A network of adoptive families, birth families, and adoption professionals which exists to improve the lives of children and others touched by adoption through support and education. UFA is actively engaged in community outreach and advocacy to raise awareness of adoption as a loving option.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lessons in Grief

Somewhere along the journey through infertility and adoption many couples (especially women) find themselves swimming in grief. This is normal and actually healthy. When we lose something, especially something that we have dreamed of possessing but then never can touch, it is right and good to grieve. It is through the tears and the pondering within the safety of our own minds that we work through the feelings of disbelief, the pain and unbearable sadness, the depression, the reality of what has been lost. So much of our grieving happens within ourselves. I don't think it is a coincidence that understanding then comes upon our minds. A whispering thought that calms our soul and begins to shine light on the question "Why?"

Grief helps prepare us for the answers only Heaven can give.

But there are some who find themselves not swimming in grief but rather drowning. I was one of those people. I didn't realize it when it started to happen. It took many years for me to finally see that I wasn't in the realms of "good grief." I was losing myself. Each day was not only hard, but so heavy. There were times I wanted to die. This was before we had adopted any children. We were in the process of adopting but had not had a placement. We had been chosen, but then the Birth Mother changed her mind due to a great deal of family pressure. I had no feelings of anger toward her. Just love and I understood why she didn't go through with placing her 1 month old baby. I still love her to this day and yet have never met her. This failed placement opened the door wide to a flood of grief. I found myself in the nursery holding clothes to my chest and sobbing. This was actually a good grief time. It was right and healthy to feel those feelings of loss. But as time went on the pain remained.

Months later Brenley was placed with us. Then a couple years later Haley was placed with us. I didn't realize then that the grief had never gone away. It changed its face so I didn't recognize what it was. When Brenley came I had this overwhelming worry that she would be taken away. I also felt a huge amount of pressure to fulfill every dream I ever had regarding things I would do with my children. I put so much pressure on myself because I was scared this would be the only time I would get the chance to fulfill these dreams. In some ways I was exhausted. I had so much joy when Brenley came to our family and the joy multiplied when Haley came - unspeakable joy and that lifted my soul. I am so thankful I was able to enjoy this special time in my life. It was a gift from my Heavenly Father. Grief hadn't left me at this point, but I was so busy being Mom I didn't realize how grief showed itself in me.

As Haley grew I continued to enjoy my children very much. I never felt sad about them or how they came...not one single minute. But I did have unresolved grief that showed up in my relationships with others. The not so nice things that people sometimes say became more than just something they said...it took up space in my mind and it would swirl around and around each day. Each word said would cut like a knife. I had a hard time being around family. I dropped all of my "fertile" friends. My heart hurt all of the time. I took offense easily. I felt I didn't fit in anywhere. I was quick to be negative about what people said to me or just quick to feel negative toward them. I would go over and over in my mind conversations where the things that were said about adoption or infertility were not true and while I tried to defend the truth I failed because I lacked self esteem. I would later realize what I should have said but didn't, and that would make me mad at myself. 

It was during this time of great turmoil of mind that one day while I was having all of this hurt mulling around my mind I had a clear thought that said, "Your grief is prohibiting your progression." At that moment I saw that this voice that spoke to my mind was speaking truth. I called my husband and asked if he would support me if I went and sought counseling. He said yes. At that time in life money was tight and I didn't now how much insurance would pay. So as a back up plan I called my parents and asked for help if we ended up needing it. They were very supportive. I then knelt down and ask God to bless me with the counselor He had in mind for me - the one who would help me the best. The third phone call I made was to LDS Family Services where I asked for a counselor who was a woman and not involved in adoption. I was blessed with Lani Taholo. She was not only a great counselor but she knew the scriptures like the back of her hand and she was absolutely the person who was meant to help me.

The experiences of seeking help, going to sessions, doing the homework assignments Lani would send me home to do and praying all prepared me for the healing only the Savior himself can give. The gift of healing didn't come all at once. It came a little at a time until one day a few years later I realized I had been truly healed. I had an amazing experience and the peace that came to my life is indescribable. It has touched every aspect of who I am and how I am to my family. 

This peace and healing also allowed me to feel comfortable having completely open adoptions. What a joyous day it was to invite and have Birth Parents over to our home for dinner. I can't explain how it felt. It was a special reunion! But it never would have been like this if I still was drowning.

Why do I tell you this long story? I see too often couples (especially women) drowning in grief and yet they don't even know it. 

Sometimes grief masks as something else like:
  • Extreme Sensitivity
  • Dwelling on the negative whether that be hurtful things said to you by others, dwelling on what you can't do, dwelling on worries about health etc.
  • If you have adopted already you may have hostility, worries, anger, irritation or feel scared about dealing with or towards your child's Birth Mother.
  • You don't want to be around children.
  • You don't want to be around pregnant women.
  • You can't rejoice in another couple having a placement. You feel resentful toward them or feel despair that you haven't been chosen.
  • You feel entitled.
  • You can't let go of conversations.
This list could go on further but hopefully I am making my point.

It is good for couples to stop and take inventory of how they are feeling. Kind of a self check. You may not feel all of these types of things. I didn't experiences all of them. We all grieve differently. But if you are drowning and not swimming, then you can't get through the grief. 

