Open Adoption Blog

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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Waiting for Adoption

By the time you decide to start the adoption journey, you may have already been waiting to become parents for a long time. When you finally sign an agency contract, pay some fees and are ready to start: then comes more waiting. There is waiting for paperwork to be completed, home studies to be scheduled, criminal clearances to come in, and letters to be approved. All this waiting is only the precursor to the big wait and that is for a birth parent to contact you and then for the right birth parent to contact you.

Woman waiting for the adoption call

Does a watched phone never ring?

So how do we handle the wait? The reality is that there will be days when the wait is just hard and no amount of ideas will help you. But you can do things that help you put the wait into perspective.

First of all realizing that there is a process and that there are many others who have gone before you and have eventually adopted can help you. There are professionals there to help you achieve your goals and they have helped many others and know the journey first hand.

When you finally get yourself officially out there for birth parent contact it can be very exciting at first, but after a while you may feel a little down. Before you had your profile approved you were somewhat in control of getting paperwork completed, uploading pictures, and creating a letter. Now when there is nothing to do but wait for the phone to ring or an email to come it, time seems to slow way down. This kind of wait can sometimes seem like a free fall wait. There is nothing you can do, things are out of your control and waiting for a date somewhere out there in the dark is really hard to do.

There are things you can do to help yourself cope with the seemingly endless wait. Making little goals with a time line attached will help. Make goals that you can put on a calendar, this helps you see an end in sight. These goals can be about the adoption like marketing using Facebook or Youtube videos, or they can have nothing to do with the adoption like finishing a project around the house, going on a trip, or reading a book. The really helpful thing is to have a timeline when you will accomplish that task. This will help you focus on something you can see the end of. This will give you a sense of satisfaction while you wait for a call from a birth parent that you have no control over.

Finding ways to be kind to yourself and your partner are very essential. Everyone is in a different place during the journey of adoption. Some can busy themselves with work and life and appear to be handling the wait just fine. Others can get highly focused on wanting to be a parent that they feel at a loss. Allowing yourself to process the wait in a way that helps you is truly important as well as permitting your partner and other family members to do this too. Taking time to discuss ways to help each other and being understanding of one another’s needs, will help you have a more productive wait time. It is often too easy to take out frustration on those we love and are the closest to us. Recognizing that a partner or family member are struggling then responding with encouragement or space can really help.

Thinking of the wait in a positive way can also help. Waiting is part of the journey. This is a time to prepare to be parents. Remembering that you will be parents is important. You may get discouraged at times but meeting with other adoptive parents who have completed an adoption can give you hope. You will be able to see that adoption does happen and you will be parents. Some have found that making a journal or scrapbook of the wait helps them focus on the positive part of the wait and remember to enjoy the journey and look forward to the destination.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Well I have to agree it is better once your baby is placed in your arms. Just like women who have gone through childbirth report that when the baby is placed in their arms all the pain of the labor and delivery fade somewhat, this is also true of the “wait” for adoptive parents. This has been my experience. Notice I said fade not completely erase. You will remember the time you waited, but the negativity will decrease and you will most likely decide it was worth it.

Be cautious not to compare your wait time to anyone else’s. Everyone has heard about the adopted parents who got contacted and placed with a baby the week they were in circulation. It is difficult to hear those kinds of successes especially if you have been waiting more than a year. Remembering that everyone’s journey is unique and special to them is important for your own sanity and will help with the wait. Your baby will come and it will be at the right time for you.

Finally while you are waiting make sure to remember to take time for your family. Don’t put off things you want and need to do. Life goes on and so should you. Being part of the adoptive parent waiting club is unique and can come with challenges. Find a friend who is going through it or who has gone through it. Rely on others who have been there and most importantly trust in the process. Many, many families have been blessed with the right baby through adoption. Trust that it will happen for you too. You are not alone. Just as a butterfly must face the long wait in the cocoon and then struggle to emerge, eventually the butterfly is strong, beautiful and completely unique just like each of our families will be after the long wait is over.

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We’re nearing that time of year again of giving thanks and giving back and it’s never too early to start! The Concord office has already begun our support for the Toys for Tots program this year and have received our box this week to become a drop-off site for Contra Costa County.

Toys for Tots at Independent Adoption Center

Jennifer displays our Toys for Tots box!

