Celebrating the Holidays While Waiting for Your Child – Parents’ Stories

November 20, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Parents share their experiences

Waiting for your child

 As I have been waiting more than twelve months, I have made it through all the major holidays. What worked for me was finding a way to acknowledge my child through some small gesture. Last Christmas, I hung a special ornament for my daughter on the tree, to signify that in my heart she was already my daughter.

–Amy, Chugiak, Alaska

We filed our paperwork with the INS on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We took the opportunity at Thanksgiving dinner to announce to our extended family that we were officially “pregnant with paperwork” but did not know the “due date” yet. On Christmas, my mom wrapped up presents for each child—special items she’d saved from my childhood for me to pass on to my children. I still cry when I think how much that meant to me!
–Shannon, Bellevue, Washington

The most important thing for us was to stay in a hotel near the house where our extended family was celebrating the holidays. This allowed us to get to festivities quickly, and to leave if being around children became painful. Staying at the hotel gave us a place to process our feelings in private and helped us enjoy our relatives’ kids that much more.
–Bettina, Farmington Hills, Michigan

I have been able to keep it together through all of this waiting, especially at the holidays, by focusing on creating my personal Web site. I update it every month for my family and friends, to satisfy the perpetual question: “Have you heard anything yet?” It sure cuts down on the inquiries at holiday gatherings.
–Lynn, Hazel Crest, Illinois

For our first adoption, we waited through Thanksgiving and Christmas with a referral but no travel date. On Christmas, all the presents we gave were signed from me, my husband, and our son. This made me feel that somehow he was there, even if only in our thoughts and hearts.
––Bess, via e-mail

– See more at: http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=487#sthash.Nt203DSr.dpuf

Our Words Surrounding Adoption

October 23, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  13 Comments
adoption-give-upOne of the ways we can spread a positive adoption message is to intentionally change our language surrounding adoption.  Many of us are accustomed to the term give up your child foradoption. When we take a moment to think about the implications of this phrase, we realize that a birth mother might be “giving up” a lot, but she is by no means “giving up” on her child.
“Give Up” a Child for Adoption – Why children are “placed” for adoption and what is really“given up.”
I had a hard time when people would compare the loss of a child to adoption. I would get prettyupset because I was with families all of the time who had lost their child (I volunteered to takepictures of stillborn babies at the hospitals). What these families wouldn’t GIVE to see theirchild again, see them breathe, watch them grow up, etc. I felt like it wasn’t the same at all. ThenI discovered adoption wasn’t really about the loss of the child, but the loss of so many otherthings. Everyone grows up with a dream about how their life will go. When it doesn’t go the way
we planned it, we have to give up that dream and create another one.
As a birth mother, you give up the opportunity to be that child’s mother. You give up watching so many firsts, seeing that child every day, etc. You give up your dream about how your life was supposed to be. Everyone’s story is different, but everyone gives up opportunities that come with being a mother to that child. (This also applies to birth fathers and birth families as well). 
As an adoptive mother, you have to give up on the dream of having a biological child. You give up feeling that baby move and grow inside you, watching them be born from you and, when you see them, seeing all of those physical characteristics that just look like you and instantly bond you as their parent. You give up being the only mother in this child’s life and will forever share that with another woman. I don’t mean co-parenting, but I do mean that that birth mother isforever in your thoughts, even in a closed adoption, when your child does anything. This alsoapplies to adoptive fathers and families.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa

September 18, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments
Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
Maybe you’re not sure what to do right now.  I feel that way, too.  Here are some thoughts I have on how you can love me:Grandparents With Cute Granddaughter
1.  Now that I’m here, please help me get to know my mommy and daddy.  I know you want to hold me and help take care of me (seems like everyone does), but I’m overwhelmed with so many people and so many new things.  I want to get to know what my mommy and daddy’s voices sound like, what they smell like, and if I can trust them. I need to do this first.
2. Please help my mommy and daddy spend more time with me. I heard mommy say there is so much laundry to do.  Maybe you could help her with things around the house, so she can have more time to play with me.
3. There are a lot of things I miss right now.  Everything is so different and I feel scared and sad sometimes.  I’d really like it if you could help my mom and dad make something I’m used to.  There was this food that I ate a lot when I was little.  Mom hasn’t learned to make it yet.  Maybe you could figure that out for her?
4. I’m trying to figure out who is in charge of me and if they are really going to take care of me and keep me safe.  It confuses me when you do things like feed me or tell me it’s ok for me to do something.  I need to know that my mommy and daddy are in charge.
If you are at our house and you see I need something, would you mind asking mommy and daddy first and then telling me if they said it’s ok for me to have or do something?  If I can hear you ask them, and hear them answer you, that’s even better.  It helps me feel safe.
5. I want to get to know you, too.  I just need a little time.  I know everyone says they have been waiting for me, but this whole family thing was a bit of a surprise on my end.  I need to stay close to home.  Maybe I can come to your house or go somewhere with you once I am feeling more settled.  I’m not sure how long that might take.  I’m just gonna warn you, it may take longer than you’d like.  Would you mind waiting on me to be ready? I really need to stick close to mommy and daddy so I can learn how to let them take care of me.  They seem pretty smart.  I think they will know when I am ready.
I have heard you say you love me. I think one day I will love you, too. I’m kinda figuring out how to love right now, and mommy and daddy are teaching me.   I know you taught them, so that makes you special.
Your Grandchild

Domestic adoption: Myths and reality

August 18, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Domestic adoption in the United States has undergone a seismic shift in the last 30 years. How long will it take for popular perceptions to catch up with the new, healthier reality?

When Katie and Jeffrey Davis set out to adopt a baby domestically, everyone close to the couple assumed they were in for an excruciatingly long wait. As it turned out, the Davises, who live in Baltimore, Maryland, were matched with a birth mother less than a month after their adoption agency started presenting their paperwork. Their daughter, now 5, was placed in their arms just seven months after they started the adoption process.

“People think that adoption takes five years, just forever and ever,” says Katie. “They were shocked that we adopted a baby in the U.S., and that the process went so smoothly.”

Domestic adoption reinvented

The Davis family’s story is not particularly unusual. While international adoption has commanded the limelight for the last two decades, domestic adoption has remained an untold story. Despite persistently negative and sensational media coverage, domestic adoption today is more transparent than ever before, and increasingly defined by healthier choices for birth families and adoptive families alike.

The fact that more than 18,000 American families successfully adopt newborn babies in the United States every year belies the widespread misperception that domestic adoption is a difficult, time-consuming, expensive, and risky process. The truth is that most families successfully adopt within two years of beginning the process. The cost of a domestic adoption varies widely, from under $10,000 to more than $40,000. According to surveys conducted annually by Adoptive Families, the median total cost of a domestic adoption is $25,000 to $35,000, which tends to be considerably less than that of a typical international adoption.

The most damaging, and most deeply entrenched, conviction – that birth parents return after relinquishing parental rights to try to reclaim the baby – virtually never comes to pass. “People watch TV and read the newspapers, and they are scared to death,” says Mark T. McDermott, an adoption attorney in Washington, D.C.


Domestic adoptions outpace international

Although fewer adoptions currently take place each year within the U.S. compared to 35 years ago, domestic adoption is far from dying out. In fact, more U.S. families adopt domestically than internationally each year.

To be sure, the number of infant placements in the U.S. has dropped in recent decades. In the mid-1970s, as many as 49,000 American infants were placed for adoption each year. In 2007, the most recent year for which accurate numbers exist, there were an estimated 18,078 domestic newborn, non-relative adoptions.

The drop in the number of newborn adoptions since the 1970s coincides with a decline in the percentage of single mothers placing children for adoption, down from nine percent in the 1970s to 1.4 percent in 2002, according to the National Survey of Family Growth. As the stigma against single parenthood has diminished over the last 35 years, so has the number of children placed for adoption.

