Open Adoption Blog

Surviving the Adoption Wait

Ready? Set? Wait! Sound familiar?

The beginning stages of the adoption process are full of activity. You are learning about adoption, getting to know your counselor, attending workshops, taking online classes, working on the plethora of home study paperwork, taking the perfect front photo, and refining your Dear Birthparent Letter text for the umpteenth time, and creating your online profile. Finally, finally, you submit everything to your Adoption Coordinator and receive the green light to order your letters and go live.

Surviving the adoption wait

The wait can feel like this.

Now what?

While the beginning stages of the adoption process may hold their own unique frustrations, the waiting phase is often the most difficult time of the process for adoptive families. In the beginning of the process, you have some control over how quickly to work on the required documents, when to schedule your appointments, how much time should go into your autobiography, what photos to consider and what important things you want to include in your letter.

When you are waiting, you are…waiting. There is no set guideline to tell you exactly what to do and when. There are less forms to be constantly working on. The sense of lacking control in the process is often amplified during the wait. You have essentially fixed up, cleaned, and painted your home, and now you are waiting for the perfect family to find it and want to buy it. You can let everyone know you are selling your home, you can hire a trusted realtor, and you can do additional advertising of your gem. But until the right person or family finds it, it’s not going to sell. Each time you have a showing, you clean and put everything in order again and you get excited that this might be the right one. If an offer does not come through, you are inevitably disappointed. You cannot make someone buy your home. And you cannot make a birthparent find you and contact you.

So how do you cope with this?

I suggest continuing with your life as much as possible while waiting for the right contact. If you have a contact and it doesn’t work out, try to use it as a learning experience. When you get feedback on your home, you may choose another paint color or fix something someone commented about. Try to review how you handled that particular contact or reconsider what you are truly comfortable with. Chances are that you didn’t say or do anything wrong at all. It just wasn’t the right one for you.

If you have plans to travel, remodel your home, or go back to school, do them! Try to not put your life on hold. If you are waiting to do something until you have a placement, your wait is going to feel that much longer and more difficult because you have put your life on hold. It is understandable that waiting with no definite end is difficult. It’d be easier to wait 15 months if you knew in 15 months’ time, you’d have placement for certain. Try to remain positive and remember that it only takes one contact to lead to your child. Yes, some families have multiple contacts before placement, but others have few or none before the right birthparents find them.

What else can you do while waiting? Dream! Yes, dream about the day you will become a parent. You will be a parent through adoption, we just don’t know when. It’s ok to fantasize about being a parent and working through a list of things you want to have done before then. There are many important things you can do while waiting. Focusing on specific items while waiting can help with the loss of control many adoptive parents experience during the wait. It is also productive. We don’t want to assign you busy work, but productive work.

Other productive avenues we encourage adoptive parents to consider are through networking. Networking is an effective and productive way to potentially find birthparents through your own efforts. Yes, you are paying an agency, or attorney, to do this for you, but you never know where a lead can come from. In over 7 years of adoption experience, I’ve heard some good stories about how a birthparent found just the right adoptive family! Common networking techniques include talking to others about your journey, sending emails, passing out adoption cards, creating a social media page and advertising on profile hosting sites. Networking can help give you a bit of control back into the process, which often helps with the wait. It may also really find the right match for you! If you are interested in networking, please talk with your counselor to find a plan that makes sense for you. If you are not interested in networking, that is ok too!

The most important thing to do while waiting is to try to stay optimistic. You are allowed (and even expected) to have difficult days or weeks. During these times, rely on your support network and your counselor for support and encouragement. If your counselor does not know you are having a hard time, there isn’t anything he or she can do to help you. Come to agency events and functions. Participate in support groups and forums either in person or online. Adopting is not easy. Waiting is not easy. Allow yourself time to be sad, mad, frustrated, hurt, and rejected. But also allow yourself time to be happy, optimistic, excited, and eager. Your time will come.


For Adoptive Siblings

Editor: This post comes to us from one of our readers, who wanted to share his experiences as a child with adopted siblings.

