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10
Apr

10 Easter Activities for Your Little Ones

Happy Easter from American Adoptions! If you have younger kids, it’s probably fair to say that the chances you’ll be participating in an Easter egg hunt are pretty high. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, there’s only so long you can keep the kiddos entertained by having them search for eggs.

With that in mind, then, we’ve thrown together a few other ideas to captivate your little ones this Easter. From science experiments to sweet treats, there’s sure to be at least a few activities your family will want to add to the list of annual Easter traditions.

1. Time machine – This one is fairly simple. Have your children write letters to themselves to be placed in eggs and opened up next year.

2. Glow-in-the-dark eggs – Okay, we know this is technically just a twist on the classic Easter egg hunt. But come on, putting glow sticks in eggs and making it a nighttime activity? That’s brilliant. Your kids will think so, too.

3. Egg carton lunch – To get your kids excited for Easter, try packing their school lunches in egg cartons. Just make sure you choose finger foods!

4. Easter egg math – Why not put an educational twist on the traditional egg hunt? Try adding pieces of paper with numbers written on them along with candy. Whoever gets the numbers that add up to the highest total wins an additional prize.

5. Easter egg rockets – Fill the bottom half of an Easter egg with water. Add an Alka-Seltzer tablet, pop the top half of the egg on, and step back to watch your little seasonal rocket take off. (This should only go about six inches off the ground, but you may want to try it before your kids just so you know what to expect.)

6. Shaving cream dye – When the time comes to dye your eggs, why not switch it up a little this year? Evenly spread white shaving cream onto a cookie sheet, and swirl different neon shades of food coloring into the cream. The goal here is a tie dye effect. Now all you have to do is roll the egg in the shaving cream, let it sit for 10 minutes and rinse it off. Voila!

7. Canvas egg art – If it’s nice outside, this might be a good time to foster a little creativity. Take empty egg shells, squirt paint into the insides, and let your kids throw them at a blank canvas. They’ll love the combination of throwing and breaking things, and you’ll get a new piece of modern art for their bedrooms.

8. Oreo chicks and bunnies – What’s a holiday without a little sweet treat? These Oreos dipped in candy coating and decorated like chicks and rabbits will be a hit with children and adults alike.

9. Bunny trail – Before the kids get up on Easter morning (or maybe after they go to bed the night before), make a little bunny trail outside your house. All you need for this one is some sidewalk chalk and Easter eggs. This could also be incorporated into your egg hunt.

10. Pom pom bunny – This has to be one of the cutest Easter craft ideas out there. The necessary glue job may mean you end up doing most of the work, but your kids will enjoy playing with these pom pom bunnies even after Easter is over.

What’s your favorite Easter activity with your kids? Share and let us know!

31
Mar

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Do you know how severe the problem of child abuse is in the U.S? Learn about the warning signs of child abuse and what you can do to prevent the abuse of children:

Image result for national child abuse prevention

Understanding the Prevalence of Child Abuse

Abuse isn’t just about physical harm. All types of abuse are damaging. Child abuse can come in many forms, including:

  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse

More than five children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect, and up to 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year.

Child protective service agencies report that approximately 702,000 children were substantiated victims of child abuse or neglect in 2014.

1 in 10 children have experienced some kind of child abuse or neglect in the past year, according to self-reported statistics.

In 2014, more than 1,500 children died in the U.S. due to abuse or neglect. Parents acting alone or with another parent were responsible for 79.3 percent of those child abuse or neglect fatalities.

The Effects of Abuse on Children

Whether they are the victims of abuse or a member of their family is being abused, children suffer more than just physical symptoms of abuse. Neglect and abuse can cause stress that disrupts early brain development and growth, as well as damage to the nervous and immune systems.

As an adult, victims of child abuse are at higher risk for physical, mental and emotional health problems, including alcohol and substance abuse and dependency, depression, PTSD, obesity and more.

