Archive for the 'Adoption Resources' Category

Free Adoption Seminar in Northern Virginia

It’s that time of year again! To kick off National Adoption Month, The Vaughan Firm is holding a free adoption seminar on Saturday, November 2 at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Leesburg, Virginia. If you live in Northern Virginia, this is the perfect opportunity to learn about adoption from start to finish and get your questions answered. We always talk about how to choose the right adoption type for your family, how to get started with the process, the timing and cost of adoption, and much more. In addition to an adoption lawyer (my charming self), guest speakers will also include a birth mother and a consultant on making a compelling adoptive family profile. For more information and to register, go to the seminar registration page. Hope to see you there!

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

Adoption Basics Seminar This Weekend!

If you are in the Northern Virginia area and considering adopting a child, don’t miss The Vaughan Firm’s free seminar, Adoption Basics, this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Leesburg, Virginia. Topics covered include:

  • Getting started with your adoption plan
  • Deciding between agency and private adoption
  • Deciding between domestic and international adoption
  • Deciding between open and closed adoption
  • Raising enough money to adopt
  • What to expect from a home study
  • …and much more!
  • As always, we will save time at the end for your questions. Hope to see you there! For more information and to register, visit the seminar website.

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

    New Titles Added to Our Library

    The Vaughan Firm added three new titles to our adoption library today:

    Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina
    Adopting the Older Child by Claudia L. Jewett
    Journey of the Adopted Self by Betty Jean Lifton

    Reviews will be forthcoming shortly, but in the meantime, if any of my readers have read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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

    A Support Resource for Anyone in an Open Adoption

    I just learned about Open Adoption Support, a lovely support community for any person involved in an open adoption – adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees alike. Adoptive mother Dawn Friedman has created a safe, ad-free space for members of the “adoption triad” to talk about the issues, challenges, joys, and questions that arise in open adoption. What most attracted me to their site initially was their list of beliefs:

      Our Beliefs
  • We honor the connection adoptees have to both of their families.
  • We recognize the love and joy as well as the losses and grief of adoption.
  • We do not diminish one family in favor of another.
  • We are flexible, understanding that needs and circumstances change.
  • We set boundaries on the basis of what is best for our children.
  • We understand that open adoption looks like different things for different families.

    I think this list should be posted on the wall in every home that has been touched in any way by open adoption. What do you think? Is there anything you would add to this list?

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

  • International Adoption: Choosing a Country

    Some families who have decided to adopt a child already have a specific country in mind. Perhaps a particular country speaks to their hearts because of their own cultural heritage, or perhaps a natural or political disaster has made them feel called to open their home to a child from a particular country. Other families know they’d like to adopt internationally, but aren’t sure which country interests them. Whether you know which country you’d like to adopt from or you are just beginning to learn about international adoption, it’s important to understand the laws that will impact your adoption.

    The Hague Convention

    The most important factor you’ll encounter when choosing a country is whether that country is a member of The Hague Adoption Convention (for a list of Hague Convention countries, click here). Adoptions from Hague Convention countries have several additional requirements that are designed to protect children. An adoption from a Hague Convention country can only be done through an agency that is licensed by the U.S. State Department to conduct such adoptions. Adoptions under the Convention have many more bureaucratic requirements, but it’s important to know that the requirements are intended to protect children from trafficking and to try to find them homes in their own countries before sending them abroad for adoption. Thus, the fact that a country is a Hague country is not a reason to rule it out! It simply means that the adoption must take place through a Hague-accredited agency and will have more legal steps to complete.

    The Laws of the Country of Origin
    Each country has different laws about:

    • Who may adopt a child Factors such as age, marital status, health, and number of children already in the household affect which country you may adopt from.
    • Who may be adopted The age of the child and how long they have been eligible for adoption are the most common factors affecting what children may be adopted internationally. It is rare to be able to adopt a child under 18 months of age from any country.
    • Characteristics that the adoptive parents may choose Some countries allow adoptive parents to request a certain gender or ethnicity, while others do not.
    • Travel The number of visits to the country and how long you must stay each time will vary depending on the individual country’s laws.
    • Information shared Some countries are notorious for giving very little or even false information about the medical and social history of adopted children, while others share such information fairly readily.
    • Wait times and red tape Each country has different documentation requirements and different wait times for an adoption to be processed.
    • Common health and psychological problems Some countries have a higher prevalence than others of health issues such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, attachment disorders, malnutrition, etc.

    More Information
    The best source of reliable, up-to-date information about the requirements for adopting a child from another country is the U.S. Department of State. At their website, they list information about each country, a guide to understanding the Hague Convention, and up-to-the-minute alerts regarding changes in a country’s adoption requirements. There is also information about obtaining a visa for your internationally adopted child. A reliable agency or adoption attorney can also give you information about the laws and requirements of different countries and help you to choose the right adoption type for your family.