Life is to be enjoyed! Grieving is healthy when you aren't "stuck" in it. If you find yourself stuck then seek help, pray and listen for answers. Grief is powerful and it can help prepare you for incredible joy and peace. But it has to be good grief in order for you to get through it. If you are drowning in it you will never have peace. Our Heavenly Father can help you. He is more powerful than your grief and He can extend His hand and save you.

Your relationships with family, Birth Family and especially your spouse and children that are in your family or will be coming to your family will all be blessed because you chose to act and seek help.
Overcoming grief brings great peace and light to your life. I know because I have been there!
If you would like to read more about my experiences/writings about my grief please visit my I AM blog.

Special note: I am not a mental health professional. (hoping to be someday) My advise in this post is from my experiences and thoughts. If you are struggling please seek out a mental health professional.

We'd like to hear from you. Have you struggled with feelings of grief during your infertility and/or adoption journey? What helped you get through those feelings? What advice can you share with others? Leave your comments below, or submit a guest post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pandas Adopt A Koala

We're excited to share another mixed media illustration by Tiffany Cunliffe, a former art teacher who became a stay-at-home mother after adopting her children. Tiffany used acrylic and decorative paper on canvas for this creation.

If you'd like a print of Pandas Adopt a Koala, visit her Etsy shop, where she sells all her adoption art. She can even make you a custom illustration.

Have you created something that celebrates adoption? Send it in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Obtaining Background Information on Your Prospective Adopted Child

image by puggie
Making the decision to adopt a child can be a wonderful, yet complicated process. In any type of adoption, it is important to obtain as much thorough and accurate medical, genetic, and social history information as you can about your prospective child. This important background information is useful for several reasons:

  • It helps you consider whether you have the emotional and financial resources to meet your child or youth's special needs. For some parents, there can never be enough information to make this decision with absolute certainty. Your adoption professional can help you process the information in light of your family's needs and priorities.
  • It may enable you to access Federal or State adoption subsidies available for children with special needs.
  • It provides an opportunity for your child to develop an accurate sense of his or her own history.
  • It provides an opportunity for early diagnosis, treatment, and intervention for developmental or medical conditions.

Questions to Ask Your Adoption Agency or Organization
image by pakorn
Asking questions and listening carefully to the responses, and reviewing written information will help you better understand what it would be like to live with your prospective child. The questions you ask and the information you receive will depend to some degree on the child's age. With an infant, the birth parents' health history, particularly the birth mothers' prenatal history, will be most important. With an older child, seek more comprehensive information (including social, placement, trauma, developmental, educational, and mental health histories). If the child has been in foster care, the questions you ask may be much more complex. For inter-country adoptions, receiving answers to many of these questions is unlikely because much of the information is unknown.

During the adoption process, it's important to be aware of your family's decision=making style and how much information you'll need to make a confident adoption decision. Keeping the following questions in mind when learning about a child's background information may be helpful:

  • What would a child with this history believe about him/herself?
  • What would a child with this history believe about parents/caretakers/the world?
  • What types of behaviors should I expect from a child with this history?
  • How will this child fit in with the rest of our family?
  • What special skills, abilities, or resources might be necessary to parent this particular child (e.g., medical knowledge or skills, accessible housing, special cultural or parenting training)? Do I have those skills, or can I learn them?

The Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services published fact sheets to help prepare adoptive parents for their child's future by understanding his or her social and medical history.

Understanding Your Child's Social and Medical History provides information about what to expect from adoption service providers and tips for inquiring about information that may be missing.

Questions to Ask Former Care Providers in Special Needs Adoption lists potential questions prospective adoptive parents may want to ask former care providers and tips for parents and children who have experienced adoption disruption.

Laws pertaining to the disclosure of information about adopted persons vary from state to state. Child Welfare Information Gateway's State Statute series provides more information on state-specific disclosure requirements. Collection of Family Information About Adopted Persons and Their Birth Families is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website. Click here to find statute information for a particular state.

Questions About the Child's Medical and Family History
  • How complete is the social/medical history on the birth family, including extended family? What is missing? Is it possible to get more information?What is the birth family's racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious background?
  • Is the family of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage?
  • What is the general physical description of the child's birth parents, siblings, and other close relatives? Are there pictures? (Attempt to get pictures of a child's birth parents and relatives whenever possible, because this will enable you to answer the questions frequently asked by adopted children: "What did my birth parents look like?")
  • Who does the child look like in the birth family?
  • Is there a family history of drug or alcohol abuse? If yes, explain.
  • Is there a family history of mental illness or other genetic conditions, or predispositions to diseases such as diabetes or heart disease? If yes, what conditions?
  • What was the age and cause of death of close relatives in the birth family?
  • What is known about the birth parents' developmental history - physically, emotionally, cognitively, including language development?
  • What is known about the educational background of the birth parents and the child's siblings?
  • Are there prior medical, dental, psychological, or psychiatric examinations and/or diagnoses for this child? What were the results?
  • Are there records of any immunizations and/or health care received while the child was in out-of-home care? Please make copies for us.
  • What is the child's current need for medical, dental, developmental, psychological, or psychiatric care?
  • What is the child's HIV status?

