Single Parent Adoption 101

Single Parent Adoption – Can You Adopt as a Single Parent?

single parent adoption

Single parent adoption has become more popular over the past 3 decades. Within the adoption community, single parent adoption can mean several things.  In most states, single parent adoption is defined as an unmarried individual petitioning a court to be the legal parent of a child.  Single parent adoption is legal in all 50 states.  In some cases, single parent adoption is more complicated.

How can I adopt as a single parent?

Both single moms and single dads can adopt in several ways. Domestic infant adoption, or the adoption of infants born within the United States by a parent living in the United States is a common way for single parents to adopt. Single parents can also adopt from public foster care systems.  Some countries permit international adoption by single parents.  If you are considering international adoption as a single parent, it is important to work with a Hague-accredited adoption agency to help you navigate the adoption process to ensure you choose a country that permits single parent adoption.

Important considerations in single parent adoption

Like most single parents growing families, it is important to consider many things before growing your family through adoption. Having a strong network of friends and family who can provide support to you as you begin your parenting journey will help you adjust to the joys and challenges of parenting.  Financial considerations are also important to take into account. Most single parents only have one source of income. Discussing your family’s financial health prior to adoption, and ensuring that you are prepared to raise a child is a good idea.  Additionally, discussion your adoption plan with your employer will help you plan for the time you spend away from work when your new baby or child comes home.

Despite the increasing number of children raised in single-parent households today, the public perception that it takes two parents to raise a well-adjusted child can be stressful for those considering single parent adoption. Many single adoptive parents find it helpful to connect with other single parent households in order to foster a level of understanding a support surrounding their family structure.

Resources for single parent adoption

Flying Solo As a Single Parent (On-Demand Video Training)

Adopting and raising a child as a single parent has become more common and widely accepted over the last decade.  Yet, it can be a complex and challenging endeavor that requires careful thought and preparation.  Singles who are contemplating adoption often have many questions, and possibly even concerns about the process.  They may be filled with anticipation and excitement, or they may be unsure if parenting on their own is the right choice.  This seminar will cover BOTH the process of single parent adoption as well as the joys and challenges after a child is home.  Some of the issues addressed include going it alone, answering questions from nosy outsiders, helping the child make sense of his/her family, dating as a single adoptive parent, and the heightened sensitivity your adopted child has regarding loss and change.

Apply to Adopt as a Single Parent 

Complete our online adoption application and begin your single parent adoption journey!


LGBTQ Adoption 101

Adoption for LGBTQ Couples: Navigating the LGBTQ Adoption Process

LGBTQ adoption

Over the past several decades, more same LGBT couples are choosing adoption to grow their families.  The United States Census reports that between 2 and 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have an LGBTQ parent, that same-sex parents are more than 6 times as likely to become foster parents and more than 4 times more likely to pursue adoption as a path to parenthood.   So how can adoption professionals and LGBTQ families navigate the adoption process thoughtfully?

Choosing the type of adoption that’s right for your family

When it’s time to decide what kind of adoption is right for your family, LGBTQ couples have a lot to consider.  There are three main types of adoption to pursue: domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. Let’s explore all three.

Domestic Infant Adoption for LGBTQ Families

In the United States, LGBTQ couples may pursue domestic infant adoptions in all 50 states.  However, some states have recently passed faith-based adoption legislation which makes adoption more challenging for LGBTQ individuals.  If you are considering a domestic infant adoption, it is important to choose an adoption agency or professional who is welcoming to LGBTQ families and understands the legal framework in your state.

International Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Once considered the most convenient type of adoption available to American families, international adoptions have become more complex in recent years.  Adoption agencies completing international adoptions are bound by the Hague Adoption Convention, which guides adoption ethics and principles. Under these conventions, agencies must respect laws and standards put into place by the countries in which children are born. For LGBTQ couples pursuing international adoption, this can present unique challenges.  LGBTQ couples and individuals interested in pursuing an international adoption should inquire with their placement agency about specific country restrictions related to LGBTQ adoption because guidelines vary greatly. Adoptions Together welcomes to opportunity to complete international home studies for LGBTQ couples and individuals if you meet inter-country eligibility requirements.

Foster Care Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Adopting from foster care has many benefits.  It is one of the most affordable ways to adopt a child, and local departments of social services make adoption through foster care readily accessible for families from all backgrounds.  LGBTQ families may adopt children from foster care as long as they pass the required home study and training.  At Adoptions Together, we work with dozens of LGBTQ couples each year who choose adoption from foster care to expand their families.

