Archive for February, 2011

The Waiting

The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you get one more yard.
You take it on faith; you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part.
- Tom Petty

Many adoptive parents will tell you that the hardest part of the adoption process was not the forest of paperwork, not the fees and bureaucracy, but the tension and tedium of waiting to be matched with a child. Prospective adopters in this stage of the process tend to feel a whirlwind of emotions, including despair (“I’m never going to get to be a parent.”), anger (“It’s not fair that I have to jump through all these hoops to be a parent, while others just get pregnant by accident!”), doubt (“is the agency really doing all they can to help me?”), and just plain longing to hold their child. Fortunately, there is more that you can do than just listening to Tom Petty songs to get you through this difficult time. Read on.

1. Make sure you have someone to talk to about your feelings. All difficult emotions are more difficult when you feel isolated. This can be especially hard when couples have two different styles of dealing with the stress, as when one partner wants to talk it out while the other needs to process it internally. Find an understanding friend, a family member, or a counselor to talk to about your feelings.

2. Join a support group for adopting families. One great way to find people who understand precisely what you’re going through is to join a support group created just for families like yours. Most communities have at least one support group for adoptive families. Your adoption agency or attorney should be able to give you a list of such groups in your area. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can find a wealth of support online, too.

3. Get busy. Telling a waiting adoptive parent to get their mind off the adoption is a little like telling someone not to think about a purple elephant — it just makes it worse! However, the truth is that getting involved in other activities will help the time pass more quickly by occupying your mind with other things. Now is the perfect time to take that dance class you’ve been meaning to take, take on the household projects you’ve been putting off, or find a new hobby that interests you. If money is tight (and isn’t it always, during an adoption?), volunteer work is not only free, it’s also the best way I know to get your mind off your own worries.

4. Educate yourself. You will never have more time than you have right now to learn about the special issues you will face as an adoptive parent. Read and learn as much as you can about parenting adopted children (see my recommended reading list here). If you know the race, age, ethnicity, or special needs of your child, be sure to include some books that are specific to parenting an adopted child with those characteristics. One adoptive mom I know used the waiting period to learn how to cook Chinese food for her daughter, who was being adopted from China.  In addition to reading, talking to other adoptive parents and getting involved in the adoptee community are both great ways to prepare to be the parent your child needs. There is no better way to spend this time!

5. Remember the reward. There is a simple but powerful truth beneath the waiting process in adoption: If you don’t give up, you will get a child. I’ll say that again. If you don’t give up, you will get a child. It may take a long time; it may be frustrating, but the end result will be worth it a thousand times over. As one wise adoptive parent once told me, “everything will be all right in the end. If it isn’t all right, it isn’t the end.” If you don’t have your child yet, it isn’t the end.

Do you have more tips for getting through the waiting process? Post them in the comments or email them 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.

Adoptee Access to Birth Records

Although my clients are primarily birth parents and adoptive parents, I try to stay plugged in to what is going on in the adult adoptee community. Why? Because as someone who is devoted to what I call a “child-centered adoption practice,” I believe that there is no one more qualified to tell me what is in the best interests of adopted children than adults who were adopted as children. For that reason, I am keenly interested in the adoptee-rights movement to change the laws regarding birth certificates for adopted children.

In most states, when a child is adopted, he or she will be issued a new birth certificate listing the adoptive parents’ names, exactly as if the child had been born to them. The original birth certificate is then placed under seal, meaning that not even the adopted child or the birth parents can access it without a court order. While on the surface it may seem to make sense that the adoptive parents, as the child’s only legal parents, should be treated in this way in the records, this practice causes several fundamental injustices. Most glaringly, it denies an entire group of people (adoptees) access to the basic facts of their own lives. It can cause embarrassment and invasion of privacy to adoptees who are forced to explain that they are adopted in cases where an employer or government agency requires an original birth certificate, while they have only an amended one. It hides the identity of birthmothers, whether the birthmothers themselves wish to be hidden or not. And even if you don’t feel strongly about adoptees’ and birthmothers’ rights, you must admit it is a little disturbing that the government has the power to change the recorded facts about events.

I have more mixed feelings about laws that keep original birth records open except in the event that the birthmother wishes to remain anonymous. Drawing the line between adoptee rights and birthmother rights is a difficult question, for me. Still, there is no question that the law as it stands today is in need of improvement.

I encourage adoptive parents and birth parents to get involved in the adoptee community to show adoptees that you care about their rights. One place to start is The Adoptee Rights Demonstration.

This is a hot-button topic and I know many of you have opinions about it! 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.

An Eloquent Young Advocate for Family Equality

I was floored by the eloquence and poise of 19-year-old Zach Wahls in the video clip below. Wahls spoke to the Iowa House of Representatives in opposition to Iowa House Joint Resolution 6, which would amend the Iowa constitution to end civil unions in that state. If he speaks this beautifully at 19, I think gay and lesbian parents have a formidable advocate in Wahls.

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

Adopting from Abroad? Meet Your Friend the U.S. Department of State.

If you have begun exploring the idea of international adoption, you already know that it can be confusing and overwhelming. There is a mishmash of information on the internet, most of it disorganized, and some of it inaccurate, some of it contradictory. Where is a prospective adoptive parent to start?

One good source of information is the U.S. Department of State website. The Department site has a wealth of information, including:

  • An excellent introduction to international adoption for those just getting started with the process.
  • Information about each country from which Americans can adopt, including recent notices and alerts regarding changes to the adoption laws.
  • A clear explanation of what the Hague Convention is and a list of countries that are parties to the Hague Convention.
  • A list of adoption providers who are accredited to do adoptions under the Hague Convention, and also a list of those who have been denied accreditation.
  • Information about obtaining a visa for your child so he or she can legally travel to the United States.
  • An annual report on adoption, including how many international adoptions were finalized, and how many were from each country. You can read this year’s report here.

    With all this information in one place, written in plain English, you can see why the U.S. Department of State is your rather unexpected new best friend. Do you have other great sources of adoption information? Post them in the comments or email them 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.

  • Adoption in the Media

    I’ve noticed a lot of positive adoption stories in the news during the past year or so, such as this one about the Tully family and this one about twins adopted from China by separate families. This makes me happy, because in the past, the media have tended to cover only negative adoption stories, such as heart-wrenching custody disputes or abusive adoptive parents. While these sad stories may make good headlines, I think it’s important that we show the public the positive difference that adoption usually makes in the lives of children and families.

    If I could wave my magic wand and change the way that the media covers adoption, I would want to see more stories about healthy open adoptions. Most of the families I know with open adoptions have remarkable stories that anyone would consider a good read, and I think the public is currently in the dark about the prevalence of open adoption and its positive outcomes. Second, I would want to see better coverage of the birth parents’ side of the story in adoption. Particularly in cases where custody is contested, like the Baby Emma case, news coverage tends to focus on the grief and anger of the adoptive parents, with less concern for the birth mothers and fathers who are equally wounded by the experience. I think that showing a balanced view of the situation and focusing on the best interests of the child could start a really interesting public dialogue about how we can improve adoption in the U.S.

    What do you think about media coverage of adoption? Is it too negative? Too rosy? Is it fair to all parties? Weigh in on this topic in the comments or send me an email 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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