Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013

open adoption bloggers interviewI am honored to be a part of the Adoption Blogger Interview Project for 2013.  Each year the website pairs adoption bloggers that have experience with all aspects of adoption with another blogger, after getting to know one another and reading each others blogs, we interview each other. You can view all the interviews for this project at: openadoptionbloggers.com.  We are part of the 3rd group which will be posted on 11/26/13.

I was matched with an amazing blogger on the other side of the country, Robyn 20121117-161741-img_1903Chittister, who has been blogging for several years and has adopted two beautiful children.  I was shocked by how similar we are in our opinions on adoption reform and it was a real pleasure reading her blog.  She is witty and a straight shooter,  I hope you take some time to check out her blog at http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/

Me:  I want to live in Robyn’s Adoption Land! You speak out on adoption costs, are there any groups or policy makers you have connected with? Or do you have plans to?

Robyn: I wish! Once I’m done with the series – and I think I’m about halfway there – I’d like to summarize it. From there, I have to figure out who the correct contacts are and try to at least get the issue on the radar. I once floated the idea of a Change.org petition to an adoption forum. I didn’t get a very positive response. One person actually said it might not be Constitutional to have federal level adoption laws, as adoption might be considered “commerce between states.” I have no idea if that’s even true. The federal government can set educational standards, so I don’t see why they can’t set adoption standards.

Anyway, I would really love to do *something* about the sorry state of adoption in this country. If there’s one good thing that comes out of the Baby Veronica case, I’d like it to be that people realize that we need standard adoption laws, and lawmakers respond.

Me: How would you address fraudulent expecting mothers with the living expenses paid?

If the woman is pregnant, all agencies and attorneys in Robyn’s Adoption Land are networked. The agency can post a query asking if this woman is working with any other agency. If she is, the woman needs to decide which agency she’s going to use. She can’t receive services from multiple agencies or attorneys. I don’t want to create a system in which a woman is locked into using an agency or attorney if it is not meeting her needs (physical, emotional, etc.) but I do want to make sure that a woman isn’t trying to game the system.

Hopefully, this will cut off most cases of fraud. Once a woman has a baby and chooses not to place, it can be difficult to prove fraud vs. a sincere change of heart. I do believe that if fraud is suspected, it should be taken seriously and investigated. As it stands, adoption fraud isn’t punishable in most states. It’s horrible.

Me: What classes pre-adoption and post adoption would you feel to be most valuable to Domestic Infant Adoption?

Robyn: We took a transracial adoption webinar the second time we adopted. I definitely think a transracial adoption course needs to be required, even if people don’t believe they will be adopting transracially. (I can expand on that if you want.)

I think a class on open adoption – what open adoption is, what it isn’t, what it can be, basically, the ins and outs – should be required as well.

I’d like to see more offerings that involve being educated by adult adoptees. Whether that’s a formal class or a reading list, I don’t know.

Post-adoption, I think an “Open Adoption After the Adoption” class would be helpful. It’s one thing to learn the theories and guidelines, but when you have real people to deal with, it’s far more difficult.

Me:  Do you feel classes for the adoptees would also be beneficial and/or required?

Robyn: I have a hard time requiring adoptees to do anything. They didn’t choose to be adopted, and now they have to take a class about it? I’d like to see support groups offered for them. Pact has a tween/teen group that has some interesting offerings in terms of seminars.

Me: Did you have family and friends opposed to your transracial adoptions? If so, how did you deal with it?

Robyn: I’ve wanted to adopt since I was 13. I thought I’d adopt from Romania one day. By the time Max and I were married, Romania was (and remains) closed. So, I looked at Russia, because I have Russian heritage and I’ve always been interested in the countries that made up the USSR. But Russia required extensive travel, and they like their adopting moms to be 100% healthy, which I’m not. So, I looked at countries that escort. At that point, I started thinking about Ethiopia.

So, I called my mom and I asked her how she felt about having a grandchild who was a different race. Her response was, “I don’t care if he’s black, Korean, or blue. I just want to be Grandma!”

The only somewhat negative reaction I remember was from a co-worker. We had a very close knit group at work, and, when we were on a phone meeting, one of the guys I worked with asked about how the adoption was going. I mentioned that we were thinking of Ethiopia. He said something to the effect of, “It might be hard enough for the kid to be adopted without having to worry about not looking like his parents.” It was definitely worded from a concern for the child standpoint. I did think that had some merit, so I really stepped up the research at that point, seeking out books and blogs by transracial adoptees.

Now, we did have one of my uncles say that maybe we should foster first, so we could find out if we “could love someone else’s kid.” That, by far, was the worst response we received.

So, the short answer to your question is, no, not really. But I’m really bad at short answers.

