Open Adoption Blog


Our First Father’s Day Knowing You

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by adoptive father, Will Collyer. In this post he writes to his daughter, he expresses the moments leading up to being connected with her and the joy of celebrating his first Father’s Day.

Will, Colin & Campbell (one month old), photo by Madeleine Rose Photography

Will, Colin & Campbell (one month old), photo by Madeleine Rose Photography

Last Father’s Day we didn’t know you existed, but you did. Your birthmom didn’t know we were out here waiting, but we were.

Last year at this time our profile had been live for roughly six weeks. Friends and family would excitedly check in with us, almost daily: “Have you heard anything? How’s the adoption going?” Acquaintances we had maybe met once at a party and then friended on Facebook would comment on our pictures and “Adoption Letter”, sharing their excitement and congrats. But we still didn’t know you existed.

We were confident we had done everything to share as much as we could of ourselves in those four carefully, painstakingly crafted pages. We had faith that we had “opened the door,” and the universe, angels, and IAC, would connect the dots which were beyond our control. So in the meantime, we were resolved to keep living life as we knew it. Keep planning travel. Keep filling our days, weeks, and future calendars with commitments, activities, and work. But what if we got a call and had to fly across the country? Well, then we’d change our plans and do what we needed to do. But it was better for us, emotionally and spiritually, to double down on what filled our lives already and let go of the “what-ifs” until they happened.

We had a stock answer for all those friends and family who wanted to know what was going on with our adoption. One that had quickly become scripted through repetition: “Well, we’ve opened the door, and we may hear from a birthmom three years from now… or it could be three months… or it could be tomorrow.”

Towards the middle of last July, maybe a month after that non-eventful Father’s Day of 2015, an old high school friend of Colin’s was in town for business. He was at our house for dinner, and of course he was interested in hearing our adoption story. After explaining how IAC and open adoption work, we ended with the same scripted conclusion: “So, we’ve opened the door, and we may hear from a birthmom three years from now… or it could be three months… or it could be tomorrow.”

The next day we were up early to head to the airport for a flight to Chicago, where we were going to spend a few days with Colin’s family. We’d fed the dogs, showered, and dressed. I picked up my phone to call an Uber, and there in my email was a message with the subject “Adoption.”  I dropped my bags, shaking, went to the living room where Colin was ready to go, and said, “Hon, we’ve got a contact.”

Unbelievably, the last line of our stock explanation – “could be tomorrow” – had come true!

So much has happened since then. We’ve become so close with your wonderful birthmother. We were with her at the first ultrasound when we found out together that you are a girl. And we met you the very second you took your first breath of air and let out your first beautiful scream.

Less than a year after that first contact, here you are, the most beautiful angel in the world. And we’re your Daddy and Papa, and you’re our baby girl. And yesterday, our first Father’s Day, and your 5-month birthday, we got to cuddle you and watch you roll gleefully from your back to your stomach (and then not-so-gleefully try to push yourself back onto your back, which we helped you with after several unsuccessful tries), and then we got to take you swimming at our friend Jim and Kimi’s house, because oh-my-gosh what a heat wave we’re having right now! And at the end of the day, we soothed you when you woke up at midnight with your gums aching from teething.

We’re so grateful to your incredible birthmother, and to all the angels (both here on earth and up in the sky) that connected us to her and to you.

Last Father’s Day we could never have imagined having this much love in our lives. And it’s honestly still hard to fully believe.  But we do.

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Passing On A Mother’s Love

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by waiting adoptive parent, Krista McIlmoil, about what she’s learned from her own mother and what she hopes to pass on to her future child.

KristaMcilmoilSometimes I call our own toll free number just to make sure it’s working, even though our online call log says that no calls have come through. I try to think of fun and creative ways to get page views, because I figure those page views will result in a phone call and then of course, a baby. I sat down to write about my mother and what she means to me, since it was Mother’s day, but my mind keeps circling back to wondering when it’ll be my turn. I know that’s selfish, but there are so many aspects of motherhood I’m looking forward to, like celebrating that special day once a year when it’s all about moms. When moms all over hope for a quiet day and reflection.

