Do You Really Want to Adopt?

Today is one of my favorite little boys first birthdays..he is the son of one of my favorite families and one of my favorite birth moms. He is cute, bright, healthy and one of the luckiest boys on earth. He has so many people that love him. He is supposed to be here and one day I’m sure will share with us why.

I met his birth mom when she was 5 months pregnant. She was in jail, had been for a month or so and would be for another month. I remember talking with her… sassy, honest and I immediately liked her. It doesn’t matter what the charges were, but I think they were drug related. D had a history of many years of drug use (addiction). She has a daughter who was being raised by another relative but she still had contact with. By the time I met D she had some sobriety under her belt and knew why she needed to do an adoption plan with this baby. I never know for sure how an adoption plan will turn out. I can only use my assessment skills and the “calling” that I feel I have been given. In the end, I am not God. But with D I always felt strongly that she would place. She said it all when she told me ” I don’t know how to love myself right now..how can I possibly care for another human being” She also did not want to risk making the same mistakes she felt she had made with her daughter. Now that she was sober, she wanted to regain some of her trust and respect. She wanted to provide this son with a family who straight out of the box could provide for him unconditionally.
D was open to all types of families, which we thought would make it easy to find for her. What the next few weeks brought though were frustration and made D feel like maybe she wasn’t supposed to follow through with an adoption plan. I think it’s important at this time to disclose the fact that D is a Caucasian woman under 40, we also knew that the father although not involved was also Caucasian. She had a history of methamphetamine use during the first few months of pregnancy but had been testing clean since month 3. Her expenses were low and the adoption costs over all were within budget for most families waiting to adopt.
We initially found a “traditional” couple, no children..who were provided with all of the information about D and her prenatal history. We provided them with our contract and the attorney who would be representing D contract. No surprises, she choose them and that weekend we received communication from them that they had taken the attorneys contract to someone else and felt there were “red flags” in it, could we take D away from that attorney and do the adoption without them? When we responded NO, that D had chosen that attorney, it would be unethical to do such a thing, they posted on a National Adoption Magazine website that the situation may be a scam, that they had matched with this mom and that we would not do anything to help them. Of note on this too is that we had not been contracted by them, we had presented them upfront with no fees involved and that to manipulate a client away from someone they have trusted to help them with one of the most important decisions in a lifetime, would be immoral, unethical and just downright deceitful..was not something we wanted to be part of. That conversation was a good indicator to me that this was not the right family for D or her baby. By the way, there are no “RED FLAGS” in this attorneys contract, and we have done many many successful adoptions with them.
The second family we were to match with D were a same sex male couple who had adopted before. We had matched them with two moms previously who decided to parent, so I can understand some hesitation on their part. Again D chose them and was ready to move forward in the adoption plan..when they decided to withdraw. Their reason….they felt it was too expensive given that she had a drug history. No comment from me….. ok some comment, babies are not priced in adoption. Adoption professional collect fees for services provided – period.
The third couple again was a same sex couple no children both female. All information was provided up front with no application fees, couple was presented and chosen, there was a phone call and then the family decided to back out..it just didn’t feel right to them.
After putting D through the disappointment of choosing three families and having each one of them back out, I turned to a family I knew had wanted to adopt. They were living in a state that I knew as a facilitator I could not work with BUT I also knew how important it was for D to find a family for her son, she had worked so hard on her sobriety and loved this little boy, I had grown to love her. I approached this family and told them about the situation. I knew this family held adoption in their hearts and would want this baby boy, regardless. We talked…I referred them to D’s attorney and they matched. We stepped away as a professional and remained only as a friend.
I watched this family learn to love each other and anticipate the arrival of a brand new life. Last year today he was born. We cried, we cried and we cried. He is beautiful..no flaws.
D has continued to be in recovery since she decided in jail she was going to reclaim her life. This is a completely Open Adoption and D and the adoptive family talk regularly and share pictures on facebook.
Three families backed out on this adoption plan…I know that one year later two of them still have not adopted. We see this daily, people passing on situations because of one thing or another. So I question, are you adopting because you want a family? Because you want to raise children?
Adoption is not about shopping for the best situation, there is no best situation..even those of you who are waiting for the college student who just wants to get on with her life. Because adoption is always a risk, we never know if the placement is going to be successful. We never know if mom is going to go to her appointments, if she will follow through with drug testing, if she is telling us the truth about anything or everything. Adoption is a risk, just like IVF is a risk. You don’t get back the medical fees if it doesn’t work. Adoption is not the same as surrogacy, we can’t make a mom do something, her pregnancy is not for you..adoption is about being gifted a child for whom you get to love and take responsibility for raising, for guiding through life..
Happy Birthday J..we are so grateful you found YOUR family and we are so grateful that we were allowed to be part of it!

