Use PACE to Help Adopted Children Feel Safe and Supported

This post was written by the Director of FamilyWorks Together, Alisha Wolf, LGSW, MPH.  Alisha oversees the counseling, training, education, and special projects teams at Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together.  She received her bachelors from Skidmore College in English and Spanish and her Masters in Social Work and Maternal and Child Health from UNC Chapel Hill.  During her graduate studies, Alisha focused on issues surrounding adoption, foster care, and early childhood mental health.

As a follow-up to my blog post about playfulness, I wanted to explain in more depth each part of the PACE model: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.

PACE is a way of thinking, feeling and interacting with a child that helps the child feel safe. Children with a trauma history have learned that the world is an unpredictable and dangerous place. The adults caring for these children can send messages of safety by utilizing PACE.

PACE is based on how parents connect with infants, and the model holds true for connecting to children of all ages. Creating safety gives your child the opportunity to explore the world, their family and themselves.

Below are ways you can use PACE to make your child feel safe and supported, and in turn, help maintain your relationship:

Playfulness

Read my Playfulness blog post to learn how to bring out your sillies this week—even when it’s hard!

Acceptance

The Acceptance component of PACE asks parents to accept their child’s thoughts, feelings and choices. It does not mean accepting bad behavior, but instead accepting the fundamental characteristics and traits that make your child unique and special. Acceptance can help your child’s self-confidence and understand that bad behavior does not equate to a bad self.

For example, if your child says they do not like where they live, accept that the feeling is valid and then challenge it with follow-up questions like, “Why do you say that?”

Curiosity

Showing your child that you want to get to know them and are interested in their thoughts and feelings is critical. It may be difficult to have discussions with your child in instances when you do not understand their behavior (i.e., they may not want to go to school that day), but asking questions to ascertain what they are thinking and feeling will help build and maintain trust. Combined with the concept of Acceptance, Curiosity can ensure your child feels heard and understood in a judgement-free zone.

Empathy

Empathy with all children is important. However, showing Empathy to a child who has a history of trauma is necessary to build a strong relationship. One way to practice empathy is to put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to imagine the world from their point of view, then act and speak to them with that in mind.

How have you incorporated the PACE model in your parenting? What advice would you give to new parents who want to start practicing this model of parenting? Let me know in the comments!


Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: What You Should Know

pregnant woman wearing white shirt cradling her belly

Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: The Important Differences

In the 1990s, there was a surge in the number of babies being abandoned by their birth parents. Because they were left in unsafe places, many of them died. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by pregnancy or parenthood, it’s easy to imagine how these parents felt when they left their babies alone: frightened, uncertain, and desperate.

In response to these deaths, many states enacted what are known as Safe Haven Laws. Safe Haven Laws allow parents to leave an infant at a designated location – usually a hospital, police station, or fire station – and as long as the baby has not been harmed, the parent will not be punished for leaving them. Proponents of the laws hoped that they would encourage birth parents who felt they couldn’t care for their children to leave them in a place where the baby could be found and cared for, instead of abandoning them unsafely where they might not be found.

The well-being of children is our top priority at Adoptions Together. We believe that Safe Haven laws work well when they keep babies from being harmed. However, we feel that it is crucial for birth parents to know that Safe Haven is very different from choosing adoption for your baby through a non-profit agency.

If you are pregnant or a new parent and feel like you need someone else to take custody of your baby, take a moment to learn about the differences between using Safe Haven laws and choosing adoption.

Difference #1: Adoption gives you time to be certain about your decision.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. Some problems seem too hard to solve. But most of the time help is available, even if it seems difficult to find. An ethical adoption agency will help you access resources that can help you decide whether parenting is the right choice for you.  And adoption agency’s job is to help support you and help make a plan that’s right for your family. Safe Haven placements are designed to be anonymous- you don’t get that type of support, and you can’t just change your mind once you’re feeling better; you’ve already given up custody of your child. Plus, if you decide one day that you want to know how your child is doing, you won’t necessarily have the right to get in touch the way you would if you arranged for an open adoption through an agency.

Difference #2: With adoption, you are in control.

