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20
Feb

10 Ways to Fundraise for Adoption

It’s no secret that adoption is expensive. Depending on the type of adoption you pursue, you could be looking at spending as much as $50,000. And while you’ll want to look into loans, grants, employer benefits and the adoption tax credit, it’s likely that you’ll still have to come up with a large sum before you can adopt.

There are reasons that adoption is so expensive, and you can read about those here. This post, though, is going to focus on ways to raise that money. We understand that not all families have $50,000 lying around. (Wouldn’t it be nice if you did, though?! Sigh.) This doesn’t necessarily bar you from adoption. It just means you may have to get creative.

Families have funded their adoption in so many ways; it would be impossible to include every method in one post (although Fund Your Adoption did a pretty decent job). Instead, we’ve picked some of our favorites. You can certainly get creative with your adoption fundraisers—some families make things like jewelry in order to store away extra cash — but these 10 are tried and true. Sometimes, sticking to the classics can yield some of the best results.

1. Have a yard sale. There’s no way you don’t have a few possessions lying around that you don’t really need. And hey, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Get realistic about what you do and don’t need, and try to declutter your home a little. You’ll need that extra space for a new child anyway! If you live in an area where this would work in the traditional sense, and the weather will accommodate you, go for it. If not, it’s fairly easy to sell things online these days. Thank you, Craigslist and eBay.

2. Sell some food. Maybe this is a bake sale, maybe it’s an ice cream social, or maybe it’s a chili cook-off. It really doesn’t matter; people love their food. Think about what your strengths are kitchen-wise, and what would be the most cost-effective route in your community. Obviously, season factors in as well. Don’t have a chili cook-off in July, and an ice cream social probably isn’t a great idea in February. Otherwise, though, go crazy. Ask for people to donate food (or turn it into some type of competition), and ask for people to pay a small fee, maybe $10, at the door to come in and eat. (Hint: Sometimes it might work better to ask people to donate whatever they can instead of assigning a dollar amount per plate.)

3. Design a T-shirt. Chances are, your family and friends are going to be eager to spread the word of this fundraiser to their family and friends. A great way to help them do that is to turn them into walking billboards! Just kidding — kind of. Designing a t-shirt and selling it will not only raise some fairly immediate cash, but it’ll help to let other people know just exactly what you’re trying to do. Even if they don’t necessarily want to purchase a shirt, they may be more likely to follow your journey and participate in other fundraisers.

4. Hold a sporting event/tournament. Never underestimate the power of healthy competition. The exact event may depend on weather and location, but a day of games is always a safe bet. If it’s summer, try to find a park with a sand volleyball court or a softball field for some slow pitch. People who don’t know you will attend just for the sporting aspect, and people who do know you will most likely be willing to participate even if sports aren’t necessarily their thing.

5. Try adoption crowdfunding. We’ve all seen people using GoFundMe for various reasons on our Facebook feeds. This is an option for adoption, too. We recommend skipping GoFundMe, which takes five percent of every donation you receive. Instead, try a site like YouCaring, AdoptTogether or Pure Charity.

6. Send out letters announcing your adoption decision. Sometimes all it takes to get people excited about your cause is just letting them know about. Sending a letter to your family and friends is a way to personally let everyone know what’s happening and what you’re hoping for in terms of donations and fundraising. Some people will help you out and some may not, but if your letter is written well, this can be a tasteful way to ask for help without pressuring anyone too much.

7. Have a silent auction. This can either take place online or in person. Have people from your community donate goods and services, and then auction them off to the highest bidder. If you choose to do this in person, it may be wise to combine this one with a food-related fundraiser as well. People are going to want to have something to eat or drink while the bidding takes place.

8. Have an online raffle. This follows the same principle as an online auction. Have people donate goods or services, and then raffle them off. Set up a Paypal account or a similar method of receiving money to sell the raffle tickets. Just make sure you’re prepared to deliver those goods and services quickly!

9. Host a 5K. It seems like there’s a 5K for everything these days, but that’s because they work. People seem to love exercising in the name of a good cause.

10. Have a cookbook fundraiser. Everyone has that favorite family recipe they just know is better than everyone else’s. Have your family and friends submit their favorite recipes, and then compile them into one cookbook for sale. Everyone will love knowing that others are trying their recipes, and they’ll get the chance to get their hands on some new ones as well.

If the idea of paying for an adoption is intimidating to you, we hope these suggestions help you in terms of figuring out how to fund that life change. Remember, you really aren’t alone! To learn more about other ways to pay for adoption, click here.

