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10
Jul

Using Movies to Talk About Adoption

From the moment adoptive parents bring their child home, they should start talking with their child about their adoption. They will need to help their child reach a level of comfort with how their family was formed. To many, this task can be overwhelming.

Adoption at the Movies is a blog run by Licensed Social Worker, Addison Cooper. His blog was started to help parents use movies as a springboard for talking with their kids about adoption. Films are reviewed, and discussion guides are provided. It is the hope of the site that families will be able to engage in open and honest conversations about their adoption stories.

So how can this blog help? There is an updated, alphabetical list of movies that either directly address adoption or foster care, or have relevance to adoption-related issues. When you choose a movie, the link takes you to the following information — a synopsis of the film, how it relates to adoption or foster care, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges of the film, and discussion questions for after you’ve watched the film. 

Ultimately, it is up to families to decide what film is appropriate to be viewed in their home. Parents can select a few, preview them, and then watch them with their kids if they are appropriate. The website’s guide to Disney movies is a great place to start for finding a family-friendly movie. Adoption themes often pop up in Disney movies, even if it is not explicitly mentioned.

When looking at the reviews, pay attention to the strengths and weaknesses of each film. Cooper takes the adoption themes and categorizes them as to whether they present an accurate representation of adoption or foster care. The plots of some films may revolve around adoption, but their portrayal is not always realistic.

In addition to his blog, Cooper also published a book earlier this year — Adoption at the Movies: A Year of Adoption-Friendly Movie Nights to Get Your Family Talking. In it, he recommends one family-friendly movie to view each week for a year. As on the website, each film is reviewed with a list of strengths and weaknesses written for each, as well as discussion questions. This would be a fantastic resource for adoptive and foster families.

Movies can transport us to a different place and help us see things in new ways. They can be a useful, and sometimes easier, vehicle for gaining insight into important life issues. With Cooper’s direction, adoptive families can select films to help them start discussions about issues their family may be facing.

Share your favorite movie with adoption themes!

26
Jun

5 Ways to Honor Your Child’s Adoption Anniversary

Adoption is a significant event in adoptive families’ lives, full of special dates, unforgettable moments and significant milestones. The day your child is born, the day you get the call, the day you first meet each other, the day he or she comes home, and the day your adoption is finalized are all special moments that help shape your family’s history.

For many families, these important adoption anniversaries are cause for celebration. If you are looking for simple ways to celebrate the completion of your family through adoption, here are five ideas for honoring your child’s adoption date:

  • Retell the story. Your child’s adoption anniversary is a great time to open up a conversation about adoption. Look at pictures and review your child’s lifebook, if you have one. You may even work together on a new page to add to their book or to a family scrapbook, documenting your past year as a family.
  • Start a tradition. Take an annual family photo, light a candle honoring your child’s birth family, read a favorite adoption book, or start some other meaningful family tradition to recognize this special day.
  • Make a favorite meal. Celebrate with your child’s favorite foods or a nice dinner out at his or her favorite restaurant. If you completed a transracial or international adoption, consider making a traditional dish to honor your child’s cultural heritage.
  • Host a celebration. Invite other friends and family members over for an adoption celebration. You could also invite other local adoptive families or parents who are interested in adoption or foster care and take it as an opportunity to spread adoption awareness.
  • Acknowledge loss. While your child’s adoption day is certainly a happy event for your family and something you want to celebrate, remember that your child may have mixed emotions, especially as he or she gets older. In many ways, adoption is bittersweet, and you should take time on this special day to remember your child’s birth family or birth culture and reflect on their life pre-adoption. Always be respectful of your child’s feelings and their wishes as you decide whether and how you would like to celebrate.

While adoption is a special and life-changing way of adding to your family, adoption day celebrations are not for everyone. Some families feel that a celebration would be insensitive because of the loss inherent in adoption, or that it would make their child feel different from his or her peers. As always, it is important to carefully consider your family’s personal circumstances and your child’s feelings as you talk about and celebrate adoption.

Even if you choose not to recognize your child’s adoption on a specific date every year, remember to take time to remind your child that he or she is loved, cherished, and an important piece that completes your family.

19
May

5 Ways to Help Your Adopted Child Develop a Strong Sense of Identity

Throughout childhood, and especially during adolescence, each of us begins forming a sense of who we are as individuals and as members of society. This is called identity development, and it is shaped by a variety of factors, from race and gender to hobbies and religious beliefs.

