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How to Make the Most Out of Visits with Your Child’s Birth Parents

The days and weeks leading up to a visit with your child’s birth parents can be filled with nerves and emotions. You’re anxious to show them that your child is happy and well adjusted, but worried that the visit won’t be enjoyable for the birth parents or that you just won’t know what to say.

To calm your nerves, we’ve created a “How To” guide for making the most of visits with your child’s birth parents.

1. Choose a Fun Activity

When picking an activity for your meeting, you should look for things that everyone will enjoy. Something that the children will enjoy but that allows you ample time to get to know the birth parents.

Activities that everyone might enjoy include:

  • Going to the zoo
  • Playing on a playground
  • Having a picnic
  • Enjoying a theme park
  • Spending the day at the beach

2. Pay Attention to Your Child’s Feelings

Adopted children often have complex feelings surrounding their birth parents. Leading up to a visit you should talk with your child about these feelings. Asking them if they enjoy visits with their birth parents or if they understand the reason for the visit can start a conversation. Let them know it’s alright to share anything they might be feeling or thinking. Knowing that they can talk to you about their feelings in these situations can help them begin to process them.

3. Address Your Own Feelings

Sometimes adoptive parents have fears about contact with birth parents. They may think these visits will confuse the child or that the birth parents will begin to regret their decision. These are very common fears that should be addressed with your partner before visits. However, you should rest assured that a child having contact with his or her birth parents is extremely beneficial for all involved, and does not confuse a child about parental roles.

4. Help the Birth Parents Feel at Ease

We know, easier said than done, right? Conversations during these visits can be awkward if you haven’t had the chance to form a foundation yet. Fortunately, you have a built-in conversation starter: your child. If you’re nervous about keeping the conversation going take some time beforehand to come up with a few questions you have for the birth parents. If they’re in school, ask how classes are going. If they have other children, ask how things are going with them. Ask what their favorite hobbies and activities are and see if you have any mutual interests. Once you get started the conversation will flow naturally and you won’t have anything to worry about.

The most important thing to remember when visiting your child’s birth parents is to be yourself. They will be able to see that you are wonderful parents and that their child is thriving and happy in your home. Relax, you’re going to do great.


Birth Grandparents and Adoption

Becoming a grandparent is a status many parents hope to achieve someday. You long to see your child look at their child like you’ve looked at them for years. You pray you raised them right, so they can teach their children all you’ve taught them. You look forward to watching your children become the parents you knew they could be.

But what happens when your child makes the decision to choose adoption for their child?

This may be your first grandchild. Adoption is emotional and can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Birth grandparents often feel conflicted — their support and love for their child may be at odds with the fear of the unknown of the adoption process. This is normal.

Before you can help your child during the adoption process, you need to come to terms with your own feelings. It is okay to be sad and to grieve the upcoming changes in your child’s life, as well as your own.

One way to help you manage your emotions during this confusing time is to seek counseling. There are many support groups dedicated to families going through the adoption process, including birth grandparents. Find a group or individual counselor who can help you work through the potential feeling of loss you may have for your grandchild. After you have come to terms with your emotions, you can begin to focus on helping your child during this time.

Take time to educate yourself on modern open adoption. Rarely are domestic infant adoptions closed. Your child’s adoption agency can walk you through the entire process so you know what to expect; the adoption specialists at American Adoptions are always available at 1-800-ADOPTION. Go with your child when they visit the adoptive family. Get to know them so you can feel comfortable knowing your grandchild will be with a very loving and grateful family. Nurturing this relationship will allow you to keep in touch and be in your grandchild’s life for as long as you like.

Watching your child choose adoption for your grandchild can be difficult. But you should also take solace in the fact that they are showing such bravery and love in choosing a wonderful home for their child. With open adoption, this is not where your birth grandchild’s story ends. It is only the beginning.


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!


Dealing with Distance in Open Adoption

You have found the perfect family for your baby, and you know they’ll give your child everything you want for him or her. But what if that perfect family happens to live on the opposite side of the country?