Despite the tenacity of myths and stereotypes, domestic adoption has quietly redefined itself over a generation. Adopting parents, once resigned to a lengthy wait at their local adoption agency, now have more options and more information. Birth parents, once shamed and almost completely shut out of adoption decisions, are now involved in the process. <http://www.babycenter.com/0_independent-adoption_1373616.bc>Independent adoptions<> have increased in number and, by some accounts, now represent the majority of domestic adoptions. The Internet has made it easier for like-minded birth parents and adopting families to find one another over geographic distances.

From secrecy to transparency

While almost every aspect of adoption is different than it was in the past, it is within the family matching process that the most change has occurred. In private and agency adoptions, rather than merely being assigned a baby to adopt without any background information to share with the child as he or she grows, adopting parents now usually meet or talk with the birth family. Birth parents, by the same token, are empowered to choose which family will adopt their child. Birth families are more likely to have access to counseling and independent legal representation, and, together with the adopting family, determine the nature of contact after the adoption.

Almost everyone involved in adoption today – adopting parents, birth parents, and adoption professionals – embraces this new transparency as an antidote to the confidentiality of the past. Birth families are reassured that their child will be well cared for; adopted children have the answers to questions that arise over the years.

Today, families who’ve adopted domestically often say that any initial concern about the role of birth parents has been replaced by gratitude for the opportunity to know their child’s family of origin. They note the positive aspects of adopting domestically: the opportunity to parent a newborn, and the medical and social history they have for their child.



Read full article at: http://www.babycenter.com/0_domestic-adoption-myths-and-reality_1374892.bc

Top Ten Medical Questions to Ask Your Birth Mother

August 13, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  1 Comments

By Emily Todd, MD


1)      Ask about alcohol use.  Ask specifics about how much alcohol was consumed and when it was consumed during the pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine says, “Of all the substances of abuse (including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana), alcohol produces by far the most serious neurobehavioral effects in the fetus.”  There are still a lot of unanswered questions about alcohol and the developing fetus that medical researchers are working hard to answer. However, in general we know that alcohol can have a negative effect on the fetus at any time during the pregnancy and that the more alcohol that is consumed, the greater the risk of more serious birth defects, neurological issues and behavioral issues in the child. These challenges to the child are permanent and will last a lifetime.

2)      Ask about illicit drugs. Although the outcomes of children prenatally exposed to illicit drugs has not turned out to be as severe as we initially thought, children prenatally exposed to drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines are still at risk for neonatal abstinence syndrome as well as attentional issues, behavioral outbursts and other problems of executive functioning.

3)      Ask about smoking. Although it is both legal and common in use, smoking tobacco Adoptionwhile pregnant causes serious problems to the developing fetus. We know that prenatal exposure to tobacco cigarettes causes low-birth weight babies, an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, increased respiratory infections and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Now that states like Colorado and Washington have legalized smoking marijuana we see much more smoking of marijuana during pregnancy, too. Although there are limited studies on what effects marijuana cigarettes may have on the developing fetus, initial reports suggest that issues may be similar to that of tobacco cigarettes.

4)      Ask about prescription medications used. Some prescriptions, while they are important to keep the birth mother healthy, can be dangerous to the developing fetus. There are resources, including pregnancy registries, that can provide more information on what the potential harms may be.

5)      Ask about medical problems in either herself or the birth father. Don’t forget that 50% of the child’s genes come from the birth father. You will want to know details about his health history as well as that of the birth mom.

6)      Ask about history of surgery. Conditions like cleft palate may not be an issue for the birth mother (or birth father) now, but they often have a genetic link and may be passed on to the child.

7)      Ask about medical conditions that run in the family. Even though it may not be a deal breaker, it is important to know about chronic medical conditions that may run in the biological families. Conditions like type II diabetes and high blood pressure have a strong family link. It will be important for the child to learn to make healthy lifestyle choices to minimize the risk for development of these common conditions.

8)      Ask specifically about mental illness. People often don’t think to mention mental illness when telling you about family health conditions. We know from extensive medical research that the development of mental illness is a combination of heredity and environment. This means that although as an adoptive family you are providing the child with a loving, nurturing home, the child may still have a genetic risk to develop ADHD, anxiety disorders or even schizophrenia.