Choosing an LGBTQ-Friendly Adoption Agency

Choosing an agency with a proven track record is important for any family pursuing adoption. For LGBTQ couples who want to adopt, finding an LGBTQ-friendly adoption agency is paramount.  Since its inception, Adoptions Together has served on the advisory board of the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children, All Families project, which connects LGBTQ families with agencies seeking to provide comprehensive adoption services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adoptive families.  As a Gold Seal-recognized agency, we are well-prepared to serve all families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender with compassionate adoption service.

To find an All Children, All Families approved agency near you, visit the HRC’s website.


Can I Give a Baby Up for Adoption if I’m Not a US Citizen?

pregnant woman

Can I Give a Baby Up for Adoption if I’m Not a US Citizen?

When a woman considers giving a child up for adoption, there are a lot of questions that might go through her mind. How does adoption work? How can I begin the adoption process? Who should I talk to about adoption for my baby?  And sometimes, women we work with have specific questions about their backgrounds and how that might impact giving up a child for adoption.  Specifically, can you give a baby up for adoption if you’re not a US citizen?

Yes! Each year, we work with women who come from all over the world. Many women who choose to place a baby for adoption are not US citizens.  Adoption is an option if you are not a US citizen. Here are some questions you might have if you’re considering adoption and you’re not a US citizen:

Will my pregnancy counselor ask me questions about my immigration status during the adoption planning process?

Your pregnancy counselor will not ask you any direct questions about your immigration status at any time during the adoption planning process.  If you decide to place your baby for adoption, she may request to see copies of your identification card or medical insurance card, but the adoption process can move forward if you don’t have an identification card or health insurance card.  Sometimes, a woman chooses to reveal her immigration status to her pregnancy counselor. Remember this: we consider a woman’s immigration status part of her confidential record. We will not report her immigration status to ICE or any other legal authority.

Will my pregnancy counselor discuss my immigration status with the hospital when I have my baby?

Your pregnancy counselor will not volunteer any information about your immigration status to the hospital.  Some hospital social workers who contact us to help women make adoption plans may inform us that they believe a woman is here without legal status, but this is not important in the adoption planning process. Additionally, hospitals and healthcare facilities do not report information to ICE.  Keep in mind that just like us, the hospital may ask for a form of identification and insurance.  This is for billing purposes, not to report to authorities.

If I am in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, is it still possible for me to have an open adoption?

Yes! If you are an undocumented immigrant, nothing prevents you from having the same type of open adoption as US citizens or documented immigrants.  We have worked with many undocumented birthparents who are able to continue maintaining open relationships with their children.  Your legal status does not impact your access to an open adoption plan.

Remember that giving a baby up for adoption is a challenging process. Working with an agency that provides you with support along the way helps to ensure you are protected legally, emotionally and in the future. Adoptions Together is here to support you in making an adoption plan, regardless of your legal status.

If you are considering giving a baby up for adoption and would like to speak with a counselor, contact us today.


How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

How Much Does It REALLY Cost to Adopt?

 

how much does it cost to adopt an infant

 

How much does it cost to adopt? We get this question more than most, so don’t be embarrassed if you’re asking it, too. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Today, adoptive families are as diverse as others.  So let’s talk about the bottom line: how much does it REALLY cost to adopt?

The Type of Adoption You Choose Will Determine How Much You Pay

When you decide to grow your family through adoption, you have to decide what kind of adoption is right for you.  There are several different kinds of adoption to pursue.  You can choose domestic infant adoption, which connects adoptive families with infants born in the United States.  You can pursue a foster-to-adopt program through your local Department of Social Services, which helps families interested in adopting children living in foster care.  Or, you can choose to adopt internationally.  All of these choices are different, and costs related to each will vary.

Domestic Infant Adoption

The average cost of a domestic infant adoption in 2016 was about $28,000.  The cost of domestic infant adoption will vary depending on many factors unique to your adoption and family situation, including things like whether you choose to pay for birthparent expenses, whether you elect to work with a licensed non-profit adoption agency or an adoption facilitator, and how far you need to travel during your adoption journey.  The cost of your adoption should include your home study and most of your legal fees, but this might vary as well.

Adoptions Together charges fees for domestic infant placements on a sliding scale based on your family’s income.  To learn more about the cost of adopting an infant, click here.