Me: You had a post on agency discrimination, Do you find charging different rates based on race to be ethical?

Robyn: I do not find charging different rates based on race ethical. I think it’s racist. I have a post in draft form about this, but it’s way too long and needs to be broken up.

Me:  What is your favorite parenting moment?

Robyn: One night, when Jackson was almost one, I think, he cried out in the middle of the night. I went to get him, and he fell asleep in my arms. The look on his face… he was an angel. It was just beautiful, being his mom.

Me: Kids say the darnedest things… Example of one of yours?

Robyn: This was actually the toughest question. It’s hard to remember all of the amusing things my kids say, because there are a lot of them.

Jackson is especially funny and “quippy.” A few years ago, when I was employed and Max was not, we were all playing outside. Jackson got into his Cozy Coupe and announced, “I’m the Mommy. I’m going to work. My manager is selfish and mean.”

As for Cassie, she will randomly say “Dammit” at oddly appropriate times. It’s the one swear word I still use around the kids, and she totally picked up on it.

open adoption bloggers interview 

I’d like to thank Robyn for her participation in this project.  It was a honor to be paired with her.  You can see our interviews as well as all the other adoption bloggers featured on www.opanadoptionbloggers.com

And remember to check out Robyn’s blog at http://chittisterchildren.wordpress.com/.  

Choosing Adoption

Choosing Adoption

Sarah Baker | November 11, 2013 | 01:14 PM

Along our journey many people have asked us, “why adoption?” There are many ways to become a parent. Most people find that natural pregnancy is the means to expanding their family. When pregnancy doesn’t come easy, people may resort to more time, fertility treatment, artificial insemination, IVF, surrogacy, sperm donors, egg donors, etc. Adoption isn’t for everyone, so it’s understandable that this question may get asked. However, sometimes the questions is just out of curiosity to learn your story, other times people ask “why adoption?” with a tone that implies it is not the choice they would make. Early in my life, I felt drawn to adoption.

When I decided it was time for me to start my family, there were restrictions to adoption like age and years married. I also didn’t have the big bank account to fund my adoption, so we pursued getting pregnant. Pregnancy happened quickly for us; in fact it was the first month we tried. I am glad I was able to experience pregnancy, but it wasn’t without complications, despite my young age and good health. I had HORRIBLE all day sickness for months. About the time my appetite came back, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Then came the hand and ankle swelling, my eye sight worsened several times and I had to keep getting new scripts for contacts. My entire birth plan went out the window; 48 hours of intense labor, an emergency C-Section and all night long hemorrhaging… but I had a perfect 8 pound 8 ounce baby boy, Isaac, to show for it all. I knew after that, adoption was the only way I could add to my family again.

Fast forward few years and Isaac’s dad and I decided to divorce. We are still great friends, we just married very young and grew apart as husband and wife. We ended our marriage to save our friendship. I then met Joe and as we were getting to know each other, I told him my story of giving birth to Isaac. I told him I didn’t know if it was possible for me to have more. He said it didn’t matter to him either way. If it was unsafe for me to have more children, then we would adopt or not have any more, but he wasn’t going to let it stand in the way of us being together. WOW! He’s a keeper right?!? After we were married, I saw how wonderful of a step dad he had become and my need to parent a baby with him began to overwhelm me. We looked into adoption, but were again overwhelmed by the price and the wait that it may take for us to become parents. We started “trying” to get pregnant. Honestly, I figured it would come quickly. But after a year, then two, we realized something was wrong. We were both tested and found out that we were both infertile. My eggs didn’t release, I had hormonal imbalances and massive fibroids and his sperm were deformed from a Varicocele. Even using IVF with sperm washing would be slim for us to conceive. We did not want to spend money on something that was not a guarantee when we could put that money toward adoption instead. We did not have a burning need to have biological children, just children. It was the experience we craved not the DNA.

We started saving money and learning about all types of adoptions and gathering information from various agencies. Many times we felt defeated and unable to move forward. We were overwhelmed with the information we got from agencies and the financial stress of it all. During that time we continued on with our lives and each month I secretly hoped I was pregnant, just because it seemed easier, despite how I knew it would probably be a miserable pregnancy based on my first experience. It was 4 years into our marriage that we decided to stop looking at adoption passively and start pursuing the plan. It became very exciting and scary. We started telling people our plans and asking for support.

