Archive for August, 2011

A True Adoption Story – Part IV

In this fourth and final part of Susan and Mike’s adoption story, Susan shares her excellent tips for prospective adoptive parents. Many thanks again to Susan and Mike for sharing their beautiful story here! If you have an adoption story to share on the blog, or if you want to take Susan up on her offer to contact her with questions, write to me at evaughan (at) vaughanfirm (dot) com.

Part IV: Susan’s Tips for Prospective Adoptive Parents

So given our experience, what would I suggest to parents who are considering adoption or are in the midst of the process? Here are the major things that come to mind:

  • Be open-minded in considering what you are looking for. Like us, you may have one adoption scenario in mind and come to the conclusion that the polar opposite is just as good a fit, if not better. Give yourself the freedom to change your mind.
  • Give full credence to all your feelings as you adopt. There were times we were so angry that we had to tell a stranger about our finances, our child-rearing principles, our families, our medical histories all because our bodies had somehow “failed” us. There were times we felt so guilty that we were taking this child away from its mother. There were times we were frustrated by the process or by professionals with whom we worked. But every single day, we approached what we did with love, and our home and lives are so full of joy now that we would go through all of it again, knowing what was waiting for us on the other end.
  • An open adoption doesn’t have to be scary. Set your limits and communicate honestly with the birth family. In our case, Mary knows that Leah will never call her mom, that we will visit once a year, and that she has unlimited access to us electronically or by phone. This may not work for your family, or even more contact may work for your family. It is easier to set a small goal (we will send you a letter twice a year) and then add more contact as you are willing than to backpedal if something isn’t working for you. Be realistic and honest.
  • Try to be patient. We of course wanted there to be a baby for us the minute our home study was approved, but it just doesn’t work that way. We had a fairly short turnaround time, only 2 months after approval to a match and 4 months to a baby, but there is also a potential that the process can take a couple of years. Find things to do that fill your time and don’t necessarily involve children, so as to make the time go faster and to keep you busy.
  • There is no such thing as an ideal family—in a domestic situation, you never know what a birthparent is looking for. We considered ourselves bottom-of-the-barrel types who would not be chosen and yet we were chosen right away. Keep a positive outlook and present yourselves as a great family with a lot to offer!
  • Be honest about what you want. Don’t feel you have to “settle” for a situation just because it could lead you to a child more quickly. All children deserve a loving home where they are fully valued for everything that makes them who they are. Accepting a placement just because it’s quick or easy without really examining if you want a child from a different culture or race could lead to difficult times down the road. What works for our family may not work for yours, and there should be no judgment on anyone’s part that you accept or decline to consider special needs, certain age ranges, certain races, certain cultures, or gender.

Please feel free to contact me at any time with your questions or concerns about adoption. I could probably write volumes about the home study process, matching process, interviews, parent profile preparation, introducing your new family member, preparing for a trans-racial adoption, and more, but Elizabeth needs her blog back. Thanks for reading!

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

A True Adoption Story – Part III

Today, read about the birth of Susan and Mike’s baby girl and how they embarked on the life-long commitment to open adoption.

Part III: “We Hugged and Cried and Promised to Be An Extended Family.”

I could write volumes about the process from there out, but suffice it to say that unlike I had expected, I actually found myself wanting to have a relationship with this woman who was placing her trust in us to care for her child. She lived in a city just a few hours from us, and I got myself in the habit of visiting her weekly towards the end of her pregnancy, taking her to doctor’s appointments and spending time with her other child. She had our phone number and was able to call us any time she wanted to, and gave us her number so that we could call her. We managed each other’s insecurities beautifully, and Mary herself said that it seemed like a match made in heaven. We will never forget the day Mary and I went to the hospital to have an ultrasound done and the technician told us to expect a girl, not a boy! We still laugh about it to this day.

And finally the day came, Mary called and said she needed to go to the hospital. Twenty six hours and an emergency c-section later, Leah emerged into the world, kicking and screaming. Once she was cleaned up, I was the first person to hold her, and I whispered softly to her and took her to meet her father. The next days were a whirlwind of emotions—joy, grief, guilt, wonder, anxiety, and mostly, love. We took Mary home from the hospital, and enjoyed visits with her for several days afterwards while we waited for the paperwork to go through that would allow us to go home with Leah to our own home. Mary never wavered in her determination to let us have this child, and we never wavered in our determination that she would be able to call us or contact us via Facebook or email any time. We were impressed by her strength and bravery during the whole matter, and three weeks later, when her rights and the birthfather’s rights were finally terminated, the three of us formed a circle in the courthouse, Leah in the center, and we hugged and cried and promised to be an extended family.

We have stayed true to that determination. We have visited Mary 3 times since then, sent her lots of letters and pictures, our friends contributed cards and letters to an album for her, and we’ve shared innumerable phone calls and emails. She respects our boundaries, and she and her family have never tried to push their way into our lives, but are always happy and grateful to be included when we can make it possible.

As for Leah, what can I say? Every parent thinks their child is special, but to us, Leah is the most precious and amazing kid ever. She captivates everyone she meets, whether with her quirky habits (unlike her dad, she only eats vegetables which grownups find fascinating) or her sparkling personality (she loves to blow kisses and scream, “Hi!” to everyone in the grocery store). Elizabeth gave us a beautiful book called We Belong Together by Todd Parr, and we read it to her a lot. It’s one of her favorites and helps us incorporate the idea of adoption into her life from a very young age. Despite the external differences that might appear obvious between us, Leah has been fully accepted by our families, even members who suggested we should not adopt a child of another race.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the last part of Susan and Mike’s adoption story and read Susan’s tips for prospective adoptive parents!

