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Adoption Guide

Talking about Adoption with Family and Friends

Talking to Children about Their Adoptions

What You Need to Know about Hiring an Adoption Attorney

What is an adoption attorney's job description?

Adoption Fundraising

What is an Adoptive Parent Profile?

Saving Money for Adoption

What should you include in your adoption profile?

The Advantages of Using Social Media for Modern-Day Adoptions

Connecting with Birthparents

Struggling with Infertility and Loss

Infertility is a silent struggle, one that most couples are too embarrassed to openly admit or discuss among friends and family. When embracing infertility issues, it's important that couples openly acknowledge the stress and strain they are experiencing and if they are considering adoption, as this is a time of loss and mourning. Most people grow up believing that life's journey involves getting a job, getting married, buying a house and having an average of 2.01 children (Source: Central Intelligence Agency, "The World Factbook"). However, more people struggle and suffer with infertility issues than ever before. So, if you're one of the millions suffering and struggling to understand infertility issues, know that you are not alone. There is a joyous light at the end of your long-suffering tunnel.

Infertility Issues

While it's generally common to blame women for fertility issues, it's just as common for men to be infertile.

Male Infertility

Male infertility is relatively common. In fact, nearly 20-percent of infertility cases are related to men suffering from infertility medical-related issues. Male infertility is linked to several factors, including:

  • A low sperm count
  • Lack of viable sperm motility
  • Hormone-related problems
  • Birth defects
  • Illnesses
  • Infections
  • Side effects related to medication
  • Varicoceles
  • Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, obesity or drug use
  • Physical trauma

A varicocele is one of the most common types of infertility issues. A varicocele is simply enlarged veins in the scrotum. It's similar to varicose veins, can commonly cause low sperm counts and decreased sperm quality. Over time, this medical condition can cause male testicles to shrink. Sometimes this can be repaired surgically, but the viability of this option may only be determined by consulting with a physician.

Female Infertility

Female infertility contributes to nearly 33-percent of infertility cases. Women can suffer from one of more infertility issues, as noted below.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - Known as PCOS, several endocrine disruptors cause this ovarian issue, which commonly affects the ovaries, hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Some women may even suffer from insulin resistance.
  • Hypothalamic Dysfunction - This general term encompasses a variety of hypothalamic disorders. The hypothalamus is located in the brain near the pituitary. The hypothalamus is responsible for communicating with the pituitary gland, which then in turn sends signals to the ovaries. Two hormones that are responsible for stimulating the ovaries are the Lutenizing Hormone (LH) and the Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). A common symptom of this disease is amenorrhea, which is the medical term for irregular or absent menstruating cycles.
  • Premature Ovarian Insufficiency - Generally this autoimmune response causes the body to attack ovarian tissue. While this may be genetic, it may result from environmental stimulants, such as chemotherapy.
  • Prolactin - Sometimes the pituitary gland can produce too much prolactin, which is known as hyperprolactinemia. This greatly reduces estrogen production, which can also result in infertility.
  • Tubal Infertility - There are several issues that can cause fallopian tubes to become severely damaged or blocked, which prevents sperm from reaching the egg.
    • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - This may result from a uterine infection or damage related to sexually transmitted infections, such as Gonorrhea or Chlamydia. This type of disease can lead to women not being able to have children, which makes adoption a viable alternative.
    • Surgery - Previous surgeries related to ectopic pregnancies can cause scar tissue build-up, which can damage the delicate fallopian tissue.
    • Pelvic Tuberculosis - This presents little infertility risk in the U.S., but is very common worldwide.
  • Endometriosis - This disease causes uterine tissue to grow in other areas throughout the body outside the uterus. This includes uterine tissue being present in the lungs and other areas within the abdominal cavity. It causes severe scarring, which can prevent the uterine lining from accepting implantation or prevent sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes.
  • Uterine or Cervical Causes - There are several types of uterine or cervical issues that can influence implantation.
    • Tumors or Polyps - Some women suffer from myomas or fibroids, which can block fallopian tubes.
    • Uterine Abnormalities - Some women are born with uterine birth defects, such as abnormal uterus shapes that can inhibit implantation.
    • Cervical Stenosis - This is a narrowing of the cervical canal.
    • Mucus Production - Some women do not produce the necessary cervical mucus that allows sperm to effectively travel into the uterus.
  • Premature Menopause - For the average U.S. women, menopause occurs around 51 years of age. However, some women may experience premature menopause, which occurs before the age of 40. This may be due to genetics, illness or previous medical procedures.

Unexplained Infertility

While some infertility issues are easy to diagnosis, others remain unexplained. Sometimes infertility is the result of two people not having compatible genetics, which results in common miscarriages or the inability for fertilized eggs to effectively implant themselves within the uterine cavity.

Infertility's Emotional Effects

While some couples suffer in silence, psychologists and infertility experts, agree that infertility can take a toll on a couple's relationship or marriage. Infertility affects each couple and person differently, which may be related to how they were raised and if having children helps them feel as though their lives are finally complete.

Women often feel emotionally stunted, unable to give life to a baby, which can cause repressed feelings that can easily spiral out of control, resulting in depression and intense feelings of helplessness.

Generally, men feel more responsible for taking on financial acceptance and the role of the family protector. This can result in men restraining their emotions, causing them to work longer hours to prove their financial worth in relationships.

Ultimately, infertility deeply affects couples on emotional, physical, mental and financial levels. Some couples may experience feelings of failure, while others simply look for emotional support to help aid them through these trying times, such as pursuing adoption.

If you are suffering from infertility issues, it's important that you and your partner openly communicate with one another. Fertility is not about blame and it's important to openly recognize that both men and women deal with emotional and psychological issues differently. Take time to sit down with one another and share the joys and burdens of your infertility process, as this is an excellent opportunity for you to bond with one another and focus on healthy relationship growth.

Determining the Next Step: Leaning Towards Adoption

After couples have accepted their infertility issues, it's important to look at the next viable step. Perhaps some couples consider infertility as a sign that they are not meant to be parents, but most people feel the opposite: their strong urges to be parents are lifelong dreams.

Adopting a child is a beautiful gift. If you and your spouse are exploring this option, consider contacting local adoption agencies, read information to prepare you for adopting a child, learn more through educational outreach courses and join supportive classes that help provide prospective adoptive parents with emotional support. If you are leaning towards adoption, consider the following:

Why should I adopt?

Adoption is a beautiful gift that helps give loving permanent homes to unborn children or those raised in poor environments. It helps to facilitate brighter, educated futures for children that would otherwise be subject to unfortunate circumstances.

What is the impact of adopting?

Speak with adoptive parents that have gone through the adoption process. Don't hesitate to ask them how they originally felt about becoming parents, their adoptive parenting roles, the stress and legalities involved in adopting a child and what strategies are paramount to help maintaining an open flow of adoption communication between parents and children.

Are there resources that can help me?

Yes, the Internet offers a treasure trove of adoption information, including personal stories written by adoptive parents, older adopted children and even birthparents. There are books written by psychologists and medical specialists that outline the benefits of adopting children. Additionally, local support groups and agency orientations can also provide prospective adoptive parents one-on-one interaction time, allowing them to communicate with couples that have personally been through this complicated process.

References:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html

Why Should I Consider Adoption?

Adoption is a beautiful choice, allowing birthparents and permanent adoptive parents to both experience the gift of life. Adoption helps provide babies with loving families, allowing them to be raised in homes that can grant them education, opportunities and a solid future. There are several reasons why people - both birthparents and prospective adoptive parents - choose adoption.

Birthparents

Birthparents are often in situations where they may be experiencing unexpected pregnancies, not in stable relationships or lack the financial abilities to support children. Sometimes birthparents may already have children or may be having multiple pregnancies. Instead of viewing adoption as a means of not wanting a child, there are several factors that birthparents can take to heart, allowing them to understand that giving life to adoptive families is the greatest gift someone can bestow.

  • Just because you place a child for adoption doesn't mean your baby isn't wanted. If anything, it means you value human life and want to share this precious gift with another family.
  • Choosing adoption means that you place your baby's life above all others. A deep parental love means that parents are able to self-sacrifice and put their babies' needs above their own.
  • Birth parents do have the right to choose their own adoptive parents. This can help ease the process, giving you the opportunity to conduct in-person and interview assessments. If you prefer not to meet the adoptive parents face-to-face, consider thoroughly combing through prospective parent profiles, determining which couples' needs best meet the parenting requirements you prefer for your child.
  • You can see your baby upon giving birth, but only if you desire. You may even keep a picture of your baby, if you wish.
  • Even if prospective adoptive parents are from another state, there are many ways to handle these legalities, which include prospective adoptive parents paying for interstate attorneys. Adoption agencies or prospective adoptive parents are responsible for all adoption-related costs and fees; picking up additional adoption expenses, such as medical, counseling and attorney fees is also part of this process
  • In many states, there is a waiting period where adoptions are not final immediately. This gives birthparents ample opportunity to change their minds, especially if they experience doubts or regrets.

Prospective Adoptive Parents

Now that you know the basics surrounding birthparent adoptions, let's discuss the contact points for adoptive parents and how to get the entire process going.

Many adoptive parents have experience struggling with infertility and turn to adoption as an alternate source of parenthood. While some parents know they want to adopt immediately, giving good homes to children in need, other parents turn to adoption to fulfill their needs to become loving parents.

Not all adoptions are fast and some do result in birthparents changing their minds. Unfortunately, this is part of the long and lengthy process for some couples, but ultimately everything in life turns out for a reason. Perhaps there is a child who is longing for a better home or needs a healthier environment.

Adoption can be a time-consuming and expensive process. However, most people report that domestic or international adoptions are less time-consuming and expensive than initially thought. There are several myths that adoption experts can help dispel, which may detour many prospective adoptive parents from pursuing the adoption process.

  • The Beginning -The first step to starting the adoption process is to conduct an abundant amount of research, locate reputable adoption agencies, adoption attorneys, network with other adoptive parents and join local support groups. These support groups can specifically focus on adoption efforts and may include support for infertility.
  • Legalities -Attorneys and agencies help prospective adoptive parents complete paperwork and legal requirements that are necessary for a productive adoption process. Agencies help facilitate necessary adoption requirements, such as home evaluations and social worker inspections.
  • Adoption -Parents ultimately end up with a baby, whom they can cradle, love and hold in their arms. While this child may not share the same biological genes, prospective adoptive parents will experience the joys and sorrows involved in parenthood.

This only provides a brief explanation of the adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents can experience the thrill of adopting a child, while birthparents can rest assured knowing the great love and bliss that they are imparting to another family.

Adoption fees are far less expensive than infertility treatments and allow prospective adoptive parents the ability to focus valuable funds on raising children, instead of expensive, costly fertility treatments that may or may not have positive results.

Domestic Infant Adoption

Many adoptive parents have experience struggling with infertility and turn to adoption as an alternate source of parenthood. While some parents know they want to adopt immediately, giving good homes to children in need, other parents turn to adoption to fulfill their needs to become loving parents.

There are many myths surrounding domestic adoption, which are addressed below:

  • Common Myth: There is a severe lack of domestic infants available for adoption. This is not accurate. In fact, the Alexandria, Virginia National Council for Adoption reports that nearly 18,000 domestic infants are placed for adoption annually. In contrast, only 8,500 international adoptions are available annually, making domestic adoptions a more viable alternative.
  • Common Myth: Adoption only offers endless waits and is expensive. Many people believe that domestic adoption waits are a minimum of five years. Generally, the adoption wait time averages between one to two years, with costs ranging from $20,000 to $45,000. In many cases, these costs are less expensive than common infertility treatments. Most domestic adoption agencies focus on non-profit or religious efforts, with costs based on sliding income scales. Many of the fees involved in domestic adoptions go to excellent social causes, such as social work counseling, legal consultations and help pay for birthmothers' and birthfathers' medical fees, housing and adoption counseling.
  • Common Myth: All birthparents are bad. Birthparents can quickly get a bad reputation among prospective adoptive parents. While domestic adoptions do involve some risk, there are a minimal number of adoptions that are legally reversed. Some states offer 30-day revocation periods, which allow birthparents to reconsider their options. Most birthparents do not file these orders, but continue with granted adoption permission, once the legal order is filed, the prospective adoptive parents are legally the child's parents. Myths that birthparents return years later to contest legal guardianship are simply not true and are extremely rare, if they ever do occur.
  • Common Myth: Open adoption only confuses children. This myth is false. Open adoption allows birthparents and adoptive parents to forge bonds, without intruding on adoptive parents' rights. Most adoptive parents that have contact with birthparents will dispel the common myths associated with birthparents taking over, meddling, intruding or commenting on how children are raised. In fact, open-style adoption helps to facilitate communication and helps keep an open communication process between the child, birthparents and adoptive parents. Open adoption helps make the adoption process easier for children to understand and comprehend, feeling loved in an open environment. In contrast, children that don't know they're adopted until an older age often feel torn, experiencing mistrust and abandonment. Psychologists recommend open adoptions, as this facilitates an open form of communication, which allows children to understand they are loved and wanted.
  • Common Myth: All birthparents that place their children for adoption are teens. While most people assume that birthparents are often under age and in their teen years, the reality is that most birthparents that place their children for adoption are over the age of 18 years. Many of these parents may simply be struggling to raise another child, be enrolled in higher education or focusing on starting a career path. The result is that having a child in their lives is not a viable option, which is why they turn to adoption agencies for assistance.
  • Common Myth: Adoptees cause trouble later in life. One of the most condemning myths is that all adopted children are trouble and cause family-related issues. Adopted infants adjust just as normally as biological infants, with proportionate levels of adolescent trouble, emotional adjustments and developmental challenges.

The bottom line is that it's important for adoptive parents to help dispel and discard the myths surrounding domestic adoption. Adoption is a beautiful gift and giving a solid, loving home to a domestic infant is one of the most advantageous offerings for adoptive parents, children and for American society.

Domestic Adoption Statistics

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families provides a plethora of information related to domestic adoptions. In 2000, this census revealed an in depth analysis of total children per household, including numbers that highlight adopted children, which are separate from stepchildren or biological children. Adopted children accounted for over 2 million children, with 18.9-percent accounting for children less than six years old. California, Texas and New York have the highest numbers of adoptions per capita.

Some children are placed for adoption due to disabilities, including learning, hearing or visual limitations. This can also include children that live in extreme poverty and their biological parents can no longer financially care for their children. This may be by personal parental choice or result from local government officials and child welfare agencies removing children from harmful situations. Another issue related to disabilities may be abuse. Many children that are removed from the home by child protective services may suffer from disabilities or mental limitations due to extreme sexual, physical, mental or emotional abuse.

The majority of domestic adoptions include Caucasian children, but high numbers of other children are also adopted, including 14.6-percent of African American children, 1.2-percent of Native American or Alaskan Natives, 0.2-percent of Pacific Islander children and 4.2-percent of children that are other races.

The majority of households have biological children, but an astounding number of households are beginning to embrace adopted children. More than 816,000 households have adopted children and nearly 808,000 families have blended families that include both adopted and biological children.

Domestic Adoption Benefits

Most domestic adoptions allow birthparents to meet prospective adoptive parents. This allows prospective adoptive parents the ability to have complete birthparents' medical histories, a detailed pregnancy history, discuss legal domestic issues, understand the families' biological social and mental health histories and uncover any drug or alcohol abuse.

Understanding these genetic issues makes it easier for prospective parents to address their adoptive children's needs now and well into the future.

References:
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=522 https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/statistics/adoption.cfm#dom

The Commitments Associated with Adoption and Parenthood

Parenthood is defined as a father or mother; a person acting as a father or mother; or guardian. All parents will say there are exceptional joys in parenthood. While it's also one of the most trying jobs anyone will ever experience, raising a child is not an easy endeavor and no amount of parenting books or self-discipline can adequately prepare parents for the adventures into parenthood.

Committing to adoption is a journey into parenthood. Contrary to the popular 1950's myth, parenthood doesn't end at the age of 18 years and in fact parents make the commitment to be there for their children for a lifetime. This is especially true for special needs cases, where children are not able to be independent or thrive outside the home.

Parents owe children several responsibilities. First, when adopting a child, this helpless baby relies on parents for survival. Parents teach children about the world, help to forge their first social bonding experiences, teach children how to express and read emotions, while fostering individual personalities and social learning skills. Parents are children's first link to the outside world, which is why parenthood is such an important development dynamic, helping shape and create children into the adults they are destined to become.

The Costs of Parenting Children

Parents need to understand that raising a child is not free. Taking care of children costs money, which is why many birthparents opt for adoption. This allows prospective adoptive parents that have the social and monetary means to adopt children, giving them the ability to thrive in a society that is unfortunately, defined by socio-economic status.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) an average middle-class family spends nearly $12,000 for child-related costs during a baby's first year of life. This includes diapers, formula, baby food, baby furniture, baby safety devices, clothing, equipment, medical expenses and childcare. By the time children turn two years old, this cost increases to approximately $12,500 per child per year.