Children who were victims of abuse or who witnessed abuse within their home are more likely to grow up and abuse family members themselves or once again become victims of abuse.

How to Combat Child Abuse

Prevention is, of course, key. The best ways to combat child abuse are to:

  • Create public service announcements to encourage positive parenting practices
  • Finance and support parent education programs and emotional support groups that discuss child development, age-appropriate expectations for children and the responsibilities of parents
  • Develop family strengthening programs and initiatives that provide families with better access to existing services and resources to help support positive family interactions
  • Create and fund widespread awareness campaigns providing info on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect
  • Create, finance and advertise parent education programs directed towards teen parents or those within substance abuse treatment programs, both of whom are at higher risk for child abuse and neglect fatalities
  • Provide in-home visiting support programs that focus on new and expecting mothers, providing education and resources for the prevention of child abuse and neglect as well as positive parenting techniques
  • Provide respite care for families with special needs children
  • Develop and fund family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families in low-income neighborhoods
  • Provide better access to mental health services, health care and child care programs for low-income families and single parent families
  • Provide a support system of role models for new parents

Want to learn more about what you can do to help prevent child abuse and neglect in your own community? National Child Abuse Prevention Month is the perfect opportunity to educate others about child abuse prevention while you’re educating yourself! Click here to learn more.

Share this information to help raise awareness of child abuse prevention tactics.

29
Mar

Where to Find Adoption Support Groups

Everyone can benefit from being a part of a community of peers where you can talk about similar experiences, discuss topics you’re all interested in and learn from each other. Adoption support groups can provide you with that community of peers, whether you’re an adoptee, a birth parent or an adoptive parent.

The Benefits of Finding Adoption Support

Even if you’re not the one who needs support right now, maybe you can provide that support for others who do need it.

The adoption process can feel lonely for adoptive parents and birth parents alike. It helps to talk to other people who have experienced similar situations.

Even after the adoption is finalized, it can be nice to connect with people who’ve been in your shoes. It’s good to have a place where you can talk about this part of your life that not everyone is going to fully understand unless they’ve been touched by adoption.

Joining a support group for adoption doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re experiencing a problem of some kind. It just provides you with a friendly adoption community!

How to Find Local Adoption Support Groups

Chances are there’s an adoption support group near you. A quick Google search can narrow it down pretty easily.

For Adoptive Parents

The National Infertility Association, RESOLVE, allows you to search for their support groups by zip code, or you can join in one of their online support groups.

The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACA) has a database of almost 900 adoption-related support groups that you can search by state or province, or by the type of group you’re looking for. Some of the types of groups they have in their database include:

  • Pre-Adoption
  • Post-Adoption
  • Foster Care
  • African American/Canadian
  • Asian/Pacific Islander
  • Latino/Hispanic
  • Native American/Canadian
  • Transracial/Transcultural
  • International Adoption
  • Single Parent Adoption
  • Gay/Lesbian Adoption
  • Kinship Care
  • Guardianship
  • Search and Reunion
  • Special Needs
  • Agency
  • Infertility

For Birth Mothers

The On Your Feet Foundation offers retreats, mentoring, counseling and educational grants to birth mothers post-adoption.

BirthMom Buds also offers retreats, forums, a newsletter, a blog and even poetry to connect birth moms to each other. They support pregnant women considering adoption as well as birth mothers post-adoption.

Blessings in a Basket (BIBTM) also offers birth mother support and resources.

If your area doesn’t have an adoption support group, this may be an opportunity for you to start one up to provide and receive support from others in your local community!

Online Support Groups

If you find that the nearest local meetings are a bit too far for you, online adoption support groups and forums can be a good way to discuss adoption with others. Remember that many online forums and discussions aren’t very well monitored, so anyone (even those who aren’t very educated about adoption or who have inaccurate information) can jump in and comment, so be wary.

