Archive for January, 2017

Adoption Stories & Advice from the Adoption Triad

The beauty of adoption is that it can come in many forms, and blossom in many different ways. Each adoption story is unique. Every person within the adoption triad has an experience that is exceptionally their own. This month, the staff at Adoptions With Love had the honor of touching base with three distinct members of the adoption triad: a birth mother, an adoptee, and an adoptive couple who made adoption plans through our agency years ago. Here are their adoption stories.

Kristy
adoption experiences

Fifteen years ago, Kristy found out that she was pregnant with her son. Surprised and not sure what to do, she came to the heartfelt decision to place her son for adoption. Kristy was young, scared, and knew that she was not prepared to take on the responsibility of a newborn.  She knew that, at the time, she and the birth father were not able to provide the stability and security their son deserved. So, Kristy chose to make an adoption plan through Adoptions With Love.

Through the challenges and many emotions that so often come with adoption, Kristy is confident she made the best choice for her child. Here is what Kristy had to say about her adoption experience:

What choices did you have in making your adoption plan? How have those choices shaped your adoption experience?

The choices that I had in making my adoption plan were always available to me, and I always knew and was aware of the adoption process. Since placing my son for adoption through Adoptions With Love, I can truly say it has been such a beautiful experience.

The staff at Adoptions With Love were very open and extremely kind and caring from the beginning of the process. They gave me options in what I could do, but never pressured me to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. They talked and walked me through the whole process, holding my hand all the way. Through all of this, I still believe that adoption should always be an option. It can be a beautiful experience for not only the birthmother, but also for the child and adoptive parents as well.

Who or what has been your biggest support through the adoption process and beyond?

I would say the biggest support I had during this time in my life was Nancy from Adoptions With Love. My family was not very accepting of my decision at the time, and not having anyone to turn to for emotional support, Nancy was the one who was always there for me. She allowed me to express myself, answered every question or concern that I had, and was always a phone call away when I needed someone to talk to. Adoptions With Love has always been there. There, not just as an adoption agency placing your baby for you, but there in the sense they really care about your well-being and the future of you and your child.

What advice would you give to someone considering adoption?

Adoption has been such a wonderful and positive experience for me, and I would tell anyone who is thinking of placing their child with an adoptive family, that it can be a wonderful thing. Adoption gives you options and choices, and the right agency will allow you to make those on your own time— Never pressuring you, but only supporting you in the decision that you make.

Adoptions With Love not only placed my son for me, but also has been a constant support system. Adoptions With Love will answer any and all questions, and will try to eliminate any stress or fears that you may have.

Adoption has changed so much from the stigma that once existed; that when you place your child for adoption, you will never see them again. Today, you do have the option to have an open adoption, where you can receive pictures along with updates of your child and his or her progress. Sometimes, you may even have the choice of meeting with the adoptive family and your child. Adoption does not have to mean it’s the end of things or be thought of as a bad thing. It can truly be the beginning of many beautiful things.

If you were to talk to your children to help them understand your choice, what would you say?

If I could tell my children anything about the choices that I made, I would tell them that they were made out of love, that I have always loved them, and that I wanted them to have the very best start in life. I wanted them to have a future I wasn’t sure I could provide at the time. This choice was a sacrifice made with love.

 

Amanda

adoption adviceAmanda has always known she was adopted.  From an early age, she was able to grow her understanding of adoption and decide what role it would play in her life.  Now in a closed adoption plan, Amanda shares with us her experiences and offers a powerful perspective as a young adult adoptee.

How has adoption shaped or impacted your life? Do you feel it has?

I think that adoption has given me a unique gift:  the ability to not be confined by who my family is. A lot of friends define themselves by certain traits that they share with their parents. You hear people say “Oh, my dad is good at math so I’m naturally good at it,” or, “my mom is really physically fit – I get my strength from her.” Being adopted allows you to credit YOURSELF with your own successes and to create an identity that you are proud of.

