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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shout it From the Rooftops - Or the Yard

Alison Lowe, adoption advocate extraordinaire and board member of United For Adoption, is the brains and Energizer Bunny power behind the popular Adoption: Walk With Me event in Salt Lake City.

Last fall, as the date for the walk drew near, so did election day. Lawns sprouted yard signs faster than weeds. Placards promoting ballot measures and political candidates were hard to miss. Leave it to Alison to put an adoption twist on this particular expression of free speech. "Hey, if they have a sign... so can we!" she thought.

She put together a design and placed an order for signs that read, "This Family Celebrates Adoption."

2012 Adoption Walk With Me participants
Not only is this a great yard sign for November since it is National Adoption Month, but also for days worthy of commemoration like a child's birthday, placement day, finalization day, LDS temple sealings, Mother's Day, Father's Day, a visit from a birth parent, and the like. Anytime you are celebrating family, really.

Alison says, "I feel we need to get the word of adoption out there, even if it is for just a brief second. Grass roots efforts are needed just as much as big national compaigns and so I feel anything I can do to add a little pebble to the lake, I hope little ripple effects will continue."

What one house looked like during November, National Adoption Month.

If you'd like a yard sign of your own (and who wouldn't?!), contact us and we can arrange it.

Do you have a great idea for adoption advocacy? Tell us about it!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kristin Chenoweth

I am a show tunes kind of gal. My Pandora stations reflect it, and my car radio is permanently set to Sirius XM's On Broadway. Season tickets to two different theaters are in my desk drawer. As such a fan of musical's, I've liked Kristin Chenoweth ever since she was in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Once I found out she was adopted? LOVE her!

image by Camera Slayer
In the last few years, she's been very open with the press about her status as an adoptee, and has even used it to further adoption causes like working to get available children adopted from foster care. So I thought it might be fun to share some of the things she has said about adoption.
Angie R., UFA Board

From an interview with YahooMusic:

You're adopted. How does that shape you?
Mainly that I feel a lot of love from my mom and dad who adopted me. Maybe I would have had a very different life had I not been adopted but my parents have really helped shape who I am. I do things sometimes they don't agree with, but I'm their kid and they love me. I know they feel like they won the lottery and I feel like I won the lottery. They got me and I got a home. The right home.

From an interview in Prevention Magazine:

You're very open about being adopted. How has it affected your life?
I have a constant feeling of gratefulness 0 gratefulness to the family that adopted me and the upbringing I got. Sometimes I want to kill my parents, and I'm sure they want to kill me; we're a family in every sense of the word. But if I were ever to meet anyone in my biological family, I would say, "Thank you, because you gave me the best possible life I could have had. And the best parents."

When you were in college, you were elected Miss Oklahoma City University, and one day you were approached by a woman who might actually have been your biological mother. 
Yes, I was doing an event, and a woman came up to me. I did notice that she was my height and blonde, but I didn't think much about it. She said, "I've been following your career, and I am so proud of you. I just want you to know that someone is always thinking of you." I thought she was just being sweet. She walked away, and I looked at Kathy, my pageant director, and she was ashen. She said, "That woman looked like you! You looked like...her." But by then the woman was gone.

What kept you from trying to find her?
I was nineteen; I was young. There was a line of people waiting to get their picture taken with me, and I was thinking about that...plus, I've been so fulfilled with my family. But there are some things I wonder about, like, who's battled depression? Who had Meniere's disease?

Do you think being adopted makes you particularly open to adopting a child yourself someday?
You know it! I'm a traditional girl. I'd love to have a husband to have a child with. It hasn't exactly worked out that way, and that's okay. I'm not sure where my twenties and thirties went. ...If I get to the point in the next couple of years where I haven't met that person and I feel the urge, I will absolutely adopt. What could be greater?
image by Disney ABC Television Group

From People Magazine:

“I was shuffled around and got into the right home. I was lucky.”  Her parents, both chemical engineers were an interesting match for Kristin growing up. She says, “They couldn’t understand why I never understood math or science.” Yet on the other hand, “They should never sing aloud,” she jokes. “I tell them to keep that inner voice.”

Kristin designed a shoe in honor of November being National Adoption Month, that will be sold on shoedazzle.com with proceeds going to benefit foster kids. “I’m not a scientist,” she laughs, “but I’m really good at shoes.”

From Celebrity Baby Scoop:

I was one week old when I was adopted,” she tells us. “Lucky me! But actually, I was supposed to go to another family. They found out they were in fact pregnant right before my birth. So I believe God placed me with exactly the family I was supposed to be with. Miracle!”

The Tony Award-winner also talks about teaming up with the Dave Thomas Foundation. “I partnered with Wendy’s because I love what they do for kids who need to be adopted here in the U.S.,” she says. “The Dave Thomas Foundation has given so much to children in need of homes and foster care. This is my second year [taking part in the Father’s Day Frosty Weekend -- where .50 cents from every Frosty sold went to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption].”

Does she have any advice for people who might be interested in the adoption process?
If you know it’s right, just go for it,” she encourages. “All a child needs is unconditional love. That’s it. Someone to say, ‘Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. I love you.’"

From a report on FoxNews.com:

While many entertainment types adopt children from overseas (we're talking about you Brangelina), Chenoweth, an adoptee herself, is dedicated to reminding everyone that there is an overwhelming number of American children that are also in need desperate need of a loving home.

