I’m not racist: Mixed Race Adoption

March 20, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

I’m not racist: Mixed Race Adoption

I hear this all the time at Parent Match. Parents calling me and telling me the baby they are looking for. She is white. Yes. SHE is WHITE. Then I hear “but I’m not racist.” You don’t have to convince us of anything, you have to convince yourself. There are a thousand reasons for wanting a baby of a certain race and I’ve heard them all.

“Our town is all White, she’d never fit in.”

“Our family wouldn’t accept her, but WE aren’t racist.”

“I don’t know anything about that culture, how would I teach her?”

The reality is the only one who has to be comfortable with your decision is you. Not me. Not your adoption agency. Not your friends. Do you want to parent or do you want to parent a white child?

Recently, I had a similar but much less frequent phone call . Doesn’t matter what race the child is, it only matters that the expectant parents are intelligent. Before you react- think about that. Is it different than saying you only want a White child?

How do you define intelligence? How would you like to measure it? How would an adoption professional measure that on your behalf? It’s not crazy to say that. We all want what we see as most important.

When you make the life altering decision to adopt, make sure you are true to yourself about who you are accepting into your family. The only one you have to live with is yourself.

Are you about to be victim of an adoption scam?

March 11, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  1 Comments

Recent media surrounding adoption has not been good- most of it focusing on countries closing (http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/33-russian-kids-adoption-still-in-limbo-after-us-ban_833541.html) to the death of an adoption child (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57569961/death-of-texas-toddler-fuels-russian-governments-anti-adoption-stance/). Unfortunately the most likely bad news adoption scenario is the adoption scam, and it’s also the most common.

What is an adoption scam? Well, it can look like a lot of things. An adoption scam can be an agency, facilitator or attorney who promises you a child and has no intention of giving you one. An adoption scam can be an adoption professional who has great reviews but continues to take your money even though no services have been provided. It might also look like a woman who you’ve met (probably online) who says she’s pregnant (who may not be) who says she wants to relinquish her child to you (and she has no intention of doing so) or who doesn’t exist at all. Usually all of this takes place after a lot of  money has changed hands (thus the scam).

How do you know it’s a scam? You’ve heard the saying, “If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck….” Yes, the same applies here. Keep your eyes WIDE open. If something doesn’t feel right- DON’T DO IT. This is particularly difficult when adoption is involved. Your heart is on the line and no matter what your head might be thinking, your heart likely doesn’t care and is ready to take the risk even though it is a huge risk. Someone needs to be level-headed. If you are adopting as a single person, make sure you have someone trusted to bounce things off of and be a source of logical reasoning. If your adoption professional is asking for loads of money upfront, be wary. If your adoption professional charges you to keep you waiting (yes, to keep you waiting), be wary.  If you meet a woman online but have never spoken to her on the phone, have difficulty getting in touch with her or she has asked for money right away, be careful!

All of these warnings are not to scare you, but to safeguard you as the prospective adoptive parent. We can all learn something when we open our eyes (not just our hearts!). We will have much more information on adoption scams next Monday, March 18th at 9pm EST on twitter.

Join me and other member of the adoption community including adoption attorneys, birth mothers, and other adoptive parents who have been through a scam to learn from them. Follow the chat (and join in!) on twitter at #adoptionislove

What happens when an expectant mom changes her mind

March 4, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

I know you don’t want to talk about it- actually you don’t even want to think about it but you need to. Sometimes adoptions don’t go through. Usually adoptions don’t happen because the expectant mom has changed her mind about her adoption plan.  Generally adoption plans are made while she is pregnant and there is a significant amount of time to really think about all of her options. After the initial shock, perhaps, of her pregnancy it is often possible that a partner may come into the picture to help care for the baby, a parent is willing to step up or the expectant mom herself has figured out a way to make it work despite her initial thoughts she couldn’t. It is impossible to know the bond between mother and child and impossible to know how someone is feeling after just having given birth- there is always the potential that the expectant mom will change her mind until the waiting period is over after she signs the relinquishment papers.