When I was 13 years old, my parents approached me and my siblings and told us that they were going to adopt. We approved unanimously. The younger ones didn’t quite understand the concept, and my older sister and I were both used to adding children to the family—what did it matter if the 7th child came the “normal” way or through an adoption agency?

Adopted siblings playingThere isn’t a lot of material out there for and about adoptive siblings. Most adoption articles and news revolve around birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child who is being adopted. But if adoptive parents have biological children, those children are an integral part of the process too.

For some children, welcoming a new sibling into the home can be difficult. This is true whether the new addition is biological or adopted, however, and there is no standard for how children will react. Levels of jealousy, excitement, and acceptance will all vary depending on the size of the family, the age and background of the new child, and how the parents deal with the adoption. Every situation is different — there is no step-by-step manual for preparing children to add a new child to the home.

Understand Your Children
For parents, adopting a child is a long and arduous journey. My mother always said that adopting a child was far more stressful than carrying and giving birth to one. But ultimately, the adoption process is an exciting and wonderful time. Although parents might be nervous about bringing a new child into their home, excitement and joy surely outweigh the doubts; they understand that adoption is a miracle in its own right.

For children, however, it can be a different story. Telling a young child that he or she is going to get a new sibling is an abstract concept. It’s like giving a near-sighted child a pair of glasses for the first time, or getting eyeglass lens replacements after your prescription has changed—you don’t know how dramatic the change will be until it actually happens.

That being said, it is important to understand where your children are coming from.

Communicate with your biological children. Let them tell you what they think about your decision to adopt. Let them tell you their fears or concerns, and make sure they know why you are adopting, what might change, and that adopting another child doesn’t mean you’ll love them any less. Make sure they understand that it might not be easy to adapt to a new brother or sister, but that you are excited for the opportunity to adopt a child who needs a family. They will be this new child’s siblings and main support group, and they have a vital role in helping a new child feel welcome in the family.

Keep your children up-to-date with the entire process. Show them pictures of their new future siblings. Let them pick out clothes and toys for infants or prepare bedroom space for older children. Help them be involved in every way you can, so that when the adopted children actually arrive it won’t be as much of a transition.

Involve Them in the Decision. Adoption impacts the entire family, and so to some extent it should be the entire family’s decision. Children should not be discounted because they do not understand the particulars of adoption; they should feel that their opinions are valid and appreciated. Ultimately, however, it should be up to the parents to decide what is best for both their biological and potential adopted children.

I don’t remember my parents asking me or my siblings if we wanted a new brother or sister, but I do remember them asking us how we felt about it. If we had protested, my parents would have taken the time to either reconsider their decision or prepare us better. However, like most large families, we were more than happy to welcome another child.

Consider Birth Order. Sibling dynamics are fairly stereotypical no matter where you go. Oldest children are used to being at the top of the food chain, middle children are more responsible and diplomatic, and youngest children are often spoiled.

Inserting adopted children into the pecking order can be difficult on all of the children involved. If you adopt a group of biological siblings, the oldest child who may no longer be the oldest will have a hard time fitting into a new role. Youngest children who now have younger siblings will have difficulty adjusting to different responsibilities and having someone else “take their place”.

This wasn’t an issue for my family—all three children were infants when we adopted them, and so fitting them into the sibling dynamic was no different than my mother giving birth to 7, 8, and 9. But be aware of how the dynamic among your children may change, and be patient with them as they struggle to figure out where they belong in the family.

Trust Your Children
Trust that your children will be more accepting and loving than you might expect them to be. Kids aren’t perfect, and adoption might not be easy, but as you show the same kind of love for both your adopted and biological children, they will follow your example.

In my experience, family is family. It doesn’t matter that my three youngest siblings aren’t related to me biologically—they are related to me through shared experiences, love, and a mutual need and respect for each other. Some transitions are harder than others, but with the proper care and attention to all of your children’s needs, adoption can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences your family will ever have.

About the author:
Connor Adkins enjoys helping people stay fit and healthy. He enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, and in his spare time he blogs about health issues he learns from companies like Replacement Lens Express.

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True Stories of Open Adoption

What is it like to adopt a baby or place your newborn in an adoption? Find out with this new collection of firsthand accounts of real adoption stories.

