Archive for September, 2010

Florida Court Strikes Down Gay Adoption Ban

A gay couple holds their happy son

A Florida appellate court struck down a state law that barred gay and lesbian couples from adopting children, holding that the law is unconstitutional. In a 42-page ruling, the court noted that the law had “no rational basis” and that the adoption law requires officials to evaluate what is in the best interests of the child in every case.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that the state will start enforcing the court’s decision immediately.

The state of the law of adoption for gay couples remains far from perfect. Some states allow only married couples to adopt, making adoption difficult for gay couples due to the unsettled state of the marriage laws. However, this change in Florida, which was the only state to have an outright ban on adoption by gay couples, is a big step forward.

I plan to write a post on adoption for gay couples in the next few weeks. If you have an adoption story to share with me for the blog, please do!

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Story Time

Reading to your child is a wonderful way to spend time together. For adopted children, having books about adoption or with characters who are adopted is especially important. All children like to read about characters they can identify with, and seeing other adopted children in books can help adopted kids to see that adoption is just another normal way to form a family. Many adoption-related children’s books also tend to have wonderful messages of love and acceptance woven into them.

To help adoptive parents find the best books to read to their children, I will be featuring adoption-related children’s books on the blog once a month. I would love to hear your suggestions!

This week’s featured book is We Belong Together by Todd Parr. A brightly-colored picture book that explains adoption in the simplest terms, this book is appropriate for children from infancy up to…well…I still enjoy reading it! The book begins “We belong together because…” and goes through seven wonderful reasons that this colorful adoptive family belongs together. My only word of caution is to practice reading this one before you read it to your child, because this heartwarming book might bring tears to your eyes!

Now it’s your turn: What books do you love to read to your adopted child(ren)? You can post your suggestions in the comments or email me at (evaughan at vaughanfirm dot com).

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Kangaroo Care Helps Babies Thrive

kangaroo care helps babies thrive
Most adoptive parents don’t need much encouragement to spend a lot of time cuddling with their babies—after all, it’s what they’ve been waiting for and dreaming about for months, if not years! What you may not know is that holding your baby close doesn’t only feel good, it also serves an important biological purpose. Many pediatricians with expertise in adoption are now recommending that adoptive parents practice “kangaroo care” with their new babies.

Scientists first began studying kangaroo care when they discovered that premature babies who spent a lot of time being held, skin-to-skin, next to their mothers had significantly higher survival rates. Studies show that being held this way helps to regulate the baby’s heart rate, body temperature, and breathing, and that babies who spend a few hours being held skin-to-skin sleep better, gain weight more quickly, and cry less than babies who are not cuddled in this way. Parents also report that they get benefits from “kangaroo care” as well: Increased feelings of confidence and bonding with their babies.

Although the studies were mostly of premature babies, the benefits for adopted babies are obvious. Most adopted babies experience stress from the change of caregivers, and studies show that high levels of stress can inhibit healthy development. Holding the baby, particularly skin-to-skin, helps reduce this stress and regulate his or her heart rate and breathing. Kangaroo care also promotes bonding, which can help ease the disconnected feelings some adoptive parents feel during the first months with their adopted babies.

So how do you do kangaroo care? It couldn’t be simpler. Try to spend an hour or two a day holding your baby against your bare skin. Many parents find that feeding time and bedtime are the most convenient times to practice kangaroo care. Dress the baby in just a diaper, and cover his or her back with a blanket for warmth. Make sure that you have a comfortable place to sit, with everything you might need to reach (like a glass of water or a book) within easy reach. Remove any jewelry that could scratch. It’s also beneficial to hold your baby as much as possible throughout the day, even when it can’t be skin-to-skin. Many companies sell baby slings and carriers that allow you to carry your baby throughout the day.
If you’d like to share your experience with kangaroo care or ask a question about this article, please feel free to comment or e-mail me at evaughan at vaughanfirm.com.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

First Steps for Making an Adoption Plan

Facing an unplanned pregnancy can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. If you’re considering adoption for your baby, you may feel confused about where to begin, and the large amount of confusing information on the internet is not a big help! Sit down, take a deep breath, and let’s talk about where to start when you’re thinking about placing your baby for adoption.