Aside from parenting children, many women cannot afford the costs associated with having a baby, with it costing birthparents $9,700 to $12,500 for an average pregnancy and delivery.

Most parents also take additional time off from work, or perhaps choose to have one parent stay home to take care of the children. This also reduces overall family incomes, having an even greater impact on families' finances.

When consider adopting a child, it's important that prospective adoptive parents sit down to budget necessary expenses, making sure that living paycheck-to-paycheck isn't a struggle. Consider forgoing costly vacations, small luxuries or even downsize to a more affordable house. This helps prospective parents budget for adoption fees, while getting in the habit of a money saving routine for when the adoption process is final.

Benefits are also an important part of having children. Parents' need to factor in additional costs such as medical expenses, life insurance, college tuition, braces, private school funding, budget sick leave, have enough money for unexpected short-term disability, etc. Having comfortable nest eggs, helps ensure that parents' financial woes don't carry over and become hardship issues for children. Reports also say that the number one reason couples argue is over finances. To help prevent this and ensure that children are exposed to healthy environments, prospective adoptive parents should begin this budgeting process early.

While the average parent spends nearly $6,000 for a crib, car seat, stroller, clothes and other baby necessities, much of this can be accomplished for less money. First-time parents generally want to have the best for their babies, but once the second child comes along, practicality takes a front-seat approach. Conduct research and focus on safe equipment and furniture that is necessary for babies, instead of only wanting expensive brand name items.

The Time Commitment of Parenting

Parenting is a full-time commitment, one that is far from simply rearing or raising a dog or cat. Parents don't have control over children. Children are curious creatures that explore and need obedience. There is no time off from parental duties, as being a parent requires a 24/7 commitment.

Parents are constantly parenting, teaching children the importance of morals, language skills, speaking, teaching manners and giving children a basic outlook on life. Even household tasks become parenting activities, as parents must focus on babies' needs or on children's questions, keeping a constant eye to ensure safety and structure.

There are several ways that parents can stay focused in their commitment to their adopted children. Psychologists recommend following an emotionally centered adoption parenting plan that focuses on good role model results, as noted below:

  • Commitment - - It's important that parents stay committed to their roles as parents and remain centered. A happy, encouraging and patient parent gives children a healthy role model.
  • Loving Relationships - Children that see and experience loving relationships report feeling more loved and thrive well when put in a variety of life experiences.
  • Connections - Quality time with children isn't simply about teaching, it's about forging life-long connections. Children require physical contact, so hugs are healthy and always find quiet time to devote to family talks.
  • Role Models - If parents would prefer to have children that behave well into their teenage years, now is the time to start. Children learn respect, how to respond when angry or frustrated and how to deal with emotions at very young ages. When positive enforcement is used, children are more apt to learn.
  • Emotional Intelligence - Parents must be committed to using soothing psychological processes to calm children down, which is an integral part of babyhood and young child development. Never ignore children's emotions; encourage them to understand that full ranges of emotions are normal. Always listen when children express their feelings, as this helps children learn to put their feeling into words. Instead of letting him or her cry and scream, ask what is wrong and focus on encouraging vocalization, such as, "I am mad."
  • Needs - Children act out of motivation, usually when looking for attention. Instead of getting upset, consider using pre-emptive techniques. This includes say, "Well, even if your clothes don't match, you picked them out today." This subtly allows children to know their clothes don't match and generally helps reward parents with children that learn to cooperate later on.
  • Guidance versus Punishment - Kids behave in a manner that pleases adults, which is why constant discipline and criticism can be extremely detrimental to the coveted childhood learning process. Instead of punishment, focus on using the aforementioned pre-emptive techniques, setting firm empathetic limits that respect and acknowledge their frustrations. Ultimately, parents will have children that want to obey instead of feeling forced to out of punishment or fear.
  • Focusing - Remember to focus on what matters in parenting. The big picture makes the child, not the small day-to-day criticisms such as tossing shoes by the entry door, etc. Consider finding a productive way to address these concerns without using negative criticisms.
  • Compassion - As a parent, it's important that you take time out for yourself every once in a while and acknowledge that no one is perfect. When feeling bad for disciplining or maintaining structure with children, take a slight breather and remember to love yourself. Parenthood is the most difficult job you will ever endure.
  • Perspective - Always keep perspective on what is and is not important. Children and parents both make mistakes and no one is perfect, so instead of embracing negativity, learn from these experiences and focus on making correct decisions that align with your family's life plan.

What are the costs and preparation involved in the adoption process?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families put together a detailed list of adoption costs. This study highlights interesting data.

<b>Range of Adoption Costs</b>
Public Agency Adoptions (Foster Care) $0 - $2,500
Licensed Private Agency Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Independent Adoptions $8,000 - $40,000+
Facilitated or Unlicensed Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Intercountry Adoptions $15,000 - $30,000

While these figures may seem overwhelming, there are resources to help offset the costs of the adoption process. Some public agencies waive or allow reduced-fee home study costs, while others reimburse most out of pocket expenses.

Home Study Preparation

All parents that want to adopt a child require home study courses. These expenses often include the cost of the home study itself in addition to court mandated and required fees. Certified contractors and public agencies often complete a home study; these carefully selected individuals are certified social workers.

The home study process helps prepare prospective adoptive parents with information related to the adoption process, evaluates their capabilities for being good parents and includes recommendations about whether parents are competent and fit to parent children.

Generally, this home study costs money, but some pubic agencies may decrease fees or charge minimal amounts, such as $500. These tests may require that parents undergo psychological or medical evaluations, which can cost an additional $1,000 to $3,000. Some private adoption firms include the cost of this home study program in their adoption fees; while others make it a requisite in addition to listed fees.

Tax Advantages

The U.S. government offers several tax advantages to help offset adoption costs. These deductions may be accomplished through tax credits, employer benefits, grants, loans or various subsidies.

The government does offer tax credits for children with special needs; however, these rules are always changing, so it's best to confer with a tax attorney, adoption specialist, accountant or tax professional. The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) offers detailed information via their website.

There are adoption loans and grants, which vary in eligibility. These typically have very specific requirements and are available to those families with the most significant lack of financial means. Certain adoption agencies may offer their own grant or loan programs.

References:
http://www.parenting.com/article/the-cost-of-raising-a-baby
http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/raise-great-kids/Resolutions-better-parent
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/s_cost/s_costs.pdf
http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Adoption-Benefits-FAQs

The Biological Relationship

With more families becoming untraditional, parents being divorced, gay parents adopting children and even single parents choosing to rear children, the traditional 1950s definition of a nuclear family is ever-changing. Societal norms generally included a heavy emphasis on biological connectivity. However, with advancements in society towards environmental psychology, which focuses on the benefits of natural environments, more people are beginning to identify with environmental relationships versus traditional biological ties.

Can you emotionally handle not being related to your child?

This common question affects many prospective adoptive parents, as many of them wonder, "Can I handle not being related to my adopted child?" First, being an adoptive parent is different from being a stepparent. A stepparent generally means that another biological parent is still in the picture.

As an adoptive parent, you may not have physically given birth to your adoptive child, but the fact that you wanted a child so badly to endure the emotional adoption process, highlights the intense, nurturing love in your heart.

The highlights of parenting are just that: parenting. It doesn't differentiate between biological genetics and parenting a child that does not biologically share your DNA. In fact, parenting is about providing supportive and loving environments that helps nurture children as they grow. Society needs to help raise children that are accepted and well loved, embracing limits, enjoying structure, learning basic everyday survival skills and becoming educated members of society.

As Hillary Clinton so famously explained in her aptly titled 1996 book, "It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us," society began to see the importance of raising children together, not simply from a personal, independent perspective.

Being a parent is about emotionally bonding and connecting with your children, developing a healthy parent-child relationship that lasts through the years and prepares your children for adulthood.

If you still have concerns about if you can emotionally handle raising a child that is not biologically yours, there are several online forums and online adoption education courses that can help ease your concerns. Remember, adopting a child is one of the greatest gifts you can give a baby and your actions can help make the world a better place.

Is my adopted child any less my own?

Blended families are common in America and throughout many other countries. Parenting an adoptive child is no different from a biological child. If you choose to adopt, it's because you want to start a family - whether it's with someone special or by yourself.

Adoptive children will someday wonder where they came from and as parents, you may find yourself needing medical history information. By explaining to children that they are loved no matter their biological genetics, race, heritage or gender is an important part of teaching society to embrace universal love and promote a society that has no racial boundaries.

Some adoptive parents may feel that adoption is their only remaining choice, especially after several failed infertility treatments. However, it's important to view this opportunity with positive aspirations and focus on providing a nurturing environment to children in need. Just because adoption may be your second choice, doesn't make your adopted child any less your own.

The Importance of Exploring the Concerns of Being an Adoptive Parent

While there are many myths concerning adoption, it is important to explore these concerns before adopting a child. Some decades-old myths include that adopted children feel life-long sorrow, displacement and a sense of loss. Instead of assuming these statements are factual, contact adoption agencies, independent adoption companies, search online forums and even visit adoption support groups to learn the truth surrounding adopting children.

It's natural to an extent for all prospective adoptive parents to wonder if their bonds will ever be as close to adoptive children as those they may have had with biological children. While society's notion that "flesh and blood" is a vital component to psychological development, as an adoptive parent you need to rest assured that giving a child a better and healthier life creates an even more important, significant bond.

You may be concerned that some traits, such as learning disabilities, behavior, emotional or anger issues may be the result of adoption. All children, including those living with biological parents, go through development stages. These issues can be addressed with psychologists and medical personnel, if needed. Many traits, such as lying or identity struggles are common for both children that are biologically related to parents and are adopted. Just because concerns or issues may arise, do not assume it's adoption-related. As any parent will tell you, parenting is rewarding and fulfilling, but one of life's most difficult challenges.

Address any concerns or issues you may have before adopting a child. This will help ease your worries, helping make the adoption process smoother and easier for all parties involved.

References:
http://www.adoptinfo-il.org/adoptiveparenting/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Takes_a_Village
http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/archive/2009/05/exploring-the-concerns-of-adop.html
http://www.adoptinfo-il.org/adoptiveparenting/

Adoption Services Available for Adoptive Parents

There are several types of adoption services available to prospective adoptive parents, both pre- and post-placement. Depending upon the type of adoption, there are services for military families, minority families, resources for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) families and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

General Adoptions

The home study adoption process is designed to educate prospective adoptive parents about the adoption process, including pre- and post-placements. These evaluations are designed to prepare you for the adoption process, evaluate your potential or current parenthood skills and gather information to help make sure you are paired with an adoptive child. This may include gathering information about what type of child you would like to adopt, albeit it one with special needs, minor medical conditions, etc.

This process helps you, as a prospective adoptive parent face the adoption process head-on, giving you the necessary encouragement and excitement to enter into the next phase of your life - parenthood.

The home study process includes several different elements, which may vary according to state or specific adoption agencies. You will likely undergo a no-obligation orientation, adoptive parent training, which may include helping you better understand how to address your child's questions related to adoption and help you determine what type of adoption best meets your needs, whether it is open or closed.

Interviews and a home visit are also conducted and a social worker is generally assigned to your adoption case, helping assess your limitations and strengths. This is not considered harsh criticism, but helps you become a better parent that is more equipped to address and handle the needs of adoptive children.

International adoptions are party to the Hague Convention, which requires that agencies endorse ethical adoption practices. This helps to limit and prevent the sale, abduction and trafficking of innocent children who become party to corrupt political and adoption systems. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families provides detailed information that highlights participating countries, as well as necessary adoption requirements.

Military Families

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The U.S. military receives several benefits for pursuing foster care and adoptions. If you are a military member stationed within the U.S., there may be specific state rules and regulations for the adoption process, which are based on where you are stationed. It's important to check with local adoption agencies and military personnel for specific available resources.

For U.S. families that are stationed overseas, there are several options for military adoption assistance. This includes international adoptions, as well as opting to adopt children that are domestic to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Defense also offers a special adoption reimbursement program for military families. If families qualify, these tax deductions can help cover any necessary medical expenses or adoption fees, but prohibit reimbursing travel expenses. Specific information and up-to-date benefits are available via the National Military Family Association.

Minority Adoptions

There are several adoption agencies that specialize in specific racial adoptions, albeit it African American, Latino or interracial adoptions.

The Internet features a thorough listing that includes abundant access to online courses, classes and resources for families that are interested in pursuing transcultural or transracial adoptions. These adoption services are designed for couples or individuals that want to adopt children that are different ethnicities or races from them.

"Adoptive Families" is a magazine that features a listing of cultural and heritage events, which allows both prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents to learn more about their adopted children's heritage, culture, country and origins. Some events include celebrating cultures worldwide, ranging from Ethiopia, China, India, Korea, Haiti, Paraguay, the Philippines and Vietnam, to name a few.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Adoptions

Human Rights Campaign is a group that helps LGBT members coordinate both domestic and international adoptions. They offer a plethora of resources, including countries open to LGBT adoptions, agencies that specifically work with LGBT couples, home studies, applications, immigration services, guardianship filing, infant Visas, citizenship for children and even medical exams for children, especially those being adopted from third-world countries.

Indian Child Welfare Act

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 was a federal law that helped Native American children remain with other Native American parents. This law offers structured regulations that both public and private adoption agencies must adhere to when conducting tribal adoptions, whether they are on private or tribal lands. The National Indian Child Welfare Association offers detailed information concerning adoption requirements and services provided to facilitate this process.

References:
http://adoptuskids.org/for-families/who-can-foster-and-adopt/information-about-the-indian-child-welfare-act
http://www.militaryfamily.org/your-benefits/adoption/reimbursement/
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/calendar.php?cal=camp
http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/international-adoption
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/hague.cfm
http://www.nicwa.org/indian_child_welfare_act/

Types of Adoption

There are several different types of adoption agencies available to you as a birthparent. Adoption specialists can work with you to help determine what type of adoption best suits your current and future desires and needs. Highlighted below are several types of adoptions that are common in U.S. domestic adoptions. A Act of Love Adoptions has over twenty years of professional experience with open adoption and continues to see the many benefits that each type of adoption can offer to birthparents and adoptive families.

Domestic Adoptions

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The U.S. offers a variety of unique domestic adoption programs, which may even include stepchild adoptions, relative adoptions, grandchild adoptions or adult adoptions. The latter is most common with families that have reared foster children, for care-giving purposes or to address inheritance-related issues.

Foster Care

The U.S. has a government-sponsored foster care system. While sometimes, these situations are only temporary and parents have the option to regain their parental rights, there are times when children are permanently assigned to the foster system, until they are legally adopted. To adopt a foster child in need can be a lengthy process. You must become a certified foster family or parent, which depends on each state's regulations. Both private and public agencies in local communities can assist or offer guidance on this foster care adoption process.

Fost-Adopt is a form of adoption where children are placed in foster families, with the expectation that the placement will be permanent once all court-required adoption proceedings are complete. This means the child's legal bond with biological parents is severed, making it possible for foster parents to legally adopt the child.

Infant Adoption

This is the most common form of adoption and allows parents to get on waiting lists to adopt a newborn or infant. People that prefer infant adoptions generally work with adoption advocates, such as attorneys or adoption agencies, which help facilitate the process between birthparents and adoptive parents.

Independent Adoption

This form of adoption doesn't generally offer birthparents counseling and may require lengthy waits. These types of adoptions may be conducted via private or public agencies, but restricts infant adoptions from being eligible for tax deductions or other financial assistance programs.

Open Adoption

An open adoption allows you, as a birthparent, to have a relationship or direct contact with the adoptive parents and your child. This type of adoption varies greatly, as it can be minimal communication, or include open contact between families. You and the adoptive parents can decide what level of contact is appropriate, including if you prefer to share pictures or participate in phone calls or in-person visits. If children already know their biological families, an open adoption is likely best, as this helps facilitate flow of information about medical information, access to siblings, contact with other family relatives, etc. The level of openness and the amount of contact varies greatly, ranging from on-going contact to occasional letters every few years. Some birthparents and adoptive parents form relationships and share holidays and family gatherings. As a birthparent, you have the right to choose what level of openness you prefer.

Closed Adoption

A closed adoption was the type of adoption common decades ago. A closed adoption does not share or disclose any identifying information about you to the adoptive parents and you will not have any identifying information about the adoptive family. During the course of your pregnancy, information may be exchanged via an adoption specialist, but no identifying information, such as names, or addresses will be provided to either party. There will be no contact in the present or future. Once the adoption is formalized in court proceeding, all adoption records are legally sealed. Local laws vary regarding the ability for closed adoption paperwork to ever be court petitioned for unsealing. Some states allow records to be available to children once they turn 18 years old, while other states and locales do not make this information available.

