Open Adoption Blog


When Mother’s Day is Hard

Editor: What struggles do adoptive mothers contend with on Mother’s Day? In the following post, IAC alumni Traci tells her story about facing down her conflicting emotions this past Sunday.

Traci with kids and birthmoms

Traci with her two children and their birthmothers.

Mother’s Day is not always as pretty as a Hallmark card. In fact, for many of us out there, Mother’s Day has a drop (or a tsunami) of sad or mad mixed in. If you have experienced loss or infertility on your path to motherhood or are still waiting desperately, you know what I am talking about. For me, as an adoptive parent who also has a history of infertility, Mother’s Day is always a roller coaster of emotions—both joyful and hard.

This year, I woke up feeling tired and a little off. My son snuck into the bed and snuggled in with a big smile on his face. This is what I was waiting for. As soon as he was done snuggling and ready for action, my sweet husband rustled him downstairs so I could sleep in a little more. While I dozed, he created a beautiful breakfast. Afterwards, we went for a family walk/bike ride to the neighborhood pond. It was a beautiful day. My kids were in a good mood. Have we reached Hallmark card fabulous yet?

Well….almost. Remember, I woke feeling a bit off, and I wasn’t fighting a cold or anything like that. Despite all this great stuff happening, I felt a little sad. Weighed down, really. You see, our children’s birthmothers had joined us the day before for a Birth Mother’s Day celebration, and our daughter’s birthmother, who lives out of town, had spent the night. Seeing them always makes me feel joyful because they truly are two beautiful women who did something so big for my husband and I that I can never really put into words how grateful we feel. But seeing them also reminds me of how much they sacrificed for me to have this beautiful Mother’s Day morning—something that makes me literally ache inside for them and shoots little bursts of guilt down my spine. Then there’s the grief I feel for my own lost and never-to-be pregnancies. And finally, because I couldn’t have been a mother without our birthmothers, I know I will always share Mother’s Day—something that the small, childish part of me sometimes rebels against. As I say to my 4-year-old son almost daily, “It really is hard to share.”

But then again, with adoption, that sharing goes both ways. Take that morning. So, after my precious hour of sleeping in, I woke to some wonderful smells brewing downstairs and decided it was time to get out of bed. I heard my daughter laughing and talking with her birthmother in her room and, even though the thing I wanted most in that moment was to get a kiss from my daughter first thing on Mother’s Day, I tiptoed past her room so they could have that special moment together. After all, I get kisses every morning, but her birthmother does not. A few minutes later, my daughter (prompted by her birthmother, I am sure) came downstairs with her Mother’s Day card and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day with a hug and a kiss. As I am hugging all my love into my little girl, I am highly aware of her birthmother sitting upstairs by herself with the knowledge that, had she made another choice, she wouldn’t have had to share this moment.

You can read the rest of the blog post at Traci’s blog: Tools for a Life Worth Living.

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Things You Should Never Say to Adopted Children

Adoptive parents are typically required to attend educational classes and read books on open adoption, but that may be where the educating stops. As open adoptions are becoming more and more common, it is important for the public to understand some of the basics surrounding children of open adoption. Below are a few examples of some of the things you should never say to children who have been adopted:

1. Who are your real parents?

Most adopted children have known their adoptive parents since birth and therefore do not know any different. The only family they know is their adoptive family, their forever family. Adoptive parents should always talk to their children about their adoption story so they are well aware of why their birthparents chose adoption.

2. Why would your real parents give you away?

Every adoption story is different and every child has the right to decide whether or not they want their story shared. Families should talk to their children about their adoption story and explain to their children that they don’t necessarily have to share their story with anyone. They also have the right to share certain parts of their story.

3. You must hate your real parents for giving you away?

Children of open adoption are not “given away.” Birthparents make a selfless and responsible decision to place their children for adoption. By choosing an adoptive family, they know who will raise their child and can continue to have ongoing contact. By keeping an open relationship, everyone will always know the adoption was made out of love.

4. Do you ever think about leaving your adoptive family and going to live with your real parents?

By having knowledge of their adoption story and access to their birthparents, children of open adoption don’t feel the need to go out of their way to find their birthparents or fantasize about them.

5. Who do you love more, your real parents or your adoptive parents?

Children of adoption certainly have love for their birthparents, but the love that they have for their birth family will never replace the love they have for their parents.

6. Being adopted must be hard.

Though being adopted is a part of the child’s identity, it certainly does not make up their whole lives or create restrictions for them. Children of open adoption are unique, just like every other child.

7. Why do you look different then your parents?

Love makes a family, not the resemblances one has to their parents.

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Indiana’s New Adoption Tax Credit

Good news for families thinking about adopting a baby in Indiana: Governor Mike Pence has recently signed into law a new tax credit for Hoosier families that adopt.

