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20
Jan

Maintaining a Relationship with Your Child’s Birth Family

At American Adoptions, we promote open adoptions whenever possible. An open adoption is an adoption situation in which the adoptive family and birth parents share identifying information and maintain some degree of contact.

This can look different for different families, and we’ll get to some suggestions about exactly how to maintain communication with your child’s birth family later in this post. First, though, let’s talk about the benefits.

The Benefits of Staying in Touch with Your Child’s Birth Family

  • An open adoption helps an adopted child understand where they came from. The child should always come first in any adoption scenario, so the good they receive from contact with their birth parents is the most important benefit of an open adoption. It’s common for an adopted child to feel that something is missing when they don’t know their birth parents. And while their adoptive parents will, of course, always be their parents, that doesn’t mean an adopted child won’t have questions.These questions may range in emotional depth. Your child may want to know where their hair color came from or if they have any biological siblings, or they may feel the need to know why their birth parents placed them for adoption. Maybe your child just wants to be able to check up on their birth parents to make sure they’re doing okay. None of this takes away from adoptive parents; giving your child access to their birth parents will generally only help them to understand who they are and where they came from.
  • Open adoption helps the birth parents to feel confident in their adoption decision. Remember, your child’s birth parents gave you the greatest gift imaginable. The sense of loss they feel won’t end quickly or easily after placement; they’re never going to stop thinking about the child they placed. You may be able to ease the pain and the fear they might feel by simply keeping them updated on your child’s life and how well they’re doing.
  • Open adoption gives you access to medical information. Don’t assume that getting all the information you can at the time of your child’s birth is going to cover you in this department for the rest of his or her life. If health issues arise, either with your child or with the birth parents, you may want to have an avenue of communication to talk about family medical history.

All of this is well and good, but we also understand that your relationship with your child’s birth parents may be delicate. It can be tough to know how to reach out and how often to do so, and the simple truth is that the exact degree and method of communication is going to vary on a case-by-case basis.

It may be helpful to you to read our earlier post, “Tips for Bonding with Your Child’s Birth Parents,” for advice on the emotional aspects of this process. Also check out “Fostering Positive Relationships with Birth Parents — The First Year.” In terms of the method of communication, though, here are some ways to keep in touch with your child’s birth parents:

  • Email exchanges. This is a really simple way to keep your child’s birth parents updated on how things are going. You can work out an agreement with them for how often these emails should be sent. They may even decide that, for a while at least, they want to receive weekly or monthly emails without responding, and that’s okay too. Keep in mind that communication may be difficult for them as well, especially at first. The same principle applies to letters.
  • Phone calls. These can either be scheduled, or you can have the kind of relationship where one party calls the other whenever the mood strikes. Some birth parents may prefer not to be surprised, while others may love it.
  • Skype sessions. If your child’s birth parents don’t live close by but you’d still like your child to be able to see them face to face, technology makes that doable.
  • Inperson visits. If visiting with your child’s parents in person is an option, this could be amazing for everyone involved. A good way to start this out is by meeting for coffee or a meal periodically.

Remember, maintaining a relationship with your child’s birth family doesn’t mean you’re co-parenting. Your child is yours. Nothing can change that. Maintaining a relationship with their birth family is just another way in which you can provide your child with the best life possible.

16
Jan

How to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby

It’s a question that women ask again and again: “Can you breastfeed an adopted baby?”

Yes. There are several ways to provide breastmilk for an adopted baby, should you choose to breastfeed.

Why Women Want to Breastfeed their Adopted Babies

The two greatest benefits of breastfeeding for infants are:

  1. the health benefits of breastmilk
  2. the additional opportunity for mother and baby to bond

Of course, breastfeeding an adopted baby can pose some obvious physical challenges, but it can still be done.

However, it’s important to remember that breastfeeding is not right for every mom. Deciding whether or not to breastfeed your baby is a very personal choice with no one wrong or right answer. Providing proper nutrition for your baby can happen with formula, your breastmilk, donated breastmilk, or any combination of the three.

Even for women who gave birth to their infant biologically, most of them supplement breastfeeding with formula, stored and/or donated breastmilk and individual combinations of those feeding techniques. Breastfeeding a baby is rarely a cut-and-dry process, regardless of how you become a mom!

But for women who have their hearts set on learning how to breastfeed their adopted baby, there are several ways to approach your breastfeeding experience.

