Open Adoption Blog

Out in Open Adoption

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a story written by Davidson Lloyd, an adoptive parent and one of the first gay couples to adopt through the Independent Adoption Center.

Albany“Oh, you’re a gay couple,” a cynic said, “you’ll wait a long time to adopt a child.”

Many times in the journey of our relationship we talked about bringing a child into our family. We had excuses: we’re not ready. (Is anyone ever ready for children?) We don’t have enough money. Money never stopped our own parents from having five children, respectively. We wondered if our moment would ever arrive or would we keep putting it off until it was a dream of something we wanted to do but never pursued with full passion?

In October of 1997 my then partner, now husband, Tom Keegan’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her illness was sudden, unexpected and shocking to the family. She was “The Mother.” She raised five children of her own and partially raised five from her second marriage. By Thanksgiving the cancer had spread rapidly throughout her body and we lost her on December 1st. Tom was at her side when she died. That night he called me from the hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

His voice was quiet but edged with emotion, ”I feel this is the time to bring a child into our lives,” he said. Silently, on the other end of the telephone, I began to cry. There was no denying the mutual feeling transmitting through the telephone wires. That night, from separate American coasts, we placed an order for a baby far out into the universe.

We launched into research: visiting agencies, exploring surrogacy (far too expensive), investigating foster-to-adopt possibilities, adoption through a lawyer, the County, foreign adoptions, or a facilitator. We went to adoption workshops, seminars, classes and plowed through volumes of adoption books, magazines, and articles.

In 1998 we were in the vanguard of a wave of male couples becoming parents. The gayby boom was beginning to flower. Gay men were breaking through society’s prejudice that gay men, single and in relationships could not be parents; could not care for, nurture, support, love, or understand the complexities and realities of childrearing. Parenting is not gender specific. Good parenting comes from within. Just because you can make a baby doesn’t mean you can parent one.

After months of searching we chose an adoption agency, the Independent Adoption Center (IAC). We were attracted to the IAC because their mission was “open adoption,” where there might be some kind of contact with the birthparent(s) after the baby was born.

The IAC, at this time, had had only two same-sex adoption clients, a female couple and a male couple. They recommended we contact them. One couple said: “Your lives will change forever.” The second couple said: “It’s the most challenging job you’ll ever have and the most rewarding.”

I think we were hoping for something more; something that was particular to “gay parenting.” We would have to find answers through our own baby experience. It was an unknown adventure our hearts were about to embark upon.

You can read the rest of the story in an upcoming edition of “True Stories of Open Adoption.” To get the first edition visit

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The Gift of Two

Editor’s Note: In this post, adoptive parents Maura Montellano & Kat Wetherbee, talk about how they adopted twice from the same birthmother, and the bond they all share.

IMG_3167June 22, 2010, and July 25, 2013, will always be milestones for my wife, Katherine, and I. They are the dates when we learned we’d be mothers. After years of disappointment, hoping and waiting to be parents, we have now been blessed twice. Our oldest daughter, Gia Belén, was born in December 2010 and our younger daughter, Ava Simóne, was born in March 2014.

Our daughters’ birth mother Ashleigh’s choice to place these two girls in our lives has forever changed the trajectory of our lives, her children’s lives and her own life. Since meeting, we have enjoyed a sincere, unparalleled open relationship – sharing photos, videos and texts of our daughters almost daily.

But I’ll back up a little to explain how we got here. In July 2013, Katherine, Ashleigh and I met for our annual dinner to celebrate Ashleigh’s birthday. At that time, we only had our daughter Gia, who was 2½ years old. During the course of the evening, we mentioned that we were considering adopting again and asked Ashleigh to share her thoughts about it. It was important for us because she is a part of our family now, and a sibling for our daughter and another birth mother joining our family circle would have been an adjustment. She was excited for us and for Gia to have a sibling to grow up with. We jokingly agreed to have her tag along to meet any prospective birth mothers so she could give us her take on them.

