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, 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 and

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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 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’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:

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IAC Family Adopts Despite Obstacles


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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:

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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:

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

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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  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 and the author, Sara Crutcher.


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To The Person Who Allowed me To Be A Parent

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you plan them, but it all works out the way it was meant to and on the path you were meant to travel. This couldn’t be more true for Dan Walter and his wife, Melanie Jameson. Former IAC clients, they faced some unforeseen circumstances and had to change states and ultimately discontinue working with our agency. Nonetheless, what they learned about open adoption from the IAC carried with them until they adopted. In this moving poem written by Dan, he expresses his gratitude to his child’s birthmother, and how her involvement is important to not just their son, but to the adoptive parents.

Poem for Birthmom

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What About the Birthfathers?

As one of the adoption counselors at IAC I constantly share tidbits of my personal adoption experience with current and prospective clients. My two children (now young adults) have the same birthmother with three bio-siblings and my daughter placed a baby in an open adoption several years ago.

I am very impressed with my daughter and her son’s birthfather because they are committed to doing shared visits with the adoptive family even though they did not stay together (much like her own placement situation). Their child is growing up knowing who his birthparents are, and his parents are very appreciative to have them in their lives. We all hope that this ongoing relationship will always continue.

Our son and his birthfather.

Our son and his birthfather.

Our Son’s Birthfather

We met our son’s birthfather one time, in a very unique situation. We were at our daughter’s birthmother’s (Stacy) house when our daughter was a few months old. Stacy, our daughter’s birthfather, several other birth family members and the guy that Stacy was currently dating (Tim) were all there. As if that whole situation didn’t seem strange enough….Tim was himself an adult adoptee who was VERY excited about open adoption because his adoption was closed and he had questions and had been unable to find his birthmother. None of us at that visit could have ever imagined that Tim would end up being our son’s birthfather.

It wasn’t until several months later that Stacy finally called my husband and I to tell us that she was pregnant again, and to ask if we would also adopt this baby. Of course we said yes and our son Geremy was born about six weeks later. We also discovered that Tim was his birthfather, but he had apparently had moved out of the area. At this point we assumed that he was so embarrassed that he had gotten Stacy pregnant again that he left the area on his own accord.

Fast-forward about 21 years and we still had a wonderful relationship with Stacy, her husband and her three younger children. Shortly after our son Geremy turned 21, I received an email from Stacy that read:

Thought I should drop you a quick note. I received an email from Geremy’s birthfather, Tim, yesterday, and have responded. Not sure how I’m feeling about it right now. I wanted to find out if I can give him your contact info (email address) if he asks about Geremy. I don’t know if Geremy is wanting any info from him, but I would like to grab the opportunity, if he does.

My heart started racing as I read it and like Stacy, I also had some mixed emotions as all sorts of scenarios and questions began to run through my head. One of the first things that came to mind was, “Why now and where is he coming from in terms of establishing contact now?” Of course I said yes, but I wanted to get a better understanding of the situation before I said anything to Geremy. A mother’s protective instinct is very strong, and I wanted to serve as the “go-between” in establishing contact. I emailed Tim that same day and his response (with the subject being “Adopted Too”) was:

I’m nervous and excited about knowing Geremy. I only hope that he feels the same.
I am searching him out now because I didn’t want to interfere with your raising him.
It is important to me that he was at least 21 before trying to find him. I know what it’s like to be adopted. Anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting you all. Thank you for all you have done being parents.

From that point forward we quickly not only established contact with our son’s birthfather, but they had their first visit and now have an ongoing relationship. Most of their communication is via text messaging and Facebook, and Tim sends a gift every birthday and Christmas.

This reunion was something I never expected. For years I thought I was protecting my son by not talking about his birthfather to avoid giving him the impression that Tim didn’t care. I realized that I should have spoken about him even though I did not have much information and Stacy was also available to answer questions. A lesson learned that I now share with clients!

Our Daughter’s Birthfather

Seeing her brother connect with his birthfather led our daughter Marielle to wonder about her birthfather as well. She knew we had a few visits with him (AJ) when she was a baby, but he did not keep in contact with us after about the first two years, despite the fact that Stacy made an effort to continue to invite him to visits.

Eventually, I was able to get some contact information for him but I wasn’t sure if it was for the right person. I made an attempt to call, but the phone just rang. It took me a long time before I finally sat down and wrote him a note, mailed it and gave him my email address.

About ten days later I received an email with the subject line “Marielle.” In it, he stated that I had found the right person and gave his direct contact information. He said it was good to hear from us and to call any time… I did. We talked for nearly an hour and he is anxious to have the chance to talk to Marielle directly. One thing that stood out about our conversation was that he said he didn’t try to contact us because he knew that Marielle was in good hands, and he didn’t have to worry about her.

Both of our birthfather stories show that despite going for over 20 years without contact, neither of them forgot about the children they fathered. Both of them indicated in their own ways that the preceding years without contact was because they didn’t want to interfere with or bother us. They also just as clearly indicated that they still love these two beautiful children!

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