Open Adoption Blog

Transgender Parents Report Positive Parenting Experience

A new report from UCLA’s Williams Institute found that many transgender adults are parents, and they mainly report good and positive experiences as parents, despite discrimination they face. The report examined the findings of 51 studies and also found children raised by transgender parents have good outcomes, with no impacts on developmental milestones.

Williams InstituteThe findings of the report support IAC’s policies of non-discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

Some of the highlights of the report include:

  • Between 25% to 50% of transgender adults are parents, compared with 65-74% for cisgender adults.
  • Transgender parents reported “having children” more often than “living with children”, most likely because of efforts to limit the contact of transgender parents with their children.
  • Studies on the outcomes for children with transgender parents found no evidence linking a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation with having a transgender parent.
  • Transgender parents report facing discrimination from both the other parent and the court system in child custody and visitation arrangements.
  • Transgender adults are also at risk of discrimination from adoption agencies.

None of these findings were surprising to us at Independent Adoption Center, where we’ve worked with members of the LGBT community for decades. We welcome everyone interested in adoption, and encourage you to learn more about our adoption services.

You can read the full report here:

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Common Fears During the Wait

Editor’s Note: The following is a post written by IAC’s adoptive mother, Kim Fagan-Wiseman about many fears that come up during the wait to adopt.
Close-up portrait of the scared woman.

There’s no doubt about it. Most of us fantasize during the waiting period. We think about their first birthday party, family holiday gatherings and how much we will give and love our child. After we linger in those blissful moments, there’s a notion that we couldn’t possibly be happy. Then, like a turbine wind tunnel, we are swept into the fears of open adoption. The more we think about our fears, the more we tend to believe them. As I’ve talked about before in previous blog posts, fear is nothing more than a repeated thought. So, with this in mind, let’s have a candid conversation about those fears and how we can learn to trust our guidance to know the truth behind open adoption.

Fear: I’m afraid that the birth parents will change their mind.
Yes, there is always the chance that the birth parents can change their mind. However, I want to encourage you to look at the possibilities rather than fear itself. In fact, the birth parents may be just as concerned that you will change your mind. We are always trepidatious when the future seems uncertain. One way to better understand each other’s intentions is to have an open and honest discussion about how you are feeling. Transparency will provide a clear and honest direction of strengths and opportunities for growth within the relationship. Reach out to your Social Worker to share your concerns and fears. It’s important that you realize that there is a support system available to you. You are never alone during this process.

Fear: My child will love their birthparents more than they will love me.
Just take a moment and think about this. When you remove the “insecurity” from the equation, is this really the truth or fear talking? This “undeserving feeling” of love can be very deceptive. If you peel away these insecurities, you will realize that your child will love you with no hesitation. Through open adoption, your child will also have a healthy understanding of who their birth parents are and their unconditional act of love, in choosing you as their parent. Remember, adoption is something that “happens to your child” and isn’t “who they are.” Children internalize the feelings around them. If you allow fear to dominate your experience, how do you think your child will feel? Therefore, allow acceptance into your life and believe that love has no boundaries, if you permit it. Embrace this amazing gift you have been given and stop questioning your intrinsic value.

Fear: Open adoption will confuse my child and family.
Let me be blunt here. The only thing that will confuse your child is your own confusion of what family is. “Family of choice” are those who love and accept you for who you are. Family is filled with acceptance, understanding, compassion and of course, unconditional love. It is up to you and the birth parents to find common ground and follow through with your commitments and agreed boundaries. By doing so, you allow your child to know that they are loved, wanted and cherished without wanting to possess them. Of course, everyone has a different definition of what family is. Yet, universally, it is the love for your child and acceptance of their birth family, which will help shape the strength and longevity of the relationship. Both the birth parents and adoptive parents have something magnificent to offer one another. Teach your child by the clarity of your own example. Be transparent, caring and most importantly, be consistent in your actions.

Fear: I’m afraid that the birthparents will try to undermine or replace me.
This fear is so very common and understandable. In fact, those who have childcare often think that their child will be emotionally “taken” from them. Here’s the truth – no one will replace you. They can’t. You are their parent – their soul connection. You wake up in the middle of the night for feedings. You wipe the tears away after they have scraped their knee. Additionally, your presence in your child’s life does not and should not negate their feelings for their birth parents. When you have a healthy relationship with the birth parents, there is no need for “replacement.” There certainly is enough love in your child’s heart for everyone. In fact, you might even grow to love the birth parents as well. After all, love has no limitations and fear has no grounds for permanence.

Fear: I’m afraid my child will want to live with his/her birth parents when they grow older.
Prepare yourself. Children will say ANYTHING to get your attention. Yes, they may even say, “I want to live with my birth parents” when they get older. But, they will also say:

  1. “Can I get my belly button pierced?”
  2. “You just SO don’t understand me!”
  3. “Do NOT add me on Facebook.”
  4. “Are you going through menopause or something?”
  5. “I won’t gain weight like you.”
  6. “When I’m 18 years old, I’m an adult!”