But the nice thing about adoption forums is that they’re highly specific to groups of people. For example, there are forums for pregnant women considering adoption, forums for parents who’ve adopted internationally, forums for foster care parents, special needs adoption, adult adoptees and more. If you’re looking for a specific type of adoption support group, here are some resources to help you get started:

  • You can find foster care and adoption support forums by state, which could also help you find local, in-person meetings with members in your area.
  • National Adoption Center has online forums for adoptive families of every kind, adult adoptees and birth parents.
  • Adoption Knowledge Affiliates has monthly meetings in Texas, as well as helpful resources for adopteesadoptive parents and birth families.
  • Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption offer resources, forums and support to adoptive families and adoptees of Eastern European adoption.
  • The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E) offers webinars, workshops, publications and free resources for adoptive families, adoptees and foster care families. They can also connect you with local adoption professionals who specialize in therapy and counseling in your area.
  • Families with Children from China (FCC) boast a network of parent support groups through the U.S, Canada and the U.K. for adoptive families who’ve adopted children from China. There are hundreds of local chapters that you can join. You can also learn more about starting your own local chapter.
  • Search adoption support groups by state at American Adoption Congress, where you can narrow results down to your area and learn how to start your own adoption support group.
  • DailyStrength provides online support groups for adoptive families, particularly those in the early adoption process.
  • Gay Parent Magazine has a great resource of parent support groups within the LGBTQ community.
  • The Guatemala Adoptive Families Network offers support to families who’ve adopted their children from Guatemala.
  • National Adoption Center has resources, educational seminars and support specializing in special needs adoptions and the adoption of children from minority cultures.
  • The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides information and resources for birth parents, adoptive families and adoptees of all types.
  • 211 is helpful for finding local support groups and adoption-related resources for you to utilize.

You can also subscribe to receive news and information on adoption from Adoptive Family Magazine or the American Adoptions Newsletter.

A Word of Caution About Adoption and Social Media Support Groups

In the age of social media, we’ve all seen the benefits and drawbacks to constant contact and the overwhelming availability of information; not all of it truthful. Online support groups and forums through social media can turn from supportive to hateful quickly for some members. Use caution, and DO NOT go to social media for a primary source of accurate information on adoption.

We hope that you will hear these as strong suggestions and recommendations based on both personal and professional experiences over the years. We feel strongly about the benefit of healthy support and the detriments of unhealthy outlets. This is what we have found to be helpful and unhelpful.

Here are some basic do’s and don’ts of participating in social media adoption support groups:

  • DON’T… try to count how many families are “ahead of you in line” to adopt; that’s not how adoption works— expectant mothers will choose you on their own timeline, not yours.
  • DO… know when to step away from social media if you feel staying involved is causing you more stress rather than relieving your stress.
  • DON’T… compare yourself and your adoption journey to those of others; you’re unaware of all the facts and the full scope of the situation at hand.
  • DO… use common sense and empathy when sharing photos of your successfully adopted children; other members are still waiting or grieving.
  • DON’T… spread gossip, rumors, or unverified facts if you are not an adoption professional.
  • DO… share your experiences AS your experiences, and remind others that every adoption journey will be different; there’s no one “truest” experience when all are valid.
  • DON’T… express negativity towards adoption in a space where others are seeking comfort, refuge and positivity— take argumentative anti-adoption rhetoric elsewhere.
  • DO… trust your adoption professional over someone on Facebook; adoption professionals want to help!

If you feel like you just aren’t able to emotionally connect with anyone through a support group, call your adoption specialist and ask if they can match you with someone who’s gone through a similar experience, or is currently going through something similar. It can help to talk one-on-one with someone who’s been in (or maybe still is) in your shoes to support one another through your adoption experiences! Don’t forget– you don’t have to go through it alone.