That’s when the questions started. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on our plans to adopt. People would tell us about how their sister did IVF, how their aunt had a closed adoption, how we should adopt from another country, or through foster care, how once we adopt we’d get pregnant, or how we may not get chosen because we have pets, we have another child, we have a small pond in our back yard, a two story house, etc., or how we wouldn’t be able to bond with the baby because it’s not really “ours”. Then there were the questions of race, gender, drug exposure, etc. Everyone had something to say about the method we decided to become parents. I am sure many of these questions were from lack of knowledge or concern, but after hearing them over and over and sometimes more than once from the same person, it became offensive to us. Like our decision wasn’t respected. Like we didn’t have a large enough mental capacity to have talked to our doctors or made our decisions based on facts.. Adoption was in our hearts and we felt that was where our child was growing. We felt alone and that these questions would turn into years of feeling like our child wasn’t accepted.

Luckily, with some prayers and tears, we were able to talk to the people closest to us and understand where they were coming from and educate them on our choices. When our son was born, he was welcomed into the family with loving arms and many joyful tears. He is treated no different than the other children in our family. He IS their brother, cousin, nephew, and grandson.

I still get asked why we decided to adopt by people. Our answer, we just wanted to be parents.

To follow our adoption more, “Like” our facebook page at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

You are Sooooo Wonderful!

You are so wonderful!

Sarah Baker | November 05, 2013 | 11:04 AM

Since adopting our son, I find people say the strangest things. At least they are strange to me. While we are very open about the fact that Ezra is adopted and we want him to understand his roots, other people are making me learn to be more closed lip about it. I have come to only share our adoption story in certain platforms now. Not because I am ashamed or don’t want Ezra to know, but because people don’t understand adoption. It really depends on if I am in “educate” mode or “I’m a busy mom and don’t want to hear your comments” mode.

When someone says to me, “wow, where did he get his blonde hair?” Do I say, “His birth father was blonde as a child too”, or do I say “His dad”, or do I sarcastically say “Must have been the mailman.”? I don’t want Ezra to grow up thinking I am ashamed that he is adopted by avoiding the topic, but I also don’t want him to feel like I am always saying “well he’s adopted” either.

One thing I hear a lot when I do mention that he is adopted, is “Wow, you are so wonderful to have adopted.” Or “You are such an angel to adopt”. This is what gets me: I am not wonderful or an angel for adopting. I did not pluck an orphan out of the gutters of the street. I selfishly chose to expand my family through domestic infant adoption. I could have chosen foster care adoption or international orphan adoption, but I didn’t. I wanted my husband to experience having a baby since birth, since he missed that time of Isaac’s life. I wanted to know he would be called “daddy” not Joe by the next child. I wanted to experience the joys of a baby with him and with Isaac as a big brother. I wanted to have an attachment that felt like I was there from the start. I wanted to attempt breast feeding by inducing lactation.

So, when someone tells me I am so wonderful for adopting Ezra, do I smile and nod and give them thanks for the compliment or do I spout off like a crazy person telling them why I am the lucky one, not him? I want to educate people on adoption, but is there a time and place for that?

National Adoption Awareness Month

National Adoption Awareness Month

Sarah Baker | November 01, 2013 | 12:18 PM

national-adoption-monthEvery November we now celebrate National Adoption Month. The history of National Adoption Month is relatively new. As we learn more about adoption and the need for forever homes and advocating for ethical adoptions, the awareness continues to spread.

History: In 1976, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis announced an Adoption Week to promote awareness of the need for adoptive families for children in foster care. In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week. In 1995, as an adoptee himself, President Clinton expanded the awareness week to the entire month of November. Then in 1998, President Clinton directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a plan to expand the use of the Internet as a tool to find homes for children waiting to be adopted from foster care. (childwelfare.gov)

Activities and celebrations are kicked off with a Presidential Proclamation, and while efforts made at the national level certainly help build awareness of adoption, participation in local programs, events, and activities by those of us with a direct connection to adoption can often be the most effective way to promote positive perceptions, debunk the myths, and draw attention to the tens of thousands of children in foster care who wait and hope for permanent families. (adoption.com)

Adoption Awareness is needed in many areas. First, helping find waiting children from foster care their forever homes is a huge priority. Every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. There are many situations that can lead to their orphan status, but that does not make them unwanted or unadoptable. While foster adoptions are vastly needed, there are all types of adoptions that this month celebrates: Kinship adoptions, step parent adoptions, domestic infant adoptions, international adoptions, etc.

This month isn’t just about celebrating the beauty of adoption or bringing awareness to the thousands of children waiting to be adopted. Adoption advocacy is also an important part of National Adoption Month. Working hard to learn about adoption and the long term effects it has on everyone involved is necessary. Helping expecting mothers find and develop the tools they need to parent when they are considering adoption is also a huge step. Advocating for adoptees rights to their original birth certificates and birth certificate reform, as well as promoting open adoptions is beneficial for their self-identity.