Ethical adoption agencies like Adoptions Together put you in control of your baby’s adoption process. This means that you can choose the adoptive family you want to raise your child and that you can determine what kind of adoption relationship you’d like to have with your child’s family, whether that means yearly letter-and-picture updates, in-person meetings, or other arrangements. If you give up custody of your baby under a Safe Haven law, the baby will go into the social services foster care system and their future will be determined from there. Not only can this take up to a year – which is a long time for a baby not to have a permanent family – but you don’t have any control over who eventually adopts your baby. Nor can you specify what type of contact you’d like to have with them and with your child in the future.

Ultimately, we all want children to be safe. If leaving your child at a Safe Haven location is the best way for you to keep them out of harm’s way, then we trust you to make that choice. But we also want you to stay safe, both physically and emotionally, and we don’t want you to give up your right to be a part of your child’s life if there might be another way. If you’re in crisis and worried about caring for your baby, we hope you’ll call us or another licensed agency so we can figure out a plan – together.


Will You Spend Time With Your Baby in the Hospital?

Making a hospital plan when you decide to place a baby for adoption can be stressful. If you’ve already talked to an adoption counselor, you’ve probably heard her say, “only you know what’s right for you”, so let’s build on that and talk about how things might work in the hospital when your baby is born.

Over the years, many birth parents who chose not to spend time with their baby in the hospital have told us that they regretted that decision. Some of them chose not to see their baby because they worried that doing so would make it even more difficult to go through with their adoption plan. Interestingly, we’ve found the opposite is true. In our experience, birth mothers who see and hold their baby after delivery tend to be better able to process the adoption later on because they don’t have unanswered questions about what their baby looked like or about what it would have felt like to hold, smell, and hear their baby.

If you are in the process of making an adoption plan, you may worry that spending time with your baby will create a bond between the two of you that will then make it impossible for you to place them with another family. When blogger Liz held her baby, her baby’s birth father warned her, “Be careful Liz, you’re creating that bond…” He assumed that their spending time together would make the adoption process more emotionally difficult for Liz. But Liz’ description of that moment says it all: “Little did he know, [my baby] and I already had the most powerful bond on earth.” In the end, adoption is bittersweet no matter what; deciding not to see your baby won’t change that.

Importantly, many of the birth mothers we’ve worked who have changed their mind about adoption were the same ones who made the decision not to spend much or any time with their baby while in the hospital. In some cases, their unanswered questions and feelings became too overwhelming and they ended up going back on the entire plan. As the folks over at Birthmom Buds explain, “Many birthmoms have regretted not spending time with their baby but we have never come across a birthmom who spent time with her baby and regretted it afterward.” We’ve found this to be quite true, and so have a number of birth parent bloggers, including Janel Indingaro, who spent time with her baby and the adoptive family in the hospital:

“I have photographs of all four of us spending time in my room. In the photos we are laughing and holding this sweet precious girl and I cherish those pictures. I am glad that I had this time with the three of them which helped me find a comfort zone with everything going on around me. During my hospital stay, I had no idea of the coming whirlwind of emotions I would soon cope with…”

In fact, far from wishing she hadn’t spent time with her baby before placement, Janel wishes that she had gone one step further and had fed her baby too: “If I could change anything about the delivery room and the recovery room, it would be getting the opportunity to feed [her]. I wish I would have said, ‘I want to hold her; I want to provide food for her.’ ”

Remember, seeing and spending time with your baby doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing scenario. You get to decide how much contact you want to have. Maybe you want to look at your baby through the nursery window but not hold them. Or perhaps you’d like to have just an hour or two with your baby. You’re in control; you get to make the plan, and you can always change your mind.

And we know we’ve said it before, but……only you can know what’s right for you!


Will I Have to Tell the Birth Father?

“Do you need the father’s consent to put a baby up for adoption?”

Birth fathers have the same rights as birth mothers in most states. In order to ensure that adoption placements are legally safe, we make every effort to contact the birth father to obtain his permission to move forward with the adoption process.  Your adoption counselor is trained to make this process as smooth as safe and stress free as it can be.

More About Birth Father Consents

One of the hardest topics for our birth parent counselors to bring up with birth mothers focus on father’s rights. Many birth moms have difficult relationships with birth fathers and would do just about anything to keep from talking about him or getting him involved in the adoption process.

