Can I get paid to give my baby up for adoption?

“Can I get paid to put my baby up for adoption?”. We get asked this question a lot, and it’s time to talk about it.

In Maryland, it is legal for adoptive parents and licensed adoption agencies to pay “reasonable expenses” for women considering adoption for their babies. The payment of “reasonable expenses,” which generally includes necessities such as housing, food, and clothing, was already legal in 37 states, and until Maryland passed a law allowing adoption agencies and adoptive parents to help birth mothers with these costs, Maryland families and agencies were only allowed to help cover birth mothers’ medical and legal bills. As a result, some birth mothers were choosing to make adoption plans with families out-of-state so that they could receive financial assistance with living expenses while pregnant.

Help During a Tough Time

Birth mothers who were going out of state in order to receive financial assistance were not always able to find an ethical adoption agency or attorney who ensured that they received thorough counseling and legal representation. Legalizing the payment of birth mother expenses in Maryland was good news in terms of protecting the rights of birth parents. It was also good news because most birth parents are already struggling in some way, and those struggles only increase once they become pregnant. Many women who are considering adoption do not have stable housing; they live with family members, rent rooms, or stay in shelters. They are often either unemployed or underemployed, and those who have been able to find work risk losing their job once their employer finds out about the pregnancy. If you’ve ever been in this boat, then you are well aware that even a small amount of financial assistance with paying rent or buying food can make a big difference to the physical and emotional health of a pregnant woman.

Under Pressure

We also need to acknowledge, however, that financial assistance can add pressure to an already emotionally difficult situation. Even when we do a lot of counseling with birth mothers and they understand that legally they can change their minds about their adoption plan at any point until their parental rights expire, they usually still feel a deeper sense of obligation to make an adoption plan if they have received financial assistance during their pregnancy. We never want a woman to go through with an adoption simply because she feels she can’t change her mind, so the fact that Maryland women can now receive financial assistance makes providing emotional support and counseling for birth parents during their decision-making period more crucial than ever.

A Temporary Solution

And of course, whatever financial assistance a birth parent receives during her pregnancy is only temporary, which is why birth parents should always work with an adoption counselor to come up with a reasonable amount to request. For example, it probably isn’t wise for a birth mother to ask for assistance in paying rent for an especially expensive apartment that she will no longer be able to afford after her pregnancy.

If you’re considering adoption and need to chat with a counselor about financial assistance, contact us anytime.  You can reach us via email, text message, by phone, or by chatting with us online. 


Kind Words from an AT Grandfather

At 95 years, I must confess, that I have a sentimental side and an analytical side, both of which influence the decisions I make in my daily life. Keeping these two variables in balance is, for me, truly the key to contentment. Happily, supporting Adoptions Together satisfies both realms.

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Richard Feffer with his grandchildren.

My sentimental side thanks Adoption Together for giving my daughter and her husband the chance to have a complete and beautiful family and, by extension, giving me and my wife the happiness of loving and enjoying the love of two exceptional grandchildren. Matthew and Elena have brought me much joy and fulfillment.  I cherish the memories of summer vacations on Cape Cod, birthday parties, visiting days at summer camp, high school and college graduations, horse shows, holiday celebrations, and family travels abroad.  One of the highlights was a weekend college visit with my grandson. Just the two of us; college basketball, student opera and dorm fare!

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My analytical side demands that I only donate to efforts where the need is great and the issues are difficult to solve.  Adoptions Together more than meets these criteria. They don’t just create a “win/win” solution; but a “win/win/win” solution.  They help resolve the pain and difficulty suffered by a birthmother who places her child for adoption. They provide counseling services for families in need of specialized support services. They provide assistance for all children, whether in foster care, or on the verge of aging out of the foster care system. ATI’s mission is to provide every child with an opportunity for a loving and nurturing environment.  They are the answer to those seeking the joy and fulfillment of a family life.

When I celebrated my birthday in March, I admit that I did not want or expect lavish gifts but I was delighted to learn that so many of my close friends and family chose to make donations to Adoptions Together in my honor.   For this I am truly grateful.

Bravo Adoptions Together. You will always have my support!


