Preparing for Adoption – Meeting the Birthparent(s)

Adopting Intentionally – Day 20

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

MeetingBirthparents

Once you have been matched domestically you may have the opportunity to speak with or meet the birthmother and possibly birthfather.  

This can feel awkward and unnatural, but with a bit of preparation and intention, your meeting can be a time of kindness, respect, and affirmation.

Most likely both parties are nervous about this encounter.

The decision that the birthparents are making is life changing and one of personal sacrifice and loss.  It is never an easy decision to make, and it may be one that they question for months.  You are meeting a birthmother at a vulnerable time in her life.  She is carrying a child, extra weight, and an emotional burden.

Make it your goal to bring peace and kindness to the meeting. 

The birthparents’ story is unique and tremendously important.

If you are to adopt the child of this birthparent, you will be the carrier of the stories that you hear on this day.  One of our favorite stories for our oldest is that his birthmother knew that he was a “happy little boy” and that he brought her great happiness.  Our littlest’s birthmother believed her baby to be “a little warrior,” full of strength despite his small size.  We have these words from their birthmother’s that we cherish.

Listen and note the insights from the birthparents, they are important.

Remember to be open and not in any way defensive.

Everything about the meeting can be awkward.  Just as you have prepared yourself to listen, be ready to hear anything.  Remember the birthmother is nervous and she may say things she does not mean.  Or she may say things she thinks you want to hear. 

Either way, prepare yourself for a time of non-judgement, acceptance and affirmation.

This is not a time for promises.

We have had many requests from our birthmothers.  Our answers have always been to be open to the questions, understanding her motive and affirming her.  We did not promise to host a family for a birthday party or have weekly visits.  Instead we assured her that we wanted to abide by all guidelines, and take great, healthy steps forward for all involved.

Allow the story to unfold before you instead of making promises or assurances that you might not be able to fulfill.

Research and Contemplate Gift-Giving

When I asked about gift giving at our initial meeting, our social worker was unsure.  She said that it would be fine if it was something little.  We got her some Bath and Body Works Stress Relief Products.  Our intention was to acknowledge that this was a difficult time for her, and encourage her to pamper herself a bit.  We had intended to give her a stuffed animal after she gave birth. We had read this was helpful for a birthmother so she does not leave the hospital with empty arms.  We were unable to do this for her. But we were able to give one of our birthmother’s the same stuffed animal as we gave her little boy.  We will tell him she has one.  There are other little meaningful gifts that we have been able to give along the way.

There are appropriate ways to connect with birthmother’s with gifts, but there are also particular guidelines and laws that adoptive parents must follow. 

If you are able to give the birthmother a thoughtful gift, seek to make it intentional, write something meaningful and connect the gift to her relationship with her child.

As you step out on the journey toward parenting an adoptive child, may you be intentional in fostering a healthy relationship with a birthparent if you are given the opportunity.

You can read more about our first experience meeting a birthmother.

An Adoption Devotion – Crystal

For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts hereOn the weekends during this series I am inviting guest bloggers to share. This Sunday, Crystal is sharing her a devotion on adoption.

AdoptionDevotion

Crystal is a stand out.  I came to know her when she applied to work at Houston Baptist University and we were all quick to agree that we must hire her.  She and her husband Nick are a great team.  They now live in Oklahoma with their little girl.

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14, New Living Translation

This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.

I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Spiritual Blessings All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.[b] He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God,[c] for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own[d] by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

 

Devotion:

Ephesians 1:5 in the New Living Translation of the Bible states, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” The prevailing message I take away from this verse is that adoption is a Godly and God ordained privilege – not only that we are adopted by God into a heavenly family, but He plans, predestines, and uses adoption to create and bless earthly families. In my life, I have not only been afforded the grace to become a child of God through adoption, but have also been blessed through the deep responsibility and honor of living as an adoptive parent.