If you choose to work with a national adoption agency, there’s a chance that the family you choose for your child won’t live in your immediate area. Long-distance relationships are never easy, but being far away from your child and the family with whom you want an open adoption relationship can be even harder.

Here are five guidelines for making long-distance open adoption relationships work:

  1. Communicate before placement.

When you create your adoption plan, you will get to determine the type of relationship you want to have with your child’s adoptive parents, regardless of where they live. As you get to know prospective adoptive parents for your baby, you’ll be able to talk with them in more detail about your hopes for an open adoption. Your adoption specialist can help mediate these conversations as you outline each party’s expectations for your future relationship. Some topics you might want to discuss include:

  • How often you can expect pictures and updates
  • How often you will visit each other, if you’re interested in post-adoption visits
  • Phone calls, video chats, social media, and other forms of communication
  • How you will address concerns and miscommunication

Remember that adoption relationships, like all relationships, change and grow over time. Try to be flexible as your relationship evolves, and always keep communication open, especially if you have concerns.

  1. Use social media.

Depending on the openness in your adoption and the relationship you have with your child’s parents, social media can be a great way to stay in touch, regardless of the physical distance between you. Posts from the adoptive parents can offer a quick glimpse into daily life for your child, even outside of scheduled phone calls and visits.

Talk about social media with your prospective adoptive parents ahead of time so that everyone is on the same page. Your adoption specialist can also help you work out some guidelines for what is appropriate and acceptable when talking about adoption online. Talk about how photos should be shared, what kind of privacy settings adoption-related posts should have, and more. You and the adoptive parents may even choose to set up private, adoption-specific pages just to share these updates.

  1. Make plans to visit.

If visits are an option in your relationship, make plans to visit your child or to have the adoptive family visit you. These visits will not only give you an opportunity to interact with your child, they will also give you and the adoptive family something to look forward to and talk about it as the trip approaches. Plan some of the things you want to do during your visit ahead of time so you can make the most of your time together.

  1. Send mail and packages.

Most adoption relationships involve the exchange of periodic pictures and letter updates. Mailing handwritten letters and small packages, especially around family members’ birthdays or holidays, can be a great way to remain present in each other’s lives, even when the miles separate you. It can be fun to send and receive “snail mail,” and handwritten notes and physical photographs can be even more meaningful than text messages and email updates.

  1. Look for the positive.

Distance can be challenging, but try to focus on the positive aspects of your open adoption relationship: you have the opportunity to remain an important part of your child’s life, while also having the space to adjust to life after placement, take care of yourself, and pursue your goals and passions. Your child will see that you and his or her adoptive parents are all going the extra mile to make your relationship survive the added distance — and that makes their adoption story even more special.


What Every Parent Should Teach Their Kids About Adoption

When you are a parent, you are responsible for teaching your children many things — how to use a spoon, how to get dressed, how to brush your teeth, how to ride a bike. The list goes on. But along with teaching them hundreds of day-to-day skills, you also need to teach them social skills as well — how to use kind words, how to show compassion, how to help others. This list goes on, too.

Social skills can be more difficult to teach. As a parent, one of the biggest worries is whether or not your child is kind toward others. We often forget that children aren’t born with a built-in sense of respect for others. We have to nurture their deference for people from all different walks of life, including families who are formed through adoption.

Odds are high that your child will meet an adopted child at school, sports practices, or church at some point. Children are naturally curious, and that is fine. Parents can avoid the awkward (although innocent) questions that may pop out of their child’s mouth by teaching them how to be accepting and more understanding of different types of families.

Here are some talking points:

  • Adoption is one of the many ways in which a family is made. A child is not an “adopted child”; she or he is a child, who came home to her or his family through the legal means of adoption.
  • Adopted children do not always look the same as their parents. The love they have for each other makes them feel the same. They are still real families.
  • Adoptive parents love their children the same way as biological parents. Because a child was placed for adoption doesn’t mean their birth parents didn’t love them. They loved their child so much that they made sure they had parents who could give them a better life than they could provide at the time.
  • Being adopted is not something that is shameful or wrong. No child should be teased for being adopted. Some questions can be seen as nosey, so suggest your child ask an adult first, and they may be able to provide an answer.
  • Siblings are “real” because they are part of the same family.
  • Adoptive parents are “mom and dad.” The person who gave birth to a child is the birth mom.
  • When in doubt, books are a fantastic resource to help explain adoption to children.

