Open Adoption Blog


Having a Tribe

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by one of IAC’s adoptive mothers, Anne Reed.

Four years ago, when we finally made the leap to join an adoption agency, we did a decent amount of research and landed with the IAC. We, as many others do, went into adoption with very little knowledge. When we learned about the IAC’s philosophy of open adoption as well as continued support available to the birth families for life, we loved that immediately. What I didn’t really think about, but now value more than ever, is the continued support to OUR family long after the finalization of adoption.

Mikayla’s adoption was, we are blessed to say, incredibly easy. There was very little drama, we have a wonderful connection to her birth family, and we sailed through the finalization. The bumps that did occur were swiftly and wonderfully addressed by the IAC, and the support we received through the process was nothing short of amazing. Well, as all of you parents are aware, then comes the hard part – parenting! I realized that during the stress of the research, the home study, writing the letters, finding the pictures, the amazing first contact with Mikayla’s birthmother, more paperwork, the birth, the flights, the lawyers – I had lost track of the fact that all of this was temporary. All of these crazy last minute calls, the paperwork faxed back and forth, the fingerprinting – this was not the goal. Parenting was the goal. And once the judge signs off, our lives as parents switched to being, well, mundane. Beautiful, miraculous, but none the less, quite normal. And this was great! We became immediate members of the parenting tribe. It was a tribe we ached to join for so many years, and then it happened. Moms nod to you at the grocery store and chat about diapers at the park. You get the sympathetic look when your child melts down in the worst place possible – and you know immediately they are a member of your tribe.

This is a wonderful feeling. It makes the whole crazy world of parenting feel less alone. But, there are still parts of it for adoptive parents that make us feel a little separate. Maybe you are a transracial family, as we are. Maybe your child looks exactly like you. Maybe you are a same sex family, as we are. Maybe your family and friends are wonderfully supportive of your family, and open adoption (as ours are), or maybe you have some people where you just avoid the topic all together, so you don’t have to go into it again about how it is a GOOD thing you saw your daughter’s birthmother. But all of these little aspects of our families make us a bit different from the Norman Rockwell families out there. That is great and wonderful, but it can be difficult too.

I never thought I would need to stay connected with IAC families. It didn’t even occur to me that I would, after Mikayla was born. But I found myself on the forums and on Facebook, connecting with them over and over again. Now three years out, I still check the IAC facebook page at least daily, and I post every once in awhile – about mundane parenting usually; sometimes to help support someone else. I realized, that with IAC parents, I can relax. They get it. They get all of it. I can talk about how I worry if I’m responding correctly to peoples questions about whether or not I’m Mikayla’s “real mom.” I can complain about a tantrum, without someone saying something ridiculous like, “Do you think its because she’s adopted?” We can take Mikayla to IAC gatherings and she fits right in with all the kids, and no one bends down to tell her “You are really lucky, you know.” It is an amazing thing to belong to a tribe.

We talk about how important an agency is during the adoption process and of course, that IS their job. You want an advocate during the harrowing, crazy process that is adoption. But what I forgot, is so much of our energy goes into the process of adoption, without remembering the fact that it will end and parenting will begin. And that part? That will NEVER end. Having such support for the long haul of parenting is a comforting thought.

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Let’s Adopt: How to Choose your Adoption Professional

Now that you have made the decision to pursue domestic infant adoption you have many choices in regards to which path you can persue to expand your family. The three main routes that most adoptive families consider are: joining an adoption agency, utilizing an adoption attorney, and hiring a facilitator. Here is some basic information about these three choices.

Baby not sure which professional to choose

This baby needs help deciding

Adoption Agency
An adoption agency is a business that is licensed by the state to facilitate the placement of children into adoptive homes. Some agencies like the Independent Adoption Center (IAC) are licensed in more than one state. The majority of private adoption agencies are non-profit, meaning that at the end of the fiscal year they channel all surplus revenue back into the organization. Adoption agencies are typically counseling focused and can conduct home studies, relinquishments and post placement visits. They can also assist you with locating a birthparent through their own marketing channels.