This type of adoption was very traditional in the 1950s through the 1980s. However, open and semi-adoption adoptions, which are discussed below, are becoming more popular among birthparents and adoptive parents. This does not mean you should feel pressured to pursue an open adoption, as you should select which type of adoption best suits your personal needs. Counseling with an adoption agency can be helpful as you make your decisions regarding future contact.

Semi-Open

An adoption plan often revolves around what makes the birthparent comfortable. Birthparents must consider what is best for their baby and themselves. When working with an adoption professional at Act of Love, birthparents have advocates that are working for their best interests, helping personalize and build an adoption plan that specifically caters to their needs and desires. Adoption agencies and professionals also screen potential adoptive families and are committed to accepting adoptive parents that are dedicated to providing a safe, loving atmosphere for nurturing growth.

Choosing an adoptive family can be difficult, which is another reason why it is important to work with an adoption counselor to help prepare a specific adoption plan. If a birthparent does not want to help choose an adoptive family, an adoption expert can facilitate a healthy match. Birthparents can also decide if they want their child entering into a family with children and agreed levels of adoption contact.

One of the most significant aspects to any adoption plan is the hospital stay. Birthparents can choose to have adoptive families in the delivery room, have family members or friends with them in the hospital, spend one-on-one alone time with their babies, take pictures of their babies with or without their adoptive family or leave the hospital with the adoptive family. Your adoption counselor at Act of Love will help discuss this plan with you and create your plan through several counseling sessions.

Last, but most important, it is vital to agree to the level of contact that is acceptable to both parties. Does the birthparent want to develop a casual friendship with the adoptive parents? Would they prefer email, telephone calls, in-person visits or video conferences? Do they want an on-going relationship with the child and adoptive family? How frequently does the birthparent want letter and picture updates of their growing child?

All of these questions are personal and can only be answered by birthparents and adoptive parents. It is important to select parents that not only meet your expectations but also adhere to the expected parenting plan documentation. Act of Love believes that having an adoption team that helps you to build a meaningful and lasting relationship together will help to ensure your needs are met in your adoption plan.

Open or Closed Adoptions

Adoption today is as varied as the people involved in them are. An adoption can work so many wonderful ways. For some, an open adoption is the absolute best type of option, for others, a semi-open plan works well. The best thing about current adoption is that as a birthparent, you are able to make these types of decisions and make a plan that works the very best for you.

There are so many choices available to you. As you read the following options, take notes about what feels good to you:

  • Receive adoptive parent profiles with pictures to read and review.
  • Talk to possible adoptive parents on the telephone or video Skype.
  • Talk to potential adoptive parents in person.
  • Tell the adoptive parents that they “are the chosen ones”.
  • Have the adoptive parents attend doctor visits.
  • Have periodic visits or calls with adoptive parents during pregnancy.
  • Have one or both adoptive parents in the delivery room.
  • Have adoptive parents in the hospital waiting room during the delivery.
  • Have one or both adoptive parents give the baby his/her first bath.
  • If the hospital allows, have adoptive parents “banded” to see the baby during the hospital stay.
  • Have adoptive parents spend time with you during your hospital stay.
  • Spend time with adoptive couples in the days following the birth and relinquishment paperwork for the adoption.
  • Exchange email addresses or phone numbers.
  • Have the adoption agency be the go-between for picture and letter exchanges.
  • Have the adoption agency connect you for conference calls.
  • Schedule a face-to-face visit every few years.
  • Request pictures and letter updates be included in your file, and should you ever want them, then you can call the adoption agency and request them.

International Adoptions

International adoptions can be a long, arduous and complicated process, fraught with international rules and regulations, which are subject to the Hague Convention. International adoptions can be more expensive, as some countries require specific adoption program country fees. These fees generally range between $7,000 to upwards of $12,250, in addition to application costs, home study requirements, dossier fees, travel and post placement expenses.

It's important to work with reputable international adoption agencies that understand the legalities surrounding international adoptions, which includes providing detailed information about traveling abroad, immigration and the after-adoption process.

What feels comfortable for you?

Thinking about and writing down the scenarios that make you feel comfortable can help you realize what type of adoption you would be most content with. If you wrote down a good portion of the options that involve you being with the adoptive parents, then you are most likely a great candidate for semi-open to a completely open adoption. If you preferred fewer options and the idea of the agency keeping your photos and letters, you may be feeling more comfortable with a semi-open adoption. There is no right or wrong way – it is what feels best to you.

References:
http://international.adoption.com/foreign/international-adoption-costs.html
http://www.birthparents.us/adoptiontype.htm

What type of contact can I have with the adoptive family after placement?

When a child is adopted, the birthparents and adoptive parents enter into a post-adoption contract agreement. This contract details open, semi-open or closed adoption arrangements. While these contracts can be informative, they generally highlight mutual understandings between birthparents and adoptive parents and can be held to legal written standards. It is important to understand the laws in the state where you will be signing your consent regarding post-adoption contact.

Currently, about half of the states recognize written contractual agreements between birthparents and adoptive parents. Most of these agreements clearly state post- adoption communication and contact that is acceptable. Some states also permit birth relatives to be listed in the agreement, which may include grandparents, uncles, aunts and other siblings.

  • Pictures and Letters – Adoptive parents can send pictures and letters to the birthparents, provided an open adoption agreement is mutually acceptable. If the adoption were a semi-open agreement, these documents are sent to an acceptable third party, such as Act of Love.
  • Email – Some open adoptions include email, which shares stories and can include pictures. Email is a great way to stay in touch, while still maintaining enough distance to not confuse children at a young age.
  • Phone or Video Calls – The step following email contact is phone or video calls. These may be infrequent, only occurring during holidays or once every several years.
  • In-Person Visits – Some birthparents and adoptive parents opt for in-person visits. The first visit should be in a neutral location, as this can be a sensitive step in any adoption relationship. It is important to remember that in-person visits are not for everyone and are not always advisable.

A closed adoption allows no contact between parties, not even with a third-party administrator. For both open and semi-open adoptions, there are several books written by experienced adoption experts and psychologists that highlight how to create evolving relationships between birthmothers, birthparents and adopted children. A Act of Love Adoptions can provide resources and counseling to help assist you in your decision making process.

What type of child should I adopt?

Once you determine you want to adopt a child, it's important to consider your options. Are you considering an international, interracial, domestic, special needs or infant adoption? Researching each type of adoption will help you determine what type of child best meets your lifestyle, needs and family.

International Adoption

This type of adoption may include interracial or transracial adoptions and can generally be more expensive than domestic adoptions. International adoptions are subject to international adoption laws, including the Hague Convention, which helps prevent child trafficking. International adoptions are generally more involved and require travel as well as visas and citizenship documents. Often international adoptions may be transracial so it's important to be prepared for children to ask questions later in life about why they are different from other family members.

Domestic Adoption

Domestic adoptions are state-specific, but are generally less expensive and may offer more tax deduction benefits. Adopting a domestic child can be beneficial, as parents can choose between open and closed adoptions. While open adoptions can be customized to accommodate both birthparents and adoptive parents, this option may not be available in foreign countries. U.S. adoptions can also be interracial and Native American children are given preference to other Native American couples or individuals under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978.

Adopting Older Children

Older children already have developed a distinct personality and come with a history. They're not a blank slate like an infant adoption. Adopting an older child that has already undergone the journey through childhood can be a difficult process and may involve a higher level of commitment. It is often a difficult decision, as most prospective adoptive parents do not meet children until they are finalizing the adoption process.

Older children may have been exposed to abuse, removed from their homes or experienced traumatic events that led to the loss of their biological parents. It's important that adoptive parents be committed to dealing with the psychological and emotional effects that may accompany adopting an older child.

There are many advantages to adopting an older child, including shorter wait times, life history and special needs disclosures. While all children need solid, loving homes, you must search your heart to determine if adopting an older child is a commitment you are willing to make. It's important that an older child understand the adoption is not temporary, but you are making a decision to have him or her permanently join your family.

Adopting Infants or Younger Children

Some adoptive parents prefer to go through the baby phase with infant adoptions. Unlike pregnancy, which prepares the woman's body for getting up regularly, adopting an infant is a life-changing journey. Babies require constant care, attention and affection. Some adoptive parents choose to adopt an infant because they feel they will have solid bonds with their babies.

Infants are not programmed with distinct personalities that reflect their environments, nor are they products of physical, emotional or mental abuse. Infants give adoptive parents a chance to start from scratch, but it's still important to understand that biology does play a significant role in human development. Just because someone adopts an infant, it's normal to undergo everyday childhood struggles.

Racial Adoptions

In an ideal world, people would not discriminate and all racial boundaries would be obsolete. Whether it's a biracial couple adopting a child that is a completely different race than adoptive parents or a same-race couple adopting an different race child, it's important for parents to be prepared to address these questions as children grow older. Children will wonder why they look different from their parents. Be open and honest about the adoption process to help facilitate developmental and emotional stability.

Children may wonder about their cultural heritages or be subject to discrimination as they continue through childhood. It's vital that parents understand these trying difficulties and join support groups for interracial or transracial adoptions. This helps give parents the necessary support to understand that adopted children can't be raised with the assumption they're the same race as their adoptive parents. Embrace children's uniqueness by incorporating cultural celebrations, heritage and explaining that it's socially and culturally acceptable to have blended families.

Often minority children have longer placement rates due to disproportionate adoptive parents willing to adopt across biracial lines. In order to embrace a racism-free world, it's important that adoptive parents be willing to overcome these stigmas and learn to embrace a blended culture.

Special Needs Adoptions

A special needs child is defined as having a medical, physical and/or emotional disability that hinders development. Foster care has different definitions for special needs, which may include racial backgrounds, age, sibling groups, disabilities, family history or specific conditions.

Adopting a child with special needs is a lifelong commitment. It's not simply an 18-year obligation, but a lifelong pledge. Some children may have minor disabilities that are easy to overcome, making it easy for them to socially integrate into society. Other children may suffer from fatal diseases, including AIDS, which means that adoptive parents need to be prepared for extensive medical expenses, costly medications and the uncertainty of the unknown - meaning life or death.

Common types of special needs adoptions are children that have Down Syndrome or are perhaps missing limbs. Whether it's heart defects, Hepatitis B, blindness, cleft palates, kidney issues or exposure to drugs while in utero, adoptive parents must be willing to make the lifelong commitment to care for these special needs children.

How does the type of child affect the adoption process?

The type of child that you choose can dramatically affect the adoption process. Older, race-specific and special needs are generally easier to adopt.

Infants or children that are HIV-positive or have AIDS are often overlooked, with some children dying within two years if proper medical treatment is not received. The reality is that AIDS orphans are rapidly increasing, with U.S. domestic adoptions also reaching staggering numbers. In 2008, nearly 2.1 million children worldwide were infected with HIV. While these types of special needs may make the adoption process simple on paper, adoptive parents need to be committed to providing lifelong care, which can be a difficult, arduous journey and time-consuming process.

International adoptions may become tangled in political red tape, much like when Russia decided to ban Americans from adopting Russian children. In some cases, political paperwork and attorney fees can take years. Additionally, the international adoption process is country specific, which means fees and the adoption process are unique and different based on government laws.

Infants are among the most sought after adoptions, as most adoptive parents would prefer to rear a child that does not suffer from physical, emotional and/or mental abuse or neglect. The stereotype that older children suffer from behavioral problems may have some truth, but it is not always true in every case.

As an adoptive parent, you should consider what type of adoption is right for you and your family. Not every adoption process is equal and some types may be more time-consuming. Ultimately, the type of adoption couples pursue is a personal choice. A child is a significant, permanent commitment. It is important that you be honest, analyzing your own limitations before making an adoption commitment that you cannot keep.

References:
http://adoption.about.com/cs/olderchildren/a/olderchild_addi.htm
http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1809722,00.html
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/specialneeds/
http://specialneedsadoption.rainbowkids.com
http://www.aidsbeacon.com/news/2010/07/15/amid-recession-children-with-hiv-aids-worldwide-are-in-need-of-homes/

Talking about Adoption with Family and Friends

Adoption is becoming increasingly common, with nearly one in three Americans knowing someone who was or has adopted a child. It's important to be open with family and friends, as your positive outlook on adoption helps promote awareness about how healthy - and normal - the adoption process is. By better explaining this process to friends and family, they can convey this information to their own children, helping make adoption less secretive and avoiding public faux pas moments.

Sometimes family and friends may blurt out questions that are hurtful and tactless, but they are often simply unaware that adoption is a personal choice. These comments may include, "What do the birthparents look like?" or "What do you know about the mother?" While their curiosity may make their manners temporarily non-existent, it's important to be calm and understand that your responses help shape and reform their opinions - and how they ask questions - about adoption.

Instead of taking these questions personally, calmly explain to close family and friends the adoption process. Years into the future, these people will take the information to heart, passing it along to other friends, family and even their own children. These small steps can help change the way people respond to and view adoption.

It is common for some adoptive parents to take a formal approach to notifying friends and family, sending letters or emails that highlight specific adoption terminology, such as open or closed adoption processes, including transcultural or transracial adoptions.

Parents of non-adopted children may need to have certain adoption aspects explained. This includes highlighting that most children cannot understand the concept of adoption until they are better able to understand genetics and the reproduction process. This generally occurs around five to six years of age. Around the age of nine, children may begin wondering who they look like, taking an interest in what biological parents' features they possess.

Explain to family and friends that adoption is a personal choice and your child's biological parents, for some reason, were incapable of making the commitment to parenthood, suffering socioeconomic or social setbacks that prohibited them from offering nurturing, loving homes to children. This can help avoid behavioral-related questions from tactless relatives that may wonder if the child was placed for adoption due to personal or emotional difficulties.

Remember that people who have not undergone infertility issues or the adoption process may be insensitive and wonder how you could ever love a child that is not biologically your own. These are their own issues, but explain that adoption is a process that involves great joy and sorrow.

By addressing the inaccurate myths that surround the adoption process, you can help make a difference in the world, allowing people to view adoption not as a secretive process, but one that is positive and healthy.

Sharing the Decision to Adopt

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It's OK to share your decision to adopt. If people are judgmental or negative towards your decision, it's best that the information you provide is censored. Once the information is provided, you can never take it back. For example, consider limiting the details of open adoption, including the birthparents' names or specific histories. While these comments may seem innocent, relatives and friends may later mention these in front of your children.

If a couple is adopting, it's important that they are both on the same page. Whether it's limiting information to, "Our child is healthy," or providing more details, it's important that parents understand this is their first significant step towards joint parenthood.

There are several different types of family and friend reactions, which may include support, skepticism or disapproval. Remember to focus on the positive benefits of starting your own family, not on other people's negativities. The bottom line is that your child needs a healthy, positive environment to flourish, which means choosing people that are supportive of your decisions.

Support Groups

There is something to be said for safety in numbers. Adoptive parents can join local or online support groups that help them feel supported. There are different types of support groups that are adoption specific. These may include groups that focus on general adoptions, ethnic adoptions or even special needs.

If local support resources don't exist, consider starting local parent support groups. This may include new-parent support groups, which are perfect for parents that are new to the adoption process. Other groups can include seasoned adoption experts that can share advice and help dispel the negative myths surrounding adoption.

It's important that adoptive families feel as though they have access to positive resources and support groups that help improve their parenting skills. Parents can also share stories about how to explain to children they are adopted, including making adoption announcements to friends and family.

Additionally, there are several online support groups for international adoptions. These include groups for prospective parents that are waiting or have adopted children from China, Guatemala, Korea, Ukraine Kazakhstan, India and other countries.

References:
https://portal.lifeworks.com/portal/viewers/HPSArticle.aspx?HPSMaterialID=7178
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=261
http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/censor_your_childs_adoption_story/
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2121
https://adoptivefamilies.com/support_group.php

Talking to Children about Their Adoptions

Unlike decades ago where people would go their entire lives without knowing they were adopted, only to discover long-lost birth certificates or adoption papers upon the death of their elderly parents, modern-day experts recommend embracing adoption, discussing this openly with children.

To help facilitate this process, there are several ways to talk to children about adoption. Being open and honest is critical, as this helps establish trust and allows children to understand adoption is a beautiful, selfless gift.