“The average age of a child waiting for adoption is nine, and this is in America. While I appreciate so many people going abroad and adopting...there are so many children here that just need the unconditional love and support of a parent,” Chenoweth, who recently partnered with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to help raise awareness on the issue, told Pop Tarts. “Here in America, we still have a lot of work to do. It's alright to go abroad, but in this country, we have people that need to be fed, people that need to be clothed, and people that need to be loved. And that means a lot.”

In Hollywood circles at least, it seems most adoptive parents adopt children from birth or a very young age – but Chenoweth says this doesn’t always have to be the case.

“There’s a misconception that you must adopt a child at birth, but there are kids that are 17 that just need some love and self-esteem,” she said.

Speaking of which, the stage and screen starlet, fresh from her hosting duties during last Sunday’s Tony awards, took time out on Monday to bring a little extra love into the lives of several foster kids at her Broadway theater in Manhattan, where she also launched the Foundation’s annual marquee program – Father’s Day Frosty Weekend.

“I was in shock when I heard that there are 123,000 kids that are in the foster care system in our country. I really want to drive the point home that even if you don’t think that you have tons of money, and all these other ‘things’ to give a child, all a child really needs is love, care and a mentor. Someone to listen to them and to be there,” Chenoweth said. “You don’t have to be a wealthy person – you can be wealthy in your spirit. These kids just want to be loved, and that’s what really touches my heart.”

Chenoweth speaks from experience, and credits two special people for her ongoing success.

“It always goes back to my parents who adopted me, who gave me unconditional love and self-esteem,” Chenoweth said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am without them.”

Finally, here's a clip from an interview on The Rosie Show:

Got an adoptee you'd like us to highlight? Leave your comments below or send us an email.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ask-The-Expert: Adopting an Older Child

Kathy Searle, the Utah Director of Programs for the Adoption Exchange, answered some questions prospective adoptive parents might have about adopting an older child through foster care. Maybe you've been wondering the same things.

1. Do we need to become licensed foster parents in order to adopt an available child?

Technically with a legally free child you do not have to become licensed because the child is legally free and ready for adoption. The case would have to be screened for an upfront subsidy and the adoption agreement signed. Many caseworkers are not aware of this because most of their case load is foster care and they tend to not be as familiar with policy and law relating to adoption. It can also be a help to the family because the foster care payment is usually larger than the adoption subsidy and so you can put some extra money away for future expenses.

2. Do we need to attend the hours of foster classes?

Yes and you will be glad you did. Parenting a child who has experienced trauma is very different from normal parenting. The pre-service training helps you to better understand how children cope with trauma, grief and loss and other things associated with being removed from their home and experiencing neglect and abuse. I believe that training and knowledge is a gift we give to our children. The more we understand the better parent we become.

3. What kind of financial commitment are we looking at? Besides the cost of raising a child or teenager?

It is pretty much the same as for any child except that these children usually require at least some mental health treatment which is covered by Medicaid.

4. What kind of government financial assistance is available?

Most children adopted from foster care come with an adoption subsidy, which includes three parts the Medicaid card, monthly maintenance payment to help cover special needs and the one time non-recurring payment that covers reasonable and customary costs associated with adoption, for example home study fees, attorney fees and travel. The Federal Government allows these costs to be reimbursed up to $2,000.00 but because they are state fund each state determines what amount they will reimburse. Utah does $2,000.00. These expenses must be reimbursed prior to finalization.
5. Would she be considered "special needs" simply due to her age?

Each state has their own definition of special needs. Utah’s is as follows:
CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS: A child who cannot or should not be returned to the home of the parents (as determined by the state), with one of the following:

A. Child 0-17 years of age with a documented physical, emotional, or mental disability, or may be at risk to develop such a condition due to the birth parents health and social history.

B. Child five years of age or older.
C. Member of a sibling group placed together for adoption.

6. What kind of time frame is involved in adopting an older child?

Time frames vary based on the child’s and case workers current situation. Utah DCFS policy says that three families should be brought to the placement committee to be considered but that if only one family can be identified they can be screened by the placement committee. If the family is selected they would then be able to read the child’s file. After reviewing the file if the family is willing to move forward they would talk to the child’s current placement providers as well as therapist and others who know the child well. If the family is still willing to move forward the Child and Family team would convene and discuss a transition plan. Usually this involves visits at the child’s current placement, then to a neutral location and then at the families home. This can happen over several weeks to several months depending upon the needs of the child and family.
image by kjnnt
7. Is there anything else you think I should know?

Adopting an older child is very different than adopting a baby, it’s almost more like marriage in that customs, and ways of doing things are already set. It takes time and both the family and the child need to be willing to do things differently than before. This can be hard when a child doesn’t want to participate in traditions and activities that are important to the family. Flexibility is a key ingredient to adopting an older child. Also trying to view things from the child’s point of view is essential. Children who grow up in a family don’t question many time why things are done in a certain way because they just grow up knowing that is the way we do things. It can be frustrating answering questions about why you do things the way you do or even better that another way should be considered. This sound trivial I know but it is something that is like a slow water drip and really can put you at your wits end.

Adopting an older child is really merging two already set lives into one.

