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Friday, October 11, 2019

Q&A: Grandma Shannon

People who radically change the course of the next generation are heroes. Grandma Shannon is one of those heroes. 

I remember the first time Grandma Shannon told me about her children who she made an adoption plan for. We were watching J enjoy some arcade games and she leaned over with a picture on her phone. "Hey, these are my boys who I made an adoption plan for." Up until that moment, I had no idea that she was a birth mom or that she had any other children other then Mama E and J's aunt. As we continued to talk about the adoption plan she made, I realized that Grandma Shannon is one of the bravest people I know. I'm honored to feature her as the first in the Q&A series!

When did you first make an adoption plan? What made you decide on adoption? 
I knew as soon as I knew I was pregnant that I wasn’t ready to raise another child as a single parent at the age of 23. Abortion was something I never considered, so adoption was the right choice. I was immediately presented with profiles of families, and the rest kinda fell into place. I knew that I never wanted my child to think that I didn’t ‘want’ them. I ‘want’ed them to have both amazing parents. I ‘want’ed them to have siblings and grandparents and cousins. I ‘want’ed them to have an amazing life with endless possibilities.

Do you have any adoption plans that are closed? How do you feel about it?
My first adoption plan was a closed adoption. It was and still is very difficult. While some might prefer the "not knowing", I needed to know as much as I can about the family who was raising my child.

Do you have any adoption plans that are open? How do you feel about it? What does that look like? 
I do have children that I am blessed to know because of open adoption. I would encourage open adoption, assuming everyone is on the same page. I'm blessed because most open adoptions aren’t quite as open as mine, but I know just being able to receive letters and pictures provides so much comfort to a birth parent.

Tell me about how you processed through the grief. 
I don't know that I did process the grief. I think I simply remained busy and focused on the kids I had in my care. I knew in my heart that I made the right choice so it was okay.

What is the toughest part of being a birth mother?
For me it was simply the not knowing if my child was okay in a closed adoption. But I didn't struggle with that in my open adoptions because I was able to ask questions, offer advice, and answer any questions they had.

What would you tell a hopeful adoptive couple?
1. Don't be too specific in what you are looking for. I know I was presented with profiles where they stated specifics with the kind of baby they wanted and I stopped reading it at that point. I felt like if you cannot pick that stuff when you're pregnant then you shouldn't be able to pick when you're adopting.
2. Be honest about your willingness to have an open adoption or not.

What would you tell someone thinking about adoption for their unborn baby?
Your child deserves life. You will be giving them a life with a family that might be able to provide a little more then you can give and there is nothing wrong with that.

What would you change about adoption?
1. Even in today’s times there are still so many people who look down on adoption as unnatural or view the birth parents as ‘no good’ or even the child as unwanted or unloved. This is so not the case! Unplanned pregnancy is just a phrase until it happens to you and most are terrified. It’s so much harder when you’ve decided adoption is the best option and then the whole world looks down on you for "giving your baby away". It's not giving up a baby, it's giving a baby life. A life that I couldn't necessarily provide at the time.
2. I wish that it was easier financially for families to adopt. I think we should be funding adoptions rather than abortions.

Grandma Shannon with E
How has the adoption world changed from when you placed your children to when your grandchildren were placed?
It definitely has become more open and accepted. They definitely have made it easier for birth parents such as providing counseling and making birth parents more comfortable. It's a little more personal now where expectant mothers get to say the type of family they want for their baby. When I was making an adoption plan, it was more impersonal because I didn't have much of a say in the type of families I was presented with. I want to also say thanks to wonderful consultants and professionals, such as yourself and your sister-in-law, who have genuine compassion for birth parents.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Our Journey to Open Adoption


It can be intimidating for hopeful adoptive parents to see photos of families who have an open adoption with the biological family. It is often assumed that the open adoption started from the beginning. At least for our family, though, it did not.

Open adoption has been a journey for us - with ebbs and flows. When J first came to us there were a lot of unknowns for months. Not only that, but his biological mother was unable due to circumstances to have visitations for nearly a year. I would describe that year of one with a lot of bumps, not because of us or them, but because of the system itself.

The first time J's biological mother and I were actually able to speak to one another was in a meeting room at the court house. We did our best to make small talk while being surrounded by professionals watching us. One of the biggest attributes to this journey of open adoption was that we all had a mutual respect for one another. Tim and I did our best to always make sure she knew we respected her as J's mom and as a fellow human being. We sensed often that she also respected us as foster parents and genuinely appreciated how well we were doing in taking care of her son.

