Open Adoption Blog

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.


6 Tips for a Successful Adoption Facebook Page

Jason & Justin, an IAC waiting family from Nebraska, know a thing or ten about making an adoption Facebook page successful: their page has over 1500 likes! They were generous enough to share some tips on how to mimic their success on their blog recently. Below is an excerpt of their post:

Adoption Facebook experts Jason & Justin

Jason and Justin with their dog, Bailey

  1. Get a Memorable Name – Each page has a unique URL or name that can be linked to the adoption profile or other adoption material.  Choose a page name that is easy to remember.  Also keep in mind this is the name that people will see, so keep it relevant to the adoption.   We picked  for our Facebook page name.
  2. Grab their Attention – Choose a cover photo and profile image that is eye catching and lures people into the Facebook page.   We liked the cover photos that had been edited to include the toll-free number and personal adoption website name in the graphic.  Another recommendation is to maintain consistency with the and Dear Birth Mother Letter profile photos so there is a consistent look-and-feel to the main photos across sites.
  3. Just the Facts – Make sure all the relevant information is quickly available for the people viewing your page.   Take time to fill in the “About” section with the adoption email address, toll-free number, Independent Adoption Center (IAC) website, and your personal website information.  The “About” section shows approximately 2 sentences on the main Facebook page, so keep this brief and to the point.  Experiment with this section to make sure you have the relevant information showing on the front page.  Any lengthier text can be added to the “Description” section when the reader clicks for more information.
  4. Like other Adoption Profiles – “Like” other pages that are adoption or family oriented and don’t be afraid to ask the page owners to repost your content or share your page. Remember Facebook is a web of inter-linked pages and getting your page connected to other sites helps the chances of people finding your page.   One thing to be aware of is the pages “liked” show up on the Facebook main page.  Make sure to go into the settings and manage what “liked pages” appear on your profile so the top 5 most important ones are displayed.
  5. Gain Insights – Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to like your page.  Make a push to get the first 25 friends to like your page so you can get access to “Insight” pages that Facebook offers.   The “Insights” allow adoptive parents to see how far their posts reach, engagement of users, popularity of each post, and demographic information of the people that liked the page. Insights can even tell you when is the best time to make a post is as most users are online.

Be sure to check out the rest of their tips on their blog: 10 Tips for a Successful Adoption Facebook Page.

And finally, a bonus 11th tip: Check out their Facebook page to see their strategies in action!

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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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