Archive for November, 2010

For Expectant Mothers Planning an Adoption: The Hospital

When you are planning an adoptive placement for your unborn baby, it might not seem real at first. For many expectant mothers planning an adoption, the hospital is the place where the reality of the adoption really hits home. The days surrounding your baby’s birth will be a highly emotional time no matter what you do, but thinking ahead and being prepared can help you. Check out these tips for managing your time at the hospital.

  • Get in touch with the hospital as far in advance as possible. As soon as you have chosen a hospital, contact them (or ask your attorney or social worker to contact them) to learn about their policies and procedures for adoption. Sometime before the birth, it is also a good idea to take a tour. Ask questions about what normally happens in adoption situations, and don’t be afraid to speak up if the hospital’s policies aren’t what you have in mind. Be sure to find out important details like who will carry the baby out of the hospital (some state laws or hospital policies require that this be the birth mother; others the adopting parents). Being familiar with the hospital setting and knowing what to expect will help you feel more at ease during and after the birth.
  • Spend some time thinking about what you want the birth to be like. Who will be in the delivery room with you? Who will be allowed to visit you and the baby after the birth? May the adoptive parents stay over at the hospital? Who will be responsible for taking care of the baby (changing diapers, feeding, etc.) at the hospital? When may the adoptive parents be allowed to make medical decisions about the baby? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, and the time to think about them is well before you go into labor. Take the time to give some serious thought to what you are most comfortable with and what you feel is best for you and the baby. As tempting as it is to want to please the adopting parents, don’t let others pressure you if you really don’t feel you have the kind of relationship where you want the adopting parents in the delivery room with you.
  • Put your wishes in writing. Once you have decided who you want in the delivery room, who may visit, etc., make your wishes clear by writing them down and providing a copy to the hospital (some hospitals have a form for this purpose, often called a “birth plan”). Cover every scenario in your plan (for example, some expectant mothers are okay with having the adoptive parents in the room for a vaginal birth, but feel uncomfortable having them there in the event of a C-section). It’s also a good idea to address questions like whether you want to breast feed, as most hospitals have nurses visit you to help you with breastfeeding after the birth. Make sure that the adoptive parents have a copy, and also give a copy to your attorney or social worker and to anyone who will be in the delivery room with you. Because labor can be stressful and disorienting, you want to make sure that someone else can advocate for you if your wishes are not being followed.
  • Get clear on how long you have to change your mind about the birth plan. This is your labor and your baby, so you should be permitted to change your mind about who you want in the delivery room, etc. at any time. However, check with the hospital to make sure they will allow you to change your birth plan at the last minute. While in an ideal world you would not need to change your mind, in truth you really can’t predict how you are going to feel in labor until the time comes.
  • Understand the paperwork in advance. After the birth, you will be asked to sign a number of forms, including a medical release form allowing the adoptive parents to have access to the baby’s medical records, a relinquishment of your parental rights to the baby, a birth certificate with the baby’s name, etc. Because you might not be feeling at your sharpest immediately after the birth, it’s important to read and understand these forms in advance. Come to an agreement with the adoptive family about whether you or they will choose the baby’s name as it appears on the original birth certificate. Ask your attorney to explain any forms that you don’t fully understand.
  • Plan for support. After the birth and especially after the baby goes home with the adoptive parents, you will likely be feeling exceptionally emotional. Many birth mothers describe this as one of the darkest and most confusing times of their lives. Feeling pain, sadness, and anxiety is not necessarily a sign that the adoption was a mistake, but it is important to take care of yourself emotionally. Plan to have someone visit you in the hospital and go home with you afterward. Choose someone you trust and whom you can talk to honestly about your feelings. Tell that person the reasons why you chose to make an adoption plan, and ask them to remind you of those reasons if you need it. Have the telephone number of a counselor handy in case you need counseling in the days, weeks, or months after the birth.
  • The most important thing to remember about your delivery is that you are the mother, and you have the right to all the respect and deference that any other mother would get when it comes to decisions about your labor and your baby. Keeping that in mind and taking the time to learn and plan in advance will help to ease this difficult transition period.

    Do you have other suggestions for expectant mothers planning an adoptive placement? Post them 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.