I have enough days of silence and reflection. I long for the days of noise and chaos when I’m running around putting lunches together, helping with homework, and driving the kids around to dance, soccer practice, or Jiu Jitsu. That might sound crazy to some people, and I’m sure that others will tell me that I think that now, but “just wait.” Well, I am. Anxiously. Not as patiently as I could, or should. I think back to my childhood and all the incredible memories my parents helped me create and I can’t wait to pass those traditions down to my children.

My family wasn’t religious, so we didn’t celebrate the same as other families. We didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve, but we would pile into the car and drive around in our pajamas and look at the Christmas lights people put up around their homes. We knew of all the best neighborhoods and we would “oooh” and “ahhh” as we gazed at the lights with child-like wonder on our faces. My brother and I would get up early the next morning and wait patiently for our parents to get up so we could open presents as a family. As we got older and the mystery of Santa Claus was revealed, my brother and I would save some of our allowances to put together presents for our parents, so they could unwrap gifts too.

My mom would always think of fun and creative ways to express her love for all of us kids. We would get special little cards and place-mats for Valentine’s day, well hidden baskets of our favorite goodies on Easter and my personal everyday favorite, a note in our lunches. I used to look forward to lunchtime at school when I could open my paper bag and see what my mom had written on that day’s note. Usually it was a little note saying that she loved me, or to have a fun day, but no matter how little words she used, they always meant so much. Sometimes our note would even be paired with a heart pressed into the bread of our sandwiches.

Little things like that are what I’m most looking forward to passing on; the sweet ways my mom would show us she cared. I know that showing love is more than little gifts and that it can be shown by being supportive, like going to all my soccer games and school functions. My mom was there every time I needed her – even now that I am an adult. I have always known I can count on my parents, and I hope that someday my children will know that they can always count on me.

To learn more about Krista and her husband, Rahsaan, visit their profile at: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/rahsaanandkristaadopt

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Home Study Options in New York

In New York State, you have the option to have a home study completed by a licensed child-placing agency or by a licensed social worker or someone designated by the court.

Sketch of New York City skyline

What’s the difference?

  1. Flexibility – Many states will not accept a home study unless it has been completed by a licensed, child-placing agency. If you are interested in adopting outside of NY, if you are considering working with an agency/attorney with national reach, or even if you just want to keep that option open, the agency home study is your best bet. If you complete a home study with a social worker (non-agency) and then decide to adopt nationally, you may need to complete a brand new home study with a licensed, child-placing agency. This means you would be spend additional time and money completing a second home study.
  2. Experience – Social workers contracted through an agency will have been carefully screened. Choosing to have a home study completed by an agency will ensure that the social worker you meet with will be knowledgeable, experienced, and up to date on any recent changes in home study requirements. Should you choose to have your home study completed by an individual social worker, make sure you ask how often s/he completes home studies, and when their most recent home study was completed!
  3. Collaboration – If you choose to have your home study completed by an independent social worker, you should ask how frequently they work with your identified agency or attorney. Agencies and attorneys may have specific requests for the home study. It would be helpful if your worker knows what specifics are important to include. Home study social workers contracted through a licensed, child-placing agency will know what is expected of the agency already, eliminating that concern.
  4. Cost – Fees may be lower if you work with an independent social worker. This option may be beneficial if you have already identified a birthparent or a child to adopt in NY, and you simply need a home study to move forward with your adoption attorney. *If you are unsure how you plan to adopt, working with an independent social worker may end up costing you more: if you ultimately decide to join an agency, many agencies may want addendums or updates added to a home study, or they may require you to have a brand new home study completed through them. This means you would be spending money (and time!) on a second home study.

Independent Adoption Center is a full service adoption agency licensed in New York and seven other states. Please contact us at 1 (800) 877-OPEN to learn more about our New York homestudy services.