I’ve heard numerous adoptive parents say, “I never thought that I would adopt, but this has become my story.” Although this statement doesn’t necessarily puzzle me, I always find it interesting. The main reason this statement surprises me is that my path has been much different. Honestly, I have always known in my heart that I would adopt. I didn’t know the details, the reasons, or the timing…but I knew. I knew the same way you feel in your gut that you are going to be good friends with someone when you first meet, or in the way you read a job description and know that it has been written just for you and that you are meant for the position described. I knew because God had planted a seed in my soul that I knew would continue to grow. I was predestined to be an adoptive parent of the wonderful miracle child I call my sweet baby girl. It was part of God’s plan all along.

When my husband and I had been approved in the adoption process, but still not matched with the birthmother that would go on to give us our amazing daughter, we attended a mandatory adoption readiness seminar though the adoption agency with which we were working. At the adoption seminar, one of the speakers was an adoption attorney that worked frequently with the agency. She explained that when you were matched with the correct birth family and child you would know because, “you will feel the hand of God.” Looking back on our adoption journey, this statement became true of our experience and in our own hearts. From the moment we met our daughter’s birthmother, from the first time we held our daughter in our arms at the hospital, and from visits with our birth family as our daughter continues to grow, I cannot explain, but I can attest – I continue to feel the hand of God.

If “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family” (Ephesians 1:5) as the Bible says, and as I believe he did, it only makes sense that he has in advance chosen those of us that have a very special role of acting as adoptive parents. What a privilege. What a blessing. What a life. I thank God for this deep joy everyday.

Prayer: Dear God. Thank you for placing the seeds of faith and family deep within my spirit. Please give me the patience to accept and persist in the steps that lead to your will, and guide me to the path that you have planned for my life.

Thought for the day: Ephesians 1: 9-10 – “God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”

Preparing for Adoption – Brianna

For 31 Days I am blogging about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts hereOn the weekends during this series I am inviting guest bloggers to share their personal stories. This weekend, Brianna is sharing her practical preparation for adoption.

PeparingtoAdopt

Before Mohit ever agreed to adopt, I had purchased the book, You Can Adopt, which is information compiled by the editors of Adoptive Families magazine about all the different types of adoptions along with anecdotes from adoptive families. It was a pretty easy decision for us to adopt from India. We figured it would be easier for Mohit’s family to accept a child if he/she shared the same cultural background and looked similar to them. We then chose a placing agency based on the recommendation of a coworker of Mohit’s who had recently adopted from India. Since our placing agency was out of our local area, we also had to find a homestudy agency, which I did by Googling adoption agencies and then calling around to ask about the process and their rates.

 

Once Mohit had decided he wanted to pursue adoption, I started the long and tedious process of collecting massive amounts of paperwork for the dossier. We had to collect

  • birth certificates (mine, Mohit’s, and Ethan’s),
  • our marriage certificate,
  • Mohit’s naturalization certificate,
  • employee verification letters,
  • financial statements and tax documents for the last three years,
  • background clearances from every state we had lived in since we were 18 (three for me and four for Mohit),
  • medical clearances (mine, Mohit’s, and Ethan’s),
  • fingerprints (both local and federal),
  • recommendation letters from three (or four depending on the agency) families,
  • and the epitome of what I consider to be pure bureaucracy – a letter written by Ethan explaining how he felt about adoption. Now remember, Ethan was 20 months old at the time. He was barely speaking let alone writing anything! So our agency said he could draw a picture, which consisted of red and blue scribbles across a printed picture of an airplane.

Not only did ALL of these documents have to be notarized, they had to be apostilled by the state from which they originated, adding an additional $10-20 to the cost of each document (including Ethan’s scribbles!).

