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.

Adoption: A Look At Where We’ve Come From

A Look at Where We’ve Come From

If you haven’t spent much time in the adoption world yet, you may not realize how far adoption has come in this country. While not without its stereotypes and stigma even today, adoption has nevertheless become a common household phenomenon, impacting most of us in one way or another. We read about it in the media, see it flashed before our eyes in Hollywood, and throw baby showers for friends and family members who are adopting. There are scrapbooking kits designed specifically for families created by adoption and a ‘National Adoption Day’ set aside each year to commemorate the lives of kids who need adoptive homes and have already been placed. In other words, adoption seems to be everywhere and our social consciousness of the issue has improved dramatically. It may be hard to believe, therefore, that this wasn’t always the case. Not so long ago, adoption was a dark and secret taboo borne by many birthmothers, adopted children and adoptive parents alike.

I can still recall the almost haunting call I received from an adult adoptee many years ago, who explained to me that after 65 years of living in secrecy, she was finally able to ask about her adoption because the last of her adoptive parents had passed away. This woman knew she was adopted but never felt the liberty of asking her parents even the most basic of questions. Why, you may ask. The answer is simple: shame. Unfortunately, this woman was born and placed for adoption in an era where women gave birth to “illegitimate” children in secret, sequestered away in secret wards, never allowed the opportunity to see or hold their child. Babies were placed based upon a social worker’s subjective opinion of families who seemed to possess similar physical attributes to the child, and then often no one spoke of the adoption after that. Ever. Even if people in the community knew a child was adopted, no one dared speak of it. I promise you, I am not making this stuff up. I have read through many old adoption files and offered counseling to other adult adoptees like the one discussed here, recounting similar stories.

I don’t mention these stories to lambast the good intentions of social workers and adoptive parents of the past. For the most part, society believed this practice of secrecy was in everyone’s best interest. Fortunately, we have since learned a great deal about the benefits of being forthright with one’s adoption story and creating various levels of openness when it is safe and beneficial for all parties involved. While stories of adoption’s past may cause us to cringe today, I believe they can also make us grateful for the progress we’ve made. They should also motivate us to continually strive to make adoption better. We can do this by ensuring openness and accessibility to a child’s adoption story, as well as making sure that those of us who have been affected by adoption in some capacity take advantage of our unique position to educate others about the beauty and strength of adoption.

-Sarah G.

Closing of IAC

We at Adoption Matters were stunned and saddened to hear about the closing of the Independent Adoption Center (IAC) on January 31.

These last two weeks the adoption community of professionals has been scrambling to get accurate information to figure out how to best support the hundreds of families impacted by IAC’s closing. Information has been slow in coming as state regulators try to make unprecedented decisions about next steps for these families.

It has been heart warming to witness the former IAC families band together through Facebook and phone calls to share the latest bit of information they have learned and to see adoption agencies and attorneys make efforts to do what they can to ease the grief for the impacted families and birth parents.

I have no knowledge as to what caused IAC to reach the point that they decided that they had no other recourse, but to file for bankruptcy. I have no doubt that their situation was complicated and that their decision was not easy, but it begs the question of what needs to be done to prevent a situation like this from happening again.

Our hearts go out to all of those impacted by this situation. A word of caution to wait to get accurate information from reliable sources before spending any more money. There seems to be confusion, understandably, about many things like the validity of certain adoption documents, namely home studies. I myself have gotten conflicting information from multiple sources over the past week. Unless you are in the middle of a placement in which time is of the essence, it might be prudent to take a deep breath and a few weeks to decide what do to and where to go next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teen Talk

Teen Talk

Oftentimes when we discuss adoption, we focus on the home study process, the waiting period, placement and bonding, and contact with birth parents. Much of this discussion revolves around first-time parents, infants and/or very young children. The truth is, however, that these young adoptees grow into adolescent adoptees. You may even adopt your child when he or she is already on the threshold of adolescence and no one has ever raised the unique concerns associated with talking to teenagers about their adoption.

Unlike younger children who are typically enthralled with stories recounting their birth and adoption, adolescents may suddenly become hesitant in approaching this subject with their peers or parents. Their developmental level allows them to begin looking at this event with greater detail, analyzing the story they’ve always known in a new way. As if the teenage years weren’t already challenging, a teen’s adoption story and any related unanswered questions may create an added layer of distress, or at the least an added layer of curiosity.

So, how should you respond as parents, and how can you prepare yourselves to address their questions without coming across as threatened or overbearing? The two articles below do a great job of defining typical concerns raised by adolescent adoptees, as well as providing practical advice to parents who want to engage their children in healthy conversations.

http://www.nacac.org/adoptalk/talkingwithteen.html

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/adoption-and-foster-care/Pages/Talking-to-Your-Teen-About-Being-Adopted.aspx

 

New Year, New Beginnings for Those Pursuing Adoption

As we usher in 2017, many of us are setting new goals for the forthcoming year. Having wrapped up the busy holidays, you may have decided that now is the time to buckle down and begin the adoption journey you’ve been contemplating. You may have already done your research and contacted agencies to find the right fit for your family, or you may just be getting ready to make that first phone call.

Potential clients often sheepishly tell me they are in the “very beginning stages of adoption and don’t know anything.” I always say this is an exciting time because it opens up a whole new chapter in their lives. I recognize that the beginning stages can be overwhelming at times, especially with the influx of adoption information available on the Internet. There are also a myriad of questions to muddle through: What type of adoption do you want: domestic, international, private? Do you want an infant or an older child? Which agency should you work with? Are you open to a child of a different racial or ethnic background? Does your family support your adoption decision? Does your family even know you want to adopt? The list goes on and on. In the midst of all these questions (and more), I believe there a few general guidelines that apply to most adoption situations. I have compiled this list below in hopes that it will provide some guidance and peace of mind as you embark on this most exciting adventure. And, if you do choose to proceed, Adoption Matters, Inc. warmly welcomes the opportunity to come along beside you. Please give us a call or send us an email and we will be sure to answer any questions you may have.

Things to Keep in Mind When Adopting:

  • Choose an agency whose mission you can get on board with. Some adoption agencies have very specific outreach and/or mission goals. It will be much easier to work with them and to trust the adoption process if you agree with these goals.
  • Find out if birth parents are receiving counseling. Believe me, it behooves you to be sure birth parents are receiving not only sound legal advice, but also adequate mental and emotional support. Birth mothers should also have access to regular prenatal care and resources exist to assist with this. Not every state requires counseling for birth parents and not every agency has their best interests in mind, so be sure to ask.
  • Have some compassion. Try to put yourself in birth parents’ shoes and recognize the incredibly difficult and heart wrenching decision these individuals are making. If you approach this adoption from a place of compassion and respect, things will go much better for you in the future as you attempt to navigate any type of relationship or interaction with the birth parents. It will also benefit you when your adopted child has questions and concerns about his/her adoption.
  • Take a good hard look at yourself, your partner, your extended family, and your community to decide what type of adoption you can best pursue. For example, can you raise a child of a racial or ethnic background other than your own in a community of friends and family that will be equally loving and supportive? Do you have the resources, both financial and emotional, to raise a child with special needs? Do you possess the willingness and patience to engage in an open adoption relationship with your child’s birth parents? The way you answer each of these questions should help you narrow down the type of adoption that is best for you. As an adoption counselor, I encourage families to stretch themselves and to conduct a lot of research so that they can be educated and make informed decisions instead of fearful ones. However, there are also instances where families say yes to a scenario they just aren’t prepared for, resulting in a lot of unnecessary stress and even sometimes disruption. Be open, but also evaluate your situation to make a strong adoption choice.