Meeting the Baby, Becoming a Family

July 1, 2015 in Parenting Tips by   |  No Comments

Meeting the Baby, Becoming a Family

I’ve never been a big believer in “signs from above” or cosmic signals or any of that flimflam. But the package I saw on my doorstep on Jan. 6 gave me pause: a free sample of Enfamil formula.


It was the day that my wife, Rachel, and I were going to meet the birth mother of a tiny preemie in the neonatal intensive-care unit of a local hospital; if all went well, our lives would change forever, as we would be meeting our new daughter for the first time as soon as the following day.


We hadn’t signed up for any mailing lists while we were “in profile” (that’s how prospective adoptive parents describe the time when birth mothers are reviewing smiling images of the two of you cooking, traveling and looking at autumnal gourds). For the life of us we couldn’t figure out where this box that said, “Hello, Mom” on the side came from.


“How did they know?” I asked Rachel when I showed her the package when she came home from work. Rachel is more of a believer in otherworldly nudges, but still couldn’t believe the package I was showing her. It was as if someone somewhere knew that the meeting would go just fine. We didn’t have much time to contemplate that, though, as we rushed out the door to one of the biggest appointments of our lives.


Luckily, the meeting did go well. We met an intelligent and artistic young woman whose reasons for doing the placement were well thought out, and she found us charming enough to text our agency’s casework supervisor her wholehearted approval of us soon after she left. So the next day, after frantically trying to finish up our work, we were to take the 45-minute drive to the hospital to meet our tiny daughter for the first time.


I never thought I would be a dad, for a lot of reasons. But after I married Rachel, the idea of being a parent began to grow on me. We started looking into domestic open adoption in 2011, not because of infertility, but because of our age and some health issues Rachel has that could have made any pregnancy risky as far as her well-being was concerned. We knew it would be a long process, and we would both be into our 40s by the time we got a placement, but little did I realize how long it would actually take.


It was mostly our fault. It took us a long time to get out of our own way and stop dragging our feet as far as completing the paperwork, home study and all of the other preliminary stuff was concerned. At one point, all of the other couples in our preadoption support group had suddenly either gotten babies or were close to getting babies, and my wife and I were still wrangling over the legal language of the agreement with our primary agency. This is what happens when you’re married to a public-sector lawyer who is well versed in family law, and maybe what happens when you’ve both led independent lives for so long, and can’t let go of a fear that you won’t know what to do with a baby once one arrives.


We found out about the possibility of adopting this little girl over the holidays, while we were having a very empty and unsatisfying vacation in Cape May. We were heartbroken over turning down a possible placement over the summer, and during the intervening six months we didn’t hear a word about other possibilities. It’s hard to enjoy the childless life of nice dinners, wine tastings and brewery tours when various birth mothers are looking at your smiling mugs and saying no, and you’re waiting on a child that may never come.


The baby who is now our daughter was in the neonatal intensive-care unit, born at 28 weeks gestation at an almost impossibly small weight of one and a half pounds. The insurance coverage for her birth and NICU stay wasn’t settled. And, after the birth mother reluctantly identified the birth father, he refused to sign away his rights, despite the fact that he had never visited the baby (he was later served notice that those rights would expire in 20 days if he raised no objection). There were a dozen reasons to shy away from this placement, too.


But the thought of this tiny girl – who was up to a “hefty” two and a half pounds – sleeping in an NICU without anyone to hold her was too much for us to bear. When we finally saw her, this bitty thing in her Isolette with a red bow on her little head, pasted on by the nurses, all of the worries about the birth father, her preemie status, our age and even that we were doing a transracial adoption immediately melted. We could tell she was the fighter and “rock star” that the agency’s case worker had said she was.


Now she is Evyn Carla Grace Keller, our little peanut: Evyn, ostensibly a form of the boy’s name Evan (one of its meanings is “young warrior”); Carla, the name her birth mother gave her; and Grace, a name Rachel has always loved. Soon, she will come home, Rachel will go back to work, and I will become her primary caregiver, working as a journalist from home.


This is going to be a hell of an adventure.


Oh, and we figured out where that package came from: When we submitted our profile in April, we started a registry with a large baby item retailer. Even though we said we were adopting, they still asked us to fill in a due date. Not knowing what else to put, Rachel randomly entered “January 2015.” So now I’m starting to wonder what she knew that I didn’t.