When Ashleigh called two weeks later, we could not have guessed her news or her request. She had just learned she was pregnant. She had a seven-year-old son and was not ready to parent a second child. Would we be willing to adopt this baby?

Through the years, we have watched Ashleigh grow from her experience of placing, and have proudly witnessed her peace and advocacy for open adoption. She has blossomed as a mother to her young son learning invaluable lessons about motherhood, life and unconditional love. She handles adversity with aplomb, and in spite of setbacks that would make many of us buckle to our knees, she perseveres

Her life has not been without its struggles, including a teenage pregnancy, a dark period of drug addiction, rehab, sobriety (nearly 8 years strong), and the controversy about placing for a second time. Although many friends and family were happy and proud of her when she placed Gia, placing for a second time seemed irresponsible to them and many openly disapproved of her choice.

I think she did a much better job than I did of coming up with the right response for those who questioned her. Initially, I was defensive in my responses to questions about her “irresponsible” lifestyle choices. We were taken aback by the lack of compassion and analogies used to compare the situation. To hear negative comments from some family and friends when sharing our news was by far the most surprising to us. We did our best, however, to stay away from defending Ashleigh, and focused instead on the bravery, strength and absolute love required to do what’s best for her child.

As we did with Gia, we were in the delivery room when Ava was born. It was an extraordinary moment when she took her first breath. We watched as she was weighed and we all gasped – 9.7 pounds of pure love! Later, we visited Ashleigh in her room and we gushed with joy. We knew she was genuinely happy for us and at peace with her adoption decision. Early in our match, Ashleigh had made the difficult choice to not  hold Ava in the hospital; she had done the same with Gia. It was the only way she could do what she felt in her heart was the best for the children, she said. Her plan was to meet the girls when they were older and when they requested to meet her.

But life unfolds in its own wonderful way. Continue reading »

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Our Adoption Journey

Editor’s Note: IAC’s hopeful adoptive parent, Nicole Davis, shares what led her and her husband to ultimately choose open adoption.

VJT_3892When Don and I met and started dating, I knew there was a very real possibility I couldn’t have children. It was a discussion we needed to have because my problem would become his if we got married. I was very fortunate that he said “We’ll cross that bridge together someday when we’re ready.” That someday would come seven years later after we’d been married a few years. We began the infertility path with the usual tests and charts. I was referred to the Infertility and endocrine center where we did additional, painful tests and determined surgery might be the key. So as I signed a waiver that said 1 in 1,000 who have this surgery will have a puncture; we moved forward. I’d be that 1 in 1000 15 minutes into the procedure, so it wasn’t finished. After that we reevaluated our options to start a family.

It took many tear filled days and nights over the years as we went from infertility to looking into adoption options. We didn’t have the resources then with the internet in its infancy. Every time I thought I’d found a viable agency I’d find it had closed or was cost prohibitive. We were looking to do international adoptions as well as domestic and just kept coming against a wall. We then discussed not even trying to have a family. That is always a family option but it wasn’t in my heart or his. We adore kids and want to be a family someday. We concentrated on our work, family, and friends. Even as our friends, my younger brother and cousins were all having families of their own, we just kept working and enjoying our time with their children. It was always in the back of our minds though that we’d have to finish grieving and move forward. Moving on meant we’d either look into adoption or just be a childless couple. We chose adoption as our option.

When we learned of the Independent Adoption Center and its open adoption with lifetime counseling for all involved in the adoption triad, we jumped in with both feet. We were only familiar with closed and semi-open adoptions until then and the openness really appealed to us. It would take us about 9 months to get everything completed and the wait would begin. They say the wait is the hardest part and really it doesn’t sink in when you’re busy completing paper work, the home study, and your profile. I think it keeps you so busy you don’t realize that the wait leaves you nothing to do but wait. The trick is to keep living but I even spent the first year of the wait putting off a trip that would take us to Europe for fear “the call” would come and we’d miss it. We took trips around the U.S but it’s so easy to hop on the next flight here and get where we need to be, unlike traveling abroad. We have adjusted to living again and have chosen to take the trip anyway this year and if we do get “the call” we can change our trip itinerary. The wait has its own timeline we can’t control and that can be frustrating as hopeful adoptive parents. We’ve been waiting over a year but I know our extended family is out there we just have to wait for them to find us.