  • Honesty - Always be truthful with children, even before they can mentally understand the adoption process. Around the age of five years, children will begin to understand the concept of belonging to parents, but it isn't until around nine years that children are capable of understanding the genetic reproduction process. Even if you choose an open adoption and the birthparents don't play an active role, always be honest with children. This doesn't mean only discussing adoption on an annual basis, but making it part of routine conversations. Having a truthful relationship between parents and children, helps encourage trust and healthy relationships.
  • Age Appropriate - Make sure adoption discussions are age appropriate. It may not be appropriate to discuss that parents were drug abusers with a four-year-old. If in doubt about appropriate ways to handle questions or address adoption, consult with a professional counselor, therapist or child psychologist.
  • Don't Wait - Never wait for children to ask about adoption. Encourage having an open relationship from the very beginning. Even during infancy children enjoy being cradled and hearing their parents' voices. If a child can look back and remember a specific moment where parents had the adoption "talk," then adoptive parents have waited too long.
  • Memories - Create a memory book that is dedicated to your child's life. This book can feature both stories and pictures, helping highlight the adoption process and giving children resources to reference, as they grow older.
  • Open Adoptions - Try including birthparents in children's lives. Working as a team and having answers come directly from birthparents can help establish more trust.
  • Triggers - Adopted children may have trouble as they age. Some children experience certain "triggers," which may include Mother's Day, Father's Day or birthdays. If there are no newborn pictures, having schools request baby pictures may be triggering or especially sensitive for children that are adopted.
  • Eye Contact - To help make the topic of adoption less formal, consider discussing these issues with children while doing daily routines, such as driving them home from school, brushing their hair, giving them nightly baths or even bonding over sporting activities.
  • Terminology - Teaching children at young ages to express the positive and negative adoption terms is important. This helps children be prepared for awkward situations, especially in grade school where other children can be insensitive.
  • Involvement - Adoption doesn't just involve adoptive parents, it involves children too. It's important for parents to always keep this in mind. As children age, some may feel their adoption is private, while others want to discuss this. Embrace children's personal decisions as they advanced towards more independent thinking and behavioral skills.
  • Mentors - Consider having an adult adoptee mentor children that feel abandoned, hurt, betrayed or confused by the adoption process. Mentors can help reassure children that adoption is a normal part of life and being adopted does not mean they were not wanted.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway is a superb resource that explains how to discuss adoption with children, including children's developmental capacitates for understanding the adoption process.

This guide features tips for raising adopted children from infancy through their teen years and offers advice about when children can fully begin to understand the adoption process. This may also vary, as transracial adoptions allow children to have a capacity to visually see they are different from their parents, while same-race adoptions may be more difficult to explain to toddlers and young children.

Featuring details for addressing different race adoptions, parents may wish to incorporate adopted children's heritages and country of origin's cultural events into regular family celebrations.

Children that suffer from disabilities may not understand the adoption process or the concept that they were adopted. It may be best to explore these issues with a child mental health professional that specializes in addressing these specific types of concerns.

As children grow, they may feel as though adoption indicates they were given away by their birthparents, which may cause cycles of grief and/or loss. It is important that adoptive parents emphasize that just because children were adopted, they are not devalued. In fact, it means their adoption was a significant gift to adoptive parents, helping grow their families and give them the ability to become parents.

References:
http://www.adoptionmosaic.org/talking-to-your-kids-about-adoption-11-tips/
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_stages/f_stages.pdf

Support for Adoptive Parents

There are several types of support systems for adoptive parents. Traditionally, these were all conducted in-person and involved community activities. Today, these support systems have expanded to include online support and outreach programs for adoptive parents.

Support Systems

Several support systems cater to adoptive parents. The North American Council on Adoptable Children offers a complete listing of 900 adoption-related support groups that are located across North America.

Parent-to-Parent Support

These groups are comprised of other adoptive parents, allowing them to share their stories, communicate their adoption experiences and stay in touch, as children grow older. These types of groups help address general parenting issues, including child development, personalities, communicating with children about adoption, addressing adoption-related concerns and issues among close family and friends, facilitating difficulties that may arise with transracial adoptions and even addressing adoption issues that may occur in school.

Parents greatly benefit from hearing other personal experiences. Adoptive parents can forge lifelong bonds with other adoptive families, allowing parents long-term support throughout the adoption process.

Counseling

Families that adopt older children may benefit from parent counseling groups. These groups focus on teaching adoptive parents new strategies and parenting tools for effectively addressing emotional or behavioral challenges, which may include attachment, adjustment, emotional, psychological, anger, sleep, discipline or sibling-related issues.

Infant Home Groups

For parents that adopt infants, the first years are a transition period. They can be challenging to both parents and children and these types of groups help focus on teaching parenting strategies that strive to foster healthy, growing children. This type of group is especially helpful for attachment-related issues or addressing early behavioral issues before they become significant problems.

Teen Adoption Groups

As children become older, they may become more curious about their biological parents or cultural heritages. Teens may also start developing self-esteem or social issues. These groups help parents focus on incorporating effective parenting strategies that help facilitate communication with their children. Many of these groups explore adoption issues with discussions, art, movies, writing and even socially interactive games. These groups can include teens or adoptive parents.

How to Start a Support System

The openness of adoption is still evolving in our society. If your local community doesn't offer an adoption support system, consider creating your own. Not only will this benefit you, but also you will be surprised at the response of other adoptive parents that desire a healthy support system.

Group Types

Consider the type of adoption support group that would best meet local community needs. Is it convenient to meet at a nearby park or simply over morning coffee? Do you want a laid back group that focuses on forming friendships, or are you looking to start a more formal group that offers newsletters, educational events, requires due collections and features social family events? Certain areas may offer general adoption groups, but if a certain niche adoption group is not available, such as those for special needs or transracial adoptions, consider starting this type of group to help offer support that is more specialized to adoptive parents that can relate to these types of adoptions.

Spreading the Word

Once you decide what type of adoption group best meets your community's needs, the next step is spreading the word. This can be accomplished by placing fliers in community areas, such as libraries, grocery stores, coffee shops or even churches. Consider taking out advertisements in local newspapers or placing informational packets at local schools. Sporting events and children's activity groups are also a great way to gain members.

Today, the Internet also offers an abundance of free websites, blogs and community forums that can further help spread the word about local adoption support groups. Social media is a great way to tweet or post upcoming meetings, helping to further generate interest.

Options

Now that you've generated a buzz about a local adoption support group, consider the input of other interested parents. Some groups may determine it's more advantageous to start their own groups, while others may prefer to join chapters of existing groups.

Official

Once you've decided your options, make the group official by selecting a name, establishing by-laws, creating a charter mission statement and determining the specific focus of the adoption group. If dues are collected, consider filing for a non-profit tax-exempt status. A great way to get pro bono services is to approach an attorney that is an adoptive parent or is willing to assist in adoption-related community services for a nominal fee.

Responsibilities

Make sure not all the work falls squarely on one single member's shoulders. After all, a support group is about supporting one another. Divvy up work based on members' specialties and talents. For example, maybe one member has expertise in coordinating social events, another may be a talented marketing expert for newsletters and yet another may be an accountant that can handle membership funds and filing annual tax reports.

Meetings

Establish regular meeting schedules and places. For large groups, churches or schools may donate meeting spaces. Smaller groups can start out in members' homes, with scheduled meetings rotating between houses.

Stay in Touch

Staying in touch is a vital component to forming a successful adoptive parenting support group. Consider what form of communication works best - emails, fliers, newsletters, invitations or blogs - are all great ways to regularly stay connected in today's modern world.

Future

As children grow, adoptive parents focuses may change. Consider incorporating different focuses, such as infant adoptions, toddler groups and teen adoption programs as members' children grow older. This helps attract new members, while also maintaining current members.

Why turn to a support system?

The impact of adoptive parenting can be substantial. While most people believe the pre-adoption paperwork process is the most difficult, the reality is that parenthood requires a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work.

The post-adoption period can also prove challenging, as new parents may face identity and attachment disorders or depression. Talking to other adoptive parents is extremely helpful, allowing new adoptive parents to feel less isolated and more supported in their decision to adopt a child.

Some parents have difficulty attaching to their children, whether it is a biological or adoptive child. They may believe they are isolated and alone in their feelings, but the reality is that these issues are more common than most people realize. By joining support systems, adoptive parents can experience an easier parenthood adjustments, discuss identity and adoption-related issues that arise as children grow older and learn coping strategies that other parents have used when embracing open or closed adoptions.

References:
http://www.afsn.org/services
http://www.nacac.org/parentgroups/database.html
http://iaccenter.com/support-groups/index.asp#adoptive
http://adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=451
http://www.nacac.org/parentgroups/resources.html
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/impact_parent/#impact

Adoption Home Study

What is a home study?

An adoption home study is a thorough written report that is completed by a licensed social worker. On average, this detailed report takes from three to six months to compile and requires an abundance of information, interviews and at-home visits. This document helps determine placement opportunities, ensuring that adoptive parents and children are good fits for one another.

The requirements for home studies vary by state and even country, so it's important to thoroughly research requirements well in advance, which helps facilitate a faster adoption process.

Why Home Studies are Necessary to Adopt

The home study process allows agencies and social workers to learn more about prospective adoptive parents. As a crucial component to the adoption process, home studies help provide agencies with thorough information, including background checks, financial documents, medical records and other information that help ensure adoptive children are placed in loving, nurturing homes that offer socioeconomic benefits.

Requirements for Home Studies

While state and country guidelines may vary, the following highlights information that is generally required for home studies.

  • Introduction and Family Background - This information is compiled based on series of detailed questions. These questions include past and present information, including how adoptive parents feel about discipline, addressing emotional issues throughout childhood and much more. This information gathering session also focuses on adoptive parents' childhood memories, details about their childhoods and even their greatest fears. This complicated process can seem daunting, but these questions are necessary to help determine if the adoption process is right for you.
  • Health - Just as important as physical health is mental and emotional health. Some home studies require that parents obtain physical health exams, as well as provide full medical histories, current medical conditions, etc. If current medical conditions are under treatment by a physician, a doctor may be required to make a statement if your health conditions effect or impede your abilities to care for a child. Unless people have limited life expectancies, most of these issues are not heavily considered in the adoption process.
  • Community Offerings - Social workers also take community environments, neighborhoods and schools into consideration when selecting adoptive parents. This doesn't mean that you'll be judged based on not living in a top-tier school district. It simply means that you should be prepared to discuss the local school system, community environment, have knowledge about what schools your child will be attending, describe relationships with neighbors and also know if your local community offers post-adoption resources.
  • Finances - It's required that you have proof you can sufficiently care for a child. The entire point of adopting a child is so the child has access to sufficient care, which generally coincides with financial wellbeing. Income verification is required, so have copies of paycheck stubs, income tax forms, investment documents, debts, saving and checking accounts, insurance coverage, mortgages, car payments and credit card accounts readily available. A social worker will also likely run a credit check to verify income-to-debt ratios, as well as look for financial irresponsibility or inability to outstanding debts.
  • Background Checks - Criminal record checks are conducted and are analyzed for child abuse violations. Felony convictions that involve illegal substances or children will generally dismiss prospective adoptive parents from qualifying for adoption. However, misdemeanors that are thoroughly documented with sufficient explanations are generally not grounds for prohibiting adoption.
  • Interviews - This in-person process allows social workers to review all paper with adoptive parents, including asking additional questions related to family background information or finances. The social worker will tour your home, which is not required to be perfect. It simply must provide a healthy and safe environment for children. The bedroom that your adopted child will be staying in will also be assessed and some states require natural disaster plans.
  • References - As a prospective adoptive parent you will need to provide three or four personal references, their names, addresses and telephone numbers. It's best to choose people that you've had long-standing relationships with, are familiar with your family and have seen you interacting with children.
  • Current Children - If you already have children, some agencies may require older children to submit statements about how they feel about you adopting another child. Social workers may ask younger children to draw pictures. They will also want to know about your children's hobbies, interests, school grades and activities.

References:
http://www.1-800-homestudy.com/home_study/article_view/article_id/3847
http://www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/hs_qa
http://www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/hs_qa
http://adoption.about.com/od/adopting/a/homestudy.htm



Adoption Agencies

childrens

Selecting an Adoption Agency

Selecting the right adoption agency can seem like an overwhelming task. Most people would not buy a new home without researching the area and nearby housing prices. The same is true for adoption. Fortunately, the Internet allows people to thoroughly research adoption agencies.

Where do I start?

The first step when considering adoption is to maintain a consumer mindset without having an emotional attachment. This allows you to gather sufficient information about specific adoption agencies, including researching necessary state and local requirements.

Keep options open and consider the wide range of programs that are available. Do not rule out possibilities without a reason and detailed research. This entire process should take between two to three months, which allow you to make a solid, informed decision.

Additionally, research programs that interest you, such as special adoptions or transcultural adoptions. If a specific type of adoption is of interest, thoroughly research agencies that specialize in this type of adoption service. Consider contacting state agencies or even Better Business Bureaus for complaints about specific agencies. Even conducting online Internet searches may uncover complaints or concerns. Be careful about making a decision based on online reviews without completing further research.

Should I ask people I know that have adopted?

Networking is a valuable tool that can provide you with abundant information. Contact other adoptive parents that have gone through the process or research "RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association" that compiles a thorough list of adoption resources. They highlight information that includes parent-initiated adoptions, identified adoption and Internet resources.

Parents that have personally gone through the adoption process can provide information about agencies, attorneys and other details. If these parents have participated in multiple adoptions, they can highlight which adoption was less stressful and anxiety-ridden, helping steer you in the right direction.

What types of questions should I ask the adoption agency?

You should address several issues when interviewing adoption agencies.

Fee Structures

Make sure that fee structures are in writing and you have a detailed guide about the exact amount your adoption will cost. Adoption can be a complex process, so it is important to consider this. A fee-for-fee arrangement is common, which means that the agency doesn't guarantee you an adopted child. If an agency requires full payment up front prior to being matched with a birthparent, consider this a red flag, as this is not common.

Generally, agencies charge a set adoption fee and an additional home study cost. Many will collect fees for the services performed as you move through the process.

Non-profit agencies rely on adoption fees to fund service programs, including publishing annual reports. If the agency has annual reports, request a copy, as this highlights agency's programs and specific mission statement.

What should raise red flags?

Adoption agencies that guarantee children before family assessments are not ethical. It is impossible to ever guarantee a child, especially before home studies are complete. If agencies say they don't require a home study, this is a significant red flag that unethical standards may be commonplace.

Agencies should have proper licensing and employ licensed social workers. Don't be hesitant to ask questions, including how long the agency has been placing children, the number of children placed, etc.

Few details surrounding the birthparents' medical, ethnic, social and educational backgrounds should also raise some concerns, as this may indicate that the agency fails to conduct thorough birthparent intake assessments. Another red flag indicator is if no one from the agency is present for the initial meeting between prospective adoptive parents and birthparents.

Specific Questions

RESOLVE offers detailed information on their website that highlights specific information that you should ask when interviewing adoption agencies. Highlighted below is a sampling of several questions.

  • Is the agency registered with state-affiliated Department of Social Services?
  • Call the Department of Social Services to investigate if any formal complaints have been filed against the agency.
  • What types of adoption is the agency's specialty? Do they focus on closed or open adoptions, or perhaps both?
  • What are the common waiting periods for the intake interview, home study, child placement, post-placement services and adoption finalization?
  • Does the agency work with other out-of-state agencies?
  • What does the agency charge for services and is a payment plan available? If the adoption process is disrupted, how much if any, of the initial fee is refundable?

References:
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=308
http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/adoption.html
http://familybuilding.resolve.org/site/DocServer/Choosing_An_Adoption_Resource.pdf?docID=441
(This article features superb, detailed questions. You may want to consider adding this as a .PDF supplement.)

The Types of Adoption Agencies

There are several different types of adoption agencies, with some handling general adoptions and others specializing in specific types of adoption. Common types of adoption agencies are outlined below.

Domestic Adoption Agencies

Domestic adoption agencies handle U.S. adoptions. Domestic adoption is comprised of three different types: private, independent and public agencies.

All adoptions require home studies, which may cost several thousand dollars. This amount depends on state and federal aids and some prospective adoptive parents may apply for reimbursement or tax deductions.

Public adoptions are handled by government agencies and generally facilitate older child adoptions. Many of the children involved in these adoptions come from institutions or foster care facilities. Public agencies charge the lowest adoption fees, as there are no expensive birthparent services to cover, such as birth costs, infant medical fees, etc.

Infant adoptions are primarily handled by experienced private and independent agencies. These agencies require more services to cover their costs, which range in price from $5,000 to $30,000. These fees may include such items as birthparent expenses, adoptive family preparation, counseling, adoption finalization and necessary paperwork. These agencies may have lengthy wait times, as infants are the most desirable for many prospective adoptive parents.

Generally, agencies help act as an intermediary, consulting with adoptive parents and birthparents, which are handled by licensed social workers. Attorneys, however, are more involved with independent adoptions.

International Adoption Agencies

International adoption is defined as any adoption outside the U.S. Not all countries allow international adoptions, so it is important to research the countries that permit U.S. adoption. Adoption laws vary from country to country and it is vital to know if you qualify for their adoption process.

International adoptions are finalized in the child's original birth county. Each country's rules are different and some require lengthier finalization processes than others. Some countries even require that the parents be in the county when the adoption is finalized, which can take several months. A professional international adoption agency provides significant details and helps provide realistic expectations, helping the adoption process run more efficiently.

Infant Adoption Agencies

Private agencies participate more in infant adoptions, since this process requires additional work and involves a time commitment, forging a relationship with birthparents. Most of these agencies require that prospective adoptive parents pay for birthparent expenses, which may include counseling, delivery fees and even post-adoption supervision. Private adoption agencies also hire attorneys, which may charge hourly rates for completing adoption paperwork.