Oh, the list goes on. Sure, your child will likely say these things and more. That is what children do. What is important to remember is to choose to “respond” to the situation and not “react” to it. It’s easy to get hurt and let our emotions get the best of us. We do it all of the time. There’s no doubt about it. Raising children can be challenging. But, with challenges comes opportunities to learn, grow, and better understand each other and our selves. Be open to learning more about yourself and not let fear control your actions. After all, a family has been made. Hold on and enjoy the ride. It’s worth every moment, even the teenage years!


An Adoptive Parent Nightmare

Editor’s Note: In this reflective post, Traci Pirri, an adoptive mother, shares what it’s like to experience her child longing to be with her birthmother.

The day my oldest decided to tell me she wished she could live with her birth mother just about broke my heart, but, thankfully, wound up bringing us closer together.

You know it’s coming. It’s natural for kids to be curious or to fantasize about what life is like somewhere else. It’s normal for them to get angry and look for an escape. Or to explore what statements push our parent buttons. Most kids do this sooner or later. But for adoptive parents, there is extra pressure towards attachment with your child and to be a good parent—not just for your child, but also to uphold the expectations of the woman or couple who placed that child’s life in your hands. It can feel so overwhelming—the responsibility of accepting a child for adoption. So, you hold this child while he cries and you wipe away her tears and you share in his joys and her sorrows—all the while knowing that one day, this day will most likely come.

For me, it happened just the other day. We recently had a visit from my daughter’s birth mother. Afterwards, my daughter’s behavior took a turn south. When I say a turn south, I mean my sweet little well-behaved daughter was suddenly taking on characteristics of a horned beast. She was systematically doing everything she could to provoke, taunt, and irritate myself and her little brother. It was very unlike her. After many deep breaths and countless redirections, I finally sent her to her room for some think time. I needed to think about how I wanted to handle this (the visions of throttling her that were going through my head were NOT okay) and she needed to think about whether she would talk this out or continue her current path of familial destruction.

You can read the rest of her blog at

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Handling the Wait

Editor’s Note: The following is a post written by IAC’s adoptive mother, Kim Fagan-Wiseman about the wait and open adoption.

KimFaganThe room is put together. The teddy bears are sitting patiently to be cuddled. You are ready to pack your vehicle in less than an hour. Yes, it’s that one moment; the moment you realize that all of the waiting, frustration, and introspection was worth every possible second you have invested. In other words, you are not only getting ready physically, but emotionally for the arrival of your child. Then it happens. You wait. And when you are not waiting, you wait some more. The process of adoption takes time. Typically there is a 12-16 month waiting period before a “match” can take place. This type certainly can vary. But, even when you have the most perfect “match” there are still a few considerations while you wait.

Worry is NOT the new Black
It’s inevitable that you will worry. You may be concerned that the birth parents will change their mind. You may fret about the adoption agreement you and the birth parents set into place. You may even find yourself jealous of the birth mother’s delivery experience and worried that you will never be good enough for your child. Seriously. You will worry about lots of things and you are not alone. In fact, the birth parents may be worrying as well. One thing to remember though is that “worry” or “fear” is just a repeated thought. None of those negative experiences have to be your experience. Therefore it’s important to educate yourself about the myths about open adoption and communicate with your counselor. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel where you are in that moment but do not get “stuck” in it. Ultimately, love is not the result of biology, but rather the time, commitment and constant acknowledgement that your child is loved unconditionally.

Birth Parents are NOT a threat
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people tell me (1) What IF the birth mother drives by your house? Or (2) What IF the baby loves them more than they love you? Or (3) What IF the birth parents come and try to take the baby away from you? Again, all of these thoughts are based on fear. Fear can never drive your decision to participate in an Open Adoption. The relationship and boundaries between you and the birth parents should be clearly and legally defined. However, defining boundaries on paper doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t develop a comfortable relationship with the birth parents. When we look at situations with gratitude, we are reminded that all of our experiences have a purpose – always blessings, never losses.

Breathe deeply & take in the experience
Most adoptive families have said that the wait time they had experienced just seemed to disappear when they looked into their newborn baby’s eyes; and, it’s true. The moment you receive the call that your baby is being born, time seems to slow down and zoom by, all at once. Phone calls have to be made to the agency, your attorney and most certainly those who are important to you. In fact, I urge you to make a checklist of items that you need to take care of before leaving the house and/or work. Having gone through this, I strongly encourage you to skillfully embrace each tender moment. Take photos of the baby room. Enjoy remembering when you met the birth parents. It’s easy to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent and forget to be present in the experience. Your life is about to change as you know it. It’s important to breathe deeply and realize the mutual gift of life and family you are about to be a part of.

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Talking with Your Child about Birthparents

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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A Challenging Journey, Life Changing Results

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

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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