10
Mar

How to Build an Adoption Support System

Adoption is an extremely emotional experience for everyone involved. Whether you’re a pregnant woman considering adoption or a couple hoping to adopt, there are going to be times when you have to turn to someone for emotional support. Not only is that okay, it’s encouraged. Having people you can talk to about your struggles can make all the difference.

The struggles you’re going through, of course, are going to be very different depending on which side of the adoption triad you represent. With this in mind, we’ve split this post up into two sections: advice for pregnant women and advice for adoptive families.

How to build a support system as a pregnant woman considering adoption

If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant and unsure of what to do, it’s so crucial that you have people in your corner. You’re faced with one of the toughest decisions of your lifetime, and having a good support system can make all the difference.

You need people around who are going to support you emotionally, help you throughout your pregnancy and help you with decisions. This does not mean you need people to make your decisions for you. You and you alone have the right to decide what to do about your unplanned pregnancy. But hearing different opinions and perspectives may be able to help you consider points you hadn’t thought about before, and this could be extremely helpful.

Who your support system consists of depends on the people you have in your life. This is going to be different for everyone, and there’s no specific number of people you need surrounding you. Sometimes one really good person is enough, and sometimes you’ll want to surround yourself with a variety of family and friends. Some people you can turn to may include:

  • The baby’s father
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Friends
  • Extended family members
  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Pastors or other religious figures

If you don’t have these people in your life, or if they aren’t capable of providing the support you need, that doesn’t mean you’re alone. It might be as simple as trying a new church or calling to speak with an adoption specialist. Just make sure that whoever you’re turning to for support and advice is always focused on your best interests.

Regardless of who makes up your support system, you’ll need to establish good communication techniques. This may include telling them what you need; sometimes you’ll just need the space to be alone. Other times you’ll need someone to run an errand for you or to discuss everything that’s changing in your life. Remember to not only ask for patience but to give it to those around you. This may be new territory for everyone.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy and need support, or if you need help telling your friends and family members that you are considering adoption, you can contact an adoption specialist any time at 1-800-ADOPTION. Your call is free, confidential, and does not obligate you to choose adoption.

How to build a support system as a family pursuing adoption

Coming to the decision to grow your family through adoption isn’t always an easy process. Maybe you’ve encountered infertility issues; many couples who pursue adoption have already poured time, money and emotions into trying to conceive. This can be exhausting in every way imaginable.

It’s also possible that you’re worried about coming up with the money for adoption. It’s not a cheap process, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Then there’s the fear that you won’t match with a birth mother, or that something will happen during the pregnancy, or that she’ll change her mind. It’s okay to be stressed, even as you’re so thrilled about the child you’ll eventually bring home.

It’s also okay to admit that you’re overwhelmed. You’re being put through your emotional paces, and you’re going to need people in your corner just as a prospective birth mom does. Your list of potential support team members is, for the most part, the same as a pregnant woman’s.

  • Your spouse
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Friends
  • Extended family members
  • Other families who have adopted
  • Counselors
  • Pastors or other religious figures
  • Your adoption specialist

You may also need to be vocal about what you need from your support system. It’s not always easy for people to imagine what a family waiting to adopt is going through. They may not know about the financial aspect, or the paperwork leading up to it, or the matching process itself. They may not understand your feelings about a relationship with the birth parents. In other words, there may be a lot you have to explain, which can feel even more stressful when you’re already exhausted.

Remember to be patient with those around you. They love you, and they’re doing their best. But also remember it’s okay to take some time for yourself. It’s not your responsibility to educate people about adoption 24/7. Find your balance.

If you feel that your support system is lacking, don’t underestimate how helpful an adoption specialist can be. To speak with an adoption specialist at American Adoptions, call 1-800-ADOPTION today.

27
Feb

Your Stories of “The Call”

We sent out a request to our adoptive parent social media followers, asking for your stories about the moment when you got “The Call”- that phone call from your American Adoptions specialist, informing you that you were about to become parents through adoption.

