Archive for January, 2011

Single Parent Adoption

Even in 2011, when single parenting is quite common and single celebrities seem to be adopting left and right, adopting as a single parent poses special challenges. However, single people do adopt successfully! Read these tips to increase your chances of being one of them.

  • Surround yourself with the right professionals. Unfortunately, there are still adoption agencies that will not consider single-parent applicants. More insidiously, some will gladly take your money but won’t tell you that being single puts you on the bottom of their waiting list, making you unlikely to be matched with a child. Be sure to ask questions about the agency’s policy toward single parents, including whether the average wait time is longer than it is for couples. Many single adoptive parents find it easier to do a private (non-agency) adoption using an attorney. Whichever route you choose, make sure you use professionals who support your adoption and with whom you feel comfortable.

  • Do your homework. Twice. When approaching an agency or attorney and when preparing for your home study, it helps if you have an answer to every question they might toss your way. Write out a financial plan showing how you will support the child. Do research into child care options in your area. Join an adoptive parent support group, and have a list of family and friends in mind who will support your parenting. Not only will this show that you have thought your decision through, it has the added benefit of helping you be more prepared to adopt. It may also help you enlist the support of friends and relatives who are skeptical about your choice to parent alone.

  • Don’t rule out international. Many people have the mistaken impression that single parents cannot adopt internationally. While some countries do not accept single applicants for adoption, there are several that do. Consult your adoption agency or attorney for an up-to-date list.

  • Be open-minded…to a point. Many articles and websites stress that single adoptive parents must be open to adopting any child, including older children and those with special needs. While it is true that statistically you are more likely to be matched with a child if you are open to any child, I am uncomfortable with this advice. It is especially important for single parents to realistically assess their own wishes and capabilities. Adopting a child with special needs takes a tremendous amount of energy, patience, and support, and not every single parent is able to provide that (frankly, not every married parent is able to provide it, either!). I was appalled to see one website recommend that single parents adopt an older child because it is easier for professionals with busy schedules! This is simply not true, and older children have special needs that not every single parent is prepared to meet (see my review of author’s Toddler Adoption here). While it’s wonderful to be open minded, it is crucial to be honest with yourself about what is best for you and, more importantly, for the child. During your decision-making process, I highly recommend the book Adopting on Your Own by Lee Veron, which has numerous exercises to help you decide what type of adoption is right for you.

  • Persistence pays. There’s no doubt about it: Adopting as a single parent is more challenging than adopting as part of a couple. Persistence is the characteristic that sets single adoptive parents apart. In particular, don’t be discouraged by those who say that an expectant mother will never choose a single person to parent her baby. Every mother making an adoption plan is different, and there are those who prefer single parents, perhaps because the mother was raised by a single parent herself, or simply because she feels a rapport with you. Rather than trying to guess what expectant mothers want, focus on what you want for your family, and be persistent.

    Are you a single adoptive parent? Do you have tips or stories to share? 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.

  • A Haitian Adoption Story

    The Washington Post ran this heartwarming story today about adoption from Haiti. Ila Yslande Ann Hubner, now 4 years old, was an orphan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Hubner family had been trying to adopt Ila for four years, her homecoming continually delayed by bureaucrasy, when the massive earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010. The plight of orphans after the earthquake prompted Haitian and U.S. officials to expedite the adoption process for families who had already been in the adoption process when the earthquake struck. Just 11 days after the earthquake, little Ila arrived at Orlando airport in an aircraft carrier to meet her adoptive family. Her adoption was finalized last Thursday in the Circuit Court of Frederick County, Maryland.

    I liked that the Post article was honest about the challenges of adopting an older child without being defeatist. The article mentions that Ila struggled with health problems, behavioral problems, and the kind of emotional and sleep disturbances that are typical of children who have survived trauma. But the article also takes note that the Hubners are working through these problems day by day, and greatly enjoying the many joys of having Ila in their family.

    What did you think of the story? Post your impressions 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.

    Preparing Your Child for an Adopted Sibling

    The decision to add to your family through adoption is exciting and stressful for all members of the family, including kids. Talking thoughtfully with your children about the arrival of an adopted sibling can head off problems with jealousy, insecurity, and confusion. Try these seven tips for preparing your children for the arrival of an adopted brother or sister.

    1. Talk about what adoption is and how it works. Whether your first child is adopted or not, now is a great time to open (or re-open) the conversation about adoption. Talk about the many ways that families are formed, and point out other adoptive families that you know. If your first child is adopted, talk about how this adoption may be the same or different from her adoption. Stay open to answering her questions about her own adoption, and don’t be surprised if this new adoption brings up some of your child’s emotions about her own adoption. If your first child is not adopted, this is a great opportunity to introduce him to what adoption is and how it works. Your child may surprise you with questions about how you knew that you could parent him when he was born, rather than placing him for adoption.