If they don’t know very much about him, they might be embarrassed to tell us how casual the relationship was, no matter how many times we explain that we understand casual relationships and support women. If the relationship is tumultuous, they may be mad at themselves for having had sex with him – birth moms can be very hard on themselves! We have also worked with many survivors of sexual assault, who are worried that we won’t believe them or who feel ashamed about what happened, even though we firmly believe that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. We’ve also worked on our fair share of cases where the birth father was mean, uncaring, or just generally difficult- cases in which the birth mom often assumed that the adoption process would go more smoothly if he just stayed out of it. (P.S. We’ve also worked with some wonderful birth fathers – that’s just not the subject of this post!)

If you are worried about talking to your adoption agency about your baby’s birth father, you’re not alone. Most of the birth mothers we work with are not in a committed relationship with their baby’s birth father. Every individual person and relationship is unique and complicated, and no good counselor or social worker will ever judge your situation.  Any ethical agency should be committed to ensuring your adoption is safe and legal, so contacting your baby’s birth father is in your best interest. They should also be committed to working with you to do that in whatever way is most comfortable and least upsetting.

If you are not comfortable or don’t feel safe contacting the birth father yourself, an ethical agency will work very closely and carefully with you to make sure you stay safe and out of danger. Birth fathers who are abusive usually don’t want to be found because they know their actions are wrong and they fear being charged with a crime. Typically, in these situations when an agency makes the “good faith effort” required by law, these birth fathers often find a way to stay out of sight. And even if your baby’s birth father is not abusive but you know he is going to make things difficult for you, we promise – and any other ethical agency will promise – to stand by you and do whatever we can to make the process bearable while also following the law.

If getting permission from your baby’s birth father is holding you back from making an adoption plan- contact us and we can help.

Were you worried about talking to your adoption agency about your child’s birth father? How did it turn out?


Inspiration is in the Heart of the Beholder: An Adoptee’s Work Exploring Her Identity

This post was written by Laura X. Williams, an international transracial adoptee, who was adopted from Yiwu, China at 7 months old. Laura researches adoption and is the Special Programs Coordinator for 2018 Holt Adoptee Summer camp. She will be speaking at Adoptions Together’s annual conference, Voices of Transracial Adoptees on April 21, 2018.

 

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” –Fred Rogers

Mister Rogers always puts the struggle in perspective for me. Did you know his sister was adopted? As the movie theaters and nostalgic adults prepare for the release of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on June 8th, I have been doing some deep thinking around the meaning of community, belonging, and what neighborhood looks like for internationally adopted, transracial adoptees.

Run-down on who I am and how I know what I know: I am an adoptee from Yiwu, China, adopted when I was 7-months old in 1995. My family’s labour pains began in the Hangzhou airport, the plane was the delivery canal through which I was rebirthed into my forever world, the Newark air-port solidified my delivery. “Welcome!” said America, “You are now the proud daughter of two Jersey born-and-raised white parents.”  We stayed in New Jersey for 19 years since then and have always had a cat around. Now, I’m 5-foot 5-inches college graduate who has made it her mission in life to foster collaborative adoption reform in the name of a more livable world for all.

What inspires you?

What initially inspired me or what inspires me to do what I do on a daily basis?

Pursuing the inquiry of adoption occurred to me as an innate, almost atavistic curiosity once society enlisted me into a future of higher education. Growing up being different in ways I had not chosen for myself, never felt troublesome. It just was. This was partly my attitude and partly my parents extremely proactive attempts to connect me with Chinese people in the United States. The spheres of Chinese dance, Families with Children from China, Chinese school, Also Known As, Inc., Chinatown NYC all became the interwoven fibers of who I was becoming. My parents tell me they would high-five ‘behind-the-scenes’ when I voiced a difficult adoption question:  “why was I given up?” “where are my birth parents?”, “what is wrong with me?”  They were just so happy I felt comfortable enough from a young age to talk to them about adoption things. It inspired my subconscious.