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Parenting as an Adoptive Parent – Does the Insecruity ever go Away?

I know I’ve said this before, BUT parenting is the most difficult job in the world- seriously, I think it’s harder than being President of the United States! AT least with that job whatever mistakes you have made , in 4 yrs you get to quit. Everyone thinks it’s harder when the kids are smaller, younger. I think it’s harder when they get older. If you have to work do it when they are young, preschool is good. You need to be home with them when they start middle school. That’s when all the fun really begins. Until then, they love you, they like you.

Someone asked our oldest son once “what’s it feel like to be adopted?” His response – “How would I know? I don’t have anything to compare it too?” I thought that was a pretty good answer. The same really applies to being an adoptive parent, if you aren’t parenting any biological children. But in my experience as both an adoption educator and an adoptive mom, there is a difference. Somewhere in the back of my mind no matter how far back I tuck it, or how well the day has gone, is that little thought ” does he wish I weren’t his mom” “does he feel like he got the shaft” “am I second best”. I know that there of some of you adoptive moms out there thinking to yourself – “I’ll never feel that way” “I’m completely secure about how my child loves me” Rather than trying to discourage those thoughts (or roll my eyes and laugh, with that -ya wait till you get into adolescence) I’m going to let you keep them for now, because I remember them, and I remember how powerful I felt when I had them. Now don’t worry too much , or feel that sorry for me. I don’t feel that way all the time, but I’m honest enough to admit that it does affect some of the tough decisions I have to make, tolerating certain behaviors from our children and I’m almost always the parent who gives the benefit of the doubt (what might they be going through right now that made them make that stupid, stupid decision) I spent a yr in therapy talking about my co-dependency issues and still I struggle. You ask now, is it just her personality…..maybe? I’ll never really know, because I am who I am, which is a daily work in progress. I do know my children love me, I do understand my limitations and my perceptions, and my abilities. What I have found helpful with my insecurities, is talking with other adoptive parents, reading as much as I can and considering how I could use the information with my family – and I encourage you too as an adoptive parent, to reach out when you need to. To talk with someone else who will understand how you feel, when you have doubts. Our boys are grown now and our daughter has not. Most days I know we have done a good job. They complain, but they are all still here , under our roof at the end of the day.

What Happens When We Get a New Referral?

One of the adoption attorneys we know has started a facebook page chronicling each time he gets a new referral. The purpose of which is to share with families how much time and work goes into working with a new mom. I think it’s a great idea, and as a professional I like seeing that many of the things we do are the same, or even reading something and then thinking hmm maybe we should try this, or maybe we should have done that. As a facilitator I’m not in an “agency office” everyday to share my emotions or ideas, so long story short I “like” his idea and his posts. I’m not going to start doing that on ours, as I enjoy providing updates about our families and articles about adoption support and references to other resources. Maybe that’s the nurse in me? But I will share one piece of a journey with you, just so you can see that we spend a considerable amount of time with the women we work with..many who may choose to go a different path, before we even try to start finding a family for them.