Foster Care Adoption

Foster care adoption connects children living in public foster care systems with families hoping to expand through adoption.  There are two ways to adopt from foster care: by pursuing foster-to-adopt services through a local Department of Social Services (DSS), or by working directly with a licensed agency that provides foster care adoption services. In each case, the cost will vary. For families that choose to pursue foster-to-adopt services through a local DSS, most adoption-related costs will be covered by the jurisdiction the adoptive child lives in.  This makes foster-to-adopt one of the most cost-effective means of pursuing adoption.  If a family wishes to pursue foster care adoption while working with a licensed, private agency, many costs will be underwritten by local jurisdictions, but some fees must be paid by the adoptive family.

Some families choose to pursue foster-to-adopt because of the cost benefits, however, children living in foster-to-adopt scenarios are often still working with courts to be reunified with their families of origin and the process to adopt a child through foster-to-adopt programs can be long and emotional.  Some families find that working with a private agency to pursue foster care adoption is more direct, despite the slightly increased costs.

You can learn more about the cost of foster care adoption here.

International Adoption

The cost of international adoption varies widely by country, and is the most expensive type of adoption for families. Once considered the most convenient type of adoption by timeline, international adoption has become more complex in recent years. Today, international adoptions can cost as much as $40,000.  If you are interested in pursuing an international adoption, it is important to work with an agency that is Hague Accredited and one that can connect you with a Primary Provider to serve as your representative in the country from which you hope to adopt.

To learn more about international adoption, click here.

The Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Credit is a federal tax credit for families who adopt a child or children.  It is designed to offset adoption costs in the form of a tax credit.  The current credit is $13,810 per child adopted in 2018.  To learn more about the Adoption Tax Credit and whether you qualify, head to the IRS website.

Working with an Agency vs. Facilitator

Once you’ve done some research about the cost of adopting, it’s time to make some important decisions about who to work with.  A licensed adoption agency is legally required to provide services outlined by the state you live in, and reports to multiple bureaus to maintain accreditation.  While many adoption facilitators provide quality services to families hoping to grow through adoption, they are not bound by the same licensing guidelines.  As a licensed adoption agency, we highly recommend researching the licensed agencies in your area to make an informed decision about this major decision before you begin to grow your family.  An adoption agency should respond to your needs, make you feel safe, and provide lifelong support to you as your family expands.


Family Dinner Night Provides Food for the Body, Mind and Heart

Each month, the Permanency Family Center (PFC) hosts a family dinner night at its Washington, DC, office for families that have come to permanency through the DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). What can you expect during family dinner night? Fun, laughter and food, to start! As the elevator doors open on the third floor, you’ll hear children’s laughter and energetic conversations as the delicious scent of pizza wafts through the air.

Staff and families will ask about your day and your family. As you enjoy your meal, families decompress while discussing their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. You’ll be overwhelmed by the sense of camaraderie, familiarity and comfort in the space.

The dinner provides a night free from meal planning and dishes, as well as valuable time for parents to talk with other parents. Kids will have the chance to play with other kids who have similar experiences.

Following dinner, parents and caregivers participate in a group discussion about their families’ experiences and challenges. While the adults are in their group discussion, children have fun in social skills groups with PFC staff.

Come to family dinner night and for a few hours, you can connect, feel rejuvenated and satisfy your physical and emotional hunger!

Adoptions Together holds monthly family dinner nights at their DC office. To register or learn more, email vrichardson@familyworkstogether.org.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Placing a Baby for Adoption and Your Hospital Stay

hospital

 

Some women spend eight months planning an adoption for their baby. Others don’t tell a soul they are pregnant. No matter what your pregnancy has been like or how long you’ve known about it, your labor and delivery experience will always be an integral part of your child’s adoption story – and you have the power to control what it will be like. Below are some decisions you may want to make before your hospital stay.

Who is going to be there with you?

Some birth mothers want to be alone before, during, and after labor and delivery, especially if very few (or no) people know about their pregnancy. On the other hand, some birth moms we’ve worked with have had many people in the room. No matter how many people want to be there, you are the person who decides what happens. If your family or friends are against your adoption decision, then it will be up to you to decide who supports you during your hospital stay. Think about what you know about your family and friends and how you can best take care of yourself if they are around and have strong feelings about the outcome of this pregnancy.