9)      Ask about education. How far someone goes in school can give you a clue into their intellectual development. This may help you in how you speak to, or interact with, the birth mother. It may also be helpful in setting expectations for your child.

10)   Ask your birth mother to keep you updated on any new medical conditions that are diagnosed in herself, the birth father or the extended biological families. If you have an open or semi-open adoption, this should be something you revisit with the birth mom every year or two. Many common medical conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and coronary artery disease, develop later in life but it remains important for a child to know those conditions run in their family.


Dr. Emily Todd is an Adoption Medicine physician. She founded Comprehensive Adoption Medicine Consultants to help families navigate the medical side of the adoption process. In her practice, Dr. Todd helps adoptive families in all phases of the adoption journey: from pre-adoption consultation, to comprehensive file review, to assistance with identifying resources for the ongoing care of the adopted child. In addition to her office job, Dr. Todd loves to donate her time to speaking with adoption medicine support groups about various medical issues. She also serves on the Colorado State Board of Directors for Gift Of Adoption Fund. Dr. Todd counts herself fortunate to live in Colorful Colorado with her husband and two beautiful children.

How can the Adoption Tax Credit help me

August 4, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  1 Comments

How can the Adoption Tax Credit help me?

Becky Wilmoth, EA, RTRP at Bills Tax Service

Adoption Tax Credit Specialist

So, you are asking how it works and can it actually help me? Whether you are adopting through the foster care system, privately, domestically, or internationally, the Adoption Tax Credit can be an important part of helping families adopt.

An adoptive family can apply this credit toward their federal tax liability. Meaning, it can reduce what they owe in federal income taxes for the year. It is not a refundable tax credit; however, it is still a great credit at $13,190 for 2014. The credit will be indexed for inflation for the years following. At this point since it is not refundable it will not cover self-employment tax, unfortunately.


Who qualifies for the credit?

  1. You qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit if you adopted a child (except spouse’s child) and paid out-of-pocket expenses relating to the adoption. The amount of the tax credit you qualify for is directly related to how much you spent on adoption-related expenses. Income can also be excluded as taxable through an employer-provided adoption benefit program. Both a credit and exclusion may be claimed for the same adoption; however, both cannot be claimed for the same expense.
  2. If you adopt a special needs child through foster care, you are entitled to claim the full amount of the adoption credit. Each state has different criteria that qualify a child as special needs. The special needs declaration must come from the state in which the adoption was final. The “Subsidy Agreement” has the determination of special needs that the IRS accepts. Some states call it the “Adoption Eligibility Assistance Determination.”
  3. No international adoption is considered special needs for IRS purposes, so it will be for amount of qualified expenses.


How does the Adoption Tax Credit work?

  1. On Line 55 of your Federal 1040 is your tax liability. The difference between your tax liability and your federal withholding is either what you get as a refund or what you owe when you do your tax return.
  2. The Adoption Tax Credit comes in on Line 53 from Form 8839 and takes care of your tax liability up to the $13,190 for 2014. You will get your withholding back and child tax credit drops down to additional child tax credit (if you qualify).
  3. If you do not use all of the credit in the first year you can carry it forward for up to 5 years.
  4. In the event it does become refundable again you will get the remaining amount you have not used as a refund.


What documentation do I need to keep for the IRS?

  1. Final Judgment of Adoption (all adoptions)
  2. Adoption Assistance Eligibility Determination(Subsidy Agreement) that declares the child special needs, if claiming credit for a child declared special needs by your state through foster care (foster adoptions)
  3. A home study/placement agreement completed by an authorized placement agency (all adoptions except foster)
  4. All documentation of paid qualified expenses. (all adoptions except foster)
  5. All documents must be signed and dated. (all adoptions) The IRS will not accept any Home study/Placement agreement, Judgment of Adoption, or Subsidy agreement/Eligibility agreement without it being signed and dated by the proper authorities.


To speak to an Adoption Tax Credit Specialist call or email us.


