Open Adoption Blog

How to Discuss Birthparents with Your Child

Last month Dr. Jennifer Bliss was the featured guest on the Creating A Family radio show covering the topic of talking with children about their birthparents.

Dr. Jennifer Bliss

Dr. Jennifer Bliss

As IAC’s National Associate Counseling Director, this is a subject Dr. Bliss is very familiar with. Some of the questions answered in the course of the conversation were:

  • At what age is it appropriate to begin talking about birthparents?
  • What terms should be used and why? Birthmother? Tummy Mummy?
  • What about the potential for difficult subjects, like drug use or rape? Should they be explained or avoided?
  • How does one manage varying levels of contact and openness between birthmother and birthfather, or between siblings birthparents?

This was an extremely informative episode of the Creating a Family show, and it comes highly recommended. You can get the answers to these questions and a whole lot more by visiting their website here.

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How Adoption Can Affect your Relationships

In this life everyone is on his or her own path. Spouses and partners sometimes travel at different speeds and take breaks at different times. In the journey to become a parent through open adoption the path can be long and challenging for some.

disagreementIt is normal that each person will hit highs and lows on this journey. The key is to stay on the path and help each other along to achieve the goal of becoming parents and opening your heart to a birth family.

We also have extended family that may or may not understand the elements of open adoption or the needs of birth parents and adopted children. It can be frustrating and difficult at times when others are not ready to embrace open adoption or are simply not educated in how adoption works.

Some ways to help your relationship with your partner or family members on this journey are:

  1. Communication. This is a crucial element in keeping your relationship strong and dealing with the stress of the waiting time and the process of adoption. Communicating your feelings with one another and being honest in this communication will help avoid assumptions that can lead to hurt feelings. Be honest with yourself on how you are feeling, then tell your loved ones.
  2. Let the little things go. Remember that each of you are in a different place through the process and are dealing with a range of emotions that will come and go. Let go of the things that really don’t matter and be forgiving.
  3. Education. In the path to open adoption educating yourself and your family can be really helpful to get past old ideas. Find ways to embrace the concept of openness in adoption and the uniqueness of each experience. There are many books to recommend to parents, siblings and partners about open adoption, transracial adoption and adoption in general. Share websites and reach out to your counselor for help finding ways to share information with your extended family.
  4. Reach out for counseling. If you and your spouse or partner really struggle with this journey, whether it be fatigue of waiting, opposing ideas of openness, financial issues, or other personal struggles, remember the option to seek out counseling. You can speak with your adoption coordinator or get a recommendation of a counselor to help you process this journey.
  5. Attend support group. Talking to others in the same situation can help you with getting through the hard times. To know you are not alone and that there is success out there can give you the needed boost to help you in your relationships. Others may have ideas of how they have included their parents and siblings in the adoption journey.

This is not a complete list and there are many other ways to help your family relationships during the journey of open adoption. The main thing is to remember that we all feel things differently, and patience and honesty with yourself can go a long way to helping your relationship with others. Give yourself and others the space and time to take each step on the path in their own way. Take care of one another and remember that you are in this journey because you want to share the love you have for one another with a child. Your relationships should grow stronger through the process of open adoption.


Life Can Change On a Dime

DSC_1153-e1413208406880-1024x554Editor’s Note: In this touching and candid post, Traci Pirri, an adoptive mother, shares her story about meeting her expectant mother for the first time.

Recently, I have been feeling a little stuck. There seemed to be too many fires going at once and too little water to put them all out. The result was quite a long break from writing and several knots in my shoulders. This certainly was not the worst period of feeling overwhelmed by life and having no idea how I would ever get unstuck. Still, it reminded me to take a step back and remember another time in my life when infertility felt like a suffocating roadblock that would never resolve, and how ultimately it did resolve through adoption. I started to think about the day I met our daughter’s birth mother–the day my life changed forever. It was the day I met the person who would make me a mom.

You can read the rest of her blog at

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Marriage Equality & Adopting

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by hopeful adoptive parents, Carrie & Sarah Reinhardt about their thoughts and experiences involving the recent decision by the Supreme Court on same-sex marriages.

reinhardtWhen IAC asked if we wanted to do a blog post for them, we jumped at the opportunity to share our thoughts, experiences, and feelings on recent events surrounding marriage equality; and how our future child was a part of it every step of the way.

