Monday, August 19, 2019

SCHOOL IS STARTING – WHAT TO SAY OR NOT TO SAY ABOUT ADOPTION

You are not sure if you need to tell a teacher about your child’s adoption. Whether they look like you or it’s more obvious that they don’t, you don’t want any academic or social struggle immediately thought of as an adoption issue. Yet, you want there to be an awareness in case an issue comes up in the classroom.

You can start by asking for a meeting with the teacher early in the year. I used to do it within the first 2 weeks. Frame the conversation that you wanted them to know in case it was mentioned in class. That there is nothing in your child’s history that is a concern for learning or detail any identified learning or behavioral needs.

Add that you are allowing your child to share information when they are ready. I recall when my daughter was about 6 years old, her teacher introduced her to another adopted child in another class. I know she thought she was doing something nice, but it was inappropriate and they deserved their privacy. The teacher knew they were adopted but the girls may not have been ready for it to be known to anyone else.  Tell the teacher that should your child mention adoption in class or they hear a classmate say anything about it, that you would appreciate knowing.

Ask the teacher if they have had adopted children in class before. Have they adjusted curriculum? Have they discussed adoption or other family formation or diversity in class? Offer to come in and talk about adoption if the teacher thinks that might be helpful. Another option is to provide an adoption book for the class bookshelf. You can also offer to come in and talk to the teachers. I have provided guidance to parents, teachers and administrators over the years. Sometimes for the benefit of my children. Other times, because a family has asked for my assistance.

Add that you know there may be classroom work or a homework assignment associated with identity or family. Explain that your child may view the needed information differently, not have all the facts or have a reaction based on their experiences or perceptions. One of my daughters reacted to several assigned book readings. After several attempts to get homework completed, my daughter burst into tears and said she wasn’t reading another book about a missing parent. We, of course, talked about it and I approached the school. Unfortunately, the school felt the books were “classics”, “award winners” and “always part of our curriculum”. As you can imagine, my daughter was resistant to reading anything or participating in classroom discussions that reminded her of her birth family. It was a tough academic year.

You can ask the teacher, if possible, to reach out to you before any pertinent discussion or assignment, so you can work together to make any needed accommodations for your child to be able to complete the task. There are also books and articles which address school and classroom issues on popular assignments such as family trees, which you can provide for a particular teacher or for the school.

Check in with the teacher periodically if your child is beginning to talk more about adoption at home or they mention their peers are asking questions or making comments.

If the school has parent’s or kid’s clubs, is there one for diverse families? Does this include adoptive families? If not, ask your child if t it’s ok to approach the school to start such a group.

Many parents have anxieties about a child’s adoption. Families have called me over the years mostly about school assignments. I have educated families and provided guidance for further advocacy and discussions they can have with teachers. Overall feedback has been that teachers were accepting of ideas on how to help children complete assignments and achieve academic success. Until adoption is included in teacher education, it will fall upon you to run interference for your child. Afterall, you only want what best for them, as do I.

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, August 7, 2019

WAITING TO ADOPT

I remember waiting to become a mom. It was tortuous - with feelings it would never become a reality. Everyone else would be successful in finding a child, but not me. At the same time, I kept telling myself, there was one out there for me. I kept humming “Somewhere Out There” from the film, An American Tail. I wished and hoped and listened to those who had already adopted.

And then it happened. It all seemed a bit unreal. The short version of the story. I was chosen and became a mom. I flew to Texas, met my daughter, waited for Interstate clearance and returned home to the waiting arms of family and friends. I did it again 3½ years later.

I remember sleepless nights, first steps and first words. I recall introducing them to new foods and activities while seeing their talents and interests develop. I took them to daycare, kindergarten, elementary and high school and day and sleep away camps. And then, in the blink of an eye, they were off to college. I watched them develop relationships with peers and maturing into independent women.

I waited for them to grow up. Now I wait for their texts, calls, video chats and visits. Parenting is the toughest thing I have ever done. But it has been so worth it. Enjoy every phase. It flies by.

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 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

HOMEBOUND

We’ve had a couple of hot and humid summer days. I am staying inside for the most part and remember trying to entertain my young children on similar days when it was too hot to stay outside for long.

There were many activities:

COOKING (no stove here) –
Preparing fruit and cutting up veggies (with a plastic knife and seeing who could come up with the most unusual plate display)
Making fruit juice combinations or smoothies (all they had to do was dump in fruit and other ingredients and push a button). Then drinking them as is or freezing them into ice cubes or pops.
Making egg and tuna salad (helping to cut up the eggs or stirring in the tuna and adding cut up celery, onions and mayo).