Adoption Attorney
An adoption attorney is a lawyer who focuses their law practice on adoption related cases. They may also take on adoption clients alongside their other non-adoption related cases. Adoption attorney’s can conduct relinquishments, terminate birthfather rights, and file appropriate legal paperwork to finalize adoptive placements. Some attorneys can also assist you with locating a birthparent. However, they cannot conduct home studies, post placement visits or provide clinical counseling to birthparents or adoptive families.

Facilitator
A facilitator can assist adoptive families in searching for a birthparent. Facilitators are not licensed or regulated by the state and cannot assist beyond the point of matching birthparents with adoptive families. In some states like California they are able to charge a fee for these services. However, many states prohibit the use of facilitators so it is imperative that you consult state regulations prior to hiring a facilitator. In states where it is legal adoptive families may work with both a facilitator and an adoption agency or attorney.

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A Birth Mother’s Thoughts on Her First Visit

Ongoing contact in an open adoption is healthy for all members of the adoption triad, as shown by all the significant research. Even so, just as in any long-term relationship, maintaining this contact can have both wonderful moments and challenging ones.

Some families feel awkward and nervous as they make plans for their first post-placement visit with their child’s birthparents. More often than not, the birthparents are feeling the same way, and it can help to be aware of this fact.

Nervous about the call

You don’t need to be this nervous!

To help give a sense of this, we interviewed a birthmother after she and her adoptive family met for their first visit after the hospital. Here is what she said:

IAC: What do you think adoptive parents should know about that first visit after leaving the hospital?

Birthmom: That we are equally nervous as they are. Be honest, feel it out. Meeting someplace private and maybe do dinner so that there isn’t too much empty time where awkwardness can creep in.

IAC: How do you think it should be handled?

BM: Hmm. Gently? Feelings and emotions are still raw on both parts. You can’t be too cautious, ask questions, i.e.; would you like to hold the baby, it’s ok if you don’t. I personally felt kind of awkward holding baby and preferred to watch him with his parents. They didn’t force him on me and took cues from me to offer me the chance to hold him and when to take him back. We had built enough of a rapport that we could read each other very well.

IAC: What was your first visit like?

BM: It was neat to see how well the baby was being taken care of, it was reassuring. It was emotionally draining as well. We kept it short for the baby’s sake but it was good for me too. I was a little nervous but that faded as time went on.

IAC: Is there anything adoptive parents should NOT do or say?

BM: I can’t think of anything. I think that having already met and matched the rapport will be there already. Just keep it casual, try not to dwell too much on the adoption process. Be sure to talk about all kinds of things, special interests, etc.

IAC: Is there anything adoptive parents could do or say to make the visit more comfortable?

BM: I know toting a newborn baby around isn’t ideal but a birthmother may feel more comfortable in a setting of her choosing.

IAC: What were your fears/anxieties going into that first visit after placement?

BM: I was afraid they wouldn’t really like me anymore. They had the baby that they wanted and was afraid they wouldn’t have a need for me any longer. I quickly learned that wasn’t true. I was also afraid of the baby, I wasn’t sure what to think of him or how he would react to me.

That’s about all I can think of. I’m sure that having met prior and built a relationship that things will go smoothly. There will probably be some uneasiness or tension on both parts. As long as both parties are open in communication and share their feelings about the situation honestly and kindly, I can’t imagine how it could go wrong.

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Writing an Adoption Themed Children’s Book

Editor: IAC alumni Kevin Fletcher-Velasco wrote a children’s book explaining the open adoption process. Below is a guest post from the author with tips and insights he gained along the way:

The adoption community strongly encourages each adoptive family to write down their own adoption story. But where do you start? How do you start? While each family will have their own style to complete their book, below is my approach to help structure the book making process.

A Family for Baby Bear

A Family for Baby Bear, by Kevin Fletcher-Velasco

Step 1: READ! READ! READ!