The Toys for Tots program became an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995. Their mission is to collect new toys from October through December to distribute to less fortunate children in the community. The goal is to send a message of hope to these children by providing a new toy for them at Christmas, that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive.

So don’t be shy and stop on by the Independent Adoption Center before December 15th! We’re open from 9-5PM at 2300 Clayton Rd, Ste 1150, Concord, CA 94520

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Florida’s newest adoption agency: Independent Adoption Center

Independent Adoption Center (IAC), the nation’s leading open adoption agency, has opened the doors at its newest office in Tampa, Florida. Adoptive parents and birthparents in Florida will now have access to the full range of trusted IAC adoption services.

Florida Adoption AgencyThe new office is located at 3030 N Rocky Point Drive W, Suite 150, right off the Courtney Campbell Causeway on the west side of town. Adoption Workshops will be held on a monthly basis, the first one was held on November 12, 2013. There are currently six adoptive families already signed up with IAC’s Florida branch, and over 130 pregnant women in Florida have contacted IAC this year to receive pregnancy counseling or adoption information.

“We look forward to providing open adoption services as well as LGBT-friendly services to birth and adoptive families in Florida,” said Ann Wrixon, IAC’s Executive Director.

IAC’s mission is to provide open adoption placement and counseling to birth and adoptive families to ensure that every child grows up feeling loved and supported. Having a presence in Florida, the fourth most populous state in the country, will contribute to achieving this mission. With the addition of this new office, IAC now provides complete in-state adoption services to over 40% of the US population.

“Our Florida office offers another option to families who might have been excluded from working with other agencies,” said Michelle Keyes, LMSW, IAC’s Florida Branch Director. “We are looking forward to building partnerships with entities in Florida and providing quality services to all members of the adoption triad.”

If you are interested in working with an adoption agency in Florida, please give us a call (877) 977-2144.

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Preparing for a Home Study: What You Need to Know

The first thing to keep in mind when preparing for the home study portion of the adoption process is to realize that we are not trying to exclude or disqualify a family from adopting.  We want you to adopt!

Homestudy interview

Home studies can be easy!

Most issues that would disqualify a family from adopting are found before the actual home study through background clearances, physicals, therapist letters, etc during the information gathering stage of the process.  If there are concerns with a family’s actual home they are typically fixable, and we can usually give the family that opportunity to correct whatever concern was noted.  Things such as smoke detectors not working or medications not being out of reach of a child are easily correctable.  If concern is noted with information a family provided during the interviews, we will address those concerns with the family and determine if there is a way to move past them.  In some instances, this may require additional classes, trainings, or evaluations, but typically, adoptive families are given the chance to address any concern.

It’s also important to understand why there are so many regulations and requirements in a home study.  Some of the requirements are agency requirements, based on what they determine to be best practice.  Other requirements are determined by the state you live in, and a few are determined by federal law.  The reason behind so many different requirements is that, when a family wants to adopt, an agency has to attest that they believe that family will make a good adoptive family and provide a child with a safe, stable and stimulating environment.  We have to evaluate every angle and address every concern brought up so that we can be confident when approving a family to adopt.

So what do you really need to know about preparing for a home study?

  • We won’t look under your beds or in your closets (unless there is something suspicious!).
  • We don’t have a white glove to test for dirt and grime.
  • You don’t have to have a nursery set up.
  • You don’t have to baby proof your home.
  • You don’t have to bake the social worker cookies.
  • We will be looking for a safe and appropriate space in which to raise a child, including an appropriate room that is designated to become baby’s room.
  • We will be looking for general safety including appropriate safety concerning bodies of water and fire arms.
  • We will ensure you are aware of the potential hazards in your home and agree to address them once your child becomes mobile (baby proofing).
  • We will be testing your smoke detectors during the visit and looking for fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • We will be ensuring your hot water will not scald a child and your pets are friendly and vaccinated.
  • We will be checking to ensure your medications and alcohol are kept out of reach of children and your cleaning chemicals are not stored next to your food.

We will also be conducting interviews with you.  The number and location of interviews varies from state to state.  The interviews are not meant to fool you or catch you off guard.  They are to expand on information already provided to the agency and gather more pieces of your social history.  The interviews provide the opportunity for the social worker to further assess your reasoning, thoughts, and values about parenting as well as clear up any missing pieces from your paperwork.