I had a friend, who at 25 found out that the man she knew as her father was not her biological father. She called me in a panic wondering “who she was now that half of her identity was in question,” and I told her that it didn’t matter. Because she was a successful 25-year-old girl with her own interests, passions, successes, failures… her own identity. And she doesn’t need to know her biological father for all those things to be true. I think this perspective has given me a unique outlook on life.

Honestly though, I don’t think about being adopted all that much. It comes up randomly – like the time I needed to get my own health insurance because I was 23 and my parents were on Medicare.

“Why aren’t you on your parent’s health plan?”

“Because they are over 65 and have government health insurance.”

“Wow they were old when they had you!”

“Well, actually, I’m adopted.”

And then the conversation begins. But on a normal day, it doesn’t impact me at all. I am who I am, regardless of where I came from or who raised me.

When were you told you were adopted?

I’ve always known. I had a book on my bedside table called “The Day We Got You,” which is the adopted kids equivalent of “where do babies come from?” I think it’s best that way because if you understand it at an early age, it just grows with you… and you explore it when you want to explore it, and you leave it when you want to leave it. It doesn’t come crashing down to haunt you or rock your world like it does when you’re seven or sixteen or twenty-five.

Have you ever had the desire to search and/or establish contact with your birth parents?

I have thought about it. When I was 19, I decided I wanted to learn more about adoption. Instead of looking for my birth parents, I actually decided to go back to Adoptions With Love and work with them. I did some basic office tasks for them and gained some REALLY powerful insight into the workings of adoption. It was then that I decided that I didn’t want to meet my birth parents at the time… because you really need to be prepared to be ANYONE. You need to be prepared to be a child that came from drugs, abuse, prison, rape. And I decided that I would need to be really stable in order to be comfortable learning that about myself. As I’ve gotten older, there have been times that I’ve felt stable enough to learn these things – and in those moments, I haven’t felt the need to know more because I have felt like I have everything I need with the people I call my parents.

Eric & Rob

open adoption stories

Eric and Rob always had dreamt of starting a family. But as a gay couple, they were never completely sure if they could fulfill this dream.  Adoption gave them the opportunity to start a family together. Now, they are raising two beautiful children – a son and daughter – who both have open adoption plans. We had the pleasure of speaking with Eric and Rob about their adoption stories. Here is what they said:

How has adoption – and becoming a parent – shaped your lives and who you are today?

Becoming a parent has been like receiving the best gift you’re ever going to receive in your entire life.  Especially as gay men, we were never quite sure if it was going to be entirely possible for us to have a family of our own, for a number of different reasons. With adoption, we were sort of holding our breath the entire time – hopeful, but still unsure. When our daughter arrived and we brought her into our own home for the first time, the amount of joy and gratitude we each felt was indescribable. Gratitude for the birth parents for making this huge sacrifice; for choosing us to raise this little girl as our own; and for the agency for facilitating the entire process.

You never really can prepare yourself for the level of responsibility that comes with being a parent. It truly feels like the first time we both really became adults. Now every decision we make has our children at the center of it – in terms of where and when we go on vacation, decisions about jobs, finances, where to live – all have our children’s best interests in mind. We also get a huge thrill out of enjoying holidays like Halloween and Christmas all over again through their eyes. The joy, wonder and amazement that we see in their eyes brings a renewed sense of magic to those days for us. Even the smaller things such as holding our daughter’s hand as we walk down the street, or her snuggling up to us as we read a bedtime story, is the stuff that makes the more challenging times all worthwhile.

What advice would you give to other families considering adoption?

We initially looked into surrogacy because we thought about having a child that had at least had one part of our genetic makeup. However, the costs for that entire process were adding up to be well over our financial means. We moved forward with adoption and couldn’t be happier. We used to wonder if we could truly love an adopted child as much as one that was genetically ours in some way; however, those fears were completely unfounded. The love we have for our children feels no different than if we were biologically the same.