How to Produce Breastmilk for Your Adopted Baby

If you want to try producing your own breastmilk for your baby, you’ll need the same hormonal nudge that all moms-to-be need to begin lactating. Breastfeeding an adopted baby will require some preparation and planning several weeks or even months before the baby arrives.

1. Consult with your physician.

It’ll help if you can bring in some information about adopted baby breastfeeding. But your doctor should be able to determine whether or not breastfeeding (and the accompanying hormonal shifts) is safe for you based on your health history, and they can recommend any vitamins or supplements that they think you may need while lactating. Your doctor may be able to put you into contact with a lactation expert, who will also be able to help.

2. Get on birth control pills.

Birth control pills produce hormones that trick the body into thinking that it’s pregnant so that it won’t bother to produce a new egg. That mimicked pregnancy can also be used to convince your body that it’s time to begin producing breastmilk.

3. Switch from birth control to supplements and medications.

Under the guidance of your doctor, you’ll discontinue the birth control once your doctor feels that your body has had enough time to prepare for milk production. Then, you’ll start taking herbal supplements and medications at the recommendation of a lactation expert to help facilitate breastmilk production without affecting the breastmilk itself.

4. Start pumping in preparation for the baby’s arrival.

You’ll start to pump a few times a day, slowly increasing the frequency and length of each pumping session. This will lead your body to begin producing milk, and if you stick to it, you’ll begin producing more and more gradually. Inducing lactation is typically a slow process; keep at it and you’ll see results.

Don’t be discouraged — most adoptive moms won’t have enough of their breastmilk stored up to feed their baby on alone. But this breastmilk can be a great supplement to formula until your milk production increases and you have more pumped and stored.

5. Supplement your breastmilk with a supplemental nursing system (SNS).

Again, you’ll likely need to supplement your own breastmilk with formula or donated breastmilk. This is easily done by mixing stored breastmilk and formula in a bottle.

If you want to nurse your adopted baby rather than feed them breastmilk through a bottle, this can be done with an SNS. The SNS is filled with breastmilk and/or formula, which is pumped through tubes taped to your breast so that the baby will get this supplemental supply in addition to any breastmilk you produce on your own. Carrying around an SNS isn’t always very practical for new moms, but it’s a nice option for adoptive moms who want to achieve the nursing experience.

As most breastfeeding moms do, you’ll eventually forego the SNS in favor a bottle, anyway. You can still continue pumping and feeding your baby stored breastmilk and/or formula after you stop nursing through the SNS.

Where to Find Donated Breastmilk

Donated breastmilk comes from healthy, breastfeeding mothers who have a surplus of breastmilk and want to donate it to other moms so that their babies can reap the health benefits. You can find donated breastmilk at your local donation bank, hospital, or by contacting a local donor directly.

This donated breastmilk is free, and it’s a great way to provide your adopted baby with health-boosting milk without having to take hormones and induce lactation yourself — particularly for moms who are unable to take hormonal birth control for health reasons.

Resources for Moms Who Want to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby

Talking to doctors and other women who’ve induced lactation in order to breastfeed an adopted baby will be helpful throughout the process. Check out these resources:

Read about one mom’s experience with breastfeeding her infant daughter she adopted through American Adoptions here!

13
Jan

“Love at First Sight” Photo Contest 2017

The first time a parent meets their child is an unforgettable experience. For our fourth annual “Love at First Sight” Photo Contest, send in the first photo you took with your child as a family for a chance to be featured on our blog and in an issue of our newsletter American Adoption News!

Here’s how to submit:

  1. Email your favorite photo of your child(ren) that shows your Love at First Sight adoption moment to editors@americanadoptions.com
  2. Title your email as “Photo Contest”
  3. In the body of the email, please include your name, your children’s name(s) and ages. Example: John Smith, Age 2 – Parents: Robert and Jane Smith

All submissions are due before 5 pm CST on Wednesday, February 1st!

The winners will be selected by YOU! We’ll be posting the photo entries (first names and ages only) to our Facebook page once the submission deadline closes, where you, your friends and family will be able to vote for your favorite photo with a Like. (Comments and shares will not be counted, so please direct people to the original photo post to submit their Like vote.)

Voting will close on February 13th at 5 pm CST and winners will be announced the following day, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

We can’t wait to see your special “Love at First Sight” adoption moments. Good luck!

9
Jan

Our Open Adoption Story – Diana

Hey there. I’m Diana. I’m a writer and social media manager at American Adoptions. I was adopted as an infant in 1991 through an open adoption.

