When Should You Be Able to Sign Paperwork?

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Did you sign adoption papers in your hospital bed?

A number of folks pushing for adoption reform believe that birth mothers should not be able to sign adoption paperwork until 72 hours (3 days) after they’ve given birth.

We totally agree that no birth mom should be asked to sign paperwork when she is still groggy from being medicated or exhausted from labor. Unfortunately, most hospitals in our area only allow women to stay in the hospital for one or two days after they’ve given birth, which means that if a birth mom hasn’t been able to sign paperwork yet, then she has to take the baby home.

When we first talk to women considering adoption, many of them are extremely worried about being told they must take their baby home before placement. Making the adoption decision itself is hard enough; they do not want to start the process of bonding knowing that they will be placing their baby very soon. Nor do they want to buy all of the necessary baby supplies only to be left with an empty crib and lots of tiny clothes when they return from an emotional placement.

That’s why our practice at Adoptions Together is to wait at least 24 hours to have birth mothers sign paperwork, but not necessarily 72 hours. Of course, if a birth mother wants to take the baby home first, we completely support her decision; but if she doesn’t want to, we feel she should be able to sign paperwork in the hospital before she leaves.

Luckily for us, the majority of our adoptions take place in Maryland, where birth parents have 30 days to change their minds after signing paperwork. This means that if they feel they were mistaken when they originally signed, they can regain custody of their baby anytime within the next month. Maryland has a longer revocation period than many other states, which makes us feel confident that even a birth mom who signed paperwork relatively soon after she gave birth still has time to feel certain of her decision.

The rest of our adoptions happen in DC and Virginia. In DC, birth moms have 14 days to change their minds after they sign an adoption consent, and in Virginia, they have 10 days from the date of the baby’s birth. We prefer the 30-day waiting period but are glad birth mothers still have 10-14 days to change their minds.

How long did you wait to sign paperwork? Do you think there should be a mandatory 72-hour period between delivery and signing? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Follow Birth Parent Place!

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Have you followed us on Bloglovin’ yet?!

Bloglovin’ is a feed that allows you to see all your favorite blogs’ content in one spot, instead of checking each one individually to see if there are any new posts. It is handy because it has a free iPhone and Android app so you can check out what’s new even when you’re on the go. We use it to keep up with all of our favorite birth parent blogs like BirthMom Buds and The Happiest Sad.

What are you waiting for? Click here to follow Birth Parent Place on Bloglovin’!

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Does Everything Really Happen for a Reason?

Does Everything

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We once worked with a birth mother who found out several months after she’d placed that she’d inherited several thousand dollars.

As soon as she found out that a distant relative had left her the money, she was filled with regret for the adoption. She was going to be able to use the funds to buy a car so she could have reliable transportation for a job, meaning that she would become much more financially stable than she had been when she’d decided to place. She felt that if she’d known this before, she would have been less likely to go forward with adoption. The news, and ensuing regret, put her in a very dark place, and our hearts went out to her.

About a month after she told us out about the inheritance, she called to speak with her counselor again. Her counselor was surprised to hear her sounding more energetic than she had in a long time. Our client had sought the support of her loved ones and had spent a lot of time reflecting on the recent events in her life, and she said that ultimately, she was comforted by her belief that things happen for a reason.  She might not know it now, she said, but there had to be a reason that she didn’t receive the money a few months earlier and that she chose adoption. Instead of feeling regretful, she had decided to trust in the order of the universe.

Many of the birth parents for whom we work say they feel that their child’s adoption was “meant to be” in some way. Sometimes, just seeing that their child is happy and healthy is enough to make them feel that adoption has clearly been the right path. Other times, they find comfort in random connections between themselves and their child’s adoptive family. For example, we worked with one birth parent who named her baby in the hospital knowing that the adoptive family would change the name later. The name she chose was not a common one; it was special to her. The adoptive family did not know what name she had picked, and when it came time for them to name their son, they chose the name based on a billboard they’d seen on the highway. It turned out to be the same name the birth mother had chosen because it was special to her.