6
Feb

A Birth Mother’s Love Letter to Her Baby Girl

Valentine’s Day is set aside for reminding the people in your life how much you love them. Adoptive families are able to show their child the depths of their love every day.

But for a birth parent, there aren’t as many opportunities to express to your adopted child how much you love them and the hopes you have for them.

It was because of a birth mother’s love that families are created through adoption. You’ll always be connected by that act of love.

One birth mother writes a letter to her daughter to remind her that she’s in her thoughts, on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Dear Baby Girl,

The most important thing for you to know is that you are loved beyond anything you can possibly imagine. Take a moment to look at the faces of your parents. These two wonderful people have given you a life that I never would have been able to provide for you. Out of all the children in the world, they chose you, chose to love you, chose to make you a part of their family. They will always be there to support you and guide you as you grow up to be the amazing young woman I know you will become.

When I found out I was going to have a daughter, I was overwhelmed. Petrified, even. I didn’t have the financial means or the emotional maturity to raise a child. Yet I was also secretly excited. I had always told myself that if I ever had children I’d want a little girl. And suddenly you were here in this world, crying as the doctors counted 10 fingers and 10 toes, asking me for a name. Yet as I looked at you I knew God had different plans for us.

Selfishly I considered keeping you to myself, but God guided me to your parents instead. I could see parts of myself reflected in them, and I knew that Amanda and Brian would be the best parents I could ever ask for to raise you. I will never regret the day I handed you over to them because I know that you are a part of an amazing family with an infinite number of doors open to you.

Just know that you will never be far from my thoughts, and that regardless of your life choices you will always have people in the world who support you and care about you.

Love,

Your Birth Mother

27
Jan

Adoption Reunions – What to Expect

What Is An Adoption Reunion?

An adoption reunion takes place between members of an adoption, typically done by people involved in a closed adoption situation. The reunion is usually the first time these biological family members will have met or talked since the adoption.

Who Reunites After Adoption?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birth parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Occasionally, other members of the birth or adoptive families

Sometimes, if birth parents are no longer living, adoptees may reunite with birth siblings or other biological relatives. Adoptive parents and birth parents may be excited to meet each other, too. Spouses, children, or even grandchildren may meet biological family members after an adoption, but only after the initial reunion occurs and both parties are comfortable with introducing their families to one another.

The first adoption reunion should be private and taken slowly. But many adoptees have adoption reunion stories that ultimately include their entire family; both birth and adoptive!

Why Would You Want an Adoption Reunion?

Adoption is a wonderful way to create a family, but there is always pain and loss involved, as well. Reuniting an adult adoptee with their birth family can be a healing experience for everyone involved in the adoption.

For birth parents and birth siblings, it can be reassuring to know that the child placed for adoption grew up loved and happy, and that they don’t hold a grudge against their birth family for the choice they made. For adoptees, it can fill the void left in their personal histories by the biological family they never knew.

Adoption reunions are a way to reconnect, talk about the adoption many years removed from the early, sometimes painful emotions, and learn more about each other as individuals.

Should You Reunite with Your Birth Mother or an Adult Adopted Child?

Not everyone wants an adoption reunion.

Sometimes birth parents or adult adoptees simply have no strong desire to reconnect after the adoption. Other times, they don’t feel emotionally ready for such a step. Some people harbor negative feelings about the closed adoption and haven’t been able to resolve those feelings.

An adoption reunion may not be the best choice for yourself or for the person you’re trying to reconnect with.

Adoption reunions can bring complicated, long-buried emotions back to the surface. Not everyone is willing to, ready to, or able to process these feelings. So an adoption reunion should be very carefully considered before you take any action to reunite.

How to Approach an Adoption Reunion with Biological Family Members

This is where things can get even trickier.

If you’ve successful managed to find your birth mother or an adult adoptee through your adoption search (which can sometimes be difficult, depending on how much information you start with), initiating contact with them might be even more difficult.

It’s scary to contact someone who you’re biologically related to, but who is essentially a stranger to you. Several things can happen, including scenarios like these:

  • You may find that this is the wrong person (often with the same name)
  • They may not respond to your message, either by choice or because they didn’t receive it
  • They may be uninterested in an adoption reunion
  • They may initially express interest in reuniting, but later back out after their emotions and fears become too much for them
  • They may have been searching for you, too and they may be equally excited about reuniting
  • They may have been waiting to see if you were interested in finding them and requesting contact, but are happy that you’re willing to reconnect

You’ll need to be prepared for any of these possibilities before you decide whether or not to request a reunion after adoption.