    Have you adopted a child from another country? What was your experience with the process like? Share 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 Great Resource for Adoption Questions

    I bet that when you hear the words “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” you don’t immediately think, “WOW, I can’t wait to go to their website!” But if you are a prospective adoptive parent or are thinking about placing your baby for adoption, you should! While it may not sound exciting, DHHS has a great website where you can search for adoption laws by state. There’s no more convenient way that I know of for the general public to learn about their local adoption laws, and it’s completely free. Check them out here.

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

    What Does Your Attorney Do For You?

    This blog is to provide helpful and interesting information to the adoption community, and I try not to spend many pixels here tooting my own horn. But today I was drinking my coffee and thinking about client service and how proud I am of what my practice has to offer. Here are just a few of the things I offer my clients on a daily basis. Does your lawyer offer these services to you? If not, maybe you should ask them!

  • Explaining the different types of adoption and how to choose the best type for your family
  • Lending out books from my lending library
  • Referring clients to social workers, counselors, pediatricians, OB/GYNs, support groups, other attorneys, and more (did I say babysitters? A lot of people ask me for good babysitters!)
  • Explaining how to protect children with a will and/or guardianship
  • Advising about insurance coverage for a child in the process of being adopted, including medicaid
  • Helping families who want a private adoption to make adoptive family profiles, websites, “Dear Birthmother” letters, and other materials to find a child to adopt
  • Advising families who are adopting or have adopted internationally about immigration issues
  • Educating people about the scientific research on attachment in children and child psychology
  • Explaining the laws regarding gay and lesbian parents in Virginia
  • Referring people to grants and loans for adoption, as well as explaining the Adoption Tax Credit
  • Acting as a “mailbox” between adoptive families and birth parents if they don’t want to exchange addresses but do want to exchange pictures and letters.
  • Helping adoptive families and birth parents negotiate a post-adoption contract, if they want one.
  • Handing out tissues, because the adoption process can be emotional for both adoptive parents and birth parents!
  • Returning client calls after business hours, because there are some adoption questions that can’t wait until morning.
  • Good adoption lawyers do far more than simply file court papers. What do you think? What other services does your adoption lawyer provide, or what services do you wish they provided? Leave a comment 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.

    Book Review: The Adoptive and Foster Parent Guide

    As someone who works with adoptive and foster families, it has always astonished and frustrated me that there wasn’t a good resource for these families for dealing with their children’s issues of trauma and loss at home. It would have to be professionally written and evidence-based, but also accessible and easy for busy parents to read. I’m thrilled that now such a resource exists in Carol Lozier’s new book, The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide.

    You may remember Carol from this interview that I did with her in 2010. She is a clinical social worker (MSW, LCSW) with over 20 years’ experience working with children and families, with a focus on adoption and foster care issues. Carol obviously knows the value of a good therapist in working with children who have experienced trauma, but she also realized that 99 percent of the issues that families struggle with arise at home, not in the therapist’s office. Parents need tools that they can use at home, in the moment, when behaviors related to trauma and loss arise. This book provides them with exactly those tools.

    The book is organized “magazine style,” making it easy to dip in at any point in the book and learn what you need to know if you don’t have time to read it cover to cover. It teaches parents how to distinguish normal bumps in the road of childhood from issues related to past trauma. It goes over the psychology of attachment in terms that are easy to understand. Most importantly, it gives parents strategies that they can use immediately and every day with their children to open up the lines of communication and help heal the emotional scars of trauma and loss. While there are many books that teach parents to make children feel secure and talk about adoption in a respectful way, Lozier gives parents the tools of a therapist to get to the heart of the matter and help heal the wounds of the past. The scripts, exercises, games, and tips in the book fill the need that so many adoptive and foster parents express when they lament, “sometimes I just don’t know what to do.” Speaking of parents who feel overwhelmed, Lozier also includes a chapter on self-care for parents and caregivers, providing an important reminder that we can’t care for children if we don’t first care for ourselves.

    The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide fills a need in the adoption community, and I believe it will change many adoptive and foster families for the better.

    The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide is available at the Forever Families website.

    Got a book for me to read? Check out my book review policy.

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

    Book Review: 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed

    There are a great many books on the market about how to adopt, and a fair number about parenting adopted children, but precious few about truly understanding the heart and mind of the adopted child. As an adult adoptee, Sherrie Eldridge has such a heart and mind, and she shares it with adoptive parents in her book 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. Like Eldridge’s earlier book, 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, this book goes straight to the heart of the matter and addresses the strong emotions that both adoptees and their adoptive parents struggle with on a daily basis. These are books to read early, often, and with a box of tissues nearby. They will touch your heart and help you draw closer to your child.