Each day this month, I plan to post on our social media outlets, giving thanks or bringing awareness to adoption. You can follow our adoption at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

Here is a link to a calendar of unique ways to celebrate adoption and spread awareness. http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/pdf/2013calendar.pdf

Famous Adoptees

Famous Adoptees

Did you Know?

Sarah Baker | October 17, 2013 | 09:56 AM

Adoption has been around for a long time. It plays a role in many people’s lives. Whether you have an aunt that was adopted, your friend was in foster care, your step parent adopted you or you know someone who placed a child for adoption; people have been parenting children not biologically theirs, all through history. Below is a list of people that are adoptees that you may have heard of.

Robert Byrd ~ U.S. Senator

William Jefferson Clinton ~ U.S. President

Gerald Ford ~ U.S. President

John Hancock ~ Politician

Nelson Mandela ~ President, South Africa

Nancy Reagan ~ First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt ~ First Lady

Paull H. Shin ~ U.S. Senator

Malcolm X ~ Civil Rights Leader

Freddie Bartholomew ~ Irish-American actor, producer

Melissa Gilbert ~ Actress

Matthew Laborteaux ~ Actor

Patrick Labyorteaux ~ Actor

Art Linkletter ~ Comedian

Ray Liotta ~ Actor

James MacAthur ~ Actor

Lee Majors ~ Actor

Marilyn Monroe ~ Model, Actress

Jack Nicholson ~ Actor

Priscella Presley ~ Actress

Reno ~ Performance artist, Comedian

Bo Diddley ~ Musician, Performer

D.M.C. ~ Hip Hop Artist

Eric Clapton ~ Musician

Debbie Harry ~ Singer

Faith Hill ~ Country Singer

John Lennon ~ Musician

Nat King Cole ~ Singer

Tim McGraw ~ Country Singer

Sarah McLachlan ~ Singer

Willie Nelson ~ Musician

Buffy Sainte-Marie ~ Musician

Jett Williams ~ Country Singer

Mark Acre ~ Athlete

Peter and Kitty Carruthers ~ Figure Skaters

Daunte Culpepper ~ Football Player

Eric Dickerson ~ Athlete

Tim Green ~ Football Player, Commentator

Greg Louganis ~ Athlete

Scott Hamilton ~ Figure Skater

Jim Palmer ~ Athlete

Dan O’Brien ~ Decathlete

Edward Albee ~ Playwright

Edgar Allen Poe ~ Poet, Writer

Aristotle ~ Philosopher

Christian Crawford ~ Author

Langston Hughes ~ Poet, Writer

James Michener ~ Author

Clarissa Pinkola Estes ~ Author

Michael Reagan ~ Author

Jean Jacques Rousseau ~ Philosopher

Andy Berlin ~ Entrepreneur, Chairman of Berlin Cameron & Partners

Larry Ellison ~ Entrepreneur, Chief Executive of Oracle

Steve Jobs ~ Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of Apple Computer

Tom Monaghan ~ Entrepreneur, Domino’s Pizza

Dave Thomas ~ Entrepreneur, Founder of Wendy’s

George Washington Carver ~ Inventor

Moses ~ Biblical Leader

Jesse Jackson ~ Minister

Jesus ~ Adopted by Joseph the carpenter (Bible)

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Birth Certificate Reform

Sarah Baker | October 10, 2013 | 02:17 PM

The Kardashians are always making headlines, whether we like it or not. The most recent hot topic, aside from loving or hating Baby North’s name, is Khloe’s fertility problems and news about visiting an adoption lawyer.

There are so many topics that can be addressed with this segment of “Keeping of with the Kardashians” Kim pushed Khloe into meeting with an adoption attorney, one for her own need to gain knowledge of adoption, but also because she felt Khloe needed to start weighing her options. Another hot topic that revolves Khloe’s meeting with the adoption attorney is that in the initial questions to the lawyer, she seemed most concerned with asking about how to NOT know the birth family and can she proceed with medical information but in a closed adoption. Of course you know, I am an advocate of open adoption, so that portion of the episode probably deserves its own attention for a later entry. (If anyone is interested)

So… back to the clip that I want to touch on today. I feel this one is a very interesting topic actually. In this deleted scene clip (http://www.eonline.com/shows/keeping_up_with_the_kardashians/videos/213572/khloe-kardashian-questions-birth-certificate), Khloe tells her mother about an interesting birth certificate fact she found out during the meeting with the adoption attorney. An adopted child’s birth certificate is edited to reflect the adoptive parents as the parents of the child. It is not altered to ADD the adoptive parents, it is changed. The birth parents are removed and the adoptive parents are added. The child’s birth name is also deleted (if it differs from what it is at adoption) and the new name is put in its place. While Kris, Khloe’s mom, seems shocked by this news, she quickly realizes that the reason Khloe is bringing it up is another reference to the fact that Khloe doesn’t believe she is biologically a Kardashian.