Consider how you plan on introducing yourself via confidential phone/letter/online message and how to bring up the possibility of an adoption reunion with your birth parents or adopted child. Read the message to the closest member of your personal support group before sending it.

Approaching the subject of an adoption reunion is a delicate matter that can be an emotionally-complex step for you.

Have someone you trust to support you! Talk to other adoptees or birth family members who’ve reunited after adoption to hear their adoption reunion stories.

Some Final Advice about Adoption Reunions

A few things to consider:

Some Do’s and Don’ts for Reaching Out

When initiating contact with your birth parents or adopted child, keep it private and simple.

Do:

  • introduce yourself
  • state your intentions in reaching out to them and what you hope will come of it
  • describe your emotional state
  • let them know that you’ll understand if they aren’t ready to take this step with you

Don’t:

  • fire off lots of questions
  • make accusations
  • pressure them into a reunion too quickly
  • assume that they’ll feel the same way about the adoption as you do
  • involve other family members until/unless you both feel ready to do so
  • make your introduction public

Keep your message for them brief and to the point. Empathize and respect their right to their feelings, even if it hurts yours. Put yourself in their shoes! Sometimes the way we feel isn’t always rational or fair, so it’s important to take time to sort out those thoughts.

Children and Adoption Reunions

As a general rule, children of closed adoptions should wait until they’re adults before initiating an adoption reunion. Unless the child already has some kind of relationship with their birth family through an open adoption, suddenly introducing a birth parent may be too overwhelming. It’s also too important of a decision to make on behalf of a child, or to ask a child to make before they’re old enough to fully understand their own adoption experience. An adoption reunion is usually a decision best left for an adult to make for themselves.

Eliminating the Need for Adoption Reunions

If you’re considering adoption, an open adoption is always recommended whenever possible. This will remove the need for an adoption search and reunion later in life because the birth and adoptive families can maintain contact throughout the child’s life.Open adoptions allow for better communication and relationships between adoptive and birth families as well as making for happier adoptees and birth mothers who are satisfied with the amount of contact they have post-adoption.

How to Begin Your Search if You’re Interested in an Adoption Reunion

If you feel that you may be ready to pursue an adoption reunion but haven’t located your birth parents or adopted child yet, here’s what you’ll need to know to begin your adoption search.

23
Jan

Adoption Searches – What They Are and How to Start One

What Is An Adoption Search?

An adoption search is a search for information regarding members of the adoption triad, typically done by people involved in a closed adoption situation. Thankfully, open adoptions such as the adoptions conducted through American Adoptions have nearly eliminated the need for adoption searches by providing an opportunity for birth parents and adoptive families to stay in touch after the adoption is finalized.

Who Searches?

  • Adult adoptees
  • Birth parents
  • Birth siblings
  • Genealogy enthusiasts

…or anyone who is interested to learn more about the people involved in their closed adoption.

Why Would You Want to Conduct an Adoption Search?

For adoptees and birth parents that entered into an adoption before open adoption became the norm, they may have little to no information about their adoption roots.

Birth parents of the closed adoption era sometimes spend decades not knowing if the child they placed for adoption grew up happy, healthy, or even if they’re alive. Adoptees of outdated closed adoptions grow up not knowing who their birth parents were or why they were placed for adoption and feeling a disconnect between their biological history and their adopted present.

On the other hand, many birth parents and adoptees decide not to search for their biological family members. You might not feel emotionally ready to take that step, or maybe you simply don’t feel compelled to seek out that adoption connection. Not every adoptee or birth parent experiences a desire to reconnect with that part of their history.

Whatever you decide, your adoption search (or decision to not search) should be emotionally satisfying for you — not draining. Deciding whether or not to search for biological family members should done in an effort to achieve a sense of peace with your adoption and your personal adoption story. It’s 100 percent your choice to search or not; nobody else’s.

Should You Search for Your Birth Mother or an Adult Adoptee?

An adoption search isn’t the right path for everyone. Carefully research how to find your birth parents or how to find an adopted child before you begin your search, and be prepared for laws regarding adoption records in your state. Talk to others who’ve searched, are searching, or who’ve had a successful adoption reunion for tips, support and advice.

How to Search for Biological Family Members

There are five steps to finding your birth parents or the person that you placed for adoption as a child.