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

A True Adoption Story – Part II

In the second part of Susan and Mike’s adoption story, Susan tells about how their expectations about adoption changed as they went through the process and learned more about their options.

We knew that China was tightening up its adoptive parent standards and probably would not accept us based on the disability issues, and so we decided on India. We went to the adoption seminar, which had speakers including attorneys and social workers, talking about all different types of adoption. And what we learned was that it was becoming far easier to adopt an infant domestically than it was internationally. With good reason, The Hague was tightening standards for international adoption, and it was taking a very long time to adopt overseas, but it was not taking as long to adopt from within the US. We took a card from one of the social workers who had presented and with whom we felt very comfortable, and contacted her very quickly.

Within three months, our home study was complete, and we had hired an adoption attorney, both of whom suggested to us that we should be proactive in our search for a child to adopt rather than wait around for an agency to find us a child. The most important part of the home study process for us was deciding on what kind of child we wanted. We both agreed we wanted a healthy infant, as we already have disability issues in our home that require a little extra work on our part. We wanted (or craved might be a better word) the experience of caring for an infant, as close to a newborn as possible. Other than that, we had no requirements. We did not care about gender and we did not care about race. Because this is fairly unusual in adoption, and particularly in domestic adoption, we were told we had probably cut our wait time in half, and that within a year, we could probably bring home an African-American infant with very little effort at all.

Our initial searches were very frustrating. We had one particularly negative experience around Christmas time that year in which an adoption attorney informed us we’d need to find much more cash before he could present us to his client as potential parents. Based on that interaction alone, we concluded that we would give the process one year and if it didn’t happen, then we would not renew our home study and get on with our lives.

And one month later, we got a call from an adoption agency halfway across the country that they had a birthmother interested in speaking with us, and were we interested in speaking with her? It turned out that in one of the many inquiries we had sent out to various agencies in December, we had found a fit, and here it was mid-January, and seemingly out of the blue, we were being considered! They coached us on the initial phone call, but there is nothing you can do to prepare for speaking to the woman who is considering giving you her child. We and the agency both felt it was most important to be upfront with the birthmom, who I will call Mary, about Mike’s disabilities, but from the beginning Mary did not care, nor did she care that we were Caucasian and she was African-American. We had a 10 minute chat via conference call, and then Mary and the agency hung up. Ten minutes later the phone rang, and we were told we were it—Mary wanted us! A baby boy was due in April, and he would be calling us Mom and Dad. We were delirious—laughing and crying, no idea who to call first or what to do with ourselves!

Can you relate to Susan and Mike’s experience so far? Tell us your experience in the comments! And be sure to come back tomorrow for Part III of Susan and Mike’s story, about the birth of their baby girl!

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

A True Adoption Story – Part I

When you are beginning your journey to adopt a child — especially during the seemingly endless waiting times — it can be helpful to read stories of those who have already been through the process and lived to tell the tale. My dear friends Susan and Mike were in that anxious period just a few years ago, waiting and wondering if they would ever have a child. Today they are the proud parents of two-year-old Leah through open, domestic newborn adoption. Their joyful and devoted parenting style and their commitment to a healthy open relationship with Leah’s birth mother are an inspiration. Susan has generously agreed to share her adoption story on Adoptivity in a four-part series. Today, meet Susan and Mike and learn how they came to choose adoption for their family.

Part I: Meet Susan and Mike

Hi everyone! Many thanks to Elizabeth for inviting me to write an article for her blog, a site I find inspiring and informative to all parents, pre- and post- adoption. My name is Susan and my husband Mike and I are adoptive parents of Leah, who is 2 years old.

In June 2008, my husband and I set about the odyssey that is adoption. It’s impossible to believe it’s been three years, and how radically our lives have changed. I hope in sharing some of our journey, I can express to you the importance of several key factors in pursuing an adoption of any kind: flexibility, openness, patience, and strength.

To give you some background… We had tried unsuccessfully for nearly 7 years to start a family. During that time, it became more and less important as various events in our lives occurred: periods of unemployment, moving to an entirely different state and part of the country, new careers, family responsibilities. It finally occurred to us when we bought our home, which of course came with lots of bedrooms that we intended to fill, and our car, a station wagon Mom-mobile, that there was probably something going on that we weren’t getting pregnant. We decided to undergo medical testing, but we also agreed that if there was “something”, regardless of what that something was, we were going to pursue adoption. And of course, just a couple of weeks later, we found out there was indeed something, and immediately joined Resolve, the National Infertility Association (resolve.org). I was thrilled to discover after joining that they were holding a seminar on adoption near our home, and signed us up to attend.

Mike and I talked about what we wanted in an adoption plan. For years, I’d been watching Adoption Stories on the now-defunct Discovery Health Channel, and always had in mind that I’d adopt someday. Based on the stories I’d seen, I felt comfortable that we should adopt internationally, given that I did not want contact with the birth family, and I felt that probably no one in the US would accept us as the adoptive family to their infant. Why? Because Mike is multiply disabled, being both totally blind and partially deaf. We could not imagine that there was a birthparent out there who would look at us and say, “I want them!” despite the fact that once our baby arrived, we did intend for me to quit working, as Mike’s career track and income made that more than possible.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to learn how Susan and Mike’s expectations changed as they learned more about adoption, and how they chose between domestic and international adoption.

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

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