Indiana State House

Indiana State House

After Pence announced in his recent State of the State address that he wanted Indiana to be “the most pro-adoption state in America”, the state legislature began work on  the tax credit bill, HEA 1222.

The new law will take effect beginning taxable year 2015, and will grant families a non-refundable $1,000 tax credit per eligible child. In the future this amount could change because its tied to the federal Adoption Tax Credit. Indiana will offer either 10% of the federal level, or $1,000, whichever is less.

In addition to the tax credit, the new law also establishes a committee to study adoption services nationwide, and make recommendations based on their findings. This committee will provide a report to the Governor and the Indiana Department of Child Services by this coming November.

Many adoption professionals have hopes this will lead to more adoption friendly policies in Indiana, including a potential subsidy for adoptive families.

If you would like more information about adopting a baby in Indiana, please contact IAC at (317) 887-2015 or by clicking here.

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Big Sister in Adoption: Big Rewards, Big Responsibility

Editor: Lauren is a big-sister to two IAC alumni. In this post she describes her experience with adoption and shares her plan to give back: a fundraiser for IAC at her jewelry boutique.

Lauren's jewelry fudraiser

Lauren’s custom made jewelry benefits IAC in April!

I wasn’t adopted, but my two siblings were. I was 11 when my brother Dylan was born, and was so excited to finally have a little brother to play with. Because I was so much older, it made playing together very fun. Whether it was making roads with his Thomas the Tank Engine train set, guessing games on Blue’s Clues or dressing him up and pretending he was my own, there was no doubt in my mind that he was always meant to be my little brother. Now as a 17 year-old almost adult, Dylan is so unique, artistic and humorous. Some might say he was born with these traits, but I like to think he grew up influenced by me.

My sister Alexis was born when I was 20 years old. She came as more of a surprise to me, because I wasn’t really sure about how I felt adopting another sibling. Up until the day she was born, I still wasn’t sure, until after I saw her for the first time. Once she came into the room and we all held her, I knew she was ours. As only 4lbs 14oz, she was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. I was overcome with joy to have a little sister. From the moment I held her, she has been a spark of happiness in all of our lives. She has taught me patience, understanding and gratitude.

The best part about being the oldest, is how much they look up to me. I know I have a strong influence on the two of them, and try to lead by example. I follow my dreams, and care about my family very much. While the three of us are far apart in age, we have learned independence and self-determination. Our family is unique, blended, and centered around unconditional love for one another.

The Independent Adoption Center has done a lot for our family, and so I am looking forward to giving back to them. I will be forever grateful to the IAC for giving our family two wonderful children. As a Merchandiser for Chloe and Isabel, a direct-selling jewelry company, I plan to donate 10% of the total sales that I make this month to the IAC. Please join me in supporting my business and the IAC by making a purchase by clicking here.

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The Line

Editor: How much difference can a single mile make in the protection the law offers a family? Jason and Justin, an adoptive family from Nebraska, answer this question and describe their efforts to improve the situation.

The Nebraska Iowa borderJustin and I enjoy our warm sunny evenings sharing dinner on the Missouri River after a long day at work.  We sit on the Nebraska riverfront landing looking over at the water as we face the Iowa border.  After dinner we take a 3-mile walk with our black lab Molly that includes crossing a 3000-foot pedestrian bridge crossing the river.  We remember this bridge distinctly as part of our weekly walk along the river.   Not just because the bridge is huge or because we get a good view of the sun setting, but because there is a line shown in the cement calling out the border of Nebraska as we cross into Iowa.   When the bridge was first opened, it was fun to straddle the line and joke about being in two states at once.   But lately when I see the line I am filled with a sense of disappointment that I can step over from one state where my relationship of ten years with Justin can be recognized in marriage.   Stepping back to Nebraska, our relationship means nothing in the eyes of the state.   The same line also has legal implications when we do adopt depending on where we meet our birthmother. While Iowa recognizes second parent adoption, when we cross back onto the Nebraska side we are no longer allowed to adopt jointly and only one of us will be recognized as the legal parent.

Postcards to SenatorsIn March of this year, Justin and I decided we needed to help be a voice of change so that when we see that line on our walk, it no longer symbolizes the inequality between the states.  We assisted with a postcard campaign to get a bill out of the Nebraska State Judiciary Committee that supported the need to allow second parent adoption by two unmarried qualified adults in Nebraska. We collected post cards and helped people find their senator to write to at tables in our church at the morning and evening services.  At the end of the day, our 150 postcards were pulled together with thousands of other voices from around the city.  The group that helped organize the postcard campaign took the postcards to Lincoln, Nebraska to deliver to the senators.