Cover of True Stories of Open AdoptionEach family that is created through open adoption has it’s own unique story. Preparation time, wait time, the length of the match between adoptive and birthparents, the hospital experience, and ongoing contact between the birth and adoptive families are different for everyone. In an effort to educate the general population and prospective birth and adoptive parents, Independent Adoption Center has compiled True Stories of Open Adoption from past clients and staff members who agreed to share their stories of how their families came to be. The reader will be touched by these moving stories while learning about the depth of these distinctive relationships.

The book contains stories of twelve families (birth and adoptive) who worked with IAC to make an adoption plan. The stories were chosen in an effort to show the diversity of experiences families have in their adoption journeys. Each adoption story is unique, yet there are common themes you’ll find in all of them: courage, compassion, and love.

The book is volume one of what IAC hopes will be an ongoing series. It is currently available on Amazon as a Kindle e-book. The print edition will be available soon. The price of $3.99 was set so cost would not be a barrier for anyone wanting to read these stories.

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SIDS Facts: Countering the Myths

Editor: Please be warned that this post contains potentially triggering content about SIDS. We feel its important to discuss this issue in order to prevent myths from being perpetuated.

The bottom line: Infants must be placed on their backs to sleep. Do not let your baby sleep on his/her stomach.

SIDS FactsMy best friend Sunny and I were so excited when we found out that we were going to share the joy of becoming parents together. I found out I was pregnant two weeks after she made an excited phone call to me to tell me that she was expecting. Her son, Brody Andrew King, was born just two weeks prior to my daughter. We often talked about what good friends our children would be. I remember laughing over her story about a major diaper blow out in the mall while feeding my daughter carrots that she spit all over my shirt. The messes that our babies were making seemed never ending, and despite all the dirty diapers and sticky fingers, we loved being mommies.

I never for a moment thought I’d get the call that I got one August morning on my way to work. Sunny called and when I answered I could only hear sobbing on the other end. It had to pull my car over on the side of the road and let her words sink in, “Brody isn’t breathing!” she told me over and over and over.

That morning when Sunny went to check on her son, he was blue, stiff, and lifeless. She called me on the way to the hospital. The paramedics had taken him after she had tried relentlessly to breath life back into him by doing infant CPR. I was not able to soak in the reality. Somehow I kept thinking he would be okay. I asked her to call me back after she spoke with the doctors because I truly believed that he would be revived and okay because the alternative was unthinkable. Babies aren’t supposed to die I reasoned. I prayed and I drove on to work awaiting the call that he was fine. By the time she called me back I was almost shocked again to hear that Brody was dead.

The events that followed were a culmination of every parent’s worst nightmare. I had to hold my friend up when she passed out at the sight of a tiny coffin. I had to help her plan a tiny funeral. I held her hand while she picked out a gravestone, burial plot, and outfit for her son’s funeral constantly muttering to myself that no parent should ever have to go through this. No parent – especially not my friend. She was a loving, involved, responsible, and attentive mommy.

During this time I replayed a conversation I had with my friend several months earlier over and over in my head. She told me she was placing Brody on his stomach to sleep. “He just doesn’t sleep as soundly any other way,” she told me. The risk of SIDS crossed my mind during this conversation. I religiously placed my daughter on her back at night. I am a social worker so I was taught about SIDS a lot during my career. I was also a sleep-deprived mommy of a very fussy 5-month-old. I thought about discussing the SIDS risk with my friend that day, but opted not to. I chose not to because I was a nervous first time mom myself. I had no idea if my way was the right way. I was simply following my pediatrician’s advice and the advice I had learned through my professional training. I reasoned that her son had rolled over on his own already. He was strong, his mom checked on him often during the night, and she knew him best. Basically, I was in no position to pass judgment on her parenting style, so I said nothing about the risk of SIDS that day. I often wonder if I could have changed the course of events if I had simply stated my reasoning for placing my daughter on her back during that phone call. Perhaps I could have reminded my friend that doctors typically make recommendations for safe sleeping arrangements based on a mountain of empirical research. Maybe I could have changed her mind by simply stating that I felt that stomach sleeping was unsafe. I will never know because I was silent. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20 and I cannot re-visit that phone call. Life is cruel in the way that it often does not give you the chance to re-do certain situations.