Questions About the Child's Social and Placement History

  • Why did the birth parents make an adoption plan for the child, or why was the child removed from his or her birth family?
  • Did the child suffer any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect? How old was he or she? How often did these traumas occur? Who were the perpetrators of the abuse?
  • How many placements did the child experience, where and with whom (e.g., relatives, foster families, residential treatment facilities, hospitals)? What were the reasons for any placement changes? What does the child remember about his or her placement experiences? What does the child believe about why he or she moved from one caregiver to another? (The child's belief may or may not be accurate, but it is important to understand a child's perception of his or her history.)
  • Where is the child currently enrolled and what is his or  her performance at school?
  • What are the results of any educational testing? Does the child have any special educational needs or outstanding abilities?
  • Are there significant events (early separations, multiple caretakers, abuse/neglect) in the child's life that could affect his or her capacity to relate to a new family?
  • What are the past and existing relationships in the child's life with people he or she has regularly lived with or visited (e.g., siblings, birth parents, foster parents, teachers, therapists, nurses)? How has the child responded to visits with these persons in the past? If future contact is planned with any of them, how often does it occur? Who is responsible for seeing that it happens? How will our adoptive family be involved in these visits?
  • What are the child's strengths? What activities does he or she enjoy? What are his or her talents, interests, or hobbies?

Reasons Why Some Information May Not Be Available
While your adoption agency or organization is required to provide you with all the available information on your prospective child, sometimes information is simply unavailable. The reasons some information may not be available are varied and complex.

  • Complex Family Histories. Children in foster care often have complicated family histories that may be difficult to trace and document.
  • Gaps in Record Keeping. Children in foster care may have had multiple foster placements; foster families may no longer work for an agency; record keeping may vary, and workers may have moved on.
  • Inter-country Adoptions. The only source of information in inter-country adoptions may be the agency, orphanage, and/or adoption facilitator in the country of origin. There may be no (or very limited) information about a child's birth family.
  • Limitations in Knowledge. Children who have been abused may not feel comfortable talking about the abuse until they are in a safe, stable environment. Indeed, an adoptive parent may be the very first person a child feels comfortable talking to about an incident of abuse. Additionally, many American Indian or Alaska Native children may not be aware of their heritage, membership, or potential membership in a Tribe.

Where to Find More Information
Adopting parents can gain a more complete sense of their prospective child or youth when they have the most complete picture of his or her past experiences. There are several options for obtaining this important background information. In this digital age, many adopting families are turning to Facebook and other forms of social media to learn more about their child. Information found on birth families' Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other accounts might help you better understand your prospective child's family history. Talk with your adoption services provider about any information you encounter via social media. Some inter-country adoption programs, such as Holt's Wordless Wednesdays, offer blogs with more information about the type of children placed through their programs.

Child Welfare Information Gateway also provides several information-gathering resources:

The National Foster Care and Adoption Directory allows you to search for foster care and adoption resources by state.

Find state child welfare agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by clicking here.

Access to Adoption records: Summary of State Laws.

Child Welfare Information Gateway's How to Adopt web section provides an array of information and resources about adoption, including a list of recommended books and journal articles you can find at your local library, bookstore, or download onto your e-reader.

Don't be afraid to ask your adoption agency or organization any and all questions you have, because obtaining the answers to these questions can help you become the best possible parent to your prospective child.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

Monday, February 25, 2013

Placement Day

A picture of us with our baby boy on placement day.

Do you have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Under His Wings

Psalm 91

1 He that dwelleth in the a secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, andfrom the noisome pestilence.

4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Addie's Story, Part 4

The last in the series of Addie's adoption journey...

Addie, thank you for sharing your story.

Being part of an adoption community is so important. Having the opportunity to be mentored by those who have gone before, to make friends who truly understand what you go through in the adoption journey, to be taught about what it means to live adoption and how to do so successfully - all are ways that becoming involved in an adoption community can make life better.

How about you? What do you enjoy about being part of an adoption community? What kinds of things would you like to see United For Adoption doing? Leave your comments below.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Addie's Story, Part 3

Addie's journey continues with the role of faith in the adoption journey. Have there been moments in your adoption journey when you have had to move forward with faith? We'd love to hear about it. Leave your comments below, or submit a guest post.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Addie's Story, Part 2

Continued from yesterday, more of Addie's adoption journey...

Can you relate to the journey that Addie and her husband went through to let go of one dream and embrace a new one? What was that like for you? Did your timing match that of your spouse's, or did one of you have to wait for the other to arrive at the same page of your family building plans? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Addie's Story, Part 1

I had to start sharing this series of videos with you today. Addie's story of heartache, infertility, and adoption is the inspiration behind Katherine Nelson's song, "What's Mine Is Yours." One of our board members made me aware of these clips, saying, "I really like a lot of the things that [Addie] says about the process an adoptive Mom goes through. We often say how brave the birth mothers are - which they are - but we (adoptive moms) are also brave in this process. She does a fantastic job describing the process."

So far, Addie's story hits close to home for me. Her story parallels mine almost exactly, down to the diagnosis and journey through fertility treatments. I've never met Addie, but feel a sense of sisterhood with her, and I look forward to hearing the rest of her story over the next few days.