Some may think it is odd to read when you are writing a book about your own life, but reading is a critical part of writing.  Reading books in the genre and age group you are looking to write in will help you understand what will be involved in the book you are writing. For example, when writing the picture book, A Family for Baby Bear (Now available on Amazon.com), I read several adoption themed picture books including And Tango Makes Three, The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale, The Family Book, and many others that make up our library. By reading these books, I understood that most picture books are between 800-1000 words and usually less than 32 pages (with a few exceptions). I also realized how important the images and the colors were to the book.

Step 2: Write down everything.

Everyone has their own style, but the important thing is to get everything on paper. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, organizing or structuring your thoughts – just put it on paper.  Each person will start at a different point in their story and work from there. Go with what feels comfortable. If you have this exciting point that you want to write down first, do it! I always start with the ending. I know where I want my story to end and how to end it. Once the ending is down, then I go to the beginning and where I want my character to start. From there it is just getting from point A to point B through the story.

Step 3: Organize your writing.

Now that everything is on paper, put it in the proper order. It is okay to move things around, play with different words, sentences, and ideas. See how a specific sentence flows in different spots of the story. Maybe moving that exciting scene to just after a sad scene will bring your audience quickly out of a depressing moment into your thrilling new chapter. No author wants a reader to be depressed for too long while reading their book.

Step 4: Proofread, then proofread, and then find friends to proofread.

We, as the writers, are blind to our own errors. It is important that we take a couple hard, detailed looks at our own work to catch what we can, but then to pass it off to a few friends for them to provide feedback. I cannot stress the importance of this step and how often it is overlooked. Do you really want to be reading your fantastic story two years from now and notice that you missed a period or misspelled a word? It will haunt you forever. So take the time to proofread, and get others to proofread. And whatever you do, DO NOT RELY ON SPELL CHECK!

Step 5: Add visuals to your story.

Visuals are big, especially for the younger audience. I have seen books done with illustrations, digital art, photos, or hand drawn stick figures.  If the style fits your story, then use it. You don’t even have to do the visuals yourself. I hired an illustrator for my books. It does cost some money, but it can be well worth it to have a professional looking book to share with your family forever. A great website to find hundreds of illustrators in all different styles is freelancer.com. The website allows you to place your project with your targeted budget and illustrators will bid to complete your project.

Step 6: Putting it all together!

Whether you are binding the book on your own or using a printing press, figure out how you want to present the book. Make sure all the pictures and text are in the right order, and that you have an amazing front and back cover. Once your book is put together, the last and most enjoyable thing to do is to sit down with your family and read your completed work.

I wish you all the best in preserving your story for sharing and treasuring for a lifetime!

Kevin Fletcher-Velasco is an adopted father, and Amazon Best Selling author of the award winning, open-adoption themed book, A Family for Baby Bear. He is working on the second installment to the Baby Bear Series, Baby Bear’s Special Day, scheduled to release in 2015. If you would like to learn more about A Family for Baby Bear, or the other upcoming books in the Baby Bear Series, please visit http://www.thebabybearseries.com.

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Uncomfortable Discount: The Cost of Adopting African-American and Bi-Racial Children

We didn’t want to believe this was still happening, but we could.

Fusion, an online news and digital network, conducted a powerful interview that addressed the practice of some adoption agencies offering discounted service fees to urge adoption of African-American and biracial children. Even though some of these agencies have good intentions, this practice of offering different prices on children based on race definitely raises uncomfortable questions. The interview also discussed alternatives to agencies like these, such as adoption agencies that operate on a sliding scale model, which is based on the prospective adopting parents’ income for services, instead of placing a value on children.

Fusion’s Kimberly Brooks interviewed adoptive parents Carlos and Cassie who adopted transracially to gain their perspective on this practice.  Brooks also spoke with the IAC’s Dr. Jennifer Bliss, LCSW who stressed even further the dangerous message this sends not only to the family and child, but also to society as a whole.

