Open Adoption Blog


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.

Continue reading »

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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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Loose Parts in Open Adoption

1Editors Note: The following is a guest post by one of IAC’s waiting adoptive parents, Ana Ogilvie, about embracing all of the unique parts of open adoption like a child’s way of playing in the world – with imagination and creativity.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the idea of “loose parts.”

I came across it recently while reading a great book called How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Sampson. The author used the term to describe the nature-based play-things that naturally ignite imagination and creativity in kids. He was talking about rocks, sticks, trees, hills, mud, stumps – that kind of thing. The GOOD stuff.

His thought was that these types of play-things are among the most valuable toys our kids have access to in youth. He believed that ongoing play with “loose parts” is deeply meaningful, significant, and capable of leaving a lasting impression on kids’ minds and memories.

While reading, I thought a lot about myself as a kid, my husband’s stories of his younger years, all the kiddos I know now, and especially about our daughter, Molly.

I couldn’t agree more with Sampson’s idea if I tried!

Rocks and sticks are awesome. They’re universal, they’re undefined, and they’re open-ended.

Play with them has NO RULES and that is precisely what makes them so special.

All of a sudden, I found myself getting more and more and MORE excited about this idea. I started to think about how so much of my (and my husband and daughter’s) life at the moment could be considered full of our own version of “loose parts.”

Our journey to open adopt being the biggest one of them all.

“Loose parts” take imagination and creativity – inspired effort – to figure out.

And imagination isn’t just cool for kids. It’s cool for big, serious, “everything has to go according to plan” adults too.

I’m telling you, it’s like a coin flipped or something when I put that together. I went from feeling disgruntled by the many unknowns inherent to the adoption process to realizing that I’m actually GRATEFUL for them.

In no other way can I imagine embracing greater depth of meaning, LOVE, loss, fullness of being, empathy, acceptance, and surrender – all rolled into one beautiful child, one moment, one family, one lifetime. And all of it is possible because open adoption and the love it creates has NO instruction manual, no timetable to follow, no order to rely on, and no obviousness to get complacent about.
It is what we are willing to make it. That’s what makes it special.

Just like a broken stick in a puddle to an inspired kid can become a fishing pole in the wide, blue ocean…

This “no rules way of growing a family” to an inspired ME can become the recipe for my particular brand of WELL-LOVED LIFE.

And for that, I am grateful.

To learn more about Ana and her husband, David, visit their profile at: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/ogilvie

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IAC Family Adopts Despite Obstacles

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Photo copyright Omaha.com

Any waiting adoptive family knows that with adoption, you never know how or when that moment of adopting will come, you can only prepare for the time that moment arrives. For Jason Holling & Justin Karas, this couldn’t be more true. After starting their adoption journey in 2013 they were contacted by a birthmother who ultimately placed with her sister, a scam contact, and an expecting mother who they just weren’t able to form a strong relationship with – all within a year’s span. But Jason & Justin didn’t give up hope. In mid 2014 they were contacted by a pregnant woman and matched with her on Father’s Day. To read more about Jason & Justin’s story of struggle and triumph click here: http://www.omaha.com/living/omaha-couple-after-hurdles-and-hiccups-in-adoption-journey-are/article_75ef957d-f505-5e2e-96a8-3785f82ab5ba.html

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Finding Balance In The Present Moments

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by one of IAC’s waiting adoptive parents, Sarah Farrar, on living in the present moment, and finding the fun in the days pre-adoption.

In the adoption wait, you are your own worst enemy. The easiest person to blame for a longer wait is yourself. This is a self-defeating attitude and in no way the truth.

Placing blame on yourself is not doing anyone a bit of good, especially you. My brain is always seeking answers for why not us? What are we doing wrong? Will we ever be parents?

The key to it all is that there is no rhyme or reason as to when your wait will be over. There is nothing we are doing wrong. In fact, we are doing it all right. We have explored just about every networking option there is. We keep our accounts current, with updated pictures, anecdotes about our lives, and make sure everyone we meet knows we are waiting to adopt.