Although rare, in the midst of her frustration with the system, there were times that the frustration poured over on to us. I was reminded by friends and family that even though it felt personal, it wasn't. She was dealing with circumstances that I cannot even begin to imagine. She was fighting for her baby. She was in crisis. When I remembered this, it became easier to extend grace and move past it.

Once J's adoption was finalized, something shifted for all of us because our relationship was not dictated by the foster care system. We were able to meet up without professionals watching us and whenever it was convenient for all of us. Instead of meeting up in the court house or in an agency office, we started meeting up at McDonald's and parks. It made a world of difference! We were no longer "holding our breath" and she was no longer in "fight or flight" mode. We started slowly getting to know each other as human beings who both loved a boy named J.


Over the next five years, our relationship continued to grow as typical relationships do. As trust was built on both sides, more openness followed. We went from swapping numbers to meet up at McDonald's to becoming Facebook friends to inviting them to birthday parties to opening up our living room for Christmas. We all took it at our own pace and within boundaries that we were comfortable with in each season that life brought.

We certainly weren't the only ones who extended grace, though! J's birth mother extended incredible grace by choosing us to not only adopt her second baby, but also allowing us to be at the ultrasound appointment and in the delivery room. We didn't deserve or have the right to be there, but were so honored that she chose us and allowed us to experience those moments with her.

     

It has now been seven years since we first met in a court room. The typical rhythm for our open adoption is that meet up every few months (and it often involves pizza topped with pineapple cause we've found we all love it). There is laughing and playing and lots of hugging. We update each other on things going on in our lives. Not just shooting the breeze but real things like new jobs, health changes, and future plans.

At the end of the day, open adoption isn't about me or even her. It's about our kids. I can tell them until I'm blue in the face that their birth mother loves them, but for our kids to experience that love for themselves is invaluable. And from the way I see it, the more people to love them unconditionally the better!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Preparing for a Home Study (Part 2)


Preparing for a Home Study (Part 1) was all about the paperwork and physical environment of your home that you can prepare for the first home visit.

Often times, the second (and some times can run into a third) home visit is what they call couple and individual interviews. To prepare for couple interview, here are some questions you and your spouse can discuss ahead of time:
  1. How do you want to parent your child who you will adopt?
  2. What kind of relationship would you like to have with your child’s birth parents?
  3. Do you have a gender preference? 
  4. Are you willing to adopt a child with special needs? What kinds of special needs to feel like you can handle? 
  5. Are you open to multiracial adoption?
  6. Up to what age would you be willing to adopt a child?
  7. Are you open to twins or siblings?
  8. What problems do you foresee as a parent and how do you hope to handle them?
  9. Why do you want to adopt?
  10. How did you and your spouse meet?
  11. How are conflicts handled within your marriage?
The individual interviews will get into greater detail about who each of you are. A social worker will likely discuss you and your spouse’s family backgrounds, how you want to parent and discipline your child, if there are any divorces in your past, if you have chronic health issues that require you to be on medication, if you’ve dealt with legal issues recently, and what you do as a profession.

Many of us may have some difficult things to discuss because none of us are perfect. Although it may be intimidating to be vulnerable, it's important to be completely honest and forthright with the social worker.  It is the job of the social worker to ask about nearly every aspect of your life, but they do this with all couples. Being completely honest will alleviate any distrust on the part of the social worker performing your home study.


Need help choosing a home study agency? I'd love to help! Feel free to email me

Friday, September 27, 2019

Preparing for a Home Study (Part 1)


A home study is often the first and most intimidating step in the adoption process. There are lots of agencies to sift through and decide which one to go with. After you've decided what agency you're using, the oodles and oodles of paperwork to complete begins including (but not limited to) forms for personal and financial disclosures, background check including fingerprint information, and a physical exam form. Every state is different in terms of what materials they require, but often there is additional paperwork to gather:
  • Copies of birth certificates for everyone in the home 
  • Copies of social security cards for everyone in the home 
  • Copies of driver's licenses 
  • Copy of health insurance card 
  • Copy of marriage license (if applicable) 
  • If you have been divorced, you will also need a copy of the divorce decree 
  • A copy of the first 2 pages of your tax return (the 1040 pages) for the past 2 years (some states/agencies may require 3 years) 
  • Employment verification for both spouses 
  • Pet records (proof of current vaccinations and a copy of county pet registration, if your county does this) 
  • Personal references 

When you've chosen your agency, they will schedule the first home visit with you. These visits can last one to three hours, which is why so many hopeful adoptive families are intimidated by this step. In reality, though, most social workers are not out to judge you harshly. As a social worker myself trust me when I say that they too are human, so they recognize that you will have dust in corners that you just can’t reach. Of course you'll want to clean your home, but don’t feel the need to remodel your home. They’re not looking for the perfect home, but rather a suitable, safe home for a child.