Our advice to others would be to be patient. Waiting for “the call” was extremely difficult for us both times. You will be parents! There will be times when the waiting will seem unbearable, but the things that centered us were different for each adoption:

For our first adoption, everyone told us that our world would change when we have a child. And although that is entirely accurate, you can’t even fathom these changes. Just go on that final vacation when it’s just you or you and your partner. Some people say not to decorate and furnish a baby room in advance but we found it to be bonding, calming, productive, and an all-around positive experience.

For our second adoption, the thing that centered us most was the thought that these were the last few months, weeks or days that it’ll just be the three of us. Let’s just enjoy this time with our first child because life will again become very chaotic for a time. Let’s relax, stay present for our daughter, and enjoy the quiet time while we have it.

What would you say to people who are unaware of how adoption is today?

Talk to someone who has adopted. We were fortunate enough to have two close friends of ours (a same-sex couple) adopt their son as we were considering our own plans for expanding our family. It was extremely helpful to ask them every question we could think of along the way, because different feelings and questions pop up throughout the entire journey.

Also – don’t assume adoption is the same as it was many years ago. Things have changed so much in terms of open versus closed adoptions, and adopting domestically can be much easier than you think with a very reasonable wait time. I think many of us come into adoption thinking about our great aunts and uncles or grandparents who were adopted, but those adoption stories are very rare nowadays.

What is your open adoption experience like?

For our daughter Katherine’s adoption, we never met the birth parents before her birth. We finally did meet the birthparents around two years after she was born, along with the birth mother’s grandparents. It seemed to be a pleasant and positive experience for everyone. Both birth parents are now busy in college. Katherine’s birth mom continues to stay in touch via occasional text messages. We will continue to try to foster whatever relationship is best for Katherine’s needs, while being respectful to her birth parents’ privacy and availability.

For our son’s adoption, we met the birth mother and her mother about a month before the birth, when we all went down to Kentucky and stayed there for two days. That gave us a wonderful opportunity to really bond with both of them and to really feel like we were part of an extended family now. We then traveled back to Kentucky for the birth. Since coming back to Massachusetts, the birth mom initially and understandably had a very difficult time with the separation. It was difficult to find common ground to allow her to grieve, while also allowing us time to adapt to and get comfortable with our new family dynamics. We soon realized that we all needed some space to move on independently which is where our Adoptions With Love social worker really helped. We now have a healthier relationship with our son’s birth mom and tentative plans to meet up with her this coming spring.

To read more personal adoption stories, please visit adoptionswithlove.org/personal-stories. You may also call Adoptions With Love at 1-800-722-7731 or text us confidentially at 617-777-0072 to start an adoption story of your own.


How Much is Too Much? The Importance of Setting Boundaries on Social Media for Adoptive Families

Is your child on social media?  Do you monitor his or her Internet usage on a regular basis?  If you are in an open adoption arrangement, have you laid out some rules or limitations for ongoing, online contact?  If you are in a closed adoption plan, have you and your child discussed the possibility of a birth relative finding your family online?

Social media and the Internet are transforming the ways that communication takes place among the adoption triad.  In the past, this type of online communication was not an option.  In fact, contact between birth and adoptive families was not typical in adoption arrangements at all.  Most adoptive parents did not have the ability to get to know their child’s birth family.  Just decades ago, adoptive families could not reach out to their child’s birth mother with questions.

Today, open adoption is the norm.  Approximately 95 percent of adoptions are fully or semi-open plans, meaning that they have made arrangements for some extent of ongoing contact – through letters and pictures, email or phone conversations, texting, Skype, even Facebook messaging.

There is no doubt that the Internet and social media have advanced communications among the adoption triad, making it faster and easier for adoptive families to connect and maintain contact with their child’s birth parents. According to a 2013 study from the Donaldson Adoption Institute, about one in every four adoptive parents have used the Internet to search for and make contact with birth family members through their own website or social media account.  A handful of adoptive parents monitored this sort of contact through their children’s accounts.