It’s important to be prepared for the home study process and if you have specific questions, check with your social worker to have those concerns addressed.  While the home study is one aspect of the adoption process that is often feared and causes a lot of anxiety, most families will exclaim it’s much easier than they anticipated!

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Ways to Pay for an Adoption

Editors note: This is a guest post by Phoebe Stevens, a former financial adviser.

The average cost of delivering a baby in the U.S. is around $30,000, according to a 2013 study by Truven Health Analytics. You might think that it is less expensive to adopt, but adoption fees can range from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $40,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. You can scrimp and save for years to afford to adopt, or you can take advantage programs specifically designed for parents looking to expand their families. (You can view IAC’s adoption fees here)

Several organizations, such as the National Adoption Foundation and the Gift of Adoption Fund, provide grants to eligible soon-to-be parents. The Gift of Adoption fund has granted nearly $2 million to help more than 650 children be adopted. You can apply for a grant from the fund after you have had an approved home study.

The fund doesn’t consider the number of children you might have, your religion or beliefs, your race, age or sexual orientation when awarding the grant. What does matter is your financial need and your willingness to go through with the adoption. Grants from the Gift of Adoption fund range from $1,000 to $7,500. The average grant is around $3,500.

The National Adoption Foundation awards grants ranging from $500 to $2,000. The fund doesn’t look at income when awarding grants and its grants are for any type of adoption, including domestic. The foundation awards grants four times a year.

If you aren’t eligible for a grant, you might consider borrowing money to pay for an adoption. The National Adoption Foundation has partnered with two peer-to-peer lending programs, Prosper and Lending Club. Both programs allow you to borrow up to $35,000, often at competitive interest rates. The rate you receive is based on your credit score and history.

Depending on the interest rate on your credit card, you might find that using it to finance an adoption is a less expensive option. If you are eligible for a credit card with 0 percent interest or a very low rate, consider applying for it to pay for adoption expenses. The same is true of taking out a personal loan from your bank, but only if it offers a low interest rate.

Rearranging Your Financial Life
Making changes to your financial life can help you pay for an adoption. For example, if you are paying a high interest rate, above five percent, it might make sense to refinance. If you choose a cash-out refinance, you’ll receive a lump sum after you close. You can use the amount remaining after the first mortgage is paid off to pay for the adoption.

Another option is to get cash for structured settlement payments or an annuity by selling them. Instead of receiving a monthly payment over the course of many years, which isn’t helpful when you need a large amount of money, you’ll get your money in one lump sum.

You can also turn to friends, family and complete strangers for financial assistance. Start an online adoption fundraiser at a site such as YouCaring or GoFundMe. Promote your fundraiser through email or social media and ask your friends and family to spread the word. Keep in mind that some sites do charge fees and will take a portion of any money you raise.

About the author
Phoebe was a financial adviser for a Wall Street bank until she moved to the suburbs. She has a small clientele base and enjoys sharing what she has learned from them.


Rehoming Adoption, and How to Fix It.

IAC is aware of this practice called “re-homing” where families illegally move adopted children (most frequently internationally adopted children) to new families without any oversight from child welfare authorities. Unfortunately, this is only technically illegal if the child crosses state lines as this violates the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC). If not, there are no laws to prevent this activity within a state.

For families who adopt out of the foster-care system, there are services available to help the new family adjust to any psychological or behavioral issues stemming from early childhood trauma. There are even agencies who specialize in finding new placements for children after a previous placement does not work out. Unfortunately, many families who adopt internationally may not know that these services exist, or may not want to go through the expense, emotion, and time that is required to ethically disrupt an adoption.

In addition, many families either are not informed or chose to ignore the information that children (especially older children) adopted internationally may have experienced a variety of trauma, that will make parenting a challenge. This is also true of domestically adopted children if they experienced abuse or neglect before placement, but domestic adoption agencies provide a variety of services to help parents in this situation and to ethically handle a disrupted adoption.

IAC applauds Yahoo for shutting down the chat rooms where many of these “re-homing” arrangements were made. We are also thankful the private Facebook page, called “Way Stations of Love” appears to have been deleted.

Finally, IAC would like to see states and the federal government pass laws that require parents to report to child welfare officials whenever they sign temporary guardianship papers, and for the child welfare officials to investigate the circumstances. The law would need to include a provision that schools, social workers, health care workers and other mandated reporters notify child welfare officials of these arrangements when they find out about them so as to ensure that children are protected in case child welfare officials were not notified.



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