I Deserve a Baby Too!

A mother's love smallIt is really easy to get caught up in our own pity party when we face infertility or have set backs in adoption.  We see women getting pregnant on accident, we stop watching the news because we can’t handle watching stories about abused children, we lash out at family members who are expecting a baby or complain about their kids being bad, and we cry at the sight of pregnant strangers in the grocery store.  Experiencing that grief makes us desperate and sometimes with desperation we lack reasoning skills.

Adoption is an emotional roller coaster all on it’s own, but then factor in the reasons you may have come to adoption; infertility, health, relationship status, sexuality, etc, and you may have extra emotions tied to the adoption journey.  While I have seen this many times lately in the adoption forums I go to, I am not going to claim I too wasn’t guilty of all the emotions that this entry is about.

Adoption isn’t easy for the expecting mother who made an adoption plan to place her child.  She is doing it for her own reasons.  She may struggle every day with her decision.  She may feel guilt that she cannot provide her child with the life she wants.  She may change her mind every day in the things she wants her child to have.  She may waiver on what she wants out of the adoption relationship.  But, let’s face it, it is her child.  It is her decision.  We have to just be willing recipients of the child with open arms.  And we need to know when it’s time to walk away from a match that is not going to work.

I know it’s really hard to do, but keep in mind this isn’t about what you are or are not deserving of… but it is about her and HER child. (Of course you deserve a child, it just might not be her child!) This is a super stressful situation for you when she begins questioning things in her adoption plan or her match with you. I experienced a disrupted match because the expecting mom second guessed all her choices when it came to us. We were matched very early on and as our friendship grew, so did her need to know things about me on a personal level and on a parenting level.  When an expecting mom chooses and adoptive family, she often romanticizes a life she envisions for her child as well as her future in your and her child’s life.  I could not live up to her expectations and the match dissolved.  It was devastating.  The expecting mother may be freaking out and the emotions she is going through are no less valid than yours. Even if she is second guessing some of the choices. She may have people in her other ear telling her she should have picked a stay at home mom or someone that lives closer or in a bigger house.  It my experience, the earlier in the pregnancy that she makes decisions, it seems the closer the time gets those decision start to waiver. (Obviously this isn’t the case for every early match.) I would much rather have a woman come to me with adoption as her choice and feel fully at peace, than trying to make the match happen because she thinks she’ll eventually be OK with it.

It’s really scary for us adoptive parents to go through, but we just have to accept what God gives us and remember that it isn’t another woman’s job to make us mothers. She is giving us to her child… not her child to us.

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Creating a “Dear Birthmother” Letter

birth motherOn the adoption forums I frequent, one of the big questions I often see is “What is a birth mother looking for in the letter we are writing?”.   The simple answer is, everyone is different.  There is no way of saying your letter is the perfect letter to be chosen by everyone.  Your letter, however, may be the perfect letter for a specific expecting mother.

So let’s start of with the must haves.

First, no matter what your agency says, do not address your letter with Dear Birth Mother or Birth Parent(s).  This is simply an inaccurate term to use for the woman or parents who have created an adoption plan.  The correct term is Expecting Mother or Expecting Parent(s).  She has not given birth yet and to call her a birth mother is reducing her to a role she may feel obligated to fulfill.  Please respect that until she has given birth and placed the child, she is still an expecting mother.  If you don’t want to write Dear Expecting Parent(s) as your salutation, you can always chose a simple Hi, Hello, or Howdy.  She may not see the difference consciously, but starting off the relationship in a place of respect goes a long way.

Some things to include:

  • Introduction:  Thank her for considering you.  Tell her your names and immediate information, like age and about any other children in your household.
  • Body: Express your lack of understanding on how difficult her decision must be.  Tell her you hope to meet her.
  • Body:  Elaborate on who you are.  Tell her about your family, what brought you to adoption, and what your goals are in raising a child.  Be positive and be yourself.
  • Conclusion:  Thank her again for her time, wish her luck in her journey and sign off with something positive.
  • Include pictures that tell a story of your life.
  • Get creative.  It doesn’t have to look like a formal letter.  It can include graphics, colors, pictures, bullet points, fun (yet easy to read) fonts, etc.  Stick to a 8.5×11 letter, but you can use front and back.
  • Proof read multiple times.