While it was a normal hectic workweek, I found time to drive to Lincoln with other supporters of the bill and make my voice heard.   On the way to Lincoln, my mind drifted to the thought of what life would be like if this bill did not pass allowing for second parent adoption.  It would mean for us if one parent not recognized legally tried to take our child to the hospital in the event of emergency, they could be turned away for healthcare because they were not a legal parent on paper.  Imagine arriving at the hospital in a panic to find my partner of ten years and our child together waiting in the emergency room unable to enter because their one dad was not permitted to make medical decisions.

Or if something happened where one of us passed away in an accident and the certainty of our child staying with their living dad would be in jeopardy because only one of their parents would be recognized as under the law.  Both dads shared in all the joys of watching them grow up, raising them, and reading to them before bed equally.   But now that equally part is seen differently – now the state is allowed to tell our child that one of their dads didn’t mean as much and is not legally recognized as a parent because second parent adoption is not the law in Nebraska.

Speaking at a news conferenceWe pride ourselves on figuring out this winding path of LGBT adoption in our state along with other brave people. We don’t know what hurdle is waiting for us on the next leg of our journey – but we are not afraid to keep going until we hold our child safely in our arms.  So that day in Lincoln, I got to share the story about adoption and the journey Justin and I are on.   I made my voice heard about why the bill to support second-parent adoption was important for the safety and security of our LGBT family.  And people heard it. I got emails, texts, phone calls, and Facebook messages. But best of all we now have a chapter to tell our wonderful birth mother in our adoption story. We now have a chapter to share with our child in our adoption story.  A story that we hope shows our child how much we loved and cared for them before we were even able to hold them tight in our arms.

Justin and I both are keeping an eye on where marriage equality and the second parent adoption bill take us in Nebraska over the next year. Once we do match with a birthmother and adopt our child, we want to ensure we are not only protecting each other, but our child too.  It’s amazing that one little line on the bridge can separate a committed loving family from so many basic rights that people take for granted every day. We know there are many many other lines like this in our world.  And we hope our child comes into a world and continues to not be afraid to step over the lines to be part of the change their dads hoped for — a world where there is equality for other LGBT families that provide safe, loving, compassion-filled homes full of dreams and hopes for their children.

If you would like to see the video of Jason’s interview from channel 8 in Lincoln (KLKN) , click here.

Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on adopt.JasonandJustin.com.

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The Open Adoption Hospital Plan

Why is it important to create a hospital plan in an open adoption? What should adoptive and birthparents prepare for?

New mom and baby in hospitalLast week, IAC’s Dr. Jennifer Bliss joined the Creating a Family radio show to discuss the different issues and concerns that a good hospital plan can help to address.

Dr. Bliss was joined by Rebecca Vahle, who runs an adoption support program at Parker Adventist hospital in Colorado. Together they discussed issues such as:

  • The training hospital social workers usually get around adoption, whether or not it is sufficient.
  • How adoptive parents might be treated at the hospital: are they welcome or not?
  • Hospital nurses reactions to adoption plans.
  • Accommodations in the hospital for both birth and adoptive parents.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Due in large part to the common misconceptions about adoption, there are a myriad of issues that can come up during the birth and hospital stay. The best way to prepare for this is to have a hospital plan in effect and to make sure hospital staff are aware of this plan. Nurses, doctors, and social workers are obviously doing what they think is right so, when that comes into conflict with the needs of the adoptive or birth parents, a little information and a plan can go a long way. Of course, having a reputable and capable adoption agency in your corner will be helpful if and when any potential problems arise.

I encourage you to check out the entire Creating a Family radio show at this link.

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What You Need to Know About Creating an Adoption Portfolio

Have you ever wondered what an adoptive parent profile should really include, or maybe even what it shouldn’t?

It’s best to avoid these types of photos.

From photos to text, this interview discusses what it takes to build a successful parent profile, and much more. Host Dawn Davenport, of Creating A Family, delves deeper into the details of parent profiles on the weekly radio show/podcast, Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption and Infertility. Creating A Family is a national adoption and infertility education and support organization.

For this topic, Dawn interviewed Madeleine Melcher, an adoptee, mother of three through adoption, and author of How to Create a Successful Adoption Portfolio: Easy Steps to Help You Produce the Best Adoption Profile and Prospective Birthparent Letter and Aki Parker, the National Marketing and Design Associate at the North Carolina branch of the Independent Adoption Center. Aki has also worked with adoptive families providing consultation on their letters and online profiles.

Click here to listen to the full-interview.

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Adoptee Rights in New Jersey

In most states in the US adoptees do not share equal rights with non-adopted persons in one important aspect: access to their original birth certificates. This document is important because its the key to understanding ones family medical history and ancestry. A bill in New Jersey that aims to fix this is heading to a vote in the State Assembly on Thursday.