If you are the kind of person who needs to have a little bit of separation from others when you are emotional or who gets stressed out about having a lot of people tell you what to do, then you may need to put up a boundary and decide not to have any visitors. Our adoption counselors have been in a lot of hospital rooms where family members were crying and telling the birth mother what they thought she should do, and in many of these cases, the birth mother ended up changing her mind about her adoption plan and deciding to parent because multiple family members had become attached to the baby. Changing your mind is absolutely okay; our point is that you should think carefully about how you will be feeling and who you will want to have supporting you during this difficult and emotional time.

How much contact will you have with your baby afterward?

This is your decision. A lot of birth mothers decide not to see their baby after delivery because they are trying to protect their hearts; they know themselves and feel certain that if they do see their baby, it will be much more difficult to place their baby for adoption if they hold the baby. These birth mothers sometimes feel ashamed about not having any contact with their baby, and we urge them to remember that they know their own needs better than anyone else does and that they know best how to take care of themselves. We will say that the birth mothers who make the difficult choice to see and hold their baby after delivery tend to be better able to process the adoption later on. Those who do not get that time with their baby often find themselves with unanswered questions.

Many times, birth mothers who change their mind about adoption are the same ones who made the decision not to spend much or any time with their baby while in the hospital. In our experience, because these birth moms did not have the bittersweet experience of seeing, holding, feeding, and taking photos of their baby, they never had the opportunity to process the adoption plan. In these cases, a birth mother’s unanswered questions and feelings can then become so overwhelming that she ends up changing her mind about the entire plan. That said, we have also worked with plenty of women who did not see their baby after delivery and did not revoke. Only you can figure out what will work best for you.

How will you name your baby?

The baby will have to be named in the hospital, even if the adoptive family is going to legally change that name later on.  You will be asked about the name soon after delivery. If you do not want to name your baby, your adoption counselor can choose a name for you; if you do want to name him or her, you can pick a name you like, or a name that is meaningful to you, or the name of a family member. Pick whatever you want, but remember that the adoptive family may change this name later on. If you are thinking of using a name to which you are very much attached and you think you will feel hurt if it is changed, discuss this with your adoption counselor so that she can find out how the adoptive family is planning to go about naming the baby.

Find a middle ground.

This hospital stay should be tailored to your needs. You don’t have to choose between ten visitors or no visitors – you can choose exactly who you want to have with you and when. You don’t have to choose between having no contact at all with your baby or having a huge amount of contact – you can choose to spend one or two hours with your baby or to simply look at your baby through the nursery window. And most importantly, you can always change your mind. If you decided beforehand to allow visitors but end up feeling overwhelmed, you can ask them to leave.If you decided not to see your baby but then realize you want to do so after all, you have every right to ask a nurse to bring your baby in to you or to go to the nursery to visit your baby. Keep your adoption counselor in the loop about how you are feeling and what you need, and she will work with hospital staff to make sure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the experience.

If you are planning for adoption and nearing your due date, let us know in the comments section what you think of these suggestions and what your own plans are! And if you made an adoption plan in the past, we’d love to learn more about what it was like for you. Did you have visitors and/or contact with your baby after delivery? How do you feel about those decisions now? 


How to Explain Your Baby’s Adoption to Your Other Children

“Mommy, Where is the Baby?” What To Say to Your Other Children About Adoption

mommy, what

There is no hiding your baby’s adoption from your other children.

Somehow, while you try to take care of yourself, process your emotions, and return to your daily life, you’ll also need to find a way to talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption.

This may not be easy, but the good news is that you have more control than you realize over how your children respond. Kids process information based upon how it is presented to them; if you present the adoption as a good thing, then that’s how they’ll process it. Here are four important tips to keep in mind when you talk to your children about their sibling’s adoption.

1. Be honest about placing your baby for adoption.

Children always pick up on our emotions, even when we don’t state them out loud. No matter how hard you try to act normal, your kids will realize that something is going on, and if you don’t talk about it they will become confused and even frightened. Don’t try to cover up your feelings – instead, be honest about them. Let your child know that you are going through a difficult time and are feeling down. Most importantly, don’t try to keep the adoption a secret and pretend that nothing has happened or that the baby died. No matter how careful you are about keeping the secret, your child will almost definitely find out about it one day, and consider this: Would you rather your child hear the news from you, or from your aunt when she’s mad at you or your niece when they’re playing together outside?