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Books on Adoption and Interview with Maggie Mei Lewis

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As a topic, adoption has many different facets. Some people adopt infants and need help figuring the best way to explain adoption. Others bring home older kids who already know what it means to be adopted, but whose communities still have some things to learn.

We tried to put together a list of books that would reach everyone in the adoption community, and know there are plenty more wonderful books out there! Don’t see one of your favorites on our list? Make sure to leave your recommendations in the comments to this post!

Continue reading…


Coming Full Circle: Interview with Intern Amanda Nell

A few weeks ago we went to a filming for our 25th Anniversary video. We invited intern Amanda Nell, who herself was adopted through Adoptions Together, to join us and take part in the experience. Afterwards, we spoke to Amanda about the experience and how she came to intern at Adoptions Together. Continue reading…


“This is not a job for me. It’s a calling and I love it.” Interview with an Interim Care Provider

Have you ever wondered who takes care of an infant between the time they are born and the time they are placed with their adoptive family? In many cases, that person is an interim care provider like Felicia Simms. We spoke with Felicia to learn more about what the experience is like for her and why she has been an interim care parent for over five years.


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Felicia Simms, interim care parent for Adoptions Together.

Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your family.

My name is Felicia Simms and I am an interim care provider. My husband James helps a great deal and is very supportive. I have a 24-year-old son who lives in New York and works in a corporate office for Bloomingdales, which he absolutely loves. My husband is retired from the Prince George’s County Police Department, and he now works as an officer working court duty in Charles County. I worked for the government for twenty-six and a half years before retiring in 2004. Ever since then, I’ve been at home during the day by myself, unless I have a baby staying with me.

How long have you been an interim care provider?

I have been an interim care provider since May 2010, so a little over five years.

How did you become an interim care parent?

Before I became an interim carer for Adoptions Together, I was a foster mom for a different agency and I worked with older kids. It was a challenge for me and I didn’t always feel like I was making a difference. Because my husband works, I was mostly doing this by myself and I decided that I wanted to do something where I could provide for the children entirely on my own. I researched interim care, and then I found Adoptions Together. I narrowed it down from 20 different agencies and picked AT because I felt like it was a good fit. I read a lot about the agency before I ever made my first phone call.

How many babies have lived with you?

Right now I’m on my 52nd or 53rd placement. I have a little one with me right now, and a few weeks ago I was present to see one of my babies placed with his forever family.

How long do the babies usually stay with you?

It depends on the situation for each baby, because every baby and every family is different. The least amount of time that a baby has stayed with me was a week. The longest was about nine and a half weeks, for medically fragile twins who came to me at five months old.

What was it like the first time you brought a baby home?

It was heaven. Heaven is the best way I could describe it. I was in awe. I was alone during the day, so I could revolve my entire schedule around the baby. I liked knowing the baby depended upon me and that because he was with me, he was going to be loved from the very beginning.

Is it difficult to let go?

If I’m being honest… I understand what I do and what my purpose is, as an interim care provider. I understand that my purpose is to care and love these babies. I’ve got that. With that said, I can’t control my feelings and I don’t try to control my feelings. Once they come to me, I treat them like my own, because they deserve every bit of that love and attention. So sometimes yes, it is difficult to let them go, but I work through it because I understand. I do fall in love with these babies and it is hard, but this is what I want to do.

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Felicia with her husband James.

Are there any babies or stories that really impacted you?

Don’t get me wrong, I treat them all like they’re mine and I love every one of them, but there are a few that really touched me. My second or third placement was a little boy named Samuel. When I first met him, he was in the hospital, not quite ready to go home. My husband and I stayed there overnight at the hospital, waiting with him until he could come home with us. I told my husband he didn’t have to be there, but he wanted to stay, and I knew that I had all his support. It was really a special situation. I’m still in touch with Samuel’s mom today.

The twins that stayed with me for nine and a half weeks were also very special to me. When they were born, one was 1lb and the other was 1.5lbs. Jessica [Taylor, AT’s Domestic Adoption Counselor] called me and said “We have twins and they have a lot of issues, and we were wondering if you’d be able to take this on.” I couldn’t answer right away because I had to talk to my husband, because I wanted him to know what might be entering our lives—twins, boys, who had been in the hospital for five months, with kidney and lung problems, tubes to help them breathe, specialists we’d have to deal with. It was a lot. They had reflux, and that was just one of the minor issues they had. My husband said “let’s do it.” So I called Jessica and told her we were in. At the time they were with us, one of the babies was on 6 medications every day, and the other was on 7 medications. From my understanding, today they aren’t on any medications.