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How American Families Can Afford Adoption

June 17, 2015 in News by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

How American Families Can Afford Adoption

Domestic and international adoption can cost thousands of dollars, but grants, tax credits and fundraising can offset costs.


Each year, U.S. citizens adopt over 100,000 children, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. Costs can range from very little for adopting a child from foster care to $40,000 or more for a private domestic adoption, says Nicole Witt, executive director of The Adoption Consultancy in Florida.


For families having difficulty conceiving, the cost of infertility treatments can also run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more, but adoption offers a key benefit that medicine doesn’t. “[Adoption is] always a roller coaster of ups and downs, but at the end of it you have a healthy baby,” says Lynne Fingerman, an adoptive mother and social worker who founded the San Francisco-based nonprofit Adoption Connection in 1985. “The infertility route doesn’t have that guarantee.”


Here’s a look at strategies that adoptive families use to cover costs.


Adoption tax credit. For 2014, the IRS gives adoptive parents a maximum adoption tax credit (to offset qualified adoption expenses such as legal fees and travel costs) of $13,190 per child, which phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes between $197,880 and $237,880. “If you adopt twins, then you can claim double the tax credit,” Witt says. “Or even if you have a [domestic adoption] situation that falls through, you can claim it towards the expenses that you’ve lost.” The credit cannot exceed your tax liability, but you can carry any excess credits into the following year. Consult your tax preparer if you’re unsure of how this applies to you.


Adoption grants. Jeremy Resmer and his wife raised over $47,000 so they can adopt twin girls from Congo debt-free, and about two-thirds of that money came from grants. (The Congolese government has put all adoptions on hold, so Resmer, his wife and their 3-year-old son are currently living in the Congo bonding with the girls and waiting for the adoption to finalize.) The pair did exhaustive research on adoption grants, and Resmer wrote and published an e-book called “Fund Your Adoption: A Step-By-Step Guide To Adopt Debt-Free.” “We had to look in a million different places to find all the grants,” he says. “Certain organizations … will only grant to you if you’re Christian or married, and sometimes income eligibility requirements will come in. Some organizations will only provide grants for domestic adoptions.” Because the application process can be time-intensive (collecting letters of recommendation or meeting with a pastor, for instance), the couple applied for 10 grants that they felt they most closely fit the award criteria, and also looked at grants with the highest award ranges. They were awarded six of them.


Not everyone will qualify for grants because some are income-based. However, a growing number of employers now offer adoption assistance. In fact, a 2012 Aon Hewitt survey of 1,000 major U.S. employers found that over half offered this benefit, compared to 12 percent in 1990. Fingerman says these benefits can range between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the employer.


Loans. Sometimes people take a short-term loan to cover adoption costs and use their tax return (with the adoption tax credit) to repay the loan. “There are adoption loans out there, but I always tell my clients just because a loan has the word ‘adoption’ in front of it doesn’t mean it has most favorable terms,” Witt says. “Explore a general loan, home equity loan and see what the best terms are.” Not everyone has home equity they can borrow from, but Witt says having a line of credit ready to cover adoption expenses can be smart (so long as you’re realistic about what you can afford). “You don’t know exactly how much you’re going to need and when you’re going to need it,” she explains.


Some people also get a gift or interest-free loan from parents who want to be grandparents. “People sometimes have to travel to other parts of the country where the birth mother lives, so families have given them frequent flier miles or points to the Marriott,” Fingerman says.


Fundraising. Many people saving up for adoption take on a second job or plan fundraising events – Resmer did both. Friends, family and members of a religious community have long been a source of financial help for adoptive families, but online crowdfunding for adoption costs puts a 21st century twist on this tradition, which Witt says can be controversial. “On the one hand, it can be great because people love to help,” she says. On the other hand, some parents worry contributors could “say something inappropriate in front of the child about how they helped pay for them,” she says.


Witt has seen other families sell adoption T-shirts to friends and family members or temporarily rent out the room intended as a nursery for extra cash. Resmer’s family raised several thousand dollars through an adoption carnival hosted by a local church. “They had dunk tanks, carnival rides, all sorts of food and a bake sale,” he says. They also solicited donations from local businesses and held a silent auction at the carnival.


By tapping into all available resources, even moderate-income families have been able to make adoption a reality. “Most people who adopt don’t have $40,000 sitting in their bank account,” Witt says. “Most people I work with are typically middle-income families, and they find ways to make it happen.”