2. Use words about placing the baby for adoption that they understand.

Honesty is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to explain everything you’ve been through with this pregnancy and adoption to your toddler or very young child. It’s okay to simply say, “It would be too hard for mommy to take care of the baby right now, so the baby is going to live with another family. Sometimes mommy misses the baby and feels sad about that, but she also feels happy that the baby has a family who loves them very much.”

3. Reassure them that they are safe with you.

It is natural for your child to feel upset or uneasy when they learn about the adoption. They will likely be afraid that if the baby went away, you might go away, or that they, too, will have to go live with another family. They’ll need to hear you say frequently that you are not going anywhere, that they are going to continue to live with you, and that you will always take care of them. Children often believe that they are responsible for unhappy events, so you’ll also want to reassure them that it is not their fault that the baby went to live somewhere else or that you are feeling sad.

4. Help them express their feelings about their sibling’s adoption.

Encourage your child to express his/her feelings by drawing a picture or writing a story or poem. Research has shown that drawing and writing reduce children’s anxiety and can also help parents to understand how their child is feeling. While you’re at it, why not sit down and write or draw with them? You’ll both have an outlet for your feelings, and your presence will reinforce the fact that they don’t have to worry about losing you.

Still worried or uncertain about how to address adoption with your other children? Talk to your adoption counselor! They can help you figure out what to say and can even meet with you and your child together.

How did you talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption? Share your story in the comments section below.


Reading to Prevent the Summer Slide

young girl sitting outside with her dad reading a book

This post is part was written in collaboration with our FamilyWorks Together team.

Have you heard of the summer slide? It’s not the latest theme park attraction or a type of slip n’ slide, but it may be the most important slide out there when it comes to your child’s summer vacation.

Scholastic defines “summer slide” as the “loss of skills during the time when students are not in school.” Research shows that many students, especially from low-income families, return to school in the fall at a lower reading level than when they left for summer break. Data from a 2016 national study of parents with kids ages 0 – 17 showed that 21 percent of kids from low-income families didn’t read any books during the summer, compared to 8 percent of kids from high-income families.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to prevent the summer slide … and it doesn’t involve getting wet! Encouraging your child to read during the summer months can keep their skills sharp.

We know it’s not always that easy, though. Maybe your child doesn’t consider reading a fun summer activity. Or maybe your kid is a bookworm who has already breezed past the school’s list of assigned summer reading books and you’re out of ideas for what they should read next. In either case, see below for a list of our 10 favorite books that you can read together, as well as a way to motivate children to read during their summer break.

As you head into summer, just remember: Reading or listening can be a great way to get them engaged and help them discover the power of a good book (or audiobook). If they’re old enough to read on their own, just seeing you read may be enough encouragement for them to do the same. Head to the library and let them pick out books they’d like to read on the next rainy day, on that family road trip you’re taking or in a sleeping bag under the stars (flashlight required).

Some of Our Favorites

  1. The Book With No Pictures (Age 5+), by B. J. Novak
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Age 6+), by Roald Dahl
  3. One Crazy Summer (Age 8+), by Rita Williams-Garcia
  4. Harry Potter Series (Age 8+), by J. K. Rowling (if you like British accents, check out the audiobook version!)
  5. The Crossover Series (Age 10+), by Kwame Alexander
  6. Half a World Away (Age 10+), by Cynthia Kadohata*
  7. Eighth-Grade Superzero (Age 11+), by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  8. Finding Miracles (Age 12+), by Julia Alvarez*
  9. Wonder Woman: Warbringer – DC Icons Series (Age 12+), by Leigh Bardugo
  10. A Lite Too Bright (Age 13+), by Samuel Miller

*These books are extra near to our hearts since they’re about children in adoptive families!

Summer Reading Challenges

A fun way to get children reading during the summer is by appealing to their competitive nature. There are many national and local challenges you can choose from to help do this. Your child’s school might even have its own challenge that they can participate in.

Here are some other go-to places for summer reading challenges to get your child into summer reading:

  • Your local library, which likely has a number of age-appropriate summer reading programs
  • Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge (teachers or librarians can register kids for the challenge, which features free book lists, reading logs to track progress and even short animated book excerpts)
  • Barnes and Noble summer reading (read any eight books on their list and record them in a journal to win a free book)
  • Pizza Hut’s Book It! summer reading activities with Candlewick Press (free downloadable activity kits that correspond with kids’ books)
  • Brightly Summer Reading Challenge for Kids (printable list of 20 creative, interactive ways to engage your child in summer reading)
  • We Need Diverse Books Summer Reading Series (promoting books — and a world — in which “all children can see themselves in the pages of a book”)

How are you engaging your child in summer reading this year? What has worked for you in the past? Tell us in the comments below!