To learn more about Nicole & Donald you can visit their iheartadoption profile

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Making Marketing Fun

Let’s face it, the majority of us hate marketing ourselves. We’ve all been through job interviews and dating – to name a couple examples of this process. We’ve worried ourselves by trying to make the best first impression so that things go smoothly. Writing an adoption letter, creating a facebook page, an adoption profile, etc. is very similar because it’s all about presenting yourself so that people get a true Dog watching a moviesense of who you are so that hopefully they say, “That’s the one!” I want to break down some ways to help make the process of “marketing” less painful, along with some resources to help spread the word about your plans to adopt:

  1. Be YOU. I’m sure you’ve heard it before from your counselor, but I can’t reiterate it enough. Be nothing less than you. You wouldn’t want someone to choose you based on anything other than that. At the end of the day, the right fit will only be right when you are sticking to what you know how to do most: being you.
  2. Share your thoughts along the journey. There are so many avenues to express thoughts, fears, hopes, etc. during the wait – why not share it! You can contribute to our blog, websites like Tiny Buddha, or you can start your own blog. Not only is this cathartic, but the more it is shared the more people will see your post and get the word out. The right expectant mother might just come across your post and feel a connection. Regardless of the results, it helps you and other families who might be going through similar feelings.
  3. Share something you feel is unique to you as a person, your relationship, or your life story. Sharing your experiences, including outside the adoption wait, help to convey a sense of who you are as a person. And often the things we go through, connect with how we’ve learned to handle the trials of today. Share how that has shaped your adoption journey and you as a person.
  4. Utilize additional networks that are fun and not a lot of “work” to get your name out there – Instagram & Pinterest are good ones. Instagram shares your life in pictures and Pinterest – well you know – all the boards, all the pins! It’s pretty addicting. Building a presence online is important and these are fun ways to do it.
  5. Ultimately, blog and post when you feel the inspiration. Don’t force yourself to write/share for the sake of just writing something, it takes away its purpose of being an authentic representation of you. And the posts that come natural, won’t feel like work.

Happy Marketing!

Additional resources:

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Try, Try Again

Editor’s Note: IAC’s hopeful waiting adoptive parent, Ana Ogilvie, shares how her and her husband never gave up on trying in the face of adversity.

lR5DV7lPu1IY2Dk5j2vYUcFamI2S-dis-BDSUd-ipZEMy husband, David, and I have a love affair with TRYING. No matter the disappointment, we have always found ways to pick ourselves up from the fall, grasp hands in the dark, and put the puzzle pieces of our life back together again. Even I’m not sure how we do it much of the time, but we do. It’s a gift we share and one neither of us takes for granted. This is not to say that this seemingly “innate” ability to recover from tremendous loss isn’t very hard work, because it is. In fact, it’s utterly soul-grinding. But somehow, we survive with our ability to hope, imagine, and believe still intact. We can always find one more new way to keep on trying for the things that are most important to us. I know in my heart of hearts, that building our family is our try of a lifetime.

So far, creating our family has been a marathon of experiences, with many “ins and outs and what-have-yous” to quote “The Dude.” Where and how we’ve focused our efforts has changed a lot over time and circumstance. Like so many others, we began our journey unable to conceive on our own. We practically beat down the doors of our nearby university infertility clinic by the time that year was up. We needed help and we knew it. We were so hopeful and it was so easy for “tryers” like David and I to wholeheartedly embrace all the procedures, calendars, injections, and instructions. We believed it could work. But with all of this hopeful action and “doing,” came the inevitable passage of time and constant doubt.

