Domestic Adoption

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



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

Placed – Couldn’t have said it better myself

May 2, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Placed – Couldn’t have said it better myself…#placed


What you CAN say to an adoptive family

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

I spend a lot of time coming up with answers to ridiculous questions from strangers about our trans-racial family. Can they speak English? They must be really smart! (Yes, these things really happened). I also spend a lot of time telling people what NOT to say when they see a family built by adoption. Well, I’m in a good mood this week so I’m going to give you some positive advice on what you CAN say to a family that is built through adoption!

1. Make sure they are really adopted before you say something dumb.

Just because the kids don’t look like the parents doesn’t mean they are adopted. You need to figure this out. It’s ok to simply say, “Is she adopted?” but I always appreciate when people follow it up with why they are really asking, “My niece is adopted too, I’m so happy she’s in our family.” Unfortunately a lot of people have crappy assumptions about how an adoptive family is made and some of us (pointing finger at myself) have heard enough garbage that they are quick to assume the worst. So show us you mean well right out of the gate!

2. Where is he adopted from?

This really is an okay question. I’d rather someone ask then assume. I have Korean children. I get a lot of “Did you have to go to China to pick her up?” Ummmm, nope, because she’s never been to China! Again though, always nice to follow up with, “Korea, awesome! I have a friend who adopted a little boy from Guatemala and …..” Nice to see your perspective.

3. I’ve always wanted to adopt but have no idea how to start the process- who helped you?

Adoptive parents want other people to adopt. This isn’t a secret club we’d like to be exclusive about. Once we know you are likeminded we are excited to chat with you about it! Please try to keep negative adoption remarks to yourself. Save those for a private adult conversation where you can express your concerns.

4. How did you decide to adopt?

This is a long conversation but it’s definitely an okay question. This might be for a later date, or a time without children, or an email conversation, but it’s okay to ask!

Most important, be genuine and nice. Don’t say anything you think could be construed in an ugly way. I often hear, “what a beautiful and lovely family you have.” That’s enough. I know you mean that you see my kids are adopted and you think it’s great- so do we.

Some of our favorite Adoption posters

January 28, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Some of our favorite adoption posters…. add yours!

What to do BEFORE you bring your child home!

January 7, 2014 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

I know a lot of you are still dreaming of becoming parents but it’s never too soon to prepare for what life will be like once you bring your child homeI know a lot of you are still dreaming of becoming parents but it’s never too soon to prepare for what life will be like once you bring your child home. In what may very well be a frantic rush of emotion, putting together cribs, notifying family and preparing yourself for life with another member of the family, there are a few things you should consider.

  1. Who should welcome you home?

Are you adopting a newborn? Many families with newborns (adopted or not) try to limit the exposure of the newborn to other children (especially toddlers- who are prone to bring winter illnesses into the house). Make a plan now for who will be welcome and who should wait a few weeks to see the baby. Do you want your parents there but maybe your close friends to help out in another way? Many people will want to help you, so having a job for everyone will satisfy them until they can see the baby.

  1. How much time will you be taking off from work? If you have a spouse- will you both be taking maternity and paternity leave or will it just be one of you? Make sure you discuss this with EACH OTHER and are on the same page. Next, discuss with your employers about paid time off, maternity/paternity leave and when it will start. You won’t want anything unexpected interrupting your time with your new child!


  2. Will the room be ready or will you need time to set it up?If you are like us, you waited until that baby was in your arms before getting the room all ready. Which means having people on hand at the last minute to buy diapers, clothes (what size will your child be?), and put together the crib. Give out those jobs now!


  3. Prepare siblings!  Most importantly- prepare siblings for the arrival of their sibling. If you are unsure of a situation, talk about having a sibling in general terms: One day mommy and daddy want to make sure you have a little brother or sister- what do you think of that? We are excited!. If you are adopting internationally and know the child who will be a part of your family, share their picture and allow the older sibling to be involved in putting their room together or gather toys for the new child. Don’t forget a small toy or book for the older sibling(s) when the child comes home, keep them feeling special and in the loop!

    Do you have more tips? Add them below!

Thanksgiving and the Adopted Child

November 28, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

Thanksgiving and the Adopted Child – Who’s really lucky?

As an adoptive parent I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard:

“She is so lucky to have you!”

“He is going to be so thankful when he realizes what kind of life you have provided for him!”

I get the message but it doesn’t quite ring true. My 7 year old doesn’t quite think she’s lucky when she has to empty the dishwasher, brush her hair and march out the door at precisely 7:30 am.

My 6 year old is thankful his mommy and daddy are around to watch him perform at school, cheer him on for a great day or kiss his boo-boos but quite frankly, not much else.

My husband and I are lucky. My parents, my in-laws, my sisters and brothers, our biological children- we are lucky. We are lucky that we were chosen to parent these amazing children. We are lucky they fit so perfectly in our family. We are thankful each and every day for the sacrifices their birth parents made for them to be with us.

Adoption is rooted in loss, unfortunately. That depth of that isn’t lost on me. My adopted children had a primal loss in order to become ours so while we are lucky they are here, the circumstances aren’t lucky. While we are thankful they are in our family, we are most thankful for those who made it possible.

This Thanksgiving, like each one before, we give thanks for our family.

It’s National Adoption Month!

November 18, 2013 in Domestic Adoption by Stephen Gardner  |  No Comments

November is already half way over- how have you celebrated National Adoption Month?

I think it’s no coincidence NAM and Thanksgiving are in the same month- they both have the same meaning in our family. Here are some suggestions for celebrating your child this month:

  •       Talk about your adoption story. As my husband I tucked our 6 year old into bed last night we told him his adoption story, yet again. He had forgotten parts and it was a great reminder of how he came into our family. He went to bed with a huge smile on his face.
  •       Celebrate birth families. If you are lucky enough to have a relationship with your child’s birth family, send them a note, give them a call, make a gift. Do something small (or big!) to let them you know are thinking about them.
  •       Relive adoption memories.  For us that means watching videos of the day we met our children. I’m not much of a scrapbooker- but if you are, now is a great time to get that out again and look through it.
  •       Involve family and friends. It’s a great reason to bring up adoption in conversation, share adoption articles on social media and educate. Start any conversation with “So did you know this month is National Adoption Month?”
  •       Get involved. There are adoption events all over the country all month- check the Adoptive Families website or google “adoption events” to find adoption support groups, culture camps and meet-ups all over the country.
  •       Remember how you all came together. The craziness of everyday life gets in the way sometimes. Remember that your children were a gift to you and your joy was most definitely someone else’s heartache, don’t let that be lost on you.






Every month can be adoption month– we should celebrate our children all year! Let me know other ways you are celebrating!

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