I’ve always wanted to help people. Once I learned to fold fortune tellers, I went on an 8-year-old’s campaign selling them for money I intended to send to my orphanage (update: the campaign didn’t last past my family during Thanksgiving dinner). I understood there were people somewhere (China) who somehow (orphanage) sustained me for the first 5,110 hours of my life. But is and has been a process for me to hold them in my heart as human instead of just a concept out in space. I may never meet them or be able to directly thank them for my salvation who felt me when I couldn’t feel myself? I need to understand myself, for something deep within me sings a melody of transgression. And I never wanted to land in a meaningless desk job. So, I used the tool around me of education to struggle through the lack of choice, disconnection because of it, and  a humanizing gratitude while meeting other adoptees who may be seeking the same social validation I was looking for.

Now what?

I remember in high school, sitting under dimmed spotlights, behind a microphone, in front of an audience of my first-generation Asian-American peers to tell them, “Tonight we heard raw stories of our strength and courage as Asian-Americans. I feel so connected to both the Asian-American community and the Adoptee community, I draw on the strength of both communities. I am double supported and feel empowered because I am of both.” I recurrently have to check my privilege.  When identity exploration informs each element of how we live our lives, and when part of that identity is a big question mark, no wonder it gets complex fast.

My mentor who is a transnational, transracial adoptee herself gives a great metaphor “It’s like, Bill Nye loves touching the slimy bacteria for science, while other people would rather not. It is the same in our pursuit of understanding adoption, some people would rather not go there while others like us, like to sit in the muck.” There’s something about complex “muck” of adoption that attracts people like me to interrogate and encourage myself to create meaning in our complex web of inter-connected relationships. I think we are all in a constant state of love- having to adjust our worldviews in order to love the most. That constant adjustment is my survival, my sustenance.

When I feel drained by the amount of intellectual and emotional energy I exert as an adoptee working in adoption, talking with other Chinese adoptees reminds me I am doing meaningful work. Giving the gift of validation for someone ungrounded is only the beginning of a deeper exchange. I’ve come to believe, no matter how micro a conversation may be, in the grand scheme of things, it holds the power to transform our social world. Even if it just transforms you.

Mister Rogers inspires me, my friendships guide me, my presence grounds me and I look forward to spreading the love in the neighborhood!

 


The Myth of the Careless Teenage Birth Parent

birth-mother-and-child

Let’s talk about teenage birth parents.

Who are they?

Getting pregnant, no matter how old you are, doesn’t mean you’re careless. And although there are thousands of teenage birth parents, there are even more birth parents who placed a baby for adoption as adults.

It’s time to dispel some of the birth parent myths which too many people still believe. With the help of the Donaldson Institute’s 2006 study “Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birth Parents in the Adoption Process,” we went ahead and took a look.

 

Myth: Most birth parents are teenagers.

Fact: Birth parents are an extremely diverse group.  But, statistics show that most birth moms today are high school graduates in their 20s, many of whom are already parenting other children. Only about 25 percent of birth parents are teenagers.

 

Myth: Most birth parents are drug users.

Fact: Many Americans struggle with substance abuse, and so do some birth parents, but that doesn’t mean that all birth parents abuse drugs. Every year about 13,000 to 14,000 women place an infant for adoption, and they each have their own unique situation and story.

 

Myth: Birth parents “give up” their babies for adoption because they don’t care about them.

Fact: Most birth parents choose adoption out of love for their babies and feel a deep loss after placement. Those who have open adoptions and are able to know how their child is doing as they grow up have been shown to experience lower levels of grief and greater peace of mind as time goes on. The term “give up my baby for adoption” is not positive adoption language, and we don’t use it!

 

Myth: Birth parents want to drop their babies off and never see them again.

Fact: Birth parents have the right to choose the level of openness they want in their adoption, and Adoptions Together respects the needs of those who do not wish to keep in touch. However, most birth parents say they do want to have contact with their child and their child’s family after placement, or at least receive information about how their child is doing. If you choose to place a child for adoption, we can help you decide what level of openness you’re comfortable with.

 

Myth: Sometimes biological parents don’t realize that adoption is the best choice for them and need a friend, family member, social worker, or medical professional to help them understand why it is.