1. Talk to your doctor. Because good prenatal care is important for both you and your baby, a visit to your doctor’s office is a good first step. If you are comfortable talking to your doctor about your feelings about the pregnancy, tell him or her that the pregnancy was unplanned and that you’re considering adoption. He or she will probably be able to recommend a counselor or crisis pregnancy center.

2. Visit a crisis pregnancy center or a family planning clinic. You can find crisis pregnancy centers and clinics near you by searching online or looking in the phone book. These centers can help you decide whether adoption is right for you. If you really want to keep your baby but are considering adoption because of a problem like not having enough money, not having your family’s support, or fear of being a single parent, the crisis pregnancy center can help you find resources to help you raise your baby yourself. The crisis pregnancy center or clinic can also point you towards resources like counselors, prenatal care providers, and reputable adoption agencies. One note of caution: Some crisis pregnancy centers and family planning clinics are run by religious groups or organizations with agendas that may or may not match yours. If you don’t feel comfortable or feel that they are pressuring you, go elsewhere.

3. If you are starting to feel confident that adoption is the right decision for you, the next step is to get informed about adoption in your state. Contact a reputable adoption agency or an adoption attorney. A good adoption agency can help you understand the adoption laws in your state, explain how the adoption process works, recommend counselors for you to talk to, and eventually help you choose an adoptive family for your baby. They will also tell you what expenses the agency and/or the adoptive family can legally pay for you (medical expenses and legal expenses, for example).

If you decide you’d like to talk to an adoption lawyer first, know that many adoption lawyers offer free consultations for birth mothers. An adoption attorney can explain the adoption process and the law to you, but in my home state of Virginia and some other states, an attorney is not permitted to help you find an adoptive family. In states like these, the attorney will generally recommend a reputable agency or give you tips about how you can locate an adoptive family on your own.

4. Once you have found an adoptive family and you all agree that it’s a good match, it’s time for you to hire an attorney to represent you in the adoption if you haven’t done so already. The adoptive family will pay for your legal expenses. Check out this post for tips on how to choose and work with a lawyer. What’s most important is that you choose someone with experience in adoption law and that you feel comfortable with that person to represent you.

These steps are guidelines, and you may wish to take them in a different order depending on your situation. For example, if are sure that adoption is the right choice for you and you already have someone in mind to adopt your baby, such as a relative, you can skip straight to hiring an adoption lawyer. But I hope this has given you an idea of how to get started without feeling overwhelmed by the process. Placing your child for adoption is a huge decision, and by taking it slowly, avoiding anyone who pressures you, and getting help from knowledgeable professionals, you can make sure it is the right decision for you and your child.

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

Decision Points: Domestic or International?

When you decide to grow your family through adoption, one of the first decisions you must make is whether to adopt domestically or internationally. The decision about what type of adoption works best for your family is an intensely personal one, but it’s important to first have the facts. Below are 5 questions to ask yourself when deciding between domestic and international adoption, followed by 5 common fallacies about the differences between the two.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself

1. How prepared am I to cope with the lack of information about my child’s birth family?

While lack of information about the child’s birth family can be a problem in domestic adoption, it is more frequent and severe in international adoption. Lack of a complete medical history, in particular, can be a serious problem in international adoption. It can be frustrating for parents and doctors alike to have no indication of the birth parents’ medical information, whether and what type of prenatal care the birth mother had, and whether the child was exposed to drugs or alcohol during the pregnancy. Locating a doctor who specializes in evaluating internationally adopted children is a good first step in preparing for your little one’s arrival.

Being in the dark about your child’s birth family can also be a challenge as your child grows and becomes curious about his or her origins. Even fairly basic information such as the birth parents’ appearance, their likes and dislikes, and why they chose to place the child for adoption can be extremely helpful to a child who is struggling with the normal issues of identity and self-esteem that all adoptees face. Learning as much as you can about your child’s birth family, reading up on the emotional issues surrounding adoption, and consulting with a therapist who is familiar with adoption issues are all good ways to prepare to cope with the special challenges of international (or closed domestic) adoption.