I experienced a whole slew of intense negative emotions like isolation, jealousy, and self-absorption to name a few. Things I can say I never felt before. I don’t regret this time because it paved the way to our daughter, Molly, and it constituted a momentous chapter in our life story. However, I realize it was also a time when we lost very important parts of ourselves as well; the lovely parts that made us, US. By the time we experienced our fourth pregnancy that ended with a third and final loss, we were devastated and we were done. We wanted OUT.

I cannot describe the depth of love we feel for our Molly; she is our dream come true. But in our very deepest core, we know she is not the only child who lives in our hearts. We closed the doors of the infertility clinic one final time and with a great heaving sigh of relief, we set forth on a new journey: Open Adoption.

It’s amazing how a simple phrase like “open adoption” can embody so many emotions and so much hope: for your life, your family’s life, a birthmother’s life, and the lives of many others. Talk about a shift in gears. David’s and my definition of “trying” was instantly re-framed the moment we left the IAC office after our very first orientation meeting. Outside in the hallway, we locked eyes with each other at once, did a quick check to make sure no one else was around, and gave each other the biggest, high-flying high-five EVER. I’ll never forget what David said at that moment. He said “SLAM DUNK.” And it was. We wanted this. We wanted free from the shackles of infertility and pregnancy; we wanted to be free to breathe. And, we wanted to be free to love, to hope, to imagine, to believe again. Open adoption was it.

Whatever this journey requires; we will do. We will try our very best. And I’ll tell you, this kind of “trying” has been a gift for us. It has allowed us to find those lovely parts of ourselves again. It’s been about thinking of others before ourselves, and reaching out to accept help from loved ones, new friends, and strangers, then turning around to offer it back again. It’s been about rediscovering the innate goodness in all people and humbly walking miles in another person’s shoes. This process has encouraged us to get BIG, BIGGER, and hopefully, become the BIGGEST we’ve ever been. All I have to say is… thank goodness.

David’s and my legacy to our children will be “TRY your very best with everything you do. Try even harder for the things that mean the world to you. And never give up on your dreams. We didn’t, and we found YOU.”

To learn more about Ana & David you can visit their iheartadoption profile


Benefits of Ongoing Contact

Why open adoption? Why ongoing contact? Why invite strangers into your life and make an agreement stating you will have contact with them for the next 18 years? Won’t they come back and take the child? What if your child wants to go live with them? Won’t your child be confused about who their parent is? Why, why why…?

ongoing-contactI’m sure some of you have had these, and many other, questions from those around you as you pursue your open adoption journey. As well-meaning as your loved ones are, sometimes their questions can become tiresome. When you embark on an adoption journey, and specifically an open adoption journey, you often need to field these questions and (when you feel it’s appropriate) take the time to educate others about the benefits of openness and ongoing contact. It is important to dispel rumors and falsehoods so that our families, our children’s birthparents, and our children will not face scrutiny, discrimination and prejudice because of adoption.

While openness can be scary at first, the benefits of ongoing contact are numerous. I think the true benefits come when our children are adults and when we can all look back – the parents, birthparents, and the child – and see the magnitude of what having an open adoption really meant for everyone involved. The true benefits can only be felt by those involved. And those are the people that matter the most.

Ongoing contact means answers. Answers to your child’s many questions of, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Who do I look like? Why didn’t my birthparents raise me? What’s my medical history? Do my birthparents ever think about me? Do my birthparents love me? Do I have birth siblings? Do my birthparents want me back?”

Ongoing contact means comfort. Comfort for the adoptive parents when they ask, “Do my child’s birthparents regret their decision? Am I doing as good a job as I promised? Do my child’s birthparents hate me for raising their child? Are my child’s birthparents planning to come take my child back? What is my child’s medical history? How do I answer my child’s questions? Do I know my child’s birthparents loved them so I can explain that love to my child? How do I help my child through their grief?”