Fact: No parent should be pressured into placing a child for adoption. Research shows that those who feel pressured into adoption have a much harder time healing after and adoption takes place. This is why Adoptions Together supports state laws that require thorough in-person counseling as well as waiting periods during which birth parents can change their minds.

If you’re a pregnant teenager and you’re interested in learning about your options, feel free to contact one of our pregnancy counselors at any time of day by calling 301-439-2900, or sending us a private email at pregnancyinquiry@adoptionstogether.org.  Your calls and emails are 100% confidential, and we can’t reveal anything to your parents.

What other birth parent myths have you come across? Tell us in the comments!


Is Open Adoption the Cure for Adoption Loss?

image c/o missleaman.com

Sometimes it seems like all we ever talk about here at Adoptions Together is Open Adoption.

We talk about the research that shows that birth parents who have ongoing contact with their adopted children have lower levels of grief after placement and feel more at peace with their decision than do birth parents with closed adoptions.

We talk about how open adoption can provide reassurance for birth parents who might otherwise assume the worst about how their child is doing.

We talk about how openness mitigates any feelings of abandonment that children may have and helps them form a strong sense of self.

We talk about the importance of post-placement contact agreements and how much we wish they were legally enforceable everywhere.

All these things that we talk about are true – but they are not the whole story.

A few years ago, one of our birth parent counselors explained it this way: “openness is not the ‘solution’ to the pain of loss.” Yes, open adoption is the healthiest form of adoption when it’s possible – but it doesn’t “solve” the grief and loss that every birth parent experiences. It helps birth parents to process those painful emotions, but it doesn’t get rid of them.

In some ways, open adoption is more difficult for birth parents than is closed adoption. Some birth parents worry that they may be confusing their child about who their “real” parent is (although we have not seen this happen in the adoptions we’ve facilitated). More significantly, seeing and hearing from your child is wonderful, but it can also serve as a reminder of your loss.  It’s a tradeoff – you might experience negative feelings and memories, but you also get to see your child living and thriving in the world.

We hope you know that our strong feelings about open adoption don’t mean that we don’t understand how painful adoption can be, even in this form. People with closed adoptions and those with open adoptions both struggle with grief and loss; choosing which one is right for you means carefully considering both your emotional needs and the needs of your child.

What have your experiences with open or closed adoption been like? How do you feel about having one type of adoption versus another? Please tell us in the comments section below.

 


The Opioid Crisis and the Child Welfare System: Launching a Response in the Face of a Landslide

The Rise of Opioid Use in the United States

 

Since the turn of the millennium, the number of overdose deaths in the United States attributed to opioid addiction have more than quintupled.   Individuals across the country facing opioid addiction struggle with access to safe treatment, support systems, and post-treatment care to successfully transition into sober living.  As the opioid epidemic surges, child welfare agencies face the overwhelming challenge of coping with some of its most vulnerable victims: children impacted by opioid use.

 

 

Child Welfare Agencies Across the Nation Struggle in the Face of the Opioid Epidemic

As the number of individuals struggling with addiction across the nation rises, so increases the demand on public foster care systems whose purpose is to provide temporary safe haven to children whose families cannot safely care for them.  When a parent is charged with a drug-related offence and incarcerated or ordered to enter a treatment program, children are often placed with a foster family during this time.

Foster care systems in states like Indiana are seeing a surge in the number of opioid related case entries over the past few years.   “We’ve gone from having 2,500 children in care, three years ago, to having 5,500 kids in care. It has just exploded our systems,” says Indiana juvenile court judge Marilyn Moore, who oversees cases in Indianapolis.  In Florida, the number of children living in foster care has tripled due to opioid related deaths.  In Philadelphia, systems are responding to the crisis by allowing foster care providers to apply for waivers that allow them to care for more than the state-mandated number of children per-home.  From 2014 to 2016, capacity waivers went up nearly 50%. More foster kids mean more stress on those foster families.

The Opioid Crisis is Disproportionately Impacting Women

As the scientific community continues to gather and analyze data related to opioid use across the United States, another fact is becoming clear: the use of opioid drugs is disproportionately impacting women.  Overdose deaths attributed to prescription pain relievers among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to 237% among men.  Heroin overdose deaths among women have tripled in the last few years. From 2010 through 2013, female heroin overdoses increased from 0.4 to 1.2 per 100,000.