 

After all the documents in the dossier were collected, our home study could commence. Our social worker called and talked to us on the phone, and then visited us for about two hours. I know others who have had a different experience, but our social worker was there to help us adopt. She wasn’t out to get us or make us jump through hoops or prevent us from adopting, but she was thorough and did her best to make sure we were prepared to adopt. She suggested some books and classes to take and some local therapists experienced in adoption cases. I think there was a follow up phone call and maybe even a second visit (and a third when we moved houses and a fourth when Mohit changed jobs) but that was so long ago I can’t recall exactly.

 

After all the paperwork was done and we were waiting to be matched and then waiting to be able to bring her home (three years later), we prepared ourselves in numerous ways. Both our homestudy agency and placing agency required some training, which we completed. I also completed webinars/classes through Adoption Learning Partners that I thought were applicable and educational (see full list below). I subscribed to Adoptive Families magazine and read numerous books and blogs about adoption (see full list below). I found out that two of our acquaintances were adopted, and so we hosted them for dinner at our house and listened to their stories and advice.

Many of these activities had very practical advice and applications to parenting an adopted child. Others were simply stories of those who had traveled this journey before me. I hoped by being exposed to numerous experiences I could glean universal truths about adoptees and what they experience. I wanted to be prepared for anything and everything my daughter might feel, experience, throw at us. Along the way, I also realized that while there may be some similarities for all adoptees, every person is unique and every adoption is different. I did my best to be prepared for parenting our daughter, but I have to take it day by day and meet her where she is, not where I think she should be.

 

 

Webinars/classes offered by Adoption Learning Partners

  • Adopting the Older Child
  • An Insider’s Guide to Identity and Adoption
  • Brothers and Sisters in Adoption
  • Building Bonds of Attachment
  • Discipline and the Adopted Child
  • Expectations and Realities: Parenting an Adopted Child with Special Needs
  • Inside the Adoption Circle
  • Is It an Adoption Thing
  • Medical Issues in International Adoption
  • School’s In Session
  • Tackling Tough Adoption Talks
  • Tired of Timeouts
  • Top 10 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew
  • With Eyes Wide Open

 

Blogs about adoption or by adoptive parents

 

Books

 

Movies

Thank you Brianna for all your insight and recommendations.

Adoption – Being Matched

Adopting Intentionally – Day 17

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

AdoptionMatch

We have had two different experiences with being matched.

With our first son we were chosen by a birth mother

For our agency, we had put together a book of pictures and information specifically for birth parents to look at and get to know us.  Andrew and I spent a good deal of time on the book and the writing.  Each word was chosen to encourage her, to assure her, to honor her.  We did wonder what it was that drew her to us, but we would never have asked. 

She did reveal it on her own.  Our birthmother told us why she chose us . . . because she thought my husband looked like Leonardo DiCaprio.  I had never thought so, you can be the judge.

Leo

With our second son, it was different.  He came to us as a foster child with the possibility of adoption.  Within his first week of placement we were at the Department of Children and Families Office so he could have his weekly visit with his birthmother.   Our interaction with her was quite tentative.

She saw me holding him, but did not recognize him.  When I stood to introduce myself and she did see him, she blurted out, “That’s him,? He looks whiter.”  I was completely unprepared for this reaction, and tried to find some reassuring words to help her know that we were for her.  We were not there to take away her son.

Weeks later we heard that she was pleased with his placement.  I felt encouraged about my interactions with her . . .

She told me that she thought Andrew looked like Brad Pitt.

Brad

I do think my husband is a handsome man.

However, there are lots of factors that play into placement.  There are superficial factors, and there are deep, personal factors.  The surface ones are sometimes easier to talk about.

Each placement happens, and it contains within it potential for family forever.  It also holds the possibility of great disappointment.

Being matched with a child is a moment that could change your life.  It is a strange feeling to get an email or a letter that lets you know of an upcoming placement.

May you celebrate the match.  That child is on his or her way toward something permanent and good.  Your family has stepped into the next stage of adoption.