Click Here to view the full-video and read the article.

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Talking to Kids About Adopting a Sibling

If you are parenting and planning to expand your family through adoption, your child will likely be very curious about what this means for them and for your family. It is important to prepare your child for an adoptive sibling by discussing what it means with them. Encourage your child to ask questions, and respond with honest and age appropriate answers

Talking to your child about adoption plansPlanning, Home Study, and Wait Time

As you are probably aware, every adoption includes a home study to determine if your home is s safe physical and emotional place for a child. As part of the home study, the social worker will need to speak with your child in an age appropriate way about the adoption. You should explain this process to your child. Explain that the social worker is coming to your home to ensure it is a safe place for a new baby or child. Explain that the social worker will ask them how they feel about having a new sibling, and may also ask them what they know and how they feel about adoption. Children should be reassure that there is no “right” answer and they can answer truthfully about their feelings.

It is also important to manage your child’s expectations about the adoption. If you do not know when their adoptive sibling will join your family (which is usually the case), you should discuss the adoption as a plan for sometime in the future. Do not give your child a specific length of time that it will take to adopt.

One of the most important things to remember is that children should not be asked to keep secrets: If there’s anything about the adoption that you want to keep private, don’t ask your child to hold that secret as well. Do not share that information with your child or allow them to overhear you discussing confidential information with another person.

It is also important to prepare your child for potentially intrusive questions from others. These may include questions about why the sibling does not share their race or ethnicity or questions about who their sibling’s “real” parents are. Explain that they are not required to answer questions from strangers. Role-play possible scenarios your child might face using positive adoption language. Your child will follow your lead. If you respond to questions with confidence and pride, they will too.

Just as in all cases where a new sibling comes into the home, make special time for your older child, and show empathy for his or her adjustment. As you participate in your child’s activities, introduce them to the idea of sharing these activities with a little brother or sister. Bring up the idea as you go through your daily routines. The goal is to make the plan familiar to your child, and to cultivate their excitement at becoming an older sibling.

During a Match and Pre-Finalization

Discussing a match with a birth family is a tricky part of the process to navigate with your child. During the match and placement, but before the birthparents sign the paperwork to terminate their parental rights, avoid calling the baby “your brother/sister”. During this stage of the adoption, tell your child that your family is taking care of the baby while the birthparent decides if she/he will be able to parent.

If a birthparent reclaims the baby after placement, it is very important to discuss it with your child, even if they are not bringing it up. Make sure your child knows the baby is going to be okay, and that your child did not cause the reclaim. You should also ensure your child understands that he or she will never be taken away. You can let your child know that your plans are still the same: you will eventually expand your family, but this just was not the time.

Its Your Responsibility

Even if child is not bringing up the topic they are still having thoughts and feelings about your adoption plans. It is your job as a parent to initiate the conversation by asking questions about how they are feeling.

It is important to note that children’s questions don’t indicate regret regarding their or their siblings adoption, nor do they automatically imply a negative emotional reaction. It is most likely just a natural curiosity and a desire for logical answers.

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Birthmom: To the Woman I Didn’t Pick

Editor: In this heartfelt letter, a birthmother shares her feelings with the family she almost chose. From Blessings in a Basket:

To the beautiful woman that I didn’t pick,

I want you to know that I think about you often. I want you to know that I loved your family. I want you to know that you and your husband were a beautiful family and that I felt that you had so much to offer.

I want you to know that I poured over your profile. In a stack of a hundred families you stood out, for whatever reason, my heart skipped a beat when I looked at your profile and I knew that you were in the running.

You shared your amazing story with me, an expectant mother, your deepest sadness and yearning for a child. You shared your heartbreaking story of all of the children that you lost to miscarriage. You shared the tears and pain of infertility. You opened up about the guilt and shame and anger that you felt about not being able to have a child biologically. You shared your heart and the heart of your husband. The tears that you shed together.