What I can do now is use my experience to help others. What I’ve learned in both my personal and professional life is this: when it comes to the safety of a child no amount of caution is too much. Thus, I have compiled my thoughts on those all too often repeated SIDS myths in hopes that it will help other parents along the way to try and make safe decisions for their babies.

Amidst piles of diapers, sleepless nights, loads of baby gear, and the whirlwind of changes that accompany everyday life for a family of a new baby comes a myriad of decisions that must be made for an infant. New parents have the huge responsibility of making each and every arrangement for a new human being while simultaneously attempting to do the right thing for everyone in their household. When and how should my baby be fed, changed, bathed, held, vaccinated, taken to the doctor, or placed in a childcare setting? Bewildered, tired, new parents often turn to friends, relatives, or the Internet for help in figuring out how to navigate their way through such an impossible jungle of decision making. Unfortunately, when it comes to infant sleep safety there is a slew of bad information readily available to new parents. Friends and relatives will often advise that “babies sleep better on their stomachs”. The Internet contains millions of documents written by people from all over the world. Some information is accurate and based on factual information, much of it is not. Often it is very difficult to filter out factual literature amidst an array of viewpoints, some based on little more than personal opinion. Because of that, I wanted to share some myths and realities about SIDS in hopes of providing some accurate information for those parents seeking to make good decisions for their babies. I hope that this will help tired parents make the right decision for their babies because no amount of sleep is worth your baby’s life.

MYTH 1: Nobody knows what causes SIDS, so preventing it is impossible.

While there is a lot of ongoing research about the cause of SIDS, the research on the best ways to prevent SIDS is clear and convincing.

Most researchers believe that SIDS is likely multi-causational. Thus, SIDS is probably caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One thing that is certain is that stomach sleeping increases a baby’s risk for SIDS related death. Some research indicates that stomach sleeping could increase a baby’s SIDS risk by as much as eighteen percent. When that is combined with genetic factors or other environmental factors (such as crib blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, a hot room, etc.) it can place a baby in danger of SIDS death. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be placed on their backs to sleep. They should be placed in a crib with a firm mattress, and their crib should not have any soft bedding (i.e.) pillows, blankets, or crib bumpers. Since the “Back to sleep” campaign began in 1994 the SIDS rate has decreased by fifty percent. So, while research on the “cause” of SIDS is on going, there is clear and convincing research about how to prevent SIDS from occurring. Place your baby on his back to sleep in a crib free from hazards.

For more information reference the American Academy of Pediatrics:

MYTH 2: Our parents and grandparents all placed their babies to sleep on their stomachs and we all turned out just fine, so there is no reason to place a baby on his back to sleep.

While we may be fine, there are many babies (approximately twice as many as today) that died from SIDS related deaths during this time. We don’t hear the point of view of those children because they are not here to comment.

Our parents and grandparents did what they felt was best for their children. This included following the recommendations of their pediatricians. Those recommendations were made based on the available research at the time. The recommendation to place babies to sleep on their stomachs was made because there wasn’t any research available on SIDS risks. Thus, most doctors told parents to place babies on their stomachs to assist the baby in expelling spit-up (if that should occur during the night). Research completed in the last 30 years has shown that babies have a natural reflex to expel spit-up from their mouths. It has also demonstrated that babies are less likely to choke if they are on their backs since their windpipe is above their esophagus when placed in that position. Basically, a baby placed on his or her back to sleep is in a better position to keep food (or spit-up) from passing into their windpipe. Research has also consistently demonstrated that stomach sleeping increases a baby’s likelihood of SIDS. Thus, you can prevent SIDS AND decrease the likelihood of choking by placing your infant on his or her back to sleep.

The truth here is that your parents and grandparents followed their doctor’s recommendations for their babies. You should too. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that babies be placed on their backs to sleep.