8. What would be our first step? Getting a home study?

If you have a current home study you can inquire on children but before you could be consider for a specific child you would need to take the pre-service training and an update would need to be done to your home study. If your home study isn’t current then you would need to begin that process. There is no cost if you follow the states procedure beginning with The Utah Foster Care Foundation.

9. Would we be able to meet the child before placement?

As explained in the above process you do get to meet a child before they are placed in your home but because they have already experienced so much loss and rejection the division will give you all of the information they have as well as allowing you contact with the current providers so that before you meet the child you are pretty sure that you will be moving forward with the placement. That said the best plans can have twists and turns and that is part of the function of transition to make sure the placement will work before the child moves in. It is easier on both sides if that is determined during the transition.

Do you have questions about foster care or adoption? Let us get the answers from the experts for you! Leave your comments below, or email us.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Open Adoption is...

...getting to hold your birth mother's new baby when he comes home from the hospital.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Placing a Child for Adoption: A Birth Mother's Story

I hope that those who hear my story can begin to view the adoption option and the birthparent perspective in a more enlightened, truer way. Adoption is widely misunderstood and underrepresented. I would love to see us evolve to a point where every woman and girl facing an unplanned pregnancy is presented with current and accurate information about ALL of their options. 

This choice which I thought would be my ruin, has been the greatest blessing of my life and the life of my son and his family, and I'd never have chosen it if someone hadn't told me the truth I hadn't known about adoption. This is why I tell my story.
Tamra Hyde, UFA Board Member

Are you a birth or adoptive parent? Would you like to share your story of adoption or placement?  Please send it to us so we can post it here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Big Tough Girl 5K

United For Adoption is proud to be a sponsor of this year's BTG 5K race. It's coming up next week!

The purpose of this race is to raise awareness and bring the local adoption community together, including celebrating the BTG's in the area. All registration fees and sponsors go to the race and then to BIB to continue our birth mom community including baskets, support groups, birth mom retreats and more.

What is BIB, or Blessings In a Basket?  BIB is a 501(c)(3) Non Profit Organization set up to create a community of birth moms, or Big Tough Girls, as we like to call them, nationwide.  Our mission is to make sure that birth moms are honored, respected and supported .

Who is BIB?  BIB was founded in 2010 by a birth mom, mother, and adoption supporter Ashley Mitchell.  She is surrounded by an incredible Board of Directors and BTG Team that have huge hearts
for adoption and for our birth moms.

What is BIB doing?   They are providing placement baskets, monthly support groups, amazing birth mom retreats, skype and online discussion groups, birth mom resources, BTG 5K, free adoption walks across the country, life coaches, and so much more.  They are always coming up with new ways to reach and graft birth moms together.

If you or someone you know has been touched by adoption this is a GREAT cause to run for. Or if you are just looking for a fun 5K to run then this is the place - and you get to support a charitable organization at the same time.

Saturday April 27th at 8:00am sharp!
Butterfield Park, Herriman, Utah
6212 West Butterfield Park Way
Herriman, Utah 84096
You can register on the official BIB site {paypal}

Registration is $20 for kids 12 and under and is $35 for adults
Don't forget the liability form when you register!
Race day registration is $25 for kids and $40 for adults

Registration includes:

  1. Runner packet with coupons, fliers and more
  2. BIB number
  3. BTG 5K race shirt
  4. Professional chipped timing
  5. Automatic Entry to Raffle Drawing
  6. Prizes for top finishers
  7. Food and drink for you, your family and spectators
image by Sura Nualpradid
The BTG 5K is NOT just for women....bring the men and kiddies too! The BTG 5K wants to keep on growing, and invite ALL who have been touched by adoption or who support adoption to come out, register, and support the event.

What if you want to be involved but can't swing the registration fee at this time? That's okay! You can still come and participate to show your support to adoption and the BTG community. You won't get a registration bag with the included items, but you can still support an adoption cause with your presence.

From Ashley Mitchell, Founder of BIB and the BTG 5K:
"April is such a special month for me. On April 4, 2006 I placed a precious boy for adoption with the most amazing family. We have a beautiful relationship and I am so grateful to them for adopting that boy as their very own and raising him and loving him and offering him more than I could have ever dreamed. They get to have a big birthday bash with him and they celebrate his life in a very different way than I get to. I decided that I needed something, my own way of celebrating this amazing event. 
"SO I decided to celebrate with my entire local adoption community! 
"BIB is so proud to host our 2nd annual BTG 5K this year, in celebration of adoption and that sweet little boy that has already changed so many lives!!"

Are we going to see YOU at the BTG 5K?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Adoption Photography "Must Have Moments"

As a photographer I often view life as a series of moments connected by time. I’ve often found myself trying to capture brief memories in my mind whenever my camera isn’t handy or when there is no one else around to take the picture. In my imagination I take a picture of that one moment. I take in my surroundings, the smells, every possible detail, but most importantly how I feel. These moments are more than just snapshots, they tell stories. As a photographer, these are the moments that matter and are ones that I look for and have learned to anticipate through experience.

As a birthparent, the photographs I’ve taken tell the adoption story from a unique perspective. I often think back to when I placed my own little baby boy and think about the pictures that I would have cherished if, back then, I’d been given the option. I often think about the happy moments, the heartbreaking ones, and the ones that are just a little bittersweet that looking back, I would have loved to capture. Those moments, while, at the time would have been difficult to look back on were embodied by raw emotion. At that time, I would have thought primarily of how those images would have been a great help to myself. Recently that perspective has changed.