What Happened to Family First? Separating Families at the Border in 2018

toddler crying with border agent at mexico us border

 

In February, 2018, President Trump signed the Family First Preservation Services Act into law. Known as the Family First Act, this sweeping legislation was the biggest change to the structure of federal child welfare funding since 1980.  Aimed at allotting more resources to help vulnerable families remain together and limit the number of children who end up in foster care, the Family First Act is broken into three main parts. Today, we’ll focus on the parts of Family First that help keep families intact and why it’s important in June, 2018.

Family First: Focusing on Services that Help Families Remain Together

The Family First Act changed how states can use Title IV-E funding (entitlement funds that pay for child welfare) to prevent children from entering foster care systems across the United States. Before its passage, Title IV-E funds could only be spent on foster care or adoptive placements.  Under Family First, Title IV-E funds can be used to prevent children from entering foster care.  Here’s how this works:

Time-Limited Services:

  • Mental health services to help families identified as “at-risk” of being separated by foster care.
  • Substance abuse treatment services to help caregivers identified as being “at-risk” of having children removed by child welfare systems.
  • In-home parent skills programs to help parents identified as “at-risk” of having children removed by child welfare systems.

Individuals for Services Under Family First:

  • Parents or relative caregivers of youth identified as “at-risk” for foster care.
  • Youth in foster care who are currently parenting or who are pregnant.

In addition to adding time-limited services for families and youth at-risk of entering foster care, the Family First Act also removes time limits on funding for reunification services.  Under Family First, there is no limit on how long a child can receive reunification-based services once they enter foster care.  This means that a child in foster care whose goal is to return home to their family can use Title IV-E-approved services to meet that goal for as long as it remains feasible. Title IV-E funds can also be used for an additional 15 months to support a family once reunification has occurred.

In order to receive services under Family First, a formal prevention plan must be initiated with a foster care candidate that includes how the child will remain safely in the home and outline which services the family will use to achieve success under the prevention plan.  The Family First Act has invited the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee prevention planning as states begin to participate.

The Family First Act formally begins in October, 2019.  The Federal government is matching fifty percent of funds between 2019 and 2026 under Family First to approved providers.

A Cause Célèbre for Child Welfare Organizations

Research shows us that remaining with biological family is what’s best for children. Being separated for long periods of time from parents or relatives has permanent and irreversible impacts on children that can last a lifetime.  The goal of foster care should always be reunification with parents or biological caregivers, but the goal of child welfare should always be to avoid removal from family whenever possible.  When birth-families cannot remain intact and where reunification is not possible, it is the duty of ethical child welfare agencies to act responsibly to ensure children are settled with qualified, loving parents who can support them over a lifetime within the fabric of a permanent family system.

The Family First Act addresses some of the most pressing issues in foster care and family health today.  By allowing organizations to use Title IV-E funding to assist at-risk families before separation occurs, and to provide them continued support after reunification, the Family First Act has the potential to prevent the unnecessary division of otherwise healthy but vulnerable families. By expanding access to difficult-to-obtain services like mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment to parents seeking help, Family First can break the cycle of abuse and substance dependency when we desperately need it.

On February 9th, when President Donald Trump signed the Family First Act into law, the bill’s key sponsor Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) said, “This bill makes sure that children are protected and families are not split up unnecessarily.  Our current system creates a perverse incentive to place children in foster care. Breaking up families should be a last resort.”

What Happened to Family First on the Border?

Beginning in mid-April, 2018, the Trump Administration began separating migrant children from their parents as they entered the United States at the US-Mexico border, citing a “zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry” into the country.  Reports are growing that children as young as 8 months are being housed in encampments behind chainlink fences in border states, grouped in cells under thermal blankets without toys, age-appropriate stimuli and other items critical to the developing brains of children.  The administration and proponents of family separation claim children cannot be housed together in detention with their parents, who’ve been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite this being an ongoing practice over the past two administrations.

When children arrive at encampments, The Department of Health and Human Services process their intakes through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  HHS facilities along the border have been rapidly reconverted to house children (including a Wal-Mart Supercenter), and little is known about where they will be placed after they are released from detention. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) reported witnessing an 8 month old infant at such a facility in Texas who’d been living at the detention facility for several weeks.