If that argument isn’t convincing enough please consider that many of our parents and grandparents carted their children around in cars without seat belts. During that time many pregnant women took over-the-counter medications that have since been deemed unsafe. They were also not tested routinely for gestational diabetes. They gave their babies aspirin out of a medicine bottle that did not have a childproof lid. Children during those days played with toys coated in lead paint, and they would often go to the shoe store and get an x-ray of their feet just for fun without a second thought about the risk of exposure to radiation. Many infants and children exposed to those hazards turned out just fine, but likewise many did not. We know now that may of these things are not safe and thus we have changed the way we do things in order to provide safer care to our children. If your parents had the information available to them that you have available to you today, they likely would have done things a bit differently because everyone wants to provide the very best care to their baby.


MYTH 3: My baby won’t sleep on her back.

The truth is that babies, like all human beings, will eventually sleep no matter what position they are in. Babies are amazingly adaptable and able to acclimate themselves to sleep in whatever position they are placed. Some people believe that babies sleep longer and more deeply on their stomach. This is probably true for some babies, and for those babies, back sleeping may be particularly important. Some researchers believe that deep sleep is actually a contributing factor to SIDS since it seems that SIDS deaths often occur when babies re-breath uncirculated air instead of moving their faces to get fresh air. Re-breathing uncirculated air lowers a baby’s overall oxygen levels and places him or her at higher risk for SIDS. Babies that sleep soundly on their stomachs may keep sleeping on despite the need for fresh air. I’ve heard many mothers rationalize that a rested mommy is better for a baby’s overall health, so placing a baby on her stomach will help her sleep longer and give her tired parents more time to sleep too. The problem with this idea is that it places the baby in a dangerous environment at a vulnerable time when their caregiver is asleep. A baby in this situation is not only sleeping in a hazardous environment, but their parent may not be inclined to check on them as often because they are expecting their baby to sleep for an extended period of time. The truth here is that if you begin by placing your baby on her back to sleep, he or she will become used to sleeping in this position and both mommy and baby will be safe and well rested.

See Also:

MYTH 4: The SIDS rate is really low so it is unlikely that my baby would ever be affected.

From personal experience, Brody is not the only baby I know that has died a SIDS related death. I also have a family member that last a baby to SIDS and during my career I have encountered two SIDS related deaths among my clients.

SIDS is not rare. According to the CDC, SIDS is the number one cause of death among babies ages 1-12 months in age. This means that for this age group, SIDS is statistically more likely to affect your family than accidents, communicable diseases, or other environmental factors that new parents worry about. When it comes to protecting your baby, the risk of SIDS should not be minimized. Take precautions to prevent SIDS by following the AMA’s guidelines for infant sleep safety.

In order to lower the SIDS rate, education is key. A recent survey by Parent’s Magazine indicated that 18 percent of their readers responded that they placed their babies under 12 months of age on their stomachs to sleep. Please help lower the SIDS rate by placing your infant on his or her back to sleep and also by educating friends and family about the risk of SIDS, and ensuring that babies are provided with safe sleeping arrangements.

For additional information please visit the following credible sites:
The American SIDS Institute conducts research and offers education and round-the-clock support to pediatricians and families. Call (800) 232-7437.

The Back to Sleep Hotline, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health,
offers information, support, and referrals. Call (800) 505-2742

The CJ Foundation for SIDS is the largest nongovernmental funder of SIDS-related programs in the United States. Visit the foundation’s website for news about SIDS

First Candle (formerly SIDS Alliance) provides information and supports research aimed at preventing SIDS and stillbirth. It also offers grief counseling to those affected by the death of a baby.

The National SIDS/Infant Death Resource Center provides information sheets, annotated bibliographies, and referral services to parents, caregivers, and researchers.

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Our Adoption Journey

Editor: For Adoption Awareness Month we asked our families what adoption made them thankful for. Here is a heartfelt response from Candy. The Jensens are an adoptive family from Tracy, CA.

Our journey to becoming a family began as newlyweds. Like many other couples, the ‘traditional’ path was not destined for us. Instead, our journey brought us to Independent Adoption Center, and to the beginning of our own family.

The Jensen FamilyThere are so many things that we are grateful for in this process – our families for always being there and never questioning our desire to pursue an open adoption. The counselors who helped us get through months of waiting. For the friends we’ve made along the way with others in their own adoption journeys.