To find your birth parents, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk about your decision to begin an adoption search with your parents (if living) to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  3. Request your adoption records from the county where you were born
  4. Get in touch with the person or agency who arranged your adoption, if possible
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

To find an adult adoptee, you’ll need to:

  1. Talk to the person or agency who completed your adoption, if possible, to gather any helpful information they may have
  2. Request access to your adoption records
  3. Talk to the County Court Clerk where your adoption took place
  4. Check with your state’s adoption reunion registry
  5. Determine your adoption search strategy

Some Final Advice about Adoption Searches

Searching for birth parents or an adult adoptee is a major undertaking on both a practical and emotional level. You should be very sure that this is something that you want and that you’re ready for any outcome before you begin.

Having a support system in place can help you through what is often a difficult process for adoptees and birth parents alike. An adoption search can be an incredibly rewarding and emotionally fulfilling experience for those involved in an adoption, but it can also be a complex journey; having people you can talk to about what you’re experiencing will be important.

For many, the goal of their adoption search is to achieve an adoption reunion — reconnecting with a birth family member or an adult adoptee, often decades after their adoption.

Learn more about Adoption Reunions!

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.

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!

5
Dec

What Does an Adoption Specialist Do?

Adoption SpecialistChoosing adoption is a big decision.  It doesn’t matter if you are looking to be the adoptive family, or if you are the birth family.  Both parties have a lot to consider when they choose adoption.  The support of loved ones is extremely important and necessary.  Also important is the support of an adoption specialist.

An adoption specialist’s role is vast.  They are educators, counselors, and advocates for both birth families and adoptive families.  Their services include (but are not limited to):

For birth families

  • educating birth parents on what it means to choose adoption
  • helping them create an adoption plan, choose a family, and form a hospital plan
  • providing education about the emotional experience birth parents will have, from being matched with a family to their hospital stay
  • providing advice about the financial aspects of adoption
  • answering all questions the birth family will have

For adoptive families

  • educating adoptive families on each step in their journey to growing their family
  • answering all questions from the adoptive family
  • providing advice about the financial aspects of adoption
  • facilitating communication between the birth family and adoptive family
  • helping adoptive families be prepared for when they get “the call.”

Another hat worn by an adoption specialist is that of “friend.”  The adoption process can be daunting, overwhelming, and confusing.  An adoption specialist can help navigate the path, ensure all needs are being met, and provide encouragement along the way.  They are a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.  And most adoption specialists would probably say this is their most important role, one they are privileged to have.

29
Nov

Other Types of Adoption

grandparent adoptionWhen people hear about adoption, their first thought is that of a family adopting a newborn.  Or maybe they think of a family flying across the world to bring home a toddler in need of a loving home.  What people may not realize is that there are other types of adoption too, such as step-parent adoption, grandparent adoption and adult adoption.

Step-parent adoption is one of the most common forms of adoption in the United States.  A step-parent who adopts becomes the legal parent and fully responsible for their spouse’s child.  After the adoption takes place, the non-custodial parent has no rights for the child.  This includes child support.

Generally, most states make the adoption process easier for a step-parent.  There may not be a home visit, but there usually is a criminal background check.  Some states require the adopting step-parent to be living with and married to the child’s parent for at least a year.  Unless the child has been abandoned, the noncustodial parent must give consent to the adoption.  In nearly all states, an older child (minimum age 10-14) must give consent to the adoption as well.

Grandparent adoption is one of several legal options available to grandparents, and gives the grandparents full legal parental rights.  However, in order to gain legal custody of their grandchild, they have to bring a legal proceeding against the child’s parent(s), one of whom is their child.  The court must decide on the best situation for the child, and this process can be long and emotional.

The main reason grandparents may adopt their grandchild(ren) is if the parents have become incapacitated or deceased.  Unfortunately, other reasons a grandparent may seek legal custody is because the parents have been abusive or neglectful to the child, they have abandoned the child, or they have been incarcerated.  If the parents are alive, this could cause the relationship with the grandparents to be strained, as the judge has to decide what is in the best interest of the child.

Adult adoption is the legal process of adopting a person over the age of the majority, as determined by the state in which they reside.  The most common reason for adult adoption is to legalize a parent/child-like relationship.  The adopted person would then be legally able to inherit from the adoptive parent.

Another reason for adult adoption is to provide protection for a person with disabilities or cognitive delays.  Once adopted as a family member, that person is guaranteed a lifetime of care under the family insurance or through an inheritance.

One more reason for adult adoption is for a child exiting the foster care system to have a more “permanent” feeling of family.  If they have been living with a foster family and have established a close bond with them, they can be legally adopted by that foster family.