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Life In Berlin: Brown Bread

June 3, 2015 in News, Success Stories by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Life In Berlin: Brown Bread

Brown Bread is a documentary about Sarah Gross’s childhood in a transracially adoptive family.   When six children from entirely different backgrounds are given the same last name there are bound to be questions of integration, discussions of race, and moments of disconnection.  But what is important to Sarah about her story

“I want to get past the details of my family. Of course I had a very strange and unique family, but actually all families are strange and unique. It matters because I think all families have crises and all families have to deal with identity issues. Certainly families that have adopted have to deal with more integration and identity issues and sharing and talking about it is the best way to start processing and thinking about how we want to be.

Sarah, who has lived in Berlin for many years, chose to show the film Brown Bread in Berlin for reasons beyond the convenience of staying within her own postal code:

“There is a lot of adoption going on here in Germany. There’s less domestic adoption, but there are a lot of international adoptions which immediately raises the issues of ethnic identity and what is a family anyway. Now I know quite a few people in Berlin who have adopted transracially and what that means for them. And is that normal? How do their kids feel in the schools? There’s certainly a very small minority compared to what you would find in an American society.”

It goes beyond questions of race and enters into the realm of learning to not just respect, but to understand those around us, and to redefine what we think of as a “traditional” family structure.

“Without wanting to wax too philosophical, I think the film is also about family in general and society in general. And we are all bumping up against people who are different from us in our cities and in our ways of defining who we are and where we belong. So I think it can also be a segue into that kind of a conversation as well.”

Members of the National Adoption and Foster Family Group in Germany will attend the screening of Brown Bread at the Taz. Sarah Gross will be there with the editor of the Taz newspaper.  Sarah hopes that there will be a conversation about adoption across cultures

“I have a friend who is white and has some children who are dark skinned and I feel that she is trying really hard to make it normal. And of course it’s normal. Every family is normal. But every family is also abnormal. It is going to be important to her children as they grow up to develop an ethnic identity.  Which is other than hers. It has to be. And the only way she can help them to become their full selves is to support that growth and development.”

Brown Bread is a film about family, about ethnic identity, and about how we define ourselves regardless of geographic locations or last names.  Sarah uses the medium of film to challenge what cultures think of as normal family structure and to address the ways in which that structure can evolve and diversify alongside our nations.

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Why I Am Not Striving To Be A Perfect Parent

May 20, 2015 in Parenting Tips by   |  No Comments

Why I Am Not Striving To Be A Perfect Parent

I want to be more patient with my kids.

I need to lose weight.

I have to get more organised.

As much as this time of year is about good intentions and setting goals for the journey into the new year, it can also feel  just a wee bit discouraging to focus on all of those areas where we feel that we just aren’t measuring up – especially when we had that exact same resolution last year…and the year before.

But guess what – I am not perfect. You aren’t perfect. Your partner is fabulous but still not perfect. Your children are sweet/adorable/fun/clever/fabulous but they definitely aren’t perfect. Your parents, siblings, friends, neighbours, school teachers, employers…nope, none of them are either.

We are all imperfectly human. We all have strengths… and weaknesses. We all have times when we fail to meet our own expectations – well at least, the majority of us do.

So this year I am giving up on the ideal of being a perfect parent.

I am going to be me. Imperfectly me.

But that does not mean that I am giving up on being the very best version of me that I can be. As both myself and my family deserve that. But what I am doing is being realistic about what I can achieve and accomplish with the time and space I have available. What I can achieve without compromising relationships I have with people I love and care about.

And here’s how I’m planning on making that happen.

1. Start with accepting yourself as you are now and acknowledging what you do well.

Give yourself credit where credit is due. Focus on your strengths and highest priorities. Give yourself a pat on the back for those things you do well.

“My house is always messier than I want it to to be but my kids are happy, we eat well and enjoy time together and I am doing a pretty damn kickarse job of building my business too.”

“I got cross when the kids turned their nose up at dinner again but we ended the day, as we always do, with lots of love and giggles and a fun bedtime story.”

or even, “We made it to the end of the day and we are all still alive, in one piece. That is all I can ask of today.”

You do so many good, even great, things in a day. Start there.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I am pretty sure that it is human nature to admire those around you that do well in those areas that you struggle with. Right? (At least I hope so, otherwise I am some sort of weirdo!)  I look up to a couple of friends who do such a good job of being organised and I promise myself again and again that I will get a better handle on my disorganised home. I make small, positive changes but never seem to be keep it up. What I have come to realise is that comparing myself is actually really de-motivating as I just can’t seem to attain their level of (what I see as) ‘perfection.’