It is really easy to feel defeated and break down on “mile marker” anniversaries, like our two year waiting anniversary. Oh yes, I truly did break down that day. It was ugly. It was a day I did not think I would get through, but I did. It is likely that other events like holidays and birthdays become harder during the wait. Some days, it is basically impossible to get through baby showers and kid’s birthday parties.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

What is another anniversary of your adoption wait? It’s a day closer to becoming a parent. Yes, I know that is one of those things you hear again and again, but it really is the truth. What is another Christmas childless? Just that, another Christmas just the adults. Break out the spiked cider and celebrate. Another birthday is coming up and you still haven’t adopted? Sounds like the perfect time for a huge birthday bash with your friends. Bummer for them they have to pay for a baby sitter!

There is plenty of time in the future to play Santa Claus or spend your birthday changing diapers. The adoption wait is a time to do all of the stuff that would be hard to do later on as a parent. Drive to another city to see your favorite band play. Take an impromptu beach trip or go hike that mountain you set your eyes on years ago. Or hey, get really wild and let the vacuuming slip for a week or so. Can’t do that with a baby in the house!

Yes, we would all sacrifice spiked cider and huge birthday bashes for night after night at home with our babies. We did not go through all we have been through, because we prefer partying to parenting. We would vacuum eight times a day if it meant we were parents. In the meantime, we have to get through the wait in one piece.

Ask me again tomorrow and I could write you a whole new story on this topic. That is the adoption wait for you. It is the wildest roller coaster ride you will ever go on. Today my roller coaster is more of a relaxed train ride. Today my glass is half full. Today I have full faith that we will be parents before too long. Today I choose to blame no one for our path, but to simply choose to just be us. We are Sarah and John, future adoptive parents, living in the present.

To learn more about John & Sara, visit their profile at: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/sarahandjohnadopt

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Interview with an Adoptee Author: A True Insider’s Perspective

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   Image provided by heartpickedwithlove.com.

We interviewed author and adoptee Sara Crutcher about her children’s book, Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale. Within its pages are vivid and colorful illustrations that enhance a worthwhile narrative! Sara’s book is sure to be a wonderful learning tool for adoptees and for families considering adoption or who have already adopted. The book addresses some of the complex realities adoptees can face with an easygoing, upbeat tone, which is helpful when exploring possible solutions with children. Everyone’s adoption story is unique and what’s even more interesting about Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale is that it is centered on Sara’s true-life experiences as an adoptee. It was a great pleasure to speak with Sara about her adoption story and learn more about her children’s book on adoption. Here’s the interview:

Please tell us about yourself and your connection to adoption.

I am a new children’s book author, living in Detroit, MI. I was adopted when I was 6 weeks old and consider adoption one of my greatest blessings. I was fortunate to be adopted by wonderful parents who have provided me a great life. My father has worked in higher education for his entire professional career, which allowed us to move around a lot as I was growing up. I went to 7 different schools before graduating from high school! I guess moving has become a part of me, because after graduating from Hampton University in 2006, I’ve lived in 4 different cities. I love to travel and experience the joys of life. I have had the privilege of traveling abroad numerous times, most recently to Berlin, Germany where my parents lived for a year on sabbatical!

What are your main inspirations for creating this book?

Various things in my life were the inspiration for the book. My favorite color is yellow, so Elizabeth had to wear a yellow dress. My dad always wears a suit and bow tie to work, so I had to make sure the father in the book had a similar style! My mom always wears pearls and also worked while I was growing up. I wanted to make sure to portray working and married parents (my parents celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary this November).

I love fruit and eat it every day. I wanted to show a family who embraces a healthy lifestyle (similar to how I was brought up). We did family activities together like riding bikes and playing various games. My dad is also a professional cellist and has played since he was 13 (he is now 68). I started playing the violin when I was 5 and we played many duets together. I wanted to show that in the book! Lastly, we are a huge ice cream/sorbet family after dinner so that had to end the story!