Stories like this one often make birth parents and adoptive parents feel that something beyond coincidence has led them to one another. Even smaller connections, like finding out you were born in the same area as your child’s adoptive mother, can be comforting in the days, weeks, months, and years after placement.

In her book Everything Happens for a Reason: Finding the True Meaning of Events in Our Lives, Mira Kirshenbaum contends that everything that happens in our lives happens for one of the following reasons:

  1. To help us feel at home in the world
  2. To help us totally accept ourselves
  3. To show us that we can let go of fear
  4. To bring us to the place where we can feel forgiveness
  5. To help us uncover our true hidden talent
  6. To give us what we need to find true love
  7. To help us become stronger
  8. To help us discover the play in life
  9. To show us how to live with a sense of mission
  10. To help us become a truly good person.

Do you agree with Ms. Kirshenbaum? Do you think your adoption experience could have happened for one of these reasons? What kind of meaning have you found in the process? Tell us in the comments section below!

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“What Happens When They Start Asking Questions?”

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Many birth mothers tell us that they worry about the day their child will ask them the tough questions about being adopted, like why they were placed or who their birth father was (if he’s not involved in their life).

Sometimes, the answers to those questions are straightforward, but other times the subject is touchy. There may be aspects of your adoption journey that you don’t necessarily want your child to associate with you, like drug use or casual sex, or that were upsetting and traumatic, like sexual assault. What happens when your child starts asking questions whose answers are difficult to talk about?

The Need for Trust

When your child’s parents adopted, they signed on for both the fun parts of parenting and the difficult parts, including having tough conversations. They will hear your child’s questions before you do, which is one of the reasons why trust is so important in any adoptive relationship. Choosing adoption means taking a leap of faith and trusting your child’s family to talk openly and appropriately about the adoption story you all share. Trusting them to raise your child also means trusting them to have the tough conversations that come with parenting.

What Will They Say?

Adoptions Together encourages adoptive parents to talk to their child about adoption from a very early age in a way they can understand, and we strongly discourage them from lying to their children, even about difficult topics. For example, if your pregnancy was the result of sexual assault, we might suggest to your child’s adoptive parents that they simply say “We only know a little bit about your birth daddy because he and your birth mommy were not close friends.” If you were struggling with substance use during your pregnancy, they could explain, “Your birth mommy was sick when she was pregnant with you and wanted you to have parents who could take care of you when she couldn’t.”

Your child’s parents will decide, as your child grows older, when and how to share additional information based on your child’s personality, maturity, and overall development. Remember, by the time your child is old enough to hear about the more upsetting parts of your adoption journey, their family will know them inside and out. This won’t be the first difficult topic they’ve ever discussed, so they’ll already understand how your child processes information and will be able to choose the right time, place, and environment for sharing the tougher aspects of their adoption story.

What’s the Agency Got to Do With It?

After your child is placed with an adoptive family, we send a social worker to visit with them every couple of months for six months. During those conversations, the social worker discusses with the family how they plan to talk to their child about adoption. We feel it is important for families to be extremely open with their children and not to leave out details even if the prospect of sharing them seems upsetting, and we address this subject in the mandatory seminar-style training we hold for parents to attend after placement. We also offer specialized training, coaching, counseling, and support for adoptive families who need extra help in this area. If you’re still in the process of choosing an adoption agency, you may want to ask how the agency prepares its adoptive families for tackling the difficult topics that often come with adoption.

How did your child’s adoptive parents explain the “tough stuff” to them? Have you talked to your child about the more painful aspects of your adoption story?

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Why Adoption Gets a Bad Rap

Some people really don’t like adoption.

There are a few high-profile anti-adoption bloggers and activists out there who talk about the supposedly evil “adoption industry” and warn women considering adoption that they’ll regret their choices.