- Angie R., United For Adoption

Do you relate to her story? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Importance of a Foster Parent Association

I recently spoke at a foster parent association about grieving the loss of a foster child after the child is placed in another home, or returned to a biological family member or birth parent. Indeed, this is a very difficult part of being a foster parent, as relationships are made, attachments are developed, and love is shared. Any time a child moves out of a foster home can be an emotional one.

One thing that struck me about this foster parent association was the relationship they shared with each other. There was a great deal of laughing, both with each other, and at each other, in good nature, of course. It was apparent that the relationships between the members were strong ones, and that they enjoyed each other’s company. The foster parents felt relaxed, comfortable, and looked to be in good spirits.
image by Jamiesrabbits
Foster parents face stress and pressure from a variety of sources. It is often difficult to be a foster parent, which may be one of the reasons why there are not many foster parents currently serving. There is a strong need for good foster parents, yet the number of those who serve as foster parents continues to decline each year. One way to keep foster parents in service is to provide support. Foster parent associations can provide this support.

A good and healthy foster parent association is one where members can find the support they need from their fellow foster parent. Not only do foster parents understand one another better than the general public, they can appreciate what each has gone through, and can provide suggestions, help, and advice that applies directly to the situation, advice and help that others do not simply appreciate nor understand. Fellow members have probably “been there, done that,” before, and can offer advice based on their own experiences in the foster care system. An association can also be a place where foster parents can relax, unwind, and even share frustrations and grievances without having to be worried about judged or criticized by outside forces.

As foster parents across the United States, and in many countries, are required to have a certain amount of training hours each year, many foster parent associations host training sessions during their meetings. Resources and information can be shared by experts in particular fields, and foster parents can acquire valuable insight into various topics and areas that only applies to the foster care system.
Foster care training meeting
There are those foster parent associations that meet in venues that provide child care, and even meals. For example, the foster parent association I belong to meets in a local church every other month. While there, we have a meal together, provided by the members of the church, a meal that is cooked and prepared for us beforehand; one less task that a foster parent has to do, thus making our job as foster parents a little easier that evening. Following this, the children are taken care of by these church members in a supervised location, while training sessions are held for the foster parents in attendance. The evenings are often ones I look forward to; prepared meals, supervision of foster children, fellowship with other foster parents, and training hours, all in one evening.

Indeed, if you are not part of a foster parent association, it would be wise to join one, as the benefits are many. If there is not an association in your area, it is not difficult to start one, yourself. Simply contact your local child welfare agency for help and assistance, search the internet for suggestions, or you may contact me for advice on beginning an association on your own. Take advantage of the fellowship, the training, and the support from a foster parent association. Cheers!

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home. He writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted by email, through his Facebook page, or at his website.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Our Little Valentine

On Valentine's Day eighteen years ago, our adorable little boy was sealed to us.  This photo was taken just inside the Bountiful Temple.
- Nancy B., Utah

P.S. That sweet baby is now preparing to head off as a missionary in the Columbus, OH mission.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Excerpts from the chapter "Glimpses of Growth" in Making Sense of Suffering, by Wayne E. Brickey.

The costs of growth are temporary; the results are eternal. No matter how much we know of this world's distress, we see only a tiny, stern episode in a long and marvelous story. We rarely get a hint of the completed product, the coming together of the puzzle. But now and then we get a peek at the wondrous growth going on.
image by brungrrl
From Marissa, whose adopted child was taken away:
I've found that suffering is easy to speak of theoretically. When heart-wrenching trials are thrown into an already semithorny path, the time for theorizing is over and the hard work begins. 
In 1989 we had the privilege of adopting a beautiful baby boy. The joy that my husband and I and our four daughters experienced was inexpressible. Our love for him was immediate and deep. But then came the day when racial issues called into question the adoption proceedings. Our hearts froze; our lives froze. The unspeakable, horrifying outcome was that our son was taken from our arms and our home, though we have never stopped holding him in our hearts since that day. Our joy turned into anguish. We were left with broken hearts. In total confusion, we asked, "Why?" 
There were many days of suffering and pain yet ahead. But years later, my heart is filled with peace. We know the peace and spiritual growth that seem to come only by suffering. How can we know how to succor others if we have not experienced our own Gethsemane? 
It is really possible to view this trial with peace and joy, for that is our view of it today. Sadness can turn to joy and pain to peace if we will turn our hearts to the Master.

We welcome your comments. How have the trials you've faced in your journey created growth in your life?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

UT SB155: Enforceable Post-Adoption Agreements

The information about this enforceable post-adoption contact agreement bill in the UT Senate is a bit confusing. We'd love to hear your thoughts. Here are a few things we get from a Deseret News article:
image by nirots
1. It applies only to adoptions of children in custody of DCFS (for the time being). However,
Kimberly Wilson, a social worker and an adoptee, said children eligible for adoption in the DCFS system are least likely to have "appropriate parents" with whom to form an ongoing relationships.
2. This bill is on a "test drive" to see how it works. To see how it works for what? Private adoptions? The two kinds of adoption are apples and oranges. And what would the long-term plan for this law be? Is there a timetable being considered for broadening its reach to all adoptions?

