Open Adoption Blog

New Report: More Adoption Training Needed for Mental Health Workers

A common issue faced by members of the adoption triad is a lack of healthcare professionals who truly understand their needs. Adoptees, Birthparents, and Adoptive Parents can face unique challenges related to their adoption experience. When visiting health care professionals such as therapists, psychologists, and social workers, these challenges often go unrecognized or misdiagnosed. In some cases, the associated struggles can even be made worse.


Dog Doctor

We just couldn’t bring ourselves to use a photo of doctors with a clipboard.

A new report published by the Evan B Donaldson Adoption Institute makes the case for increasing training and competency on adoption issues for professionals in the mental health field.  The authors of the report conclude:

For a variety of reasons, adopted individuals and their families are more likely to use mental health services than is the general population. Helping adoptive parents manage these life complexities for themselves and their children can be a challenge, often requiring the help of professionals. Adopted individuals, as children and through their life cycles, can encounter a range of concerns (e.g. ones related to identity) with which they want and need professional assistance. Furthermore, birth/first mothers and fathers also frequently need the services of mental health counselors as they struggle to cope with their loss and, for a growing number of these individuals, to find satisfying ways of managing ongoing relationships with their children and their adoptive families. Mental health and allied professionals must be prepared to meet the needs of these individuals and families. They must possess not only the foundations for competent clinical practice, but also a deep understanding of the unique issues involved.

Along with their findings, the Institute makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Developing certification programs for professionals to get clinical competence in adoption-related issues.
  • Strengthening and expanding existing programs.
  • Outreach programs to spread awareness of the need for such training.
  • Educating insurance providers about these issues.
  • Expanding research to evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of such training.

You can read the full report here.

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The Beauty of Open Adoption

When we set out on our adoption journey, we quickly realized that Open Adoption was the model that felt right for our family. As we moved through the process, we learned that even for those that set out to have an open adoption, not all end up that way. Some birth mother’s “disappear” for awhile or forever, some adoptive families only want to honor their minimum agreements, and other circumstances come into play.

Open Adoption Family

The Benson’s with daughter Samantha Jane and her birthparents and brother.

We knew that even though we were working through the IAC, we were not guaranteed to be matched with a situation that would be a true open adoption. As I was dreaming of the family we would become, I really hoped that we would end up with a birth family that wanted to maintain involvement in our child’s life. Our dream became a reality and we couldn’t have imagined something more beautiful than what we have.

As many of you may have already encountered, people outside of the open adoption community are often fearful & have a hard time understanding why we would want such openness. Many people think openness is risky or would take something away from us as adoptive parents, that it would make us less of “the real parents”. Thankfully, we have had the opportunity to show so many people around us that is simply not the case. Our family grew by much more than just one adorable little girl. We gained several more people to love her and to love us as her parents.

Our open adoption agreement includes in-person visits every other year (simply because of living on opposite coasts). We share lots of pictures and texts, and have a blog set up so extended family can check in anytime without having to wait for updates. After placement, we were moved to offer to fly our birth family out to visit for our daughter’s first birthday. That choice ended up being an incredibly worthwhile experience.

We had an overnight visit with our birthmother’s aunt, which was absolutely wonderful. The following day, our daughter’s birthparents & 4 year old brother (whom they are parenting) arrived for a week long visit. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another better & enjoying each others company. Perhaps the most special times were seeing the kids play together.

Before the trip, our birthmother told us how happy she was that she had chosen the right family. Nothing could warm my heart more than hearing that. Our time together was very comfortable & natural. They loved getting to know our daughter more & in every way honored us as her parents.

As we shared our visit with our loved ones on Facebook, so many people’s eyes were opened to the beauty of our open adoption. One friend, whose youngest child was adopted was inspired by our experience to reach out to her son’s birth family while on a family vacation to his place of birth. She told me she was initially very irritated at the idea, but took the plunge after seeing our experience. It turned out to be the most beautiful, heartwarming experience for everyone involved.

We are so very grateful to have the loving birth family that we do. Our daughter has even more people to love her. Nothing could have prepared us for the roller-coaster ride we experienced to arrive here, but thankfully we now have our happily ever after. Being able to share this experience with our daughter’s birth family makes it that much richer.


The Adoption-Process-opedia

Byron and Jonathon are IAC adoptive parents from Texas, and maintain an irreverent and hilarious blog about their adoption journey. Here is an excerpt from the homestudy edition:

So we’d decided to become parents through the IAC. Next they had to determine if we would make fit parents.

The Spousal Unit and myself are both male and human (in case you were confused by our picture). In other words; gay. We couldn’t help but wonder if there was some sort of gay parent closet we should have been looking to hide in. As it turns out, the people whose opinions really matter anyway, feel exactly as we’d hoped they would; that we’re as nutty as we ever were and will make the best parents ever!