Some things to avoid:

  • Salutation, as mentioned above, do not address her as birth mother or birth parent.
  • Avoid any terms that are negative to adoption or imply you expect her to place her baby for adoption.
  • Don’t try to appeal to every expecting mother, appeal to the one that is the right fit for you.  This is a long term, open relationship, you want it to work.
  • While being positive, don’t be overly flowery.  Be normal.
  • Don’t assume she considered abortion by thanking her for choosing life.  Abortion may have crossed her mind, abortion may have been her first plan, but abortion may have never even been an option.
  • Don’t be more religious than you actually are.  Talk about God or religion the way you would with any day to day person.  If it’s a huge part of your life, include it, otherwise, just give the basics.
  • Don’t talk about your infertility in a lengthy depressing way.  You can mention it in your introduction as why you came to adoption, if that is the reason, but this letter is not the time for a pity party.  She has a big decision to make, don’t make her feel like she owes you a child.
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver.  Stick to honesty.
  • Don’t pretend to know what she is going through unless you have personally placed a child for adoption.
  • Don’t include out of focus, under/overexposed, low resolution, or inappropriate pictures.

Use Positive Adoption Language:

This is not just about being politically correct or sugar coating terms to make the adoption sound more romantic, it is about respecting all members of the adoption triad and having a successful relationship in an open adoption.

  • Birth Mother – instead use “Expecting Mother” or “Expecting Parent(s)”.
  • Give up for adoption – instead use “Place for adoption” or “Create an adoption plan”.
  • Closed adoption – instead educate yourself on open adoption.
  • Thank you for choosing life  – instead use “Thank you for considering adoption”.
  • If you reference possibly keeping their child – instead use “parent your child”.

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Birth Father Rights – Sound Off

lawBookA few days ago, on an adoption Facebook page, a moderator asked the question: “If you could change one adoption law, what would it be?”.   Wow, where would I start, how could I choose just one?!?!?! I went with a general answer of “federal adoption reform laws” and then added in a few examples of lowering/standardizing adoption fees and making birth father part of the process and not a burden.  This spiraled out of control by people in the “anti-adoption camp”.  They accused me of saying that the birth father posed a burden to me getting my baby via adoption.  This is NOT at all what I meant and luckily before I saw it a friend came to my rescue.  Although the nay sayers still questioned my intent.  So here it is…

In many states birth fathers have very little rights when it comes to the baby they helped create.  Utah is the worst of all the states.  Adoption agencies in Utah actually will pull expecting mothers from their home state to Utah and house them there (at the expense of the potential adoptive parents) to hide them away from birth fathers who are seen as someone that can interfere with the adoption plan.  The right for these men to have a say in the adoption or parent their child is stripped of them.  In states like mine, Ohio, things work a little differently, but recent proposed adoption laws seem to be getting more and more like Utah in my opinion.

When we matched with our first expecting mother, she lived in Indiana which is a state that allows expecting fathers to sign their rights to the child away prior to the birth.  Although the father of the baby did so prior to birth, he later regretted it very much.  This was a constant source of heartache and stress in our adoption match and was one of the reasons the match was not fruitful.   With our second match, the one that resulted in the placement of our son, it was in Ohio and done differently.  The expecting father had rights.  He was involved.  He was a part of the process and agreed 72 hours after birth, just like the mother. It’s not always the case in Ohio though.  Ohio has something called a Putative Father Registry.  In Ohio a woman is not obligated to tell a man she has become pregnant.  It is said to be the man’s duty to inquire if a pregnancy resulted from intercourse.  After birth in Ohio, a father has up to 30 days to register that he thinks he MAY be the father of a child born.  This can disrupt the adoption and that’s not what this blog is about… this blog is about the fact that he is not required to be notified or given any opportunity to fight for his child before birth.  He has to KNOW the registry even exists in order to register.  Did you know about this registry?

Ohio’s new bill passed the House in January and it takes the ability for a father to register with the Putative Father Registry from 30 days down to 7 days.  They are also stating that it “Establishes a pre-birth notification process modeled after the one used in Indiana to provide a mother the option to notify a putative father prior to giving birth”.  I’m sorry, but why is this a legal matter?  The expecting mother CAN ALREADY NOTIFY him.  What this is actually saying though is that now she can ask him to sign away his rights or be forced to sign away his rights by serving him a court order as they are able to do in Indiana and other states.  Don’t mistake the verbiage they are using in the bill for being pro-woman or pro-family.  It solely serves the purpose of diminishing the man’s role in the adoption process because agencies see him as an obstacle to overcome so they can place the baby in a paying clients hands.

As an adoptive mother, I am NOT ok with any form of coercion when it comes to becoming a mother.  If a father is not involved in the adoption plan, I don’t want it to be because he was tricked, manipulated or lied to.   I am part of an adoption triad that is VERY open and is open with all family members.  Not only are Ezra’s birth parents involved regularly in his life, but extended family members as well.  Adoption doesn’t have to be ugly like these laws are trying to make it.

Here is more information on the Ohio Putative Father Registry Law:

3107.061 Putative father on notice that consent unnecessary.

A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman is on notice that if a child is born as a result and the man is the putative father, the child may be adopted without his consent pursuant to division (B) of section 3107.07 of the Revised Code.