Two of the components that play a role in identity formation are genetics and family dynamics — which may complicate the process for adopted children. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, identity development may be more difficult for an adopted person with questions “such as why he or she was placed for adoption, what became of the birth parents, does he or she have siblings, and whether he or she resembles the birth parents in looks or in other characteristics.” If these questions go unanswered, it could lead to a less complete sense of self, which in turn can lead to lower self-esteem and other emotional issues.

While you may not be able to answer all of your child’s questions as adoptive parents if your adoption is less open, there are some things you can do to help them develop a positive self-identity. Here are five ways you can encourage your child through the identity development process:

  1. Give them options. As an adoptive family, your child may not always share your tastes and hobbies. When reasonable, allow your child to make choices about the foods they like to eat, the clothes they like to wear, and the things they like to do. Expose your child to a variety of opportunities and encourage them to pursue their individual interests. Ask them to teach you something new, and get involved in the activities they choose — by supporting the things that matter to them, you are encouraging them to be confident in their emerging identity.
  2. Recognize their strengths. Compliment your child’s natural abilities and celebrate their achievements, whether they are academic, artistic, athletic or otherwise. Suggest opportunities for your child to further explore his or her talents, even if they differ from your own.
  3. Seek out diversity. Surround your child with positive people from a variety of backgrounds. Develop relationships with racially and culturally diverse children and adults, as well as nontraditional families — and especially seek out other adoptive families. This inclusivity will give your child a sense of belonging while also illustrating that all people have value and that differences should be celebrated.
  4. Respect their birth parents. Remember that your child’s birth parents have contributed significantly to who your child is as a person. Experts agree that it is overwhelmingly beneficial to maintain a relationship with your child’s birth parents, but even in situations when this is not possible, you should always make your child’s birth parents an important part of your family’s conversations about adoption. Reinforce that adoption was a positive choice that your child’s birth mother made out of love, and tell your child how much you respect and admire her strength for choosing adoption.
  5. Talk and listen to your child. Talk positively and openly about adoption, as well as any other issues that may impact your child’s sense of identity. Give your child plenty of opportunities to ask questions and to express their own thoughts and feelings without making judgments. Constructive conversations like these will help your child develop a healthy self-esteem, as well as a positive view of adoption.

Ultimately, each person develops his or her sense of identity by discovering their interests, talents, passions and beliefs on their own — and your child is no exception. The best thing you can do for your child through this process is to be there for them; they will be more secure in their identity simply knowing that you love them and support them exactly as they are.

12
May

7 DIY Gifts from Kids to Birth Family

We are halfway through spring, and it has been full of wild weather! Warm days followed by torrential rains, and even snow in some places. Kids (and parents!) are desperate to get outside when possible. This year, however, there seems to be more indoor days than outdoor. A parent’s arsenal of entertainment for those cruddy days needs to be pretty big. Here’s where some arts and crafts activities come in handy.

While you are setting out all the art supplies, this is a good time to get a jump on homemade items that can be given as gifts. The holiday season has a way of sneaking up, so give your kids some fun craft projects to do ahead of time. Homemade gifts are a wonderful way to show people how much they mean to you and your family.

Homemade gifts are especially meaningful to birth families. If your birth family does not live nearby, send them one of these personal gifts to remind them how grateful you are:

  • Yearly photo album – at various times throughout the year, websites like Snapfish and Shutterfly offer low cost or even free 8×8 photo albums. Keep an eye out for these specials and create an album for your child’s birth family. These are very easy to create, and can be shipped directly to the recipient.
  • Handprint dish towels – this is an inexpensive, easy and practical gift that is darling! Plus, it is very easy to mail.
  • Hand-shaped clay ring/coin holder – this is so precious and more practical than the ashtray of years ago. This can easily be boxed up with bubble wrap for mailing.
  • Thumbprint magnets – another easy DIY project that is easy to ship. Add some artwork from your child, with a promise to send something new every month to display on the refrigerator.
  • Send a hug – here is something that can be replicated each year. Trace your child’s head and outstretched arms, let them decorate it, and fold it up for the mail. If you do this each year, you can see how big they’re getting.
  • Handprint/footprint LOVE canvas art – think the iconic LOVE sculpture with a juvenile twist, and overflowing with sentiment.
  • Create a coffee table book of artworkArtkive is a handy website and app that all parents need. Simply take a photo of your child’s original works of art and upload it to the app, noting the date and age. Through the website, you can order a bound book of all their masterpieces!

