby. These situations and individuals not only deserve our compassion as human beings, but also as the bearer of our adopted children. Their sacrifice allows adoptive parents everywhere to fulfill their dream of becoming parents and provides millions of children with nurturing homes.

 

  1. Groff

The Look of Adoption

The Look of Adoption

I still remember the day I found out that my best friend from childhood was adopted. I was in elementary school when my mother happened to comment on it. My friend’s adoption wasn’t a secret…it just never occurred to me. The fact is, it should have been obvious because my friend was part Asian and her parents Caucasian. They looked nothing alike, yet in my mind she was just somebody’s daughter and I was her friend.

While this story causes me to smile today, I have to say I like the innocence of children that allows them to just accept people as they are. No questions asked. No stereotypes or judgments heaped on. Young children typically don’t get caught up in all the social/economic/demographic drama that seems to pollute our adult minds. Their ability to easily accept one another, despite obvious physical differences, should be a lesson to those of us who are older and supposedly “wiser.”

I believe in the importance of educating adoptive families about the unique considerations and challenges of adopting a special needs child or a child of a different racial, cultural or ethnic background. I further believe we need to assist these families in creating communities that can successfully support these types of adoptions. If we expect adoptive families to be able and willing to adopt children who need homes, then we must get creative. This is an admonition not just for social service agencies, but for individuals, schools, churches, medical and athletic facilities, libraries, and so on. In a previous blog post, I wrote about how many churches in the greater Charlotte area have banded together to help support families in their efforts to foster and adopt children in the foster care system. This is an excellent example of how ordinary people can team together to support adoption at its best and safest level.

I have been working in the adoption field for nearly 16 years now and have yet to grow tired of this amazing work. It is a privilege to be invited into someone’s home to conduct a home study or to sit across from a birthparent struggling with an adoption or parenting decision. These stories and lives are precious and deserve to be celebrated. It is also a responsibility to be borne, however. As we look out at the adoptive families in our schools, places of work and worship and play, we can often recognize the obvious physical factors that set adoptive families apart. Are we doing what we can to encourage them and to allow them to grow? Are we making strides in our collective view toward adoption? Whether we are personally connected to adoption or just part of the adoption story at large, we all have a role to play in helping this institution to thrive.