Is there anything else that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered?

I just want you to know that I have people asking me all the time “how do you do this?” and ‘how long will you do this?” I will do this as long as I can, until I no longer feel like this is a calling. I feel like this is what I was meant to do. I want people to know that these babies are well taken care of. From the time that I pick these babies up, until the time they go home, they are loved. I want them, and everyone else, to know that they were always loved. My only regret is that I didn’t find you sooner. I truly missed out. I am so blessed to be doing this.


Felicia Simms is a wonderful person, and just one of the many people who work with Adoptions Together to ensure that every child, at every stage in their life, is loved and cared for.
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The War Between Your Head and Heart

 

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I’m a war, of head versus heart,

And it’s always this way.

My head is weak, my heart always speaks,

Before I know what it will say.

–“Crooked Teeth” by Death Cab for Cutie

Making an adoption decision is often a battle between your head and your heart.

Even if you’re not normally an indecisive person, there’s a good chance that if you’re considering adoption, you’re feeling incredibly conflicted. Many of our clients feel like their head is telling them one thing, while their heart is telling them another. Their head might be saying, “You can’t take care of your other kids if you parent another baby” or “How are you going to finish your education if you become a mom?” while their heart is responding, “But I love my baby! I don’t want to say goodbye to them!”

Or their head might be saying, “I can afford to support this baby. There’s no logical reason for adoption,” while their heart is saying, “But I don’t want to be a mom right now” or “It’s not the right time for another child.”

When we’re feeling indecisive, we often find ourselves looking for signs or trying to get someone to make the decision for us. For example, losing your job might make your head scream “See? You can’t support this baby!” or watching your other children play might cause your heart to say, “Look! You’ll love this child as much as you love them!” You might ask your counselor, friends, or family members what they think you should do. They can provide guidance, but in the end, the decision is yours.

Either your head or your heart is most likely going to take up a little more space in your decision making; but that doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the other one. If your head is telling you to choose adoption and you decide to go forward with it, that doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby with your whole heart. If your heart is telling you that adoption is the wrong choice, deciding to parent doesn’t make you foolish or illogical.

And remember, your decision doesn’t have to “make sense.” For example, folks who know they can support a baby but do not want to parent sometimes have an especially hard time making a decision because they feel that choice will be hard for others to understand. But it’s okay to listen to your heart over your head, just like it’s okay to listen to your head over your heart.

Adoption decisions are rarely obvious. No matter what you do, your head and your heart are likely to fight with one another and with you. The question is what choice you can live with, both now and in the future. What do your brain and your heart tell you is most important in your life? How will you think and feel about your adoption decision in two years? What about ten?

What did your head and heart tell you about your adoption decision?


3 Birth Father Tributes You Should Read

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Yes, Father’s Day was last weekend, but hey, better to write about it late than to never write about it at all!

Of course there was not nearly enough blogging about the importance of birth fathers in celebration of last Sunday’s holiday, but we did find a few lovely tributes to birth fathers. Here are our favorites.

  • Since we’ve been talking a lot lately about adoptees’ feelings towards their birth parents, this essay by an adoptee about the birth father she has never met is both timely and thought-provoking. As we’ve found in a lot of essays about birth parents, the writer does not seem to feel any anger toward her birth father; she’s just full of “questions I would want to ask him should I ever have the opportunity.” (You can read our other posts on this topic here and here).

How was your Father’s Day? Did you read anything about adoption or birth fathers that you particularly enjoyed?


How Your Post-Placement Contact Agreement Can Help You Heal

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image c/o Tom Hunter via www.saatchigallery.com

Is it possible to predict how you’ll feel after placement?

The short answer is no. Every person is different, and your emotions will vary based on your personal situation and on how you handle life’s hurdles in general.

The longer answer is …. sort of. The Donaldson Adoption Institute found in an early 2000s study that birth parents who chose their child’s adoptive family and who had ongoing contact – or in some cases just a little bit of information about their child’s well-being – had lower levels of grief after placement and felt more at peace with their decision than did birth parents with closed adoptions. 