    “I Think We Were Born Together” – A Tale of Twin Merediths

    This month’s Reader’s Digest magazine features a fascinating article about twin girls from China who were adopted from the same agency, Jiangmen City Social Welfare Institute, by two separate families. The agency allegedly did not know that the girls were twins. In a bizarre coincidence, the adoptive families, both of whom live in the United States, met in an Internet chat room for families who had adopted from that agency. After exchanging photos and stories, they began to suspect that their girls had known each other at the agency. Further investigation including DNA testing confirmed that in fact they were fraternal twins. So many remarkable facts stand out about this story. Both families named their daughters Meredith. Both girls had talked about having a sister from a very young age. The two share some mannerisms, interests and expressions.

    The families arranged for the girls to meet when they were four years old, and now arrange yearly visits with each other. The two Merediths, now 10 years old, keep in close touch. According to the article, Meredith Ellen’s first words to her sister Meredith Grace when they first met were, “I think we were born together”.

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

    Book Review: And Tango Makes Three

    Whether you are a gay or lesbian parent or simply looking for a way to introduce your children to the idea that there are many types of families, And Tango Makes Three is the book for you. When reading reviews of this book written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, the word you will see the most is “charming.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more charming tale than this true story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo.

    Roy and Silo are just a little bit different from the other male penguins. Instead of noticing the female penguins, they notice each other, and the zookeeper notices that “they must be in love.” They build a nest together like the other penguins, and they bring home an egg-shaped rock and start caring for it. When the observant zookeeper finds himself with a penguin egg in need of a family, he decides to let the pair raise a chick of their own, and Roy and Silo know just what to do. Thus, Tango makes three in one of the most charismatic families in print. If the beautiful message that it’s love that makes a family isn’t enough to warm your heart, than the illustrations of fuzzy baby penguins surely will.

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

    Quote of the Day: The Real Experts on Adoption

    Adult adoptees are a primary source for knowledge about adoption as an institution. Their perceptions are unique, for adult adoptees are actually the only persons who can tell us what it is like to live adoption in a society in which most people are not adopted.

    - Child Welfare League of America

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

    Book Review: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption

    The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption

    With a title like “The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption:Everything You Need to Know about Domestic and International Adoption,” expectations are set pretty high. Adoption attorney and adoptive parent Elizabeth Swire Falker mostly lives up to the promise of her title in this thorough book for those who are just getting started thinking about adopting a child.

    Falker takes on the big issues that are on most prospective adoptive parents’ minds when they begin the journey toward adoption: Domestic vs. international, how to afford an adoption, the home study, preparing to parent, bringing a baby home, and a basic overview of state laws on adoption. The book really shines in its thoughtful and no-nonsense advice on how to choose between agency and independent adoption, and between domestic and international adoption. The “Resources” section is also a great place to start finding more information on everything from support groups to grants, travel products to breastfeeding. I also appreciated the table in the back of the book with a brief overview of state laws on adoption. In short, if you are early in the process of thinking about adoption and have no clue where to begin, this book will be an extremely helpful resource.

    Falker’s perspective as an adoptive mother shines through in this book, and her practical advice about the emotional and practical aspects of adoption is valuable. Falker advises parents to determine their “neediness number” early on in the process, and to be honest about how much stress and legwork they can handle when choosing a type of adoption. Falker’s experience as an adoption lawyer is also an asset of the book, and she includes several real-life stories from her clients that illustrate her points and make the book more enjoyable to read.

    I do have a few criticisms of The Ultimate Insider’s Guide. First, although some of the information in the book applies equally to gay and straight couples (the sections on financing adoption and preparing for parenthood, for example), there is very little specific information for LGBT individuals or couples who wish to adopt. Given the prevalence of adoption in the LGBT community and the many special issues involved, this was a conspicuous absence.

    Second, just as all families in Falker’s book are straight, all adopted children are babies. There is no mention whatsoever of adopting toddlers or older children in this book. While legally the experience of adopting an older child is the same, the challenges of bringing home and parenting an older child are drastically different. Although I understand that not every topic can be covered in depth in one book, it did seem odd to me that Falker did not even mention older-child adoption.