I Always Knew I Was Adopted

There was never a time when I didn’t know that I was adopted. My older brother was also adopted through an open adoption, so I remember assuming that this was the norm. I do remember a moment when I was about 4 that I realized other children came from their mom’s tummies and that my brother and I did not. That was the first time I realized what being adopted actually meant.

For most of my early childhood, being adopted meant that when either of our birth parents came to visit, we cleaned the house even beyond its normal spotlessness. I had special chores like dusting and making the lemonade, and more importantly, my brother and I got presents. We understood that these visitors were special and I did feel an odd back-of-the-brain kind of connection to them, but beyond that, it felt a bit like close family friends coming to visit.

Yes, Sometimes Being Adopted Was Frustrating

As I got older, I had common adoptee thoughts and experiences. I didn’t look much like my family, but in the sociable milling around that followed church, people would “compliment” my parents on how much their children looked like them. It bothered me that this was something that people seemed to value.

I experienced momentary feelings of rejection, insecurity and abandonment, despite being absolute in the knowledge of my family and my birth family’s love for me. Sometimes the things that you know and the things that you feel are two very different things. These feelings crop up in most adolescents; adoptees are no exception.

We were inevitably assigned the dreaded “Family Tree” school projects or assignments where we talked about where we were from or who we got our hair and eye color from. When it came up in school that I was adopted, there were ignorant questions and teasing. “Why didn’t your real parents want you?” “What was it like in the orphanage?”  “They must have hated you.”

It didn’t faze me too much. I parroted what my parents had always told me: “My parents are my real parents. I have birth parents and they placed me for adoption because they wanted me but couldn’t keep me.”

My Relationship with My Birth Parents

When I was a baby, my birth parents and birth grandparents visited often. As I grew up (and they grew up) they visited less and less. My family moved around frequently, and my birth parents were busy building their own lives.

My Birth Mother

I remember my birth mother making a trip that took several hours with her fiancé to visit us. He gave my brother and I stacks and stacks of Pokémon cards, so naturally he received our solemn approval. It was only as an adult that I realized how important that trip must’ve been for my birth mother and her soon-to-be-husband; introducing him to the child she placed for adoption several years earlier. That was the last time I saw her until she was my sponsor at my Catholic Confirmation when I was 17.

When she came for my Confirmation, her husband and their two young boys stayed at our house for the event. Meeting my half-siblings was surreal. Sleeping under the same roof as someone I was biologically related to for the first time was even weirder. Her youngest son held my hand and I think I stopped breathing. It’s one of those things that only other adoptees can understand. I haven’t seen her since then.

My birth mother has since had two little girls and teaches pre-school (if you’re wondering why the visits stopped)! I always love seeing photos and updates of her kids on Facebook.

My Birth Father

I don’t remember my birth father visiting much when I was young, but he and his wife visited more often as I grew older. They were probably mildly terrified of me — I certainly wouldn’t blame them for that! As an adult, I’ve grown much closer to my birth father, in part because we live relatively near to each other and also partly because he doesn’t have any additional children of his own to tangle up his schedule!

It surprises people to learn that we hang out; I’ve cat-sat for him, I helped his family with their annual Halloween haunted house this year, we regularly email and have grabbed lunch a few times.

My Birth Grandparents

I rarely see my birth grandparents on either side as they get older, but in true grandparent form, they Like just about everything I put on Facebook. My parents still sends our birth families letters, gifts and photos every Christmas, which I know they appreciate receiving, just as we love receiving their annual letters to us.

Some Final Thoughts on My Birth Parent/Adoptee Relationship

My relationship with my birth family was a bit more formal than I think most people would imagine a birth parent/adoptee relationship to be. There’s this strange animal sense of being connected. My birth father and I hold a pen the same weird way. My birth mother is passionate about the same things I am. Little things that people who aren’t adopted take for granted. To an adoptee, it’s astonishing. But of course it doesn’t feel like a parent-child relationship.

My adoption has become more informal now that I’m an adult, which has opened up my relationship with my birth family to a flexible level that makes me happy.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my birth parents. I received more than just my name and my genes from them. They gave me my family.

I like them as people and I love them as birth parents and I think that’s a rare thing. My heart aches for the fear and pain they must’ve gone through when they became pregnant at a young age and the difficult decision they made for me.

I’m sure that decision still weighs on them. But I’ll say what I’m pretty sure they already know: they made the right choice.