The first visit is often where the social worker will check your home in the physical sense. They will make note of how many bedrooms and bathrooms your home has. The social worker will want to check the room your future child will be living in. If the room isn’t decorated, that’s okay! Your social worker just wants to know if it’s safe for a child. Beyond that, they will also check for:

Pool
If you have a pool, it needs to have appropriate safety measures taken to keep kids away from water. Many states require there to be a fence with a locking gate around the pool in order to meet this criteria. Different states have different requirements for how tall the fence must be (4 feet is a common one), and also the amount of area that must exist between the pool's edge and the fence (the idea being that if a child manages to get through the fence, they won't fall into the water immediately). Some states require that the gate be self-closing and self-locking, with the locking latch on the inside (towards the pool) to make sure that it would be very difficult for a child to manage to open. Finally, some states require that your back door (if that is the door that would lead to the pool) have an alarm on it so that you will know if your child goes out into the yard without you realizing it.

Guns
If you have guns, they also need to have appropriate safety measures. The requirements are typically that the firearm needs to be in a locked box or locking cabinet/case/safe, unloaded. The ammunition needs to be in a separate locked box in a different location than the box containing the gun. Both of these boxes need to be in a place where a child could not reach them (such as on a high shelf in a closet or the top drawer of a tall dresser).

Chemicals
Any chemical (such as cleaning products) need to be out of reach of children. This means that if you store your cleaning products under your kitchen sink, you need to either find a different spot for them (a high shelf in the pantry or laundry room, perhaps) or put a lock on that cabinet.

Medication
Make sure any medications are out of reach (in the medicine cabinet instead of the bathroom drawer, for example)

Smoke detectors
You need to have the appropriate number of smoke detectors/alarms based on the building codes of your state, and all need to be functional with working batteries.

Fire extinguisher
There needs to be a fire extinguisher stored in a reasonably accessible area. It doesn't have to be a full-sized one, something like this Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher is what we have.


Need help choosing a home study agency? I'd love to help! Feel free to email me

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The "Scary" Birth Family


It was my first time in a courtroom setting and when the judge asked for everyone to introduce themselves I said, "Meg". 
He asked, "Meg what?" 
"Oh, um, Weston."  
"And why are you here?" 
The caseworker nudged me and whispered, "Say you're the foster mom..."
"Sir, I'm the foster mom."

Thankfully that moment passed, but then I was overwhelmed by the presence of J's biological mother directly across from me while I was holding her baby. Once my nerves settled some, I got the courage up to look in her direction and to my surprise with tears in her eyes she lipped, “Thank you.” My walls of fear went tumbling down and I began to try to get J to smile for her. For a moment, she was able to enjoy her baby even though she couldn’t touch him.
The second court date, we were able to meet two other members of the family. They immediately came up to us in the waiting room as they recognized him. We formally introduced ourselves and his biological grandmother sat next to me while I held him. It was very awkward at first because I wasn’t sure if I could let them hold him and didn’t want to do it without the caseworker there. They seemed to sense this awkward moment too, because they didn’t ask to hold him either. It's something I am embarrassed to think about now. I should have let them hold him, but my fears were running a mile a minute which was unreasonable. 
After court, the caseworker asked if we’d be comfortable with them holding J. We agreed and so the caseworker asked if they would like to hold him. Their eyes lit up! They both were able to hold and kiss him. I remember wishing cameras were allowed in court houses. It was a beautiful moment to see J being loved on by his biological family. They gave him back to us and said thank you for taking care of him so well. J’s grandmother then leaned over and gave me a huge hug. It will go down as one of the best hugs I’ve ever received. She boldly broke a barrier and immediately made us on the same team for him, which is how it should be.