Effective Date: 06-20-1996

3107.062 Putative father registry.

The department of job and family services shall establish a putative father registry. To register, a putative father must complete a registration form prescribed under section 3107.065 of the Revised Code and submit it to the department. The registration form shall include the putative father’s name; the name of the mother of the person he claims as his child; and the address or telephone number at which he wishes to receive, pursuant to section 3107.11 of the Revised Code, notice of any petition that may be filed to adopt a minor he claims as his child.

A putative father may register at any time. For the purpose of preserving the requirement of his consent to an adoption, a putative father shall register before or not later than thirty days after the birth of the child. No fee shall be charged for registration.

On receipt of a completed registration form, the department shall indicate on the form the date of receipt and file it in the putative father registry. The department shall maintain registration forms in a manner that enables it to access a registration form using either the name of the putative father or of the mother.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.

Effective Date: 07-01-2000

3107.063 Searching putative father registry.

An attorney arranging a minor’s adoption, a mother , a public children services agency, a private noncustodial agency, or a private child placing agency may request at any time that the department of job and family services search the putative father registry to determine whether a man is registered as the minor’s putative father. The request shall include the mother’s name. On receipt of the request, the department shall search the registry. If the department determines that a man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified copy of the man’s registration form. If the department determines that no man is registered as the minor’s putative father, it shall provide the attorney, mother, or agency a certified written statement to that effect. The department shall specify in the statement the date the search request was submitted. No fee shall be charged for searching the registry.

Division (B) of section 3107.17 of the Revised Code does not apply to this section.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.180,HB 279, §1, eff. 3/20/2013.

Selecting an Adoption Agency

Learning about adoption was overwhelming for me.  You are not alone in feeling that way! We contacted at least half a dozen agencies and read countless chosingarticles online trying to figure out where to start and what to expect.  We were not only in distress about how long we had been trying for a baby, but then we learned that we could have anywhere from three months to several years on the waiting list for an adopted baby too.  Then factor in the enormous price tag associated with agency adoption and we were dazed.  As we began to verbalize we were considering adoption to others; we got all kinds of input.  Some of it was amazing and helpful.  Others only shared horror stories of adoptions gone wrong or questions of why we weren’t doing IVF like their friend, sister, cousin, neighbor did.  We had to take some time and process this.  Was it really what we wanted?

Fast forward several months of just setting all the agencies paperwork aside and living life… we hopped back on the train to adoption and settled down and found the right agency for us.   But how do you pick the right agency for you?  The agency we picked was a small agency located in Ohio that only dealt with Ohio birth mothers and Ohio adoptive families.  Their cost was much lower than the national agencies and they had high placement rates with a wait time that averaged 18 months.  They were very upfront about their outlooks and what we could expect.   They made us feel like we COULD do this and we WOULD be parents again.

One of the top questions I get asked by people considering adoption is: “what agency did you use?” People like to know that they can trust the agency with the task of giving them the family they have dreamed of.  So that’s the first place to start.  If you know anyone who has adopted, ask them what agency they used.  Ask them if they liked the experience.  Ask them if there was anything they wish they would have known going in.  Some agencies are very commutative with their families while others don’t relay every bite of information as it comes in.  You need to decide what you are looking for.

Things you may want to look for in an agency:

  1. What services do they provide expectant mothers?
  2. Do they offer ongoing support to all members of the adoption triad?
  3. Do they discriminate against single, transracial or homosexual families?
  4. How long is their average wait?
  5. How many families do they work with at any given time?
  6. How many placements do they do a year?
  7. What is their fee structure?
  8. When are the fees due?
  9. How do they handle expecting mother living expenses?
  10. Do they have “waiting” support groups or resources for you?
  11. Do they charge different rates for non-Caucasian children? (I know, it sounds weird, but some do!)
  12. How do they advertise?  Check their website for how they talk to expecting women considering adoption.  Are they guiding her in her decision or supporting her no matter what her decision?
  13. Do they support open adoption?
  14. How well do they communicate if you email or call with questions?
  15. Go with your gut and don’t sign anything too quickly.
  16. How do they handle birth fathers?  Do they see them as an obstacle or include them in the process?

You are looking for a few things by asking these questions.  You need to know how they operate and what will be expected from you so there are no surprises, but you also will be able to learn if they are ethical in their practices.   You may be thinking something like, “well I am not gay, so that doesn’t apply to me.”  Or “I was planning to adopt an African American child anyhow, so that’s great that the fees are reduced.”  But these things do nothing to promote ethical adoption or getting children to their forever families.

All this information can be overwhelming.  Hopefully you have found some recommendations from friends or support groups that can help you narrow down your search to a few agencies.  Once you start collecting information, you may want to start some file folders to keep each agency separate and you can then go through your own personal checklist of things you like and dislike about each agency.  Ultimately, go with your gut.  If something feels off, don’t ignore that.  Remember they have marketing to keep them afloat and in the business of facilitating adoptions.  You have to see through their glitter and make sure they are ethical for everyone involved.