Mostly though, we can never truly express how honored and lucky we are that Alex’s birthmother chose us. To those who say we did an amazing thing by adopting our son, I say we aren’t the amazing ones. Alex’s birthmother is the amazing one. She loved him so much, wanted so much for him that she made the most painful decision and allowed him to be our son. She forever changed our lives and there are no words that can express the deep love, respect and gratitude that we have for her. We are forever linked as a family, our hearts and lives bound by love. She also taught us that we can love more than we ever thought possible, and in ways we never could have imagined prior to becoming parents.

Alex will always know how much he is loved, by all of his family. That his birthmother is an amazing woman with incredible strength, and that she loves him so much more than he may ever understand. We know that our family would not be complete without open adoption. We have so much to be thankful for, and cannot believe how lucky we are to have been so blessed.

Knowing that we have more love to share, our adoption journey continues as we plan to adopt again. Whatever our path forward holds, we are looking forward to every step, as a family.

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Childproofing Your Home: From Tots to Teens

Editor: This is a guest post from Elle Aldridge, who was inspired to write for our blog when her family welcomed home two children from Columbia. Please note that this post does not detail any requirements of a homestudy. For more on that subject please see Preparing for a Homestudy.

While Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday in November, many don’t realize there’s a commemorative holiday called National Adoption Day, celebrated annually on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. November is also National Adoption Awareness Month.

Being able to adopt is something that many families are very thankful for, and while it can be a very joyous event, sometimes it can also be overwhelming. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of to help guide you along the way.

Before they crawl – The infant stage

Child pulling an electric cordThere’s nothing so blissful and miraculous as the first glimpse of your newborn child. It’s an unparalleled, unforgettable experience that’s difficult to put into words.

While parenthood takes you on a long, winding road with its share of bumps and potholes, it’s inevitable that your first few days of being a new parent will be spent in infatuation, awe and amazement. And even though these one-of-a-kind feelings are fun to indulge, it’s important that you think about the long path ahead.

Your family is the most important thing in your life, and protecting it will be your top priority. That means you should have a few security measures in place well before you bring your little bundle of joy home. A lot of this process involves common sense and a parent’s intuition.

  • Start by covering up the places where you wouldn’t want to see any messy little fingers. Outlet covers and furniture slips are a good idea.
  • You may also benefit from some thoughtful rearranging. Try concealing any sharp corners; make wooden table legs and jagged edges as inaccessible as possible.
  • Start thinking about which pieces of furniture you could afford to store in the basement for a few years while your child is at the most curious and most vulnerable stage. Head-height drawers and low-hanging cords are a big no-no.

Adapt on the go – The toddler stage

“The Terrible Twos” can be a lot to handle for any mom and dad. As your son or daughter approaches their second birthday, it’s important to account for the temper tantrums, mood swings and spills that surely lie ahead.

At this point, most children are walking upright, giving them a brand new way to get into trouble. Most people recommend keeping your valuables out of reach – for both your sake and theirs. With a few more inches added to their wingspan and a compelling need to explore the unknown, 2-year-olds will look to smack, throw, flip, turn and shake anything they can get their hands on. Be extra vigilant in the kitchen; you don’t want your child anywhere near your cutlery or fine china.

Middle childhood

After toddlerhood, children will begin to develop their own sense of self and socialize with peers and adults more often. Some developmental marks between ages 5-10 include:

  • Children begin to take responsibility for positive life habits (health, school, etc.)
  • Able to play in groups and develop close friendships
  • Able to express feelings and understand the difference between right and wrong
  • Awareness of safety rules such as fire safety
  • Able to read, write and communicate thoughts

Teenage years

As children grow into teens, they are increasingly more self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. And then there’s one of the biggest freedoms of all – driving. However, this doesn’t mean that a little guidance from parents and trusted adults isn’t warranted.

When your teen takes part in social activities, both in-person and online, remember these guidelines:

  • Always make sure your son or daughter has a safe way to get home when they go out and that they go over their plans before leaving. It’s important to know where they’ll be and who they’ll be with at all times.
  • Teens should never give out personal information to strangers online, including addresses and phone numbers. Computers should be kept in family rooms or common areas where parents can see what their kids are doing online.
  • Remember that honesty is always the best policy – for both teens and their parents – when it comes to Internet use, social situations and more.