My Family

I haven’t mentioned them too much up until now, because I was saving up for the gush of gratefulness you’re about to be subjected to. My family is the best.

My parents are great. They never set out with any intention of being a role model for adoptive parents, but they absolutely are. If you’re thinking about adoption, look to my parents for how to do it right; with an open adoption.

I’m very close with my extended family. My brother and I do stand out a bit from them personality and temperament-wise, but don’t worry — that’s never mattered for a minute. They’ve always accepted us as we are. There wasn’t an inch of difference between us and our many cousins in the way we were treated and loved. In their minds, our adoptions simply meant that there were two new people to love.

Several years ago, my cousins went through the same infertility heartbreak that my parents once did. My parents stepped in to offer their support. This led to my cousins adopting their now-5-year-old son from (of all places) American Adoptions, where they also chose an open adoption with my parents as godparents.

The whole family met him at his Baptism. Once again, his being adopted didn’t matter for a millisecond; he could’ve dropped from the sky… it wouldn’t make him any less ours.

I have an amazing family who provided me with opportunities and experiences that my young birth family couldn’t have. My parents worked so hard for the privilege to become a family, when for others it’s so easy that it happens by accident! I often wonder if that’s why their love is so fierce. Or maybe that’s just parents, right?

Working with American Adoptions

For the majority of my life, my adoption was something that I kept pretty tightly to myself. But as I got older and my feelings about my adoption began to sort themselves out, I realized the intense need for better education about adoption.

I watched couples sticking themselves with needles, taking pills and taking their temperature in an effort to have a baby. I watched young friends get pregnant and struggle between parenting or abortion.

Why were all of these people so resistant every time I mentioned that I was adopted? Yes, everyone’s situation is different. Adoption isn’t right for everyone. But they just didn’t know enough about adoption to even consider it as an option, and it seemed so tragically limiting.

I felt that I had a responsibility to sort of “pass on” the goodness of my own adopted life. I wanted to use my experience as a writer to be an advocate for pregnant women who weren’t ready to become parents, hopeful couples who were ready to become parents and fellow adoptees.

When I saw a new writing position at American Adoptions, the adoption agency that helped bring my baby cousin into my family, and it was located only a few hours away from my family, it felt so “meant to be” that I had to laugh. I packed up and moved from Chicago to Kansas City a few weeks later.

It’s strange to have adoption go from this half-forgotten backseat role in my life to the forefront of my days. But this is the best job I’ve ever had. Everyone here at American Adoptions is so caring and passionate about helping pregnant women and adoptive parents become families together.

It’s as an adoptee and not as an employee that I say what a fantastic adoption agency American Adoptions is. They can help you. I promise.

The Truth About Open Adoption

Since starting at American Adoptions, I’m surprised at the number of potential adoptive parents who balk at the idea of an open adoption. I understand where their fears are coming from. But I can be the grown-up voice of the baby they hope to adopt: Don’t be afraid of an open adoption.

I’m a happy, well-adjusted adult (or at least as much as any of us are!) because I grew up with an open adoption.

My friends who had closed adoptions or who grew up with little to no contact with their birth parents harbor understandably negative feelings about their adoptions. I can’t imagine living with such a huge hole in my heart and my history. With a closed adoption, the questions can consume you.

Closed adoptions are sometimes necessary for the safety and stability of a child. But I’m here to tell you, whether you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption or a prospective adoptive parent — always choose an open adoption when you can.

I’m so lucky to have such a fantastic relationship with both my birth and adoptive families. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without both of those sides of me. Open adoption gave me that.

I hope you’ll give that to your child, too.


You can read Diana’s parents’ side of the story here.

Share this to reach those who may be considering adoption or who’ve been touched by adoption!

6
Jan

Our Open Adoption Story – Harry & Sherry

American Adoptions writer, Diana, is an adoptee. Her parents, Harry & Sherry, share their story:


Sherry:

Our adoption story began in the summer of 1988. My husband and I had been married nine years and spent five of the nine years in infertility treatment. My husband, frustrated with our progress, suggested we visit an adoption agency. I was very hesitant. Although I was frustrated as well, I was optimistic that “next month” we would be pregnant. Finally, in the fall of that year I agreed we would visit with a social worker at the agency, but still thought of adoption as “Plan B.”

One of the reasons I was reluctant to adopt was my worry that as my child grew up and asked questions about birth parents I could not answer, they would begin to fantasize about the life they could have had and not be happy with their life in our family. Those worries were dispelled when the social worker told us that the agency only did open adoptions.