No matter how you explain adoption to your children, it is a step toward raising compassionate and tolerant kids. Adoptive parents and young adoptees will appreciate it.

Share to let every parent know that they should teach their children about adoption before they meet a child who was adopted!


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.


7 Summer Activities for Kids

Memorial Day is just around the corner, marking the unofficial start to summer. Swimming pools open, school wraps up and long daylight hours allow for extra time outside. Your kids probably have a long list of things they want to do this summer. And while they are so excited to be away from school for a few months, odds are their wish list will soon be replaced by these two words — “I’m bored!”

So, before they can even utter those words, here’s a list of fun summer activities to have on hand. Some require adult supervision, but others are perfect to keep your kids entertained on their own.

Visit a farmer’s market – About this time of year, farmer’s markets pop up and are open during the week, as well as the weekend. Take advantage of the weekday hours, as it may not be as crowded as the weekend. Select some produce and find a recipe you can make with it.

Backyard camping – This is a quintessential summer activity. Set up a tent in the backyard, throw in your sleeping bags and flashlights, and enjoy a night under the stars. If you have a fire pit, or even a grill, make s’mores. Don’t forget the bug spray!

Have a lemonade stand – Another activity that epitomizes summer. Instead of pocketing the cash, consider giving the money to an organization like Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a national childhood cancer foundation dedicated to raising funds for research into new treatments and cures for all children battling cancer.

Play in the water – There are so many things you can do with the backyard hose! Play in the sprinkler, as you probably did when you were a kid. Have a water balloon fight. Make a homemade slip and slide. Give little ones paintbrushes and let them “paint” the house (patio, swing set, fence) with water.

Read – Most local libraries have a summer reading program for kids that lets them earn prizes for completing reading logs. Check your library for details, or create your own incentive program to encourage summer reading. Make a trip to the library a weekly to-do.

Make popsicles or homemade ice cream – There are hundreds of recipes on the internet for both sweet treats. Search Pinterest for either one, and you’ll have ideas to keep you busy for the next five summers. Share your goodies with the neighbors.

Do random acts of kindness – Help a neighbor pick weeds, volunteer to watch a neighbor’s pet, pick up trash at the neighborhood pool, recycle bottles, clean out closets and donate clothes, donate books to the library, spread kindness with kindness rocks…the list can go on and on.

No matter what you do this summer, relax and enjoy a laid-back schedule! Make a summer bucket list if you have some “must-dos.” Before you know it, school will be starting and you’ll wonder where the summer went.


Father’s Day Photo Contest Winners

Happy Father’s Day to birth and adoptive dads alike!

We loved seeing your sweet photos of dads and their kids. Thank you to everyone who participated. Congrats to the winners of the 2017 American Adoptions Father’s Day Photo Contest!

Matt and his daughter, Madeline (1).

Ben meeting his son, Samuel.
“Daddy in the delivery room holding his son for the first time, tears streaming down. Proud daddy!”

Marc and his daughter, Everly.
“This picture was taken as my husband held our daughter for the first time. I love the look of pure joy on his face!”

You can always tag us on social media with the hashtag #AmericanAdoptions if you want to share your family photos with other American Adoptions families.

Be sure to follow this blog, sign up for the bi-monthly American Adoptions newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to hear about upcoming photo contests and more.


How You Can Make an Adoption Plan in Prison

Pregnant women in prison may be rare — only 3.5 percent of women entering all prisons were pregnant upon arrival — but it’s still important for these women to understand their rights and options. If you’re a woman finding yourself pregnant in jail or you’re about to enter jail knowing that you’ll be giving birth in prison, you may wonder whether a prison adoption is a possibility for you.

The answer is yes. Like any other pregnant woman, you have the right to make the decision that you feel is best for you and your baby’s future — including making an adoption plan that you’re comfortable with. While some of your adoption options may be limited while you’re in prison, you can always choose a prison infant adoption if you think it’s the best path.