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The State of Adoption in the U.S.

vApCNtB7_400x400Cyma Shapiro, creator of “For Women Over 40,” interviewed the President and Founder of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency (NCAP), Adam Pertman. As one of the leading voices in the field, Adam discusses the trends of open adoption in domestic adoptions, foster adoptions, and international adoptions. As stated by Pertman, “adoptions have been turned inside out..now 90% plus of adoptions are open and considered best practice.”

Institutions are now more vocal about adoption and there is more access to agencies, attorneys, and facilitators. Due to the prevalence of media, there is more of a dialogue occurring about adoptions. Adam mentions how the industry is realizing this change, and the growing need for more mental health professionals to address adoption related issues to help families – especially in regards to foster care adoptions.

Visit http://www.forwomenoverforty.com/ to hear the rest of the interview.

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A Valentine’s Love Note

Editor’s Note: The following post is a part of our love note series for Valentine’s day. This post is a letter by an adoptive mother, Rachna, to her adopted daughter, Maya.

Love letter emblem as a red envelope with heart inside isolated on white

To the love of my life,

I never believed in love at first sight until I saw you for the first time. It was a crisp February morning – a Sunday. I remember it so vividly. I remember your sweet smell. I remember our eyes locking on each other and feeling a familiarity with you. We had met before, probably in a past life. I loved you deeply in that life, too. In that moment, I knew that we were meant to be together. I could tell in your eyes that you felt something for me too, but you just couldn’t verbalize it at the time. When I saw you for the first time I wanted to run up to you, hug you, and plant kisses all over you. It just wasn’t the appropriate time and place to do so on that crisp February morning. You were in the arms of another woman the first time I met you. This is a woman whom I love so much because she made the ultimate sacrifice for our happiness. I know that she continues to love you from afar.

After that, whenever we would see each other it was in secret. Even though I wanted to tell everyone about you – the love of my life – I couldn’t. I kept it very hush hush for as long as I could because I knew that everyone would be dying to meet you. Although you are the love of my life and we have been together in other lifetimes, I just didn’t know if circumstances would allow it to work out between us. So – I kept it a secret. It was one of the hardest things that I had to do.

Then the day came that I was ready to shout from the rooftops about us. It was Valentine’s Day. It had been less than a week since I met you, but I was sure that this was it. This marked the day that we would be together for the rest of our lives.

Your Daddy and I walked in the door with you on Valentine’s Day at midnight three years ago. A day which we used to formerly mock as a false holiday is now the most important holiday of the year for us. It is the day that we became a family.

Happy Valentine’s Day to our little Maya, and your little brother, Neal.

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Announcing Leadership Transitions

The Independent Adoption Center (www.adoptionhelp.org), acclaimed as the industry leader in the field of open adoptions, is announcing some long-planned transitions within its leadership team.

“The ten years I have spent working to build families through open adoption have been the most gratifying experience of my life,” said Ann Wrixon, herself an adoptive parent. “I always planned to transition when it was appropriate for me to spend more time with my family, and I’m looking forward to doing just that. ”

“I’ve been planning my retirement for some time,” said Kathleen Silber, longtime Associate Executive Director with IAC and recognized nationally for her compassionate expertise in the field of open adoption. “As one of the pioneers of open adoption, I am gratified that all of the research, and our experience at the IAC, has shown that everyone fares better with open adoption, especially the children. I strongly believed that from the beginning, and now the rest of the world knows it’s true!”

While there is no definite timing set for the transition, Marcia Hodges will be providing leadership as Interim Executive Director. Silber and Wrixon will continue as senior advisors to the esteemed nonprofit organization. During the tenures of Silber and Wrixon, the Independent Adoption Center has expanded licensed operations from one state — California — to eight states and the organization has been praised for its proactive efforts to broaden the diversity of both birth mothers and adoptive parents including opportunities for LGBT parenting.

