It’s February

A month known to celebrate love, women’s heart health, chocolate, canned food, pies, dental health, and spay and neuter awareness.

In fact, one website, Holiday Insights, lists twelve special awareness campaigns celebrated in this one short month. (www.holidayinsights.com).

Probably the most important on this list is the official designation of Black History Month.

February gives us the ability to celebrate Black History Month.

There are special activities designated at sites throughout the state. The website Visit Indy (www.visitindy.com) suggests a tour of Indiana Avenue and the Madame Walker Theater Center or a visit to the Crispus Attacks Museum.

Visit Fort Wayne (www.visitfortwayne.com) offers the African/African-American Historical Society or Allen County Public Library as great places commemorate this part of our history.  

Live in South Bend? On February 23, 2019 there is a musical celebration of the African diaspora at the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center at 3:00 in the afternoon.  

For our southern Indiana families, Bloomington offers a fully packed schedule of activities that can be found at    https://bloomington.in.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/2019%20BHM%20Calendar_draft

Is there a better way to honor and celebrate Black History month?

What about having conversations about race?

Looking at historical figures who have made significant societal contributions is important, but hundreds of thousands of people live their lives without the rest of us knowing about them.

What is their experience of living day to day? What does a person of a different race or ethnicity think about you? How do you define racism? Do you see examples of segregation around you? How will you raise your children to embrace their own culture and celebrate the cultures of others? 

How will you be celebrating Black History Month?


Love Makes the World Go Around…

(and how to help keep it spinning) 

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching!

Have you bought a card for your sweetie? Found a babysitter and made your dinner reservations yet? Bought the roses and candy? Remembered to send your child’s birth mom a card and warm greetings? (Hey, this is an adoption related blog! Of course, we were going to slip that in there!) 

While there are multiple explanations of how the holiday started, including at least three different saints martyred on February 14, it has been linked to romance since Medieval England when Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales. Over time, celebrating this holiday has morphed into sharing love with anyone significant in our lives, not only romantic partners. 

According to a February 5, 2019 article on the website retailcustomerexperience.com, “Consumers are projected to spend more than ever on Valentine’s Day yet fewer will be celebrating the annual February love event.” This same website projects Americans will spend $20.7 billion on Valentine’s spending this year, or an average of $196.61 per person on this holiday. 

On the other hand, showing love does not have to involve spending money.

Homemade Valentine’s Cards are another tradition that dates back at least a couple hundred years! With today’s technology, it’s even easier to snap a photo, decorate it, and send it on to someone needing a smile. 

Which brings us back to sharing the love with birth families.

It’s not too late to send something through ASC, if that’s how you normally communicate. It’s definitely not too late to send something directly, if that’s how you normally communicate. 

Not yet matched or directly involved in an adoption?

There are still ways to spread a little love. Volunteer at your local pregnancy care center, donate to a women’s shelter, or get involved with any cause that is close to your heart. After all, the world could always use a little more kindness. 

So whether you spend the holiday as a romantic extravaganza or a cozy time with family remember that ten different song writers who claim “love makes the world go ‘round” can’t be wrong. We all need to do our part to keep that world spinning.


All You Need Is… Empathy?

(Also known as Empathy Makes the World Go ‘Round?)

Why is it that there are no great songs written about empathy?

Love may make you go weak in the knees, but empathy builds connections and helps you through the rough spots.

Empathy is the ability to relate to another person in the midst of their pain.

If you’ve ever had any experience with adoption—as an adoptee, a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or professional, empathy is a foundation on which to build the rest of the relationships.

While an expectant or birth parent may not understand the pain of infertility, they can understand the sadness that this brings to the adopting family. While an adoptive parent may not fully understand the circumstances in an expectant mother’s life that lead her to consider making an adoption plan, they can listen and relate to the pain of the difficulty. Neither the birth parents or adoptive parents may fully understand the feelings the adopted child has regarding their identity, but being able to offer empathy connects both sets of parents to the child.

Empathy is understanding and showing concern for other.

It helps build bridges and resolves conflicts. To be empathetic involves being present and limiting distractions. 

Empathy may not make it to hit song status, but it will definitely keep adoption relationships on a healthy track. 

Noted author and speaker Brene Brown explains empathy in this charming video. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw


Roots and Wings

There is a frequently quoted inspirational saying which asserts the two greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings. This has been interpreted to mean as parents we provide the foundation for our children so that they can develop into their own personalities and be able to chase their own dreams.