The next court date, they were there again. This time it was less awkward and more like friends. J's grandmother and aunt both said time and time again that they were in full support of him staying with us. His grandmother asked, “You would still be the ones to adopt him if it goes that way, right?” I reassured her by saying, “We are in love with him.” She smiled and said, “Good.” 

We talked about J’s development and they mentioned how they love the pictures of him on a private website we’ve set up. I was surprised, but they even requested that we add more pictures of us as a family and not just the ones of him by himself. They said they enjoyed seeing pictures of all of us together. Crazy, huh? The conversation then got deeper as the grandmother offered up that if we ever had any questions regarding family history or health issues that she would be more than happy to give us all the honest answers. She stated, “Anything. Really, I will tell you anything you want to know.” I asked a few questions there but hoped to ask more in the future as time went on and more trust was built up.
After court as we were leaving, his grandmother and aunt both gave me a hug. I stated, “It was good to see you again.” I wouldn’t believe 6 months before that that I would be there saying good to see you. It’s not that I had this expectation that they would be terrible people, but it was that I didn’t think we would have such a good relationship. I assumed it would be more distant. 
In our foster parent training, we viewed a film where there was scene of a birth family eating dinner at the family’s home. I thought it was a far stretch for that to ever happen when we were watching the film. However, I am honored to say that it's our reality.


I've heard many talk about a birth family as if they are a hindrance or inconvenience in the process, but I've learned that this attitude is the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, we miss them when they aren't able to make it to birthday parties, we plan Christmas get-togethers, and genuinely enjoy spending time with them. They cheer us on and we cheer them on. We've straight up become family. I don't explain this as a "look how great we are", but rather to open the minds of those who think about adoption only to shy away from it due to openness. Instead, I hope this sheds some light on open adoption as something that can be beautiful and authentic. 

Together we are motherhood.


Friday, September 20, 2019

What is ICPC?



When using the multi-agency approach, a hopeful adoptive family is often matched with an expectant mother out of their home state. After the baby is born and the birth mother’s consent is valid according to her state’s consent laws, a packet is prepared by the agency/attorney and sent to ICPC. 

ICPC stands for Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. It is an agreement between all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The purpose of the ICPC is to ensure that any child placed outside his or her home state is placed in a safe environment. 

The state in which the child was born reviews the packet of documentation. After deeming it sufficient, they will send the packet to the state in which the adoptive parents reside. In short, the states need to communicate. One state, responsible for the safety and well-being of the child, needs to make sure that another state is aware that this child will soon be a resident.

Only after ICPC of both states approve the placement, may the adoptive parents return home with the child and move forward with any legal proceedings. Processing generally takes about a week, but may take longer. Adoptive families should prepare to stay in the baby’s birth state for about 2-3 weeks. 

What can you do as you wait out ICPC? Bond with the baby! This often turns into a sacred time for the adoptive parents because you're free of visitors and the daily routine of being home. Instead it can be a time to catch up on sleep, snuggle with the baby, and start creating those important attachments. 



References:
https://afth.org/8275-2/
www.adoption.com

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Multi-Agency Approach


Traditionally, hopeful adoptive families apply with one adoption agency in their home state. The agency most likely has a large upfront fee and after paying it the family is placed on a waiting list. The profile book of the hopeful adoptive family is shown to expectant mothers who meet both the preferences of the expectant mother and hopeful adoptive family. In general, local agencies are smaller and work with a handful of expectant mothers per year. Since the agency works with a handful of expectant mothers, it often increases wait time (on average, at least waiting a year or more) for those hopeful adoptive families who choose to work with a single agency.

At Christian Adoption Consultants we know that the time between having a completed home study and profile book until being matched with an expectant mother can be the most challenging. That's why we recommend the multi-agency approach. Instead of applying to one adoption agency, the hopeful adoptive family applies to multiple agencies in adoptive friendly states that do not have a large upfront fee. This allows the family to have their profile book presented to more situations which often decreases the wait time.

At CAC, we have a recommended agency list where we've done the research. This means that a hopeful adoptive family who signs on with CAC can begin applying to agencies on our list and know that they are ethical as well as have a small application fee (or even waive the fee for CAC families).  In fact, families using CAC wait 5 1/2 months on average from the time their home study is complete until an adoption agency matches them and 6-12 months on average until the agency places a child with them.

If you are wanting more information on using an adoption consultant, I'd love to help you! Email me directly with questions and/or to request a free information packet.