She described how the profiles, pictures and letters we would compile would be shared with birth parents, and after viewing profiles from several potential adoptive parents, the birth parents would choose who to meet with and potentially place their child with. The birth parents and adoptive parents would then stay in touch (deciding among themselves exactly what that meant to them) and the adopted child would grow up knowing who their birth parents were and have health history and the ability to ask questions of birth parents when necessary.

All of the sudden I was “all in.” Open adoption made perfect sense to me. I could see how important it was for the physical and mental health of my child and also for the mental health of the birth parents. Learning about open adoption took away my fear of the adoption process.

In February of 1989, our son was born. His paternal grandmother placed him in our arms three days later. In the 27 years since his birth, we have maintained a close relationship with his birth parents and birth-grandparents, and by close I mean visits over the years and frequent phone calls and letters. My son, as an adult, now determines how much contact he wishes to have, but my husband and I always stay in contact with the birth families because they are part of our extended family.

I could go into more detail about our son’s adoption, but this blog post is meant to highlight our daughter, Diana’s, adoption, which took place 27 months later.

When our son was around 20 months old, my husband and I knew we would like to adopt another child. Our worry was: how could a second adoption possibly go as wonderfully as the adoption of our son? Would we always compare the two processes? What if we don’t feel as bonded to this birth family as we do to our son’s? Good advice from my sister propelled us forward. She said, “Why shouldn’t the second adoption be a miraculous as the first? Have faith. Don’t be afraid.”

We contacted the same agency and, once again, our profile was sent out to birth parents. We were selected by a couple who were college students at the time. My first impression of these two young people was — “they are so smart!” They were very interesting as well — people who I could have imagined myself being friends with when I was in college. It was also obvious that they loved their baby. Birth Father was so gentle and considerate with Birth Mother. Birth Mother was very careful of what she chose to eat for lunch to make sure it was healthy and would not upset the baby. Needless to say, we admired and respected these two courageous people who wanted the best for their child.

Diana’s birth parents wanted to place her with us at the birth father’s home. Her placement is such a lovely memory. We had chocolate cake and strawberries. Both sets of birth grandparents were in attendance. Birth Mother’s older brother spent time entertaining our son, so much so, it was hard to get him to leave when the time came. One of the most vivid memories I have of that day is Diana fussing while I was holding her and thinking, “She hears her birth mother’s voice and wants to be held by her.”

I cherish that memory as it reminds me of the sacrifice that the birth parents had to make to provide me with a family. My love and respect for them is overwhelming.

We were happy to send letters and pictures of Diana to her birth families. It was never a burden because we were so proud of this beautiful child and couldn’t wait to share every milestone in her life. Their letters to us were always so positive, and when they expressed gratitude to us for being such good parents, I was humbled beyond what I can express.

I have many wonderful memories of letters, gifts and visits with Diana’s birth families; here are two of my favorites:

When Diana was about 2 ½ years old, we met her paternal birth family at a hotel as we traveled through Kansas on our way home for Christmas. This was the first time her paternal grandparents had seen her since her birth. Diana was quite precocious and articulate for her age. She was cute as can be all dressed up in her poinsettia dress for the special occasion. I could not wait for her birth family to meet her. She was a delight, and entertained everyone. Her birth family was so complementary of her and our family. I was reassured by the visit that her birth father was confident of the decision he made to place this precious girl with us.

The second memory is when Diana’s birth mother was her Confirmation sponsor at our Catholic Church. We had such a great family celebration afterward. Diana’s birth family — grandparents, birth mother and her husband’s precious children, my parents and siblings with their children — all in our home together celebrating this incredible young woman we all loved and supported. I remember looking around my very full home with such joy in my heart.

Diana now is in control of the contact she has with her birth family. We still keep in touch with them by Facebook and are happy when Diana meets with her birth father or hears from one of her birth grandparents. We love seeing pictures of her birth mother’s beautiful children and have felt honored to be able to attend her birth father’s music performances.

I know this story sounds a bit idyllic, but I can honestly say the only downside we have experienced of the open adoption process is — we wish we could have spent MORE time with our children’s birth families but distance and time have not allowed us to do so. We genuinely care for them and enjoy their company. We wish they could have attended more of Diana’s piano and dance recitals, seen how beautiful she was for prom, and experienced her extraordinary talent when she acted in plays in college.