The dichotomy between what is happening on our border and the intent behind The Family First Act is shocking. After forcibly separating a child from their parent, the immediate effects are physical. The child begins crying, his heart rate elevates, and increased stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can be observed. Blood pressure rises. Often, verbal children will report physical symptoms like headache and stomach discomfort.

As separation time increases, the untrained caregiver may note that the child is calming down and assume he has recovered.  This is when silent stress begins.  Particularly if a child cannot communicate with a caregiver (if the child is pre-verbal, or when a language barrier is present), depression and anxiety begin to develop. A dramatic reduction in the brain’s electrical activity can be noted. Over time, the brain’s grey matter is reduced. Conditions like PTSD, separation anxiety, panic attack disorders and impulse control may begin. Children who’ve experienced long-term separation from their primary early caregivers face an increased risk of comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and substance abuse disorder.  On June 14th, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a Press Release calling the separation of families at the border “child abuse” and “everything we stand against as pediatricians”.  Learn more about the physical impact of family separation here.

What Can You Do to Make a Difference?

Remember that this is not a political issue- people across the political spectrum are voicing their dissent against this policy.  Protecting our borders is possible without traumatizing children. Children are being targeted and time is of the essence. Speaking out against this inhumane treatment at our country’s own borders is imperative, and your voice is a critical tool. Reminding your friends and family that how we navigate shameful spots in history is remembered individually and as groups. Adoptions Together has always stood against the separation of families within our borders, and today, we stand against the separation of families at our borders. Your stand against family separation is what is best for children and it’s what’s best for families. 

Contact your elected representative and voice your dissent against the inhumane treatment of children and their families at our borders today.

 


Kinship Care: Is It for You?

grandparents walking with two young children

As you think about your pregnancy options, have you considered kinship care, or family placement?

Many expecting parents prefer to place their child in the care of someone they already know. While only you can decide what’s right for your family, we’re here to help you explore this option.

Kinship Care — More Than Free Babysitting

The tradition of relatives helping raise a child has been around much longer than child welfare agencies. Kinship arrangements mean more than having an extra pair of hands to help with diaper changes or grocery trips, however. State and federal laws recognize kinship care as an official type of foster care.

Ever since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, relatives are the first to be given the choice of raising children whose parents cannot be the primary caregivers. As of September 2016, 32 percent of children in the foster care system were placed in foster homes with relatives.

What some expecting parents don’t realize is that they can explore the option of kinship care before their baby is born, similar to the adoption process.

All in the Family

Like adoption, kinship care can take many forms. Although the kinship care model typically means literal “kin” or family, it also can include a close friend who cares for your child.

In some arrangements, the birth parents maintain legal custody of their child, with the kinship foster parents assuming physical custody and day-to-day parenting responsibilities. This type of agreement allows birth parents to still make decisions concerning their child. In other arrangements, kinship parents receive both legal and physical custody of the child.

Kinship care is a common type of adoption for teenage birth parents. Often, it starts out as a temporary arrangement and becomes permanent if the relative chooses to adopt the child.

Because some kinship arrangements start out informally, kinship parents don’t always receive the same recognition or support as other adoptive or foster parents. The needs and demands of kinship parenting are just as real, however. We encourage kinship parents to seek counseling and support services from experts who can help them care for themselves and their loved ones. Kinship caregivers may also find assistance through national resources and state programs like the DC Child and Family Services Agency’s Grandparent Subsidy Program.

Family Matters

Families can be complicated and messy, and they come with their own set of challenges. Similarly, placement of a child within a family comes with many special considerations.

One of the most unique parts of kinship care is that the child’s kinship parent also has a personal connection with the birth parent. This can be comforting for older children entering kinship care, since they are going to live with someone they already know.

On the other hand, these same ties can make it difficult for kinship caregivers to “own” the role of parent from the start. While it takes time, it is important for kinship parents to model stability around roles, routines and a sense of home to the children in their care.

Another hurdle that kinship parents might not expect is the foster care system and its many policies and requirements — many have only the experience of raising their own children to guide them. And when kinship parents are the child’s grandparents, just the thought of raising a child in today’s era may be overwhelming.

Support from experts and other families bonded by this unique type of arrangement can help kinship parents provide a stable home for the children they already know and love. If you’re thinking about placing your child permanently or temporarily with a relative and want to chat with a counselor, contact us anytime via email, text message, phone or by chatting with us online.