If you are in an open or semi-open adoption arrangement, you have likely used social media somewhere along the line to stay up to date with your child’s birth parents.  Perhaps that is why you are here.  Maybe you and your child regularly use Facebook, Twitter, or other social accounts to keep in touch with birth family members, but are looking for tips on how to navigate those conversations.  Maybe your current adoption plan does not allow for social media contact, but your child’s birth mother has just contacted you on Facebook.  Perhaps your child wants to search for his or her birth family online, but that was not written in your post-adoption agreement.  Where do you go from here?

No matter the type of plan you are in, it is important to establish boundaries and expectations for social media from the very beginning of the adoption.  These rules will help ensure that everyone’s wishes are respected and prevent any unplanned or unwanted contact.  Without establishing these boundaries with your child’s birth family, and without discussing those rules with your child and spouse, the Internet will offer free reign for any future contact amongst the triad.  Without establishing rules, your child will not understand the risks of searching for birth parents online.  Without setting limitations, your child’s birth siblings, parents, grandparents, and other relatives may start adding your family on Facebook, perhaps even before your child fully understands his or her adoption story.  Without guidelines, personal family information regarding your child may be shared with the world-wide web.

As an adoptive parent, you may have questions such as, Should I friend my child’s birth mother on Facebook? or Should I post baby pictures of my child online?  Perhaps you are wondering, When should I talk to my child about social media? or How can I prepare for any open communication online?

As an open adoption agency with a thriving search and reunion program, Adoptions With Love has compiled some tips to help you and your family navigate social media use:

Tip 1:  As an adoptive parent, it is crucial to educate yourself and your children about the use of social media.  Sit down and speak with them about the different social media tools, how they work, and how they can impact others, including extended family members.  Set boundaries and guidelines for your child as he or she starts to use the Internet more regularly.

Tip 2:  If you are in touch with your child’s birth family, talk to them about their comfort levels with social media, and how much information they are comfortable with you sharing online.  Tell them how much you are comfortable with them sharing, too.  Together with an adoption professional, decide which social media tools (if any) are appropriate for communication and determine how privacy settings should be set. Set boundaries for online contact (such as, not sharing photos, not commenting on each other’s pages, friending only immediate family members, etc.) and things that may be important to you.

Tip 3:  Always think before you post.  Remember that adoption relationships can be very sensitive, and it is important to not post anything that will be offending or disrespectful to your child’s birth family – even the slightest, “I haven’t slept in days!” could be taken the wrong way.  It is also important not to post any identifying information about your child’s birth family.  Do not share any information or photos of your child that you do not want shared with the rest of the world.  Keep in mind that the Internet has no limits, and anything you post there will be open to public comment and the eyes of the world-wide web.

Tip 4:  Consider more private, online contact methods to replace social media and open adoption communication. Because your personal Facebook posts, profiles, and comments can be publicly accessed, you may consider creating a separate avenue for contact.  At Adoptions With Love, we have guided families to build private Facebook pages, password-protected websites, and separate email accounts designed specifically for adoption communication.  With these in place, any sensitive adoption information can be communicated privately without any risk of public access.

Tip 5:  If you are in a closed adoption plan, talk to your child about the possibility of birth family members reaching out.  Nowadays, a little information can get someone a long way.  If your child’s birth father has your first name, age, and hometown, he may be able to do some digging and find your family on Facebook.  You do not want this to happen before you have a chance to emotionally and mentally prepare your child for that possibility.

Finally, remember that you can always contact an adoption professional for help.  Seek out an adoption counselor who specializes in open communication, to help you navigate any contact that will or could possibly occur online. Talk to an agency about the risks of searching for birth parents online.  And if you are at all concerned about the safety or privacy of your child, know that you can always reach out to an adoption counselor for help.

For more information and tips about social media use among adoptive families, please download our eBook below or call Adoptions With Love at 1-800-722-7731.

adoption and social media