If I can, from our experience, give one piece of advice to prospective adoptive parents, it is DO NOT BE AFRAID! Do not let fear invade your relationship with the birth parents of your child.  Remember always, love is never divided, only multiplied. I wish each and every one of you the joy that can only come when you are called “Mom” or “Dad.”

Harry:

Sherry and I were married in August of 1979 and we spent several years focusing on our professional lives, but knew that we would eventually want to start a family. After many months of trying to conceive and additional fertility testing, we decided to meet with a fertility specialist. We spent several months following their advice and unfortunately, we simply were not able to get pregnant. This was a very stressful time in our lives as we watched month after month pass without a pregnancy, wondering if we were simply not going to be able to have children.

During that time, I started thinking about other options to bring children into our family. I have always been fascinated with the adoption process having known others who decided that this might be the best option for them.

I presented the idea to Sherry, and at first she was not ready to even consider this option. With a great deal of additional discussion and prayer, we both decided that we would approach an adoption agency to seek their advice and counsel. After visiting with the agency about their adoption process, they encouraged us to consider an open adoption. Both of us really liked the idea and decided that we would work with the agency to seek a child through an open adoption.

The degree of openness to open adoptions seemed natural and welcoming. I liked the idea that an open adoption was simply a way to expand our current family by including birth parents and their family into ours. I wanted the birth parents to be totally committed to Sherry and me – feeling at peace with their decision. This gave them a chance to know that they made the right decision picking us and looked forward to continue being involved with the child’s life in some way. The greatest value in open adoption is that the child has nothing hidden from them… they know the families they came from and the family that raised them.

Both of our two children have been adopted through open adoptions, and even after 25+ years, I’m absolutely convinced that it was the right decision.  

Sherry and I spent weeks preparing a profile of our family that included information about our open adoption with our son. We knew that it was critical to try to tell our story through the family profile so that potential birth parents would feel like they knew us. We knew it was important for them to understand the unique opportunity of open adoption like the one we had with our son. It wasn’t about trying to sell ourselves, it was about letting potential birth parents know all there was to know about us, and to open the door for a face-to-face meeting – which I believe is the critical part of the process. It wasn’t long after we completed the biography that we got a call from the social worker at the agency to tell us they had a couple who really wanted to meet with us. After getting that call, I knew in my heart that God was involved in this decision (as he was in our son’s adoption) and we were in the process of getting our second child.

Our second adopted child, Diana, was born to a teenage couple from western Kansas, who made the courageous decision to place their child for adoption.

Meeting with Diana’s birth parents was simply a delight. Once we started our visit with them, it became clear to me that we wanted to welcome them into our family. They kept us up-to-date about the pregnancy, and we wanted to make sure that they had everything that they needed. There was even some discussion about being in the delivery room with them during the birth. The total commitment to their decision to place this child for adoption was evident during all our conversations with them throughout the pregnancy. Sherry and I felt it was important that the birth parents give the baby her name. They liked the name “Diana” and we agreed: our daughter would be called Diana.

Both Sherry and I were totally committed to the birth parents. Our door to them was always open; we welcomed visits in our home, we would talk with their families by phone whenever they wanted to chat, we would send letters to them on a regular basis and at least once a year we would provide them with pictures from all the kids’ activities during that year…to this day, we still send them a Christmas letter with photos.

After Diana’s birth, we met with the entire birth family in Dodge City, where they hosted a reception with their extended family to meet us. With a great deal of love, they handed Diana over to us.

It was a true celebration and to this day, we call them our family.

Read Diana’s side of the story here.

Share this to reach those who may be considering adoption or who’ve been touched by adoption!

4
Jan

How to Choose a Home Study Professional

Home studies are a pretty big deal in the adoption process. A home study is an assessment of a prospective adoptive family’s life, history and home, and, if all goes well, it ends with a recommendation that the family be able to adopt.

It’s natural, then, that the process can seem scary. It’s tough to have your lives under a microscope, but everyone has to go through it before adopting — even celebrities! To make the process as educational and stress-free as possible, it’s important to choose the right professional to complete your home study.

For Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas and Florida residents, American Adoptions can provide home study services in a span of four to six weeks. (These are the states in which we are licensed.) If you don’t reside in one of these states, though, there are important questions to ask any home study professional before you begin the process.

Who can perform a home study?

A home study must be performed by a social worker licensed in your state. Some states, as well as other countries, require that social worker to be from a licensed adoption agency. To avoid any issues with the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC), we recommend working with a licensed adoption home study professional. You don’t want to travel to another state to meet your child only to realize your home study has been denied.