So stop that comparing. Yes, some people in your life are doing a much better job than you. But they are on a different path to you. Their priorities are different to yours. Their natural strengths and talents are different to yours. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any, just that yours are different. So let’s stop that comparing, okay?

3. Be realistic and focus on things that matter.

When choosing your goals or resolutions, be truly realistic about what it is that you want to change. Make sure that it is something that really matters, that will make a real difference in your life. Think about the positive reasons why it will make a difference for you and your family – maybe it will free up more time for you to be together, maybe it will result in more positive, harmonious relationships at home, maybe it will mean you have more energy to keep up with your kids. Whatever it is, it has to be something that you really care about for you to even get past next week with your resolution in tact..let alone get through a full 12 months.

4. Work on just one change at a time.

Start small. Real small. Even smaller than that. Choose small, achievable actions and practise them.

So, I want to live healthier this year. I need to exercise and move more, I need to eat more vegetables and protein and less carbohydrate, I need to eat less sugar, I need to drink less coffee, I need to drink more water. Woah, I am exhausted even thinking about it – where is that chocolate bar!!!

I suggest choosing just one small thing – Say, I will drink four glasses of water each day, and work on that one thing for a week, a month, even two or three months. Master it. Make it a new habit and then move on to the next thing. Remember you have 12 whole months to achieve this goal. If you try to do too much at once you are likely to pack it all in as much too hard.

So instead of aiming to re-organise your whole house, start with the kitchen bench or the lounge room floor. Work on making sure that it is tidy and cleared each night for a whole week or two before choosing a new area to work on.

5. Be patient with and forgiving of yourself.

Accept that some days you just won’t kick a goal. But you know what – it matters less than you think because you know what, your children are learning by watching you strive to improve yourself and your family’s life, especially when you are knocked down and have to start again.

So you’ve had a bad day (or week!)? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, remind yourself again of all the good things you have accomplished and start again. You are a work in progress. We all are. Remember, imperfectly you!

Have you made goals or resolutions for the new year? What is your plan for achieving them?

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Debunking adoption myths

May 6, 2015 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

Debunking adoption myths

Adoption is mysterious to many of us; we’ve relied on Lifetime movies and anecdotes of the most rare situations in adoption to define it. As a result, there are many myths that swirl around adoption and, as always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The information that follows is applicable to domestic and foster care adoptions, rather than international adoption.

The birth mother/father can show up at any time and take the child. False. Once the adoption is finalized, the child’s adoptive parents are recognized by law. Post-adoption revocation is very rare, but these cases do gain publicity, which further perpetuates the myth. Most ethical adoptions are agreed on by birth parents who have made a very sacred decision that they feel is in the best interest of their child.

Birth parents are troubled teens and not to be trusted. False, false, false. On average, birth parents are in their 20s. Typically, birth parents choose adoption because they don’t have the means — financially, emotionally or otherwise — to parent the child. This factor doesn’t make a person dangerous or untrustworthy. Consider the amount of trust a birth parent gives an adoptive couple in order to choose them to raise their child.

Open adoption (where the adoptee has identifying information about their birth family, and the birth parents choose adoptive parents) is emotionally harmful to the child. False. Open adoption takes away the mystery. When adoptive parents are able to share information about the child’s birth parents and their history, the children understand their beginnings and they understand why a placement decision was made. According to a study completed by the Minnesota/Texas Research Project, birthmothers involved in open adoptions had lower levels of adoption-related grief and loss than compared with those involved in a closed adoption. The study points out “adopted adolescents was no different in levels of adjustment from the national norms. Level of openness by itself was not a major predictor of adjustment outcomes at Wave 2. However, relationship qualities, such as collaboration in relationships and perceived compatibility, were predictive of adjustment across openness levels.”

Open adoption is like co-parenting. False. Birth and adoptive parents do not share custody. Adoption outlines distinct roles. Open adoption allows for the child to have an ongoing relationship (of some level) with birth parents. Some birth parents report having an aunt/uncle-like relationship with the child.

Same-sex parents are not capable of providing a healthy environment for a child. False. Years of research by the Donaldson Adoption Institute has proven that children parented by same-sex or heterosexual couples have the same outcomes, happy and healthy.

The racial background of most children in foster care is that of a minority. False. According to the most recent Kids Count data, 46 percent of foster children are white, 26 percent are black, 21 percent are Hispanic and the remaining 9 percent are multiracial.