About two months ago I was reconnected with my son, Sam. I think the thing that surprised me the most was how much he had relied upon my letters. Apparently he had gone through a period where he struggled with his being adopted and wanted so much to know more about things like, “where did (he) get his freckles from?” Or “how tall would (he) be?” In essence, he asked questions that both you and I take completely for granted. It was because of our sweet reunion that it became ever apparent to me that the details were just as much of importance as the big picture. Not only did the experience bring about a “completeness” to me that has been missing for the past sixteen years, it changed how I approach adoption photography. 

When I was shooting adoption photography in the past, I feel that I did so being a little one sided. I considered they types of pictures that I’d want to see and remember as a birthmother. The approach I take now is one of a very wholistic approach, considering what types of things the adopted child needs to see. For example, rather than just taking a picture of a birthmother’s face, consider taking a close-up of her hands as well holding the pendant that was given to her from her adoptive couple, a close-up of her eyes glancing down, or anything else that tells about her and her story. Have her bring some of her favorite things she loves to the photosession. If she’s a writer, have her bring some journals and take some shots of her handwriting, or her actually writing in her journal. If she’s an artist, a musician, a songwriter or any other hobby or interest, figure out a way to document those things through photography. Put yourself in your child’s place, consider what things he or she would need to know about their birthmother and if possible, birthfather as well

As far as documenting the whole story, see if your birthparent is comfortable having some maternity pictures taken and consider hiring someone to take them. This will provide a neutral party to document those moments and provide sweet memories for the birthmother and the birthfather if he’d like to be involved as well. 
Also, consider having someone to photographically document the placement as well. If you’re in a place to do so, I’d strongly recommend hiring a professional. These moments are emotion packed and absolutely tender. Whoever you decide to be there, make sure to have someone who is capable of shooting in, how should I say it, not the greatest of lighting situations without disturbing what’s going on with a flash. Also, make sure they are equipped with the ability to take close-up candid shots, as well as wide-angle storytelling ones too. 

Lastly, make sure to document the first moments you’ll have with your new baby. These are the pictures I wish, with all my heart that I had and feel like they would have been such healing images for me to have. Because I placed sixteen years ago, at that time we weren’t allowed to be there at the placement. My last memories were of my social worker walking out the door with my son and leaving me in a room alone to bawl my eyes out. While these moments were probably the most heart-wrenching for me, I wish I could have seen what was going on in the other room, to see the joy on the faces of my adoptive couple in their first moments with their son. Those are the images that I would have wanted to be my last of that process and would have brought the most healing to my broken heart.

Make sure the birthparent(s) know that the whole purpose behind what you’re doing is for the child. Some people don’t love the idea of having their pictures taken, but if your birthparent knows that it’s for their child, they’ll be more inclined to be a part of it. 

When you’re all through don’t just let the pictures sit in a file on your computer or on a disc. Do something with them. There are great deals all the time on digital scrapbooks through daily deals. If you’re nervous about the technology or consider yourself creatively challenged, there are pre-designed templates that are as simple as dragging and dropping the pictures in the book. This will be something your birthparent and your child will absolutely cherish. Make sure to make a couple of backups of your digital images and keep one copy off-site or in cloud storage. That way, in the instance of a flood or home fire, your images are safe and undamaged.

Kristin Pack, ShadeTree Studios
images provided by Shade Tree Studios

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Story of Hope

One of the worst stories of child abuse in Florida's history had a happy ending in Texas for these two boys. Adopted by a loving Dallas family who initially had no idea of their troubled past, twin brothers Andrew and Alex were able to rebuild their shattered lives, and now look forward to a bright future. 

Do you have adoption art to share? Send it to us!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guilt and Loss for Foster Parents

Recently, my wife and I took in additional foster children into our home, bumping the number of children in our house to nine. I realize that your initial thought is, “Nine children? I thought there was some sort of rule saying you couldn’t have that many children.” Let me assure you that this was a special occasion as it was an emergency, and the children needed to be placed immediately. The child welfare worker in charge of the children had called several foster parents before calling our home, as there were no other foster parents able to take the three children in. Initially, my wife and my first response was to say “No,” as it would have been simply too many children in our home. Yet, after further consideration and prayer, we felt that we should foster these three children in need.

In all of my years as a foster parent, and in all of my experiences as a trainer and speaker, I was not prepared for the conditions that these three children faced which prompted them to come into care. Immediately, my wife and I both gave our hearts to these children in unconditional love, hoping to help them in any way we could. After a few days in our home, they were suddenly placed in another home in another state, with a biological family member. In fact, the transition was so sudden that we were unable to say goodbye to them, as it came without warning during the working hours of the day, the judge giving permission to the family member who had traveled and showed up at the court hearing. What surprised me even more was the feelings of loss and grief that both of us felt when the three left, as it had only been a short time.
image by Stuart Miles
Feelings of loss and grief are normal for foster parents, and should in no way be dismissed or ignored. When any foster child leaves your home, no matter the level of attachment, there will be emotions when it is time to say goodbye, for both you and the child. Rest assured, many foster parents do feel grief during the removal of their foster child, as the child has come to be an important and loved member of their family. After all, the removal of a foster child from a foster home is akin to a loss, and any loss can cause grieving.