How much does a home study cost?

The ultimate price tag varies based on each adoptive family’s individual situation. It’s common for international home studies to cost more, because the requirements of the other country have to be met as well. Before selecting a professional to complete your home study, be sure to ask about prices — not only for the present time, but for post-placements and other updates after your child has joined your family.

Remember, cost is not the only factor. You need a timely, experienced professional to help you ready your family for its newest member.

How long will the home study take?

Some professionals move faster than others. You should ask any agency you’re considering this question, as well as a few follow-ups:

  • Does the home study time frame start the day you apply or the day your interview takes place? Some estimated time frames can be very skewed if the clock doesn’t start until the day your interviews begin. You want to make sure the agency you choose can get the ball rolling relatively quickly.
  • How soon can the agency send a professional to begin the interview process?
  • How long does it generally take for background checks to be returned? Is that factored into the agency’s time frame estimate?
  • How quickly will the professional actually write your home study after the interviews and background checks? Ask for references.

Other factors to consider

It’s helpful to think beyond the day your child joins your family when choosing a home study professional. He or she will also be responsible for post-placement supervision visits, which will entail coming to your home to assess how everyone is adjusting with the newest family member. The number of these visits depends on the state (or by country in an international adoption).

You may need an updated home study down the line if you move, switch careers or add new family members to your home. Otherwise, the original is good for 12 months before it has to be updated.

If you’re pursuing an international adoption, be sure the home study professional you choose is well-versed in the different demands associated with the country or countries you are considering. It’s important that your professional know what those countries are looking for in adoptive families.

Remember that it’s normal to be anxious about your home study. It is, after all, a very big step on the way to growing your family — and the right home study professional will help to guide you along the way.

2
Jan

10 Ways to Entertain your Kids on a Snow Day

As a kid, snow days are magical. You get the day off from school, and there’s a blanket of white stuff that has completely transformed your world. As an adult, they can be a little less so. You know the realities of driving in that white stuff, and you’re now faced with the task of entertaining little ones who are going to be stuck inside (and probably very distracted) for the majority of the day.

We know that our American Adoptions blog readers are no strangers to putting kids first, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your snow day at home, too. Try any of these snow day activities to guarantee a fun family day for all involved.

1.Build an indoor campsite. If you have a tent somewhere in the depths of your basement or garage, bust that out for the living room floor. If not, everyone loves a good blanket fort. Have your kids wear pajamas, and let them help make a campfire snack, like s’mores, in the kitchen. Bust out a flashlight and pass it around; whoever can tell the best campfire story get an extra piece of chocolate!

2. Make maple syrup candy. Boil real maple syrup, and have your kids carefully pour it onto a patch of clean snow. If they can, let them be creative and try to form shapes or letters with the syrup. Once it’s cool, it’s ready to eat!

3. Bake, bake, bake. Snow days make everyone hungry, right? Thanks to Pinterest, there’s always a wealth of tasty recipes at your fingertips no matter what ingredients you have in the house. You can stick to a staple, like chocolate chip cookies, or branch out with simple recipes, like these for apple pie chips and homemade donuts. They’re much easier than you might imagine.

4. Skype Grandma and Grandpa — or your child’s birth parents. A snow day is a great time to let your children visit with loved ones. Let your kids complete a few other snow day activities first, and then they’ll have plenty of stories to share. If you have open communication with your child’s birth parents, this is a great time to build that relationship.

5. Feed the birds. A quick, simple outdoor activity is to feed the birds in your backyard. This serves multiple purposes. Your kids get to help the birds find food in the snow, they’ll burn off a little energy with the process of bundling up and scattering the food, and you’ll have some indoor entertainment for later in the day. Make sure you choose a location that’s visible from a window, so you can watch the birds benefit from this task throughout the day.

6. Read a book. This one is kind of a no-brainer. What better way to make reading fun than by giving your kids an afternoon to read as many books as they want? It’s also a great time to learn more about adoption. For a list of good children’s books that cover the subject, click here.

7. Indoor bowling. If your kids are starting to get rambunctious, set up a homemade bowling lane. All you need is a soccer ball or volleyball and 10 empty water bottles. Clear a lane, set up the bottles in bowling pin formation, and voila! You’ve got entertainment for hours. If the water bottles are knocking down and scattering too easily, trying filling them partially with water.