Ongoing contact means healing. Healing for the birthparents who selflessly and courageously placed their precious child into a family better suited to care for him or her. Healing for when they ask, “Did I make the right decision? Does my child hate me? Is the family happy? Is my child healthy? Does my child know I love them? Does my child know why I couldn’t parent? Does my child know how much care went into choosing the perfect parent/s for them? I have new information to share, where can I find my child? Does my child know I think about them all the time?”

I can only imagine the questions are endless. However, when you have openness and ongoing contact, you actually have answers, comfort and healing. You can have ongoing discussions and share new information as it develops rather than filling out one history form before the child is even born. You can get to know each other and develop a loving, natural relationship. You can affirm, validate and embrace relationships and feelings rather than hide them away in secrecy. You can focus on moving forward and what the future holds instead of worrying and wondering about the past.

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What is Post-Adoption Depression?

Many people have heard of Postpartum Depression, a clinical diagnosis characterized by symptoms of depression that occur after a woman gives birth to a child. What many people may not know is that a similar type of depression can also frequently occur with new parents of all types, including adoptive parents.

Depressed womanIt is estimated that Post-Adoption Depression affects 18% – 26% of mothers who become parents through adoption. The research has yet to be done on adoptive fathers, but the fact that the path to becoming an adoptive parent is similar for both mothers and fathers, the likely conclusion is that the numbers would be similar.

Many researchers point to factors along the path towards becoming an adoptive parent as likely factors contributing to developing depression. These include the extreme fatigue that occurs after becoming a new parent, unrealistic expectations of parenthood, a lack of community support, and adjustment to a profound life change.   All of these factors can seem magnified to a parent who may have the added stress of having dealt with the chaos of emotions associated with an adoption placement.

On top of becoming new parents, many adoptive parents have experienced the emotions associated with infertility, birthparent relationships, legal uncertainties, and in some cases failed adoption efforts along their path to becoming parents. This often leaves a wave of emotions that adoptive parents must sort through at a time when they are trying to redefine their life roles and adjust to the demands of caring for a newborn.

Dr. Karen Foli, an Associate Professor and researcher from Purdue University notes that, “a common thread in my research has been the assumption that if the mom didn’t carry the child for nine months or go through a physical labor, the parents don’t need help in the same manner as birth mothers do.” This assumption may leave many adoptive parents without the help they need to begin their lives as parents.

Many adoptive parents may be confused or frustrated when, instead of feeling the immediate bliss they anticipated once a new baby was placed, they find themselves feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed, tired, and less supported by their community than they did when actively working towards an adoption placement. It is important for adoptive parents to be aware that Post-Adoption Depression exists, and if it occurs they should be comfortable seeking out help.

Symptoms of Post-Adoption Depression and anxiety can include feelings of fatigue, sadness, anger, or numbness.  A person experiencing this type of depression may also struggle with brain fog (the inability to focus, multi-task, or recall the right word when speaking), scary thoughts (often imagining the worst case scenario and attempting to mitigate risks), insomnia, obsessions, compulsions, and even physical symptoms including headaches, nausea, and panic attacks.

Treatment for depression usually includes a combination of therapy and medication and is typically very effective at resolving the problem. In fact, research shows that the quicker a person seeks treatment, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. Individuals who believe they may be experiencing depression after an adoption placement should contact a licensed counselor for assessment and treatment.

See the links below for more information on this topic:

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Sound Investments

Editor’s Note: IAC’s Adoptive Parent, Cory Rayborn, shares how his hobby turned into a way to help fund adoption for him and his wife.

My after-hours “hobby” for the last fourteen years has been the operation of an independent record label. The label grew out of my love of music and, in part, an interest in record collecting. I love scouring the used bins at record stores and music sections of antique shops. There have been many times over the years when I have had the opportunity to pick up copies of particularly collectible records at good prices. I’ve stashed those finds aside for what I assumed would be future use as trade bait for other records, sale items, or low-stakes “investments.” I never would have imagined when picking these titles up over time that they would eventually play a direct role in our adoption quest.