But, how exactly does a prison baby adoption work? Each adoption is unique, but here are some general steps you will likely take in this process.

  1. Decide that adoption is right for you.

If you know that you will be giving birth in prison, you’ll need to consider how you will provide for your baby. Not all prisons will allow you to keep your child in your custody, especially if you’re serving a long sentence. It’s important that you make a plan for your baby before they’re born, because if you don’t, your child will likely be placed in the foster care system to await your release from prison or a future adoption opportunity.

One option is to place your baby with a friend or family member in a temporary guardianship until you’re released from prison. But, what if you don’t have any friends or family members who can provide a safe, stable environment for a baby? You should seriously consider the well-being of your baby and only choose the option that can provide him or her the best future possible.

In many cases, this may be a prison adoption. When you place your child for adoption, you know that they will live with a family that is prepared and excited to raise an adopted child — and willing to give them all the opportunities possible in life. If you’re curious about placing your baby for adoption while you’re in jail, talk to your prison caseworker; they can provide you advice and counsel to help you make this important decision.

  1. Choose an Adoption Professional.

Because prison regulations and restrictions vary, an adoption professional may or may not be able to interact with you directly. Therefore, your point of contact will likely be your prison caseworker, who will help you through every step of your prison adoption process.

Because prisons tend to work with the same adoption agencies and lawyers for each adoption, your caseworker will likely recommend certain adoption professionals. But, as a prospective birth mother, you always have the right to choose which professional is right for you. If you’re not yet in prison, take the time to research and talk to potential adoption professionals. If you’re in prison and deciding on adoption (or know someone who is), ask your caseworker if you can do research or enlist a friend or family member to research for you.

American Adoptions is always here to answer any questions you have and help you decide whether adoption is right for you. We will provide support to you, gather background information from you, assist you with selecting a family and help with any pregnancy related needs not met at your jail.

  1. Choose an Adoptive Family.

Like any other pregnant woman considering adoption, if you’re pregnant in prison, you will have the opportunity to pick the family that you want to adopt your child. While you likely won’t be able to meet the family ahead of time or ask them your questions directly, your caseworker and your adoption professional representative will work closely together to find a family that matches your preferences (like where the family lives, what their family makeup is and more). From there, you will receive adoptive family profiles that you can look at.

  1. Sharing Contact with the Adoptive Family

Many pregnant women considering adoption choose to share contact with the adoptive family before, during and after the adoption process. If you’re pregnant and in jail, your options may be a bit limited — but contact is certainly still a possibility.

One of the most common ways that birth mothers in jail can contact an adoptive family is through letters but, depending on your prison rules and level of comfort, you may be able to share phone calls with the family. As part of your financial assistance, the adoptive family may pay for your phone calls, as well as mailing materials like stamps and paper. American Adoptions will work with you, the jail and the adoptive family you choose to get you connected in any way possible so you can create a relationship with the potential adoptive couple.

After you’re released from prison, stay in touch with your caseworker and adoption professional to keep receiving contact from your baby’s adoptive family and to receive any updates about the adoptive family’s desire to increase contact.

  1. Giving Birth and Signing Adoption Consent

What happens when you give birth to a baby in jail? That’s a good question. First, know that you will likely be moved to a nearby hospital when it’s time to have your baby. Your hospital stay will be arranged by you, your caseworker and your adoption professional. While your options may be limited because you’re incarcerated, you may still get to choose how long you want to hold your baby, whether you meet the adoptive family and more. American Adoptions will work with you and the adoptive couple to create a transition plan that’s in the best interest of all of you.

While you’re at the hospital, you’ll sign your final adoption consent paperwork. Most of your paperwork will have been completed earlier in your adoption process, but a lawyer will be there to walk you through what you’re signing and inform you of your legal rights in a prison adoption. Your state laws will determine when you can sign your consent for the adoption, but know that waiting too long may jeopardize your adoption process and lead to your baby being placed in state custody.

After you sign your adoption consent and are discharged from the hospital, you will return to prison, where your adoption caseworker will continue to work with you for post-placement contact and counseling through any difficult emotions you may encounter.