Women with the highest levels of grief after adoption were those who thought they would have ongoing contact with their child but whose adoptions ended up being closed. This can happen for many different reasons; check out our blog post “When Adoption Is Less Open than You Thought” to learn more. When open adoptions close, it is often because they were arranged through a for-profit adoption facilitator; facilitators generally end their involvement after they’ve been paid by the adoptive family, which means there is no one around after placement to make sure the lines of communication stay open.

Ethical adoption organizations agree that birth parents who specify from the beginning that they want to have contact with their biological children have the right to do so, which is why organizations like Adoptions Together also believe that post-placement contact agreements – the plan that birth parents and adoptive parents sign that specifies how they will keep in touch with one another after placement – should be legally enforceable. Right now, contact agreements are only legally enforceable in thirteen states, two of which are Maryland and Virginia (woohoo!) It is rare that contact agreements actually wind up being used in court, but knowing that they are official legal documents sometimes helps birth parents and adoptive parents stay on track with openness even when their lives and relationships get complicated.

If you live in a state where post-placement contact agreements are not legally enforceable, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to minimize the risk of your open adoption closing unexpectedly. First, make sure that the agency handling your baby’s adoption is licensed, non-profit, and regularly provides support to birth parents and adoptive families after placement. Second, ask the agency whether they teach their waiting adoptive families about the importance of open adoption. Organizations like Adoptions Together work with adoptive families to help them understand why openness is beneficial for their child, for their child’s birth parents, and for them. Third, make sure you still have a written post-placement contact agreement, even if you know it’s not legally enforceable; it never hurts to have things written down so that everyone is 100% clear on what’s supposed to happen.

As we said in our March 30th post, we never know exactly how relationships will turn out, and that includes relationships between birth parents and adoptive families. But planning for openness with a post-placement contact agreement plants the seed for a positive experience. It’s a good start, both towards ensuring a positive relationship with your child and their family and towards healing and coming to peace with your adoption decision.


The Birth Parent Song You Have to Hear Today

If you’re like many of the other birth parents with whom we’ve worked, you sometimes worry that your child won’t understand why you chose adoption and will grow up feeling hurt, rejected, or hateful.

On the contrary, we have found that adopted children are just as well-adjusted as children raised by their birth parents. Plus, birth parents who have an open adoption can personally explain their adoption decision to their child when the time is right.

But don’t just take it from us! Mark Schultz is an adoptee who wrote the song “Everything to Me” for his birth mother. The video is above and the lyrics are below, and we think you’ll find Mark is anything but hateful when it comes to his biological mom. One birth mom with whom we worked told us she teared up when she first heard it – and then she listened to it five times in a row. So take a few minutes to listen, and let us know what you think!

“Everything to Me” by Mark Schultz

I must have felt your tears

When they took me from your arms

I’m sure I must have heard you say goodbye

Young and so afraid, had you made a big mistake

Could an ocean even hold the tears you cried?

 

But you had dreams for me

You wanted the best for me

And you made the only choice

You could that night

And you gave life to me, a brand new world to see

Like playing baseball in the yard with Dad at night

Mom reading Goodnight Moon and praying in my room

So if you worry if your choice was right

When you gave me up, oh, you gave everything to me

 

And if I saw you on the street

Would you know that it was me?

And would your eyes be blue or green like mine?

Would we share a warm embrace?

Would you know me in your heart?

Or would you smile and let me walk on by?

 

Knowing you had dreams for me

You wanted the best for me

Oh, I hope that you’d be proud

Of who I am

 

You gave life to me, a chance to find my dreams

And a chance to fall in love

You should have seen her shining face on our wedding day

Oh, is this the dream you had in mind?

When you gave me up, oh, you gave everything to me

 

And when I see you there

Watching from heaven’s gates

Into your arms, I’m gonna run

And when you look in my eyes

You can see my whole life

See who I was and who I’ve become

 

‘Cos you gave life to me, a brand new world to see

Like playing baseball with my son late at night

And reading Goodnight Moon and praying in his room

I’m so grateful that I have this life

When you gave me up, you gave everything to me

Everything to me