Even if the craft project didn’t turn out quite the way you’d imagined, it is always the thought that counts. Your birth family will be ever grateful.

 

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!

2
Mar

12 Children’s Books on Adoption

March 2nd is Read Across America Day!

Experts agree that you should tell your children the story of their adoption early and often. Reading these 12 books to your child can be the perfect way to incorporate domestic, international, transracial, or foster care adoption as a part of their daily life, and can give them characters to relate to in a positive way.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born – Jamie Lee Curtis

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A little girl asks her parents to retell the story of her adoption and the night she was born.

“Tell me again about the night I was born… Tell me again how you would adopt me and be my parents… Tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms…”

The Mulberry Bird: An Adoption Story – Anne Braff Brodzinsky

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A Mother Bird is unable to care for her baby, so she creates an adoption plan to provide him with the future she wants him to have.

This classic picture book helps explain the difficult choice that birth mothers face and how families can be united through adoption out of these circumstances.

I Don’t Have Your Eyes – Carrie A. Kitze

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This picture book reminds children that while families may not always look alike, our physical differences make us unique and the bonds of family are what matter most.

“I don’t have your eyes… but I have your way of looking at things… I don’t look like you on the outside… but I look inside and in our hearts we are the same.”

A Mama for Owen – Marion Dane Bauer

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When Owen the baby hippo’s mama is lost in a tragic tsunami, he becomes best friends with Mzee the tortoise, who becomes his new “mama.” A new family begins after a painful loss.

Elliot – Julie Pearson

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A young rabbit in the foster care system goes through difficult and complex emotions, even though he knows his foster families love him very much. A social worker comes to help Elliot understand that he’ll never be able to go back to his old home and helps his adoptive parents to understand what Elliot has been through.

We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families – Todd Parr
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“There are lots of different ways to make a family. It just takes love. Share your home, and share your heart.”

This sweet little picture book illustrates all the reasons why your family belongs together through simple language and bright colors, but it still expresses an important reminder to adoptees and their parents.

My Family is Forever – Nancy Carlson

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A young Asian adoptee tells the story of her family’s international adoption journey and the differences that can exist within a family. This illustrated book reminds readers that families can be created through birth or through adoption; families become families through lots of different ways.

Pablo’s Tree – Pat Mora

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Every year since Pablo’s adoption at birth, his Abuelito decorates a special tree for Pablo’s birthday. “Pablo’s Tree” is a bilingual story that shows just how many loving relationships can be built through adoption within a family.

Home at Last – Vera B. Williams

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When Lester is adopted by his new daddies and settles into his new home with the family dog, he’s happy and loved. But at night, his adoption worries and fears creep up and Lester can’t sleep. Even though his daddies love him, Lester still gets anxious at night due to his past experiences.

With the help of his adoptive family (and especially his dog) Lester finally feels at home.

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale – Grace Lin

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Based on the Chinese proverb that “an invisible, unbreakable red thread connects all who are destined to be together,” The Red Thread tells the tale of a Caucasian King and Queen who feel a pain in their hearts from something that is missing. The couple is able to follow the red thread wrapped around each of their hearts across the ocean to a distant land where they find their Asian baby girl waiting for them at the other end.

Lucy’s Family Tree – Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Most children are tasked with creating a family tree for school at some point. This poses a frustrating dilemma for adoptees, whose family trees don’t always fit the typical format. The main character of this book, an adoptee named Lucy, also feels the same anxiety that this assignment brings.

But Lucy finds that most peoples’ family trees don’t fit into just one standard type and that family trees should celebrate all different kinds of families: birth families, adoptive families, and everything in between.

I Wished for You – Marianne R. Richmond

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“’Mama,’ said Barley. ‘Tell me again how I’m your wish come true.’”

A Mama bear and her little cub talk about his adoption story, the questions that adopted children have, and how they became a family.

10
Feb

8 Adopted Children’s Characters

Who are your favorite adopted characters?

Share and let us know!

20
Jan

Maintaining a Relationship with Your Child’s Birth Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16
Jan

How to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby

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

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

Why Women Want to Breastfeed their Adopted Babies

The two greatest benefits of breastfeeding for infants are:

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

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

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

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

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

How to Produce Breastmilk for Your Adopted Baby

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

1. Consult with your physician.

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

2. Get on birth control pills.

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

3. Switch from birth control to supplements and medications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Find Donated Breastmilk

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

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

Resources for Moms Who Want to Breastfeed an Adopted Baby

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

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

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!

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