3. The last paragraphs of the article are clearly referencing private adoption situations, to which this proposed law would not currently apply.
...family law attorney Jackie DeGaston, said SB155 "is long overdue. It would have helped kids for the past 15 years." 
DeGaston said she has handled cases in which birth fathers have consented to stepfathers adopting their children only to have no options to enforce open adoption agreements.
Under current state law, open adoption agreements are not legally enforceable, Hillyard explained in a previous hearing on the issue.

Because the agreements have no enforcement mechanism, unscrupulous adoptive parents "promise the sun and the moon" to birth parents, Hutchins said. "When the ink on adoption decree is dry, they change their mind."

What are your thoughts? Is a law like this the best way to prevent broken promises in private adoption situations? Or would a specific education requirement be better?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adoption Myths Busted, Part 4

This is the fourth in our series of common misconceptions about adoption.
To read more, see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

 "A woman chooses adoption in order to have the chance to finish growing up,
pursue her education, etc." 

While this IS a benefit of choosing adoption, it is not a reason for doing so.

I'm blessed by the many experiences and opportunities I've had to live the young single adult life. College, roommates, dating... I can spend my time and money however I choose. All of these things are greatly hindered for a single mom. But I tell you, without hesitation, I would give it all back! My son means so much more to me than any of it! Those things were not part of my reason for choosing adoption. He was. I was totally prepared to put my whole world on the altar to keep him with me. But I couldn't sacrifice his.
- Tamra Hyde

We'd like to hear from you. What were the reasons that you chose adoption? Do you find that those reasons were about making your life better? Or your child's? Leave your comments below.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Mother’s Love

When you love someone unconditionally, you do what is best for them, not yourself. It was the hardest lesson I ever learned, placing my daughter for adoption. It was also the best thing I have ever done and a huge testimony builder. 

Early in 2008, a family knelt down for prayer in their Utah home. During the prayer they told the Lord that they felt their family was not yet complete and when He was ready to send them another baby they would be ready. They had no idea that their prayer would be answered so soon. It took great faith. The next night, the couple received a phone call about a young woman in the husband's home town back in Delaware who was pregnant and thinking about adoption.

I found out in the beginning of February 2008 that I was pregnant. The news was more than I could handle. I was a young 20-year-old college student, not ready at all to be a mother. I was so nervous to tell my parents. They had raised me with strong Christian morals and values. My parents were disappointed but supported whatever I would choose to do. Adoption was already a big part of my life. I was adopted by my parents as a small baby. I knew the blessings that came from adoption, yet at the same time, during my teenage years I found myself upset and angry with my birth mother who I never knew for placing and not wanting me. I know now how wrong I had been. I began to weigh all of my options.

In June 2008, I had the most spiritual experience of my life. I met with the young man who lived in Utah with his family. They were friends of my family long before I was born. As I sat with him, he told me about his other two adopted children who I had met before and shared their stories. He told me how he and his wife would be honored to raise my daughter. It was finally my turn to speak. My chest began to burn and tears filled my eyes as I tried to talk. I had been having doubts about placing since finding out the baby was a girl. At that moment, all of my doubts faded and I knew from that instant that he and his wife were meant to be this baby’s parents for this life and eternity. By the end of the meeting we all were crying. Not only were their prayers answered, but mine were as well. I had faith that what I was doing was right. I will never forget that tremendous testimony building experience as long as I live.

The last five months of my pregnancy flew by and it was October before I knew it. I was writing emails to the family in Utah, keeping them updated with my doctor’s appointments. I even sent a few pictures of my growing belly. Knowing they were unable to have children of their own my heart went out to them. I wanted to make the experience about them instead of me, since they had not been able to witness their other two children’s births. I decided that I wanted them both in the room when she was born and I wanted the adoptive father to cut her umbilical cord. I threw his wife a baby shower just days before the baby arrived. It was all so wonderful. The women of my ward showed me such kindness and service, above all never judging. They all were in attendance at the baby shower.

Two days later Tally arrived. All that I asked was that I get to spend those two days in the hospital with her and then she could go with them. Those two nights were a mixture of joy and sadness. My faith was tested yet again. I was so happy that she was finally here, yet sad because I knew that she would be leaving me shortly. From the time I found out I would be placing her for adoption, to stay focused I kept a journal that I wrote in everyday of my pregnancy up until after she was born. I wrote entries telling her how much I loved her, what she meant to me and why I choose adoption. I gave it to her parents who agreed to give it to her when she was older. I thought since I knew five months before she was born that I would be placing her for adoption, it would be so simple. I was wrong. I held her as much as I could, studied all her little features and tried to memorize them. The adoptive family stayed a week after she was born and brought her over for my family to see her a lot. I didn’t know it was possible to love someone so little so much. When they left our house and drove to the airport it felt like a piece of me was going with them. I did not think it would be so difficult to watch her go. Heavenly Father was beside me the entire time comforting me and giving me peace. I knew if no one else understood how I was feeling, He did. In my heart I knew I was doing the right thing and my family was such a huge support to me. 