Whenever a loved one leaves home, emotions of grief and sadness are normal. Other times, though, a foster parent may be angry with the removal, as the parent may feel that the new placement is not in the best interest of the child. Pointing this out to the child will only upset him further. It is necessary for you, as a foster parent, to remember that you are not in charge of the situation, as difficult as it may be. The removal of foster children from a home is often a decision that is made in the court.

According to Kubler-Ross’ well known stages of grief (1969), there are several stages a foster parent may experience when a foster child leaves the home. These include shock, denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance. Indeed, I went through some of these feelings, myself, and have still not completely embraced the fact that these children have moved on. What I do appreciate, though, is that it is important to deal with these emotions in a healthy manner, and to find help, if necessary. For myself, I have not only prayed for these children daily, I have also discussed my feelings with my wife and some others in my own local foster parent association, an organization that offers training and support to other foster parents.

I often tell people that fostering is the hardest job one can do. One of the reasons why is that fostering is not only hard work, it is also heart work. Good foster parents place their entire heart into taking care of these children in need. Most understand that it is emotionally difficult and often traumatic for a child to move from home to home. It is important to also realize that it is emotionally difficult for the foster parent, as well. After all, you are losing a member of your family, and this can be traumatic, too.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, 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, April 15, 2013

A Family...Forever

Finally sealed for eternity. The most peaceful feeling I felt that day.
-Jessica Moon, UT

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

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Roller Coaster

image by anat_tikker
An adoption journey is equivalent to a super fast, twisty, upside down roller coaster ride in the dark -thrilling, scary, and oh so exciting! And the emotions that go along with it are no less twisty and up and down. So in the midst of my personal thrill ride, when my daughter had just been born and we were staying in a “bonding home” in another state with a family I had just met and I was wading through the paperwork and processes, you can imagine how grateful I was to see my parents! They made the 16-hour journey to meet their precious new granddaughter as soon as they could, which was such a relief to me because sometimes a girl just needs her mom! After all, who could understand me and my emotional roller coaster better than my mom? I know Diana, my bonding home mother, was trying so hard, bless her. More honestly, I didn’t want to admit to all of them in fear that voicing them might make me a bad person, or it might make the birthmother change her mind.

Along with the sheer love, joy, and adoration I felt for this perfect, precious little person, there were other things, too, that crept in on me occasionally. Fear was an ugly emotion that could bring me to tears. I was afraid the birthmother would change her mind. I was terrified my baby girl would feel detached, abandoned, or unwanted, even though I could not have loved her more if she were biologically delivered to me. I feared I would not be a good enough parent for her, for I knew she deserved only the best!

Another ugly emotion I buried deep down and shared with no one was sadness. Strange as it sounds, I did also have a bit of sadness, for the birthmother of this sweet baby girl. While I was incredibly grateful she chose an adoption plan, my heart ached for her and what she must be feeling. I knew the birthmother’s story and her background, which I will not share out of respect for my daughter, and I knew she was comfortable with her decision and with me being Bella’s mom, so I knew this really was the best situation for my little girl and her birthmother as well. I had no doubt about that. But this woman is still a human with very real emotions, so I grieved for her.

Guilt overcame me at one point as well. Another odd sounding one I’m sure, and one that I totally brought upon myself. I felt guilty for being able to provide for this baby what her birthmother could not.  I felt guilty for being so happy as she was facing such turmoil. Again, the guilt was purely my own because I knew she was truly at peace with her choice, and she had so much support from her family. There are so many situations that can bring a birthmother to choose an adoption plan, and in this case adoption really was the only option.

So what on earth would make me share all these “negative” emotions with the world? I have been reading social media posts and blogs from hopeful adoptive parents and from birthmothers alike, and I feel like both sides of the story need to know the full truth, that there may be emotions you were not expecting. And that’s ok. At the time, I laughed with my mom as we decided that my hormones were just as out of whack as though I had given birth myself. But it’s true. All of a sudden you are overcome with love like you’ve never known, and your brain is turning on those parental instincts, and God is preparing your whole being for doing the job intended to raise this little miracle He created just for you.

By Andrea Ceely

We want to hear from you: Did you go through a similar range of emotions? Are there any that you would add? Tell us about your highs & lows, your twists & turns at different points in your adoption journey.  
Please leave your comments below, or submit your own guest post.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stepping Into the World of Adoption

By Brenda Horrocks

I never knew how it would be.
So unknown,
so many differing voices telling me things.
What should I believe? I wondered.
Then I stepped in and I felt hope.
The warmth of the right place seeped into my hurting heart and I felt a belonging.
Hope grew along with friendships and peace.
I stretched out my hands and my heart and found things I could do and it felt so good.
Sometime later after I had allowed myself to learn new talents we were led to our future
Brad and I met her and it was a sweet meeting with hearts ready to burst. 
So much love in the room …so different than all the times and rooms before.
We were home.
We parted even though we could have remained forever.
We left with incredible hope and peace and love.
Hours later we held the dream we had been praying for and we understood so many answers.
Adoption help us get to the gift that had been prepared for us.
Adoption gave us life and more people to love.
Adoption taught us that love multiplies and grows beyond our comprehension.
Adoption is more than a word… is the action of Love!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted From Foster Care

In every state, children with special needs are waiting in foster care for adoptive families. The most recent data suggest than an estimated 115,000 children are available to be adopted from foster care. (1) In the past, the costs of care and services were major obstacles to parents who would otherwise adopt and be suitable parents for children from foster care, and many foster children were not placed for adoption due to this barrier.