It most likely won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this blog that private infant adoption requires some decent-sized upfront costs. One day it dawned on me that our adoption adventure would be the perfect occasion to liquidate some of the extra titles I had accumulated over time, as well as a few other noteworthy items that could be weaned from my personal record collection. To date, we have sold a little more than $6,000 of rare and otherwise collectible records, an amount that has significantly lightened the load that would have otherwise come out of pocket. Pretty impressive for an accumulation of experimental and avant-garde records!

Our funding methods have been unique to our particular situation, just as every adoptive family will have their own methods that make the most sense for them. The key is to find what makes the most sense for your family while also being worth your time. For some ideas of methods that might work for you, I suggest this in-depth read on different financing alternatives that Vanessa McGrady assembled for Forbes.

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An Open Letter to Santa Claus

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by IAC’s hopeful adoptive parents, Jason Hedden & Danny Yuska, writing for their one Christmas wish.

Dearest Kringle,

letter-to-santaI know it has been years since my last letter in which I requested He-Man action figures and a Cabbage Patch Kid. You always came through for me as a child and now as an adult I’m seeking your help once again. Through all the commercialism of the holiday, I have never stopped believing in your spirit and I know it resides in all of us.

My husband, Danny, and I have been married legally now for over three years. We both agreed early on in our relationship that we want a large family. We both come from large families and together we have seven nephews and two nieces who we love and adore very much. In watching our siblings’ families we’ve decided to take the step toward open adoption.

This has been a long journey in the making. We spent one year researching different agencies, visiting their offices and reading anything we could get our hands on. We felt best connected to the Independent Adoption Center and their philosophy surrounding open adoption. We fully understand that “openness” is different in every match and ours won’t be defined until that moment. But, we know the vital importance of openness and how everyone involved benefits.

After selecting the IAC we spent another five months filling out mounds and mounds of paperwork, hours spent on our Adoption Letter, references and home-studies, and vast amounts of reading and parenting classes. We have overly exposed our iheartadoption webpage to all our friends, associates and clients to help maximize our exposure – I’m certain we’ve been unfriended. We simply want the universe to know we are out here to be found.

Kris, this brings me to the point of my letter. Danny and I have only one Christmas wish this year. We are asking for an expectant mother to come into our lives and create a match. If a mother finds that adoption is the route they decide to go down, we are asking that you point them our way. Let them know that there is a large loving family waiting to greet them with open arms. Grandmothers and grandfathers, vast amount of aunts, uncles, and cousins are awaiting their arrival. Our lovable little pup, Linus and his sister, Snooki the Cat are anxious as well to have another member they can love upon unconditionally. This, too, is their Christmas wish.

Typically this time of year our home is decorated fully for the season – trees, wreaths, lights, ornaments and figurines – both classy and tacky. However, this year we have made a conscious decision to forego the event now and until you bring into our life a little bundle of joy. When that happens, we will decorate and celebrate so over the top it’ll feel like the North Pole right in our home. We will live up to our old motto: Too much is too much, but way too much is just right!!

In the meantime, we are taking advice from our agency and other adoptive parents and we are traveling. We are going to spend the week of Christmas in Puerto Rico with friends to help take our minds off the holiday and that one piece that is missing. Although, nothing would make us happier than having to cancel our trip because you granted our Christmas wish and brought an addition into our family this season.

I know contained within your powers is the ability to make this happen. In our efforts to grow a large family, we must start with one. And, we are wishing you could bring that one to us very soon.

Please send our regards to Mrs. Claus and all the others. Have a very Merry Christmas.

Jason & Danny

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Transgender Parents Report Positive Parenting Experience

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

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

Some of the highlights of the report include:

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

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

You can read the full report here:

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