Adoption – Initiating and Advocating

Adopting Intentionally – Day 22

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

AdoptionAdvocating

Your adoption story is unique.  There are places where you will not have control (see Managing Expectations).  But there are real places where you can take steps forward to advocate for your child before you even meet him or her.

There are lots of players in an adoption.  When working in the foster care system our children have had

  • a case worker
  • a case worker supervisor
  • an adoption case worker
  • an adoption case worker supervisor
  • each child has a lawyer
  • every birth family has a lawyer. 
  • The adoptive family has a resource worker

Navigating expectations with all of these people takes an understanding of the system.

Here are some tips for initiating  . . .

  1. Know your points of contact, their roles and then keep them informed.
  2. Understand that internal communication does not always happen, so begin conversations updating your point of contact with any information that they may need.
  3. Establish an intentional reputation early and clearly.  How do you want to be perceived?  Seek to articulate distinctly who you are and offer yourself as a resource to the case worker and the birth family and ultimately to the child.

We have learned the importance of initiating.  For instance our second son has had a number of medical issues.  We knew that these would be difficult for the case worker to keep track of.  I added to my weekly to do list that I would update the caseworker with how our little guy was doing and what appointments he had had during the week.

This established communication.  It also assured the case worker that we were on top of things, a caring family, one who was organized and capable.

In addition he had weekly visits with his birthmother.  We live an hour from this office.  We moved our schedules around and offered to bring him to these visits every other week.  We were able to establish a relationship with the staff and the birthmother.

We have also learned that it is our role to advocate for our child.  We had a disrupted adoption with our first child.  Even when the birthmother requested that he be placed with us, we were unable to gain guardianship.  We trusted that the agency we were working with would advocate as vigorously as we would.  This did not happen.

Our encouragement to you is that you are the child’s biggest advocate.  Take initiative and advocate for yourself and your child with intention, confidence and caring.

Adoption – Managing Expectations

Adopting Intentionally – Day 21

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

AdoptionExpectations

Emotionally when you are in the in-between of adoption, it is best for your own well-being if you are intentional about managing your expectations.

We had heard stories where parents received a call and were at the hospital with a baby within twenty-four hours. 

And we had heard stories of adoptions where parents were chosen and then the birthmother backs out before or even after the birth and placement.

Once we were matched with a birthmother we found that we did have real desires of our agency and our birthmother.  When we adopted from the state we similarly had real hopes about how the Department of Children and Families (DCF) would handle our case.

It is important to begin the process recognizing what is out of your control.

You have no control over the agency . . .

  • how many other cases they have
  • how often they contact you
  • how well they get to know you
  • how they proceed through a timeline
  • how they communicate with you
  • and even . . . as we learned, if they will advocate for you.

You have no control over the birthmother

  • what she does about prenatal care
  • what she puts in her body or does not put in her body
  • how much sleep she gets
  • how often she communicates with the agency or with you
  • if she goes to doctors’ visits

You have no control over an orphanage or a foster home

  • how they care for a child
  • what they feed a child
  • how often they hold a child
  • how they affirm or discipline
  • how they instill love and acceptance

You have no control over a government agency or a government

  • how fast or slow they process information
  • how detailed they are in their process
  • what kinds of personalities you will be working with
  • what laws you need to navigate
  • what holes you will need to jump through

The good news is that you do have control of your own actions and expectations.

You can choose your own actions

  • You can choose to complete what is asked of you well
  • You can choose to complete what is asked of you on-time or early
  • You can choose to bring a positive attitude and outlook to all interactions
  • You can choose to assist all the people you are working with rather than hinder them
  • You can choose to prepare your family for a child by preparing emotionally, physically, socially and spiritually

You can set your own expectations

  • You can choose to believe the best of the people working with you
  • You can choose to understand and love the birthparents, wherever they are and however they behave
  • You can choose to recognize where the system can be helped and when the most you can do is wait, accepting either
  • You can choose to love the child that will be in your home before you even know him or her and accept that the timing is not yours to determine
  • You can live life well today, not worrying about the past or the future, but doing all you can today to be healthy and ready.

You cannot control your adoption, but you can manage your expectations.

A Story of Open Hands

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

Andrew and I have chosen to live our lives with open hands.  We receive what has been placed into our lives with gratitude and acceptance.  We let go of what has been removed with trust and intention.

OpenHands

This choice began in 2002 on a warm summer’s night in Caracas, Venezuela.

We had just spent two weeks in the jungles of Venezuela, working with ten extraordinary teenagers in the tiny village of Cosh.  We were welcomed by the Yanomamo tribe and a tremendous family who had given their lives to live in the jungle.  It had been a tremendous time.

We were on our way home.  Andrew left the group early that night, and stayed awake in his room for hours. 

I awoke to a note under my door in the morning.  There was a letter from Andrew.

After getting ready, I took the unopened letter and found a quiet fire escape where I sat and read its contents.

Andrew affirmed that he had truly enjoyed our time together.  He articulated his appreciation of our newly formed friendship and his hope that our friendship would continue.  He then clearly stated that he would be interested in the possibility of dating.  If this was not reciprocated he was respectful of that.  He wanted to let me know about his feelings without in anyway overwhelming me.

I loved the letter.  I had grown admiring of Andrew.  He had been such a man of character on our trip, a hard worker, respectful, thoughtful, fun, intelligent, wise . . . 

And yet, I was hesitant.  There were many reasons not to date him, not the least of which was that I was slow to date and content in my single life.

I closed my eyes to reflect and pray and try and clearly consider how I wanted to answer him.

The image that I saw in my mind’s eye was one of open hands.  I felt a calm reassurance to trust in the timing and the opportunity that was before me.  Andrew was in my life at this time and I could date him.  It did not mean that I had to marry him or that there would be a difficult break-up.  It just meant that today, I could date Andrew, and that that could be really good for me.

I answered the letter with an affirmation.  Let’s move forward and try dating.

On the other side of the letter was Andrew, who received my letter.  He was nervous and unsure, but he too had seen an image that had encouraged him to be open to dating  . . . on his own Andrew had seen an image of open hands. 

This is something we discussed only later and were amazed that we had stepped into our relationship with the very same encouragement and trust.

Having open hands has become a way of life for us. 

It has opened us up to new possibilities.  It has helped us face difficult times, it has helped us trust when something has been removed from our lives.

We seek to live each day with open hands, trusting that what we have and what we do not have today is just as it is supposed to be.  We take the opportunity and we let go of what did not work. 

It is a gift to do both together.

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.

MeetingBirthmother

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.