The number of opioid-related deaths among women is growing at an alarming rate.

So why is this data concerning for child welfare agencies? As the number of women struggling with opioid substance use rises, the number of infants born with prenatal exposure is also increasing.  Between 2000 to 2009, prenatal opioid exposure increased from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 hospital births.  A few of the major barriers limiting access to prenatal substance abuse counseling and care include stigma surrounding substance use and pregnancy, risk of punishment related to prenatal substance abuse, and a lack of access to comprehensive, specialized treatment programs designed to care for pregnant women struggling with substance abuse disorders.

How Can We Effectively Handle the Burdens of this Epidemic?

  1. Remember that addiction is a disease. Individuals struggling with substance abuse challenges can be effectively treated by mental health professionals and deserve compassion and respect from their communities. Remaining focused on treatment and recovery is an ethical imperative for child welfare professionals and part of laying the foundation for community healing.
  2. As child welfare agencies struggle to respond to the burdens of the opioid epidemic, systems must dedicate resources to recovery-based programs with the goal of healing, not punishment. The more families fractured by addiction, the more challenging the work for systems designed to create healthy futures for children. By investing in the health of parents, we invest in the health of future generations.
  3. The disproportionate ways in which opioid abuse effects women across the United States directly impacts infants and children in our communities. Removing stigmas associated with prenatal substance abuse treatment, offering options for pregnant women to enter treatment programs without the risk of punishment, and expanding access to comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs that specialize in prenatal and postnatal exposure is a first step in removing barriers to keeping families together in the face of substance abuse challenges.
  4. In particular, child placement agencies must face the opioid crisis using a multi-pronged approach. First, by building and maintaining a network of community partners to act as a strong referral sources for clients who are struggling with substance abuse disorders, placement agencies can ensure that clients have access to treatment when they are ready.  Next, by communicating to your community that your placement plans include a strong referral network to treatment programs, your agency can help to ensure women and families struggling with substance abuse are able to access treatment. Additionally, by educating your teams to remain judgement-free in the face of challenging substance abuse issues across the country, we can signal that our doors are open to women and families who need our assistance during some of their most difficult times.  Finally, educating potential adoptive and resource families about the realities of parenting infants and children born with prenatal exposure ensures that we are continuing to build a qualified, loving pool of families for infants and children impacted by the opioid crisis.

If you or a client you work with is currently pregnant and struggling with opioid addiction and would like to discuss this with one of our counselors, please contact us confidentially: https://www.adoptionstogether.org/pregnant/speak-to-a-counselor/


Using Faith to Discriminate: Why Faith-Based Adoption Legislation Matters for All Adoptive and Foster Families

This week, Adoptions Together has been contacted by several LGBTQ families interested in pursuing adoption who’ve expressed concern about recent discriminatory legislative efforts in Georgia. Today, we focus on the broad sweeping impact of “faith-based” adoption legislation and how it effects all families.  This post was written by Adoptions Together Marketing Specialist, Samantha Skrok.

What’s Happening in Georgia?

Recently, the Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 375, which would give private and public adoption and foster care agencies license to discriminate against couples based on their religious beliefs.  Known as the “Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act”, proponents of the bill claim it would allow more agencies to act in the interests of children, broadening opportunities for kids living in foster care to achieve permanency in stable homes.  Opponents of the bill point out that enacting such legislation closes the door on qualified parents whose faith doesn’t align with child welfare agencies and their employees, preventing them from serving as adoptive resources for children in need of families.

The Rise of Faith-Based Adoption Legislation

 

The total number of states allowed to discriminate against families based on religious beliefs comes in at seven (North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas).  Since the United States legalized same-sex marriage on the federal level in 2015, five states have passed laws allowing public and private adoption or foster care agencies to refuse services to clients based on their religious beliefs.  Alarmingly, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Michigan have all passed faith-based legislation permitting agencies to refuse services to children in addition to potential adoptive families.  If we include Georgia, the first few months of 2018 could see Americans in eight states facing faith-based adoption legislation that targets families based on religious grounds.

 

Who Is Being Targeted by Faith-Based Adoption Legislation?