Adoption is born of loss. True. Adoption is sometimes the best-case scenario for the birth parents, who aren’t ready to parent; the adoptive parents, who have sometimes been waiting many years to parent; and the child, who is provided a safe, stable home. Despite this, adoption occurs because of a loss — a child’s loss of biological parents and the loss of connection to their history. As an adoption community we don’t do anyone any favors by glossing over this fact.

Adoption is expensive. True and False. Adoption from foster care can cost little to nothing. Information from the Child Welfare Information Gateway cites domestic adoptions can range from $5,000 to $30,000, and international adoption can cost $15,000 to $30,000. These fees are paid to social workers, attorneys and a small amount (as determined by each state) can be used for birth parent expenses such as rent, maternity clothes, etc. Birthparents are not paid for the adoption.

Adoptive parents must be “perfect” to pass the home study. False. Adoptive parents must prove that they can provide financially and emotionally for the child. They are asked about their relationships with family and spouse, employment, plans for when the child arrives and understanding of adoption. Most adoptive parents pass the home study process.

Waiting to tell my child he or she was adopted until they can understand is better for them. False. History has been a guide for us in this domain. Historically, adoptions were closed. Because of this, it was easier (and expected) for adoptive parents not share information about their child’s origins at all — or if so, later in life. Due to the research on open adoption, we now know that children who are provided information about their birth family early on fare better in the long run emotionally.

If I don’t talk to my child about their racial identity (if it’s different from my own) then it won’t be an issue.False. Children adopted transracially need special attention in order to acheive positive formation of their racial identity. Again, the Donaldson Adoption Institute has found “positive racial/ethnic identity development is most effectively facilitated by ‘lived’ experiences such as travel to native country, attending racially diverse schools, and having role models of their own race/ethnicity.”

Adoption has always been a way to build families, although in the past two decades, our understanding of best practices for all members of the triad has increased. As this understanding shifts, so does public misunderstanding. Adoption stories and experiences are as diverse as they come, because an adoption experience is a human experience.

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Interstate Placements and Adoption Subsidies

April 22, 2015 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Interstate Placements and Adoption Subsidies

A few years ago, it was relatively uncommon for a foster child from Los Angeles to be placed for adoption with a family in Albuquerque or a Minneapolis teen to find his forever family in Atlanta. These placements typically happened only because relatives were living in other states. Today, with the increasing use of the Internet, plus increasing numbers of children going into out-of-home care, agencies are listing more waiting children on regional and national web sites. As a result, prospective families are using their computers to locate children and interstate placements are now more common in adoption.

When children move across state lines, families often wonder “Who pays for the adoption subsidy?” “How does the child get a new Medicaid card?” These questions are addressed below.


The Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (AAICPC) was established in 1974 and consists of members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is not only statutory law in all 52 jurisdictions, it is also a binding contract between all parties. The ICPC establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children.

Placements must generally go through the ICPC when children move across state lines, regardless of the type of placement—foster, adoptive, etc. When the child has special needs and qualifies for state- or federally-funded adoption assistance, the Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA) comes into play.


ICAMA was established to protect the interstate interests of children adopted pursuant to adoption assistance agreements. The Compact creates a framework for formalized interstate cooperation for ensuring that children with special needs receive medical and other benefits when they are adopted by a family in another state, or their adoptive family moves to another state. As of June 2006, 47 states and the District of Columbia have signed the Compact.*

In our earlier example of a child moving from Minneapolis to Atlanta, both states are members of the Compact, so the process is made easier. Each state has a designated person who manages the paperwork for interstate placements (see attached). As soon as this person receives the appropriate paperwork, the process is put in motion.

Monthly Subsidy Payments

To determine the appropriate rate of the subsidy payment, the purpose of the placement is important. Parents and workers should look to the state regulations, laws and policies (of both states) for guidance. Generally, however, if a California child moves to New Mexico for the purpose of foster care, the California county pays the New Mexico family the New Mexico rate. (California is a state-supervised/county-administered state, while in New Mexico, all decisions are made at the state level.) If the placement is for thepurpose of adoption—even if the prospective parents happen to be foster parents—California pays the family the appropriate California rate. In both cases, California is responsible for paying the monthly subsidy because the child was originally from California.


