Archive for June, 2011

Adoptive Parents: Your Suggestions Wanted!

I’m very excited to have started planning a free informational seminar for prospective adoptive parents here in Northern Virginia in September. If you’ve ever wished you could have a couple of hours with an adoption lawyer for free, just to get you started on the right path, this is your chance! I will post more details when the time comes, but for now, I want to ask for help from my readers in planning the seminar. I’ve written a few questions below to get your thinking started about what makes a great adoption seminar. Adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, if you could take a moment to post in the comments or email me, I’d greatly appreciate it.

· If you have already adopted a child, is there anything that you wish someone had told you early on in the process?

· What is the best advice you got while you were preparing to adopt a child?

· If you are just getting started with the adoption process, what are you most curious to learn?

· If you have ever attended an adoption seminar, what did you think of it? Was it helpful? Accurate? Did you find it helpful (or would you have found it helpful) to hear from other adoptive parents, birth mothers, and adult adoptees?

Thanks for helping me prepare my seminar. I’ll post details as the time draws near — perhaps I’ll see you there!

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

The Gift of the Truth

In her book 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, (read my review here), Sherrie Eldridge tells a beautiful anecdote for adoptive families. Observing kids playing in the park, she noticed that when a child falls down and hurts himself, most parents will soothe the child by saying “you’re okay,” or “it’s not so bad,” or the one that I find most painful to hear, “be brave.” It is the rare, wise parent who says “that really hurt, didn’t it?” or “that was scary.” Not having his feelings denied makes the child feel heard, and he soon goes back to playing. Eldridge calls this “the gift of what is so,” and I agree that listening to and acknowledging feelings is a gift – one of the best gifts we can give to children and adults alike.

This gift of telling things as they are (rather than as we wish they were) is especially crucial for the hearts of adopted children. When a child is thinking about her birth mother and feeling sad, many parents’ automatic reaction is to say “but you have such a nice life here!” or “we are your family now.” This reflection of what the parent needs to hear, rather than what the child needs, and the result is most often that the child stops trusting the parent with her inner thoughts and daydreams. By contrast, what a wonderful gift for the child to receive “the gift of what is so” – having her feelings really heard, understood, and accepted as valid. “I can see you are feeling sad about your birth mother right now,” the parent might say, “It’s hard not to know what she’s like, isn’t it?”

To give this gift, parents must have the strength and wisdom to know that their child’s sad or angry feelings about adoption aren’t a criticism of the adoptive parents, they are simply normal feelings that most adopted children go through from time to time. Sending the message that it’s okay to express negative emotions gives your child a wonderful stepping stone towards self-acceptance. Denying negative emotions doesn’t make them go away, it merely turns them inward, where they can fester into guilt and shame.

Adoption is wonderful, but it is not always easy. Having the courage to give your child “the gift of what is so” could be the best gift you ever give to him or her.

I always cry when I hear stories about adoptive families practicing this skill, but go ahead – make me cry! Post your stories in the comments or drop me a line at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com. I’d love to hear from parents and adoptees alike.

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

Choose Your Adoption Agency with Care

Last month, the state of Iowa moved to revoke the license of adoption agency Abby’s One True Gift, citing multiple, serious violations of the adoption law. Examples of the alleged violations include:

· Pressuring adoptive parents into making quick decisions

· Encouraging adoptive parents to pay expenses for the birth mother that are not allowed under the adoption laws

· Failing to provide counseling to birth parents

· Withholding information that would allow adoptive parents to make informed choices.

As someone who knows several families who have used Abby’s One True Gift, I had heard a few troubling stories about adoptive parents being pressured to pay quickly and make quick decisions, but I was truly saddened to read the extent of these allegations. If true, these allegations paint a picture of an agency that has seriously abused its duty to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children.

It’s sad that we can’t simply trust all agencies to do the right thing, but it’s essential that both birth parents and adoptive parents be proactive in researching and choosing a reputable agency that treats all parties with integrity. The following tips are for both adoptive parents and birth parents.

Do your research. It’s a sad thing to say, because most people go to an agency in order to reduce the stress and work they put into the adoption process, but it is not a good idea to put all your trust in the agency. Do some research before you go to visit agencies, including what expenses are permitted to be paid to the birth mother in your state, what your rights are as an adoptive or birth parent, etc.

Ask questions. At your first meeting with the agency, ask questions – and lots of them. What expenses do adoptive parents pay for birth mothers (ask this even if you already know the answer under the law)? Does the birth mother receive counseling? Is the birth mother represented by an independent attorney? Do the adoptive parents receive counseling? Do the adoptive parents pay more if a placement doesn’t work out? What information can the prospective adoptive parents find out about the child and the birth parents? These and many more questions will help you get a feel for the agency’s practices.