Good luck in your journey!

Happy 1st Birthday Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

A Year of Ezra!

Wow, a whole year has passed… really?  It seems like this has been the fastest year of my life.  It seems like just yesterday that that little baby was still in T’s belly.  It seems like just yesterday I fearfully attended doctor visits with her and made trips to the hospital for amniotic fluid checks, wondering what day he would come and would she really be able to let him go?  I can’t imagine the pain she had, even knowing the choice she made was going to allow her the ability to give more to the children she was parenting and to him at the same time.  What kind of selfless love is that?  The strength in her and J’s choice astounds me.

So as I celebrate his day of birth, I also will be taking a moment to mourn their loss with them.  I thank God every day that through the miracle of open adoption I get to share him with them still.  They can see him periodically, text or call when ever they want, follow him daily with the countless pictures, videos and statues I post on Facebook.  I am thankful that when the day come that he starts asking questions, he will already know the love they have for him.  They hug him and kiss him and tell him they love him every time they see him.  He will already know them and his biological siblings, before he even knows how to verbalize his questions.  He’ll never have to search.   How amazing is that?

As Ezra has reached this giant milestone of turning ONE today, (*sigh, cry, weep, sniffle, smile, cry again*) I want to thank his first parents for trusting us and our family to love him as much as they do.  Not a day goes by that we don’t think of them.  This year has been such an amazing journey for us.  Our family has grown in ways more than just being a family of 4 now.  We have learned our strengths, our weaknesses and our endless love for each other.  We have watched this little, once helpless infant, learn to smile, “talk”, crawl, feed himself, test us, giggle, and now walk!  He now enters toddler-hood!  A new phase and a new stage.  Where has time gone lil’ man?

Happy Birthday Ezra Joseph! You are loved by more people than you will ever know or understand.  You are our precious little boy and the child that completed our family.  I love watching you with daddy and your big brother.  You are an awesome kid and I can’t wait to watch you grow into a young man just like I have watched Isaac over the last 12 years!

Stay tuned for birthday cake and party pictures.  🙂

Adoption Day Celebrating? – “Gotcha Day”

One of the things that has recently been on my mind is celebrating something called “Gotcha Day”.  While I think this often pertains to children from international or foster care adoptions, it is becoming more and more a thing to celebrate in the adoption community by all (or more) adoptive families.  In my understanding, the celebration started because in some situations the exact birthdate is unknown for the child and a celebration of when the child came into their family became the day to give gifts and celebrate their child’s life.  The new “holiday” has evolved and taken on this name “Gotcha Day”.  It is commonly celebrated by gifts, special treats, trips to the zoo or other outings by many more adoptive families than the origins intended.  This is where it seems to confuse and confound me.

The term in itself, “Gotcha Day”, while I think it is intended to be a funny little play on words that kids understand, I think it also stoops to sound like our children are commodities. Like celebrating the day I bought my first house or got my first car. I know not all my adoptive parent friends see it that way, I apologize if this post offends you.  I just don’t understand the logic behind celebrating this day.  Granted, my adoption was a domestic infant adoption.  I “got” my son the day he was born.  I “got” to hold him in my arms seconds after his birth.  I “got” to spend the days at the hospital with his birth family and we all rejoiced his entrance to the world as we ALL loved him dearly. I “got” to bring him home when he was released from the hospital.  I “got” to formally give him our last name 6 months later in a formal court hearing when our adoption was finalized.  While I put the word “got” in quotations… the key to each of those sentences is actually the word “I”.

I was the one who benefited from “getting” Ezra.  I gained a child.  He lost the parents he had known from the womb.  They lost him.  Celebrating “getting” him and calling it “Gotcha Day” seems to belittle the loss that surrounds adoption to me.  While Joe and I may always smile and acknowledge the day we brought him home from the hospital and how surreal it was and we will also always smile at the thought of him being forever “ours” after that emotional day in court. That celebration will not be as our new property, but that we welcomed a child into our home to love, raise and be our own.  I see him no different than our biological son.  I didn’t “get” Isaac.  He was born into the world and he was mine, a human being to love and cherish forever.   Not to mention, for Isaac, would it be fair if Ezra got essentially two birthdays (a Birthday and a Gotcha Day), while Isaac only got one?

The idea of parenting an adoptive child is to raise him as my own, while recognizing he WILL have differences that need addressed as he gets older and has questions.  But, for me to single him out and celebrate his being adopted, seems to me, to be insensitive.  While other parents may argue it makes their children feel special to have a day dedicated to them, I worry about the implications it will have on them as they get older and may see the day as pointing out their non-biological ties to the family they are raised in.

So, if I feel so inclined to celebrate a Gotcha Day, I’ll do so with my pets.  For my son, we’ll find other ways to celebrate his life and our family together.

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/.