About a month after she was born my mom and I flew out to Utah to legally relinquish my parental rights and to visit. Signing my name at the bottom of that paper was the hardest thing I did. Leaving her that time was harder than the first. The Lord knew He was building me up. Since then I have received many pictures of her and updates about her and the family. I call her on every birthday. How eternally grateful I am that she has two of the greatest parents Heavenly Father could possibly have given her.

In June of 2009 my number one goal for her came true, they took her to the Provo temple in Utah and had her sealed as a part of their family for all time and eternity. What a great blessing it is for me to know that I helped another daughter of God find her eternal family. That gives me such great joy that I cannot express. 

The song by Michael McLean called “From God's Arms, to my Arms, to Yours” sums up my story. I feel so strongly that she came to earth through me, but not to me. I now know that Heavenly Father does not make mistakes. Tally was sent at this time for a reason. She has changed my life forever. She and the Lord helped me see life in a whole new light and change the very way I was living. She saved me along with the great and powerful atonement of Jesus Christ. Our short 9 months together was exactly what I needed at that time, my faith has never been more strengthened and exercised. The road to repentance can be long and not easy but I testify that it is so worth it in the end. I am so grateful for the love that Jesus Christ offers me and I know that he will always be there for me in my time of need. I am indeed grateful for this experience that I went through because it has taught me numerous life lessons. I know adoption is not for everyone but it was right for me and has certainly blessed my life beyond measure.

But that is not the end of the story. 

From that experience I decided to begin looking for my biological mother. With no luck because I had a closed adoption, it felt like my dream would never come true. On May 6, 2009 I decided to do a simple white pages search in the phone book. All I had was her maiden last name. I knew she was born in Delaware and so I hoped she still might have some relatives in the state. There are approximately 63 listings in the phone book with her last name. I picked up the phone and dialed the first number. An elderly man answered and I asked him if Deborah was there. He said, "No." So then I asked him if he might be related to a Deborah Sexton, and he replied, “Yes I am. That is my daughter.” My heart began to race and I got chills all over my body. I told him that she might be my birth mother. He was quiet for a few moments. He then informed me that yes; his daughter did place a baby for adoption a number of years ago. 

By this time I was crying…I had miraculously found her and I ended up calling my grandparents’ house, the place where she grew up. It was only one hour away from where I lived. When my grandmother got home, she called me back and said that she just got off the phone with my biological mom and she wanted to meet me. That she had been praying for this for a really long time. She told me that every year on my birthday she would think about me. 

As an adopted child, it is natural to wonder where you come from and just knowing is a natural thing to want. I never thought that in a million years this day would come for me because the chances are very slim to almost impossible to find biological families when you have closed records. There are millions of agencies and private investigators that would have helped me but they wanted a lot of money that I as a college student did not have. 

So through dedication and determination, I met my biological mother on May 8, 2009 and she said it was the best Mother’s Day present she has ever received. She told me that placing me was the hardest thing she has ever done. I was able to relate to her even though it was the hardest choice; many people’s lives were blessed because of it. Now we are forming a bond of friendship that can never be broken. 

There were a lot of answered prayers that day. The void in my heart is now full because of her. There is no more wondering. I am so thankful for the gift of adoption and I want the world to know just how bitter sweet adoption can be. My life has truly been blessed by adoption. I want to thank my biological mom for doing the right thing for me, even though it was the hardest thing for her.

I have been sealed for time and eternity to an incredible man for three years now and we have two beautiful, intelligent, funny 27-month-old twin girls and a baby due in July. They have blessed my life tremendously. There is no higher calling on earth than to be a mother and I am so thankful the Lord has given me a second chance to be a mother again, under the right circumstances.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

4 A.M. Feeding

photo by Dynamite Images
You grasp my finger
In your small hand
(Which is not like mine
Yet it fits.)

You hungrily latch
Your lips on tight,
(Lips not like mine
Yet I make them smile.) 

You gurgle then
Grunt your special
Noises, (that I encourage)
Stopping mid gulp to
Open your eyes
(That I did not give you
Yet they reach
Into my soul.)

I hear one small
Word in my
Mind, that settles
In my heart.
This you give to me.

 By Scott Bradford

Would you like to share something you've created? Send it to us.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

King's Faith

Brendan King is a foster kid who grew up on the wrong side of the law, graduating from five-finger discounts and fights on the playground to drug-dealing and gun-running as a member of a multi-racial gang. Arrested at fifteen and imprisoned for three years until his parole at eighteen, Brendan has found a relationship with God, and with it he has turned his life around. Upon his release, he moves in with a new foster family, the Stubbs, and starts attending high school in a suburb near the city where he grew up.  But keeping his faith once he regains his freedom is more of a challenge, as new opportunities, new friends, and a new future clash directly with old temptations, old friends, and a past that he can't seem to escape.

Sound like a movie that would interest you? Let them know! Use the "Demand the Movie" tool, and when your area has 500 demands, the movie will come to you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Mother's Embrace

This is a picture of my son's birth mother holding and playing with him just before going to the agency to place him with us. I treasure these pictures of her with him. This was one of my favorites.

- Jessica Moon, UT

Do you have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Give Said the Little Stream

We have so many givers in the adoption community. This made me think of them.

Is there something that inspires you? Send it to us so we can share it here.