Health coverage is slightly different than subsidy payments, and the type of subsidy (i.e., federal vs. state) makes a difference. For federally eligible Title IV-E children, Medicaid coverage is automatic and provided by the state where the adoptive family lives. A California Medical card does little good for a family living in New Mexico. Once an adoption assistance agreement is entered into between the prospective adoptive parents and the agency in California, the ICAMA Compact Administrator will send a referral to the New Mexico Compact Administrator so the child can be issued a Medicaid card in New Mexico. The adoptive parents will, most likely, be asked to fill out an assignment of rights by the New Mexico Medicaid agency (usually the request is done by mail). An assignment of rights means that the adoptive parents give the Medicaid agency the rights to any payment for medical care from any third party coverage. Medicaid is always the payer of last resort, so if you have private medical insurance for your child, you must use that insurance first.

For state-funded, non-IV-E children, providing Medicaid (or similar state-paid health coverage) is up to the discretion of the receiving state. For states that are members of the ICAMA, children are more likely to receive coverage. In many states, a majority of children are special needs and qualify for Medicaid, regardless of funding stream (Title IV-E or state-funded). In others, only children with a diagnosis of a medical or emotional condition receive coverage. For instance, a child with severe asthma receives medical coverage, but a sibling group of two with no diagnosed special needs would not.

Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses

If the child is to receive a state- or federally-funded subsidy, the state entering into the agreement is responsible for payment. If the state from which the child is being placed is not entering into an agreement for adoption assistance with the adoptive parents, then the state where the final adoption decree is issued is responsible for paying these expenses (45 C.F.R., Section 1356.41(h)). Parents can be reimbursed up to the state’s limit (between $250 to $2,000) for these expenses. Parents can also have expenses paid directly by the state, if allowed by the state. The specific reimbursement procedures are left to each state. Parents must, however, enter into an agreement for nonrecurring adoption expenses before they can be reimbursed.

Title XX Social Services

Children receiving Title IV-E adoption assistance are categorically eligible for Title XX services, which means they are eligible to receive any service of this program offered by the state in which they live. Children line up for services like any other child eligible for the program. Services vary from state to state and can include a variety of services that may or may not be of assistance to adoptive families and their children.

Top Ten Tips for Parenting Artificial Twins Through Adoption

April 2, 2015 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

Top Ten Tips for Parenting Artificial Twins Through Adoption

Anticipate the constant question that your family will generate and the inevitable “Are they twins?” Decide how you are going to answer the question. It is best to have a couple of different responses depending on the circumstances (grocery store produce aisle vs. dinner party)

  1. Highlight the uniqueness of each child. Your goal should be to nurture them as individuals. Just because you are driving to Taekwondo for one kid, doesn’t mean that the other should take as well.
  2. Carve out time from your schedule to spend with each child individually. Make it a priority for both parents to establish a special separate relationship with each child.
  3. Talk with your extended family, friends, and teachers about some of the downsides of the inevitable comparisons that will happen, and ask them to work against comparing the children.
  4. As tempting as it might be, do not dress them the same.
  5. Do not always refer to them as a unit: the boys, the kids, and certainly not “the twins.”
  6. Celebrate birthdays separately.
  7. Do not hold a child back in school just because you want them in different grades. If, however, one child sits on the cusp of the cut-off date and would benefit from an extra year in preschool, then it might make sense, especially if the child is smaller in stature. If they are in the same grade, put them in different classes.
  8. If at all possible, one parent should stay at home for at least the first year post adoption.
  9. Go into this adoption knowing that you will feel overwhelmed the first year. Plan for this in advance by saving money for extra household help and by lowering your expectations of what you will accomplish.

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Choosing an Adoption Agency

February 4, 2015 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Choosing an Adoption Agency can be the most important part of starting your adoption process

To find a public or private agency that is a good fit for you, your beliefs, and your situation, compare information from several different agencies by asking:

  • What kind of children does the agency place (ages, backgrounds, etc.)?
  • How many children has the agency placed in each of the past few years?
  • How will the agency conduct a search for me?
  • What kind of training is provided for parents?
  • Can I be a foster parent and still be considered as an adoptive parent?
  • What criteria does the agency use to match children with families?
  • What type of adoptive parents does the agency seek?
  • How long, on average, must one wait for a child?
  • What does the home study entail?
  • If I learn of a child in another state, will the agency pursue the child?
  • How much does a completed adoption cost — in total and each part?
  • Can the agency help me locate sources of financial aid, including subsidies?
  • What if the adoption doesn’t work out?
  • Can the agency provide references from parents who recently adopted?
  • What post-adoption resources does the agency provide or connect to parents?