“Kathleen and Ann are the unsung heroines of open adoption in general, and the IAC in particular,” said Greg Kuhl, chairman of the IAC Board of Directors, and likewise, an adoptive parent. “I am very grateful to Ann and Kathleen for their combined decades of service to this organization. While I am saddened to see them go, I know that IAC will continue to thrive with the new leadership team headed by Marcia Hodges.”

Hodges will lead Independent Adoption Center and assist the board with locating a new permanent leadership team. She wrote, “I’m excited by the opportunity to work with Independent Adoption Center during this transitional period. I want to thank Ann Wrixon, Kathleen Silber and the board of directors for both this opportunity and for their assistance in its completion.”

Founded in 1982, IAC is a counseling-based, licensed, nonprofit agency that has facilitated over 4,000 adoptions. IAC is also the largest and one of the oldest fully open adoption agencies in the country and it has been instrumental in pioneering open adoption. IAC informs, supports, and guides birth and adoptive parents through the process of creating healthy new families through open adoption. IAC is focused on transforming lives through open adoption by serving the best interests of birthmothers, children, and adoptive families.

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A Valentine’s Love Note

Editor’s Note: The following post is a part of our love note series for Valentine’s day. This post is a letter by an adoptive mother, Charity Starchenko, to her adopted son, Lev.

Dear Lev,

lev-9790On Valentine’s Day, it will be six years since we met your birthmother, Jodi. I remember so vividly the night that she called. I knew that it was a potential birth parent, but I almost didn’t answer because after thirteen months and six near misses in the last four months, I was tired. So very tired. I was tired of waiting for her to call. I was tired of hearing NO, or even worse, nothing. My heart was hurting, and I was on the verge of hopelessness.

But that night I answered the phone, and I heard Jodi’s voice, very confident, and ever so slightly nervous. And I let myself hope just a smidge, because as you know, and we talk about it, we always need to make sure that we can accept a NO gracefully.

But that was the beginning of us.

And now you’re five. On the 13th, a Saturday, six years to the very day that Jodi asked us to come to Fayetteville to meet her, we’re going to have an interview with your new school for your admission to kindergarten. I’m seriously dying a little bit. How did we get to kindergarten admission interviews when we brought you home what seemed like ten minutes ago? It makes me teary and thankful.

Son, you and your sister are my yes. I write that a lot, that after years and years of NO from doctors, that you are my YES. All those NO’s brought us together. I don’t know how I got so lucky. And I want you to know that there are three things that I hope for you:

  1. I hope that your adoption helps you develop empathy for all people who are lonely, powerless, mistreated, and in need of a friend and advocate.
  2. I hope that you value life as a beautiful, fragile experience and that compels you to love.
  3. I hope that the happy, kind, and helpful little boy you are now, with this wonderful sense of adventure and creativity, is never truly far from you. Life is often going to be messy, complicated, and unclear, but I never want you to lose your sense of adventure and creativity. That’s what kept me going while I waited for you. And I hope that it helps in part to center you when you feel adrift as an adult.

And finally, I love your birthmother. I’m thankful for her and her amazing strength it took to make us a family. I hope that as you grow up, you’ll see in her the same strength that you can carry with yourself in life. So much of you is from her, and I love and value all those things for you while I’m preparing to send you out into the world with those same qualities. I hope that you love her and honor her as much as I do one day.

All my love,Mom

Charity and her husband Alex brought Lev home in 2010. They live in North Carolina and have since been joined by Lev’s sister Malvina, home from Poland in 2014, and their dog Conrad. Charity is a writer and photographer and you can follow her on instagram at www.instagram.com/onecrazylovephoto and www.onecrazylove.co

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How To Make The Decision of Opening Your Adoption Profile

Editor’s Note: Due to the sensitive details of the stories of his children and their birthfamilies, the author has chosen to publish this post anonymously. Opening up your profile is a very personal and complex decision. If you are considering opening your profile further please contact your counselor to discuss it

Depositphotos_16625301_originalWhen my wife and I began the adoption process, we deliberated about how open we should make our profile, especially concerning questions of birthmother substance abuse, psychosocial history, and other health matters. We researched, talked together, and prayed a lot. In the end, we decided to have a wide open profile. This was not a decision we arrived at naively. I would like to share our experience of having a wide open profile, focusing on the matters of substance abuse and mental illness. In conversations with other adoptive parents, people are far more hesitant to open their profiles to these issues than to transracial adoption. I hope our story would encourage parents waiting to adopt to open their profiles to welcome children who come from birthfamilies with histories of addiction and mental illness.