It is normal to question yourself about your understanding of adoption, perhaps of the relationship you had built with this person. The reality is that it isn’t about you- it’s about a baby and their mother and that mother can change her mind so you should prepare yourself (another post on that!) and be ready to move ahead if it does happen.

There are so many reasons an expectant mom may change her mind. It is hard at the time to put yourself in her shoes. There is no one reason why adoptions don’t work out. In open adoption, prospective birth mothers not only have the ability to change their mind—it’s their right. That doesn’t change things or make them easier for you. This is always something to think about as you go through the process. Knowing that a failed adoption could happen is one thing. Having it happen to you is something else. A disrupted adoption is one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to deal with, especially if you brought the baby home with you and starting the bonding process.

Recovering from a failed adoption will take time, here are some things to remember as you journey through this difficult time:

Grieve together.  Acknowledge your pain and your loss and discuss your feelings with your partner. Remember, he or she is going through this with you. Together, you’ll emerge from your crisis even more united.

Search out and join support group.  Get in touch with other adoptive parents who have been in your shoes. Most people won’t understand what you’re going through, those who have been through similar situations are most likely to be your best support.

Don’t give up hope!  There will be other opportunities. You have to allow yourself to pursue them. Take a short break, be good to yourself and to your partner and don’t make any big decisions until you’re ready. Each failed adoption fails for its own reasons. Understand that just because one situation didn’t work out doesn’t mean the next one will be the same.

Patience and time will produce the right family situation for you!

When it doesn’t matter who is adopted

February 25, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  1 Comments

I had an interesting experience not too long ago- one of my biological children forgot he was my biological child and mentioned being adopted in passing. It was awesome. For those outside the adoption world this is insanity. So, it doesn’t matter who is adopted. How could my intelligent, street smart 8 year old son not remember he was our biological child? Was he kidding? How could he not see the physical differences between him and his Korean siblings? See the similarity in personality to his parents and his biological brother?

When it doesn’t matter who is adopted

For those of us in the adoption community this may not be so surprising. Your family forgets, the child forgets, YOU forget who you gave birth to (I am actually guilty of this one as well- I have tried to remember one of my adopted children’s births on numerous occasions only to remember that I wasn’t there!). It is difficult to explain though- both to people who are not in an adoptive family and for those who are considering adoption.  Every day I am told by prospective adoptive parents that they are nervous about the love they will feel for an adopted child and every day I try to explain that it just doesn’t matter how your child gets to you, you will love them the same. That’s a hard realization to make.

This is our normal though. We don’t love our children differently. We don’t wake up every morning and see their faces- who look nothing like ours- and remember that they did not grow in our womb. When we get a call from school that they are sick, we run. When they wake in the middle of the night from a nightmare we dry their tears. When we bawl at their Kindergarten graduation, it is real.

Of course adoption matters in a host of other areas but in day to day life it just doesn’t.

So what is an “Open Adoption”?

February 12, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

You want to adopt! Great! But once you decide you want to adopt you realize that there are several types of adoptions including open adoption, semi-open adoption, and closed-adoption you also realize you have no idea what any of those mean and if you should be scared. For many years it has been debated over whether open adoptions or closed adoptions are the best choice. Many couples new to the adoption process are completely unaware of the differences and the consequences of their decisions for the future of the child and-importantly- their family life.

So what is an “Open Adoption”?

An open adoption is when the birth parents and adoptive parents meet for the sake of creating a relationship before, during and after the adoption process. They may stay in touch after the baby is born through phone calls, email, written letters, or even occasional visits if both the adoptive and biological parents are comfortable with this. Skype and facebook are common means of communication for both sets of parents.

Research suggests that open adoption is best because the birth and adoptive parents are known to the child and involved in the child’s life. This means the child grows up knowing who his biological parents are, why they relinquished him but also know that their adoptive parents aren’t hiding anything. Researchers have studied the benefits and drawbacks to all types of adoptions and find open adoption to be best for the child simply because the child does not have to wonder where he came from or why he is in the situation. With open adoption the child will always know his roots and be able to ask any questions in order to clear up any confusion .