What do you feel families can benefit from the most with your book?

I hope my book will help children and families to have a positive and confident outlook on being adopted. I think it is very important for adoptive parents to be open and honest with their children about their adoption. The impact on children who are kept in the dark or find out about their adoption outside the family can have a lasting and negative impact through adulthood. My parents told me I was adopted when I was around 5 years old. They were very honest with me and showed me all of the paperwork on my adoption. After we had conversations about adoption, I internalized it and kept a lot of things to myself. I was in therapy for a short time, but I really just listened to the other kids talk. Adoption can be a lifelong struggle for some people, but with positive guidance and love, it can be a much easier journey.

 Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale features an African-American family who has adopted transracially.  The main character, Elizabeth, faces a different matter in that she doesn’t “look” like her parents and wonders how she can address this.  Can you tell us how you hope this could help some African-American families considering adoption or families considering transracial adoption?

The ethnicity of Elizabeth is actually left up to the reader. Depending upon who is reading the story and their background, she could be transracial or an African-American girl who has a light completion. I wanted Elizabeth to look different from her parents as many adoptive children do. I don’t want to put her in a certain group but rather wanted the reader to decide. There are a lot of children who look different from their parents whether they were adopted, foster care, stepchildren or simply have different physical characteristics from the rest of their family. While the book focuses on adoption, I want readers from all walks of life to benefit from the message. Adoption is love and love has no color. Differences are what help us to be a better society. We should not be afraid of our differences but embrace them in order to make us better human beings.

How long was the book writing process and what was your favorite part about creating the book?

The entire process took about a year. The story came fairly quickly although I made several revisions during the process. I self-published the book through Mascot Books. The initial process was truly a blessing. When I told my mom I was going to write children’s books (which was no surprise as this has always been one of my many life goals and I wrote many short stories in my youth) she sent me a few books to read. While reading one, I saw the publisher information and did a Google search. I submitted my manuscript and within a few days, they contacted me eager to publish my book. I would say my favorite part was the illustrations although this was the part that had the most revisions. I had a vision of very bold illustrations with vibrant colors. I was introduced to Romney Vasquez through my publisher and I am so pleased with his work. We went back and forth A LOT but we finally got everything perfect!

What are your biggest hopes for Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale and how it can aid other adoptees?

I hope Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale will encourage more families to adopt. Adoption is a beautiful blessing for thousands of children yearning for a loving home. Adoption for many children is a hard topic to process and understand. Similar to other young girls, Elizabeth is experiencing a lot of emotions about being adopted. Through her parents’ positive communication with her, she is able to develop a confident outlook on adoption to help her talk to other peers when her family differences are discussed. Adoption should never be looked at as a negative but always with positivity and high self-esteem.

What has adoption made you thankful for or what does adoption mean to you?  

I am thankful for life. My birth family could have chosen another route so I am thankful to them for choosing adoption. I had a closed adoption and have no information on my birth family aside from their medical history at the time and a few physical characteristics. When I was writing this book, my mom said it would be a great healing tool for me. At the time I did not understand what she meant, but now I do. My birth family made the difficult decision to place me up for adoption, which allowed my parents to be blessed with a child. From that, I was blessed with an amazing life. Adoption is an act of selfless love and I am blessed to be part of the adoption community.

Top Left and Bottom: Family photos of Sara with her parents. Right: Sara as a child with her father’s cello.

Top Left and Bottom: Family photos of Sara with her parents. Right: Sara as a child with her father’s cello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Sara for taking the time to answer our questions and for giving us more insight into your adoption story as well as your book. Heart Picked: Elizabeth’s Adoption Tale is now available for purchase on heartpickedwithlove.com.  It’s also available for pre-order and will be fully released on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million on January 5th 2016.

All images included were provided by heartpickedwithlove.com and the author, Sara Crutcher.

 

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