As you can see, a prison baby adoption is not much different than any other private domestic infant adoption. American Adoptions and your prison caseworker will be there with you every step of the way. Most importantly, you can know that your baby that you gave birth to while pregnant in prison will live a happy life with a loving adoptive family.

Sometimes, women ask us, “Can you go to jail for giving a child up for adoption?” Whether it’s because they’re worried about the legal repercussions of adoption or are afraid that placing a child for adoption might increase their sentence, there’s no need to worry — as long as it’s completed with the assistance of the proper professionals, your adoption is completely legal. In fact, choosing adoption will protect you from charges of child abandonment or neglect if you find care for your child in an illegal or ill-advised way.

You may also be asking, “Can someone adopt my child if I am in jail?’ It’s not uncommon for women with children already born to enter prison, realize that they want a better life for their child back at home (especially if they are serving a long sentence) and want to place the child for adoption with or transfer guardianship to someone who can provide the proper care their child needs. This is entirely possible; if you are wishing to place a child who is already born, American Adoptions can assist you, depending on who currently has custody of your child and your child’s age.

At American Adoptions, our social workers are happy to work with pregnant women in prison or about to enter prison. We can help you decide if adoption is right for you and, if so, help you set up an adoption plan that you’re happy with. To talk to an adoption specialist for free (and with absolutely no obligation to choose adoption), please call 1-800-ADOPTION today.


What You Need to Know About Finding Birth Mothers Online

You can find anything on the internet (literally anything), including a woman looking to place her child for adoption. But you probably shouldn’t try.

Don’t get us wrong, there have been many successful adoptions facilitated online. But you could be setting yourself up for a scam.

To help make sure your adoption journey is a successful one, we’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts of searching for expectant mothers online.

Don’t do it on your own

Let’s just address this right now. Because of the complexity and legalities of adoption, it is best to have an adoption professional involved in the process. They will make sure the adoption is legally sound and that all requirements have been met.  An adoption professional can also talk to a potential birth mother to make sure she isn’t trying to scam you and ensure that she is emotionally prepared for the adoption process through counseling services. Expectant mothers can rest easy knowing that adoptive parents working with an adoption professional have met all the necessary requirements, rather than feeling she needs to trust a couple she met online.

Working with a professional is safest for the birth mother, safest for you and safest for the baby.

Do share your story across various social media platforms

The more you share your story, the more people will see it. The more people who see it, the higher your chances of finding a woman who wants to place her child for adoption.

When sharing your story, you should be honest about who you are, don’t sugar coat things or exaggerate things in the hopes of making yourself seem more “appealing.” Pregnant women considering adoption can often see through this façade. Show your true self and you will find the child who was meant to be in your arms.

Don’t seek out birth mothers using hashtags, forums or support groups

Many hopeful adoptive families will “stalk” various forums, support groups or hashtags, looking for a woman considering adoption. They may then bombard her with uninvited offers to adopt her child. Besides being insensitive, this method is just plain creepy.

If a pregnant woman is specifically asking for adoptive families to reach out to her, then, by all means, do so. But don’t contact a woman who isn’t asking to be contacted. Instead, ask the admin of the forum or support group if you can post your story to the group. This way a potential birth mother can come to you if she thinks you might be the right fit for her child.

Do offer support to pregnant women who may want you to adopt their child

If a pregnant woman reaches out to you, be kind and courteous. Offer her your support without being judgmental of her current circumstances. Maybe suggest a support group she can join or an unplanned pregnancy hotline where she can ask questions and get information on the adoption process.

Don’t send money or gifts to a woman whose child you wish to adopt

Besides being illegal in many states, sending money directly to a pregnant woman whose child you wish to adopt could be part of scam. Many adoption scammers will act as though they want to place their child with you in the hopes that you will send them money. After doing so, many hopeful adoptive families never hear from the woman again.

If a pregnant woman asks you to send a money order, check, cash or any other form of money, please contact an adoption professional before proceeding.

The adoption process can be long and stressful. The last thing you want to do is add the stress of an adoption scam. Doing your due diligence in the beginning can save you headache and heartache in the future.

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