    Third, I was a bit shocked to see how dramatically Falker downplays the effects of maternal drug use on babies. “And please, please keep in mind that many problems caused by drug or nicotine intake during pregnancy can usually be overcome with appropriate early intervention. One of the more common consequences of drug exposure is speech and development delays, which are almost always completely resolved by working with a speech pathologist (paid for by your state).” While I am a huge advocate of families opening their hearts to children who were exposed to drugs in utero, it is extremely important that these parents be prepared for a difficult road. There is a wide spectrum of disorders caused by maternal drug use, and although some can be overcome with early therapy, others can be life-long and debilitating. The New York Times reports that the severe mental and behavioral problems that drug exposure can cause sometimes even cause adoptive parents to give up in despair and return the child to foster care. I am a firm believer that a good parent is a prepared parent, and it is quite simply a disservice to discount the difficulties that drug-exposed babies can have.

    Finally, I was puzzled by Falker’s section on creating an adoptive parent profile for birth mothers to see. While advising adoptive parents to “prepare your own adoptive-parent profile from your heart,” Falker also advises prospective adopters to make themselves appear “fun” and “happy-go-lucky,” to include pets they don’t own in their photos, and to hire a professional photographer for pictures. She also includes the bizarre advice not to include a picture of yourself at the beach under an SPF-protective umbrella, lest the birth mother think you are overprotective. What? The truth is, there is absolutely no way to predict what a birth mother is looking for in an adoptive family. Each birth mother is a human being with her own personal and specific criteria for selecting an adoptive family. The best advice anyone can give you is to be yourself, present yourself in your best light, and show the birth mother you care by putting effort into your profile. If you are authentic in your profile, birth mothers will choose you for your authentic self, increasing the chances that it will be a good match for all concerned.

    Overall, The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Adoption is a good resource for those who are just getting started thinking about adopting a child in order to learn the basics and begin making decisions about what type of adoption to pursue. As you learn more about adoption, supplement it with other books that are more specific to your situation.

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

    Adopted Children and the Holidays

    A very happy Thanksgiving to all my readers! As we enter the holiday season, I want to offer a few tips for parents of adopted children at what can sometimes be a difficult time. The holidays are, almost by definition, a time for family, and that can make them a confusing and emotional time for adoptees. Depending on the child’s age, you might notice him acting out, withdrawing, or maybe just asking more questions about his birth family and where he came from. Below are a few tips for supporting your child during this time.