    What I most appreciate about Sherrie Eldridge’s books is that she recognizes that the adoptive parent’s needs and the child’s needs are inextricably linked. Unless you are confident and secure and have worked out your own emotional issues, Eldridge states, you can’t be at your best for your child. 20 Things reads like a talk with a good friend: She offers support and encouragement while also giving adoptive parents tough love by reminding them that they must be the adults by getting past their own feelings of loss and insecurity to better heal the emotional wounds that every adopted child carries. Eldridge also has an unfailing sense of what adoptive parents want and need to know. Topics covered include:

    · The importance of creating an environment where your child feels safe telling you the truth

    · When and how to talk to kids about adoption

    · How babies experience separation and loss, and how to help them

    · Embracing the “differentness” of adoption

    · Getting emotionally healthy so you can help your child get healthy, too

    · Dealing with insensitive remarks from others about adoption

    · Finding appropriate ways to honor birth parents

    · Mixed feelings – both yours and your child’s

    · Why perfectionism isn’t perfect…or even good for you or your child.

    Eldridge’s chapters are peppered with tips for helping adopted children at every age, interesting statistics, and great suggestions for further reading. At the end of each chapter she includes a set of exercises for families to do together as well as a set of exercises for adoption support groups.

    If I had one criticism to make about 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, it would be the emphasis on spirituality and religion, which Eldridge sees as crucial for adopted children. While this is understandable given the importance of faith in Eldridge’s own adoption journey, many families will be uncomfortable with her suggestion that spirituality is indispensable for adopted kids. I applaud Eldridge’s conviction, but I’m a firm believer that families of all different backgrounds and beliefs can make great adoptive families.

    That said, like 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed is a must-read for parents in any stage of the adoption process, from those considering adoption to parents of adult adoptees. These books will tell you truths that you may not want to hear, but that your adopted child absolutely needs you to know and understand.

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

    Adoptivity Goes to the Movies

    Let’s face it: Sitting down with a book is not everyone’s favorite way to learn. I got curious about whether there were any adoption-related movies out there to help people learn more about adoption topics. I found two that fascinated me, one great resource, and also a surprising gap. Make some popcorn and check them out!

    “The Giving” is a documentary by Mary Durnin Firth that has won awards for Best Documentary at four different film festivals. The film is a touching and eye-opening group of interviews with mothers who chose to place their babies for adoption. It follows each mother from pregnancy through placement, and the DVD also includes extended interviews with these mothers in addition to ones in the documentary itself. The film utterly blows away the myth that birth mothers are lazy, uncaring, and irresponsible or that they choose to place their babies out of any lack of love. I call it a must-see for adoptive parents, mothers considering adoption for their babies, and mothers who have already placed their babies for adoption. For those of you who are my clients, I am ordering a copy of the DVD for my lending library, so let me know if you would like to borrow it. Meanwhile you can watch the trailer here.

    The second movie that caught my eye this week is “Living Adoption: Gay Parents Speak.” (click the link and scroll down to the bottom to watch the trailer) This documentary is also a series of interviews, this time with gay and lesbian adoptive parents. Each family speaks about their experiences throughout the adoption process, including adopting from foster care, being conspicuous in their communities, and special issues of raising adopted teens. I am fascinated by this film and would love to see it, but I have to admit I got sticker shock at the price tag. Seriously, guys? $100 for a 21-minute video? It’s really unfortunate that the film’s creators have priced it out of reach of most of the people who would benefit from it (and I think everyone would benefit from seeing these beautiful families). I’m keeping an eye out for screenings of the film in my area, and if the price comes down I will certainly add it to my library.

    On a lighter note, I was thrilled to see that the Mister Rogers Neighborhood episodes on adoption are available on DVD through Most people don’t know that Mister Rogers had a sister who was adopted. Most people also don’t know that he did this wonderful week-long series called “Families Come in All Shapes and Sizes,” in which he talks about what adoption is and some of the feelings kids might have about it, then goes on to explore different kinds of families (both human and animal), emphasizing that what really makes a family is love. Although these episodes were made in the 1980s, they are surprisingly nuanced on the topic of adoption. For example, in one episode Mister Rogers points out that it’s okay to sometimes feel sad, angry, or scared about being adopted. Gentle and respectful of children’s feelings, these are a really positive resource for adoptive parents of young children.

    What most surprised me about my search for adoption-related movies was a conspicuous lack of movies geared towards prospective adoptive parents. While I did find a few, they don’t seem to be very comprehensive or to touch on the complex issues that adopting families really should be thinking about. It would be nice to see a series of DVDs that are more along the lines of the education you would get from a really good adoption-preparation class with a reputable agency.

    Do you know any great film resources about adoption that are not on this list? Have you seen any of these movies? Chime in using 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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