The whole scene made me wonder how many people out there do not know that an adopted child’s birth certificate is permanently altered with their birth information deleted, even in open adoptions? I suppose there are two sides of this, that one it protects the birth parents who don’t want to be found or, I don’t know, are in protective custody or something? But, seriously, why in the world, with all the changes that have happened in adoption in the last several decades, is THIS still happening?

My thoughts are that by altering a birth certificate it is striping the identity from a person. Just because they are adopted, does not mean that their original identity should be hidden from them. Ezra’s revised birth certificate actually just came in the mail about a week ago. I thought that when I got that new birth certificate, showing his last name the same as ours and reflecting us as his parents, I would be really happy. Instead, I was oddly saddened. With my open adoption, we are lucky enough to have his birth parents in our lives. We even have a copy from our adoption lawyer of his original birth certificate for his records, since now the original is sealed. But, receiving that document raised a lot of questions and concerns by me, for my son. I knew there were groups and activist out there that spoke out on adoption reform and “birth certificate identity theft”, but it wasn’t until I saw my son’s “new” birth certificate that I felt I really understood the stance these adoptees take.

How hard would it be to reform this practice?

1. Keep the original given name of the child on the certificate and amend it to state new legal name.

2. Keep the birth parents name(s) on the certificate with adoptive legal parent’s names added to reflect the adoption.

3. In cases where the birth parents personally request to remain anonymous or there is a danger to gaining that access, then maybe “seal” that information for the first 18 years, but don’t make it difficult to obtain after the child is no longer a minor.

4. If the child, as an adult, would like the birth information removed, then they can request to do so.

Nothing should ever be used to keep a child in the dark about their adoption though. Going through life feeling out of place and then finding out you are adopted only to hit dead ends in your search is cruel. Which is one of the reasons open adoption and talking about Ezra’s adoption to him with age appropriate information is important to us. Everyone says that adoption is about giving the child a better chance in life. So if we are truly doing this for the children… then don’t strip them of their identity. Let them be proud of who they are. There are many ways to reform adoption and birth certificate reform is just one of the many injustices adoptees deal with.

So while the present reform groups focus a lot on making sure original birth certificates are unsealed and made available to them as well as not being sealed in the future for new adoptions, I think we can go one step further and change the way we handle what is ON a birth certificate to begin with.

I would love your experience or feedback on this. Please comment below.

Why You Should Not Fear Adoption From Foster Care

This post is from a guest blogger.  I will be adding additional foster to adopt posts in the future.  While it’s not a subject I have direct experience with, I think it’s a topic that many people are curious about and fearful of.  – Sarah

Foster Series:

Why You Should Not Fear Adoption from Foster Care

Stephanie Rosic | September 23, 2013 | 01:48 PM

While my blog focuses primarily on my experience of domestic infant adoption, there are many ways for adoption to grow a family. I reached out to my adoption support group “Celebrate Adoption” asking if anyone would be interested in sharing their “foster to adopt” story. Thank you Stephanie for sharing this with us. – Sarah

When I met my daughter for the first time she was almost three months old. She was wearing a pink baby onesie with bloomers and on her tiny feet she wore socks with pink scrolling letters that said “I love my Mommy.” She had that baby fresh smell and as she was placed in my arms by our social worker I was also handed a bottle full of formula just mixed by her foster mother. This little girl, with the long fingers and big brown inquisitive eyes was my daughter at last. As we gazed at one another I wondered if she was thinking of her foster mother. I was her third ‘mother’ in three months, but I promised one thing that day – in my arms you will stay.

As we drove out of the city I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for both my daughter’s birthmother and also for her foster mother who cared lovingly for her for nearly three months. Foster care allowed my daughter a safe environment to wait for us while we waited for her. Once we found each other, foster care allowed us to begin the process of foster/adopt immediately. This is not to say that we had not followed many steps to reach that moment in which I held my daughter. We had found a reputable agency, completed the seemingly unending application process, finished our home study with several visits, reached approval, were matched with our daughter and then ultimately our baby girl was placed with us. Almost one year later we finalized our adoption in court. Adopting from foster care is a laborious process but a fruitful one.

When I share my story or talk with others about adoption from foster care most of the time I encounter a fearful response. You will find me taking a deep breath while I wait out the horrifying story of the one adoption they know of that went sideways. And when they are finally finished with that one story and proceed to tell me how brave I am to adopt from foster care, I tell them a few key facts. Generally, I can boil their fearfulness down to three areas.

Fear: Foster children have complicated histories that ultimately make them unavailable for adoption.