And then you shared your story of hope, the hope that a woman like me would pick a woman like you. That I would find you and be drawn to you, that I would want to meet you and that I would bond with you and love you immediately. That I would fulfill your dreams of becoming a mother. You promised me an open adoption, you promised to love my son like he was your own flesh and blood, that he would be raised to love God and that he would know me and always know my love for him.

I want you to know that you stood out. I want you to know that I wanted to pick you. I want you to know that I prayed over you and your husband. I want you to know that I still do.

I think about you often. You are in my heart, just as present as the woman that I picked to be a mother to my son. I know you were informed that I was looking at your profile. I know that you had to live through the rejection. I want you to know how sorry I am and that you did nothing wrong.

I picked her. I picked them. They are amazing people. They are an amazing family and have been the perfect family for me and for that beautiful boy.

I didn’t pick you. You are amazing people. You would have been an amazing family and could have been the perfect family for me and that beautiful boy.

I think about you and hope and pray often that you have been picked. That you found a woman that was like me all those years ago. That she poured over your profile and cried as I did. That she was inspired by you as I was, that they called you and met you and that you have been able to fulfill all those same promises that you made to me. That she was able to help you become a mother…a mother that you have always dreamed of being.

You can read the rest of the letter at Blessings in a Basket.

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IAC Adoption Experts Featured on Parenting Website

Our longtime readers know that here at the IAC, as the home of many nationally recognized leaders in adoption, we love to share information and knowledge about adoption in general, and open adoption in particular. So when we learned that a new website would be launching featured instructional videos about all aspects of parenting, we were happy to lend our efforts to help educate their audience on adoption topics.
Video screenshot of Dr. Jennifer Bliss
That website is KidsInTheHouse.com, and counted among the site’s adoption experts are IAC’s Dr. Jennifer Bliss, LCSW and Dr. Guylaine Hubbard-Brosmer, MSW. In over a dozen videos, they explain various aspects of the adoption process from the perspective of the adoptive parents.

To see an example, wherein Dr. Bliss highlights the difference between open and closed adoptions, click here or on the video thumbnail to the right.

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An IAC Family Gets an Early Father’s Day Gift

Chris and Thom are an IAC family from Southern California, and brand-new parents of a beautiful baby girl. In the segment below, they tell their adoption story, just in time for Father’s Day.

Chris and Thom

It starts like any other Friday. Morning coffee, off to work, lunch with colleagues. Phone rings – don’t recognize the number. Send to voicemail. Phone rings again – OK, must be important. You’ve been picked. You’re having a baby scheduled for delivery in a few hours. In Oceanside. Go.

From our early years dating we knew we wanted to build a family though it took us some time to get there. Finishing education, advancing careers, finding the house – all these were more immediately on the horizon but the mutual dream was there. If we were a straight couple perhaps the unexpected could have happened and you roll with it. Not so for us; we had the luxury of taking all the time we wished to prepare. And then the time felt right. Maybe because things were in a good place for having a family. Maybe it was because we were pushing 40. Either way, we were ready to have a baby.

Before meeting each other, we shared the same worries. The idea of having a family one day was a dream, but would our future spouse want the same? And what about raising children in a gay household – what would they experience in school. Was this right, was this possible? How would we do it?

You can read the rest of their story at LGBT Weekly.

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IAC Releases Annual Report 2013

We are happy to announce the release of our Annual Report for 2013. The report is designed to keep all stakeholders informed about the status of the organization. Whether you’re a client, donor, employee, or just a fan, we think you’ll find the information inside valuable and enlightening. Here are some of the highlights:
Screenshot of our Annual Report

  • We expanded with new offices and licenses in Florida and Connecticut.
  • Published a book, True Stories of Open Adoption, in softcover and e-book formats.
  • Provided open adoption information to 2,968 women considering their options.
  • Ended the year with a deficit due to expansion, but with a healthy store of assets.

You can download the PDF of the full report here.

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