ARTS AND CRAFTS
Drawing and painting
Making playdough
Decorating paper cups and plates
Creating costumes out of large paper bags

WATER SPORTS
Getting into the bathtub to cool off
Floating boats and other toys in bathtub races

PLAYDATES
A lifesaver when they got bored with me and one another’s company.

READING
Letting the kids chose their favorites
Writing and illustrating their own.

While we were all happy to get out to the park and the playground when the weather improved, we enjoyed the activities and the unexpected time we spent together.

Try a few of my tricks and share any you’ve come up with.

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 on the  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, July 10, 2019

ALL TYPES OF FAMILIES

PRIDE MONTH may be over, but I am still thinking about all the LGBTQ singles and couples I have helped adopt over the years, those I am currently working with and those who will cross my path in the years to come.

I believe children deserve to be in a loving home and that a person’s gender or sexual identity or orientation is not a deciding factor in the ability to parent. In fact, often adults who have overcome personal adversity are even more sensitive to how it feels to be perceived as different.

There are complexities in all adoptive families resulting from the way the family was formed. Not better or worse – and being raised in an LGBTQ family is just another layer. just different.

All adoptive children have two families, one of nature and one of nurture. While more and more adoptions include ongoing communications with birth parents, whether active in the child’s life or not, there is a psychological connection. The ebb and flow of thinking about their birth parents or siblings is different for every child. Establishing an open dialogue about adoption with your child will ensure that they feel comfortable expressing themselves and in asking questions.

There will be judgements and preconceived notions of how you became a family. Assumptions that you adopted or used donors or surrogates. There may be well intentioned or intrusive questions. There may be rude or insensitive comments even in front of your child.

Explain to your child that a birth parent choosing an LGBTQ parent is a testament not only to the birth parent’s belief that you would be a good parent, but to their caring, accepting and non-judgmental nature. These traits, along with others, can be shared with your child as they grow.

Explain to family members, friends, teachers and other caretakers that while your child’s history is personal and private, their joining your family through adoption is not a secret. But you or your child are the ones who should reveal that fact. Tell others that if an issue is raised in their presence, they should let you know so you can check it out with your child. 

As a parent you will be continually advocating for your child. You should be ready with various responses and also teach your child how to respond - when to answer questions generically, when to share personal information and when to not respond, say “that’s personal” or just walk away. This may include questions and comments about adoption, having a single parent or having same sex parents.

You can share your own experiences with your child of being asked or feeling the need to explain yourself or your family to others. That not everyone understands, but you are proud of who you are, who they are and of your current family.

Thank you for letting me be part of your journeys and helping to build nurturing, emotionally strong and resilient families.

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 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

SUMMER TRANSITIONS

School is out for the summer and new schedules and activities are starting for you and your child. It can be an exciting and wonderful time. Yet, for some children any transition can cause stress and anxiety. Over the years, I have been asked if this is "an adoption thing".

We are each programmed to react in a unique way. Some of us are up for adventure and new experiences. Parents describe these kids as "having no fear", "up for anything new" or "easy to entertain". Some of us are more cautious. Parents describe these kids as "standing back and observing", "shy" or "needing help to engage with a new person or in a new activity".

In adoption any transition can raise anxiety (for you and/or your child). For your child, it could be a concern about being away from you and worrying if you will be there when they return. This is often related to a feeling of abandonment by a "first parent".

For you, worries may include your child being safe, people saying insensitive things or being picked on or bullied. When choosing a new activity or camp, explore the diversity of the population and the staff. Ask if they have ever had or will have adoptive families in their program. Offer to educate the staff, if necessary. Your goal is to make the venue a comfortable experience for your child.

One of the best ways to prepare for new situations is to talk to your child about what to expect from a new activity or experience and helping them learn what to say or not say if adoption comes up. Your child should have a toolbox of specific responses, generic responses or knowing when no answer is needed.

Although your child may not overtly display concerns, as they grow, it is still important to provide them with a toolbox of options on how to talk about adoption. And while you didn't ask for the job, you (and they) are ambassadors for adoption and adoptive families. The more you convey comfort, including the use of positive adoption language, the better it is for everyone

Summer activities are usually more relaxed. Enjoy the less structured time with your child. If they are home for the summer, try to carve out time for special activities in and out of your home. If they are away, stay in touch frequently. I wrote and mailed letters to my girls every day they were away at sleep-away camp to keep in touch and I sent them off with stationery and self-addressed and self-stamped envelopes to encourage them to write. While not expecting much correspondence from them, I still have many of those letters in a memory box.

Wishing you a wonderful summer.

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 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