    2. Share when it feels right. Some experts say that about six weeks before the birth or travel to meet your prospective adopted child is plenty for children under five, who may have trouble understanding long time frames. However, I also know families who have included their small children in the adoption process from square one. The bottom line is, only you know your family, so only you can know when is the best time to bring up the subject of adoption. Just be sure you leave enough time (a few weeks at a minimum) for your child to understand what will happen before the new adoptee arrives.

    3. Involve your child in the process. Showing your child pictures of the new baby, letting him help with your adoption profile or dossier, and letting him help pick out nursery items or a special toy for his little brother or sister will help your child feel included in the adoption process. If you are adopting from a different country than your child’s country of origin, do some research together to learn what the new arrival’s country is like and what traditions they celebrate there. Keeping your child involved in the process will reduce feelings of resentment or jealousy that many children feel when a new brother or sister comes home.

    4. Emphasize that your family and your child are not on trial. Sometimes when adoptions are delayed or fall through, children blame themselves. Be sure to explain to your child that everyone knows that your family is a good family; it’s just that the birth mother has to decide if the adoption is just right for her and the baby, too. Emphasize that adoption is a hard decision for the birth mother and that it is important that it be absolutely right for everyone (“This is a really big decision for [birth mother's name], and she needs to be sure she is doing the right thing for her baby.”).

    5. Talk about the good and the bad. When preparing your children for adoption, talk about the good things that having a new brother or sister will bring (like having someone to play with and someone who will look up to the child), and also the aspects that your child may be less thrilled with (like having to mommy and daddy’s time with the new baby).

    6. Remember that it ain’t over ’til it’s over. One of the most important things to remember when talking to children about adopting another child is never to tell your child that the new adoptee is part of your “forever family” until that is legally true. Many experts suggest telling your child that you are “babysitting” the new arrival or that she is “sleeping over” until the birth parents and the court decide whether adoption is the best plan for this baby. An adoption that falls through is painful for the whole family, but even more so for a child who is not prepared for this possibility. Also, it can be extremely frightening for young children who are told that the new baby is part of their “forever family” if the adoption later falls through, because the child may believe that he, too, could be taken away from your family. When termination papers are signed and revocation periods expired is the time to tell your child that the new adoptee is his brother or sister.

    7. Use books as conversation starters. There are several great children’s books on the subject of adoption. Check some out from your local library and add them to your bedtime reading to help get your children comfortable talking about adoption. A few of my favorites are A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza, Adoption:Let’s Talk About It by Mister Rogers, Sam’s Sister by Juliet C. Bond, and We Belong Together and The Family Book, both by Todd Parr. There are many more!

    8. Get other family members and caregivers on the same page. Talk to your child’s extended family members, day care providers, teachers, etc. about how to talk about adoption with your child. Even people who mean very well can confuse a child by saying things like “are you excited to be a big brother?” before the adoption is final. Encourage them to use positive adoption language as well.

    Do you have a great story or tip about talking to kids about adopting another child? Post it 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.

    The Adoption Tax Credit: The Basics

    Kudos to The Dave Thomas Foundation for posting this informative video explaining the Adoption Tax Credit, including the recent changes to it, in simple terms. If you are adopting or thinking about adopting, check it out!

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

    Gay and Lesbian Parents: 5 Things to Tell Your Child’s Teachers

    School and daycare present opportunities for kids and teachers alike to learn about the many different types of families out there. For gay and lesbian parents of adopted children, a quick talk with your child’s teacher or caregiver at the beginning of the year goes a long way towards helping your child’s classmates learn about your family. At your next parent-teacher conference, consider bringing up the following five questions to help the teacher know your preferences in talking about your family.

    1. What does your child call each of you at home? (e.g. “mama” and “mom”)

    2. How would you like the teacher to refer to you, individually and together? (e.g., “Jimmy’s mom,” “Jimmy’s parents”)

    3. How do you prefer that the teacher refers to your family when the class is talking about families?

    4. Do you celebrate Mother’s Day and/or Father’s Day?

    5. Is the teacher familiar with positive adoption terminology? If not, it’s a great opportunity to gently educate them!

    Do you have other questions to add to this list? 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.

    Adoption and Abortion: Both Have Emotional Consequences

    One thing that I find greatly troubling about many pro-adoption web sites is that they tell expectant mothers that they should choose adoption over abortion because abortion has been shown to have serious psychological and emotional consequences.

    First of all, I want to be extremely clear: I love adoption and think it is a wonderful choice. As an adoption lawyer and child advocate, I am just about the last person on earth who would advise anyone to have an abortion instead of making an adoption plan. With that said, though, I think that websites that urge women to choose adoption because it has fewer “psychological and emotional consequences” are doing birth parents a real disservice. The truth is, adoption has serious psychological and emotional consequences, too. All the birth mothers I know describe placing their child for adoption as the hardest thing they have ever done. It is very common for birth parents to experience feelings of grief, depression, guilt, panic, and loss long after the adoption is finalized. For this reason, I recommend counseling to all my birth-parent clients.

