Let s Talk About Adoption. Adoption is a sensitive topic. But, equipped with a few key facts, you can discuss it at ease.

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1 Let s Talk About Adoption Adoption is a sensitive topic. But, equipped with a few key facts, you can discuss it at ease.

2 Welcome! Let s Talk About Adoption. Thank you for taking the time to visit our on-line booklet! We are excited to help equip you for the task of presenting the option of adoption to individuals experiencing challenging pregnancy situations. Whether you are a school counselor, pastor, teacher, friend, or a person with a passion for adoption, this booklet will provide you with tools and information you can use to help others explore the option of adoption. We know that having a conversation with someone about considering adoption for their child can feel like mission impossible. But we trust that the following resources will give you the confidence you need for the task.

3 History of Adoption. 1940s 1960s Who is being adopted? In 1944, 42% of adopted children had been born in wedlock. Unmarried mothers made up the majority by the end of the 1950s. Society strongly believed that an unmarried woman should never raise a child alone. Children being adopted were not usually newborns; rather they were usually over one year old. The child often lived in a temporary home prior to adoption. Who can adopt? Married couples only. Many states had laws requiring children to be adopted by families of the same race and religion as the child. What was the process? Home study involved interviews at home, references, credit bureau report, and medical exams. The focus was on the child while offering services to the adoptive parents. There was little focus on birthparents. How long did it take? Once a child was legally eligible for adoption, a family could adopt the child after a probationary period of 6 months to one year. How much did it cost? In the 40s the cost ranged from $50 to $150. By the 50s, the cost could be as high as $1,400. Many agencies had a sliding fee scale based on income. What about openness? Workers advised adoptive parents to talk about adoption as early as possible. Records were permanently sealed, but only 15 states required reporting of adoptions as vital statistics. 1970s 1980s Who is being adopted? Newborns of all races were being adopted domestically. The desire of most was a healthy, Caucasian baby. Approximately 60 couples waited per child. In 1973, abortion became a legal alternative for pregnant women. Who can adopt? Prospective people needed to show financial ability to care for a child. Most agencies insisted that individuals be a minimum of 21 years old. Some agencies had a maximum infant age but not for special needs. During this time, single people were allowed to adopt. What was the process? Home study involved interviews at home, references, credit bureau report, and medical exams. The focus was on the child while offering services to the adoptive parents. Focus was starting to shift to include birthparents. How long did it take? Matching a child with a family was done by the agency. Most families waited at least a year for placement. How much did it cost? Adoptions ranged from $300-$500. Cost differed depended on where the family lived. Adoption subsidies became available at this time. What about openness? Openness was defined as the parties knowing each other. It could include the birth parents and adoptive parents requesting information, pictures, or visits. 1980s Today Who is being adopted? Newborns of all races, infants, and older children are being adopted. Many families seek international adoptions. Who can adopt? In this era, adoption is open to almost anyone over age 18. The average age limit for an adoptive couple is 48 for a domestic adoption. What was the process? An adoption study is completed with interviews and paperwork. Workers spend time educating the families about a variety of issues. There are extensive background checks and references. Medical reports are also required. How long did it take? At most agencies, birthparents choose the family. This can cause the family s length of time to vary. Average wait for a domestic infant is one to two-year. How much did it cost? Adoptions can range from $5,000 to $20,000 and beyond. Tax credits became available at this time and have now reached $10,000. Work places often offer reimbursements. What about openness? Openness is still very similar to the previous era. However, openness is becoming more common and can include exchanging identifying information. Most agencies allow the couple and the birthparents to establish the level of openness desired. Agencies offer education about openness. Some agencies allow only open adoptions.