We feel strongly about adoption. We feel that it can be a very positive experience for the adoptive family, the birth mom and the child when everything is transparent and honest. Because of this we are as honest with the women who come to us for guidance. We understand that there are many birth moms and adopted children who feel adoption should have never been the answer for them. I believe that, but I also believe that adoption is not always the reason those individuals are sad, and life is hard. It may have contributed, we don’t know that there would have been a better outcome if the adoption had never occurred. That’s all I’m going to say about that. That all said, women have to be given options and information about outcomes before an informed decision can be made. The hardest part about this is that so many women come to adoption because of a major crisis in their lives.
We always ask why adoption? What do they know about adoption? Do they know anyone who is adopted?
Do they understand that it is a life long commitment and not a foster care situation? Do they have any friends or family members who could raise this child and where is the father of the baby?

When we first meet, we give a brief description about who we are and what we do. We offer a short description of what would happen should they choose adoption and we provide examples of other families and women we have worked with..both who have placed and who haven’t. We get a brief history from them about what is going on and what they hope adoption would accomplish. We provide them with references( women we have worked with) so that they can talk directly to another woman who has gone through an adoption plan. The women we refer them too are very honest. They don’t sugar coat their feelings or the pain they have experienced because of their adoption plan. We leave with this information and another appointment made to discuss any questions or concerns they may have.
When we come back together for the next meeting, most women have decided or not what they want to do. If they want to consider an adoption plan, we then start talking about what that would look like, what kind of relationship they want, what are their needs at this time? It’s still not time to match though, we need medical records which could take up to 2 weeks to obtain. If they have not gotten any medical care then we help them to start this process. During this time we are looking into their backgrounds, listening to them talk, listening for inconsistency or not in their stories and histories. Talking to other people in their lives. The more people that are supportive of this plan the easier it will be for mom if this is what she decides, if friends and family are not supportive then we need to discuss if adoption really is the best option. All of the above can burn through a few weeks. Sometimes in the middle of all of this I might start asking our families if they would be interested in this particular situation should it go to an adoption plan. Depending on the woman we may or may not have her start to fill out paperwork on this second visit or we might wait until the third or fourth. We always ask them to fill out the standard forms for the State of California, one of our intakes, a medical release form, a statement of understanding that entering an adoption plan and taking financial assistance without the intention of following through with an adoption plan (which is much different than delivering and changing their mind) is committing fraud and punishable by law, a statement that they are working exclusively with us to find them a family and support their adoption plan (if they choose to discontinue our relationship and work with someone else then we need that in writing) and finally we look at what type of financial assistance they will need.
We try to obtain as much information about the father of the baby as possible. The best case scenario is that he is and wants to be involved. If not we simply get the information and then leave it up to the agency or attorney to decide on legal plan of action. There are several different thoughts about this. We are not attorneys and WILL NOT practice law.
If mom needs to go to the Dr still we may go with her to her appointment as a source of support. If she needs to stabilize her housing we might be helping her with this.

When it comes time to start matching, we ask our moms to choose at least two or three families to start with. We then start setting up a meeting or a phone call. All of our phone calls are facilitated at first. Once a relationship is established families and moms can talk on their own , have email contact etc. as long as it’s ok with the legal team. Some attorneys advise against this. Matches can take anywhere from a week – up to 2 months depending on requirements of mom and then finding the right family. Mom may like a family and then the family isn’t completely comfortable with all of the details, then we start all over. Facilitating matches is much more than finding people and setting up meetings. Everyone’s schedule has to be taken in to regards, once the individuals talk the families may then need to discuss this with an attorney and this can take several days, then comes all of the legal paperwork. We may spend a week and a half on a situation only to get to a point where someone gets “cold feet” or it’s happening too fast and it scares them and then the match falls apart and we start all over again. We may do all of this and mom matches and then she decides maybe adoption isn’t the best..or a friend has found them the perfect family..or a friend may know someone from their church. As I’ve said many many times..we are working with human beings and because of this, we cannot make promises. We can follow a procedure, and use experience with each new experience but in the end…we cannot make promises of an outcome until it happens.

Once this part is all done we then just support the plan, make sure mom is going to her appointments (or not – because adoption is not surrogacy we cannot mandate this occur) develop a hospital plan, make sure all the players are on board with the health team, social work team etc. and wait for delivery. We try to be there if geographically capable. If not we are available by phone.