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (2) provided the first Federal subsidies to encourage the adoption of children from the nation's foster care system. These subsidies, known as adoption assistance, serve to minimize the financial obstacles to adoption. In addition, other types of assistance often are available to help with medical care or other services. Adoption assistance serves to remove barriers and contribute to an increase in adoption of children with special needs.

Federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance

Adoption assistance from the Federal Government is administered under the Federal Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program. Payments to the adoptive parents of an eligible child with special needs can take two forms:

  • One-time (nonrecurring) adoption assistance and/or
  • Ongoing (recurring) adoption assistance

These funds may be available through state and private agencies for eligible children being adopted from foster care.

Eligibility for Federal IV-E Adoption Assistance
With the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, States and Tribes are required to have two sets of program eligibility criteria for the Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Program. One set of criteria applies to a child who is considered an "applicable child" due to the child's age, length of time in care, or as a sibling of an applicable child. The other criteria are for a child who is considered "not an applicable child" and who, in order to receive Title IV-E Adoption Assistance, must meet the former eligibility requirements. (3) The criteria for a child who is not an applicable child will be phased out by 2018. At that point, all children will be considered "applicable."

It is important to understand that figuring out whether or not a child is an applicable or not an applicable child is only the first step to determining whether the child is eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance. Being an applicable child does not mean that a child automatically is eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance.

The title IV-E agency will examine many factors when determining whether a child is eligible to receive Federal adoption assistance. The information below provides an overview of the eligibility criteria for the Federal adoption assistance program. The title IV-E agency can explain the eligibility details. The factors the title IV-E agency will consider include:

1. Whether the child is considered to be an "applicable child" whose eligibility is determined by the revised eligibility criteria, or whether the child is considered to be "not an applicable child" whose eligibility is determined based on the eligibility rules that were in place prior to October 1, 2009.
2. Whether the child meets the title IV-E agency's criteria for special needs 

3. Whether the child meets specific eligibility criteria that provide the child a "pathway" into the adoption assistance program. Depending on several factors, the title IV-E agency may examine any of the following:
  • The legal and financial circumstances under which the child was removed from home
  • The manner of removal from the child's home
  • Whether the child is a child of a minor parent who is in title IV-E foster care
  • Whether the child was eligible for Title IV-E Adoption Assistance in a prior adoption
  • Whether the child meets some or all of the criteria to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a program administered by the Social Security Administration
4. Whether the child meets certain citizenship and immigration status requirements

5. Whether the prospective adoptive parents have passed a Federal criminal records check
State Adoption Assistance

State adoption assistance programs provide assistance for children with special needs who are not eligible under the Federal IV-E adoption assistance program. This assistance is funded by State and/or county dollars and is designed for children who are neither TANF- nor SSI-eligible prior to adoption. (4) Eligibility criteria for these programs vary by State, but State adoption assistance programs generally fall into three categories:
Medical assistance covers some or all of the costs related to a child's specific medical condition that are not covered by the family's health insurance, as well as associated therapy, rehabilitation, and special education. (Most States call this type of assistance Medicaid.) 
image by anankkml
Direct Payment assistance refers to direct payments to the adoptive family in order to help meet the special physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child. 
Supplemental adoption assistance varies greatly by State. Some States cover a  child's emergency or extraordinary need; less often, assistance consists of repeated payments for services not covered by the medical or direct payments. Each State determines what is an allowable cost. Some States make this available for months, others for 6 months, while still others provide one-time coverage for a specific service.

Information Gateway's website can help you find adoption assistance by State through its annually updated database.

Eligibility for State Adoption Assistance and Other Assistance
States sometimes consider the prospective adoptive family's income and resources to determine if the family meets State eligibility requirements, which vary but are linked to:
  • Determination of special needs from the Federal adoption assistance law
  • Unique aspects of the State adoption assistance program

Arranging Adoption Assistance

When a State agency has determined that an adoptive child has special needs (as defined by that State), the possibility of adoption assistance is discussed with the prospective adoptive parents. States are responsible for telling prospective adoptive parents about the availability of adoption assistance and eligibility for an adoption tax credit. (5) Most children registered with agencies as having special needs have already been classified as eligible for adoption assistance.

Once a petition for adoption has been filed, the State makes a final determination of the child's eligibility under title IV-E or the State program. The family applies for the adoption assistance to the State agency through the local office. If approved, an adoption assistance agreement is drawn up between the public agency and the prospective parents, specifying the types of adoption assistance to be provided. This is usually done around the time of placement and must be done before finalization of the adoption. Each State has its own regulations for arranging a State-only subsidy, and each State establishes its own procedures to achieve compliance with the Federal title IV-E program in arranging this type of assistance.