Like the more recognized types of adoptions, these adoptions are governed by the laws of the state.  And like all adoptions, the goal is to create forever families for all those needing one.

22
Nov

A Birth Parent Specialist’s Role in the Adoption Process

When a woman decides to place her baby for adoption, it’s a huge step — but it’s just the first of many. She will encounter countless important decisions along the way. It can be a daunting process, but a few special American Adoptions staff members are dedicated to helping her decide what’s right for herself and her child.

Haley Castrop, Brighid Titus and Katie House are Birth Parent Specialists at American Adoptions, which means they help birth parents through the adoption process from start to finish. Each of them sat down to help explain to you, our readers, just exactly what a Birth Parent Specialist does and why the position is so essential for everyone involved in an adoption.

Educating the Woman Considering Adoption

When a woman considering placing her baby for adoption contacts American Adoptions, she’ll be directed to a Birth Parent Specialist. This staff member will be her point of contact throughout the entire adoption. It’s essential, then, that the two individuals form a relationship.

It is, of course, a sensitive situation, and the amount of false information available about adoption doesn’t help. A Birth Parent Specialist’s first responsibility is to educate the woman considering adoption. The specialist gets to know her (as well as the expectant  ) and to understand her situation. At this point, the specialist can begin to help the birth parents understand what they might or might not be looking for in an adoptive family.

Choosing an Adoptive Family

Armed with more information, the expectant mother will now choose a family that she feels comfortable with to raise her baby. Birth Parent Specialists at American Adoptions do encourage at least some degree of openness in an adoption, so the woman has to decide what amount is right for her. Does she want regular contact? Does she want to be able to visit? If she wants no contact at all, that’s an option as well.

When the expectant mother has an idea what she’s looking for, the Birth Parent Specialist will show her the profiles of adoptive families that align with the qualities she’s searching for. If she finds a family that she feels may be right, it’s time for her to get back with the Birth Parent Specialist to move forward. If she’s having trouble finding an appealing family, the Birth Parent Specialist will help explore why that’s happening. Either she’s not fully committed to the idea of adoption, in which case the Birth Parent Specialist will help her decide if it’s really the right call for her, or she just may need to look at more profiles.

When a woman chooses a family that she thinks might be right, her specialist will call that adoptive family. They call it the “opportunity call.” If the adoptive family thinks it’s a good fit, it’s a match.

Taking Care of an Expectant Mother Before Adoption

Finding a match for a woman considering adoption in no way means a Birth Parent Specialist’s job is done. They’re now tasked with fostering communication between the expectant mother and adoptive family. A Birth Parent Specialist will set up opportunities for the two parties to get to know one another. The specialist will help the expectant mother to build the relationship, to get to know the family and to ask any questions she may have. Any doubts should be dealt with sooner rather than later if possible; those will only magnify once the baby arrives.

It’s not just the expectant mother’s relationship with the adoptive family that’s important, though. A Birth Parent Specialist will stay in touch with her to verify that everything is going smoothly with the pregnancy and her health. The specialist will keep track of appointments and make sure the expectant mother’s bills are being paid.

A Birth Parent Specialist is, first and foremost, in the expectant mother’s corner. The more comfortable and healthy she is, the more likely the adoption will be successful for everyone.

Hospital Plan

As with all pregnant women, it’s important to have a birth plan. This process is going to be more extensive, however, where adoption is concerned. Our specialists refer to it as a “hospital plan.” The general delivery options, such as whether the woman will have a vaginal or caesarean delivery, are covered, but it expands from there. The Birth Parent Specialist will help the expectant mother decide if she wants to feed the baby and how, if the baby should sleep in the room with her, and more.

The Birth Parent Specialist is the one responsible for all of the moving parts of the hospital plan. They’ll make sure the adoption attorney is on hand, and they’ll inform the hospital of the situation. They even get to call the adoptive family to tell them their new family member is making his or her debut!

Post Placement

A Birth Parent Specialist’s contact with a birth mother doesn’t stop as soon as everyone leaves the hospital. While it’s amazing to see a child join an adoptive family, it’s important to remember adoption is a lifelong journey for everyone — one that includes pain and grief for birth mothers.Her specialist will make sure to follow up with her to see how she’s doing

Neither Haley, Brighid nor Katie hesitates to say that they love their job.

“I love helping the birth mothers find the right family,” says Haley. “It’s always very cool to be able to find that family that fits everything she’s looking for… You have this family that’s so happy and had waited probably a long time to be able to have this baby, and that part’s awesome too.”

 

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