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Post provided by adopt2Connect guest blogger Christy Belleau.
Domestic newborn adoption, adoption via foster care, international adoption and then all of these:
same race, transracially or with special needs.
Deciding how to adopt is personal. As you look into various options and talk to your social worker you
will begin to get a feeling for what feels right for you. You should consider cost of course. You should
speak to other adoptive parents. You should consider your lifestyle, what you are able and willing to
deal with, and what you feel you can’t. You need to be brutally honest with yourself because a child’s
life is riding on your decision. And you need to look at how successful you are likely to be with each
adoption option if you want to minimize your frustration and your wait.
I considered most options, and there were times when I felt like a horrible person for deciding some
situations would not be right for me. God bless my social worker who said to me “If it feels like too
much of a stretch for you, then it is most likely not the right decision for you or the child. You should not
go into a situation because of your empathy for the child, or because taking this route will make you a
parent more quickly. You should wait for a situation to feel comfortable to you and one in which you
feel you are a good fit for the child”. And I knew she was right.
I was older, single and I didn’t want to wait more than a year or so. While I felt I could love any child, I
wanted to consider where I lived, how family might react and what I was really capable of handling on
my own. After researching the options, and being really honest with myself I came to the realization
that adoption from Russia was the option that felt like the best fit for me. So I decided 0-18 months old,
as healthy as possible, and a girl. Then I started looking at international agencies.
It was a bit hard as I waited when adoptive parents in my group came in with brand new babies with
downy little heads adopted domestically, transracially and not. No multiple trips, no visas, no apostilled
documents. Hard when someone who selected the same international agency at the same time I did
received a referral before me; especially since I had changed agencies because the new one seemed to
move more quickly and offer younger children. Hard when a darling little girl with CP was presented to
me at the age of 4 by my social worker who’d been contacted by an agency working to find her a home
before she aged out of her current one.
This child was real, and she needed a home. This is when you ask your heart to take a back seat and you
examine the reality. She needed a walker and my house had steps going into both doors, 2 sets of stairs
inside and I had cats and dogs running around. She would need a lot of PT and I worked full time, how
could I make that work? And she was 4, with other health problems. Realistically I was not the best
mama for her, no matter how much I wanted to be.
So for me, what was right about my choice? No wait for parental rights to be terminated, that was done
before I saw her face. No mind changing after birth. No returning to the family of origin to preserve
that relationship, a very small chance of losing any expenses. A predictable wait, one year from the time
my paperwork went to Russia to coming home with my one year old. I found my comfort zone, and I
was successful, but getting to the point of knowing what was right took me about two years and lots of
research and talking. My advice is to take your time, do your research, find your comfort zone and then
jump in with both feet!
Post provided by adopt2Connect guest blogger Christy Belleau.
I’m single mom to Chloe, adopted from Russia at one year. It was a long and amazing process, which I hope to share with all of you in time. But today I want to talk about what it’s like in the beginning for all of us.
First you find a social worker. My social worker’s agency is really great about educating adoptive parents and families about all the things that they will or might encounter. Sometimes the best stuff came from other adoptive parents who, like me, were feeling their way through family building each on their own never expected journey. The most important thing to learn is that adoption is about finding the right family for the child; it’s not about making you a parent as quickly as possible.
Everyone is different, but I wanted to know the straight poop. I didn’t want to hear “you’ll see her and fall in love and it will be fine”. I didn’t want to hear the romanticized Hallmark Hall of Fame version, nor did I want the horrifying Lifetime Television for Women adoption story.
I wanted to hear that it would be normal and healthy at any point in the process to question myself and really examine the situation for what it was and decide if it was right for the child and for me. I wanted to know that feeling equal parts frustration, worry, excitement, joy, and abject terror was not unique to me. I wanted to hear what I was beginning to suspect: it will be hard, and you will be tired, but you can do this!
My daughter was 1 year old the day I went to pick her up from the orphanage. Chloe was handed to me freshly bathed, I dressed her in the clothes I’d brought and then she smiled at me. And that was it, we were a family.
I knew we’d need to get to know each other. I knew that while she would need me, she would not automatically love me. And I knew it was okay if I didn’t fall in love with her on sight. I knew we both might be depressed at some point. I knew this would take time.
Certainly I felt great admiration for my tiny new girlfriend who had the strength to survive 8 weeks in a NICU and almost a year in orphanage care without a parent.