4 Adoption Glossary. DO Use: Make an adoption plan Birth children Decided to parent Child was adopted Unplanned pregnancy DON T Use: Giving up, give away, put up Real children Keeping baby Child is adopted, adoptee Unwanted pregnancy Adoption Plan Making an adoption plan refers to the birth parents decision to choose to ask another family to raise their child. Adoption Circle/Family Tapestry Term used rather then adoption triangle, triad or circle is more inclusive. Birth Parents Term used rather than biological or genetic parents. Confidential Adoption Closed, no identifying information is shared. Dedication ceremony A ceremony held after the placement has been finalized. The adoptive family invites family, friends and pastor to celebrate at the agency. Designated Adoption An adoption where the family is chosen by the birth parents outside of an agency. The pregnant client may already be working with an agency, but connects with a family outside of the agency prior to coming into contact with or while working with the agency. Disruption When a child that has been living with a prospective adoptive family is reclaimed and returns to the birth family. This occurs when the birth parent(s) change his/her mind about the adoption during the legal risk period. (Continued on next page) Adapted from materials by New Life Family Services

5 Adoption Glossary, continued. Entrustment Ceremony A ceremony where birth parents acknowledge transferring the child to the adoptive parents. Includes affirmation of each party s value and love for the child. Scripture, prayer, pictures and gifts are often a part of this event. Can occur at the hospital, agency or elsewhere and at a time suitable for all parties. Face-To-Face A meeting between birth parents and adoptive family. Social workers attend and sometimes birth grandparents do as well. It may be a meeting where a birth parent is choosing a family or confirming her choice. It may also be a meeting where the parties are negotiating the level of openness or deciding how things should go during the hospital stay and fos-adopt time. Finalization The legal process which makes the adoptive family the legal parents (thus forever family). Fos-adopt A period of time following the birth when the newborn is discharged directly from the hospital into the adoptive home. During this time, the adoptive family acts as the foster parents until the legal risk period is over. During this time, the adoption could disrupt and the child would be returned to the birth parent. Often fos-adopt is requested by both parties in order to promote attachment between adoptive family and baby in the first weeks and months after birth. Foster Care Also known as interim care, cradle care. Agencies often offer this service to birth parents if in the decision-making process after the child s birth. Home Study Also known as an adoption study or investigation. This process involves extensive interviews, reference checks, medical assessments and background checks in order to approve a family for adoption. Required by law unless applicant is first, second or third degree relative of birth parents. Identifying Info Information about the parties, including full names, addresses, phone numbers. ICPC Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children a federal law requiring written notice of the intention to place a child from one state into an adoptive family from another state. This intention must be approved by both the sending and receiving state prior to the child s entrance. Legal Risk Period The period of time between the birth of the child and the expiration of voluntary consents or TPR hearing. The child may be living with the adoptive family, in a foster home, or with birth family. Non-Identifying Info. Information shared about the party that does not directly identify them to each other. May include first names, occupations, education, interests, religious affiliation, etc. Open Adoption An adoption plan which allows disclosure of information, identifying or non-identifying, depending on the level of openness. Post-Placement The period of time after adoption during which social workers visit the family and file a report to the court on how the adoption is progressing. Adoptive families, by state law, must wait a certain period of time after the child joins their family before they are allowed to finalize. Profile Pictures and information used as an introduction for prospective birth parents to look at when deciding on an adoptive family. This usually includes a home summary, pictures, and a letter written to the birth parents. Right To Notice Birth fathers can earn the right to be notified and involved in an adoptive plan and termination of parental rights hearing. Varies by state. Adapted from materials by New Life Family Services

6 General Adoption Flow Chart. Adoption Agency Intake Decision Making Process Receive brochures and booklets Decision making advising regarding adoption or parenting Read and discuss applicable books Sign Release of Information Discuss and complete hospital and birth plan Review Disclosure Statement & State Commissioners Statement Complete Social Medical History Form and Contact Agreement Sheet Request Profiles for Potential Adoptive Families Face-to-Face Meeting(s) with Potential Adoptive Families Finalize Possible Cooperative or Contact Agreement Paperwork Regarding Adoption Process during Hospital Stay* Signing Adoption Paperwork* * Adoption laws are state laws so this will vary from state to state, agency to agency, and will also depend on the type of adoption the client is doing. Adapted from materials by New Life Family Services