Truth: There are over 104,000 children who are legally free and waiting to be adopted in the United States from foster care. It is estimated that in 2012 alone over 58,000 children were made legally free and ready to adopt. Legally free meaning that both birthparents have legally terminated their rights and these beautiful children are ready and waiting for a family. This was my daughter.

Fear: Birthparents return and disrupt domestic adoptions from foster care.

Truth: Very few birth families will reappear after legally terminating their rights. Over 98% of legally completed adoptions remain intact. Those children in foster care in which reunions with birth families are possible work toward that reality. More than half of the children currently in foster care will be returned joyfully to their birthparents or extended relatives. We should rejoice in that statistic. But that leaves the remaining children who cannot be returned to birth families for a diverse range of reasons, and so they wait in foster care for families. This was my daughter.

Fear: Children in foster care have special needs or things I can’t provide them.

Truth: Kids in foster care are normal, regular kids. They need support, guidance, and someone to care for them like any child. Some children in foster care do have specific medical needs, yes, but not all. Post-adoption support and mentorship from your agency or support group can aid you in processing such needs if they arise. However, all waiting children in foster care do have hopes, aspirations, a need to be loved and celebrated, and a place to belong. This was my daughter.

My hope is that more people would consider adopting from foster care. I’m not saying that sometimes foster adoptions don’t go as planned, and hearts get broken all around. Those things sadly do happen. But what I am saying to those considering adoption is do not be persuaded solely by that one story you once heard about foster adoption going badly, but rather look for and commit to care for a child from foster care who needs a family to champion them in life.

Ten years after I first held her in my arms, my daughter is still just a regular kid, with a regular mom, and a promise made to never let her go.

*All statistics taken from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report

For more about Stephanie and to visit her blog check out www.stephanierosic.com

Open Adoption

Open Adoption

Sarah Baker | September 17, 2013 | 06:38 PM

I posted a blog awhile back about lessons we learned during our first match. Most of the lessons we learned surrounded setting boundaries early on and communicating directly what your wishes are for the adoption. Both parties should fully understand the adoption plan so there are no surprises or hurt feelings later down the road. One of the most common things I have heard from people who are opposed to adoption or looking to reform adoption say is; “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”.

Open adoption is a relatively new concept. In the lifetime of adoption, open adoptions just started being more accepted in the 1970’s. As with all new concepts and alterations in tradition, changes don’t occur over night. Studies were done and are still being done. Since people my age are pretty much the forerunners of this new concept in open adoption being the “norm”, it is not uncommon to have friends and relatives question and caution the decision to have an open adoption. They have fears (and let me admit, so did I before learning more about it) like; Will it undermine me as the parent? Will it confuse my child? Will it hurt the birth mother more to see the child? Will it cause trauma? Will the birth parents try to steal the child back? Will it be a competition of love? Will it be awkward? What will other people think? After hearing these questions dozens of times, it starts to get frustrating, but keeping in mind that open adoption is “new” and they are just looking out for your well being, I take it as a great opportunity to educate them and involve them in the expansion of our family.

As a reminder from my previous post (Lessons Learned):

Things open adoptions are not:

• Co-Parenting

• Custody arrangement

• Long term child care

Things open adoptions are:

• Birth parents having knowledge of well being of the child

• Self-identity for the child

• Love and communication

So my response to the people that like to constantly remind expecting mothers that “In most states, open adoption is not legally enforceable”, is that while it is indeed not legally enforceable, choose wisely. Choose an ethical agency. Choose an agency that advocates open adoption. Choose an agency that has training and education on why open adoption is healthy. Ask the agency if they will intervene if an open adoption starts to take a turn, sometimes miscommunication can be a simple fix. Tell the adoption counselor what your expectations are. Make sure you are choosing adoption for the right reasons and fully understand what adoption is. And lastly, choose a family that you feel you can trust with the adoption plan you envision and that you see your child having a good upbringing with.

Communicate your feelings, no matter what they are. Don’t assume that people know what you are thinking. But, if you are thinking that you want to see your child that you place for adoption at least weekly or maybe even monthly, that may be unrealistic for an adoptive family and could also be a sign that you don’t really want to go through with adoption. You may want to explore your options and see if there is a way you can parent. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must place your child for adoption. That is YOUR choice. Open adoptions are great, but ultimately, you are no longer that child’s mommy. You turn into a birth/first mother. So just be comfortable and confident in your choice.

