The Right Foot

open adoption

Open Adoption, Open Heart

If I can give one piece of advice, it is that in all the training you will receive, you may not be taught that starting off the relationship on the right foot can never begin too early. When I say that, it means learning positive adoption language is a big deal. You may learn a few things like to use “created an adoption plan” over the dated version of “giving up for adoption”. There are many other situations though that choosing your words carefully can go a long way. But it really isn’t about just being politically correct, it’s about respect.  It’s about understanding people’s feelings.  It’s about willingness to learn.

Today with open adoption being the more normal route domestic adoptions are taking, starting that relationship off with respect is so important. As adoptive parents we are gaining something that we could not achieve on our own; a child. Imagine the heart ache and loss the expecting mother goes through every day leading up to placing her child and will likely feel every day after the placement. Respecting her as a human and the parent of that child shows you love not just her baby, but her as well. And don’t forget about the father, he may or may not be involved, but until you know otherwise, assume he is.

Remember, positive adoption language is not just about being politically correct, but respecting her. Moving forward in an open adoption requires respect. Respecting her for her decision and not just going after her baby and saying “all the right things” will create a lasting relationship that your future child can respect you for. There are many resources out there to ensure you understand positive adoption language. If it is not offered in your adoption training, seek it out for yourself, you’ll be happy you did.

Part of respecting her, is also respecting her story. Respecting that her story is also your future child’s story. People can be nosey when it comes to adoption. Some are genuinely curious about adoption, some just want to the juicy details. So decide how much you want to share with people and stick to it. People will ask all sorts of questions that you never dreamed of. IE. “Why is she giving him up?” “Is she on drugs?” “Does she know who the father is?” “Why doesn’t she want to keep him?” Etc. Keep in mind that what you share with people now, may get back to your child or give the inquisitive people less respect for the birth mother in the future. While you may have the best intentions of sharing the story with people, they may repeat it back at inconvenient times. If your open adoption ends up being like mine, we invite our son’s birth parents and other biological family over a few times a year for family gatherings. We want everyone to feel comfortable. They are all part of our extended family now. While a person may be at a low moment in life at the time of placement, often the reason for them creating an adoption plan is to not to just give their child a better life, but to also give them the ability to improve their own life.

I think that letting the expecting mother know that you will support her in any decision she makes is very important. It shows a great deal of respect. Yes, of course you want to be a parent and adoption is your goal in having this relationship with her, but her knowing that you will be ok if she decides to parent or picks another family over you, goes a long way in her trust in you as good people. But don’t just say it, MEAN IT! Get yourself in the right frame of mind before entering the relationship.  She is not there to make you a parent.  You are there to parent her child.

Starting off on the right foot with the expecting parents will help you in a lifelong respectful relationship that will be cherished by your child and all members of the adoption triad for years to come.

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Advertising For Adoption

Lately it seems a lot of my blogs spark from things I’ve seen on adoption forums.  It’s nice to have a supportive outlet, but with many people in different stages of infertility or from different backgrounds in adoption, these forums can often become heated debates with strong willed people.  I try so hard to see both sides of every situation and inject my opinion as just that, my opinion.  If I give more than the 2 cents they asked for, I do it so as the “voice of reason”.  I try not to belittle anyone, but when emotions are involved, defenses come up and people don’t always want a differing opinion or “extra advice”.

Networking and Advertising your adoption plans can be one of those subjects that is a hot topic.  It is a topic that I am interested in for many reasons.  I work in marketing; networking is what I do.  So, for me, where does the line need to be drawn in what is ethical and what is not?  First starting with what is legal is good.  People often claim they have talked to their lawyer and know it’s legal already, but I question how often that is true.  Not that I assume people are liars, I just know that from my own research there are a lot of legal caveats with adoption advertising.  When you tell someone it might night be legal, they get defensive and may say they have talked to their lawyer already, just to feel better to the stranger they are talking to.  No one wants to look like an ass.

