Wednesday, June 12, 2019

FATHERS AND SUPER HEROES

FATHER’S DAY 2019

My dad was an extraordinary man. He was nurturing, loving, compassionate and sensitive and an amazing role model. He was involved in every day parenting and shared his knowledge in everything from world politics to how to fish, make a toolbox out of wood or how to play a guitar. Not all children have such an advantage - with some not even knowing the identity or whereabouts of their biological father.

Merriam Webster defines a father as “one who has begotten a child, whether son or daughter, a generator; a male parent…A male ancestor; a progenitor…One who performs the offices of a parent by maintenance, affectionate care, counsel or protection.” This seems inclusive of biological and adoptive fathers or others who serve in that role. They are the men who raise children on a day-to-day basis, those who are biologically connected to them as well as others who play a significant role in a child life - older male siblings, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, caregivers, teachers and neighbors.

Often, while adoptive parents will give a child information on a birthmother, they do not discuss the birthfather. It may be that they don’t have enough information. Does this mean it shouldn’t be discussed? Not at all. As a child grows and understands “where babies come from”, they will most likely become curious about their birthfather. It is Interesting to note that in adoption the wording “where babies come from” is more the case than “how babies are made”.

Whatever you decide to call him, a child’s birth father is a part of their biology. Your child may exhibit some of their biological father’s physical characteristics, personality and talents. Rather than deny his existence, it helps your child understand the role of all of the adults that influenced their life as to where a trait or interest comes from. Doing so does not diminish an adoptive father’s role or influence in a child’s life. Rather it reinforces a child’s ability to speak openly to share their feelings and to receive support from those around them.

On this Father’s Day, consider talking to your child about the men in their lives that make a difference. Who they like spending time with or who they wish they knew better - whether it’s a real person or a superhero.

My dad was always there for me. Sometimes, we sat in silence with our own thoughts. Mostly, he listened, reflected, asked me for my opinion and pointed me in the right direction. Over the years, I knew he wanted the best for me, even if we disagreed. I hope all children have such a caring and devoted man in their lives. If not a father – a father figure. Someone to watch over and guide, love and cherish, teach and encourage.

To all the men who are biologically connected or are a part of a child’s life - Happy Father’s Day.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Every year as the weather improves, I try to spend more time away from the city.  I enjoy the slower pace and the peaceful feeling communing with nature brings. I try to step away from daily life, which often feels like being on a treadmill with no off button.  Even though, I still take my role as part of a family’s adoption team seriously and I check my phone and emails frequently.

I can easily remember the emotional ups and downs of my own adoption journey. Waiting for calls, hanging up the phone thinking I forgot to ask something important or could I have said something that would derail the relationship with the  expectant mother. Wondering when I would get the call to leave town to meet my child and how long it would take to get interstate clearance to get home again.

What I learned through my two adoption processes and from the thousands of families I have worked with over the years, is that when it’s your time, things will fall into place. The child who was meant to be yours will find you. I’m not sure how this works, but I continue to hear it time and time again.

Yes, you constantly have adoption on your mind.  So, take your phone with you, but at the same time try your best to enjoy family, friends, hobbies, vacations, whatever.  Savor these moments.   Your life will  change soon enough.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

TO THE WOMEN IN OUR LIVES

MOTHER’S DAY – 2019

Do we really need a day set aside to appreciate mothers? My mom is the wind beneath my wings. She has always been there for me, still is and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We talk almost daily, see one another whenever we can and at a minimum text goodnight, I love you and sweet dreams.

A mother is someone who raises a child. Who tries to meet their needs as best she can. Who worries, plans, set goals and helps the child plan on how to achieve them. She teaches values through role modeling, actions and discussions. They say children are a reflection of their parents. While all are a combination of nature AND nurture, with adopted kids this takes on new meaning.

As I look at my daughters and think about who they have become, I recall watching talents and interests arise that certainly did not come from me. While I exposed them to many academic, recreational and social activities, they chose the ones that appealed to them - often influenced by what I assumed was their nature. They are both very well coordinated and have great stamina. Not from me. They are more social that I am. I prefer more quiet time. Their food preferences, too, reflected something much different from mine. They loved everything spicy, I liked it mild. There was always a bottle of hot sauce on the table for them to embellish what I cooked. What influence did nature play?

