Adoption Is…

I am so blessed to have such a huge support network of other adoptive parents.  So when I reached out to them, telling them I’d love to share the beauty of adoption through pictures of our children and quotes that touch our hearts, I got a great response!  Thank you everyone who sent me pictures and quotes!

0 Ezra

1 Oliver And Amelia

2 Suzy

3 MaryRae

4 Ezra

5 Patricia

6 Adria

7 Candice

8 Jessica

9 Andi

10 Eithen

11 Thresa

12 Julianne

12 Julie

13 Christina

13 Jessica

14 Ezra

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Adoption Backlash

Borrowed from "Adoption Hate"

Borrowed from “Adoption Hate

Before starting the adoption process, did you have any idea that some people were negative toward adoption and assume all adoptions are unethical? I didn’t have a clue. I was in for an awakening when the more I tried to learn and advocate, it seemed the more flack I caught from the protesters. At first it really bothered me, now it inspires me to keep going forward in my journey. It is still hard to not take their comments, especially when directed at me, personal.

Yesterday on Twitter someone tagged me in two posts. The first one they said I was a baby snatcher or something along those lines and the second post, they said I lied to our son’s first mother about open adoptions not being legally enforceable and said I SHOULD feel guilt (referencing my recent blog entry). Obviously, this person was just trying to strike a nerve with me and has no clue what actually goes on in my adoption triad.

What things like this have you seen or been under attack for? How can we prepare ourselves for this and how can we respond in a positive manner that shows we are not baby hungry vultures?

These are questions I asked my online adoption forum.  The forum I moderate is composed of men and women across the globe that are either adoptive parents or hopeful adoptive parents.  They represent people from many types of adoption and are in different stages of their adoption process.  It is nice to get a variety of views and come together for insight and solutions.  It is also just a great place to know that we can talk freely and not be judged for asking questions and wanting to learn more.

Examples of how people have been attacked for their role in adoption were then brought up.  One such example is that we should take the money we have saved for adoption and give it to the expecting mother in order to keep the family intact.  This is unrealistic.  Good in theory, but if a baby only needed a little money and the rest is history, I am sure far less women would consider adoption.  The $15,000 we paid in adoption fees would not last long.  Surely not 18+ years to raise that child.

The people who speak out against adoption may come across poorly.  They may be hurt and angry.  And although they are offensive, we can still  learn from these people. Wading through the bitter words and attacks on our humanity can be difficult.  Setting our ego aside and listening to the injustice they have faced in their adoption story can help us reform adoption.  Do I think abolishing adoption is the answer? No.  And not just because I benefited from infant adoption myself.  But, because things aren’t black and white.  The downside of learning from these nay sayers, is whenever I have tried to reach out to them for clarity and have a sensible conversation with them, their repeated attacks to my family are so harsh, that I give up. I have so many times told them that more people would listen if they approached the subject with more respect, instead of scare tactics. They go for the shock value in their message instead of reasoning and solutions to the problems.

So while I choose to not engage them if they are not willing to have a healthy and productive conversation, I will not dismiss their concerns either as just angry rants from bitter people.  We can continue our education and fight for preservation of first families as well as rights for birth fathers, access to original birth certificates, open adoption and more.

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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Foster Series: 4

Today’s foster series post is brought to you by a wonderful woman who has asked to not be named due to the foster status of her son.  This is yet another interesting story about how families come to be in the foster care system.  While this child has some obstacles to face, his parents who hope to adopt him, fight for him daily.  They don’t dwell on his disabilities but rather allow him to flourish with his abilities.  Thank you for contributing to my series.  I wish you the best of luck and hope you can welcome your son to your family permanently.  He deserves you! – Sarah

PS.  This one hit home for a me a little too… My husband, Joe, also has something similar to a lazy eye.  I love his googly eyes and the way they look at me. 🙂

Parents with ChildIt was a two minute phone call about two and a half years ago that changed my life.   “We have a pre-adoptive placement.  A two year old boy.  He has a lazy eye.  That’s all we know.”  I said yes.  No hesitation.  No name, no other information, just a lazy eye.  I have a lazy eye!  Our daughter has a lazy eye!  He will fit right in!

The next day a little mop topped Hispanic boy showed up with a social worker.  He had been in a relative home for about 10 mos, but was being kicked out with only 24 hrs notice.  He was calling the social worker mom, and he called me mom instantly.  He was clinging and clearly scared.  He liked to dance, and that is how we calmed him, music and dancing.  We were about to learn some things…and fast.

His birthmom stopped visits shortly after his placement with us.  She will voluntarily terminate her rights.  She has AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) issues.  We have only met a few times in court.  I see her love for him, but also see she knows she is doing what is best.

We learned after we had him for several months that he had been born dependent on drugs and had spent his first 5 weeks in the hospital.  We learned of his severe neglect as time went on…the information trickled in to us.  It took a long time for us to get his full story.  I suspect we will find out more when we get his adoption packet.  He had very few social skills when he came to us, a store was too much stimulation, and caused him panic.  He would hit and kick.  I don’t think he had ever seen a park.  He has long raging tantrums, they are violent and can last for an hour.  We believe he is ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), and he is currently medicated for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  He is incredibly impulsive.  He has very big abandonment issues and will panic if he thinks you are leaving.  If you have shoes on before his are on, his world crumbles.  It causes panic.  This is an improvement from where he used to be.  The damage done at young ages is real.

He is very smart though.  He may be behaviorally challenged, but he is SO smart.  He is already starting to read and is ahead in 4k (4 year old Kindergarten).  He started spelling small words even before 4k started.  This from a boy who needed speech therapy and was behind in talking when we first met. He has an amazing memory as well.  Like most kids with ADHD, he also loves his electronics and video games, and those are great as rewards.  His lazy eyes have also been fixed with a regular sleeping schedule.

Because previous caregivers have been woman, he projects a lot of anger onto me, his mom.  I understand that, although it doesn’t make it easy.  He has never had a positive male figure, so dad is a superhero.  He also worships his big sister.  He has a typical sibling relationship with his little brother.  It’s beautiful.

He has a lot of potential, if we can get his behavioral issues managed.  He is challenging, but adorable.  He is scared of leaving and that is tragic at his young age.  I feel like the system is failing him by the length of time he is in it…and that laws need to change to reflect this.

This is a legal risk placement, adoption isn’t a guarantee.  To this day, we are still fighting and its been 28 months of placement with us.  He is now four and a half years old.  We have just recently gotten a termination of parental rights, but his biodad is appealing. He is in prison and has been since our son was 6mos old.  He cannot get out until he is 9.  Yet, he is appealing, thinking he should have to wait for him to get out, establish a relationship, since they do not know each other and he can then try to parent.  He sees this as fighting for his son.  I see it as fighting against him…keeping him as part of a legal system, rather than letting him move on with his life, and with the only family he knows.

He is our challenging little boy.  But we love him with his challenges.  That two minute phone call, with no information…it was life changing.  It brought us our son.  We will continue to fight for him, and get him to his adoption day.  He deserves his chance at feeling safe, and having happiness.  So do we.  It’s a long hard road…but we will get there.

– Anonymous

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!

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.