A job with no days off

When it comes to household safety, a parent’s work is never done. Babyproofing turns to childproofing, and childproofing even turns to teenproofing when your child grows in age, intellect and emotion. Depending on your child’s development, there are plenty of options for safety assistance (baby gates, room dividers and monitors are all popular choices). And there are a few places you just can’t go wrong – home security systems and fire escape plans are both no-brainers.

Ultimately, you can’t skip a day of ensuring your child’s protection. The more you do to safeguard your house from top to bottom, the easier it’ll be to maintain the health and security of your littlest loved ones. Don’t cut any corners, and enjoy every day you have together!

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Adoption Grants With HelpUsAdopt

It’s no secret that adoption can be an expensive undertaking. One of our goals here at Independent Adoption Center is to ensure that anyone who wants to adopt can be linked up with the available resources to help make it happen. One of our favorite organizations that does just that is Help Us Adopt. We’re big fans of the work Becky Fawcett does with Help Us Adopt, and so we were doubly excited to find out that IAC’s own Brent and Allan had been featured in a Fox 11 segment highlighting their adoption grant. As Allan says, “There’s help out there if you look for it.”

Check out the segment:

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6 Things You Must Know About Birthparent Letter Design

In her 2011 book, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D. combines her favorite psychology theories, concepts, and research about people along with her experience in interface design in order to help designers develop more intuitive and engaging products that match the way that we read, think, and interact with information. Here are a few tips that I thought might be helpful for families to design Dear Birthparent Letters that connect.

  • People perceive that things that are close together belong together. Organize your text and layout. If you are writing a paragraph about your pet, then include picture with that pet next to the corresponding text, not two pages later. This same sentiment could also be applied to photos. For examples, couples are encouraged to emphasize their connectedness as a family through close proximity, overlapping, hugging and touching. Look like you enjoy the company of the person next to you to convey a sense of unity, rather than appearing as two buddies or separate entities.

  • Color can influence what people see.  Be mindful of the color selections in your letter, and what they may communicate. Avoid dark clothing or background colors that may look too serious or gloomy. Utilize color palettes that convey a sense of warmth and complement your cover photograph. Studies have shown that solid red and blue together are hard on the eyes, so avoid this text/background combination. Also, color can be used to help add emphasis to areas of text that you want to stand out. For example, use blocks of color to separate headers and paragraphs or sidebars/captions from the main text or photos.

  • Whether you like it or not, people will filter your information.Weinschenk says, “People process information better in bite-sized chunks.” You cannot control how long birth mom reads your letter, so make each element count so that the information that is most important shines through. Break up text into chunks using bullets, short paragraphs, and photos. People have selective attention spans. Utilize bold text to indicate the information that you want them to pay attention to. Avoid long paragraphs and allow breathing room between them.The easier you make it for people to find your information, the more likely that they will engage with that information. Readers often filter by location, so be sure your City/State, contact information, and web links are clearly visible on all of your marketing materials. Save ALL CAPS for when you really need to get someone’s attention, such as in headlines.  If people have trouble reading the font, then they may not understand your message.

  • People learn best from examples. Don’t just tell people. Show them. It’s great to mention your activities and favorite pastimes, and how much you love children. However, you can help to create a visual picture in your reader’s mind by including pictures that help to illustrate this. Have you considered creating an adoption video or marketing your campaign online?

  • People pay attention to faces. Use them appropriately. In the age of social media apps like Instagram, it has become a trend to post close-up pictures of yourself (a.k.a. “selfies.”). If you’re an avid user, it’s likely that after seeing too many similar posts, you become somewhat bored and scroll past to go to next user’s post. The same can be said for the photo collection used in your letter. Don’t overwhelm the reader with “selfies” and posed group shots. Candid and action shots work best to illustrate your text. Striking a balance between posed photographs and action shots, that show you engaged in an activity and/or interacting with a child, helps to create a visual variety that helps to lead a reader’s eye through your text.