So, while some people do close the door on their open adoption, I’m an optimist that likes to believe that this is not the norm or that they have valid reasons. I can’t understand why an adoptive family would enter into such an agreement and take this amazing gift from a loving woman, and then shut her out. It’s something that doesn’t comprehend in my mind. Was it in their plans from the beginning? Were they deceitful? Did something in life change? My thoughts on open adoption are this: We have an open adoption with Ezra’s birth family. I say family because it’s not just his birth parents. He has siblings. He has aunts. He has grandparents. These are extensions of my son. Who am I to deny him this identity of himself? There are very few circumstances I can see me making the tough decision to limit physical contact with these people. Those reasons would be drugs, crime, abuse, prostitution, alcoholism, etc. Allowing Ezra to see his birth parents this way at a young age would be devastating. I would carefully explain that until these actions are corrected, we would cease visits that include Ezra. However, I would never stop contact altogether. I would still send updates and photos. I would still be there as emotional support and encourage them to get back on a better path in life and if that day never came, when he is old enough, then I would provide him with the way to be in touch on his own accord. I pray that is never something we will encounter; we really enjoy our family picnics and time spent together. But, I believe they placed their son in my care so that I would do what is best for him… and if they were in one of those situations I described previously, I think I would be doing them and their choice an injustice by putting him in harm’s way.

To learn more about the benefits of open adoption and stereotypes often associated with them, please visit: http://www.openadoptions.com/ (I didn’t have a chance to read every single topic on this page, so I hope the information is useful and accurate)

Follow our adoption story more at www.facebook.com/OurAdoption

If you have specific questions about open adoption, please message me, I am open anytime to help!

When a Match Falls Through

When a Match Falls Apart

Sarah Baker | September 13, 2013 | 02:00 PM

This is how our first match fell apart (from my perspective). Adoption is so beautiful, but the ride isn’t always smooth.

This is how fast things can fall apart. It’s been a really difficult subject for me to talk about. We went to visit the expecting parents in their home town in September of 2012. During that visit we had a scheduled 4D sonogram. Our birth mother also had signed us up for a TV show. The producers and camera crew were there to spend the weekend with us and document our story. It was an amazing weekend… but emotions were high and many things came up that were red flags that this adoption may not be everything we and the birth parents were looking for. Our previous visits we stayed in a local hotel. This visit she invited us to stay with her so we could have more time together. We had grown into more than just a “match”, we were friends. We left feeling closer to both of them than ever, but also had concerns that we weren’t on the same page all the time with what adoption is.

The birth father never fully supported the idea of the adoption. He is 15 years older than the birth mother and has 3 children. She is the mother of a wonderful little boy, whom she gets no financial support for from his biological father. She convinced the “birth father” that together with 5 children they would NOT succeed and adoption was the best plan. He reluctantly signed papers that would terminate his rights as long as she was moving forward with the adoption. During that weekend visit, on and off camera, he told all of us that he was becoming more comfortable with the idea of adoption, but would still prefer to keep her. It was very difficult for my husband and me to move forward knowing that this father wanted to parent his baby. But we also wanted to support the birth mother, and let’s face it; we wanted a baby that she wanted to give us. That’s when we found out they were going to want more involvement in the child’s life than what we were prepared for. The father wanted custody returned to him if we were to both die and he wanted us to return with her yearly for a father/daughter dance at his church in addition to the many other visits a year we were offering, plus a lot of holidays spent in their home. This we were terrified of. If we are being honest here, we felt it may threaten our bond with the baby as her “parents”. We also didn’t want to commit to something, living so far away, that we may not be able to stick to. Broken promises, I assured myself, were much worse than hearing the truth at the beginning. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the opportunity to express the “truth” until it was too late.

The birth mother, young and not truly wanting adoption, seemed to also be having a hard eliza bellytime with separating herself from the baby. She called the baby by the name we chose and referred to me as “mommy” when she would tell me that “Eliza” was saying goodnight to me each night. But, she had loved and cared for this child in her womb for 7 months and was now forced with the very real fact that she chose adoption. Meaning someone else would be parenting her baby girl. This was something she was having a very hard time with. Almost daily I worried about her emotional attachment AND the one I was forming to the baby as well. We provided her with a counselor of her choice so she could work through what she was feeling and help her come to a decision she was comfortable with. I fully believe that if a mother wants to move forward with adoption, then that should be supported. But if a mother wants to parent her child, then she should have that option without feeling guilty for making the decision. I checked in with her all the time, making sure adoption is what she wanted. She always assured me it was. But, I felt I needed to prepare for her to change her mind anyhow. Gut feeling I guess. I couldn’t talk directly with her private counselor, but I often reached out to the one provided to her by the adoption agency. Whenever I was concerned for her mental stability or how she was handling her choice, I made a quick phone call asking the agency to check in on her. Sometimes, I knew I wasn’t the right person for the “birth mom” to talk to.