Over the years, we have talked about which characteristics, interests and preferences are most likely in their DNA. We have talked about how nurturing (parenting) intertwines.  Does it matter? Yes and no.

Every person on this planet creates an identity from how they interact with the world. Initially it is modeled after a parent who raises you. But over the years, each of us becomes a unique individual based upon one’s own experiences. Any information an adopted child has of their birthparents does not diminish an adoptive parent’s influence.  It helps the adopted person understand who they are.

On this Mother’s Day, I recognize all the women who are important in the lives of children. Mothers by birth, adoption, foster care or blended families and all those who have stepped into maternal roles - aunts, grandparents, nannies, childcare workers, teachers, neighbors and more.

To all a Happy Mother’s Day.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly  

Thursday, May 2, 2019

TO THE WOMEN WE MAY NOT SEE EVERY DAY

BIRTHMOTHER’S DAY – MAY 4, 2019

Do you ever think about the women who give birth to but do not raise the child? Do you assume that making that decision was easy? That walking away ended that mother/child relationship? The reality is that many women who don’t live with the child, think about them often. They wonder where they are, what they are doing and if they are healthy and happy. As well as, if they made the right choice.

Do you ever wonder about or ask an adopted child if they think about their birth mother? Most adopted children do. Talking about it gives the parent who is raising them a chance to help them integrate their nature and nurture and to provide accurate information.

Birthmother’ Day was created in Seattle, Washington many years ago by a group of women with the goal of honoring, remembering and providing education. This year it is MAY 4th.

Is there something you can do with your child to honor, remember and educate? YES. First, talk about their birthmother. Depending on their age, you will decide how much information to provide. You can use whatever language you feel is best – her name, the lady who’s belly you were in, your birthmother, etc.  Reaffirm the importance they played in your and your child’s life.

If you have no contact, you or your child could still write a letter to her. It can be “sent to the universe” as a message in a bottle or tied to a helium balloon (although some worry about the environmental impact). You can mail it to the attorney or agency you worked with and ask them to pass it along or to hold it in case it is ever requested. If you do have contact, it’s a great day to reach out. A letter, a card, a phone call or other expression of gratitude is nice. An update of how a child is doing with photographs is always appreciated. You could celebrate with a special cupcake or cake to honor the day.

Mother’s Day is around the corner. Some choose to celebrate mothers and birthmothers on the same day, recognizing that there were two mothers involved. That one may play the major day-to-day role in parenting while another was there are the beginning. Remembering a child’s birthmother takes strength and recognition of a child’s emotional and psychological needs. Reaffirming her existence does not negate an adoptive parent’s role. In fact, it may strengthen the parent/child bond. A child will know they can talk about adoption. They can ask and raise questions. That it is a safe place where they can explore and learn.

Birthmother’s Day is celebrated the week before Mother’s Day. It is a weekend celebration of the women who brought children into the world and are not raising them. It is proof that nature and nurture both play an important role in who children will become.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly EMAIL

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

ADOPTION AGENCY OR ATTORNEY - PART TWO: DOMESTIC ADOPTION

You have decided to adopt domestically, but still have many questions to consider further. How does the age, race, current health, prenatal exposures or early life experience of a child enter into your thinking? How much background information on a child's medical and familial history must you have to feel comfortable moving forward? Who can you trust to give you the information you need and to guide you through the entire process?

You will need to work with a licensed adoption agency or an attorney. You will work with a social worker for your homestudy and post placement visits. You may enlarge your team to include a medical doctor, outreach consultant and other professionals, as well as join an adoptive parent support group. How do you decide who you will need?

You can work with a licensed adoption agency or an attorney. The major difference is how much you want to be involved in and controlling of the process (working with an attorney) or turning the process over to agency personnel and protocol (who will guide you through the steps). 

NOTE: The term birthparent is often used to identify a pregnant woman who is exploring an adoption plan. Since she is actually not a birth parent until after the birth and placement of the baby in your care, I prefer to use the term expectant parent.

DOMESTIC ADOPTION AGENCIES

All the steps of the adoption process, including the matching of you with an expectant mother or child is overseen by agency personnel and completed within their guidelines and structure. They are also the conduit of all information. They make the decision if your profile will be shown to an expectant mother along with other profiles.