8. Make ice lanterns. Yes, these are exactly as pretty as they sound. This post from Mommy Poppins outlines exactly how to make them. Basically, you’re freezing water in a balloon, peeling off the balloon, and placing a candle inside the orb you’re left with. You’ll have pretty, dancing lights until the ice melts!

9. Make a masking tape maze. Okay, so this one is going to take a little more effort on your part. We recommend making this a maze that your child could guide an action figure or other small toy through. Anywhere you’ve got a few square feet of floor is a good spot. Younger kiddos will enjoy guiding their toys through your maze; how long it takes is dependent on your maze-creating skills.

10. Recreate Mission Impossible. One ball of red string, and your kids are entertained for hours. Use painter’s tape to string up “laser beams” in a hallway in your house. You can encourage your kids to pretend they’re in the heat of a Mission Impossible-style plot, or just let them treat the string as an obstacle course they can’t touch. Either way, they’ll put a painstaking amount of effort into it.

What’s your favorite snow day activity? Share and let us know!

30
Dec

2016 Adoption Tax Credit

With tax season around the corner many of our families are wondering what the Adoption Tax Credit is and how it works. Below we have provided a brief explanation of the Adoption Tax Credit, the updated amount available to families for the 2016 tax season, and an infographic to help families understand how the Adoption Tax Credit works.

What is the Federal Adoption Tax Credit?

The Federal Adoption Tax Credit can help families offset the costs of qualifying adoption expenses, making adoption possible for some families who could not otherwise afford it. Families who adopted a child, or tried to adopt a child, and paid qualifying expenses may be eligible for the credit.

With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 the Adoption Tax Credit became a permanent part of the tax code. However, the tax credit is not refundable, which means that only those individuals with tax liability (taxes owed) will benefit.

The maximum adoption tax credit for 2016 is $13,460. The Adoption Tax Credit limit is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and is recalculated each year based on current cost of living. For the 2016 Adoption Tax Credit, the maximum amount available will begin to phase out for families with MAGI above $201,920 and will be unavailable to families with incomes around $241,9200 or above.

The infographic below further outlines how the federal adoption tax credit operates:

adoption-tax-credit-2016

23
Dec

2016 Holiday Photo Contest Winners

The votes are in and these are the 3 winning photos of our Annual Holiday Photo Contest. Congratulations to Asher, Elijah, and siblings, Andrew, Isabella, and Madelyn!

Ages 0-2: Asher, 5 mo

Ages 3+: Elijah, 4

Siblings: Andrew, 11, Isabella, 10, & Madelyn, 8

To view the other entries in the contest, visit our Facebook page:

Thanks so much to everyone who voted! And thanks to those of you who shared your children’s photos with us this holiday season! It’s so fun to see how the American Adoptions Family grows and expands each year, and judging by the Facebook likes and comments, these American Adoptions kids have great support and love from their friends and family!

21
Dec

Ideas for Keeping the Kids Entertained All Winter

Well, winter has officially arrived.  Last week, an arctic blast took over most of the country, sending temperatures plummeting and blanketing some areas with snow.  So, how are we going to entertain the kids while the temperatures are frigid and there is snow on the ground?  Here are some ideas for outdoor winter fun.

If there’s snow on the ground:

  • Build a snowman
  • Build a snow fort
  • Make snow angels
  • Have a snowball fight
  • Write in the snow with colored water – mix water and food coloring in a squeeze bottle, then squirt it on the snow. They can decorate their snowman or snow fort too!
  • Go sledding
  • Make snow ice cream – mix 5-6 cups of snow with 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Stir and enjoy!  Pop it in the freezer if it starts to melt.

If the kids are tired of playing in the snow:

  • Go ice skating or teach the kids to skate – the best part of winter is you can bundle up and try an outdoor rink
  • Go on a hike and take snowy pictures
  • Admire the holiday decorations at night – pile the kids in the car in their pajamas, sip hot cocoa and drive through the neighborhoods. Check local websites to see if there’s a park/nature preserve/zoo near you that has light shows during the holidays.  Our local paper usually has a list of neighborhoods with big light displays too.
  • Do a good deed – this is time of year when charities or food banks are always looking for extra help. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, ring the bell for the Salvation Army, visit residents in a nursing home, help out at a local animal shelter, or even shovel a neighbor’s driveway.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Feed the birds – make a simple pinecone birdfeeder with peanut butter and birdseed. Get out the binoculars to see which birds visit.

All outdoor activities should be followed up with hot cocoa and snuggling by a fireplace.  We hope you have a fun winter season!

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