You delivered! Here are your stories:

(*Editor’s Note- Some stories have been edited for grammar or clarity.)

“Hi, American Adoptions!

We love you guys so much- shout out to Angie and Justin!!!!

October of 2011, we were in the process of giving our profile a re-vamp. I was very busy in meetings and my husband did a lot of local travel.  Apparently, American Adoptions called me 5 or 6 times, and I left my cell phone on my desk, so they couldn’t get ahold of me.  They reached my husband who was in the car and he pulled over to the side of the road he was in such disbelief.  He then called me 5 or 6 more times, so I came back to 10 missed calls.  I finally called my husband back, and he screamed at me, ‘They called, there’s a match for us, they called!’  We both rushed home to talk to Angie, made an emergency trip to Target because [the expectant mom’s] due date was 2 days later. Our baby boy was born 2 weeks later.  He is a happy, loving, amazingly awesome 5 year old now.

The second call- we called you!  Our first’s birthmother texted us that she was pregnant again and asked us if we would parent Cayden’s sibling.  Of course this was a dream come true because we just started all our paperwork to begin a search for number 2 with American Adoptions again.

Our little Kyler was born 6.5 months later and we are so extremely blessed to have biologic siblings.   He is now 2.5 years old and so funny, affectionate and as amazing as his brother.

As always, all our best to you,

Melissa, Lee, Cayden, Kyler and Millie.”


Jean and Kevin also adopted two sons through American Adoptions. Here’s how they heard the news:

“Kyle:

On Wednesday, June 8, my Mother’s birthday, I (Jean) was in New York.  I planned a surprise visit for my mom while Kevin was away for work in New Mexico, doing a conference presentation.  My mom and I were shopping at Kohl’s when I heard that I had a voice mail on my phone.  I saw it was from American Adoptions and when I listened, heard that it was about a match!  I found my mom, told her, and went outside to call our adoption specialist. I was so excited and flustered that I couldn’t figure out where the car was so I found a patch of grass in the parking lot and looked for a piece of paper to take notes.  All I had was a train ticket stub so on that stub I prepared to take notes about our son-to-be.  I found out that our son Kyle’s birth mom chose us to be his parents, was scheduled to be induced in Nebraska the following Tuesday, and wanted me in the delivery room.  I cried when I heard this, called Kevin about the news and made one more stopping shop with my mom, buying baby clothes, before heading to my parent’s home.  Over the next few days there was a whirlwind of activity, mostly adoption paperwork, trying to find a place to stay, and organizing our lives since due to the legal processes involved we would need to be away from our home for 3 weeks to a month (turned out to be 6 weeks)! Kyle’s birth mother actually was not induced so we arrived in plenty of time to get settled, explore the area, and be present for his birth! We fell in love immediately with our beautiful boy.

Christian:

In the afternoon on April 24 as our son Kyle was returning from preschool, we received an email from our adoption specialist presenting us with information about an expectant mother and asking us if we wanted to be considered as the baby’s, whose gender was unknown, parents. Our second son, Christian’s birth mother asked American Adoptions to choose parents for her baby. Kevin and I read the email and felt, ‘Yes, this is IT, this is our child!’ We were thrilled knowing we would be parents again soon and anticipated the journey to and stay in South Dakota. We reached our adoption specialist and told her that we wanted to accept the match. The match would become official soon after when Christian’s birth mother reviewed our profile and felt that the agency picked a wonderful family for her baby. Christian ended up being born early, on June 8, my mom’s birthday and the day we got “The Call” about Kyle. We traveled across the country arriving the day after his birth. We were filled with so much love and joy when he was placed in our arms.”