Older Children Adoption Agencies

Public agencies usually specialize in placing children with adoptive parents that are in the U.S. foster care system. Since these agencies are government-run, adoptive parents need to understand that this process can take more than a year for child placement. For adoptive parents that do not want an infant, these public agencies are the best resource for older child adoptions. In fact, non-traditional parents may have an easier time with the adoption process using a public agency, rather than through private placement.

Special Needs Adoption Agencies

Some children are evaluated and diagnosed as special needs. This can include suffering from medical, physical or emotional disabilities, ethic or racial background, age, membership in a sibling group, risk of physical, mental or emotional disability based on birth family or any condition that makes it more difficult to find an adoptive family.

References:
http://www.adoption.org/adopt/domestic-adoption.php
http://www.adoption.org/adopt/international-adoption.phphttp://www.adoption.org/adopt/orphanage.php

What to Avoid when Selecting an Adoption Agency

There are many common mistakes prospective adoptive parents make when choosing adoption agencies. In fact, because this is such an emotional process, it's common for people to overlook red flags and simply focus on the desired end result: a beautiful newborn, cuddling in their arms.

In fact, adopting a child is a significant decision, one that has great financial, emotional and personal impacts. In the U.S. alone, more than 2,000 attorneys and agencies specialize in adoption. With this many adoption advocates, how can you possibly choose a reputable agency that will meet your needs? To help prepare you for life's journey, the following highlights mistakes to avoid when choosing an adoption agency.

Not Doing Research

It's important that you conduct thorough research prior to participating or agreeing to work with an adoption agency. If not, you could be subject to financial loss, unwanted emotional stress and a delayed adoption process. Additionally, if the adoption falls through, you may have to start the process over with a new adoption agency.

When adoptive parents work with birthparents, it gives them an opportunity to build a healthy open adoption relationship that focuses on trust and communication. By having more control over this process, prospective parents will have confidence in their decisions, ultimately having more trust in the agency they select to conduct their adoption.

Not Requesting References

Not all friendships are created equal and not all agency or attorneys are equal. Someone may have an excellent relationship, but personalities do not mesh or see eye-to-eye. Not everyone is a perfect business match. Just because a friend had an excellent experience with an adoption agency, does not mean you'll have an identical experience.

Request that adoption agencies or attorneys provide you with several references. Call and email references, writing down information and notes to help compare references' information.

Choosing an Agency Based on Locale

More than 95-percent of prospective adoptive families choose adoption agencies based on convenient locations. While this can be helpful, it is important to also consider national organizations and agencies. While local resources are convenient for in-person adoption meetings, nationwide agencies offer several benefits.

  • National agencies work with birthparents across many states, which generally leads to a decrease in wait times.
  • When working with more birthparents and prospective adoptive parents, national agencies have more experience working with higher-volumes of adoptions.
  • Larger staff generally means they are available longer hours, on weekends or after hours. This helps to facilitate more communication.

Learn the pros and cons of local and national adoption agencies, choosing one that best meets your specific needs and circumstances.

Choosing Agencies Solely Based on Costs

Just because an agency is less expensive, does not make them a better agency. Not all attorneys or adoption agencies are equal. Many adoption costs help to provide professional services for prospective adoptive families and birthparents. This may also include legal services associated with networking and advertising to help find prospective adoption matches.

Agencies that are more expensive generally offer more resources, such as networking, advertising, birthparent expenses and profile creations. Agencies that are less expensive offer less help, which makes prospective parents have to undertake more of a do-it-yourself approach to adoption.

When interviewing agencies, ask specific questions about what their costs cover, selecting an agency that also meets your budget requirements.

Choosing Based Solely on Home Studies

You can choose a local agency for home study requirements, but also work with a national agency that specializes in placement options. Don't simply choose an agency based on home studies.

When researching home study agencies, ask the same questions that you would ask other agencies, including requesting references and comparing agency statistics.

Choosing Based on Advertised Short Wait Times

Agencies that advertise very short wait times need thorough investigation. When someone says something is too good to be true, it usually is. Open adoptions require that birthparents pick the adoptive parents, which means there are no guaranteed wait times. While agencies can highlight average weight times, it is important to ask questions about the details that make up those figures.

Thoroughly ask agencies how they define wait times. Does the time start when the contract is signed or when a placement is determined? Always check references and ask questions if something sounds questionable.

Don't Over Analyze

Adoption is a life-changing choice, so it can be easy to over analyze the decision. Instead of being fearful of the negative, adoptive parents should focus on weighing the reality of the situation.

Narrow down choices to five or less agencies and keep in mind there is no perfect adoption solution. Don't assume it takes too long to adopt, that you will lose money with an unethical agency, that you may succumb to fraud or scams or that you will lose valuable adoption time and money.

References:
http://www.infantadoptionguide.com/7-common-mistakes-to-avoid-when-selecting-adoption-agency

Waiting to Adopt your Child

Waiting to adopt your child can be a nerve-wracking and exciting process. Surviving this process can be daunting, as this means that you have completed your research, filed necessary paperwork, completed and passed your home study, had your finances analyzed and opened your entire life up to social workers. The next step is the waiting process. This time is emotionally trying. There are several ways to help make this waiting time pass smoother and with less difficulties.

Surviving the Adoption Wait

There are several practical tasks that prospective adoptive parents can complete while waiting to adopt a child.

  • Health Insurance - Check with local carriers to see how much it will cost to have a child covered under your healthcare plan. Confirm there are no waiting periods or open enrollment requirements.
  • Will - Having a will is important and it is vital that you start considering a guardian, should something happen to you or your spouse.
  • Leave Policies - Inquire with your human resources department about if they offer any adoption leave. This may be paid or unpaid time off, but make sure that managers are aware you are on an adoption waiting list.
  • Pediatrician - Research and interview local pediatricians, so you have one picked out once your adoption wait begins. Some doctors may charge for "get-acquainted" visits, while others understand this is part of the interview process.
  • Child Care - If both parents have to return to work, explore childcare possibilities. Interview local child care facilities and select what option works best for you - family care, a personal nanny or a small childcare facility.
  • Classes - Prospective parents may wish to take new-parent and CPR classes. Some adoption agencies highly recommend that adoptive parents participate in these classes and it may help move you further up on the waiting list, making you more desirable to birthparents.
  • Child Rearing - Read books about the parenting and adoption process. Budget-friendly options include downloading e-books or visiting local public libraries.

What is the average adoption wait time?

The average wait time varies depending upon the type of adopted child, albeit it an older child, infant or special needs. Wait times also depend on domestic or international adoptions.

The average domestic newborn adoption experience depends on several factors. On average, 35-percent of adoptive parents experience one false adoption start. Statistics show the average time from portfolio preparation to having a match with a birthparent is as follows:

<b>Average Newborn Adoption Wait Times</b>
Less than 3 months 34%
4 to 6 months 19%
7 to 12 months 20%
13 to 24 months 17%
Greater than 24 months 10%
* These figures include false starts.

Approximately 15-percent of children were matched with prospective adoptive parents once they were born.

International wait times greatly vary by country, with shorter waits generally reflecting a special needs adoption. In China, adoption wait times are 53-percent for less than 12 months to 8-percent for upwards of four years. Ethiopian adoptions average 53-percent for less three months and only 8-percent for longer than 18 months. In contrast, South Korea has 24-percent of adoptions completed in less than three months and only 13-percent of adoptions take an excess of 12 months.

Advertising is a crucial aspect in determining adoption wait times. Studies show that the average amounts of advertisement funds spent per adoptive family have a direct impact on average wait times. For example, agencies that spend less in advertisements generally have higher average wait times.

How can I prepare myself for the wait?

To prepare for the wait, be realistic and look at average wait times. It is important to remember these percentages reflect an average, with some adoptive parenting waiting longer times and others shorter durations.

During the waiting time, prepare your home, friends and family for the adoption process. Stay busy with other tasks, such as focusing on creating a nursery and choosing a name. A name is a child's identity, so take great care to select a name that helps children identify with their cultural background and heritage.

Having a personalized nursery space or bedroom is also important, as it helps children adjust to the adoption process. Children's rooms should be thoroughly clean and childproofing is necessary. Take the waiting time to create a custom nursery that reflects your personality and gives you and your baby a special bonding place.

References:
http://www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/facts/surviving-the-wait-for-your-adopted-baby/?page=2
http://www.americanadoptions.com/adopt/how_long_is_the_wait
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2161
http://life.familyeducation.com/adoption/adoptive-parents/45796.html?detoured=1

Finding an Adoption Attorney

There are several ways that prospective adoptive parents can find an adoption attorney that best suits their type of desired adoption, albeit it domestic or international.

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) features a thorough listing of attorneys that specialize in adoption law. This association doesn't simply require paid memberships, but requires that attorneys practice several adoption cases, be fluent in the adoption field and provide references from judges and other attorneys that have worked with them on adoption-related cases. They strive to provide members with updated adoption laws and ongoing adoption education.

The AAAA is comprised of approximately 340 members throughout North America. Membership is only invitational and attorneys are required to have participated in 50 adoptions, which include 10 interstate adoption placements.

The American College of Assisted Reproduction and Adoption Lawyers

The specialized American College of Assisted Reproduction and Adoption Lawyers (ACARAL) is a limited membership association that works with attorneys that specialize in third party reproduction and adoption cases. The majorities of members have assisted in more than 200 adoption or assisted reproduction cases within a five-year period. These members practice high ethical standards and stay up-to-date on the latest adoption legislation, public policy changes and referendums.

The American Bar Section of Family Law

The American Bar Section of Family Law has a specialized adoption committee that focuses in parental rights, including those of adoptive parents. Membership is open to 10,000 attorneys that specialize in a wide variety of family law issues.

The Selection Process

Interview Attorneys

Interviewing attorneys is similar to interviewing adoption agencies. Compile a thorough list of questions, asking attorneys how many adoptions they have facilitated, including their average fee structures. Do not hesitate to visit several attorneys, finding one that best meets your personality, needs and requirements during the adoption process.

Attorneys that specialize in adoptions should thoroughly understand adoption law and interstate adoptions, serving as legal counsel for the birth mother, rights of biological fathers, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Indian Child Welfare Act, open adoption, closed adoption and final adoption checks.

Recommendations

Seek personal recommendations from other adoptive parents that have worked with adoption attorneys. Some attorneys specialize in domestic adoptions, while others have a specific focus on international laws, including thorough knowledge of Hague Accreditation requirements.

Restrictions

It is common for private adoptions to be facilitated through an attorney. Some states prohibit attorneys from helping match or find birthparents with adoptive parents. In these states, the attorneys' roles are simply limited to legal court requirements and proceedings.

Support Groups

What You Need to Know About Hiring an Adoption Attorney

Domestic infant adoption can be an overwhelming process. While some prospective adoptive parents assume the first step towards a successful adoption requires an attorney, other people may not realize an attorney is required to help complete the adoption process.

Every domestic U.S. adoption requires an attorney to facilitate the legal aspects related to the adoption process, which can vary from state to state.

Attorneys are also involved in interstate adoptions, which occurs when an adopted child crosses state lines to be with adopted parents. This process is very in-depth and requires complicated documentation and legalities. This may involve working with two attorneys - one in the sending state and another in the receiving state.

Adoption attorneys specifically specialize in handling adoptions, not focusing on general law practice. This gives them the ability to focus on legislative changes that affect both federal and state adoption regulations.

Adoption attorneys focus on helping prospective parents obtain legal guardianship of children with no biological attachments or relations. Attorneys can help prospective parents locate ethical adoption agencies, file and address necessary adoption paperwork or can represent prospective adoptive parents in court.

These types of attorneys have advanced knowledge about country- and state-specific adoption laws and can assist with international adoptions, stepparent adoptions, same-sex couple adoptions and private adoptions.

Lawyers can also give prospective adoptive parents an idea of what expectations prospective adoptive parents can anticipate, including court hearings, legal complications, the process involved in birthparents changing their minds or even some birthparents that try to extort adoptive parents.

Most adoption attorneys offer flat fee services for uncomplicated, routine adoptions. This includes drafting, reviewing and filing all necessary documents. For more complex or international adoptions, adoption lawyers may charge an hourly rate. Rates will also depend upon the area, including the complexity of state-related issues. Always negotiate up-front with attorneys, helping prospective adoptive parents avoid costly, unexpected expenses. Avoid dealing with attorneys that charge up-front fees.

Adoptions can take a long time, with some taking up to five years for the entire process, which includes waiting periods. This period also depends on any legal complications that may arise, which may involve passing qualification exams.

Many adoption lawyers are members of The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA), which has more than 300 nationwide members. These attorneys are subject to strict membership requirements, including a certain number of successful adoptions, interstate adoptions, mandatory attendance at educational conferences and much more.

Some attorneys can provide assistance with matching birthparents, having relationships with physicians, family planning centers, hospitals, physicians, church members and counselors. Birthparents then receive referrals to trusted and reputable adoption attorneys to discuss their needs. A few states will not allow attorneys to work with licensed agencies or participate in locating birthparents. These states require that the prospective adoptive parents locate their own birthparents and then see an attorney to help prepare and finalize any necessary legal paperwork.

It is important to choose attorneys that have high ethical standards and do not take shortcuts. Attorneys that lack compassion may have lower ethical standards. Attorneys should clearly explain the adoption process and if they do not, consider selecting a different attorney. Personalities should mesh well and an attorney should have the necessary compassion to speak directly to birthparents, which can help make this process more fluid and easy for all involved parties.

References:
http://www.infantadoptionguide.com/iag016-mark-mcdermott-all-about-adoption-attorneys
https://www.rocketlawyer.com/article/do-i-need-a-lawyer-for-adoption.rl
http://www.adoption101.com/adoption_lawyers.html

What is an adoption attorney's job description?

An adoption attorney is responsible for handling all legal aspects that are involved in the child adoption process. Attorneys can help prospective adoptive parents discuss the costs involved in adopting or even the legal ramifications related to different types of complicated adoptions, such as international or transcultural.

What You Need to Know about Hiring an Adoption Attorney

Domestic infant adoption can be an overwhelming process. While some prospective adoptive parents assume the first step towards a successful adoption requires an attorney, other people may not realize an attorney is required to help complete the adoption process.

Every domestic U.S. adoption requires an attorney to facilitate the legal aspects related to the adoption process, which can vary from state to state.

Attorneys are also involved in interstate adoptions, which occurs when an adopted child crosses state lines to be with adopted parents. This process is very in-depth and requires complicated documentation and legalities. This may involve working with two attorneys - one in the sending state and another in the receiving state.

Adoption attorneys specifically specialize in handling adoptions, not focusing on general law practice. This gives them the ability to focus on legislative changes that affect both federal and state adoption regulations.

Adoption attorneys focus on helping prospective parents obtain legal guardianship of children with no biological attachments or relations. Attorneys can help prospective parents locate ethical adoption agencies, file and address necessary adoption paperwork or can represent prospective adoptive parents in court.

These types of attorneys have advanced knowledge about country- and state-specific adoption laws and can assist with international adoptions, stepparent adoptions, same-sex couple adoptions and private adoptions.

Lawyers can also give prospective adoptive parents an idea of what expectations prospective adoptive parents can anticipate, including court hearings, legal complications, the process involved in birthparents changing their minds or even some birthparents that try to extort adoptive parents.

Most adoption attorneys offer flat fee services for uncomplicated, routine adoptions. This includes drafting, reviewing and filing all necessary documents. For more complex or international adoptions, adoption lawyers may charge an hourly rate. Rates will also depend upon the area, including the complexity of state-related issues. Always negotiate up-front with attorneys, helping prospective adoptive parents avoid costly, unexpected expenses. Avoid dealing with attorneys that charge up-front fees.

Adoptions can take a long time, with some taking up to five years for the entire process, which includes waiting periods. This period also depends on any legal complications that may arise, which may involve passing qualification exams.

Many adoption lawyers are members of The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA), which has more than 300 nationwide members. These attorneys are subject to strict membership requirements, including a certain number of successful adoptions, interstate adoptions, mandatory attendance at educational conferences and much more.

Some attorneys can provide assistance with matching birthparents, having relationships with physicians, family planning centers, hospitals, physicians, church members and counselors. Birthparents then receive referrals to trusted and reputable adoption attorneys to discuss their needs. A few states will not allow attorneys to work with licensed agencies or participate in locating birthparents. These states require that the prospective adoptive parents locate their own birthparents and then see an attorney to help prepare and finalize any necessary legal paperwork.

It is important to choose attorneys that have high ethical standards and do not take shortcuts. Attorneys that lack compassion may have lower ethical standards. Attorneys should clearly explain the adoption process and if they do not, consider selecting a different attorney. Personalities should mesh well and an attorney should have the necessary compassion to speak directly to birthparents, which can help make this process more fluid and easy for all involved parties.

