Archive for the 'Open adoption' 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.

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.

  • 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.

    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 ( 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.

    Committment: The Key Ingredient in Open Adoption

    Sunday’s Washington Post piece on open adoption reminded me that some of the most inspiring families I know are those who came together through open adoption. There is something beautiful about seeing people extending their definitions of family, navigating their own difficult emotions, and figuring out how to make their relationship work smoothly, all because they want the very best for the child. Beautiful as it is, it is not easy, and every family is a little bit different.

    I have become convinced that the most important factor to having a successful open adoption is commitment. Don’t just have a fling with open adoption, marry it. This is equally crucial for adoptive parents and birth parents.

    As an adoptive parent, agreeing to an open adoption and then not following through can be crushing to both the birth mother and the child. Aside from the importance of honoring your commitment to the birth mother, committing to open adoption also respects the child’s emotions and needs. Studies and stories from adult adoptees tell us that knowing about and having access to their birthmothers helps children thrive by easing feelings of rejection. Simply not knowing anything about their birth history can be exceptionally painful for kids, and often leads to wild imaginings (both fantasies and nightmares) about why they were given up or what their lives might be like if they were not placed for adoption.

    In some cases, commitment here means more than simply holding up your end of the bargain. If your child’s birth mother goes off the radar and is unreachable for a while, commitment to open adoption also means actively pursuing this relationship as best you can, which can be a difficult dance of tact and persistence. If this happens, you will also need to make big decisions about how to explain these periods of lapse to the child.

    As a birth parent, it’s essential to remember that an open adoption that includes visits is a lifelong commitment. Adopted children are especially vulnerable to feeling rejected or unwanted, and if you start by visiting once a week and then eventually get too busy or change your mind, this can have a huge psychological impact on the child. This is by no means meant to discourage you from having an open adoption with visitation! Rather, know that it’s important to honor your commitment by keeping up the schedule. If you absolutely can’t, make sure you communicate the reason clearly to the child, and try to substitute other ways to stay connected, such as telephone or Skype visits.

    For both birth parents and adoptive parents, staying committed to open adoption means opening your heart in ways you never considered before. Setting the boundaries of an open adoption can be especially delicate. The first issue you are likely to face is agreeing on how much contact is the right amount. This agreement might change over time as the parties get to know each other better and see how they feel about open adoption, and it might change even more as the child grows and his needs change. Know that it’s normal for disagreements or misunderstandings to arise over the long life cycle of an open adoption. A birth parent might give advice and be perceived as trying to co-parent the child, or might give the child a gift that the adoptive parents don’t feel is appropriate. The adoptive parents might inadvertently say something to offend the birth mother, or might not invite her to a family event in which she thought she should be included.

    These disagreements and misunderstandings are part of the reason why open adoption takes commitment. They are also part of why healthy open adoptions are so beautiful. Sure, it would be easier to walk away and [try to] forget that an adoption every took place between you. However, out of love for the child, for the child’s best interest, committed families keep coming back again, doing the hard work of communication and balance until they get it right.

    There are as many different scenarios in open adoption as there are families who choose it. If you have experience with open adoption, from any viewpoint, I’d love to hear about it in the comments or via 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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