Friday, February 8, 2013

God Found Us You

By Lisa Tawn Bergren
Little Fox cuddled up to Mama Fox one night and said sleepily, “Mama, tell me again about the day I came home.” 
“Oh yes,” Mama said with a smile. “That is my favorite story of all. When God found us you, it made me the happiest mother in the world.”

This book is about a Mother Fox retelling the story to her baby fox of her journey of waiting, wondering, and dreaming of the day she would be a mother. It didn’t come easily to her she had to wait a long time and see other animals and their families. The mother Fox had faith that she would one day be a mother to a baby fox. Finally her dream came true!

I like how this book shows how much we wait and wanted our children before they came. It also discusses why their “first mother” placed them in their family. It touches on many topics and opens up the conversation of adoption for children. This will quickly become a favorite in your child's book collection!
-Jessica Moon, adoptive mother, UFA board member

We'd like to hear from you. Do you have this book? What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Be A Friend

You want to be there for a friend considering an adoption plan, but need some ideas on how to help. Scroll through for some great ideas.
image by marin
Ideas to help your friend who is making an adoption plan
Empower them to get all of the information they need.
Encourage them to go talk to someone who cares.
Be willing to listen without judgment.

Ideas to connect with the baby
Give her a journal and write encouraging notes throughout the journal.
Offer to make something with your friend to give to the baby, like matching baby blankets – one for the baby, one for the birth mom.
Give stationary and stamps to use to write letters to the child or adoptive family.

Throw a party for your friend
Shower her with gifts for herself.
Give her a coupon book that she can use. Here are some ideas:
     Free hug
     Movie night
     To talk about anything, but the pregnancy
     To talk about the pregnancy
     Free massage
     Free pedicure

During Tough Times
Offer to have sleepovers when she is really having a difficult time
Give her encouragement and let her know that she is special and has made a good decision
Give her written affirmations or scriptures
Shared with permission from the Adoption Option Council of MN.

We'd like to hear from you. What were the best ways that people supported you before and after  placement? Leave a comment below, or send your experience to us for posting.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Agape Project

Agape is a Greek word for a particular type of love. Agape love is love that is based upon principle and is, by far, the noblest type of love. Agape love is unselfish and is more than just an emotional response.

I have been asked a dozen times what this project is and why I put this together. Well, it’s simple. I LOVE adoption.

My life changed 2 1/2 years ago. After multiple miscarriages, many failed fertility treatments and lots of tears, we were blessed with the most amazing little boy. From the time we received a phone call and the time we had a baby in our arms, it was a total of 2 1/2 weeks. The birth mom and my husband and I lived in different states and so a lot had to happen quickly.

We were blessed to be there for the entire delivery. When the nurse placed that sweet baby boy in my arms in the hospital room, I knew that God had heard my prayers and been listening to the desires of my heart. My prayers weren’t answered the way I thought they were going to be, they were answered better than I could have ever imagined. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to hold a baby in my arms and not only did that dream come true, but I looked over at the amazing woman who had given him life and I knew our lives would never be the same. She needed me the way I needed her and I needed her the way she needed me. And, this sweet baby needed both of us. We had the same mission in mind. To give this little boy the best life that he could possibly have.

 If I had to describe what was felt at that moment by everyone it would be pure Christlike LOVE. Our journey together and separately has been amazing and I have realized that after our trials come the blessings. My sweet boy has been the biggest blessing anyone could ask for. He healed and completed me in a way that no one will understand.

For more information visit http://www.TheAgapeProject.net

Have you created something that celebrates adoption? Please send it to us so we can share it here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Foster Child's Lifebook

The departure of a foster child from your home is often a difficult time. Because this can be a time of great difficulty and one of emotional upheaval, it is important to prepare beforehand when it comes to the transition of your foster child from your home into another. From the very first day you bring a foster child into your home, it is critical to remember that he will very likely not be with you forever. There will come a time when he will move to another home; whether it is reunification with his parents, his family members, another foster home, or adoption. Therefore, planning for his departure begins when he first arrives.

image from willowing.org
One of the ways you can prepare is by organizing a lifebook for your foster child. This book can be a wonderful healing tool for your foster child as he moves to a new home. For some children, a lifebook is the only reminder they may have of previous houses and families they once called home. Essentially, a lifebook is a scrapbook of your foster child’s life, and is something he can take with him to his new home, and throughout his life. Sadly, when many foster children are placed into a foster home, much of their early life story is lost, and can never be retraced. A lifebook can not only help the child remember important aspects of his past, it can also bring to light memories that fade away when a child grows older.

When designing a lifebook for your foster child, make sure you include him in creating the book. Do your best to trace his early life; ask your caseworker for information, try to retrieve early pictures and information from birth parents and family members, if possible. Add pictures of the birth family, when possible, as well as any other foster parents he might have had. Include pictures of his friends and other important people in his life. Be sure to identify each person in the pictures. If you have any certificates of any kind that he might have earned or received, include these also. Letters from important people in his life would also be a great addition to his lifebook. Be sure to include any medical history you can locate. You may need help from his caseworker, along with his birth family, if possible. Also, any family history you can add would also be very beneficial to him, both now and later on in life. This might include military service, education, and accomplishment of not only his birth family, but about his biological family members, as well. Don’t forget to add information about his own interests and hobbies, with plenty of pictures of him engaged in activities. Finally, leave several blank pages in the back of his lifebook, so he can add pictures, information, and even his personal thoughts later on as he grows, or perhaps even in his next foster home.

image by Sura Nualpradid
A lifebook helps a foster child recognize his or her individual worth, something that is so very important for each child in foster care. For many foster children, placement into foster care is a traumatic experience. Lifebooks can be a testament to their strength and their ability to overcome whatever challenges they may face while in care. 