When our children are young, we make all their decisions for them.

What they wear, what they eat, where they sleep, their schedule…all of these things are determined by parents. After all, babies don’t choose their own onesies! As they grow, they begin to make their own choices. Sometimes we agree with these choices, sometimes we don’t. Have you ever seen a pre-schooler who has dressed herself in her favorite outfit?

Adoption adds another layer to all of this.

Adoptees have roots with both their birth AND adoptive families. Both sets of parents contribute to the person that the child becomes.

But what about wings?

What happens when all the days and years of love and choices and decisions made are done and the child—who had no voice or choice in the adoption to begin with—is now an adult?

When the adoptee becomes an adult, the decision for contact with birth families and adoptive families becomes their own. The person who was adopted at birth or during their childhood now can say if they want to meet their birth families or not. They can continue to develop adult relationships with the parents who raised them, or they can become distant from them. They can embrace the circumstances of their lives, or they may choose to reinvent themselves and have little to do with either birth or adoptive families.

These newfound wings can be stressful for both sets of parents.

Will the adoptee want to meet the birth family? Some birth parents want to meet; some birth parents do not want to meet. Will the adoptive parents welcome the birth parents in their adult child’s life? Or will this be stressful and unwelcome to the adoptive parents?

Many of the answers to these questions depend on how the adoptive family tended to the roots.

Did they water the seeds of love planted by the birth family? Did they provide opportunity for discussions about identity and adoption? Did they speak of the birth family with gratitude, kindness and respect?  

Some adult adoptees use their wings and fly toward their birth families. Others fly in a different direction. Yet the flight does not have to be between the two families who gave the adoptee roots; the adoptee can fly along side both. 


Grief and Anger

Most people recognize sadness as a part of grief.

If you see someone crying, it’s easy to make the assumption that something is wrong. Tears and sadness are a combination that everyone seems to understand. 

Anger is also a part of grief.

It’s that little understood part, because let’s face it. No one likes to be around an angry person. It’s like standing next to a can of pop that has exploded. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know where the pop will spray or what kind of mess it will cause.

Anger is one of those things that build.

One little thing after another adds to the emotions that are stirring inside, and it only takes one thing to cause an explosion. 

So what can be done to prevent an anger explosion? 

First, know that being angry is perfectly ok.

Own your feeling! Anger is just an emotion. A powerful one, sure. But so is joy.

After a loss, it is quite natural to feel anger. A word of caution, though. If expressing your anger causes you to hurt yourself or someone else, you may need to do some damage repair. Apologize for the action, but don’t apologize for the emotion. If you apologize for the emotion, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of rising anger that has nowhere else to go.  

Second, recognize anger for what it is.

As we tell toddlers, “use your words”! Recognizing and naming anger takes away some of the unpredictability associated with how anger is expressed. Mark Twain famously said “When angry count four; when very angry swear.” This is really good advice! Swearing gives voice to the anger and is a way to express it without it building up inside to a greater level.

Third, know that anger doesn’t last forever.

Remember that other old saying, “what comes up, must come down?” We aren’t designed to stay in a heightened emotional state forever. Think back to your last ugly cry. Did you need a good long nap afterward? That’s because our bodies aren’t designed to carry that much intensity all the time.

Finally, find someone with whom you can safely let off this anger.

A close friend, a counselor or a therapist are good places to start. If your anger is related to adoption, find a therapist who understands adoption issues and can help you find ways to express it.  


I HEREBY RESOLVE…

So here it is, another new year. Welcome to 2019! 

For almost half of Americans, making a resolution for the new year is a part of the tradition of the holiday. These generally are self-improvement based…lose weight, add a fitness routine, improve personal finances, or stop smoking. 

Do these resolutions work? Do those Americans who make resolutions become thinner, fitter, and richer?

The statistics aren’t good.

One recent study suggests that a full 80% of resolutions fail by February. To combat this, the internet and other media are full of suggestions designed to help resolution makers be successful. 

One of those suggestions is to frame your resolution in positive terms. Rather than giving up something, add a little something to your life. One study suggests that people who are motivated to make a difference in the world tend to keep those resolutions as it leads to a sense of peace and happiness while contributing to society.

So here’s a new year challenge from ASC.