“I was at a conference sitting in the front row during the keynote speaker. I screamed, “OH my God!” and ran out of the room (in front of about 500 people). I was 3 hours from home and drove as fast as I could when about an hour and a half later I realized I was going the WRONG direction! After a tearful conversation with our specialist and my husband, I got my head on straight, went the right direction, and still made it in time to jump on a plane and make the birth.” -Jenna

“It seems crude but it isn’t a joke. I was in the middle of performing a PAP smear on one of my patients! My wonderful patient knew I was waiting and she heard my phone ring in my pocket and sat straight up and said, ‘Answer that!!!’ She tells me to this day that was the best PAP she has ever gotten! That will be 9 years ago in March.” -Cammy

“[I was] in our kitchen with my hubby! It was on our answering machine so we both heard it at the same time. One of the best moments of my life. It has been over 2 years since that day and the message still lives in our machine!” -Alicia

“I was at work as acting Chief and preparing for a major presentation the next day when I got the call. My husband was on the golf course and didn’t have any reception. There was major rushing that day, because we flew out the next day and got our one in a million!” -Sara

“We were at work; I had just started my new job. It was only my second day. Two hours in, I dropped everything and drove 16 hrs to meet our sweet boy. Almost 4 years ago!” -Sharon

“I got the call about the birth when I was on a shuttle at work (going from the parking lot to the front door). The social worker called and said, ‘Your son is here, come see him!’ I squealed and announced to the whole shuttle bus that my son had just been born and that I was a mommy again! I got a lot of confused stares (they were wondering how I was a mom again if I was standing in front of them). I took the shuttle right back to my car, called everyone I knew and my hubby and I caught a plane to meet our son!” -Lisa

“I was at work in a meeting and had just prayed and told God I was losing hope and really needed this to happen. We had just hit our Year mark. I walked out of the meeting and had the message. 3 years later I still have it on my phone.” -Krista

“[I was] washing dishes from lunch on Labor Day when we got the call that we were chosen and our daughter was born that morning! Best phone call ever!” -Jennifer

“I was at work. I ran into a conference room and wrote down everything she said as fast as I could. Most of it didn’t make sense later. I called my husband who had just gotten off work and he came by. We shared the biggest hug and one of my co-workers got a picture of it. The cool thing about that day was that it was the day before the due date of our previous match that disrupted.” -Kellie

“[I was] working in a classroom full of 6th graders! I ran out the door without telling my co-teacher (also in the room) and jumped up and down in the hallway and cried! I had to keep it a secret from my students for about 2 weeks. Hardest secret to keep ever! Our son was born about 3 weeks after that call.” -Colleen

“I remember sitting at the restaurant the night of Valentine’s Day, as a couple without kids, discussing how much we were looking forward to a match… the next day, the phone rang at work… the caller ID stated ‘American Adoptions.’  I screamed and cried…” -Julie

“My husband and I had just pulled up to a gas station and as he was getting out my phone rang. He just sat back down because he could tell it was ‘The Call.’ Best day ever.” -Heather

“For our first adoption, I got the call right as I walked in the door from work. I was so shocked. I could hardly focus on what our social worker was saying. I got to tell Hubby the news which was so special. For our second, I had secretly hoped he would get the call. As it worked out, I was at a craft fair and didn’t hear the phone because it was noisy and so they called Hubby. I checked my phone an hour later and my husband had called 20 times. I heard him say, ‘They have a baby for us!’ I sat down and cried right there on a picnic bench in the center of a busy, loud crowd.” -Jessica

“We missed the call and didn’t notice that my cell phone had a VM. I was at work 2 days later when American Adoptions called and asked if I had gotten the VM from 2 days earlier!!! I said no, so they told me about the match!! I was so excited I started jumping up and down!! As soon as I got of the phone I checked my VM. Yup. I had a VM about a match! I called my husband and he was in shock. Our son was born 2.5 weeks later!” -Jennifer

“We were asleep! They called, and it took us a second to register what was happening!” -Rachel

“[I was] in the shower!” -Ashley

“We got The Call two years ago today!!” -Samantha

“I was at my knitting club, knitting a baby blanket!” -Brenda


Thanks to everyone who shared their stories about how their family began! We love hearing from you.