Although the world has mostly moved on from the formative days of school-aged ostracism and bricks being thrown at one’s head by cowboy kids more concerned with fashion than your average drag-queen, some folks still seem to take issue with “the gays”. Some of the adoption agencies we researched weren’t even open to the idea of same-sex parents. Never mind what the American Psychological Association says, or the  American Academy of Pediatrics says, or the American Medical Association says or the Child Welfare League of America says.

IAC seemed to have their poop in a group, so we gave them our trust and enough money for a new car. During the two-day workshop we were given a three-ring binder. In the old days, before google, we had these giant books called encyclopedias. The IAC client binder is the adoptionprocessopedia.

You owe it to yourself to finish reading about their homestudy epic over on their blog.

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Healing After an Adoption

It took us a while to heal after my husband and I adopted our son. One would think after waiting for four years that we would be elated and all our deep wounds of infertility and childless sorrow would instantaneously go away. Well, it didn’t. We had been through the infertility roller-coaster and were still trying to recover from that when we got the call that we were going to be parents. The whole adoption experience was a whirlwind and then we had our newborn in our arms.

Healing After AdoptionWe experienced joy and love for this new little baby like never before, but we also experienced pain and anger that it took so long for him to come into our lives. We felt elation and excitement to finally have our dreams fulfilled but also resentment and jealousy that we did not get to carry our baby in the womb and give birth to him.  We were so grateful to his birth mother and that she chose us, but also wished we had been allowed to give birth and experience this for ourselves.

As a social worker I struggled with feelings I was not prepared for. Both my husband and I realized we needed to open our hearts and heal after our adoption. After many hours of holding our son, sharing his pictures with his birthmother and having open communication with each other about how were feeling, both my husband and myself started to heal.

Healing after an adoption needs to happen for all involved. Certainly the birth parents are grieving and need to heal as they take on a new role as birth parents and figure out how to have a relationship with their child and his or her parents. This takes time, patience, and courage; three things that birth parents have as they make the decision to place their child. Adoptive parents need this too, and so often we forget that we too are in the process of healing. As an adoptive parent, it took time for me to feel connected completely to this little baby and feel like he was really my son. It also took time for my relationship with the birth parents to take shape and for us to find a comfortable pattern of communication and connection. It took patience with myself to realize I also was grieving the loss of carrying my son in my own womb. I needed to allow myself to grieve and find peace as I accepted that I was a mommy now and forever. It also took patience as I realized my husband’s process of grieving and acceptance was at a different pace than mine. Finally it took courage on both our parts to trust that this new family formation of parents, birth parents and child was really OK and all of us would always stay connected in whatever way we felt comfortable with.

Healing after an adoption is different for everyone involved. Acknowledging you are in need of healing is sometimes the first step. Getting the help you need takes time, patience and courage. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you: family, birth parents, and counselors. Allowing yourself to heal helps to open your heart to accept more love from those who love you the most. Finding peace and acceptance helped my family become closer and created a place were our son would be nurtured, accepted and loved by all his parents.


8 Simple Ways to Make Your Birthmother Letter Stand Out

For families seeking to adopt, it can be hard to decide what to focus on when writing a Birthmother Letter. For birth mothers, reading through multiple profiles while considering the options for her and her child’s future can be similarly challenging. Here are a few tips to help adoptive families develop a letter that rises to the top of the stack and connects with birth parents.

Standing Out from the Crowd1. Use concrete examples.

One of the best ways to paint a picture that helps a potential birth mother visualize the sort of parent(s) you might be is to provide vivid concrete examples. Instead of simply describing your daily routine, mention how you’ll incorporate your child into the things you do. Are there fond experiences from your childhood that you look forward to sharing with your little one? Perhaps birth mom can relate. Use sensory language to describe what you may see, hear, feel, taste, or see, to make your words come to life and communicate warmly.

2. Show empathy.

Reach out to birth mom directly, especially at the beginning and ending of your letter. While you don’t know exactly what she may be dealing with while considering open adoption, acknowledge that this is a special time in her life and that you want to be there for support if she needs it. Each birth mom’s story is different; so don’t make assumptions. We don’t know that this is the most difficult thing she’s ever done before, and even if it is, she doesn’t need anyone to add pressure by telling her that. Continue reading »

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Are Babies Too Distracting?

The Murphy’s are a current IAC adoptive family from San Leandro. They’ve been to several support groups, and Donal Murphy has written a modest proposal for future meetings:

My wife and I have been attending the monthly support group meetings at our adoption agency, Independent Adoption Center (IAC), to keep fresh and up-to-date on some of the important issues in open adoption. It also helps provide a sense of momentum in our journey and an opportunity to connect with other adoptive parents in-waiting. And of course it doesn’t hurt that there’s always bowls of candy in the IAC lobby. I find it very satisfying that regardless of where I plop down, there’s a bowl within arms-length. Thank you IAC candy fairy!