On August 13, 2011, in our home state of NJ, we were joined in a beautiful Civil Union ceremony, followed by a reception with over 100 family and friends. To us, in our minds and to those in attendance, we were “married.” ’That will always be the date we celebrate as our anniversary. While we were very much appreciative that we lived in a state who provided same-sex couples with the same rights and privileges as married heterosexual couples, the moment we stepped foot over state lines, our Civil Union meant nothing in a legal sense, unless we were in a “friendly” state such as Massachusetts who would honor the recognition. Any time we went on a road trip to visit friends or on a family vacation, there was always the discussion around “Do we have all the documents packed?” referring of course to the legal documentation, such as living wills, to protect us in the event of a medical emergency. I can stay that it’s quite unnerving to have different rights as a couple and family depending on the state you are in.

In June 2013 when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down, we were elated for our brothers and sisters who enjoyed marriage equality in their home state, and were now able to also do so at the federal level. But there was also a sense of sadness in that after nearly 10 years, we were still fighting the battle here in NJ. We’ve both always been a strong supporter of local and national organizations advocating for legislature in support of marriage equality. At this point, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

Although not yet legal in NJ, on October 7, 2013, we were married in NY when the state ruled that non-residents were allowed to do so. The scene in Town Hall was unreal. There were same sex couples from all over the country, different ages, some together for as long as 50 years! Two weeks later, on October 21, 2013, the day marriage equality finally came to NJ, along with eight other couples, we were married by the Mayor of Maplewood in a communal ceremony. At the time, we were just starting the adoption process, so moments like this now took on an entirely different meaning. As much as this was about legal protection and equality for us as a couple, it was also about setting an example for the child we would be raising in the future. We wanted them to be able to see their parents be a part of progress in our state and country. We also wanted them to see that although we were not a family yet, we were always doing things with them in mind. We wanted our child to know the security that their family, in every way, shape, and form, was equal to all others in the eyes of their state and federal government.

Whatever passion(s) our child has, we want them to know that although they are one person, their impact can be great. Just as with marriage equality, the adoption process can be a long and an emotionally challenging journey. But in the end, the result is life changing.

For more about Carrie & Sarah, as well as additional blog posts, you can visit their adoption sites at: and

For more on the article about the October 7, 2013, communal marriage ceremony in NJ, visit here.

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Patience Is Not Just a Virtue

Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by one of IAC’s waiting adoptive mothers, Shannon Guindin.

…it’s a way of life.

Waiting is hard. Waiting for something you have no idea the time frame on is even harder. We have been in circulation with IAC for almost eight weeks. I know, not a long time, in fact we’re very much novices in the elusive waiting game. But, time becomes irrelevant when you’re waiting for something you so badly want. Whether it’s eight weeks, six months, or over a year – it’s all waiting for something you have no control over.

Like most new families, we had visions of being picked right when our profile went live. And while that does happen, statistically speaking, it’s not the norm. You’ve just worked so diligently on your paperwork, home study, and most importantly, adoption letter, that after it’s completed and you’re in circulation, life suddenly gets quiet. Waiting for adoption is very quiet.

We’ve asked many IAC community members and others who’ve adopted and they all give the same advice on waiting. Continue on with your life. Try and put the adoption in the back of your mind. Keep busy, focus on yourself or your partner, and don’t get bogged down in the waiting. Great advice, but it’s not that easy. Everyday I wake up wondering if we’ll get the call (or email) that will change our life. I pick up the phone to make sure it’s still working, test our email, and check our Google analytics. Everyday, I update our social media and wonder if any of them will lead to a possible connection. To be honest, I am very hopeful about our future child, but right now that hope still exists on a dream level.

There’s still so much I don’t know about the adoption process. But two things I know wholeheartedly: waiting is going to be harder than I initially thought and it’s going to require enormous patience. I’ll admit, I love to have control over situations, and it’s almost ironic how little control I have over this. I think I might just see a life lesson in here.

The bottom line is that patience has to become part of our normal routine. It has to be our mantra; it must become our way of life. I have always been a firm believer in fate, that things happen for a reason and when they are supposed to. We have to trust that our baby isn’t ready for us yet. Who knows, as much as my husband and I think we’re ready, maybe there’s something else for us to learn before we can become parents. Letting go of what you can’t control is a choice. Not an easy choice by any means, but a vital one.

So, for today at least, I vow to let go of this waiting. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the hope of our baby. Doing this confirms that I believe and trust in this open adoption process. I trust that through IAC we’ll eventually get the family we’ve always dreamed of.  So, when you are ready Baby G, we are here waiting, patiently.


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Having a Tribe – Why the IAC Means More to Me Now Than Ever

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.


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.

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


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, 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 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

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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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