Before signing with an agency, you want to know: How many others are seeking the particular type of child you hope to adopt? How many profiles are presented at one time? What is the typical length of time before a match/placement? How many matches they do a year? How many families are in their program? You also want to confirm if this agency does your homestudy that you can access it for any adoption that may come your way. Since once you spread the word, a birth situation may present itself from outside the agency. Ask if they have or recommend an adoption doctor who reviews all medical background, pre-natal information and talks to hospital staff at the time of birth and can you select your own doctor to provide these services? Can you talk to other singles or couples who have adopted through their program?

It is important to carefully read through their contract and confirm what services are included and what you may need to acquire and pay for separately. Consider having it reviewed by an attorney and meet with or talk to as much of the agency staff (adoptive parent counselor, expectant parent counselor, homestudy and post placement worker, etc.) prior to signing up to determine if you feel comfortable and confident. Remember, you are giving them a great deal of responsibility and control over your adoption process.

Lastly, you must make sure the agency is licensed or authorized in your home state or allowed to work with residents of your state. For example, in New Jersey, all agencies in state or placing a child from out-of-state must be not-for-profit. New York State must authorize all in-state or out-of-state agencies. If not on the list, an agency may not work with New York residents. In addition, NYS has a limit on the number of agencies in state or authorized to place children into NYS. As a result, they can become glutted with waiting families. Because of this, many singles and couples choose the independent/attorney route. 

DOMESTIC ADOPTION ATTORNEYS

This is a more hands on approach to a private/independent adoption. With legal guidance, you will control what happens and when. Your attorney will explain the legal steps of the process, prepare and file needed documents in courts and at state offices and serve as the liaison with the expectant parent's agency or attorney. They will also outline outreach efforts needed to find an expectant mother. You can do this yourself or hire a consultant to run the outreach campaign and screen calls and emails from expectant mothers. Yours will be the only profile seen at a time (unlike at an agency when they are presented with a group of profiles). Your attorney is your legal advocate throughout the process and will coordinate all needed services. Prior to working with an attorney, check if your state is an “agency only” state or private adoptions are permitted. If you must work with an agency, you still might want to have an attorney review contracts and oversee the process from a legal standpoint.

When choosing an attorney, you should ask the following questions: How long have you done adoption work? Have you done independent/private adoptions like the one I am trying to do? How recently and how many? Do you have access to adoption attorneys in other states, in case I need them for myself or an expectant parent? How do you bill your fees (by the hour or one set fee) and how much is it? What does a typical adoption cost? Do you help me write my “Birth Parent Profile” (the book you write that includes your story and photos that is presented to the expectant parent)? How do you help me find an expectant parent? Do you have someone who works with me or do you give me instructions how to do this myself? What is your availability after work hours? Do you recommend a social worker to do my homestudy or can I choose with whom I want to work?

SUMMARY

Whom you work with is one of the decisions you do have control over. You will ultimately have to take a leap of faith and put your adoption and family dreams into the hands of others, but you can decide how much involvement you want. Are you the type who needs to steer the ship? If so, an attorney is better for you. Do you like stepping back and letting someone else do the driving? Then an agency may be best.

I, myself, adopted domestically twice, starting with a local private attorney and ending up needing an agency in the state where my daughters were born to work with the birthmother, file papers for me to come home and again to finalize the adoption in that state. Luckily my attorney had the connections in the other state to proceed. I know people who have completed a private homestudy (allowed in New York State) only to find they needed to convert it to an agency or find an agency to do the visits after a child was placed with them (post placement visits). Make sure your social worker has agency connections, if you do a private homestudy in New York State. Ask if they are available to you throughout your adoption process for support or guidance. Add a medical doctor to review medical background, pre-natal exams and to talk to doctors or nurses during the pregnancy and hospital personnel at the time of birth. Join an adoption support group where there is always someone a step ahead of you or a step behind. Some great advice and support comes from those who have been there.

As you can see, there are many decisions to make not only early on but during the process. Whichever way you decide, you will be on your way to making your dreams come true.


INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION LAST WEEK

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly EMAIL

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ADOPTION AGENCY OR ATTORNEY - PART ONE: INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

DOMESTIC ADOPTION NEXT WEEK

After careful consideration, you've decided to adopt. The  next  decisions  are crucial to your process. Are  you  adopting domestically or internationally? How does the age, race, current health,  prenatal   exposures  or  early  life  experience  of  a  child  enter  into  your  thinking process?  How  much  background information on a child's medical and familial history must you have to feel  comfortable  moving  forward?  Who can I trust to give me the information I need and guide me through the entire process?

You will need to work with a licensed adoption agency or attorney for specific steps of the process. You will work with a social worker for your homestudy and post placement visits. You may enlarge your team to include a medical doctor, outreach consultant and other professionals, as well as join an adoptive parent support group. How to decide who you will need?

For INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS, the steps must be completed in a very specific order. You start by identifying a Hague accredited agency (Adoption Service Provider = ASP) with a program in the country from which you want to adopt. You will then complete your homestudy and start the dossier to go overseas. During the homestudy, you will develop a relationship with your social worker. They should be available to you throughout the process for emotional support and possible referral to local services and resources. The ASP will lead you through all the steps of the dossier, including what papers to collect, how to process them and ultimately submitting it oversees.  

You should add a medical doctor to your team, who is knowledgeable in international adoption, to review any medical information you are provided on a child. The ASP is the conduit to the adoption entity overseas who will identify a child for you, help arrange your travel itinerary and link you to in country services and appointments, including court and embassy appointments to obtain your child's visa to come home. Once back home you will meet with your social worker to complete post placement/post adoption visits which report back to the country how your child and you are adjusting. If you did not finalize overseas, the reports will also be used to recommend to your local court the finalization of the adoption. The relationships you developed with a local support group will continue to provide support and information. If you have not yet joined a group, this is a time to connect and create relationships, providing your child with a peer group of families like yours.

You need to confirm with the ASP – How long have they worked in a particular country? How many children come home in a year? How many children have come home recently? How many children were the type you were looking for? How long is the typical wait for a referral? Until you travel to meet your child? Until you can bring them back to the Untied States? Until the adoption is finalized and where will it finalize? If the country program closes, do they have other options and what is the process to switch countries?

SUMMARY
Deciding who you will work with is a critical step in your adoption procecss. You must have trust in their abilities, understanding of your wishes and advocating for you when necessary. Research your options, select carefully and may you have a smooth adoption process.

DOMESTIC ADOPTION NEXT WEEK

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly EMAIL

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

HUG A SOCIAL WORKER - March is National Social Work Month

I spend a large part of my week helping singles and couples create or enlarge their families. This includes exploration of adoption options, alleviating anxieties, guiding them through every day parenting and educating extended family members.  I also consult with colleagues.  I serve on the boards of several adoption and fertility organizations and donate my time to local adoptive parent support groups. Every week, I visit homes for homestudy interviews and meet new children at post placement visits. 

In training the new generation of social workers, I have taught not only the specifics of adoption work, but the sensitivity needed to work with adoptive and birth parents, their children, extended family members and communities. How we talk and interact with others is critical.  In addition to providing information, we also must allow our clients space for self-determination and choice.

Not everyone likes their job. I love mine. Adoption is part of my soul.  It’s not only the way I have earned a living for the past 33 years, but also the way I have built my own family.

If I have been involved in your adoption, I hope I have been helpful in supporting your journey to parenthood. If you have worked with another social worker, I hope they have provided whatever support and information you may have needed.

As I always tell those I work with, I am here, today, tomorrow and in the years to come. Adoption adds a layer of complexity to any family. If you ever have a question, wonder if something is adoption related or just need someone to listen or a shoulder to lean on, I am here for you. Perhaps, that’s why there is often a hug at the end of many of my family visits.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared  thousands of adoption  homestudies, counseled  expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and  adopted  persons, as  well  as trained  professionals  to  work  with  adoptive  families. She  was Director of the  Ametz  Adoption  Program of  JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption  Series and the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council and  active  in  the  Adoptive Parents Committee in  New  York.  Her  blogs  and  written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including  her  BLOG  and  as  Head  Writer  for  ADOPTION.NET   She  was  named  an  “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly EMAIL