That’s a good question without a simple answer- the easy answer is that children waiting to be adopted by qualified families are the largest victims of faith-based legislation.  Nearly 118,000 children are waiting to be adopted from public foster care systems across the United States today.  Faith-based legislation allows both public and private agencies to reject potential adoptive and foster parents based on their religious beliefs.  The most common targets of faith-based legislation are LGBTQ individuals, like Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin whose application to foster refugee children through Catholic Charities in Texas was rejected due to their sexual orientation.  The result is that more children wait for longer periods of time to achieve stability in permanent families.

However, the Human Rights Campaign points out that faith-based legislation can be used to target families from all backgrounds.  In its brief “Disregarding the Best Interests of the Child: License to Discriminate in Child Welfare Agencies”, the HRC points out that, “Parents can be rejected because the agency has an objection to them for any reason, including interfaith couples, single parents, married couples in which one prospective parent has previously been divorced, or other parents to whom the agency has a religious objection.”  This should be of concern for all families interested in growing through adoption or foster care.

Why is this a Concern for Ethical Child Welfare Professionals?

Simply put, children waiting for permanency need more qualified adoptive parents. Faith-based legislation does not achieve this- it does the opposite.  By working with all families, regardless of their religion, marital status, or sexual orientation, agencies grow permanency opportunities for children who desperately need them.  Research shows that LGBTQ youth in particular are over-represented in the foster care system, making them a vulnerable target for maltreatment and discrimination.  Faith-based laws that allow agencies to mistreat populations designed to protect them at the top level is a failure of systems by its very definition.

More than two million LGBTQ couples, individuals and families across the United States are interested in serving as family resources for children through adoption and foster care.  LGBTQ families are currently raising more than 3% of children living in foster care across the country.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports full access to adoption and foster care rights for same-sex couples as part of promoting growth of stable and healthy families for all children.

 What Can You Do to Discourage the Passage of Faith-Based Adoption Laws?

1. Contact your elected representatives to voice concern for the growing trend of this discrimatory practice designed to target families and provide vulnerable children with less stable futures. Your voice is valuable. Find your elected representative here. Find your Senator here.

2. Support organizations like the Human Rights Campaign whose mission it is to protect the rights of families and children like yours who desire to grow through adoption.

3. If you’re considering adoption, choose an agency whose mission it is to provide services to all families, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Discrimination serves no one and limits our ability to make progress toward healthy futures for all families and children.  To find an agency that serves LGBTQ families as part of its mission, use the HRC’s All Children, All Families map.


Why We Love Post-Placement Contact Agreements

 

Open adoption is part of Adoptions Together’s mission. We think open adoption is part of healthy adoptive relationships. Let’s talk about one feature of open adoption that keeps birth parent and adoptive family relationships strong: the Post-Placement Contact Agreement!

birth-mother-and-child

We love post-placement contact agreements so much that we think they should be part of every state’s adoption laws – keep reading to find out why!

What Is A Post-Placement Contact Agreement?

A post-placement contact agreement is a plan for how birth parents and adoptive parents will keep in touch with one another until their child turns 18. The agreement might include exchanging letters and pictures, getting together every year, or some variation of the two – or both.  This is how open adoption relationships stay healthy.

Birth and adoptive families often talk about openness before placement happens, but having a physical contract makes the plan clear to everyone and gives each party concrete steps they can take to benefit from their adoptive relationship. It sets the stage for openness right from the get-go, which is great because a child’s connection to their birth family is an important part of their identity, and because birth parents who have ongoing contact with their children generally have a smoother healing process after placement than those with closed adoptions.

What’s the Law Got to Do With It?

We are glad that post-placement contact agreements are legally enforceable in Maryland and Virginia and believe that other states should include them in their adoption laws as well. Making the agreement a legal document underscores the importance of openness and also reminds birth parents, adoptive parents, and agencies how important it is to keep the promises they’ve made to one another. Making contact agreements part of every single adoption would also make cases where the reality of an adoption doesn’t match the birth parent’s expectations much rarer.

How do you feel about your post-placement contact agreement? Has your experience matched your expectations? Do you think these agreements should be legally required and enforceable?