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home. He writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted by email, through his Facebook page, or at his website.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Adoption Made Us Sisters...

...Hearts Made Us Friends.

This is a photo of Jen Babcock's 6-year-old daughter with her new sister from Ethiopia when they went to pick her up last week. Did you catch last Wednesday's art exhibit? These are two of the girls in the painting. The Babcock family will be able to return to Ethiopia to pick up their other new daughter in the next couple of months or so.

Do you have a photo you'd like to share? Send it to us.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Refining Fire of Grief

Excerpts from an essay by Ashley Isaacson Woolley, CA

Though Ms. Woolley writes about the grief that came with her son's illness, as I read this, I thought it paralleled the feelings of grief and refining fire that members of the triad experience as well. 

A Manifestation of Love 
Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus member of the Seventy, explained: “Grief is the natural by-product of love. One cannot selflessly love another person and not grieve at his [absence]. The only way to avoid the grief would be to not experience the love; and it is love that gives life its richness and meaning.” Accepting my grief as part of love finally allowed me to work through my pain and rise above discouragement. 

When I turned to the scriptures for comfort, I learned that grief is a godlike attribute that goes hand in hand with love. Jesus grieved alongside Mary and Martha at Lazarus’s death (see John 11:33–36). Isaiah said that the Savior would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). God wept as He spoke to Enoch about the wickedness of the world and judgments to come on His beloved children: “Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:37). As I studied the scriptures, I realized that God’s grief, like mine, was a manifestation of love. 

A Lesson in Compassion 
Letting myself grieve taught me how to show Christlike compassion for and sensitivity to others. In my observation, grief can change our nature if we let it turn us to the Savior. I have seen grief transform strangers into loving sisters. Once when my son was hospitalized, I was in the room with him, crying. There was another family with their own sick child on the other side of the room. Eventually I heard the curtain between us drawn aside, and I looked up to see the mother approaching me. She had been a stranger until then—she was from a different country, spoke a different native language, and knew no details of my son’s condition. Wrapping her arms tightly around me while I cried, she said in her language, “It’s going to be OK. He’s going to be OK. He really is.” That mother had surely experienced grief in her own life that had transformed her into a Christlike person who could wrap her arms around a grieving stranger. 

My own grief changed the way I respond to others’ sorrow. I once saw a distraught family with name tags from a children’s hospital enter a restaurant as I sat at dinner. In the past I would have felt sympathy but kept my distance. Instead, I approached them with concern and learned that their newborn daughter had died that morning. I embraced the mother and we cried together for some time.  

A Motivational Power 
Grief motivated me to seek positive changes for my family. Just as physical injury causes physical pain, emotional injury causes emotional pain. Because I was in pain, I sought a remedy for the situation and relief for my emotional wounds. 

Hannah of the Old Testament demonstrated the power of grief to motivate in positive ways. For years Hannah was unable to have children, a condition that caused her deep heartache. As her grief overwhelmed her, she knelt near the temple and prayed fervently for a child. She explained to the priest Eli that she was “of a sorrowful spirit” and that she was praying “out of the abundance of [her] complaint and grief” (1 Samuel 1:15–16). In time, the Lord answered her prayer by giving her a son, Samuel, who became a great prophet and leader. 

Hannah’s grief over her childlessness led her to pray, which in turn led to an answer to her prayer. If Hannah had not felt grief, she might not have offered that important prayer. The circumstances that cause grief cannot always be changed the way God healed Hannah’s childlessness or my son’s illness through medical assistance. Some losses, such as the death of a loved one, cannot be altered. But grief motivates us to act, even if only to seek counsel, to reach out to others, or to pray for strength and understanding. 

Faith amid Grief 
Even as grief refined me in important ways, it also challenged my faith to the core. But prayer and the whisperings of the Spirit helped me to emerge on the other side of grief with faith that is even stronger than before. 

God is there, and He did not leave me feeling alone forever. Once when I was feeling particularly upset about my son’s health and especially forsaken by God, I prayed. Soon afterward, a phrase came to my mind: “God makes a way where there is no way.” I looked up the phrase and discovered a quotation by Martin Luther King Jr.: 

“When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that … [God] is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.”2 

This thought reminded me that I could hope for a bright tomorrow without denying the darkness of today. I could keep my faith in God and hope for a happier future while allowing myself to grieve in the present. In God’s own time, He spoke comfort and reassurance to me. 

Because God loved me and desired my progress, He would not spare me the refining fire of grief. But God made a way where there was no way. Not every loss can be healed in this life, but lives broken by grief can be healed. Because I remained close to God even when I could not see or hear Him, I felt Him when He reached out to me in my darkest night.

Is there a quote or article that has inspired you? Send it to us so we can share it here.

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