National Adoption Awareness Month 2018

Adoption has become a political hot topic in the last few years.  What better time to discuss these issue then during National Adoption Awareness Month.

Evolving from a controversial “closed” secretive past filled with shame where women went into hiding, to a postmodern “open” adoption era where women are posing as social media “poster” birth moms, we have seen a shift in adoption.  However, when it comes to OBCs, adoption remains stagnant and secretive.  Adoptees are trying to change that.

Most states implemented sealed records during a time when women had few rights or choices and were oftentimes railroaded towards relinquishment.   One could argue that these laws were enacted to punish un-wed mothers, an estimated 1.5 million women, who were sent away to hide their pregnancy and the birthing of their child.  There was deep shame associated with an unplanned pregnancy.  Families did everything they could to sweep these babies under the rug and hide their very existence.  Erasing the child that was born out of wedlock was supposed to save the mother and child from societal disgrace.  In turn, it would also save the family from scandal.

While laws to protect secrets may have been intended for one purpose, it resulted in a far greater impact that violated adult adoptee’s rights.

One strong debate for OBC access is regarding medical history for adoptees.   Adoption should not come at the expense of vital information.

Humans have an innate yearning to know where they came from. Adoptees should not be judged for wanting to know their DNA history, no matter how a blended-family was formed.

Adoptee Rights Groups are fighting hard with some success nationwide.  Seven states have enacted less restrictive laws in the last three years.  Currently, nine states have unrestricted access to OBCs. Eleven have access with restrictions, and nine have partial access or partial access with restrictions.  The remaining states, including Texas, are sealed.

This political cause is relevant, sensible, and in need of fresh eyes and modern laws enacted.  Adoptees do not remain children forever.  They grow up.  They become adults with rights like every other American.  Access to our own birth records should not be determined based on our biological, step, foster, or adoptive family status.

Family is Family.  Rights are Rights.

To learn more, please read my Op-Ed in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung

Modern adoption laws are needed

 

(Guest Post) Noah’s Mom Shares Her Adoption Story

It’s that time of year again.  As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier.  It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption.  Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999.  How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas?  The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”

We were a family of three.  My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991.  He was our first little miracle.  I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school.  After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck.  It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child.  We prayed about the decision.  Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study.  We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.

Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption.  The actual process was quite complex.  Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed.  A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study.  We were so excited and filled with anticipation.

One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine.  We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun.  Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up.  My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption.  She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area.  My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime.  We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure.  I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general.  I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.

My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later.  She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call.  A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children.  This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area.  One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid.  We contacted our local agency and filled them in.  They made some contacts and assured us that all was good.  Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.

It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested.  We said that yes, we were interested.  Our anticipation began to grow.

A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months.  At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby.  As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone.  Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days.  The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.

One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born.  My husband, Paul, and I were elated!  We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas.  Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study.  Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker.  She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas.  Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces.  For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.

On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement.  I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then.  The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day.  She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed?  We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.

It was the longest few hours of my life.

Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation.  We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours.  When we finally hung up, we were so very excited!  As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service.  One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.”  My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.

A couple of days later, we were in Dallas.  We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom.  We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren.  After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms.  We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other.  Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one.   Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son.  My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard.  When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy.  It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four.  But there was also an underlying sadness that took place.   We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.

We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin.  Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state.  A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again.  We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.

Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.

We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls.  We try to get together once a year.  Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship.  It is now more like one big family.

God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart.  Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship.  God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves.  He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child.  My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.

 

(footnote)

My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.

While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.  

This is what I wrote, 

“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”

Adoption 101

Here is my two cents for what it’s worth.

First, saying you “have a birth mother” is inappropriate. You don’t really have her right? (like you have a child, a dog, a car, a house?) She is not yours. You might say, ‘an expectant mother has chosen us,’ or ‘the agency has matched us with an expectant mother.’

Secondly, if the expectant mother has not given birth yet nor has she signed relinquishment papers, she is in no way a birth mother. Once she gives birth (hence the term “birth” mother) AND if she proceeds with the relinquishment, than she may be a birth, first mom, or the biological mother of the child.

Lastly, open adoption takes on many meanings. If you are uncomfortable, unsure or not enthusiastic about an open adoption, then you should find someone who wants a closed adoption, although I am not a big fan of closed adoption at all. But you shouldn’t agree to an open adoption unless your heart is in the right place and you feel this is the right path for you and your family. In other words, don’t just agree to an open adoption because it seems like the trendy thing to do or because it may help you become a parent easier or faster. And especially if you don’t plan to follow through with your open adoption agreement, promise and commitment.

I am a birth mother. I have an open adoption with my son and his family. And while I will agree that at first, our relationship was awkward only because it was new and we were exploring new territory, our relationship has evolved. Each year I grow to love them more and more. We have become one big family. We share a mutual respect and honor each other for our role in our mutual son’s life. My son knows he is loved by his first, birth, original family and his adoptive family.