Resolve to make the world of adoption a better institution.

Like all resolutions, making the world of adoption a better place is much to broad of a goal. Psychologists also suggest taking small steps that are concrete and lead to an immediate sense of reward tend to keep propelling us forward.

What can you do to improve adoption?

Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Resolve to listen to one perspective other than your own each month. For example, if you are an adoptive parent, listen to a podcast from a birth family or adoptee to better understand their experiences. 
  2. Resolve to provide assistance to an organization that advocates for members of the adoption triad. Assistance can be given in the form of your time, your finances or your positive recommendation and encouragement. 
  3. Resolve to speak up! Share your story. Comment on social media on the stories of others. 

Here’s to 2019! What do you resolve? 


My heart is full.

Today I watched the beginning of a miracle. Working in adoption is hard. It’s filled with joy, but it’s also filled with grief and brokenness. 

So much of the work done in adoption is done prior to the delivery of the baby.

It’s careful consideration on the part of the expectant mother. It’s looking at all the options and who is on her team. Who will be there to help with parenting, survival, emotional support?  

It’s equally careful consideration on the part of the adopting parents. Is adoption a calling? Is adoption a choice because of infertility? Do the adoptive parents-to-be understand that the child will always be a part of the birth parents, even if they do not see them often (or even at all)?  

And then there is placement.

One family says “good-bye” to a child they have only met, and another says “welcome home”. “Bittersweet” may be the word that best describes the emotions swirling around placement time, but it only begins to scratch the depths of the emotions involved.  

 Then time passes and life happens.

The child grows and matures, as do both sets of parents. From toddlerhood to adulthood, adoption remains with the both families, and is always a part of the child’s identity.  Emotions ebb and flow.  

As an adoption professional, I’ve been on the preparation end of the process for more years than I care to admit. As an adoptive parent, I’ve watched my girls navigate the ups and downs of childhood and adolescence, and then I’ve watched them become mothers. But I’ve seldom had the privilege to be a part of an adoption reunion. 

That is changing.

Today I watched two mothers come together after more than 20 years apart. The foundation is being laid for the child who is now an adult to meet the family that created her.  

Questions will be asked. Answers will be given.  

Maybe—just maybe—some of the broken pieces will be made whole.  

Wishing you all grace and peace — Diane 


A Four-Letter Word that Has No Place in Adoption

How careful are you in the words that you use? How careful are the people around you in the words they choose? Are there any words or phrases that make you uncomfortable? That are overused until they lose their meaning?

There are many words used when talking about adoption.

There are words that describe the process. Words that describe the emotions. Words that describe all the people involved. Much has been said and written about the correct terminology. This is NOT one of those lectures or pleas.

This post has to do with a small descriptive word of only four letters. It is used so frequently most people do not even realize they are saying it or how it might sound to the other person in the conversation.

Ready?

Here are the four little letters… J-U-S-T. Just. As in, “If you can’t take care of your baby, just give it up for adoption.” Or “If you can’t get pregnant, just adopt a kid.” Just.

Making the decision to place a baby for adoption is emotional. It is gut wrenchingly difficult. It is not done without thought, care, or information. The emotional cost in placing a child for adoption is often life-long. There is no just about it.

Likewise, the decision to adopt a baby or child is emotional. For families experiencing infertility, just adopting involves letting go of the dream of having a biological connection to a child. For all families hoping to adopt, there is a lengthy process of background checks, home visits, and questions about motives. Adoptive families sometimes feel as though this process is intrusive and unfair. There is no just about it.

What can you say instead? Is there a replacement for just?

How about “I care about you. Can I offer any suggestions?” Or “If you need to talk, I’m ready to listen?

And if you can’t think of anything at all to say, just don’t say anything. Be a presence. Show your love. That will always be appreciated.


Rights and Responsibilities for Adoptive Parents

Adoption is an emotionally charged experience.

No matter if you come to adoption from infertility or because of a faith calling, it involves the lives of not just the child, but the lives of the child’s birth family and extended family. Adoption has an impact on the siblings the child may have in either the biological family or the adoptive family, the community in which the child lives, and the schools the child attends. Entering into an adoption relationship should be done only after much soul searching and with an open and committed heart.   