An unlikely coalition is opposing the bill, including anti-choice groups and the NJ chapter of the ACLU. They argue that a birthparents right to privacy trumps an adoptees right to their original birth certificate. However, with open adoption now the norm, and with internet search engines and social networks available, the concept of a hidden and anonymous birthparent is largely an anachronism. As the Donaldson Adoption Institute revealed in a recent study, the internet makes openness in adoption inevitable.

Independent Adoption Center urges legislators in New Jersey to pass this bill and grant equal access to birth records to all citizens. You can read more about the bill here.

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Philomena: Lessons About Adoption

“Adoption policies and practices have not yet progressed sufficiently,” says Adam Pertman, president of the Donaldson Adoption Institute. And he’s right. In a recent opinion piece in the Huffington Post, Mr. Pertman draws upon lessons in the Oscar-nominated film, Philomena, to advocate for reforms in national adoption policies and practices.

Philomena and Judi Dench

First and foremost, shaming or coercing parents into parting with their children or, worse, removing their children without consent (even when that’s necessary), inflicts profound and lasting psychic wounds.

There unquestionably are circumstances in which children need new families, especially if remaining in their original ones puts them in harm’s way; furthermore, there certainly are women and men who willingly place their infants for adoption. Given what we know about the enduring repercussions of being separated from one’s child, however, policy and practice must do a better job of ensuring that families can stay intact when possible, and that parents receive the help they need when that goal cannot be met. Moreover, women and men who do consider adoption for their children should be enabled to understand all of their options beforehand, so that they make genuinely informed decisions, and should receive pre- and post-placement counseling and support as well.

Mr. Pertman is correct, in far too many instances women considering adoption are not given counseling about all their options. Others are not supported during and after placement. While national legislation to correct these issues is needed, adoption agencies should take the lead in utilizing known best-practices in adoption counseling.

Read the full article here.

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What is Transracial Adoption?

What is transracial adoption?

The basic definition of transracial adoption is an adoptive placement in which the child’s race/ethnicity is different from the adoptive parent’s race/ethnicity.

A few years ago, IAC developed an online training for our families considering this type of placement when working on their adoption profile. We found that many of our adoptive families wanted an open profile in the hopes that they would find a placement more quickly, but they were not adequately prepared for parenting a child whose race/ethnicity did not match their own. In fact, in one of my earliest cases I had a couple that was Mexican American and they adopted a child who was Caucasian. It was not acknowledged (at the time) that they had a transracial placement and there were some situations that they faced as a result. Often times when transracial adoption first comes up one thinks Caucasian parents adopting children of other ethnicities.

Perhaps the biggest part of being properly prepared for a transracial placement is not an individual’s beliefs about race and ethnicity, but being able to view the world through their child’s eyes. While it is important to be open-minded, that is just a starting point. This is why it is so important to look at cultural diversity in your neighborhood, church, schools, kids activities, as well as amongst your friends and family. Not to mention looking at your own ethnic identity.

Your child will face situations and comments as he or she grows up, and even if those comments are not derogatory in nature, they can still reinforce to your child that he or she is “different” than many of his/her peers. As a parent it becomes your responsibility to give your child the tools to handle this type of situation. It could be a simple question like, “Why do you have a sister who is black?” In the early years, you will more than likely be with your child and you can model how to appropriately respond.

I always like to tell new clients that they are becoming “Ambassadors for Adoption,” even if they do not adopt transracially. This is because we cannot guarantee that if the adopted child is the same race/ethnicity as the adoptive parents that the child will actually look like their biological offspring! Think of the blonde hair/blue eyed couple that adopts a full Caucasian child who has brown hair and brown eyes. So, for someone just starting the process, it is a good idea to prepare for a transracial adoption just to get insight about how to address comments or questions from other people.

I often reflect back to my own experiences in being part of a mixed-race family. I am biracial Caucasian/African American, as is our adopted daughter, and my husband and son are both Caucasian (yet our kids have the same birthmom).

There was the time in the grocery store when all four of us were checking out and the kids were still very young, and the checker thoroughly checked us out (not just the groceries) and then asked me if my daughter was my husband’s child! I responded “Of course she is,” but the experience was quite unnerving.

Another time when the kids were school-aged, we were ordering lunch inside a fast food restaurant and our (biracial) daughter ordered a chocolate shake and our (white) son ordered a vanilla one. This was followed by laughter from the cashier who replied, “Well, that makes sense!” All four of us found the humor in his observation, but not everyone would have.

Of course, as an agency we cannot teach you everything because your individual experience will be unique. Part of your preparation is to develop a better awareness for the world around you that will become your child’s world. Also, remember to take advantage of the expertise and support of your counselors, as well as peer support from other adoptive parents as you prepare for living as a multicultural family.

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