I appreciated her feisty nature, her talent as a mimic, her inquisitive mind, seemingly quick learning, ability to make her desires clear non-verbally, her laugh, the huge smile I had to work for, hilarious facial expressions, out stretched arms, interactions with our pets and discovery of new things (like the dog’s water dish!). I marveled at how fast she could crawl with her one leg up and one down technique.
I felt great compassion for how disconcerting and frightening it must be to leave all the people, sounds, language, food and smells she had ever known to journey with me to her new life in the US. I learned to interpret “Chloe signs” for things she wanted, she wasn’t using words, but like all babies she was definitely communicating all the time.
And I felt an enormous sense of responsibility to protect her and provide her with what she needed. But that isn’t quite love, is it?
There was the exhausting search for the perfect daycare for my child as I returned to work. The doctor’s visits, the vaccinations, the “is this serious enough to bring her in calls” to the nurses. And then there was a 3AM 105.9 fever just 4 months into our lives together…and the vomiting and the baths and the Motrin…and the days of her wanting only me, of collapsing onto my chest for comfort.
We had been through a lot together, and I knew it was just the beginning. I realized that love is not always automatic, and it isn’t something we learn to do. Often love is earned in the act of caring for and bonding with your child. Somewhere along the line I knew that I was hers and she was mine, and I knew we’d be fine. And so will you, however it happens for your new family.
Please take a look at the below article in this months Adoption Today magazine. It was written by one of our Co-Founders Nancy Baker.
If you have not already signed up for Adoption Today we highly recommend it. Please visit there web site located at http://www.adoptinfo.net/, or visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adoption-Today/109668305724781?ref=tn_tnmn
Post written by Amanda Grant of USAdopt, posted by adopt2Connect
At a recent conference an attendee was shocked to learn that photos of my son’s birth family are displayed all over my house and in his bedroom. This is not an uncommon reaction from someone who hasn’t been exposed to the beauty of an open adoption and the reality of what openness means. If you are considering adoption but the word “open” terrifies you, I encourage you to take a step back. Learn about what an open adoption really means and how enriching it can be before you make a decision.
I didn’t come to the decision to participate in an open adoption easily. Before beginning the journey to adopt my son in 2009, I cringed at the thought of sharing my child with his or her birth family. But then I took time to learn what open adoption is and how beneficial it can be for everyone. I read every book on the subject I could find, articles, on-line blogs, participated in chat groups where I asked hundreds of questions of adoptive parents in open adoption relationships and attended every conference session on the subject. After more than a year of hard thinking, I landed in a place where open adoption seemed like the only way I wanted to enter an adoption relationship.
Here are five of the lessons I learned that turned my thinking around:
1) Openness is defined differently in every adoption.
There are three degrees of openness you can choose in an adoption:
Closed – There is no communication between birth and adoptive families
Semi-Open – There is an exchange of non-identifying information between birth and adoptive families and there may be ongoing communication post-placement
Open – There is an exchange of identifying information between birth and adoptive families and likely ongoing communication post-placement
Most “open” adoptions end up semi-open but there is a broad variety of communication that families can elect to share. In some cases, birth mothers choose an open adoption primarily because they want the ability to contribute to their baby’s destiny by selecting and meeting the adoptive parents. They may or may not want ongoing communication post-placement. On the other hand, some birth families are very interested in receiving photos and letters initially and then developing the relationship to include mutually agreed upon conversations and visits with the adoptive family. I was really surprised, and pleasantly so, by how much room there is for mutual negotiation about the types of communication (letters, calls, emails, texts, visits) and frequency.
I entered into my son’s adoption agreeing to at least one annual visit with his birth family and committing to sending letters and photos for the first six months and then annually. My son’s birthmother was thrilled to receive my letters and photos and wrote back several times with wonderful words for my son and me, and some photos of her own that I could save for him. Though all of my letters to her kept the door wide open for a visit, she didn’t take me up on it until my son was 18 months old and she was ready to see us. Since then we have continued to develop our relationship one step at a time, with additional visits and phone calls.
Open adoption is not always comfortable. But, as adoptive parents, you will have the ability to negotiate the extent of your relationship with your child’s birth family. Just remember that how the relationship starts is just that – a starting point. As you all get to know each other and develop your relationship over time, the frequency and types of communication will change.
2) Openness is co-loving, not co-parenting.