Keeping that in mind, as you find yourself in the adoption process, you should remember that as adopting parents you have both rights and responsibilities. Regardless of how you come to adoption – after experiencing infertility, having biological children, or through a sense of calling – these rights and responsibilities are an important part of the journey  

The rights include of adoptive parents include:   

  • The right to be treated with respect and honesty. 
  • The right to have emotional support before, during, and after the adoption placement. 
  • The right to ask questions and receive answers about all steps of the process. 
  • The right to review and understand all legal paperwork before you sign it. 
  • The right to receive counseling services before, during and after the adoption placement. 
  • The right to health information about the child you are adopting, including any prenatal drug exposure or communicable disease. 
  • The right to refuse the placement of a child whose needs exceed your ability to care for that child 

Rights always come along with responsibilities. These responsibilities include: 

  • Treating others involved in your adoption with respect and honesty. 
  • Create a “go-to” person or team who is familiar with adoption issues who can help you answer your questions, and support you with your thoughts and feelings before, during, and after the adoption placement. 
  • Ask questions!  
  • Request a copy of the legal paperwork before you file a petition for adoption with the court. 
  • Process your infertility losses. Understand that having a child through adoption is not a “cure” or fix for infertility. Use the services of a counselor, pastor, or trusted friend who understands what you have been through and will help keep you moving forward. 
  • Be honest if your plans change. If you become pregnant during your adoption journey before the placement of a child into your home, place your adoption plans on hold. Focus on one birth at a time! 
  • Ask for medical records and review them with your child’s medical professional. 
  • Be realistic about your abilities as a parent. 

While these are general rights and responsibilities for adoptive parents, adoptive parents also have more responsibilities to their child that are unique to adoption and are key to developing a healthy sense of identity in the child.

These responsibilities include: 

  • Being honest with your child about the adoption piece of their identity. 
  • Speaking respectfully and lovingly of your child’s birth family. 
  • Using positive adoption language. 
  • Remembering your child’s story is their own and share it only with those with a true need to know. 

No single list is all inclusive. Remember the Golden Rule as you meet expectant parents and develop a relationship with them as your child is growing.  Above all else, you have the responsibility to understand the adopted child carries a piece of their biological family with them forever, and this should be celebrated!    


Livin’ on a Prayer

It’s quite common to hear people voicing their prayers, asking for prayers, and sending thoughts and prayers. Whether it’s from the pulpit of a church or a shared post on Facebook, it seems as though prayer is pervading every part of our lives. Those associated with the world of adoption hear prayer requests all the time. Even those who do not think of themselves as religious or even particularly spiritual seem to both seek and offer prayer when an adoption situation is mentioned.

So, if you are praying for an adoption situation, what exactly are you praying for?

(Or to keep the grammarians happy, for what are you praying?) As an adoptive couple, are you praying the woman who just gave birth will sign those papers so that you can take the baby home? Are you praying the baby is healthy? Is the prayer to keep away a family member who wants to take the baby home instead of you? Maybe your prayer is a little more personal. Maybe your prayer is a little more along the lines of “please don’t let me be hurt again. I can’t handle any more disappointments.”

But wait! Is there anything wrong with asking an adoption go smoothly? Is there anything wrong with praying for the birth parents to sign a consent, for a healthy baby, for the storybook ending? Maybe not. Yet maybe there is something truly limiting in this type of prayer.

What about prayers for the woman who has just given birth?

Even more challenging, what about prayers for the woman whose children just entered foster care? How about praying for the extended biological family of that baby who are losing their chance to be grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins? Where do the siblings of the baby fit in? Is a prayer for your happiness and ease all that matters?

It has been said that prayer is a conversation. There are always two parts to any conversation—speaking and listening. The speaking comes easily. The listening often takes more work. And in an emotionally charged situation, like adoption, the listening gets crowded out by our own wants, hopes, and dreams.

So here’s a challenge.

When you ask or are asked for prayers regarding an adoption, pray for strength and peace for the birth family, and for joy in the life of the baby. And then be prepared to listen—even if it’s an answer you don’t like. Listen to the voice inside that says you were meant a part of this other family’s story, for just a little bit. Listen to the voice that says you made this woman’s last part of pregnancy a little easier. Listen to the voice that says your example showed her children they have value and worth.

When you do get to bring your baby home, don’t let the prayer conversation end. Let the prayers you speak reflect gratitude. And let the prayers you hear result in actions that show the world that same gratitude.