References:
http://www.infantadoptionguide.com/iag016-mark-mcdermott-all-about-adoption-attorneys
https://www.rocketlawyer.com/article/do-i-need-a-lawyer-for-adoption.rl
http://www.adoption101.com/adoption_lawyers.html

Paperwork

Adoption is complicated and requires that attorneys prepare, review and file all adoption-related paperwork, as well as attend in-person representation for court-related adoption processes.

Some prospective adoptive parents work with agency recommended attorneys, while others prefer to hire their own legal counsel that specializes in adoption. Adoption varies based on closed adoption or open adoption, in addition to whether it is a domestic or international adoption. Many areas feature jurisdiction-specific adoption requirements and documents that adoptive parents must provide. An adoption attorney knows the legalities and paperwork involved in helping ensure a fluid and smooth adoption process.

Costs

Adoption attorneys also walk clients through the costs involved in adopting, including paying for birthparent-related expenses. Attorneys can work as intermediaries, helping negotiate payments, expenses and addressing financial requirements. Adoptive parents can only cover legal adoption expenses and attorneys can help advise about potential tax-related write offs.

Legal Adoption Process

Adoption attorneys help facilitate the legal portion of the adoption process, which includes assisting with terminating biological parents' rights. This legal process helps ensure there is a legal transfer of parental rights directly from the biological parents to the adoptive parents or adoption agency. This is the first major step in the adoption process.

The second step is having a court appointed advocate determine the best interest of the child. Each specific state has a social services department that deals with adoption-related issues, including case management and permanency planning. Some of these departments may also approve adoptions.

Family court must have one of three legal documents.

  • Legal Document - Signed by the birthparents, this document agrees that birthparents are relinquishing their parental rights.
  • Adoption Consent - After all legal and agency requirements are satisfied; this document allows the child to be eligible for adoption placement.
  • Child's Consent - In some states, children that are 12 years and older may need to provide their consent to the court.

When the child is born, an original birth certificate is issued. However, when the child is adopted, an amended certificate highlights who does or does not have access to the original birth certificate. Some states have sealed records, while others only remained sealed until the child becomes an adult. Once the adoption is complete, an amended copy of the birth certificate with the adoptive parents' information is provided.

Finalization

The legal process where child custody transfers from the county or adoption agency directly to the adoptive parents is known as finalization. In court, the adoptive parents' attorney represents the case to the judge. The judge's decision results in an adoption decree. This decree reflects that the adoption is permanent. Some states require that the child be in prospective adoptive parents' care for up to six months. An attorney can advise specific state-enforced laws.

These hearings last less than one-hour. During this time, the judge may review the home study, ask questions and ensure that that the child is being placed in a healthy, loving home. Once this process is complete, the adoptive parents will receive an official adoption decree, which is also known as an adoption certificate.

References:
http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-an-adoption-lawyer-do.htm
http://www.adopt.org/adoption-laws

Adoption Costs

Adoption costs can vary widely. In fact, a commonly quoted range is between $0 and $30,000. The cost of adoption depends on the type of adoption you choose, whether you pursue foster placements or international adoption. Foster adoptions cost $0 to $1,000 and the government offers several tax incentives, especially for older children or special needs placements. Most non-profit agencies require fees that range from $10,000 to $25,000, while attorney newborn adoptions cost from $20,000 to $30,000.

Adopting Waiting Children

Children that are older and have been waiting for adoption generally have fewer adoption fees. Families that are willing to adopt children in foster care through public agencies may be able to have required home studies completed for little to no cost. Some of these agencies also offer adoptive parent preparation classes, which are often associated with the home study. Waiting children and adoptive parents that reside in the same state or county may also receive discounted post-placement supervision.

Foster Adoption

Foster adoption involves very few expenses. This is an excellent way to adopt, provided families are open to providing foster parent services. Foster parents must register with each state and will receive monthly checks that cover necessary living expenses and medical assistance. Even families that adopt these children will continue to receive financial aid and assistance once the adoption is final. Every agency has different requirements for adoptive parents and foster parents, while other agencies offer dual licensing for foster parents looking to permanently adopt children. Some home studies are applicable for both foster care and adoption services, at no additional costs to families. A benefit of beginning the parenting process as foster parents is that families gain extensive preparation and training, including parenting classes.

Sliding Cost Scales

Some private agencies also offer sliding scales, which means that agency fees reflect proportionate income amounts. A sliding scale can help decrease the costs of parenting classes, home studies or post-placement supervision for low- to middle-income families. This allows families to place more effort and financial concentration on raising children, instead of spending all their resources on adoption.

Employee Benefits

There are many new resources to help offset the costs of adoption, including tax benefits, resources to finance adoption, employer benefits and loans. Other employer benefits may include referral services, adoption information, agency fees, legal expenses, post-adoption counseling, medical expenses, unpaid or paid time leave or even financial reimbursement.

Private Adoption

Private adoption with an attorney costs an average of $30,222, while private agency adoption runs around $34,012. Both of these costs are for domestic U.S. adoptions, with birthparents relinquishing infant rights upon birth. The cost of private adoption varies based on several factors, including how early in the birthmother's pregnancy a prospective adoptive family is matched, if the birthmother has access to health insurance to cover necessary prenatal and birthing expenses, travel costs for adoptive parents, sliding fee scales, legal representation, if separate legal fees are necessary for adoption finalization or how the prospective adoptive parents and birthparents find one another.

Public Adoption

Foster care is a type of public adoption and averages $2,253 per adoption. Many families that opt for foster care adoptions receive monthly subsidies for children until they reach adult status. These finances include in-state college tuition and Medicaid coverage. For families that adopt special needs children, adoptive parents may be eligible for select IRS tax credits. Common factors affecting public adoption include travel costs, expenses associated with training courses and whether adoptive parents work with public child welfare agencies or if those agencies are licensed to place foster children within the state.

International Adoption

The average international adoption costs $44,000. Many factors can influence these costs, including country-specific adoption fees and travel costs. Prenatal birthmother care varies from country to country, which means that some children may be born requiring costly medical treatments. International adoptions also include abundant paperwork and specialized attorneys help facilitate international adoptions.

References:
http://www.adoptionhelp.org/qa/how-much-does-adoption-cost
http://costs.adoption.com
http://www.adopt.org/financing-adoption
http://www.creatingafamily.org/adoption-resources/cost-of-adoption-in-the-us.html
http://www.creatingafamily.org/adoption/charts.html
http://www.creatingafamily.org/adoption/charts/quick-comparison-of-adoption-types.html

Financial Aid Options for Adoptive Parents

There are several financial aid options available for prospective adoptive parents. These resources open adoption to people of all income classes, making it something not simply the rich can afford.

Payment Plans

Most adoption agencies understand that adoption is expensive and many couples cannot afford to pay all adoption-related fees upfront. Some agencies allow prospective parents to make these payments in one-third proportional increments. This may include one-third upon filing the application, one-third once the home study process is complete and the final one-third when the infant or child is in the home and the post-placement timeframe begins. If you are considering using an adoption agency, ask them about what payment plans they offer.

Grants and Loans

Many employers offer adoption-related loans, including the government and military. These loans allow prospective adoptive parents to cover non-recurring expenses and later make payments to debtors. The National Adoption Foundation can also help award grants to families that require monetary and financial assistance.

Travel and loan support is available through some banks or travel agencies. Even select airlines may offer adoption-related travel assistance. Some religious organizations, including churches, can offer assistance to members and families. This is a great way for adoptive parents to receive community support to help offset the costs of adoption.

Military Reimbursement

Active-duty military personnel qualify for a one-time adoption, with fees covering up to $2,000 per child. The maximum annual amount is $5,000 total, even if both spouses are in the military. Once the adoption process is final, reimbursements are distributable.

Children that suffer from disabilities may qualify for monthly subsidies and assistance under military disability programs. The military offers an Exceptional Family Member Program, helping to ensure that special needs families receive orders to military stations that can meet the requirements of these special needs children.

Tax Credits

New federal legislation provides several tax exclusions and credits that help families adopt children. The Hope for Children Law provides credits up to $13,190 for the 2014 tax year. However, this amount is dependant on modified adjusted gross income, with couples making more than $237,880 not qualifying for these incentive discounts. These tax credits subtract from taxpayers' overall liabilities. These tax relief amounts help free up valuable funds for prospective adoptive parents to pursue costly attorney fees or even court-related adoption costs.

Financial Aid Options for Families

There are several financial aid resources for families.

  • A Child Waits Foundation - This foundation offers adoptive parents grants and low-interest adoption loans. This foundation relies on donations, with nearly 99% of aid going directly to families.
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway - This site offers state-by-state details for specific adoption assistance, post adoption services, medical assistance and fair hearings.
  • Adoption Learning Partners - They offer a tax course, which helps adoptive families determine their specific adoption tax credits, financial situations, how to document expenses and even work with professional tax accountants.
  • The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption - Their website highlights America's Top 10 and Top 100 employers that offer employee-adoption benefits.
  • Gift of Adoption Fund - This group offers financial assistance and grants to prospective adoptive parents.
  • God's Grace Adoption Ministry - This group focuses on placing orphaned children with families, while simultaneously helping families overcome the common financial issues that relate to adoption.
  • Hebrew Free Loan - Offering interest-free loans to prospective adoptive Jewish parents, they work with both domestic and international adoptions.

Several other groups offer financial aid to families that want to adopt. This includes religious groups, community organizations, clubs and much more.

References:
http://www.adopt.org/financing-adoption
http://www.adopt.org
http://www.cfcare.org/adoption-resources/
https://www.davethomasfoundation.org/what-we-do/adoption-friendly-workplace/2013-best-adoption-friendly-workplaces/
http://www.nacac.org/taxcredit/taxcredit.html
http://www.giftofadoption.org
http://www.ggam.org
https://www.hflasf.org

Adoption Fundraising

There are several ways that you can jump start adoption fundraising techniques, helping you and your spouse raise necessary funds to adopt a child.

Fundraising Ideas

  • Bake Sale - Use weekly farmer's markets as an opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of adoption. Consider making a variety of goodies, including breads, cinnamon rolls, hot cocoa mixes, packaged cupcakes and much more.
  • Cake Pops - Give classes about how to make cake pops, while offering additional party favors for purchase.
  • Dinners - Consider holding fundraiser dinners, such as chili nights, coffee meetings, lasagna dinners, murder mystery dinner parties, spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, tea parties and even local restaurant fundraisers.
  • Garage Sales - A great way to clean out the garage, funds raised from selling old goods can contribute to adoption resources.
  • Giveaways and Auctions - A great way to support raising money for adoption is to participate in auctions and giveaways. Consider exploring art auctions, auctioning off prime parking areas at work, holding picnic lunches for family and friends, auctioning off homemade dinners, hosting dessert auctions or holding large online auctions.
  • Crafts - Excellent ways to raise additional adoption funds is to explore selling handmade or homemade goods, including custom art prints, holiday cards, holiday ornaments, aprons, bracelets, knitted items, jewelry, quilts, soap, watercolor paintings, etc.
  • Events - Sporting events are popular ways to raise money, which can include hosting marathons, walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, haircuts, scrapbooking parties, skating parties, family days or nights or even community carnivals.

By supporting local merchants and the crafts trade, the benefits of hosting fundraisers is double. Local artisans benefit from getting their names and products to consumers, helping the community get to know them, while parents can also raise money for adopting children.

Some direct sales companies even offer party hosting and some hosts are willing to contribute their commissions to adoption funds. Check with local friends that sell Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, etc., to see if they are willing to team up with you for an adoption benefit.

Some prospective adoptive parents choose to start their adoption fund online, using PayPal or other payment services. This raises adoption awareness and prospective parents do not have to actively campaign for donations.

It is important that prospective parents not bother people with donations. If people do not feel comfortable making donations, accept this gracefully and move on. Do not be offended if people want information on the adoption process, as this makes them feel more comfortable donating to charitable causes.

Consider putting together pamphlets and information about how much adoption costs. These allow potential donors to see how expensive adoption is, giving them more information about the entire adoption process.

The entire goal of fundraising for adoption funds is to do so delicately and successfully, without becoming a burden or pest to friends. Generally, it is important to focus only on people that have donating potential, while carefully spreading out efforts. In fact, experts recommend asking people to no more than a maximum of two fundraisers each.

Fundraisers are not viable financial alternatives until all other financial adoption means are exhausted. Mix up fundraising efforts to include different people, such as public events, passersby for garage sales and even town-related events for bake sales. Always think twice before asking people for donations. This is a sensitive subject for many people and it is important not to alienate friends and family during this exciting, yet trying time.

To help make the most of donations, make the story personal. Write a letter that explains why you want to become a parent and why adoption is your calling. Share your story, emphasizing the step-by-step process through the present-day and why you think you would be loving, healthy parents for an adopted child.

References:
http://www.creatingafamily.org/blog/adoption-fundraising-etiquette-how-not-to-be-a-pest/
http://fundyouradoption.org/adoption-fundraising/
http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/the-ultimate-list-of-adoption-fundraisers/
http://www.addingaburden.com/2012/08/adoption-fundraising-advice.html

Adoption Tax Credit

The IRS offers "Adoption Credit and Adoption Assistance Programs," which allows qualified adoptive parents to opt for partial adoption reimbursements. The credit rotates from being non-refundable to refundable, so it is important for adoptive parents to speak with a tax professional before claiming this exemption.

Qualified Expenses

IRS laws cover qualified adoption expenses, which may include adoption-related fees, attorney fees, court costs, traveling expenses and other expenses that relate to the child's adoption. To qualify for adoption reimbursements, children must be under 18 years of age or suffer from a documented mental or physical impairment or handicap that renders them incapable of self-care. These expenses do not apply for stepparent adoptions or adoptions conducted by registered domestic partners.

Income and Amount Limitations

Each year, the IRS sets an income amount and dollar limitation for adoptions. These amounts reflect modified adjusted gross income, otherwise known as MAGI. Tax deductions begin to reduce at $197,880 MAGI and eliminate for all incomes that exceed $237,880.

The following is a brief chart that highlights adoption tax credit amounts and adoption tax credit-phase out ranges.

Year Tax Credit Amount Refundable Phase-Out Ranges
2014 $13,190 No $197,880 - $237,880
2013 $12,970 No $194,580 - $234,580
2012 $12,650 No $189,710 - $229,710
2011 $13,360 Yes $185,210 - $225,210
2010 $13,170 Yes $182,520 - $222,520
2009 $12,150 No $182,180 - $222,180
2008 $11,650 No $174,730 - $214,730
2007 $11,390 No $170,820 - $210,820
2006 $10,960 No $164,410 - $204,410

The credit amount is strictly limited to a dollar amount for each individual effort to adopt a child. This amount is $13,190 for 2014. If the same adoption effort spans several years, the amount reduces to reflect the overall total, which includes a combination of expenses written off over several years, to highlight the total amount for 2014. For example, if a couple spends $3,000 in 2013, their total write-off amount for 2014 would be $10,190.

Some credit and exclusions are permissible, but it is illegal to claim the same expense as both a credit and exclusion. The IRS excludes employer-related adoption fees from adoption assistance funds.

The Adoption Credit claimed on IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, helps to offset adoption expenses, making adoption more affordable for American families.

Special Needs Adoptions

Special needs children can qualify for adoption credits, provided their needs meet the following criteria:

  • The special needs child is a resident or citizen of the U.S. at or before the time adoption efforts begin.
  • The state conducts a thorough home review and determines the child cannot return to his/her biological parents.
  • The state determines the child is unlikely to undergo adoption without adoption assistance. There are several factors that are used to determine if a child is special needs, including:
    • If the child is a member of a minority group or has other siblings being placed for adoption;
    • The child's age and ethnic background; or
    • If the child suffers from medical conditions, which may include mental, physical or emotional handicaps or limitations.

Documents

When using the Adoption Credit, adoptive parents should keep thorough and accurate records. This includes copies of all receipts for adoption-related expenses, bank statements, cancelled checks, final decrees, entry visas for foreign adoptions, certificate of adoption, home studies, child placement agreements, court orders or special needs determinations.

References:
http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html
http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Adoption-Benefits-FAQs
http://taxes.about.com/od/deductionscredits/qt/adoptioncredit.htm

Saving Money for Adoption

Saving for your adoption can be a struggle, but the following money-saving tips can help you put aside the necessary funds to complete an adoption.

As always, set a clear budget, save all change and coins and keep track of all spending. Only use debit and credit cards sparingly to help prevent accidental overspending.