Share your story about the moment when you received “The Call” in the comments!

3
Feb

Top 12 Adoption Social Media Accounts to Follow

At American Adoptions, we like to remind our adoptive families that they’re not alone. No matter what phase of the process you’re in, there are other families out there who are experiencing something similar. But you don’t just have to take our word for it.

The internet is full of information about adoption, some of it helpful and true and some of it a little less so. To help you on your quest for adoption information as well as an online community, we’ve compiled Facebook, Twitter and blog links to helpful accounts. Some of these, like Considering Adoption’s Facebook and Twitter, are more informational. Others, like Ripped Jeans and Bifocals, provide a glimpse into an adoptive family’s life — and all of the unique experiences that come along with it.

These represent only a small sampling of the adoption-related social media accounts out there, but it’s a list of solid accounts to get you started.

  1. American Adoptions, Twitter: @adoptions, Instagram: americanadoptions
  2. Considering Adoption, @consideradopt
  3. Adoption.com, @adoption
  4. AdoptUSKids, @AdoptUSKids
  5. National Adoption Center, @NatAdoptCenter
  6. Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
  7. Adoptive Families
  8. Show Hope, @ShowHope
  9. Confessions of an Adoptive Parent
  10. Lifesong for Orphans, @LifesongOrphans
  11. Creating a Family, @CreatingaFamily
  12. No Hands But Ours
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.

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!

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

6
Dec

5 Lessons ‘This is Us’ Teaches Us About Adoption

“This is Us,” an NBC show about a blended family told in different timelines, is arguably this fall season’s breakout hit. Focusing on three siblings — two twins and their adopted brother — coping with different crises at the age of 36, it’s quickly become a favorite for its honest portrayal of race, class, gender and body size.

One of the biggest storylines revolves around Randall, who was adopted by his parents from the hospital in the 1980s after his adoptive parents lost one of their triplets during childbirth. As an African-American in a white, middle-class family, he struggles to find his identity after he reconnects with his long-lost birth father.

The show is a great resource for adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees alike, educating viewers about adoption and the struggles all parties experience during their lifelong adoption journey. Although Randall was adopted in the 1980s in a closed adoption (rare today), many of his and his parents’ challenges will resonate with those affected by adoption.

American Adoptions highly recommends adoptive families watch “This is Us” as another way to normalize adoption in your household. To catch you up before tonight’s midseason finale, we’ve compiled a list of what “This is Us” has addressed about adoption so far.

How Closed Adoptions Can Negatively Affect Adopted Children

Randall’s adoption is an example of a “safe haven” adoption, wherein his birth father (William) left him in the custody of firefighters after his mother died giving birth to him. Randall is then brought to the hospital, where Rebecca and Jack choose to adopt him after one of their triplets dies during birth.

William lingers at the hospital to make sure Randall is taken care of, and Rebecca realizes who he is. She speaks with him once shortly after she adopts Randall and then revisits him later in Randall’s childhood. However, she keeps the knowledge of Randall’s birth father a secret from both her husband and her son and eventually decides that William cannot have contact with his son.

Not knowing anything about his birth parents is hard on Randall, a black boy being raised in a white family. Although it’s revealed his birth parents both had substance abuse issues (which is why Rebecca chose to keep his history a secret), the “what ifs” and unknowns of his adoption cause him to search out his birth father through a private investigator — which leads to an eventual meeting filled with anger, guilt and confusion.

While closed adoptions like Randall’s are not as common today as they were in the 1980s, his story demonstrates how children can be affected if they don’t know the truth about their adoption. Of course, not all adopted children are the same, but the hurt and confusion about why adopted children were “abandoned” at birth are usually not feelings that disappear over time.