Deferred Adoption Assistance
In some States, it is possible for adoptive parents to defer adoption assistance until it is needed to meet the needs of the adopted child. In these cases, parents can elect to receive a Medicaid card only and sign the agreement with the payment level of $0, which can be raised to meet the needs of the child at a future date if needed. The adoption assistance agreement between the parents and the public agency is written to clearly identify what event(s) would trigger services. For example, a young child with a history of abuse and neglect or prenatal substance exposure may not need services at the time of adoption; however, an assistance agreement may be written to allow for services (with documentation from required professionals) if and when significant issues arise and the child needs intensive therapy or perhaps even residential care during the school-age or adolescent years.

Often, psychiatric reports and other documentation are necessary to justify the potential need for a future subsidy.

Appealing an Adoption Assistance Decision
Adoptive parents may appeal the State agency's decision regarding adoption assistance or the adoption assistance amount by using the State's fair hearing and appeals process. If the family is appealing a decision regarding a title IV-E subsidy, the family files an appeal through the local agency that administers title IV-E assistance. The local agency must inform the family about steps in the State fair hearing process. During the process, some families choose to hire an attorney or seek the advice of advocacy organizations for children with special needs. If a family wishes to appeal a decision regarding State adoption assistance, the family may consult with the local agency adoption assistance representative about the steps in the State appeals (or "fair hearing") process. Find more information about the fair hearing process on the Information Gateway website.

Adoption assistance exists to help parents afford the costs associated with raising a child adopted from foster care. By providing financial assistance to these families, the State and Federal subsidy programs minimize the financial barriers to adopting a child from foster care so that more children in care are placed in permanent  homes and families.

Adoption assistance payments are not the only type of financial assistance available to adoptive parents. Prospective adoptive parents should explore all potential resources to help make adoption an affordable option.

  1. This figure is from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data for 2009.
  2. For more information on this Act, see Information Gateway's website.
  3. Former eligibility requirements are available in the online Child Welfare Policy Manual.
  4. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) replaced Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC).

We would love to hear from you. Do you have experience with adoption assistance? 
Leave your comments below or submit a guest post.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Adoption Myths Busted, Part 6

X "If you adopt a baby, you'll get pregnant."

Despite this couple's experience that seems to perpetuate this myth, after their story you'll hear from experts that this really is a myth and why.

According to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, this is one of the most painful myths for couples to hear. First it suggests that adoption is only a means to an end, not an happy and successful end in itself. Second, it is simply not true. Studies reveal that the rate for achieving pregnancy after adopting is the same as for those who do not adopt.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How I Was Adopted

by Joanna Cole

The colorful and interestingly detailed illustrations of Maxie Chambliss make this book a great one for toddlers and preschoolers, while the brief and simple text on each page makes it good for beginning readers as well. In the book, we are introduced to Samantha, who tells us about how she was adopted. She also asks the reader questions about his or her own adoption.
"Daddy told me how old I was when I was adopted: I was one week old! Do you know how old you were when you were adopted?"
This book shares information that is often left out of children’s books but is important to include, such as addressing the child’s birth or the existence of birth parents. We appreciated the way Samantha tells the reader about traits that were there when she was born, and traits that came from growing up in her family. The author does an excellent job of bringing home the concept that an adopted child is just like any other by using eleven of the book’s pages to focus on things other than adoption so we understand that adoption doesn’t define a child.
"I like books, painting, guinea pigs, and the color red. Can you see what else I like?"
How I Was Adopted is a great model to use in talking to your child about his or her own adoption.

Is there a book on adoption, foster care, infertility, or parenting that you would like to review? 
We'd love to post it! Send it to us here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Other People's Children

by Jessica Forsgren

Something a couple people have said has been rattling around in my head lately. I've thought a lot about it and I feel like putting some thoughts to print because I feel strongly about it. And I also think it's good for all to hear other perspectives.

Since Mike and I have started down the adoption road of child-rearing, we have heard many comments from many people--family, friends, fellow church go-ers, acquaintances, co-workers, strangers, kids friend's parents, etc. For the most part the comments and feelings are so supportive and positive. I can't complain at all. Sometimes people say things and I'm not sure what they mean or what to think so I take the comments at face value and move on. I don't think too much about what people say for the most part. Generally I am pretty good at judging the intention of the comment or question. And usually the things people say don't bother me. 

The comments I listen to most are those that come from close friends, family or people I really respect. I think this is because I care about them most. 

image by stephanski
We've had a few people refer to our children as "other people's children." So for example they will say, "It's so cool that you guys are willing to take on and raise other people's children." Or in a blessing, "have strength as you raise and nurture other's children." Or, "Do your children know their parents?"

I think people say these things because they have a different family experience than we do. In most families, family means blood. It means you all look alike. It means you all come from the same place. I get that. That's the kind of family I grew up in. But adoption has taught me something more about families. Family should be more than blood. Family is a relationship. Family is love. And family is what you make it.

If you ask me who my children are, I can tell you. I can tell you all about them. Their loves and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, their sizes, what they eat, what they do. I know what will make them smile or make they cry. I know all of that. If you ask my children who their parents are they can tell you. They know who feeds them, who makes sure they get to school and helps with homework. They know who will be making sure their birthday is celebrated, who talks to Santa and makes sure the tooth fairy comes. They know who ties their shoes and reminds them to zip up their zippers. In our family, we know who we are.