We find this part to be the most emotionally draining. Once again there is an anticipated outcome but we all know that something else can happen. I always remind our moms that they do have a right to change their minds, but I will be there to remind them of why they made their adoption plans. Babies come with this chemica/hormone that no matter what they look or smell like – they are the most beautiful thing in the world, they melt the hearts of everyone around. A woman who has never gone through a relinquishment can know what it is going to feel like to be present in that moment or to walk away from the hospital empty handed. As a facilitator my heart is heavy and happy at the same time, happy beyond words for the family who has been waiting for this moment. Heavy for the mom who has spent 9 months growing this baby. When mom goes home she still continues to get support from us. We encourage counseling and a referral to a local organization for birth moms. We have a monthly support group at our Resource Center. Some of our moms go on to work with us, writing blogs and being a resource for other new moms. We have found that those who do this tend to have an easier time with healing and grieving.

Thank you!

As we close up 2012, I am grateful for so many things. The families that we helped to create, the women who we were able to provide support -guidance and respect to, the professionals who listened to us about the “adoption option”, all of the new relationships we have formed, our new Resource Center and a full year with my new partner!
I know I say it all the time, but I do feel truly blessed that we get to do this work, that I get to work side by side with my husband, that our children (all 4) are also involved in different ways, and enjoy being part of Sweet Beginnings Adoptions.

Thank you all for your referrals of new families. Thank you to the Attorneys and Adoption Consultants we have learned to trust and value working with, and thank you all – for your kind words and support just when we need them.

We look forward to assisting more women, children and families in 2013. We look forward to forming more relationships, and we look forward to continuing to provide positive education about adoption. We promise to continue to provide a service that we are proud of..

Happy New Year to all of our Families, Colleagues and Friends!

Dean and Lisa Sweet
Sweet Beginnings Adoptions

My Soap Box..

Whenever I sit down to write I always have to remind myself that I own a business and my personal opinions might just cause potential clients to turn and run the other way. Then I remind myself that I am okay with that because it provides a screening process and is actually a time saving element for me , because we are lucky enough to be able to work with who we want to work with and who truly (in most cases anyway) has a heart for adoption and parenting. Adoption is fortunately for those of us who could not have biological children, a way to form our families. What a adoption isn’t is an avenue for those who can’t have biological children an entitlement. What we try to remind our families is this: When we are working with an expectant mom, we are trying to provide a service for her and the unborn child. She is in most cases in a crisis whether it’s situational or chronic and she needs to find a good- loving-stable home for her child. For those who need to adopt for family formation, this works out to their advantage(for lack of a better word) and due to that have to surrender control. Most recently I had someone say ” we feel that no one is advocating for us as the adoptive parent” . I know it feels like this but we are. There is so much case work on a daily basis that goes into working an adoption plan that you may not see. The work is being done with the expectant mom, to ensure a successful adoption plan. I know working towards her needs might not seem like we are advocating for the adoptive family but in the end..what is the goal of the adoptive family? To have a baby. By providing mom with the services she needs and the support that she needs she is in a better position to make a positive choice, an informed choice. Sometimes unfortunately for the adoptive family, and child this choice may not be what we anticipated. Our hope then is to support that woman in her choice and make sure she is getting the resources she needs. So I know at this point some of you may be asking..If we hire Sweet Beginnings Adoptions do they work for us? Yes, completely and fully. We will provide as much support as we can and you will allow us too. We will help you find an adoption situation that fits you and will grow your family. We need you to be the family that the child needs. We LOVE families who want to adopt and parent and be everything for these kids and will be there for a lifetime, good times and bad. Please don’t ever think that we won’t advocate for you..it just may not be the way you envisioned it to be. If we are working with you, we will continue to work with you until your baby finds you. Outcomes just can’t be predicted in this work , but we will always do everything within our means to support your family, even when you may think it’s the end of the road, we will work it out together.
When we go out and talk with organizations I always hope to make people understand, we are not in adoption to help fill all of the family homes who could not reproduce. We do this work because there are so many women out there who need us to. So many children who need us to. I frequently hear the statement “Women in our community do not choose adoption- they choose abortion or parenting” I can tell you that is because of the lack of support and education surrounding adoption. We try to teach that adoption is not giving up a baby…it is not selling a baby….It is surprising how difficult it is to change a mindset. But we keep trying. We remind people that we are not there to talk women out of parenting..we are there to let them know that they have choices. It’s amazing to me that so many can be open to having the right to be part of the PRO Choice movement yet as soon as the word adoption is spoken…forget that they have advocated for choices. Adoption is a choice..it is an option..women should know about this and they will if we have anything to do about it. I don’t want you to do an adoption if you want to parent, or if you are in a position to parent but need a little help. I don’t want you to do an adoption just because you are in jail or using drugs. I don’t want you to do an adoption because you have no money or are not married. I want you to consider adoption if: you don’t want to parent, if you are deep into your addiction and not ready to come out, if you’re incarcerated and don’t have any family support and you are not coming out anytime soon, if you’re living a life of crime and don’t see a near future of positive work soon, if the man who has fathered your child is not a good influence and you don’t feel like you can parent this child with or without him. These are the reasons I won’t you to consider an adoption plan, and I want the people in your life, in your community to accept this and support you. I don’t want you to feel shamed for this decision, or have people questioning you at the last minute making you feel like it was an inappropriate decision to begin with. This is what I want our community to hear. It’s a slow process but we do see some positive movement in the community. We feel blessed to be involved in this work, we feel blessed to be part of the adoption community, we feel blessed to be able to support our children’s birth moms in a way that honors the decisions they each made ( not to glorify them , but to provide empowerment and help to remove the shame) We feel blessed because we hope to be part of something that changes mindset so that as we’ve seen happen in the last 10-20 years in ethical open adoptions our children and the next generation, will understand – they weren’t “given away” .