Closed adoptions may seem like the easiest choice for adopted parents who worry about how birth parents might affect their child, but it’s important to understand that when children know about their birth parents, it doesn’t decrease the amount of love for their adopted parents at all. In fact, it makes the adoption process easier and can create a stronger bond between adoptive parents and adopted children — one based on love and respect.

Adopted Children are Naturally Curious about their Birth Parents

While Rebecca and Jack provide a healthy, stable home where Randall has everything he could want, it doesn’t prevent him from wondering about his adoptive parents. Late in his childhood, he begins asking other black people if they can roll their tongues like him — a genetic trait that he thinks will help him track down his birth parents.

Rebecca, insecure about her ability to mother three children (one of them being adopted), takes this personally. She worries that in Randall seeking out his birth parents, she’s failed somehow to be “enough” of a mother for him. But, as many adopted children will say, the desire to know about birth parents is not a reflection on adoptive parents at all — just a natural curiosity to learn more about where they came from and their personal identity.

Because biological family plays a large role in that personal identity, many adopted children will ask questions about their adoptive parents at some point or another. You should prepare yourself to answer those questions honestly; an open adoption with the birth parents can help you do so. It will not make you any less of a parent to your child if you expose them to their birth parents, but your children will have a newfound appreciation for your strength in doing so.

Birth Parents Hurt Long After the Adoption, Too

Adoption can be a difficult journey for all involved, but the emotional plight birth parents go through even long after the adoption is complete can sometimes be overlooked. While they know their decision is the best one for their child, the grief and loss they feel may never completely disappear.

In several “This is Us” episodes, we see William struggling with the sadness he still feels from placing his son for adoption — especially after Rebecca decides he cannot be a part of Randall’s life. While he knows that he make the best decision for Randall, he’s also plagued with the “what ifs.” Not being in contact with his son for 36 years only makes his situation more difficult.

When we think about adoption today, it’s important to remember that birth parents are forever affected by their decision to place their child for adoption. It’s a long healing process for all involved, and this is just one of the situations where open adoption can be helpful. Even if William had not been able to meet Randall, periodic updates about his son would have been instrumental in his healing.

How a Transracial Adoption Requires Extra Work

As a black man growing up in a white, middle-class family, Randall needed things that his parents simply couldn’t provide on their own: education about his culture and race, role models who looked like him and even simple hygiene skills tailored to his race.

When his parents take Randall to the community pool, he finds a group of black children to hang out with, rather than his own siblings. When Rebecca scolds him for wandering off, a black mother approaches her, informing her that she needs to find Randall a proper barber. This mother serves as an invaluable resource for Rebecca and Jack, giving them the education they need about raising a black son and providing Randall a community of people who look like him.

Jack even seeks out a black male role model for his son in a dojo instructor. Although the instructor provides a black father authority that Randall is missing, he also includes Jack in the initiation rituals that all the other black fathers do.

If you’re an adoptive parent raising or looking to raise a child of another race, it’s important that you fully educate yourself on your child’s culture and race to help them develop their personal identity. You will need to reach out for resources, even if it makes you uncomfortable to do so. Remember, asking for help doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent — it just means you want to give your child the best chances possible.

Adoption is a Lifelong Journey

Every adoption story is different, but there will always be some unique challenges for the adopted child, the adoptive parents and the birth parents. No one can anticipate every problem that can arise during an adoption, so it’s a constant learning process.

While Randall’s closed adoption is uncommon nowadays, his story shows how even an adult adoptee can confront issues about his adoption later on in life. The identity of an adopted child, adoptive parents and birth parents are constantly changing — and it can be a messy process.

But, as long as there are open relationships between all involved in the adoption process, these issues can usually be resolved in healthy ways that will only make your connections deeper and more meaningful.

For anyone who has been affected by adoption, watching “This is Us” can be a helpful way to see your experiences normalized on screen. Whether you’re a birth parent, an adoptive parent or an adoptee, there’s something for everyone.

“This is Us” airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC. You can catch up and watch “This is Us” online on Hulu.

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