Open Adoption Blog

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

Leave a comment

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.


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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Adoption Letter

You’ve joined an adoption agency and completed the paper work. Now it’s time to get the word out about your adoption! Your Adoption Letter (AKA Dear Birthparent Letter) is one of the main tools that you’ll use to reach out to birthmothers and start building your family. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help you navigate the process and craft an effective message.

Do Use Positive Language
Though you probably mean well, the words that you use to communicate to birthmothers may not come across as favorably as you think. Get in the habit of using positive adoption language. To present yourself/yourselves as warm and inviting people to a potential birthparent, be mindful of words that may have unintentional connotations.

Don’t Use Presumptuous Language
It’s natural to want to find the right words to say to a birthmother, however, don’t assume that you already know their story because they are considering open adoption. Every birthmother’s story is different.

Do Let Your Agency Know if You Have Concerns; They’re Here to Help
Your adoption agency shares your goals of getting into circulation as quickly as possible, so that you can adopt. Work together as a team! If there is feedback that you are not comfortable with, or you feel that your letter doesn’t sound like you, then let your counselor or staff member know so that they can work with you to bring more of yourself into the letter. Don’t wait until after your letter is distributed to raise any questions you may have.

Don’t Rush Through the Process
It can be tempting to rush through the process, in order to get into circulation as quickly as possible, while overlooking important items. Did your agency suggest trying another shoot for your photos? If so, then there may be some rationale behind that suggestion. If it’s feasible for you to do so in a reasonable amount of time, then take the time to get the best photos possible to help your letter shine. If it may be a stretch, talk to your agency about the comments, and see how they can help you to best make your existing content work for your budget and schedule.

Do Take Plenty of Photos to Illustrate Your Story
As you’re writing your letter, think about the activities that you mention sharing with your child. It’s great to talk about these in the letter, but you could strengthen your message if you can show it. It’s not always easy to get a great shot of you in action, so be sure to take plenty of photos to help you get a great shot. After your photo shoot, go through the photos, and select the best ones to send to your agency. Action shots work best. Also, if you have photos of you and a child, be sure that your faces are visible and that there are great smiles on everyone’s face.

Don’t Forget that One Picture is Worth A Thousand Words
Be sure that the photos you use in your letters do not contain any questionable backgrounds or objects that may not viewed favorably, such as signs or banners in the background, drinks, or containers of alcohol. In photos with children, be sure that the child looks comfortable with you. Nothing makes this more obvious than a smile! If the child looks like he or she is trying to run away from you or looks afraid, that might send an unintentional message.

Do Read It Aloud
Once you’ve written your text, read it to yourself. Read it to your friends. Read it to a young person. Does it sound conversational and down to earth? Could a young person aged 18-25 clearly understand what you’re talking about? Does it use appropriate grammar and punctuation? If your letter sounds like a textbook or real estate ad, consider revising.

Don’t Be A Downer
Don’t mention issues of loss, hardship, or infertility in the letter. This could take away from the overall warmth of your letter and make it a pain to read. Remember that the point is to welcome the birthmother, help her to feel at ease, and encourage her to contact you. If there is a family member that has passed on that you want to mention, give it a more positive spin. For example, mention honoring or celebrating that person’s memory through the activities that you take part in, rather than dwelling on their loss or sadness.

Do Follow the Guidelines
Be sure that you have followed your agency’s guidelines for preparing your letter, and submitted all of the necessary components in order to avoid extra steps, or having to go back and repeat parts of the process. If there is a certain part of the process that you’re waiting for feedback on, ask what else you could be working on in the meantime so that you continue making progress.

Don’t Do It All By Yourself
If you’re a couple, the letter should be a team project. Work together! Even if you choose to play to one another’s strengths during the process, be sure that the text, including your contact information, reflects both of you, and doesn’t cause a potential birthmother to see you as two entities rather than one family. For example, instead of using, use or

If you don’t have expertise in designing publications, consider consulting a graphic design professional. The Dear Birthparent Letter is such a vital outreach tool that it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Now is not the time to test out the spiffy new software that you just bought for your home computer or to realize your dreams of becoming an artist. If you’ve never done professional level work, then more work will be required of the agency to help make your letter presentable, and this could contribute to your wait time. Ask your agency if it has free design templates available, experts on staff that can assist you, or a referral list of professional designers that may be able to create a custom-design for you at a discounted rate. Independent Adoption Center offers all of these resources to our clients. To get started on your adoption give us a call at 800-877-OPEN.

1 Comment

Indiana’s HJR-3 is a Step Backwards

Lawmakers in Indiana will vote Monday on whether to send a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to the voters of the state. The anti-equality measure passed the House Elections committee on Wednesday, after it was moved from the House Judiciary committee due to being stalled without a vote.

This clip about the amendment from WTHR Indianapolis features IAC alumni Ben & Eric:

In an era when increasing numbers of Americans are recognizing the need for marriage equality, this amendment would be a step backwards for Indiana. Amending the Indiana state constitution would not only be an anachronism, the language of the bill would cause harm to single parent families, domestic partnerships, and other unmarried couples. The ambiguous second sentence reads:

A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

Independent Adoption Center stands in proud opposition to HJR-3. And we’re not alone. Also opposing are the mayors of Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Bloomington, and dozens of universities and businesses based in Indiana. For the well-being of Indiana families and children, the Indiana legislature must vote No on HJR-3.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment


Copyright 2010 Independent Adoption Center. All Rights Reserved.

Powered by WordPress