I had always told her we would like the baby to know them and see them “as much as possible”. Being that we live 4 hours away, both work and have an 11 year old son that is active in many school, sport and music activities, we thought they would understand that would probably mean a few times a year. After all, she already knew that we were already running into scheduling conflicts with our visits during the pregnancy. When we returned from our visit, everything seemed to crash and fall apart. She started asking a lot of questions, that I thought the agency had already clarified with her, but she was feeling the need to ask me directly. When I told her we could visit her 2-4 times a year and they could also visit us, she was devastated and it led to two solid weeks of her being very upset and angry with me. I tried everything to fix it, but it just wasn’t enough. She only heard what her emotions filtered. I told her it was ok if she wanted to keep the baby, because it felt like she was not happy with the amount she would get to see her if she went through with adoption. She lashed out again. She didn’t understand why I thought her emotions meant she wanted to keep the baby. To me though, that is exactly what she was saying. I wanted her to know it was ok.

I admit there were times I had a very hard time containing the anger I felt when she lashed out at me. She accused me of lying to her, leading her on, not trusting me and betraying her. It’s natural to get defensive when a person feels attacked. There were times I let my emotions get the best of me and I responded to her hastily. But, no matter what, it is understandable that a scared, young mother is terrified of this process and I am the best person to lash out at… I was, after all, the threat, the woman “taking” her child.

As things began to mend with us several weeks later, she found out that by switching agencies, (She switched because the agency and myself wouldn’t participate in filming us for the show having a mediated meeting to rectify our differences.) the consent form signed by the birth father was no longer going to be used and he would have to sign all over again. She was scared of what may happen because she says she still wants to move forward with adoption. The new agency began showing her adoptive parent profiles and she is telling me about them. This is what got us into this mess in the first place that blurred line of friendship and adoption. It hurt very much hearing about new families she was considering and picturing them with the baby I was just weeks ago so certain was going to be in my arms. We knew we were not getting the daughter we thought we were going to have. It became very hard to maintain a relationship with her when I felt sick to my stomach and so much stress and depression over this situation.

After time, and convincing my husband that this wouldn’t happen again, we moved on. We got matched again a few months later and we now have our beautiful son, Ezra. But that doesn’t take away the pain, the loss, the sadness, the anguish, the anger… Having never had a miscarriage, this must be the heartache that is felt? When the baby was born, she did decide to parent her. Her and my relationship took time to move forward, but we did try. It was just last week that I made the very, very difficult decision, that for my mental health and the happiness of my family, it was time to move on. I wish her well and hope that she succeeds in life and reaches all her goals. She has a beautiful daughter now. I wanted to remain in their life, but I realized it hurt me and stopped me from healing. It may have been a selfish choice to move on from our friendship, but one I do not regret… so far.

Is a failed match something you fear? Have you had one fail in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences.

Season Finale

Season Finale

“I’m Having Their Baby”

Sarah Baker | September 04, 2013 | 11:37 AM  (adapted from original post on Cincinnati Parent)

IHTB-collage2Reflecting where we were a year ago and filming the first episode of I’m Having Their Baby with the birth mother we were matched with and where we are today, I had no idea the happiness I would have now. While you saw on the first episode things did not go according to planned with the birth mother, we were matched again fairly quickly and now have our amazing boy Ezra. The second match came fast, but felt like forever while we mourned the loss of the baby we thought was meant for us.

Tonight, you will get a glimpse of what life is like with four of the families that were shown throughout the second season on the finale episode. We were lucky enough to be part of that. We are excited to share our happy ending. The production company came out and filmed at our home and around town with us in the spring. It has been a few months and Ezra has grown a ton since then. He has teeth, is sitting and crawling and eating “solids”. Wow, he’ll be 8 months old in a just a few days!

I have also grown, emotionally, a lot since then. While I have Ezra now, I was still holding on to a lot of grief about the loss of “Eliza” during the follow up filming. I am hoping that since I have been able to let some of that pain go since then, the episode will focus more on the happiness and joy we feel with the little blessing we have now. Ezra is a wonderful baby and I feel God had a plan when the adoption of “Eliza” fell through and Tory was able to parent her little girl, Bryleigh. I feel Ezra was the child meant for us. His personality matches ours and he fits right in. One child will never replace the loss of another, but he sure helps take my mind off it.

So, tune in tonight to the Oxygen Network at 10 pm (9 central) and please just ignore the fact that my hair is a mess in the restaurant scene and Joe trimmed his goatee way too short. I have no idea what footage they are using from the day, but by the time we got to the restaurant (which I saw in the commercial) I was a hot mess from filming all day long! Hahaha

If you missed the first episode, it will be airing right after the finale called Sharanda; Tory. Thanks for all your support!

To learn more about our adoption, follow us on www.facebook.com/OurAdoption