    Is this a reason not to choose adoption for your child? Certainly not. But I believe that parents who are making an adoption plan have the right to go into adoption with open eyes, and to not be taken by surprise by the strong emotions they will feel after placement. There are dozens of beautiful reasons to choose adoption over abortion, but a lack of emotional consequences is simply not one of them.

    If your adoption professional does not show understanding and respect for the emotional process that you are going through as a birth parent, consider changing to another agency or attorney. You have the right to be represented by professional who support you before, during, and after the adoption takes place.

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

    Remembering Haiti – Why Adoption Isn’t Always the Solution

    On the anniversary of the massive earthquake in Haiti, this report from the organization Save the Children is especially timely. It is a clear, experience-based report on why adopting children and funding orphanages is not the best way to help children in crisis situations like the Haiti earthquake. Here are a few of the reasons:

  • Hasty adoptions increase the very real risk that children who still have living family members nearby will be adopted abroad. It is often difficult or impossible for their families to get them back.
  • Research shows that children who have suffered trauma do best with familiar people and surroundings. If it is possible to safely keep the child among people he knows and trusts, who speak his own language, in familiar surroundings, that is generally best for the child.
  • Placing too heavy an emphasis on funding orphanages gets fewer resources to children who are not orphans but who are still in crisis. Often, families in crisis bring their children to orphanages even when they have living relatives to care for them, simply because the orphanages have the resources. In Indonesia, for example, many of the children in orphanages were placed there by their families so that they could get an education.
  • The report also suggests that some orphanages actively block efforts to reunite non-orphaned children with their families because they have to have a certain quota of children in order to keep their funding.
  • The report concludes that a better way to protect children is to get funds to children who are being cared for within families as well as those in institutional care, and to put a hold on adoptions until serious efforts can be made to reunite children with their families.Wanting to “rescue” children in crisis situations is a noble feeling, but it’s essential that we make sure we are really doing what’s best for them. I applaud Save the Children for this important work.

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

    Not Every Change is a Change of Heart

    There’s a phrase that I end up saying to adoptive parents in my practice at least once in every case. It usually arises shortly after the baby’s birth. “The birth mother’s feelings of loss and grief, and wanting to spend time with the baby during these first days, do not mean she is changing her mind,” I tell them.

    It’s normal for adoptive parents to feel anxiety or even panic when they see the birth mother and her family holding and spending a lot of time with the baby, especially if this is not what the parties had originally planned. They may be alarmed by the mother’s tears, worrying that her feelings of grief and loss may cause her to change her mind about the adoption. However, this is very rarely the case. Here are a few tips for getting through this stressful time with your sanity – and your relationship with the baby’s mother – intact.

    1. Talk about your plans in advance – but be flexible. While it’s a good idea to talk about everyone’s expectations in advance, know that it is also very common for plans to change after the baby is born. A mother who has made an adoption plan might expect that she will be fine with seeing the baby only through the nursery window, but after the baby is born she might find that she wants to hold the baby. This is not the time to try to enforce what the birth mother told you before the birth as if it is a contract. As hard as it is, it is kinder and will do less damage to your relationship if you let her take these last moments with the baby. This leads me straight to my next tip…

    2. Recall that these are the only moments the birth mother and her family will have with the baby. The moments after the baby’s birth are some of the hardest that the birth mother will ever face in her life. It’s normal for her to need some time with the baby to say goodbye. Remember the amazing thing she is doing for your family by making an adoption plan, and know that you will get your time to bond with the baby very soon.

    3. Know that feeling grief is not the same thing as changing your mind. Placing a baby for adoption is one of the hardest things that any person can do, and it would be strange if the birth mother didn’t show grief and loss. I have seen placing mothers cry in the hospital, cry when signing the custody documents, cry in court during the finalization, all the while being no less sure that they are doing the right thing by placing their children for adoption. Rather than being panicked by her grief, realize that it is natural and try to be there for her to the extent that doing so feels appropriate in your relationship with her.

    4. Prepare yourself mentally for this time. Think about the days following the birth and how you want to respond to the birth mother as she prepares for the adoption. Try to think of any time that you get to spend with the baby as a gift, rather than an entitlement. After all, this is still the birth mother’s baby for the moment, and it’s appropriate for her to get a chance to say goodbye.

    During the hours and days after the baby is born, emotions run high. The anxiety of the adopting parents and the grief of the birth family often conflict, but with a little preparation and a lot of understanding, you can weather this time with grace.

    Do you have more tips for controlling pre-adoption stress? Leave 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.

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