Hearing from these folks can be tough for us because they often group all adoption organizations into the same awful category. We need to listen to their side of the story, though, because the words of people who have had negative adoption experiences remind us that there is still a lot of work to be done in the world of adoption.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Back In The Day

Nurse with crying baby

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The 1940s began what is sometimes called the “Baby Scoop Era.” Increasing numbers of unmarried women were becoming pregnant, and psychologists and social workers started to spread the false idea that babies born “out of wedlock” would have better lives if they were separated from their birth parents and placed for adoption with married couples. Unwed women who became pregnant before marriage were sent to maternity homes where they were shamed and isolated from their friends and family for the duration of their pregnancy. Then, after giving birth, some women were told their babies had died, while others were pressured to sign adoption papers or had their babies taken from them while they were still sedated. It was a horrible and unethical time for adoption in the United States.

Things began to change in the 1970s. Not only was the birth rate declining, but the country was becoming more socially liberal. It was still difficult to be an unmarried parent, but it was a little bit less taboo. More government services also became available for pregnant and parenting women, and by the 1980s, the Baby Scoop Era had passed.

Many anti-adoption activists are parents whose babies were stolen from them during the Baby Scoop Era. We understand their point of view; they still see adoption as forcing someone who wants to parent their baby to give up that child against their will.

And unfortunately, there are still many organizations that do pressure women to place for adoption. Keep reading to learn how you can avoid them.

What Still Needs to Change: The “Adoption Industry”

choose

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We’ve written before about professionals, and in some cases adoption facilitators, that make a profit each time a woman chooses adoption for her baby. There is a large industry of these businesses, many of which take advantage of women whose pregnancies make them financially and emotionally vulnerable. You’ve probably seen their advertisements on the Internet; they often play up their offer to pay living expenses, and many of them try to “sell” people on the idea of adoption by telling birth parents how heroic they are and assuring them that their children will have better lives this way.

At Adoptions Together, we do not believe that anyone should be talking women into (or out of) adoption; birth parents should be provided with unbiased counseling and information about all of their options and then be trusted to know what decision is right for them. And no one should be making a profit from adoption, either. While some of our funding comes from the fees that adoptive parents pay (fees which we use to offer services like free counseling, even for those who are not sure yet whether adoption is right for them), much of it also comes from other sources, like foundations and individual donations. Basically, this means that if we work with a birth parent who decides not to go forward with adoption, our employees still get paid. We’re able to be unbiased in our work with birth parents because we aren’t financially dependent upon their choosing adoption.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing more about changes we think need to happen in the adoption world. But first, tell us what you think – how is adoption different from (or the same as) it was during the Baby Scoop Era?

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The War Between Your Head and Heart

 

head vs. heart

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?

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How Much Should You Tell Your Child and their Family?

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Personal information is….well…personal.

Whether you consider yourself a private person or someone who is pretty open with others about who you are, it can be difficult to decide how much information to give your child and their adoptive family about your personal life. After all, when you place your child, you still don’t know their adoptive family as well as you do your friends and family members, and there might be aspects of your life and adoption story that you’re not sure you want to share.

We ask all of the birth parents with whom we work to fill out a “Social and Medical History,” which is basically just a packet of lots and lots of questions about you. We used to ask only for basic information about your health, like whether you had any pregnancy complications or a history of any type of illness in your family. We still ask those questions, because it’s extremely important information for the adoptive family to have to help your child stay healthy; but now, we also ask many other questions that are just about you, like your hobbies, your favorite food, and what type of music you like.

It might seem too personal or even just silly to share information like where you grew up or what style of clothing you wear, but we know from experience that adoptees are grateful to have it. Adoption is a big part of your child’s life story, and no matter what kind of relationship you have, you’ll always be important to them. The more they know about you, the more secure they can feel in knowing where they came from.

And don’t worry – knowing about your life won’t make your child upset or confused about why they were adopted. Kids are capable of understanding adoption from a very young age. If there are aspects of your adoption journey that were particularly upsetting, like drug use or violence, your child’s family will simply wait to share that information with them until the time is right, and will talk to them about it in a way they can understand. Also, if your relationship with your child’s other birth parent has been difficult, you might be tempted to leave out information that you have about them, but think about it this way: wondering who their other birth parent was, and what they were like, will be much more emotionally difficult for your child than realizing that they weren’t perfect.