Who are the women we work with?

We always get asked this question by families who come to us waiting to adopt. I think it’s one of the questions that is listed on the “What questions should you ask when interviewing agencies, attorneys or facilitators”.

We work with women who want to consider adoption planning. The women who are referred to us or who come to us are from all different backgrounds. They run the gamete from being 16 and drug free to 40 and methamphetamine addicted. Their reasons for considering adoption are just as varied..wanting to finish school to being so enthralled in their addiction that they can’t take care of themselves let alone another. They are all different ethnicity’s and socio economic backgrounds. Some are educated and some are not. Some have had children and relinquished before, some have never had children, and some have children and this is their first consideration of adoption. Although so different from each other many of the women we serve are so alike. They come to adoption because they need another option. Women don’t come to adoption to serve the families that need to adopt. I saw a really great response today on facebook and I think it says it better than I can –

“I did not give the gift of a child to this woman, I gave the gift of this woman to my child”

I think it’s important for potential adoptive parents to hear and remember this, while going through their journey and after placement. We are (yes we..I’m a mom times 4 because of adoption) lucky that the adoption option exists. Not all of us came to adoption because we wanted to provide a home for a child, we came because we needed too if we wanted to parent. I know that many people don’t feel represented or protected as potential adoptive parents, I’ve heard some say they even feel captive to the process. I am the last person to tell someone not to feel because it you don’t allow yourself to feel it just causes other problems BUT honestly…women don’t relinquish or loose their parental rights because someone wants to adopt. They do so because they need to..they may not even want to but they have too. When they do there needs to be a great home for that baby, and that’s what adoption is. We work with the women who need to find a great loving home for their child, a home that they cannot provide. A family that will love and support their child, a family that is forgiving and accepting, a family to deal with every bit of history that child comes with. That is adoption.

This is How we do it Baby……..