When people say "other people's children" it doesn't bother me for me. It bothers me for my children. I don't ever want them to doubt their family because someone else doesn't consider their family a "real" family. I don't want them to think they missed out or didn't have a real family experience. It's pretty real. Come over during dinner or as we race to get to school in the morning. It's pretty real. (Haha. Please don't come over--it's crazy.) It's also real when the boys help their sister climb on her bike. It's real when they make me breakfast is bed or wash the dishes just because. It's real when they've got each other's back on the playground. It's real when we all go camping or spend an afternoon at the beach. It's all very real and in my opinion should not be discounted--not even one bit.

image by Lars Plougmann
We have been very careful to teach and explain to our children how they each became a part of our family. They know where they came from and how they came to be. They know why we adopted them. They know who their "birth parents" are and so far it seems they have a sense of gratitude and acceptance for the life they were given--by their birth parents, and by Mike and I. This topic is revised often--as all important topics are. At every stage new questions, new understanding.

It's true my children will not know their birth parents the way they know Mike and I. That wasn't my choice and that wasn't my children's choice either. That choice was made by their birth parents. I'm grateful for that choice, I treasure my children and I am grateful for the choice their birth parents made. It was our choice to adopt, but we did not choose our children. We were chosen for our children (by birth parents and/or social workers). I would like to draw a parallel here. When a child is born to a family, the parents do not choose that child specifically, nor does that child choose their parents--at least that any of us can remember. (Perhaps that choice could have been made in our prior existence and we don't remember after birth.) It's the same with adoption, or at least in our cases of adoption. Adopted children and adoptive parents are matched by birth parents and social workers. I believe God plays a role in each and every adoption. I know He was watching over each of our adoptions and I know my children were divinely intended for Mike and I. The relationships in an adoptive family are the the same as in a natural-born, typical family; we don't choose each other, but we choose to love each other.

Family is an amazing thing. It teaches you. It grows and develops you. It supports and nourishes you. Family can break your heart or disappoint you. It can rescue you or make your day. Family is where we begin and it is where we look for reference and understanding.

Each one of us has a unique family experience. Each of us add to the unique nature of our family. This is true in all families and ours is no exception.

I love my family very much. I love the family I was born to and the family Mike and I have created through adoption. Some may say blood is thicker than water, but if there's anything I know it's this: Love is thicker than blood.

Do you have a personal essay you'd like to share? Send it to us and we'll post it here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"I Love What I Did With My Life"

This couple in Bayside, N.Y., discuss their life-changing decision to adopt 12 children with special needs after a cancer scare left them grateful for the time they didn't think they'd have. After watching, I couldn't help but think, "What a neat family! Wish I knew them personally."

Do you have any adoption art to share? A poem, painting, quilt, scrapbook page, collage, sketch, etc? Send it to us so we can share it here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dangers of Aging Out

image by sattva
Each year, between 20,000 to 25,000 foster children age out of the system in the United States and attempt to begin life on their own. For thousands who do not find reunification with family in their lives, reaching 18 years of age can be a tremendously frightening experience. For others, 21 is the year where they may find themselves no longer part of the foster care system, depending upon the state the foster children reside in. 

Most young adults leaving home for the first time have someone to rely on when facing challenges, difficulties, and trials. Whether the problems are financial, emotional, school oriented, or simply a flat tire that needs to be fixed, most young adults can pick up a phone and call an adult who is quick to help. Too often, these children have already faced such hardships as neglect, abuse, learning disabilities, and abandonment. Furthermore, the majority of foster children have difficulties with school, with over fifty percent of those who age out dropping out of school. Indeed, only two percent of all foster children who age out graduate from college. Lack of financial skills, work experiences, social skills, and various forms of training, along with the lack of support from family and caring adults makes it even more problematic. 

As a result of these obstacles and challenges, most find themselves at risk in several ways. To begin with, when foster children leave the foster care system, they often have no place to call home. Over half of all youth who age out of the system end up being homeless at least once in their young lives. As they struggle with financial problems, finding a safe and stable place to call home is often hard. Too many foster children are forced to turn to the streets for a time. 
image by Maggie Smith

Recent studies have found that adults who have spent time in foster care suffer from the ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder. Indeed, many youth who leave foster care suffer from a number of mental health disorders, including depression, high anxiety levels, and mental illnesses. Along with this, large numbers of these young adults face the trials of not having proper health care and insurance, as they lose the coverage that was provided for them while in care. Many simply do not have someone to care for them when they fall sick or face medical emergencies. Pregnancy levels at an early age are at greater risks among those females who have spent time in foster care, and many young men who age out of the system unexpectedly find themselves fathers and are unable to properly provide for the child. 

As many foster children do not graduate from high school, they find it difficult to obtain a job that will be able to provide for them financially. Adding to this, most simply do not have the skills, training, or tools necessary in procuring a stable job. Many also turn to drugs and even crime, thus resulting in jail sentences. The percentage of those in jail at any given time in the United States who have had some experience with foster care in their lives is a staggering statistic at well over seventy percent. Next month we shall examine some strategies designed to best aid these children in need as they age out of the system and face an unknown world. 

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, 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, April 1, 2013

Finally A Brother

This our oldest holding our youngest upon his much-anticipated arrival home from the hospital. He not only waited the two days to come home but prayed for a long time before his brother's arrival.

Missy S., UT

Do you have a photo that celebrates adoption? Send it to us so we can share it here.

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