Ask around. Get references from sources other than the agency itself. While the agency is sure to provide you with a list of references that it knows will give glowing reports, your local adoption support group, crisis pregnancy center, or other independent organization can get you in touch with unbiased people who have used the agency before. Call and ask how their experience was, including what they liked and disliked about the agency.

Pay attention to how you feel. As either a prospective adoptive parent or a birth parent, if you feel pressured, it’s time to leave and find another agency. Tactics such as telling an adoptive parent that they have to pay immediately or they will lose their placement, pressuring a birth parent to sign forms they haven’t read, or telling any party they have to give up something important (counseling, more time to think, more money than is legally required, etc.) in order to prevent the placement for falling through are unfortunately not uncommon. Adoption is stressful enough – if you feel that the agency is making it worse, don’t hesitate to go elsewhere.

Note that if you decide on private adoption, these tips apply to choosing an attorney as well. Check out this post for adoptive parents and this post for birth parents on choosing an adoption attorney to read more specific tips on choosing a reputable adoption lawyer.

Have you had a wonderful (or horrible) experience with an agency? Post it in the comments or email me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com. I always love to hear from you.

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

For Expectant Mothers: Preparing for Birth

If you are an expectant mother who has made an adoption plan, you might feel a little left out on the many pregnancy-related websites and online discussion boards. Although you share the pregnancy aches and pains and worries of other mothers, after birth takes place, your story is different. Some expectant mothers deal with this by deciding (consciously or subconsciously) not to think about birth. However, birth is a difficult event, and it helps to prepare for it. What’s more, you deserve a well-planned birth with excellent care just as much as any other mother. Here are five tips for making your birth experience easier.

Find a supportive provider. When you are choosing an obstetrician or midwife for your prenatal care, pick someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your adoption plan and who is supportive of it. Being able to be honest and open with your doctor about your adoption plan will make you feel more at ease, and you have nothing to hide! If your doctor seems disapproving or makes insensitive remarks about your adoption plan, don’t be shy about picking a different provider. You deserve the same supportive care that any other mother would receive.

Talk to the adoptive parents about your expectations at the hospital. If you have already found your baby’s adoptive family, have a heart-to-heart talk with them about how soon and how much you would like them to be around at the hospital. Some mothers are happy to have the adoptive parents in the delivery room with them, whereas others want to labor privately. Some are comfortable having the adoptive parents hold the baby immediately, while others want at least 24 hours of private time with the baby. There are no right or wrong answers – only what feels right to you. Talking these issues out in advance will make sure no one is unpleasantly surprised on Birth Day.

Make a birth plan. Once again, you are entitled to the same level of care as any other laboring mother, and that includes the right to decide what kind of birth you want. Do you want a natural childbirth? Are you dead-set on having an epidural as soon as possible? Do you want to breastfeed your baby when he is born? Do you prefer that the baby be taken to the nursery, or should she stay with you at all times? These are all good points to put in a birth plan. Be sure to also include the decisions that you have made with the adoptive family about how much they will be allowed to visit. Keep your birth plan as short and sweet as you can to make it easy for the hospital staff to read it quickly and know your wishes. Give a copy to your doctor and carry one in your hospital bag.

Tour the hospital. Most people feel more comfortable when they know what to expect, and seeing the hospital where you will deliver your baby will help set your mind at ease about birth. Try to see a delivery room and a postpartum recovery room, and learn details like how many people are allowed in the delivery room with you, how they handle emergencies, etc. If possible, use the opportunity to ask questions about how the hospital handles adoption cases, and learn the hospital’s rules about adoptive parents visiting. For example, you may need to sign special consent forms if you want to allow the adoptive parents want to visit outside of normal visiting hours. Although most hospital professionals are supportive of adoption (and some now even receive training on this), I have heard some very sad stories of birth mothers being treated like second-class citizens by hospital staff. If you get a bad vibe from asking about adoption on your hospital tour and using a different hospital is not an option, consider bringing a close friend, family member, or doula with you during labor to advocate for you and make sure you are treated with respect.

Plan for postpartum support and help. Even if you are not going home with a baby, you are still a recovering postpartum mother. During at least the first few days after birth (more for a cesarean section or complicated birth), it’s essential to get lots of rest, meaning no housework or errands. Make sure you plan for family or friends to help you during these days. If possible, choose someone who is emotionally supportive as well. It’s common to feel depression, anxiety, mood swings, panic, and a whole host of other emotions immediately after seeing your baby go home with another family. Having someone there to help you physically and emotionally will make these first days a little easier.

Do you have other tips for a smooth and healthy birth? 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.

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