  • Stories help to create images in people’s minds. Tell your story using anecdotes that invoke emotions and empathy. This is more compelling than just listing factual data. People process information more deeply and remember it longer if there is an emotional connection.Check out this example:

    Factual data-driven:
    “Our names are Pat and Hal. We met in college. We have known each other for 10 years, and have been married for five. “


    Once more, with feeling:
    We fondly recall the day that we met at the campus bookstore 10 years ago. Pat tripped and fell, dropping all her books on the floor. Hal, noticing this out of the corner of his eye, knelt down to help pick them up. That kind and thoughtful gesture turned into a great conversation, and the rest is history!”)

    Can you see a difference?

In closing, 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People delves into several common communication issues that I consider daily when reviewing client letters. The book offered some useful perspectives into how the readers, our birth parents, might interact with Dear Birthparent letters when received. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is creating any type of product designed to engage others.

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Celebrating National Adoption Month by Giving Thanks…

November is National Adoption Month, so let’s celebrate! Whether you’re an adoptee, an alumni, (adoptive parents or birthparents) or in the process of adopting, we’d like to hear about your adoption experiences through an open letter.  What has open adoption made you thankful for? 

Please share with us some of your most memorable adoption experiences and/or what open adoption has made you thankful for.  Examples for an open letter idea could be: an adoptive parent writing to your future birthmother/child or an open letter from a birthmother to her child that she’s placed or to the adoptive parents. We will be accepting submissions all this month via email at  Check out the IAC’s Facebook and this blog to see the stories we post.  We look forward to sharing your open letters and showing thanks to open adoption!

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We’re Adopting! 5 Creative Ways to Spill the Beans

Editors note: This is a guest post by Caroline, a freelance writer based in Western Canada.

Across the globe, 17.9 million orphans are waiting for permanent homes. In 2011, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute indicates 9,000 U.S. families made the decision to open their hearts and homes to those children through adoption. If you’ve decided that you want to make a dent in that gap by becoming an adoptive parent, you are in for an exciting journey.

Making the Adoption AnnouncementYet, this journey can be long. The Independent Adoption Center indicates that it takes an average of 14.8 months to adopt an infant. International adoptions or adoptions through the foster care system can take even longer. You’re going to want the support of family and friends, and you’re going to want to share your excitement. These five ideas will help you announce your intentions to adopt creatively.

Adoption T-shirts

You’ve seen the big brother and big sister shirts your friends used to announce their pregnancies. Instead, announce your plans to adopt with an adoption T-shirt. The “I’m Paper Pregnant” T-shirt from Cafepress is a great way to show your family your plans in a fun way. Wear it to your next family gathering as a surprise, and see how long it takes for the congrats (and questions) to start rolling in.

Adoption Photo Shoot

You’ve seen the photo shoots announcing a pregnancy or revealing a gender. You can do the same thing to announce your plans to adopt. Post these pictures on your social media pages, email them to friends and family or use them as your holiday card to officially make the announcement.

For your photo shoot, make framed signs or chalk board drawings with phrases like “Growing in my Heart,” “Waiting on Baby” or “Parents to be, just not sure when.” Use many of the same poses naturally expecting parents use, like hands forming a heart over mom’s tummy. If you’re adopting internationally, place a globe in mom’s lap to take the place of the pregnant belly, and have her form the heart over it as expectant moms do over their baby bumps.

Adoption Cards

If family lives far from you, send them adoption cards instead of birth announcements. With a service like Minted printing you can create custom cards that show your intentions or welcome your adopted little one to the family. If you’ve had a professional adoption photo shoot done, use one of those images as your picture.

Yearly Newsletter

Do you send out a yearly newsletter around the holiday season? Add an announcement at the end, such as “And for our big news, we’re planning to adopt a child! Bear with us as we enter into this long and emotionally challenging process. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about it!”

Storybook Announcement

If your adoption journey is plagued by unknowns, you may want to wait to make the big announcement to the extended family until you have a referral in hand. In this case, use the child’s information to create a photo storybook. You can explain your desire to adopt, outline some of the process you’ve been through, showcase the room you have waiting for your child and introduce your pending adoptive child.

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