  • Accept and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Parents, who are often going through their own stresses at the holidays, are sometimes tempted to deny their children’s sad feelings. “Christmas is a happy time!” they might admonish. This sends kids the message that their feelings are not okay and should be hidden. Instead, try to recognize your child’s feelings. This may require a little bit of guesswork if your child is not old enough to express what she is feeling. You might begin with a question. “Are you thinking about your birth mom? I’m thinking about her today, too.” Although it can be hard to get over your own insecurity and hurt feelings when your child is feeling sad about his birth family, it is essential to show the child that he can trust you with his real thoughts and feelings. Try re-stating your child’s feelings in neutral terms (“It’s hard not having your birth family here, isn’t it?” or “sometimes you wish you could spend Christmas with your birth mom.”). One great book about communicating with kids is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Another good resource for adoptive families is Helping Children Cope With Separation and Loss by Claudia Jewett Jarrett.
  • If possible, include birth family in holiday celebrations. If not, create rituals. One of the wonderful things about open adoption is that it expands the circle of family, which is an especially beautiful thing at the holidays. If possible, include birth parents, grandparents, etc. for part of your holiday celebrations. If this is not possible, it can be helpful to create a ritual to do together to acknowledge the birth family. Some families light a candle during holiday meals or at times when the child is thinking about her birth mother. Others get out an album of photos of the child’s birth family and look through it together. Whatever you choose, pick a specific time (say, Christmas Eve before bed) and do the ritual every year, but also be flexible and let your child choose to do the ritual when she is feeling sad about her birth family.
  • If your child is from another culture, include traditions from that culture in your celebrations. The holidays are an easy and beautiful time to include your child’s birth culture in your family life. Traditional native foods, music, clothing, crafts, decorations, and traditions are all fun to learn about together, and greatly enrich your holiday traditions.
  • Avoid overstimulation. Especially for newly-adopted children, the holidays can be too overwhelming to handle. Traveling, having guests in the house, disruption of routines, new toys, and bright lights are exactly the opposite of what children need when they are adapting to a new environment. Children who are adopted from institutional settings, especially, are often unaccustomed to a lot of attention or even to playing with toys. Even children who have been in their homes for a while can get overstimulated by holiday celebrations. Try to keep celebrations low-key at first, and to maintain eating an nap schedules as much as possible. Be an advocate for your child by explaining to family members that your child can get overwhelmed easily, so they should give him some time and space and limit gifts to a number that doesn’t overwhelm him.
  • “Being good” doesn’t always mean feeling good. Remember that adopted children hear messages about “being good” differently than their not-adopted peers do. Some children interpret the “you’d better not pout, you’d better not cry” messages of Christmas to mean that they will be rejected or sent away if they aren’t “good.” The holidays are an especially good time to emphasize that you love your child unconditionally.
  • Be aware of what’s going on at school. If you haven’t done so yet, the holidays can be a good time to talk to your child’s teachers about adoption. For example, if your child is newly adopted, you may want to explain that she might have trouble answering questions like “how does your family celebrate the holidays?” Encourage teachers to learn about different types of families and to use inclusive language, especially for open adoptions and LGBT adoptions, where there could be more than one “mommy” and “daddy” involved. One thing that sometimes comes up at the holidays is that schools “adopt a family” by donating gifts and food to families in need. Explain that using adoption language for charitable activities can be confusing for adopted children.
  • Remember that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. This is advice that most families could stand to hear, not just adoptive families! While some families feel pressure to have a picture-perfect holiday that is 100% happy and drama-free, this is a tall order when human beings are involved. The only holiday that is really “perfect” is one where everyone is warmly loved and unconditionally accepted — and knows it. In that spirit, I wish you and your family the most “perfect” of holiday seasons.
  • What works in your family at the holidays? Send your suggestions in the Comments section, or by email to me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

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

    An Interview With Family Therapist Carol Lozier

    I am very excited to present the very first podcast on Adoptivity, an interview with Carol Lozier. Carol is a family therapist in Louisville, Kentucky, specializing in working with adoptive and foster families. She also writes the blog In My Child’s World. One of the things that makes Carol’s practice so valuable to adoptive and foster families is her approach of teaching families how to continue the work of therapy at home, where they need help the most. I am thrilled that Carol had the time for an interview and I think that adoptive parents, foster parents, and prospective adoptive parents will find it valuable.

    Unfortunately, my prowess with technology is not top-notch, and for some reason that is mysterious to me, the last five minutes of my interview with Carol was cut off in the recording. While this is not so bad for a first try at podcasting, I am really disappointed about it because the last five minutes of the interview are where Carol talked about her upcoming book, which I think it going to be a precious resource for adoptive and foster families. As Carol explains, “the book aims to help parents work with their children in a therapeutic way to resolve abandonment, loss and trauma as it arises in everyday life. Throughout the book there are practical tools, behavior management strategies, therapeutic stories and support for parents. The first part of the book explains the child in a new way so that parents can connect their current behavior to their past trauma. The second part of the book leads parents, step by step, to the source of the original trauma so that it can be resolved. Lastly, the third part of the book teaches parents how to understand the team approach that is necessary for their child and shows parents how to be the team leader of the child’s providers.” I think this will be incredibly helpful for families, and you can bet I will be blogging about it when it comes out.

    In the part of the interview that did get recorded, she mentioned a number of resources for adoptive and foster families. They are:

    The Connected Child by Karen Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Sunshine
    Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge

    The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – information and resources for parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    Child Trauma Academy – A not-for-profit organization founded by Dr. Bruce Perry with the mission of improving the lives of traumatized and maltreated children by improving the systems that serve them.
    Adoption.Com an online community and information site for all members of the adoption triad.

    Without further ado, here is the interview. Click on the Play button below to start the audio.