May you slow down.  Instead of rushing to buy clothes or getting a crib set up.  Sit with the placement.  Seek the next steps with a mindful heart.  The first steps of connection are before you, be ready for them.

It is time to prepare your heart.

Preparing for Adoption – The Waiting

Adopting Intentionally – Day 16

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

AdoptionWaiting

There are a number of steps in the process of applying to be adoptive parents.  Our encouragement to you has been to meet each one with enthusiasm and efficiency. 

Once you have everything turned in and all of the meetings have been completed, the waiting begins.

Waiting can be hard.  It can feel ineffective.  The uncertainty can repeat and the unknown can loom.

Waiting is itself a season.  The in-between can shape us.  It is a time to be intentional as much as any other.

Three challenges for the waiting.

1.  Learn More About Adoption

There are many ways to learn about adoption.  Here are some suggestions that we tried:

  • Attend a conference
  • Attend a support group
  • Attend an adoption party
  • Listen to other’s stories of adoption
  • Read more about adoption
  • Connect with others who are adopting

2.  Learn More About Parenting

Begin or Continue to learn about parenting.  Here are some suggestions that we tried.

3.  Live Life Well, Don’t Only Focus on Adoption

There is plenty of time in days ahead to focus on adoption. 

  • We traveled a good deal including to Uganda and Portugal
  • We went on vacations to Florida and Prince Edward Island
  • We visited friends and family
  • We set fun goals for ourselves
  • We went on local adventures
  • We took classes
  • We worked
  • We volunteered
  • We lived in community

Embrace the waiting.  It is for a season.  Allow it to be a time of preparation and living well.

Preparing for Adoption – The Home Study

Adopting Intentionally – Day 15

For 31 Days I will blog about Adopting Intentionally, you can find an overview and links to daily posts here.

HomeStudy

Having a home study sounded a bit daunting to us.  We lived in a condo at the time.

What would we be judged by square-footage, cleanliness, our hospitality?

The answer: none of the above. 

We have had a number of home studies, and we have been judged on one thing (see below), the rest of the time has been purely a positive part of the process.

The home study is not a set of hoops for a couple to jump through.  Instead it provides another opportunity for contact between the couple and the agency. 

It does provide insight to the social worker as to what might be a good fit for you and the child, but it is not about judging as much as it is about educating and learning.

The social worker will continue to educate you about what to expect as you walk through the adoption process and then she will purposefully learn more about you and your lifestyle by being in your home.

And what one thing was consistently evaluated?  We have found the one requirement in our home studies has been detectors.  Our fire and carbon dioxide detectors have been checked. 

Put batteries in those detectors and relax.

Intentionally think about how you would like your time with the social worker to go and prepare for that.

I recommend you do a quick pick-up, and perhaps prepare a snack.  Enjoy your homestudy.

Intentionally Download to Become Present

Each Tuesday I write a blog post to share with you a way to be in more intentional in your day to day.

DownloadtobePresent

What are you keeping track of in your head?

Notice the number of times a day you think to yourself, “I need to remember to . . .” or “I would like to . . . “ or “I forgot to . . .”

These kinds of thoughts keep us in the future or in the past, they prevent us from being present.

I challenge you to download these thoughts, perhaps once a month, once a week, or even once a day.

Take out a pen and paper or your computer, grab your smartphone or a timer, put 5 minutes on the clock and write down everything you can think of that you want to remember, do, etc.  Write for the entire 5 minutes.  If you think you have run out of thoughts push yourself to think more about some area of your life: a role (wife, father, friend), your well-being (physical, emotional, social), or your values (more disciplined, balanced, adventurous).  Write about as many areas as possible.  If the timer goes off and there is more to write, there is more to write, set it again.

Initially you may be overwhelmed with your list, but then look at it, breathe deeply and be grateful that it is in front of you and not in your head.

At some point you can take your list and assign tasks, update your calendar, write to-dos.

Just getting the past and future out of your head can help you take big strides toward being more present.