Find the Perfect Match…now

Parent MatchWith Parent MatchTM your adoption professional can access the only national database of expectant parents and adoptive parents, people who need your help to connect. Parent Match makes it easy to expand your domestic adoption search beyond your existing network. Now you can find the ideal home for a newborn baby and the perfect child for a loving family faster and more effectively.


Adoption Choices – Is she the one?

January 22, 2015 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

family in magnifier on planet backgroundAs my husband and I embarked on our adoption process there were are lot of unknowns. We didn’t know anyone who had recently adopted and therefore our support system within the adoption community was lacking (this was pre-Facebook…). Questions we rolled through our heads included:

How long will this take?

How taxing will this be on us?

How will the process effect our then 1 year old son?

But what really kept me awake at night was, how will we know if our match is the right match?

That’s scary. We adopted from South Korea and at the time, mostly girls were available for adoption (this changed shortly after we adopted our daughter). We were nearly certain we would be matched with a girl (we did not request gender) but when we saw her picture, read her file, scanned the documents, would we know she is ours? I often wondered what would happen if I just didn’t see a connection. I was a part of a yahoo chat group and people often danced around the same question without asking it outright- who would say it out loud? But what if we just don’t feel it?

In June 2006, just days after we completed our homestudy (international adoption was on a much different time schedule then), we were matched with a 10 week old little girl. We received a photocopy of a picture (yes, a photocopy) plus basic medical history. At that moment, and in the moments after I can tell you that those thoughts of “is this really my child?” vanished. They ceased to exist after our hands were on those papers.

I have experienced parenting through adoption and through biology. I can say that seeing my children for the first time, no matter where they came from, was the same. There was not a question of how right it is, if we were making the right move for our family, if the timing was perfect, it just was.

Although we adopted internationally (once more after our daughter came home), the process of seeing your child for the first time is the same. Anxiety and worry is a normal part of the adoption process but I urge you to not let it take hold of you. As much as possible allow yourself to give in to the process. Focus on getting ready for baby, learning about trans-racial parenting, different cultures, attachment, and bonding.

Adoption can be emotionally scary so I encourage you to surround yourself with people who have been through the process. Join us on Facebook in the Parent Match- Domestic Adoption Support Group, where you can privately ask the questions you’ve been too embarrassed to ask in public. There is a huge resource for you in the internet, use it to your advantage. Looking forward to chatting with you.

Staff Picks: Transracial Adoptions, From The Adoptee’s View

December 15, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Transracial Adoption

We’ve been feeling reflective here at WEEKEND EDITION. And over the past few weeks we’ve been listening back to some of our favorite interviews from the past year. This week’s pick comes from out editor Jordana Hochman and producer Chris Benderev. They join me in the studio. Hi, guys.



MARTIN: So what did you pick?

BENDEREV: So we picked a story we did about a year ago on transracial adoption which is when a parent adoptions a child of a different race.

HOCHMAN: The guy that we talked to – his name is Chad Goller-Sojourner. And he is an African-American writer who was adopted when he was a really young boy by white parents. We decided to talk to him because trans-racial adoption had popped into the news, and we wanted to explore what that personal experience was like with somebody who was intimately involved in it.

MARTIN: OK. Let’s take a listen to my conversation with Chad Goller-Sojourner. Here’s Chad telling his story.

CHAD GOLLER-SOJOURNER: One thing that is kind of unique to my situation, or being trans-racially adopted, is that my source of love and hate came from the same well. So my parents looked just like the same people who are calling me a bleep or a porch monkey and all this other stuff.

MARTIN: And that was hard to process. How did your parents respond when you went to them with those revelations?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: So what happened for me is, like, every six months to a year something would happen. And I’d have a major breakdown and call my mother crying and unable to breathe of sorts. And she would arrive at the school. So I always knew that my mother and parents were in my corner, but it was still difficult to process because I didn’t see myself as they saw me. I mean, all my first experiences were white – my first friends, my family, my church, my faith. Don’t they know who I belong to? You know, for instance, shopping – I learned pretty early on that when people knew I was with this white lady that they treated me differently. So…

MARTIN: Your mom?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: My mom. If I didn’t want to be followed or bothered I would make a connection with my mom. It kind of played out like this. We have very different tastes – mine are high-end, hers aren’t. So I would, like, hold up some outfit, like, hey, mom, can I get this? And be, like, no – she’d go, like, no.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: Which let everybody within earshot know that I was with a white lady. And then suddenly it was like that privilege came back over me.