Billboard taken out in New Jersey in order to market to expecting mothers that would only have a 72 hour period to change their mind instead of the Maryland 28 days where the couple lives. Neither state has laws against advertising. But is this ethical?

Billboard taken out in New Jersey in order to market to expecting mothers that would only have a 72 hour period to change their mind instead of the Maryland 28 days where the couple lives. Neither state has laws against advertising. But is this ethical?

What type of networking or advertising do you feel is OK and what is too much?  For instance, when my husband and I were first looking into expanding our family via adoption, I created a Facebook page.  I invited all my friends and family to like the page.  I posted on there that our desire was to adopt and I would periodically post cute sayings/memes as well as updates of where we were in our journey.  We weren’t with an agency, we weren’t home study approved, we were just expressing our want and sharing our journey.  Once we were home study ready, I got a little eager and since I work in marketing, I took out one of those ads you see on the side of the page asking people to “like” our page.  After 2 days, I took the ad down.  It seemed a little over the top for me.  I didn’t know if there were laws against it or not.  I didn’t know if there was any official faux pas I was making, I just didn’t feel comfortable anymore having an ad out there promoting such a delicate want to strangers.  Many people I know have those types of Facebook pages.  We still have ours up and running actually.

The debate that ensued on the adoption forum stemmed from a woman asking who she should pass out fliers and networking cards to to promote her adoption journey and website to reach more people.  My advice was just to be careful; that it might not be legal and that in the adoption community there is a fine line between what is ethical in networking and advertising. I also told her to tell her church members, coworkers, friends, family etc.  But that she should also talk about it frequently to anyone she got in a conversation with; make the natural segway that she is hoping to adopt and that talking about it is often much more well received than physically handing someone a card or flier.  She did not take my advice well.  She was offended by my input.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Networking and/or Advertising: Is it Ethical?

Pro’s:

1.  Being proactive.  It helps the “wait” if you are doing something.  If you are working toward the end goal of expanding your family, you pass time quicker and feel like you have done everything you can do.

2.  Possibly reducing the wait time by connecting yourself with a match faster than the agency or facilitator you are working with may be able to do.

3.  Find the right match for you.  If you are looking on your own terms, you may find that perfect person that will be a beautiful extension to your family.  The expecting mother and you may have a lot in common and connect easily, allowing the open adoption to be a beautiful relationship.

4.  It helps you connect to other families in your area also touched by adoption.  You may network at church, school, work and other places just by sharing your adoption journey.  This can not only offer you support, but possibly lead to a match.

Con’s

1.  When does networking become advertising and portrayed as distasteful?  Often people that market themselves for adoption are not as heavily trained as those going through an agency and therefore may use incorrect terminology in their advertisement as well as come across as “trolling” for a baby.

2.  Taking out an ad (We’ve all seen Juno and how they advertised in the Penny Saver), you are opening yourself up to it looking like you are buying a baby.  Think about it, you advertise a product that you want people to buy.  How is this different?

3.  Not everyone will agree with adoption.  You may receive backlash from people against adoption or just think you should either not have children or try a different route to grow your family.  So prepare yourself to be open to criticism.

4.  You may attract scammers.

5.  If you are embarrassed to tell your child how he/she came to your family, it may not be the right way to do it.  It can connote a feeling of “purchased” when ads are placed.

6.  It might not be legal.

So The Legal Aspects:

Some (not all) states have laws against advertising.  While some flat out ban any form of advertising, others have laws that allow agencies, lawyers facilitators, social workers to advertise.  Some states allow those professionals to advertise, but place stipulations on the situations in which they can advertise.  Other states have laws as to what type of media can be used in advertising when the adoptive couple or expecting mother is the one doing the advertising.  Do you know the laws of your state?

These are the states that have some sort of law defining advertising or banning advertising:

Alabama

California

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Massachusetts

Mississippi

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Washingon

Wisconsin

To see what laws/stipulations your state has, you can find more information hereThis link also provides information on if your state allows the use of facilitators in adoption.

For more information on adoption laws, training and resources visit my Adoption Information page.

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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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