7 What is Open Adoption? Semi-Open (Shared some identifying info.) Closed (Parties do not know any identifying info.) Open (Fully disclosed) Closed Adoption Today, closed adoptions only occur if the birth parent chooses to leave the adoption closed. All adoption agencies and lawyers must have some information about the adoptive family available to the birthparents if they want it. Because of this, some would argue that there is no such thing as closed adoption anymore. Open Adoption This term refers to an adoption that is fully disclosed. In other words, both parties have shared all identifying information such as full names, addresses, and telephone numbers. There is no mediator involved for future contacts after the adoption. Semi-open Adoption The parties involved have shared some but not all identifying information (first names only, for example), and therefore, still have a mediator (such as an agency) involved. Today, most birth parents choose some form of semi-open adoption or open adoption. Adapted from materials by New Life Family Services

8 Suspending My Own Biases About Adoption. Ways to discuss adoption, even though I might not personally choose that option. You may ask yourself, How could I ever support/encourage/ recommend a person to consider adoption when I would never choose it for myself? It may help you to think of this discussion as a way of empowering individuals to explore diverse options in order to help them make a fully informed decision. It is not helpful to disable the parties involved from looking at adoption because of your own biases. We hope you can strive to become as supportive of the adoption option as you are of other options. Remember, you may be the only person who gives the parties involved permission to look at adoption. Your willingness to discuss options that can provide the best long-term outcome for all the parties involved can be a tremendous asset to others. Helping individuals face tough choices today often results in positive future outcomes. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind: 1. Give the parties involved control and let them talk it out. Encourage them to plan for the future not just the birth. Use positive adoption language. 2. Let the parties involved know that you have confidence in them. Assure them that you believe that if they do make an adoption plan they will be able to handle the rough spots and that someone will be there to help them. 3. Encourage the parties involved to talk to their families regarding parenting and the help they could expect from the family if parenting. Encourage them to identify what they expect the family to do and what the family really will do. Ask them to consider if comparing these realities could affect their decision either to parent or to make an adoption plan? 4. Offer a list of adoption agencies for them to contact personally for further information. Gathering information helps an individual move in one direction or the other. 5. Help demystify adoption by giving information about the general process of adoption (without giving legal advice). However, don t gush about how wonderful everything will be if they choose to make an adoption plan and how happy the adoptive family will be when they finally have a child to love.

9 Overcoming Misconceptions About Adoption. Truths to consider about the option of adoption. Providing a child with a stable family is a very important part of adoption. The primary reason for adoption is to provide families for children, not children for families. Adopted children generally do as well or better in life compared to other children. Birth parents cannot terminate their parental rights before the child s birth. It is helpful to include the birth father in the adoption planning process. Birth parents should be offered the option of seeing their baby after birth if they so choose. Love, security and stability can be provided to children even though there are no biological connections. Human beings have the capacity to love those with whom they are not biologically connected. Adoptive parents can love a child and be successful parents even though they haven t experienced pregnancy and childbirth. Children do well when raised in loving, secure, stable homes whether they are share the same race as their adoptive parents or not. Adoption is the right choice for some birth parents and they deserve the same respect we give those who choose to parent their children themselves. Adoption is not the right choice for everyone but we must not reject it simply because we would not choose that plan for our children. Adoption can be a good choice for birth parents that are experiencing a challenging pregnancy situation. for adoption and focus on the good plan and positive future they aspire to for both themselves and the child. Making an adoption plan for a child is not taking the easy way out. It is a sacrificial decision that involves the birth parents taking the emotional pain up front for the long-term good of the child. Adoption is not more painful than parenting a child. Just because a person chooses parenting over adoption, there is no guarantee that they will not experience pain as they raise their child. Adopted persons sometimes choose to search for their birth parents at some point in their lives, while others never feel the need to do so. With openness in adoption, much information about the adopted person s birth family is shared with the child as they are growing up. Adoptive parents (domestic adoptions) usually receive extensive information about their child s medical and social background. Birth parents that make adoption plans for their children do love their children and strive to make the best plan for their children that they can. Sometimes that plan includes parenting and sometimes it includes adoption. Even though birth parents receive counseling and other services from an adoption agency they are not obligated to choose adoption. Though adoption can be a painful choice and some birth parents do regret the decision, the majority recognize that this pain results from love. Rather than focusing on their own pain and regret, birth parents often rehearse their reasons P.O. Box 75, Elk River, MN Learn more at adoptionoptionmn.org