2. How important is it to me to have a child who looks like me?

It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself during the early stages of the decision-making process in adoption. While many adoptive parents feel strongly that they simply want a child and couldn’t care less about the child’s race or gender, others find that in their heart of hearts, they really want a child who looks like them. Many factors go into this decision, including your extended family’s attitudes towards race, your comfort level with fielding questions from strangers about your child’s relationship to you, and the community you live in. Obviously, your preferences regarding race can weigh in favor of domestic or international adoption, depending on your own racial background. What’s important is to be honest with yourself and your partner, and to do some soul searching about how open you can be to different characteristics in your adopted child.

3. How important is it to me to be present for the birth and/or very early infancy of my child?

This is one of the few areas where there is a very clear difference between domestic and international adoption. If you have your heart set on being present for the birth of your baby or the first few months of his life, then domestic adoption is for you. As a general rule, the youngest baby you can adopt from abroad is about four months old.

4. How important is it to me to have some predictability to the adoption process?

No matter what type of adoption you pursue, adoption is an emotional roller coaster. That being said, international adoption is a little bit more predictable than domestic adoption, in that there are milestones along the way so that you almost always know where you are in the adoption process. Further, because children who are eligible for adoption abroad are already classified as orphans, you don’t have to worry about when the birth parents’ rights are terminated or whether the birth mother might change her mind. There’s no doubt that this is an important factor for many parents, but do be sure that you are well prepared to cope with the challenges of international adoption, as discussed above.

5. How much money do I have to invest in this adoption?

Because you must travel to your adopted child’s home country at least once (and usually more than once), international adoption is more expensive than domestic adoption. According to recent polls, parents who adopted domestically generally spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on their adoptions, while international adopters mostly spent over $20,000. While it’s uncomfortable to think about adoption in monetary terms, doing a realistic assessment of your financial needs early in the adoption-planning process will reduce your stress level dramatically.

Five Myths about International and Domestic Adoption

MYTH 1: International adoption is faster. Polls show that domestic and international adoption take close to the same amount of time (between nine and eighteen months) between beginning the search and the arrival of your child in your home. While the experts may quibble about which is faster, it’s safe to say that time should not be a major factor in deciding which type of adoption to pursue.

MYTH 2: I just don’t want to have to deal with my child’s birth mother, so I will go international. To be painfully honest, if you are thinking in these black-and-white terms about your future child’s birth mother, you are probably not ready to adopt. Countless interviews with adopted children of all ages show that having zero contact and zero information about their birth parents can be terribly psychologically painful. Remember that adoption is about what the child needs, not about what the parent wants. While this is not to say that no one should have a closed adoption, it’s important to educate yourself about the issues that adopted children face and to be sensitive to your child’s needs. An emotionally savvy and prepared adoptive parent is essential to the child’s healthy development in a closed adoption. An excellent resource to get you started is the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.

MYTH 3: Domestic adoptions frequently “fall through” because the birth mother changes her mind. Although it’s true that some domestic adoptions do fall through, it’s also true that a low percentage of them do so. It is difficult to find reliable statistics about the percentage of birth mothers who change their minds before or shortly after the baby is born. Once the child is placed with the adoptive parents, however, we know that the percentage of adoptions that fall through drops to less than 1 percent. If you otherwise like the idea of domestic adoption, this fear should not necessarily be a deciding factor. Articles like this one can help you learn how to identify risk factors that indicate a birth mother who is more likely to change her mind and decide to parent her child.

MYTH 4: Because I am single [gay, older, disabled], I have to adopt from abroad. This is just not true. Many single parents, gay couples, older parents, and people with disabilities or health conditions have successfully adopted domestically with absolutely no problems. The key is to be honest with your adoption professionals from the start, and to work with professionals who are open and accepting of who you are.

MYTH 5: Only international adoption really makes a difference in the life of a child. While many celebrities have raised awareness about the humanitarian aspect of international adoption, the truth is that there are many children in the United States who are in need of good homes. This is especially true of older children in the foster-care system and children with disabilities. You can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child through either international or domestic adoption.

Whatever you choose, congratulations! You are about to embark on a wonderful journey. As always, please feel free to contact me to share your story, ask a question, or make a comment. Use the Comments section or e-mail me (Evaughan at vaughanfirm dot com).

Do you have more questions about adoption? Contact The Vaughan Firm to speak with an adoption attorney.

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