A few weeks ago we were asked by an agency to help find a family for a birth mom who had already delivered and was home with her 4 month old twins. After obtaining all of the details we were a little skeptical about getting involved, but for many reasons we decided to move forward (we adopted 4 month old twins 19 yrs ago!). When an attorney or an agency come to us for a family, they do so because they are expecting that we are screening and preparing a family for presentation. What is involved in this process? First an interest in the situation..then a brief introduction by email. Next we need to make sure the family has a budget in place, has a valid home study and can work with us (a facilitator). Why is this important? Because the agency /attorney has asked us to do a job for them. It can take hours to screen a family – and find out they are not the right family. DO this with 8-10 families and you have spent two or three days. That is a lot of hours and you haven’t even gotten to the place of being able to present the family to your expect/birth mom. That can and will take many more hours. I think the hardest thing for some people to understand is this: Just because you want to adopt, and just because you have a home study..doesn’t always make you the best family for a baby. Moms come to the table with their list of expectations just as hopeful adoptive parents do. Sometimes concessions can be made and sometimes they can’t. Part of my job is to know when and not.

When we are working with a new expectant mom, our contracted families (who we have spent time with already) and our registered families, who we have a completed application, homestudy and have talked with for an hour or more..get offered the situation first. If they are not interested or we don’t have a family who meets the needs of the expectant/birth mom then we network out to a few trusted adoption consultants or attorneys. We know that the consultants and attorneys have screened their families and have an understanding of what they want in an adoption plan. If we can’t find a family in this realm, we usually concede or wait and try again.
Because this agency had a timeline and once again, for many reasons we felt a need to help find a great family for this set of twins, we threw our net a little further and asked and let a few individuals post on facebook groups. We received over 50 requests to be presented to the twins. We answered I think all of the inquires personally even when we could see just from the email that it wasn’t going to work. Most of the responses were positive but one stood out and kept me captive for days: The owner first replied to us (please note that we did not reach out to them personally) that they had been waiting for 5 yrs to adopt and they they were the family for the twins. They didn’t know everything yet about them except what I had posted in my original brief but they assured me they were a loving Christian family. I thanked them for responding but wanted to let them know that we were a facilitator and that we could not work with them due to the state they lived in. In her next email she got a little rougher and asked me to step aside since the twins were working with an agency. Once again I replied, tried to be supportive and let her know this was not going to happen, the agency had asked us to provide a service for them. Her next reply was rude and abusive, letting me know that the reason facilitators were illegal in most states was because of me and the fact that I was standing between her and the children she should be adopting. That I was money grubbing and basically should be sent to hell. SO here’s where I am going with all of this. The internet is a wonderful place for information, facebook is a great way to stay in touch with all of our families and friends and forums are a great way to seek support and answers for and from others that are in like situations…..did you know that when you write something on a forum it stays there forever…when you write something on your adoption page on facebook anyone can see it. I use facebook all the time – especially when working with a new mom. When you post on your facebook page that I am an “asshole” I can see this! And when I can’t all of the other people I work with professionally and maybe have worked with in the past will let me know it’s there. Screening done! All in one day, I received a sweet email letting me know they are the perfect Christian family gets reduced to be being an “asshole” because I wouldn’t provide her the name of the agency. And this is why the agency has me do the screening. I saved them from having to work this family out on their own.
We had another young couple get upset once because I would not ask the expectant mom leave the attorney they were working with to cut out the expenses to the family. She wrote on a public national forum that there were all kinds of red flags and that we weren’t being supportive of them. There were no red flags except that they were asking me to do something unethical. We had not signed any contracts with this family. They came to us from a post we made on a board, they got chosen by the expectant mom, had all of the information about her including medical records and then decided it was too expensive for them. A friend saw the post they made and let us know. We called and asked them to remove it. It was wrong of her to have posted it, and if we really wanted to we could follow her post with the whole story. We didn’t want to do that, they were young, we thought they would make good parents and didn’t want them to make the mistakes of making these allegations publicly. We could choose not to work with them, but we didn’t want them to discourage others from ever working with them again. This birth mom has delivered and the baby is with a wonderful adoptive family.

Long story short… a lot of work goes on in an adoption plan, alot that if you don’t work in this field don’t realize is happening. It’s complicated, dramatic, explosive and crazy at most times. I know that most of the families reading this already know better….be careful when you are posting stuff. If you are frustrated or angry don’t push send..put it in the draft folder. It only takes about an hour on the phone to figure out what families “get” adoption and which families don’t, but don’t make it any harder on yourselves in a moment of rage.