[email protected]


bills tax service



I’m FINALLY a Mommy Now What? 3 Things No One Tells You about the Post-Infertility World

July 27, 2014 in Other by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

For those of us who’ve battled infertility, the journey to grow your family is an emotional roller coaster that stays with you forever. For me, it was a process with many different trial-and-error solutions. At one of my infertility tests, my doctor peered at me over the tops of his glasses and said, “Nicole, you have less than one half of a one percent chance of having a biological child.”

My husband and I still tried IVF (a complete failure!) until we decided to go an alternate route by using an egg donor. Through that process, we had two amazing children.

I quickly learned that having a baby did not cure infertility and that being a parent after going through infertility made various aspects of parenting very different. I experienced a lack of information, understanding and support.  From those experiences, I hatched the idea of Beyond Infertility (www.BeyondInfertility.com), an online magazine with expert contributors and a private forum to give those expecting or parenting after infertility a world of understanding and support about their journey.

For example, there are three big things no one told me about the post-infertility world:

1. The guilt you feel when you are exhausted or frustrated with your child.

Every parent feels complete exhaustion or extreme frustration with their child at times. I found myself experiencing guilt every time I had these completely normal feelings because of all the trials I went through to have my children.

 2. Difficulty in your various relationships.

I had trouble figuring out how to communicate with my infertile friends after having my children because they were still struggling to have theirs and didn’t really want to hear about my “success.” Likewise, I had issues connecting with “regular” parents since my infertility ghost was influencing my parenting decisions. Then there were the roadblocks with my family, trying to get them to understand how we were presenting our children’s story to them so that they would hear a consistent message.

 3. The comfort that you love your non-biological child the same way a biological mother loves hers.

One of my biggest fears about having children via donor egg was that I would not love them the same way if they were not biologically mine. I’m so embarrassed to even say that now, but it was true at the time.  As a parent after infertility, I now know that is absolutely not the case. There is no possible way I could love my children any more than I do now. Through good and bad, they are such a gift that makes the entire infertility journey worth it.

My goal with Beyond Infertility (www.BeyondInfertility.com) is to ensure that no one else feels as lost as I did. I want every parent after infertility to have that safe place they can go to and find all the answers and support they need.

We’re a Match – 3 Families Share Their Adoption Stories

June 16, 2014 in Other by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Meet three families who chose open adoption (they keep in touch with the birth mother) and see how they make it work. Raising a Southern Gentleman For Katy Lawrence, a 19-year-old high school senior with an unplanned pregnancy, the hardest thing about giving her son up for adoption wasn’t handing him over to Monica and Rodney Rogers; it was the drive home from the hospital afterward. “Your arms feel empty,” she says. “It feels like a baby should be there, and it’s not.” Although she’d chosen the Rogers, a couple from South Carolina, to adopt her son, had met them several times, and had exchanged innumerable emails and calls, the day she gave birth, she didn’t know when her next communication with them would be. For about five days after the birth, the birth mother and adoptive parents kept in touch–at a distance. Monica and Rodney, stuck in their hotel until interstate adoption agencies approved their departure for home, were thrust into the demands of parenthood. Katy and her mother wanted to visit but were also concerned they’d alarm them. By California law, a birth mother has 30 days to change her mind. (A year earlier, the Rogers had lost a baby when the birth mother reclaimed her after six days.)

Read more at http://www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/stories/making-open-adoption-work/

How much did she cost?

May 19, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

One of my most hated questions relating my childrens’ adoptions…. how much did she cost? Baby selling is actually illegal (is this shocking?) and I can promise you that even if it was legal, my husband and I would not participate.Child Adoption

We paid agency fees, attorney fees, orphanage fees, foster parent fees, airline fees and lots of money to our own government but we never paid for our child. The truth is, our adoption fees were a lot of money because a lot of coordination goes into the legal transfer of guardianship of a child. In the 6 years since we’ve brought our son and daughter home adoption costs haven’t risen all that much.
If you are starting the adoption process or just curious, read the report just published by Building Your Family. There really are options for every budget and you’ll see just how each dollar is really spent.

Who is lucky

May 16, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Who is lucky

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