  • Downsize - If you cannot continue to afford your hefty monthly mortgage payments, consider downsizing to a modest house that is comfortable and features lower payments. Another option is simply looking for a cheaper place to live. Cities generally cost more, but the outlying outskirts can offer more affordable housing solutions.
  • Banks - Select a bank account that offers rewards, including higher-than-average competitive interest rates. Even if it is only 3% interest, it is better than having money sit in an account that earns nothing. Select a bank that offers online bill pay options, helping you save on postage stamps.
  • Television - Turn off the television and enjoy other hobbies. Television runs guilt-producing advertisements that trigger shopping sprees and unhealthy eating habits. Forgo television and start talking walks in the evening. In fact, cancel unused channels or programs that you do not regularly watch.
  • Rewards - Nearly every store offers complimentary rewards programs. Take advantage of these programs for grocery stores, drug stores, etc., and reap bountiful savings rewards.
  • Handmade Gifts - Instead of purchasing expensive store bought gifts, opt for homemade options. Not only are these less expensive, but also they are easy to personalize.
  • 30-Day Rule - A standard rule to saving money is that if you are thinking about making a significant purchase, wait 30 days before doing so. This gives you adequate time to think about the pros and cons.
  • Lists - Never go shopping without lists and refrain from impulse purchases.
  • Limit Going Out - Going out for dinner and drinks can be expensive. An affordable alternative is having friends over or even asking groups to help prepare potluck meals.
  • Repairs - Instead of always throwing away broken items, consider fixing their disrepairs with a little do-it-yourself tender love and care.
  • Credit Reductions - Contact credit card companies and ask for interest rate reductions. This can dramatically reduce, if not help you eliminate, monthly payments.
  • Closet - Before settling into the adventures of parenthood, take the time to clean out closets, sell brand name items on online auction sites or donate unused goods to charities. An added benefit: qualified local charity donations turn into end-of-year tax deductions.
  • Water - Healthy and nearly free, drinking water before each meal helps ensure better digestion and helps you eat less.
  • Convenience Foods - Decrease spending on convenience-related foods, such as microwave meals, fast foods, prepackaged items, etc. Consider exploring more budget-friendly, healthy alternatives.
  • Expensive Habits - Eliminate expensive habits, such as cigarettes and alcohol. Not only will your body thank you, but also it will reflect positively on home study applications.
  • Lights - Before leaving the home, turn off all lights. Some devices use less energy when they are unplugged. Invest in a simple power consumption meter, also known as a usage monitor, as this can help you identify costly electronics in your home. Also, install CFL or LED light bulbs where possible, as these use approximately 25% less electricity over standard light bulbs.
  • Programmable Thermostat - Select a programmable thermostat to help regulate heat and air conditioning. You will be surprised how much this simple alteration can decrease your monthly electric bills.
  • Reliability - Instead of simply focusing on the cost of home appliances, consider the long-term reliability and make a cost-effective investment.
  • Air Filter - Regularly changing your car's air filter helps improve gas mileage and saves you an average of $100 per 10,000 miles.
  • Sales - Plan menus around what is on sale in local grocery store advertisements and circulars. Also, stock up on items while they are on sale. Grocery stores generally rotate sale items every six weeks. Consider exploring generic or store-name brands, as these are cheaper than name brand goods.
  • Cancel Memberships - Most Americans have a membership sitting at home they rarely use, whether it's to a video service, gym or country club. Cancel unused memberships to further save money for your adoption. This may also include cancelling unread magazine subscriptions.
  • Car - Choose a car that is reliable, but also offers fuel-efficient features. In the end, these cars can save you big at gas pumps. For extra savings, choose a used car for less debt.
  • Student Loans - Consolidate student loans into one single affordable low-interest rate plan.

By practicing these money-saving strategies, you can save the necessary money to cover your adoption-related fees.

References:
http://taxes.about.com/od/deductionscredits/qt/adoptioncredit.htm
http://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/54-ways-to-save-money
http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/budgeting/5-money-saving-tips-everyone-forgets.htm#page=1
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2011/04/27/money-saving-tips/

What is an adoptive parent profile?

An adoptive parent profile allows prospective adoptive parents to connect with potential birthparents via a screened process. Adoption profiles give birthparents the ability to "link" with adoptive parents, allowing them to search by region, religion or even ethnicity.

Adoption profiles contain detailed information about prospective parents, including some of the following:

  • Letter - Adoptive parents can write a detailed letter to birthparents, explaining who they are and giving some insight into their daily lives. This letter often highlights stories about how the couple met, including what made them decide to get married. These heart-felt letters may detail fertility struggles, miscarriages and loss, explaining why they feel longings to start their own families. Adoptive parents can highlight information such as religion, jobs, careers, schools, their community, family plans and their personal relationships with families.
  • Photo Album - Photo albums are a great way to forge visual connections on adoptive parent profiles. This allows birthparents to see prospective adoptive parents, forming visual identities and helping ease the selection process.
  • About - "About Us" sections generally include the couples' ages, educations, professions, ethnicities, religions, personal habits, how long they have been married, what type of neighborhood they reside in, where they live, their family structures, if they have children and a list of current pets. This section may also include specifics on college education, details about their childhood, number of siblings, hobbies, etc.
  • Preferences - The child preference section allows prospective parents to highlight what type of child they feel would best in their family. This includes the child's age, ethnicity, gender and special needs, and if they would prefer semi-open, open or closed adoption.
  • Journal - Some websites allow couples to keep daily or weekly journals, helping them categorize and tag their adoption journeys. This may include holding adoption fundraisers, spending time with family or simply logging in to update information about their lives.
  • Video - This section allows for interaction that is more personal. Birthparents can actually see and hear prospective adoptive parents, giving them more insight into the couple's personalities and individual traits.
  • Additional Information - Some prospective parents go so far as to offer detailed holiday customs and traditions within families. This may be more important to religious birthparents, where religious customs are preferable.
  • Contact Details - These websites allow birthparents to send information directly to adoption agencies, letting them contact prospective adoptive parents to set up in-person or telephone interviews. Birthparents can send emails, call the agency directly or even have the agency contact them.

Many of these profiles are available in .PDF or .JPG formats, so birthparents can save them while thinking about the adoption process. These types of profiles make it easier for birthparents to pursue adoption, giving them hope and insight into how their children will be raised in loving, nurturing homes that can provide education, healthcare and positive learning environments.

Additionally, some adoption websites feature rotating families, giving prospective adoptive parents equal exposure to birthparents. These sites list prospective adoptive parents that have already undergone home study reviews and are pre-approved for adoption, making it easy for birthparents to select the right adoptive family to meet their baby's needs.

References:
http://www.parentfinder.com
http://www.adoptionconnection.org/search-for-family.php

What should you include in your adoption profile?

An adoption profile gives prospective adoptive parents a chance to speak directly to birthparents, via Internet and website exposures. The adoption profile is an incredibly important part of the adoption process, as this gives you an opportunity to share your parenting skills directly to birthparents. Experts advise prospective adoptive parents to include several key points in their profiles.

Description

A necessary element to a successful adoption profile, the description gives an overall summary of who you are. This section must stand out from the crowd of other adoptive parents, making your family look unique, while capturing your true love and parental spirit. There are literally thousands of adoptive parent profiles online, which is why it is important to create an effective and unique design that intrigues readers and captures their attention.

The goal of an adoptive profile is not to connect with hundreds of birthparents, but a few select choices that will help turn your parenting dreams into a reality.

  • Be Genuine - It is important to be genuine in profile descriptions. Instead of creating a picture that is not an accurate representation of you and your spouse, focus on being honest and consistent. Communication is key and people respect honesty.
  • Show Humor - Show that you have a little humor and you and your spouse enjoy being around one another. Birthparents want to place their children in strong, loving homes where youngsters appreciate the benefits of family connections.
  • Be Unique - Highlight your unique talents to make yourself stand out. This may include speaking foreign languages, highlighting unique achievements or even sharing interesting childhood facts, such as where you were raised.
  • Balance - Descriptions require a certain finesse, or balance. You want to refrain from sounding desperate, as though your lives are not complete without a child, but you also do not want your lives to sound so busy that you cannot make time for a child. Instead of emphasizing high-powered jobs, strike a balance with activities and the desire to have a family of your own.
  • Match Expectations - Certain adoption agencies focus on different types of adoptions, such as semi-open, open or closed. Make sure that profiles match these same expectations. If you prefer an open adoption, working with an agency that focuses on closed options leads to long and frustrating waits.
  • Make Changes - If your profile has been up for several months and you are not generating interest among birthparents, consider changing minor aspects of your description. Small changes can lead to big search engine ranking results.
  • Emphasize Strengths - Emphasize your strengths while being real, but not overly perfect. You want birthparents to know you have realistic parenting expectations, which allows children to flourish in nurturing environments.

Photographs

2

Photos and videos are an integral part to creating a cohesive, interactive adoption profile. Visual images allow birthparents to feel as though they are forming long-term connections, which can dramatically increase your adoption chances.

Unfortunately, most people do make split-second judgments based on visual images, so make sure you put your best foot forward and focus on placing tasteful images that highlight your true personalities and characters.

Create flawless photo captions that make birthparents want to read your description and learn more about you. General photograph guidelines include:

  • Select photos that have adequate color, good focus and strong lighting.
  • Crop pictures so focal points show facial expressions.
  • Limit photos to those that relate directly to your family. Avoid scenic pictures that do not help birthparents get to know you better.
  • Communicate through pictures by showing your hobbies and interests. Instead of saying you enjoy the great outdoors, show you and your spouse spending time camping, fishing or hiking.
  • Captions should reflect perfect grammar and English, as this is the immediate first-impression given to birthparents. Avoid captions that state the obvious and inject personality and interest into these short descriptions.
  • Reduce the number of family reunion and wedding photos, especially those that focus on large groups of people.
  • Rely on casual pictures that avoid looking staged or posed. It is important that you remain approachable looking, which makes birthparents want to reach out and get to you know you better.
  • Include a wide variety of settings and poses, including playing with relatives' children or spending time with your animals.

Show vs. Tell

2

This section is important for adoptive parents. It allows you to take the opportunity to show birthparents your interests, instead of simply telling them. Consider the following photo captions:

  • "I love to cook!"
  • "Nothing smells sweeter than waking up to my wife's delicious cinnamon rolls with caramel glaze."

The second caption creates a personal relationship, while infusing the picture with appealing aromas. While both captions adequately describe that you enjoy cooking, the second one lends an edge that makes your photo gallery stand out.

Grammar, Reading and Layout

2

When writing an adoption profile, you want the grammar to be flawless, without reflecting pretentious attitudes. This means that profiles should be easy to read and kid-friendly, as this sends birthparents the message that you are ready to become parents.

Do not forget to use attractive designs that are easy on the eyes and appealing to readers. A visually pleasing layout that clearly highlights sections makes it easy for birthparents to navigate profiles. Both images and text should seamlessly flow together, telling a unified story. This is only a guideline, but popular prospective adoption profile pages include:

  • Introduction
  • About Us
  • Our Home
  • Our Family and Friends
  • Family Traditions
  • Holidays
  • Vacations
  • Photo Galleries
  • Journals

Prospective adoptive parents can personalize these options to reflect their own desires, activities and hobbies, or further expand on the above layout.

References:
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=1328
http://www.myadoptionadvisor.com/th_gallery/top-3-adoption-profile-tips/
http://www.americaadopts.com/hoping-to-adopt/how-to-write-an-adoption-profile/
http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/creating-your-adoption-profile-book-for-prospective-birth-mothers/

Sharing Your Adoption Profile

Sharing your adoption profile is a necessary part of gaining the exposure you need to reach birthparents. Every birthparent that reads your profile is a chance you will soon be receiving a call notifying you your adoption is going through. With today's modern advancements, there are several ways you can generate interest in your adoption profile.

Traditional Print Profiles

2

Traditionally, adoption agencies would complete lengthy adoption profiles, printing them and placing them in binders for birthparents to browse through. You can choose to have an agency help you design a printed profile or you can turn to other professional services, including companies that specialize in print advertisements. Presentation-related software is easy to use and allows you to simply drag and drop photos and captions in place.

Some adoptive parents enjoy being creative and combining their talents to focus on producing a one-of-a-kind brochure or pamphlet that highlights their life's unique journey. Printed pamphlets are time consuming and require dedication, effort and superb attention to detail.

A growing trend is using digital books instead of traditional print books for adoption profiles. These are easier to store and have a clean, modern appearance, but sometimes lack the personal touch needed to attract birthparents.

Online Sharing via Blogs and Websites

Sharing adoption profiles online is rapidly becoming a popular trend. Adoptive parents create blogs and personal websites to generate an online presence. While having an attractive, eye-catching website is important, it is only half the uphill battle. The remaining half is getting website exposure and spreading the word. Blogs can help improve website ratings, as they offer new, original content. They can also be therapeutic, offering you an outlet for documenting the pros and cons of the adoption process, highlighting your emotional journeys.

Letters and Pamphlets

While some adoptive parents take the time to write local doctors, gynecologists and obstetricians letters and mail them attractive pamphlets, agencies say this kind of exposure is generally unsuccessful. Unless the physician personally knows the couple, chances are the information passes to the wayside, as doctors make patients their top priorities and often refer birthparents directly to adoption agencies.

Newspaper Advertisements

Reports show that newspaper circulation is down. However, couples still advertise in the "wanted" or classifieds sections. These advertisements are more effective in smaller communities than in larger cities and some newspapers offer the benefit of print and online advertisements. It is important to check newspaper restrictions to ensure that they do not prohibit adoption ads.

Business Cards

Some couples use business cards to provide people with their adoption websites. While business cards are convenient, especially if adoption conversations arise, they can also prove to be awkward, especially if given to people that are not familiar with the adoption process.

Marketing Tools

Consider modern-day marketing tools and what is effective for today's advertising. For example, at donation fundraisers, consider handing out t-shirts, stickers or car magnets. The sky is the limit with advertising, just make sure that adoption-related advertising is tasteful, yet attention-grabbing.

Sharing via Word of Mouth

One of the most effective adoption strategies is sharing your adoption desires with friends and family. Everyone has access to a network of friends of family, which means that telling 10 people can easily turn into 100 people knowing about your adoption journey. The more connections you make the higher chances you have of connecting with a birthparent.

Networking

A very effective business tool, consider applying networking concepts to the adoption process. Contact adoption groups, social networks, parenting groups and even teen advocacy groups to spread the word that you are interested in adopting an infant or child.

Joining an online open adoption community is free and gives you resources for pursing adoption, as well as exposure for your adoption profile. Pursue both personal adoption websites, as well as parent profile registries when networking.

Free Postings

Take advantage of free social networks and post your adoption profile on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Craigslist, Weeby, WordPress, Instagram, Quora and Google+. Ask adoption groups or friends that run websites if you can create a guest blog that highlights your adoption endeavors. Additionally, participating in online discussion groups and forums can also be beneficial. Just remember to add a direct link to your adoption website for easy reference and contact information.

References:
http://www.americaadopts.com/hoping-to-adopt/how-to-network-your-adoption-profile/
http://www.americaadopts.com/12-places-to-post-your-adoption-profile-for-free/
http://www.americaadopts.com/the-difference-between-a-personal-adoption-website-and-a-parent-profile-registry/

The Advantages of Using Social Media for Modern-Day Adoptions

Social media sites are abuzz with news, updating everyone on the latest fashion trends, vacation schedules and restaurant menus. To embrace these social sharing trends, adoptive parents can create eye-catching adoption social media sites.

Facebook

With more than 1.31 billion users, Facebook is an effective way to share and link websites and information. Facebook is a great way to reach birthparents, helping prospective adoptive parents share their adoption stories. There are several ways to help improve Facebook page exposure.

  • Name - Select a unique adoption profile that has an easy-to-remember name.
  • Attention - Choose a profile image that is attractive and eye-catching. Remember, this is the first impression people have of your Facebook page so you want to generate enough visual interest to make them further explore your page.
  • Facts - Make sure your "About Us" page highlights relevant, necessary information, including a link to your adoption website, personal information and a simple two-sentence description.
  • Like - Facebook "likes" are a two-way street. If you want someone to "like" you, you need to "like" other adoption profiles. This helps to create an inner-network of adoption pages. Facebook relies on profiles connecting with other people, pages and sites, which help boost ratings. In the "edit profile" panel, select the option to "manage sections," having "liked" pages appear on your profile.
  • Insight - Ask friends and family to "like" your Facebook page. The first 25 people to "like" your page gives you access to a detailed "Insights," which allows you to review your posts' popularity, demographic information and even what peak times to post messages.
  • Private - Consider keeping some sections of your page private, such as restricting postings without prior review.
  • Current - Always keep pages up-to-date, reflecting the latest adoption news and progress. Consider asking questions instead of just inundating people with information, as this is a great way to promote and facilitate online conversations.
  • Promotion - Facebook allows you to promote certain posts. Set a maximum budget and review the "Insight" page to see if it is worth the money to promote your posts.
  • Site Links - Link posts to adoption websites to help gain even more exposure.
  • Respond - Always respond to questions or comments, thanking people for their support, advice and wisdom. Your responses do not need to be overly formal since Facebook is an unstructured social media environment.