Like many rookie adoptive parents, I had the early misperception that somehow “sharing” my child with their birth family would mean relinquishing some of my responsibility or ability to parent. It’s one of the greatest myths in the world of open adoption and completely false. An open adoption does not mean that birth and adoptive families parent together. What it does mean is that your adopted child has a larger family and more people to care about him and love him.
Birthparents make an adoption plan because they have decided they are not able to parent their child. They do not want to co-parent but that doesn’t stop them from loving the child they gave birth to or wanting the best for that child. Seeing photos, receiving letters, potentially seeing the adoptive family together can be very healing for birth parents and can liberate them to affirm their decision and continue with the rest of their life.
I decided I have room in my life and my heart to do what is best for my son and so his birth family is now part of our family. Building trust over time has been a big part of this evolving relationship for all of us. And with each visit, each call, each letter, we get to know each other a little bit more and appreciate that while our lives are lived separately, we are all blessed in different ways to be related because of my son.
3) An open adoption expands your entire family, not just your child’s family.
When I first began the adoption journey, my family understood even less about open adoption than I did. So you can imagine their initial reactions when I said that I had decided I wanted I relationship with my child’s birth family…”What? Will they know where you live? Will they have a say in raising your child? Is it safe?”
Today, many of my family members communicate with my son’s birth family and everyone considers them part of our family. What a long way we have come!
Adoptive parents tend to become educators to their family, friends and community. Unless someone is involved in an adoption, they have no reason to understand the variations and complexities involved in adoption. It becomes part of our role as new parents to help those around us understand the realities and joys of connecting two families. Sadly, not all extended adoptive families are as accepting or open to the birth family as others. Each situation is different. It’s important for you to teach your family as much as you can about the impact of an open adoption on your child and how it will effect them as family members. They will be better equipped to consider how they feel about integrating a birth family into their lives.
4) Open adoption can minimize your child’s self-doubts.
Many adopted adults whose adoptions were closed will tell you that they have consciously or unconsciously wondered almost every day of their lives:
- Why they were given up or rejected by their birth family
- Why they look like they do
- Why they have certain characteristics
This is a tremendous burden for an adopted person to carry throughout their life and can cause all kinds of identity crises and struggles at different stages of development. Open adoptions can really reduce, if not eliminate, these questions and leave room for the expected identity challenges that any developing child experiences.
Children treasure information about themselves and the more you have the better. Whether through letters, photos, calls, or visits, every tiny bit of information you can provide to your child about where they came from, what their birth family is like and how they came to be your child is precious. Having communication or access to their birth family provides an open door that says you are comfortable (or at least willing to be uncomfortable for their benefit) talking about your child’s adoption, their birth family, answering questions the best you can and giving them the room to ask when they want or need to.
My son will know who he looks like from the photos we have and seeing his birth family in person, will understand where his athletic ability, humorous temperament and dimples come from and most importantly, will hear from his birth family directly that he wasn’t rejected. He will receive consistent messages from all of us that his birth family made an adoption plan so that he could have the best possible life and that they specifically chose me to be his parent.
5) How open are you in communicating with your child about his adoption is equally as important as the openness of your communication with his birth family.
At the recent Ametz conference in New York, keynote speaker Adam Pertman, Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, made a simple but profound statement in his remarks. He said, “We only keep those things secret that we are ashamed of.” This may seem obvious but it’s easy to focus on how you will communicate with your child’s birth family, while forgetting that it is equally important to think through how you will communicate with your child about their adoption. You need to carefully consider how you will share your child’s life story with them. If you want them to be proud of who they are and how they came to be part of your family, then you need to lead by example and keep open lines of communication so that their adoption is a subject that can be incorporated into the natural course of their identity development. Your child needs to know that you are not afraid to talk about their adoption and that they can ask you questions comfortably without being afraid of hurting your feelings in the process.
So, back to the photos, I smile every time I glance at a picture of my son’s birth family in our home and I am more than comfortable with our expanded family. My son will grow up in a loving environment of open communication. He will know and be loved by everyone who has made him who he is today and who will nurture him to be the person he will grow to be in the future. What more could a parent want for their child? This was my personal choice. But it is a choice that many adoptive families are now making, recognizing the benefits that can last a lifetime for every member of your child’s family. There is no right or wrong decision about open adoption but it is important to understand it in order to make any decision. In the end, you will make the decision that is right for your child and your family as a whole.
Amanda Grant / President & CEO /USAdopt, LLC
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