Remember, adoption is about the children.1999 Momma and boys

Adoption is supposed to satisfy the needs of the child, not the needs of an adult.

Three Ways Adoption Can Be Improved

Three Ways Adoption Can Be Improved

I can honestly say that having an open, loving relationship between adoptive and birth families is very much possible. After all, adoption is about children and open adoption is about the child. Yes, there will always be exceptions to every rule but even in the worse case scenario, we can find ways to connect.

Our Family, Our Way

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbilical cord has not yet been cut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The title, birth mother, has a long history and an array of stereotypes, perceptions and negative connotation.  Too often, once a woman became a birth mother, her reputation took an abrupt adverse rank, her character seemed less trust worthy, and she was deemed reckless, wild and irresponsible.  Although in more recent years, there has been much more news worthy stories focusing on birth mothers and the veil has been lifted and shame is slowly being erased, adoption stories are still more often told by the adoptive parent or birth child/adoptee and rarely does the birth mother tell her story.  I am a birth mother and this is my story in my words.

At a recent birth mothers support group, I shared my birth mother story with two young and recently new “birth” mothers.  When I began to talk about the time my birth son’s parents let me take him to meet his birth father, the counselor interrupted and said, “Girls, close your ears because this is not a normal situation.”  Yes it’s true.  My birth son’s parents are beyond the normal grace of the basic human beings, for which I am so very thankful.

I knew very early on in my pregnancy that I wanted an open adoption.  I was already a single mother to my son, Jaren who was a young toddler.  It was hard enough having to swallow my pride and admitting that I was not sufficient enough to care for both of my children.  And the lack of support I had from their father and my family didn’t give me much optimism to ponder other possibilities.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to my infant baby without knowing anything about him or his life possibly ever again.

Most of the agency’s’ standard recommendations at that time for an open adoption agreement included letters and pictures for the first five years.  Anything beyond that was strictly up to the families.  However, these open agreements, often times were verbal agreements, promises made between two families that were not legally binding in a document or the courts.

On Christmas Eve, I entered the meeting room alone with the agency, a witness and a notary public awaiting my arrival.  The relinquishment papers were slid in front of me.  Detaining my emotions and tears, I slowly perused through the legal rubbish and I signed my name allowing my newborn to be adopted.  A few days later, my son’s new family came to meet us and obtain their infant.  With no more expectations on my open adoption agreement, we began to discuss our adoption arrangements.  My son’s adoptive parents elected to bump up the correspondence and pictures to eighteen years.  “Wow, that’s great!”  I thought.

A couples weeks later, we received a call from the adoption agency.  They said my birth son’s family wanted to invite me and Jaren out for lunch.  They hadn’t left Texas yet to go back home.  They were still waiting for the temporary custody to be approved.  My first thought was, “Is this normalDo adoptive parents call birth parents after the adoption to invite them to lunch?”  I had never heard of it before.  But how could I refuse?

My birth son’s family, who they named Noah, kept their agreement.  We became very connected from a distance; I mean as much as we could.  I lived in the south; they lived in a northern state.  But they emailed me often, sent pictures, called from time to time and even remembered me on Mother’s Day.  And I reciprocated their kindness.  We were getting to know each other and bonding.  We exchanged Christmas presents annually.   I sent birthday presents for Noah and his older brother, whose birthday (month and day) oddly or coincidentally was the day after Jaren’s birthday.  And they reciprocated with birthday presents for Jaren as well.  Although visits were never discussed, I always had this inner knowing that somehow I would see Noah before he was an adult; my family and friends shared this same belief.  It just seemed natural.

When Noah was about five years old, it happened.  Noah’s parents called to invite me (his birth mom), and his older brother to visit them and even offered to pay for our airfare.  They knew I was a single working mom and did not want to put any undue financial hardship on me.  I believe since Noah and Jaren shared half of another race from their father’s side, Noah’s parents thought it was important for him to stay connected with his birth family; for Noah to be able to understand why he had his skin color, eye color, hair texture, and facial features that were unlike his adoptive family.  I was thrilled that my two sons didn’t have to wait eighteen years or longer to find each other and reconnect.

Since then, they moved a little closer and we have made several trips to visit Noah and his family and they have made several trips to visit us.  I am honored to have a relationship with my birth son and pleased both families have kept our open adoption promise.  I am very aware that this may not work for every birth/adoptive parent connection.  And although we have hit bumps in the road just like ordinary families do, we have worked through them.  Sometimes I was the one who was compromising; sometimes they were the ones who were compromising.  I will admit, as a birth mother, being in a sequestering style relationship with my child can be challenging at times.  But I will say that my son’s parents always seemed to understand my sacrifice and emotional pain.  And they trusted me.  That last sentence really means a lot.  As a birth mother, to have their love and acceptance was an exceptional gift but to have their trust was the one thing that mattered most to me.