Pinterest

Pinterest engages a significant demographic, boasting more than 70 million users. These users are more likely to be female and are between 25 to 34 years old. You can use infographics, pictures and even inspirational messages to attract a loyal following and gain more exposure to birthparents.

Twitter

This popular 140-character program allows more than 560 million active users to interact and share messages in real time. Give Twitter users a reason to follow you, sharing other people's tweets, serving as a resource and commenting on other messages. Be interactive and use popular hashtag phrases such as #adoptionprofile, #openadoption or #hopingtoadopt. Remember to include a good photo of you and your significant other, a link to your site and a short description of why you want to adopt.

Craiglist

A popular free posting site, Craigslist allows people to advertise anything online and has more than 80 million classified monthly postings. When creating a Craigslist advertisement, keep content and headlines simple with short descriptions that link to your adoption website. Update ads on a regular basis to help attract more birthparents.

WordPress and Weebly

An excellent blogging platform, Wordpress and Weebly are similar and both are very user friendly. You can add additional plug-ins that help you monitor traffic and analyze data, helping you take these blogging sites to the next performance level.

Instagram

With more than 150 million users, Instagram allows you to share your story in pictures, instead of words. This creative program encourages users to practice dramatic photography skill sets, including capturing eye-catching images that make big impacts. Forgo overusing hashtags and target birthparents by region and enable geo-tagging features.

Quora

This forum-style program gives you instant access to support groups. This program also provides you with popular and trendy blog-related topics, giving your website more marketing leverage with search engine results.

Google+

Rating as the second largest social network, Google+ organizes friends and family, while offering exposure to new groups and people. Having a Google+ profile can actually help increase your website's optimize and improve your search rankings.

Email

Once the dominant social media force, use email to spread the word that you are interested in adopting by emailing and friends and family. They can easily forward your email to other friends and family members, helping generate more interest and creating a small social network.

References:
http://jasonandjustin.com/Jason_and_Justin_Adopt/Blog/Entries/2013/9/1_10_Tips_for_a_Successful_Adoption_Facebook_Page.html
http://www.americaadopts.com/12-places-to-post-your-adoption-profile-for-free/
http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/
http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/social-media-stats-2014_b54243
http://www.craigslist.org/about/factsheet

Being Matched with a Birthparent

childrens

Preparation Guide: Meeting the Birthparents

After dedication and hard work promoting your adoption profile, you finally receive a call saying that birthparents would like to meet you. While each adoption situation varies, there are several ways to make sure that you build a solid first-time impression with birthparents.

Wisdom

To help avoid adoption fraud, request the assistance of an adoption agency or attorney to assist you in facilitating the initial birthparents' meeting. These professionals can help confirm the pregnancy and ask specific questions, making sure that the birthparent is indeed committed to the adoption process. Experts can also ask uncomfortable questions, such as drug use history, the amount of financial support required and how the birthfather feels about placing the baby for adoption.

Location

Choose a convenient location, such as a nearby coffee shop, or if you prefer a more formal setting, an agency's or attorney's office.

Thoughtful

Being thoughtful is important, as this conveys appreciation and gratitude. It is important to check with each individual state's laws concerning giving gifts to birthparents, as some states restrict this practice. If giving a gift, keep it simple, such as a journal, a book and souvenir or even homemade cookies. You do not want to appear as though you are "buying" affection or attention.

Dress

This is a delicate line. Too dressy and you can come across as snobby and pretentious. If you are too casual, birthparents may not take your adoption request seriously. Select clothing that is comfortable but does not error on the side of too formal or laid back.

Pictures

Bring pictures that highlight your life, including family events or spending time with your pets. You want birthparents to get to know you better. To appear more organized, consider placing pictures in an attractive photo album. Bring copies so the birthparents can bring the album home with her, if she so desires.

Questions

Before the meeting is the time to consider a list of possible questions to ask the birthparents. You do not want your excitement to overshadow obtaining information about the pregnancy, family history and understanding the birthparents' preference for her openness level of adoption.

Prepare

It is important to use the initial meeting to both listen and respond to the birthparents. Placing a child for adoption is a trying, difficult decision, so be compassionate and show empathy if they open up to you.

Be Yourself

It is essential to relax and be yourself during the interview. If you come across being nervous, this can make birthparents think you are not confident. Conversely, if you come across being too knowledgeable, this may also be a turn off.

References:
http://www.examiner.com/article/adoptive-parents-meeting-a-birthmother-for-the-first-time
http://www.ehow.com/how_2287545_prepare-preadoption-meeting-possible-birth.html
http://net-wise-parents.com/2014/04/25/preparing-to-meet-a-potential-birth-mother/

Talking to the Birthparent(s)

Once you have mentally prepared yourself to meet the birthparent in-person, the next step is talking to the birthparent.

Conversation Starter

This is more than two people meeting over a cup of coffee, as talking to the birthparent is a major step in the adoption process. To help facilitate conversation, consider bringing a photo album that highlights your family, other children or pets. Be armed with a few clever, funny stories to help break any awkward or uncomfortable silences.

Rapport Building

Building rapport with a birthparent is critical, as you want him/her, as a stranger, to trust you enough to agree to let you adopt her unborn baby. Be warm and open, which helps put both parties at ease and can help avoid awkwardness. Even if there are uneasy moments, just acknowledge these times as "unusual," and let them know you are also new to this process. Ask the birthparent personal questions about how she is feeling, including how her pregnancy is progressing, food cravings and if she is pleased with the level of care her obstetrician provides.

Compassion

Understand that even though you are nervous about meeting the birthparents, chances are they are likely just as if not more nervous. They are probably worried about what you will think of them, if they are smart, if they have a history of drug use and what type of decisions they make. Focus on being compassionate instead of judgmental; after all, this birthparents chose to interview you for their child's placement and adoption. Put their needs first, not your own and treat them as you would friends. Do not drill them about their medical history and backgrounds, as there will be plenty of time to address these questions. The most important question to answer from the initial meeting is: will you be a good parent to their child?

Common Ground

Look for a common ground, as this helps create a connection and relationship that works for all types of adoptions, whether it is semi-open or open. A healthy conversation flow will keep birthparents and prospective adoptive parents both at ease. The importance of this meeting is to determine if adoption is a good fit and if both parties want to pursue legal infant adoption.

Type of Adoption

It is important to understand what type of adoption birthparents are looking to complete. Do they want a closed process? Are they looking for a semi-open adoption that exchanges annual pictures or do they want an open adoption that allows for periodic in-person contact and visits?

Questions

There are several acceptable questions to ask birthmothers and/or birthfathers. Some of these apply to you, while an attorney or agency coordinator, best asks birthparents others.

  • What is your baby's due date?
  • What prompted you to begin considering the adoption process?
  • Are you working directly with an attorney or agency? If so, how did you choose whom to work with?
  • How are you feeling throughout your pregnancy?
  • Is the birthfather in the picture and if so, how does he feel about placing the baby for adoption?
  • How do your family, friends and parents feel about your pregnancy?
  • Do you have a long-term life plan for your education or career once the baby is born?
  • Do you have any hobbies and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  • Have you ever met anyone who has placed a baby for adoption? Also, have you ever met anyone who is adopted?

Likewise, there are also several questions to avoid during this initial interview process, including:

  • How do I know you will not change your mind about the adoption?
  • How many men might be the father of your unborn child?
  • Are you the victim of a rape?
  • Have you taken any drugs while you are pregnant?
  • How many times have you been pregnant?

These questions are sensitive and can be off-putting and emotionally hurtful to birthparents. Remember, this is a mutual interview process, not a one-sided grilling session

Professionalism and Tact

Interviews should remain professional and it is important to avoid having preconceived notions about the birthparents. This may include that they are uneducated or live in poverty. In fact, most women that choose adoption have an average intelligence and are middle class.

Avoid asking sensitive questions during the preliminary interview, while deferring uncomfortable or embarrassing questions to a licensed social worker or attorney. Waiting for a response is important. Give the birthparents enough time to process your question before they answers. Do not try to make them feel stressed or rushed. Most importantly, if the birthparents avoid answering certain questions, consider rewording the question and if they avoid it once again, leave the subject matter alone.

Always word questions appropriately and avoid asking "negative" questions. An example of a negative question is: "You're not attending college now, are you?" A better way to word this question is: "Are you attending college?"

Before concluding the introductory meeting, ask the birthparents if there are any other questions or concerns they would like you to directly address. Do not be off-put if the birthparents do not act like your new best friend. This is a difficult decision-making process and some birthparents prefer limited contact; therefore, do not take it personally or find it offensive.

References:
http://www.examiner.com/article/adoptive-parents-meeting-a-birthmother-for-the-first-time
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=1016
http://net-wise-parents.com/2014/04/25/preparing-to-meet-a-potential-birth-mother/
http://buildingyourfamily.com/adoption/domestic-adoption/interviewing-potential-birth-mother/

Connecting with Birthparents

An open adoption involves adoptive families and birthparents having open, direct contact. The specific level of involvement is determined on a case-by-case basis between both birthparents and adoptive parents. Experts recommend adoptive parents let birthparents set the pace of open contact. Some open adoptions involve frequent contact, while others exchange family information but regular verbal, written or physical contact is not reoccurring.

This form of adoption allows adoptive parents and birthparents to forge relationships before and after the child's birth. This relationship generally occurs in the birthmother's second or third trimesters, but can begin immediately after birth.

Agreements

Most agreements between birthparents and adoptive parents are simply verbal, dictating the type of openness levels they are comfortable pursuing. However, in some cases, parties may enter into a Kinship Agreement, otherwise known as a Post-Adoption Agreement. This type of agreement is voluntary but does allow both the adoptive parents and birthparents to discuss the types of contact they prefer, albeit it in-person visits, letters, pictures, videos, telephone updates or emails. This type of plan is filed before the legal adoption hearing. Non-compliance to follow the plan does not result in an overturned adoption. Not all post-adoption contact is legally binding. Make sure you understand the type of agreement you are entering and be certain that you can follow through with your commitment. The agreement and contact should always be in the best interest of the child.

Emotions

An open adoption is often an excellent alternative for birthparents that want to know how their child is doing, without having the day-to-day care or financial responsibilities that are involved in parenting. It is important for both birthparents and adoptive parents to recognize that open adoption is a complicated and emotional process, one that involves grief, shock and denial. If birthparents are not in a committed relationship with each one, each birthparent can have their own post-adoption plan.

Birthparents may experience grief when they see their children with adoptive families. Many birthparents experience mixed emotions, with shock and denial being very common coping mechanisms. When birthparents see their babies interacting with adoptive parents, it may make them feel even worse, which can result in loneliness and depression. It may cause birthparents to pull away initially, or perhaps their feelings of guilt will impart anger and frustration that they must deal with on their own.

Infants, toddlers and younger children do not understand the concept of adoption or biological relations. Birthparents may be unprepared for their biological children to not feel loyalties or emotional connections. Adoptive parents need to understand and recognize this is a difficult transition period for birthparents.

Ultimately, a birthparent needs to go through an acceptance and resolution phase that allows them to accept the loss of placing their child for adoption. With this loss comes the acceptance they are no longer in a parental role and they have relinquished their rights to an adoptive family.

As children grow older, it may become easier for birthparents to bond with them. They can explain family histories and even who children look like. While this may not be common for every birthparents and adoptive family relationship, it's important to focus on the joyful times, not simply the negative, or questioning the past.

Support

Adoptive parents need to focus on offering support for birthparents, acknowledging that this is a very difficult process. Do not push birthparents for information, but simply let them set their own sharing pace. This is a difficult transition period and not one that should be forced or pressed, as it can ultimately make birthparents shut down and cut off the openness of this adoption process.

Social Media

Social media is increasingly playing an important role in allowing youth to reconnect with birthparents. Adoptive parents need to understand that reconnecting with biological parents does not mean that children do not want to be a part of their lives. Biological curiosity is a normal part of life and adoptive parents should not take this endeavor as a sign of rejection. To help facilitate communication that is more open and lessen rejection fears, adoptive parents should consider exploring an open adoption when children are young, helping them build long-term relationships.

Social media does offer a convenient way for adoptive parents and birthparents to stay in touch. Adoptive parents need to consider the level of contact they want birthparents to have access to, including online profiles, posts and pictures. What may be acceptable for sharing with other family members may make birthparents uncomfortable. Before reaching out via social media channels, confirm with the birthparents if they are or are not comfortable receiving updates via this modern-day media outlet.

References: http://www.adoptionconnection.org/dictionary_foradoptive.php
http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/open_romanchik_article.php
http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/open_romanchik_article.php
http://www.americanadoptioncongress.org/grief_portuesi_article.php

Open Adoption with Birthparents

There are several reasons why birthparents and adoptive parents choose open adoption. Open adoption has numerous benefits, including the following:

  • Adopted children feel a sense of belonging and are able to establish connections with biological figures.
  • Adoptive parents can gain more insight and information into their adopted children's genetic and medical information.
  • Children of different races and cultures report feeling significant ties to their cultural and ethnic heritages when they are privy to open adoptions.
  • Adopted children feel less abandonment and frustration when they can meet their birthparents and understand why they chose adoption placement.
  • Open adoption helps increase the number of parental and support figures in children's lives.

Building Relationships

Open adoption focuses on strengthening relationships, and while it is not for everyone, it is beneficial to all parties involved, including the birthparents, child and adoptive parents. To help build healthy birthparents and adoptive family relationships, focus on the child and what is in his or her best interest. As an adoptive parent, always show the highest level of respect and acceptance for birthparents.

Part of building a healthy relationship is setting clear boundaries and respecting both parties' limits. This includes defining what is and is not acceptable. For example, adoptive parents may request that birthparents not share drug histories with adoptive children, while adoptive parents need to respect birthparent boundaries, such as not pushing uncomfortable questions. Always maintain open communication, as this is key to facilitating healthy long-term relationships. It is important to be flexible and understand that people's lives change. Birthparents or adoptive parents may move, which makes it more difficult to schedule regular visits. The top priority is to be flexible and focus on what is best for the child.

In the future, birthparents may also enter into new relationships and have their own families. Adoptive parents need to be there for their children, helping them to understand that circumstances can change and that forms of contact may differ, as they grow older.

Expectations

Birthparents and adoptive parents should sit down and discuss the expected level of commitment in the open adoption. Open adoption ranges from birthparents becoming like family to adoptive parents and birthparents deciding to terminate contact to a rollercoaster relationship with birthparents only making contact every few years.

Setting common expectations is important, with both parties' approving the type of acceptable contact. This includes explaining what type of communication is appropriate, albeit it letters, in-person visits or emails and how often communication occurs. Are birthparents looking for annual holiday updates or do they desire more frequent telephone updates? These are important questions to address before finalizing the adoption.

Getting Started

Whether it is an infant, toddler, child or young adult, it is important to start the open adoption process by finding a location that is healthy and stress-free. This may be a public area, such as a museum or park, or parties may prefer a more intimate gathering place, such as the adoptive parents' home. For first-time visits, consider meeting in a communal area, which allows focus to be on other interesting sights. This allows more bonding time, without the additional pressure of constant face-to-face time and interaction.

Before the visit, adoptive parents should reassure birthparents that they understand this is a difficult and emotional journey; it is understandable if it is an overwhelming experience. It is best to limit the number of friends and family during the initial visits, as the birthparents may need a quiet area to regroup and gather their thoughts and emotions.

Essential Keys to Achieving Open Adoption Success

For both birthparents and adoptive parents to achieve long-term open adoption success, it is vital that both parties establish trust. Open adoption is not about competing with one another, but putting children's needs first, making them a top-most priority. Both birthparents and adoptive parents should view each other as positive role models, as each one is another loving adult that contributes to children's futures.

Both parties should understand that open adoption is very different from co-parenting. The two are not similar and to help avoid misunderstandings, place contact and communication expectations in writing. This helps avoid frustration and outlines specific expectations. Not all birthparents want considerable contact and some adoptive parents may desire birthparents that maintain regular contact. Addressing these issues up-front can help resolve any difficulties that may arise.

To achieve success, both parties must be realistic. Like with any relationship or friendship, having an open adoption has both highs and lows. It's important to accept the positive and negative, focusing on the long-term benefits of maintaining an open adoption: having a healthy child that identifies with his or his biological roots and understands that his or her adoptive parents are committed to providing a loving, nurturing and healthy environment.

References:
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_openadopt.pdf#page=7&view=Building%20and%20Maintaining%20Relationships%20With%20Your%20Child's%20Birth%20Family
http://voices.yahoo.com/arranging-visits-birth-parents-open-7169012.html?cat=25
http://open.adoptionblogs.com/weblogs/open-adoption-visits-getting-started
http://openadoptionbloggers.com/2013/04/18/open-adoption-and-post-visit-meltdowns/
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/openadoption.pdf
http://www.bethany.org/main/pregnancy-resources/choosing-adoption
http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2035
http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/open-adoption.html

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