Often, biological parents will be available or involved as much as they wish and the adoptive parents allow. The best is for the child and adoptive parents to have an open and honest relationship with the biological parents. The key in any open adoption relationship is to know what to expect and have ground rules for how the relationship will work- will phone calls and emails be ok but no Skype? How about visits? Will they include the adoptive parents or will it simply be the child and birth family? Anything goes- but agreeing beforehand is key.

Historically, adoptive parents chose a closed adoption for fear of one day losing the child to his or her birth parents. The fear that the birthparents want to come back and take the child are just fears- adoptions are final once the papers go through the court. What is established, however, is a safe and deep bond that is both healthy and rewarding.

The Superbowl of Adoption

February 4, 2013 in Domestic Adoption, Other by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

The Superbowl of Adoption

San Francisco 49ers quarterback  Colin Kaepernick is adopted, but you already know that because it’s been plastered all over the news in the weeks leading up to the big game.  I suppose no one had anything else to dig up on the Superbowl stars this year so Kaepernick got the brunt of it with “can you believe he’s never wanted to speak to his birth-mother ” We heard it all week, starting with Rick Reilly and ending with Kaepernick himself.

He’s adopted. He’s always known he was adopted and he is comfortable with that. As the story goes, his birth-mother and his parents have been in contact and Kaepernick has the opportunity to get in touch with her if he wants (and his birth-mother has been quoted as saying she would like to meet him).  He doesn’t want to. Maybe he’s scared. Maybe he’s scared he won’t live up to the hype surrounding him and she’ll be disappointed. Maybe he’s scared she’ll like him *too* much. Maybe he’s scared he’ll like her too much and that will be confusing. Either way, he’s an adult and for now, he’s made a choice not to have contact.

I say we leave him alone. I say we let it go that he’s adopted- I agree it’s awesome, half of my kids are adopted- but they are just kids, regular kids. Don’t judge him, don’t ostracize him, just let him play football.

What to Expect From the Changes to Adoption Tax Credit in 2013

January 9, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by   |  No Comments

What to Expect From the Changes to Adoption Tax Credit in 2013

“The adoption tax credit, which can be claimed for eligible adoption-related expenses, has helped thousands of American families offset the high cost of adoption since the credit was established in 1997. Since 2003, families that adopted children with special needs could claim the full credit regardless of their qualified adoption expenses. The credit has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families. With more than 100,000 children in U.S. foster care available for adoption, and countless millions of orphaned and abandoned children around the world, the continuation of the adoption tax credit is vital to providing love, safety, and permanency to as many children as possible.” Source Adoptiontaxcredit.org

The adoption tax credit has a history of being one of the most confusing credits.  In 2011, the credit was a refundable credit of $13,360 per child.  In 2012, it decreased to $12,650 and became non-refundable—meaning that if the adopting family doesn’t have $12,650 in federal tax liability in 2012, they will not receive a refund for the unused balance of the credit, but they will be able to carry the unused balance over and apply it to tax liability for the next five years. Confusing enough for you?

In 2012 and previous years, the credit was available for most adoptions except stepparent adoptions.  Families that adopt special-needs children have also been allowed to take advantage of the full amount of the credit, whether or not they actually have that much for upfront adoption expenses.

The bill to avert the fiscal cliff, which was signed on January 2, made this tax credit PERMANENT. This bill permanently extended the credit and income exclusion for employer paid or reimbursed expenses. The projected maximum amount of the credit for the year 2013 looks to be $12,720 –  $12,770. The credit will remain flat for special needs adoptions regardless of the total expenses.

If you adopted a child in the past few years and didn’t claim the credit, there may still be time to file an amended return.  The IRS is notorious for auditing returns claiming the adoption credit, so it’s a good idea to consult your accountant and attorney to make sure you have the right documentation to back up your return. For forms and more information on Adoption Tax Credit visit the IRS website

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