10 Starting an Adoption Conversation. Here are some possible suggestions for statements and questions you can use to break the ice with individuals who are considering the adoption option. 1. Deciding what to do about your child is a very big decision and it s worth taking the time to look at all of your options. It s important to have all the information in order to make a good decision. Would you like me to share some information with you about adoption or would you be interested in meeting with an adoption agency to gather some more information? 2. Have you ever considered the option of adoption? 3. When I mention the word adoption, what is the first thing you think of? 4. Looking at all your options will help you to confirm the choice you do make. In order to look at adoption, it is important for you to look at parenting as well. Have you begun to think of your pregnancy as an actual person yet? 5. Let s try to brainstorm what your life will look like five years from now if you choose parenting and then if you choose adoption. Remember, you are planning the future for yourself and your child. 6. Just because we talk about adoption, doesn t mean that you have to choose it. Adoption is a decision that takes courage and love. Some people say that adoption is a choice that you make with your head, and your heart follows. 7. Did you know that you have a lot of options with adoption and that birth parents have control over what their adoption looks like and are able to choose the parents for your child? 8. Do you know anyone who was adopted or who has made an adoption plan for his or her child? If so, could you tell me about their experiences? If you don t know, could you talk with them about what they chose and how their decisions have impacted their lives? 9. I want you to know that I believe that you are capable of doing the hard work of decision-making and I would like to support you in that process as much as I can. What can I do to help you right now?

11 Adoption Decision-Making Notes. Every decision I make has pros and cons. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of parenting my child for both me and for my child? Write at least three advantages and disadvantages in each column. For Me For Child Parenting Advantages Parenting Disadvantages Parenting Advantages Parenting Disadvantages In each column, write at least three advantages or disadvantages of making an adoption plan. Write at least three advantages and disadvantages in each column. For Me For Child Adoption Advantages Adoption Disadvantages Adoption Advantages Adoption Disadvantages

12 Researching Adoption Agencies Worksheet. Questions to ask an adoption agency Agency Name Agency Name Can I pick the adoptive family? Can I learn about and interview more than one adoptive family before choosing? Can I look at profiles and information on waiting families? Can I get help in choosing a family I don t know? Can I meet a family before deciding? Several families? Can I meet them before the baby is born? Can I receive services if I find a family on my own or out of state? Can a relative or friend adopt my baby? Can I pick a family without meeting them, if I chose not to? If I want no contact or involvement, will my identity be protected? If I choose, can the adoptive family go to doctor appointments with me? Can the family be in the delivery room with me? Can I spend time with my baby alone? Can my baby go home from the hospital with the adoptive parents? Can someone take care of my baby while I decide what to do? Can I ask for pictures and information about my child after adoption? Are visits or phone calls with the adoptive family possible after adoption? Can I get help with my feelings after the birth? What about after the baby is adopted? What kind of financial help is available to me if I make an adoption plan?

13 Adoption Resource List. Research Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process. Evan B. Donaldson. Adoption Institute (2007). Orientations of Pregnancy Counselors Toward Adoption. Mech, Edmund V. Washington, D.C. National Council for Adoption (1985). Presentations Adoption Option Speakers Panel video presentation. Adoption and Adolescents module of the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program (ARSHEP). Pregnant Adolescents: Communicating the Adoption Option. Mech, Edmund V. Child Welfare. Vol, LXV, No. 6 (November-December, 1986), pp Birthmother Perceptions of the Psychologically Present Adopted Child: Adoption Openness and Boundary Ambiguity. Fravel, D., McRoy, R., and Grotevant, H. Family Relations 49(4), pp (2000). Adoption Factbook IV. National Council for Adoption (2007).

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