Laurie Elliott, who works with adoption courts in Pittsburgh, asked the teenage adoptees with whom she worked what questions they wanted to have answered about their birth parents. Some of those questions included what kind of students their birth parents were, what religion(s) their birth parents practiced, whether anyone else in their birth family knew about them, and what hobbies, special talents, or abilities their birth parents had. What type of information did you share with your child and their adoptive family? How did you feel about sharing it?

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One Thing You MUST Tell Your Adoption Agency

I want

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What do you expect from your adoption agency?

The birth parent counselors at Adoptions Together have learned that every birth mother and father has a different idea of what they want from their relationship with the agency that places their child.

Once, a social worker had two interactions on the same day that illustrated how incredibly different those expectations could be. The first was a phone call with a birth parent who said she felt forgotten because her child’s family was a little bit late in sending her an update and her counselor wasn’t at her desk when she called about it, so she had to leave a voicemail. The second was an e-mail from a birth parent who had never answered any of the counselor’s phone calls or e-mails in the year since her baby’s adoption; now she had written to say how much she appreciated the agency’s support.

Both clients had the same birth parent counselor. She didn’t favor one over the other or use radically different approaches in her interactions with them. The difference was in their expectations. The client who expected her updates to arrive on the exact same day every year was disappointed when one was a little late, whereas the client who hadn’t even intended to be in touch with our agency again was pleasantly surprised by the amount of post-placement support we offer.

The point here is not that you should lower your expectations. In fact, it’s the opposite. If your expectations aren’t being met, it’s very important for you to let your adoption agency know. At Adoptions Together, we want to make sure each of the birth parents with whom we work feels comfortable and cared for every step of the way, but the things that make you feel cared for might be different from what we need to do for another client.

In order for us to meet your expectations, we have to know what they are. We won’t necessarily be able to meet them every time; for example, we couldn’t magically make the first birth parent’s update appear right away. However, we were able to talk to her about her feelings and communicate to the adoptive family how much those updates mean to her so that they could get better about sending them promptly in the future.

What do you expect from your adoption agency? Do they, or did they, meet your expectations?

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Considering Adoption for an Older Baby or Toddler

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Most of the phone calls we get are from women who are pregnant or recently delivered a baby, but we occasionally hear from mothers whose babies are already a few months – or even a year or two – old.  Usually, the women who call us about placing an older baby or child actually considered adoption early on but ended up deciding to parent instead. Often, their change of heart involved promises of help from family members and friends. If those promises don’t work out as planned, these mothers sometimes end up calling us again a few weeks or months later when they are not getting the support they need and they’re feeling overwhelmed. They are often so panicked that they will ask us on the phone whether we can come take the baby that very day.

As we start working with these clients, many of them realize that they might actually want help figuring out how to get some support so they can continue parenting. Sometimes it’s enough just to show their family members how desperate they are feeling by letting them know they’ve scheduled a meeting with an adoption counselor. Other times they need us to meet with them so they can figure out how explain to others that they’re at the end of their rope and need help.

After all, parenting is hard, especially without support from family members or friends. In a moment of crisis, adoption might seem like the only way to go. We at Adoptions Together are more than happy to talk to you about whether it’s the right option for you, and you may find in working with us that what you actually need is help exploring resources. Making an adoption plan when your baby is older is much more difficult than placing them as a newborn (and infant placement is hard enough already!). Not only have you already been nurturing your baby for weeks or months, but your family members also know and love the baby, and often the birth father does, too. If you decide in the end that adoption is just too difficult, that’s okay.

And if adoption is ultimately what you want, then of course we will help guide you through that process. We trust all women to know what’s best for them and clients whose babies are a little bit older are no exception. We also understand how difficult it is to realize that the path you chose isn’t working for you, and we take that very seriously.

Please note that if you are feeling so desperate and/or out of control that you fear you may hurt yourself or your baby, help is available right away. Call 911 so that someone can make sure you and your baby remain safe.

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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?

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