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

    When Spouses Don’t Agree About Adoption

    One issue that is extremely common but very seldom talked about in adoption is when one spouse or partner is eager to adopt and the other spouse is reluctant or downright opposed. Often the divide arises after a couple struggles with infertility or who learns of a genetic disorder in their families that would make a pregnancy impossible or risky. When the couple’s vision of having biological children turns out not to be possible, often one person wants to leave it at that, while the other wants to pursue adoption. This basic divide can lead to years of frustrating arguments and can even threaten the relationship.

    Most marriage and family therapists agree that no one should ever be pressured into adopting a child against their will. Adopting a child is a profoundly life-altering decision, and forcing the reluctant partner to agree will only create problems in the marriage that will ultimately impact the child. Instead, here are a few strategies to help you and your spouse work past the impasse.

  • Get beyond “yes” vs. “no” to the underlying emotions. The decision to adopt (or not adopt) a child involves a host of incredibly strong emotions. When you talk about adoption, try to get past your basic positions and intellectual arguments and talk about the emotions behind your decision. Many partners who are opposed to adoption are feeling grief about not being able to have biological children. Others are feeling fearful for many different reasons, including fear that an adopted child might have attachment disorders or health problems, fear that their family would not accept an adopted child, fear that the adoption could fall through, or even fear that they might not be able to love a child not genetically linked to them. Meanwhile, the pro-adoption partner may be grieving the infertility in a different way, feel longing to nurture a child, or feel deceived because they had assumed their spouse would want to have children no matter what. Try to hear each other out respectfully and repeat back the essence of what the other person has said before speaking your piece.

  • Agree to learn about adoption together. One way to get past an impasse when talking about adoption is to agree to simply learn more about adoption – the good things and the bad – without trying to convince each other for one month. Read books, blogs, and websites about adoption. Talk to parents who have already adopted about their experience. Visit an adoption agency or lawyer on the clear understanding that you are there only to ask questions. If one spouse has a particular worry about adoption (attachment disorders, for example), be sure to research that, too. Whatever decision you ultimately make, it will be an informed one. After you have done your homework, it’s a perfect time to…
  • Take a break. Especially if you have gone over and over (and over) the same discussion, take a breather. Agree not to talk about adoption for a week or two.
  • Enlist the help of a good counselor. Many couples are reluctant to bring an outsider into their personal family business, but in truth an outsider is the best possible person to give you a fresh perspective on your disagreement. Counselors are trained to make sure both parties are fully heard and help couples to reach a better understanding. A counselor can also teach you ways to communicate better that you can use at home. Choose a therapist who specializes in marriage and family issues, and make sure it’s one you both agree on. If your spouse or partner won’t agree to counseling, go by yourself and leave the invitation open for them to join you.
  • Respect the reluctant partner, while acknowledging that there is no such thing as “perfectly sure.”
  • No parents, whether through adoption or birth, is ever one hundred percent sure that they are ready for parenthood. Misgivings are natural, and can seem even more overwhelming in adoption, where there are so many more hurdles to overcome and decisions to make. Listen carefully and respect the reluctant partner when talking about adoption, but know that if you are waiting until you are “perfectly sure,” there is no such thing.

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

    Adoption Profiles: Kristin Chenoweth

    Okay, I am officially the last person on earth to know that Emmy and Tony award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth was adopted. She recently received the Angels in Adoption Award for using her celebrity status to raise awareness about foster care and adoption. The Angels in Adoption website notes that “Kristin hopes to remind everyone that there is an overwhelming number of American children that are also in need desperate need of a loving home.” A worthy reminder, especially during National Adoption Month!

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

    Happy National Adoption Day!

    Today has been designated National Adoption Day, and many places around the country, including courts, city governments, and private organizations, are holding events today to celebrate adoption and recognize the difference it makes in the lives of children and parents. I wanted to take a moment to do the same here.

    To birth parents who have placed a child for adoption, may you have peace in your heart today with the difficult decision that you made out of love. To adoptive and foster parents, may you have joy today as you parent your little ones, and may you have all the support you need to raise them happy and healthy. To adoptees, may you be surrounded by the love of family in its many definitions.

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

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