Each time we go there’s usually a guest adoptive couple at the meeting who’ve brought their baby along to give their perspective on whatever the topic is that night. At a recent meeting, there were not one, but three couples present who had recently adopted, one baby as young as eleven days old.

But I’m very displeased! Those babies are an absolute and utter distraction and I urge the IAC to ban them from these meetings! I’m transfixed. I’m mesmerized. I’m spellbound by these tiny bundles of cuteness. So captivated am I that in Charlie Brown fashion, the facilitator’s words at the meeting sound exactly like those of Charlie’s teacher: “Wah, wah, wah, wah…” How am I supposed to learn and stay up-to-date with all of this distraction? It’s unacceptable!

Is he kidding? You’ll have to read the whole post to find out.

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Saying Farewell to the Crib and Hello to the Big-kid Bed

Most toddlers can physically climb out of their crib by the time they’re 35 inches tall, although some adventurous toddlers master crib escape sooner. Dr. Mark Widome, professor of pediatrics in Hershey, Pa., encourages parents to transition climbing toddlers out of their crib and into a toddler bed for safety reasons. You’ll also want to move your growing child out of the crib when his body grows too long for the crib or when you need the crib for a new baby. No matter why you need to make the transition, remember these six tips that help your toddler adjust to the move.

1. Ask for Help Assembling the New Bed

Let your toddler wipe off the crib mattress before storing it or prepping it for the new baby. He can also assist you in assembling his new bed. As he helps participate in the transition, he gains a sense of accomplishment. Those feelings encourage your child to embrace his new big-boy bed.

2. New Sheets for His New Bed

Choosing a mattress is an important step of this process. If you choose to do a twin bed, your child will likely be sleeping on it for years to come, so it needs to be able to stand the test of time. After examining Macy’s mattress selection, buy a comfortable one and let your child choose new bed linens. You can easily find a selection of character toddler bed sheets for under $20 at your local department, baby or consignment store. In addition to new sheets, a light-up or musical stuffed animal provides comfort as your child adjusts to a new sleeping environment.

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Instagram – Picture Open Adoption

Do you love pictures of babies, families and everything open adoption? Well now you can see all of that right on your phone! The Independent Adoption Center recently became hip to the wonderful world of Instagram and we have created an account. We will be posting everything open adoption related, from family pictures and adoption quotes, to pictures of our events. We welcome all alumni (adoptive parents, birthparents and adoptees) to send us pictures they’d like to post, along with your user name if you’d like us to follow you back. Our user name is iacadoption, feel free to tag us in any of your photos that are adoption related! Please send photos to and let’s get this picture party going!

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What’s So Important About Positive Adoption Language?

Positive adoption language (PAL) means more than just being politically correct, or in the know, about adoption language.  It really does have deep seated roots and evokes emotions that affect each member of the triad in a different way.  However, the overall consensus is that PAL embraces the true spirit of adoption, particularly open adoption, and uplifts the members of the triad, building self-esteem, confidence, and healing.

Positive Adoption LanguageCommon adoption terms that are confused are:

  • Placing your child for adoption VS giving up your child for adoption
  • Deciding to parent the child VS deciding to keep the child
  • Birthmother/birthfather VS real parents
  • Adoptive parents VS not the real parents
  • My birthson/birthdaughter VS my real or natural-born child

Using positive adoption language in your home and around your child will have a positive impact on your child’s self esteem.  It is important for your child to know the love, care, and concern that went into their adoption plan.  Using simple terms such as, “chose to place for adoption” can convey that care and concern.  Negative terms such as, “gave up for adoption,” conveys that there was not much thought that went into the decision.  It also implies that there was something wrong with the child and that is why they were “given up.”  Typically, we give up things that are bad for us: smoking, drinking, gambling, etc.  Children are not “given up for adoption.”  The birthparents take painstaking effort to  choose the parents they believe will be perfect for their child.  There is a lot of love in that process, more than most can imagine.

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Tax Reform Must Preserve Adoption Tax Credit

Our friends over at Save The Adoption Tax Credit working group have put out an action alert in response to upcoming tax reform efforts in the Senate.

Adoption Tax CreditIn late June Senators were informed that the Joint Committee on Taxation would be starting their work with a blank slate, and were asked to submit their own priorities for tax reform. Senators were told that to be included in the revised tax code, each provision must:

  1. help grow the economy,
  2. make the tax code fairer, or
  3. effectively promote other important policy objectives.

In response, Save The Adoption Tax Credit is asking everyone to reach out to their Senators and urge them to preserve the credit in the reform process. You can read their recommendations for action, and look up your Senators contact information on their blog.

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