MARTIN: Your parents adopted you at a time, 1972 – The National Association of Black Social Workers declared that trans-racial adoption like yours was tantamount to cultural genocide. And there are still a lot of people out there who feel that the best option for children of a certain race is to be raised by parents who share that race – in particular for black children to be raised in black families. What do you think of that?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: Well, OK. So here’s the part that always gets people upset. Part of my story is I was 13 months old, and according to the social workers in my file, I had already been passed over by two or three black families because they considered me too dark. So yes, I mean, I agree that perhaps a black home is probably best for a black kid, but, I mean, it wasn’t by accident that in 1972 a white couple from Washington state ended up with this black kid from Cleveland. They were not my first visitors.

MARTIN: It sounds like you had a loving relationship with your parents and family and siblings. Would you still recommend trans-racial adoption today? Do you think it’s a good idea?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: I’m not opposed to it. I mean, it’s tough because, you know, as a parent you want to protect your child. But you also have to prepare your child for the world they’re entering into. And, you know, they were there for me, you know, in college when I was going through some issues surrounding self-hatred and kind of, you know, begin to take this descent into blackness and out of the whiteness. It was difficult because I realized all these privileges that I had I would have to start letting them go.

MARTIN: So what’s the solution? How do you prepare kids?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: I don’t have, like, a check list. But if I did, it would sound something like this. If you don’t have any close friends or know people who look like your kid before you adopt a kid then why are you adopting that kid? So your child should not be your first black friend. You know? Where are you living? It’s interesting, you know, people cross the country for a job, but they won’t move two neighborhoods over so that their kid can go to a more diverse school. Somebody’s going to have to be uncomfortable. I don’t think it should be the parent. One of the things I think that was the hardest for me is I didn’t have any independent relationships with black people, especially adult black people, until I was an adult. I was 25 before I saw a black doctor. I think there’s a lot of things that people do that you can do – certainly you can do better than my parents did because they only had certain options.

MARTIN: When you were talking about shedding white privilege, you then used the phrase I started descending into blackness. What does that mean? And what did it mean for you?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: Basically, you know, I began a journey. And for me it began with a new name. I added sojourner to my name, and I moved to New York City where, for the first time, I found my own reflection pleasing. So for instance, I didn’t have to, hey, I’m not the black guy you think I am. I used to say that in different ways. You know, I carried a picture of my family. I tucked it behind my driver’s license for years. Wherever the license went, the picture followed. Sometimes whispering and sometimes shouting, you know, I’m not the black man you think I am. And I stopped saying that.

MARTIN: How did your parents respond to that when you changed your name and started to assert a stronger black identity?

GOLLER-SOJOURNER: Yeah. There was no, you know, I was smart enough not to drop the Goller. I mean, you know, hey, mom and dad, I changed my name. Could you cut another check for school? You know? (Laughter). That – but they were very happy with that. And one thing – I’m part of the first wave – the 60s and the 70s so my parents had every single book, you know, in the library by a black author and black people. And so we were highly educated in that realm. But that only takes you so far. I mean, I learned to fall in love with myself and being black in my mid-20s to late-20s. And although it was a beautiful experience, it shouldn’t have taken 25 years to do that.

MARTIN: That was my conversation with Chad Goller-Sojourner about his experience as an African-American adopted by a white family. So Jordana and Chris, this is the piece that you selected out of this year that was really memorable to you. This is a story that generated a whole lot of public response, right?

HOCHMAN: Yes, it really did. And it wasn’t our first story on the topic of trans-racial adoption. A couple weeks before we aired our interview with Chad we had a conversation with a white woman about adopting African-American children, and we talked with her about what that experience was like.

MARTIN: And what happened after that interview, Chris?

BENDEREV: At that point we did get a lot of responses from trans-racial adoptees. They wanted to hear their perspective on-air. And I think at that point we started looking around for someone who could tell that experience well. And it ended up being Chad. When it I listen back to it, it just strikes me that he seems fair to both his parents and trans-racial adoptees who had a hard time like him. And maybe it shouldn’t be sort of eye-opening, but it was, when he said someone’s going to have to be uncomfortable. And when he had that line, and maybe it shouldn’t be your child. It just sort of seemed like a profound point.

MARTIN: Jordana Hochman is an editor at WEEKEND EDITION. Chris Benderev is one of our producers. Thanks so much for sharing your pick, you guys.


HOCHMAN: Thanks.

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