Having a child is always disruptive. Adoptive parents often choose to not completely open their profiles in order to limit that disruption. Often they worry they are not equipped enough to give the support children with these issues need. They wish to avoid the possible complications that stem from addiction and mental illness.

As my wife and I considered matching with a birthfamily who had a history of substance abuse and/or psychosocial challenges, our familial and professional experiences told us that even if we gave birth to a child, there was no guarantee that child would be free from these issues. Like many families, we both have relatives who struggled with substance abuse and addiction. Our families also have histories of psychological and behavioral disorders. The fact is these common challenges appear in people even when no one else in their immediate family has experienced them. If we were to match with a birthfamily with no recent history of substance abuse or psychosocial diagnoses, we could not guarantee that our child would be free from those problems.

In adopting our three children, we created wide open profiles and were willing to welcome children who came from birthfamilies with substance abuse and mental illness histories. Our first adoption was the most dramatic. We had been waiting less than two months when we received a call about a last-minute placement. The call shocked us since most parents on the last-minute list were waiting over a year to match. But our daughter’s birthmother had a history of mental illness and an ongoing struggle with addiction to methamphetamine. In fact, our daughter tested positive for methamphetamine at birth and also had regular exposure to both alcohol and cigarettes throughout the pregnancy.

Many of the other waiting families had profiles closed to the constellation of the birthmother’s issues. Most of the parents on the last-minute placement list refrained from sending their adoption letter when they heard about the substance abuse and psychosocial history. IAC then had to widen their search to families whose profiles were open enough, no matter how long the parents had been in circulation. They called us, we discussed it, and did some research — surprisingly, the methamphetamines were less potentially damaging than the alcohol or cigarettes. We decided to say yes to being considered. After receiving our letter and meeting us in the hospital, the birthmother chose to place with us.

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Trans Couple Considers Adoption

As equal rights are expanded and outdated stigmas fall away, more LGBTQ families have begun to seriously consider fulfilling their dreams of raising children. One such couple is Clair and Jim. When they decided to look further into their options, they contacted Independent Adoption Center.

They met with IAC Executive Director Ann Wrixon and, along with a Mode.com filming crew, asked if adoption really was an option for transgender couples.

Although Jim and Clair seemed a little nervous about meeting with an adoption agency, IAC’s Ann Wrixon assured them that they would not face discrimination for their gender identity with Independent Adoption Center.

That leaves the question, in an open adoption do birthparents choose transgender families? Mrs. Wrixon noted that IAC has already completed five adoptions where one or both parents were transgender.

The segment was filmed for Mode.com’s My Life series, which showcases the lives of interesting people. You can see more video’s in the series at Mode’s website and the Mode Youtube channel.

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IAC Surveys Clients, Presents Results

Independent Adoption Center recently completed an extensive survey of our clients to get feedback on our services. We hired La Piana Consulting to conduct the survey, which included both birth parents and adoptive parents, current and past. Our goal was to understand what we were doing well, and where we had room to improve.

With a complete list of IAC client e-mail addresses, La Piana randomly selected recipients from among them. They received 448 complete responses to the survey and presented the following results to us. The majority of respondents, over 300, had utilized IAC services within the past year.

IAC Survey Results

First we wanted to know, in general terms, how effectively we were fulfilling our mission.
How effectively does IAC fulfill its mission?

74% of respondents rated us as effective (4/5) or very effective (5/5) for mission fulfillment.

Next we looked at specific items of our mission. We asked respondents how well we “inform, support, and guide birth and adoptive parents through the process of creating healthy new families through open adoption”. Continue reading »

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