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Birth Certificates and Adoption

You have done a lot of work to be recognized as your child’s “legal parents”  — a homestudy, post placement visits, matching with a birthmother, placement and then filing an adoption petition etc. The last step before you can apply for a social security card for your child is to obtain a birth certificate with the child’s formal name and your names listed as the parents. Let’s look at the formal process for obtaining a birth certificate and why it’s important.

In domestic adoptions, once your decree of adoption is entered by the court, then the Department of Vital Records in the state where your child was or will be born is directed to create a new birth certificate. In adoptions, the original birth certificate given at the hospital — often referred to as the “mother’s copy of the birth certificate” will be sealed. The new birth certificate will list you as the parents and use the name you have chosen for the baby. Unless you have an open adoption, you will not receive the mother’s copy of the birth certificate.

If your baby was born in North Carolina, it will normally take four to six months  for a new birth certificate to be prepared. You will need to get the birth certificate from the Department of Vital Records. Their contact information is 919-733-3000, extension 5886. The address is: N.C. Vital Records, Special Registration Unit, 1903 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1903. As of 2016, there is a $24 fee for the first copy of the birth certificate and then an additional $15 for each additional copy requested on the initial application. There is also a one time $15 processing fee.

We recommend that you request three certified copies of your child’s birth certificate and keep the certificates in different safe places. You can request additional copies over time, but it is easiest to get multiple copies when you originally request them. Since many adoptees want information about their birth parents, we suggest that you store the birthmother’s copy of the birth certificate in the same location as the new formal birth certificate. We also recommend that if you are going to actually pick up your birth certificate that you call and make an appointment.

If your child was born out of state, then the North Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) will prepare a package to send to the state where the child was born to prepare a new birth certificate, listing you as the child’s parents. We recommend waiting several months and then calling the Department of Vital Records in the state where the child was born and check to see if they have received the package from North Carolina. The cost for the out of state birth certificate will depend on that state.

This article was originally posted at our sister website, Herring & Mills Family Law Firm.

Adopting & Raising a Child with Special Needs – Things to Know

There are many adoptive parents who have taken on the loving and demanding job of adopting and raising a child with special needs. In my mind, these parents are as special as the children they adopt.

What I hear frequently from adoptive parents who are offered the opportunity to adopt a child born with special needs is that if they had given birth to the child then they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right in, even though they know it’s going to be demanding. And even as adoptive parents, they think of the child as their own almost from the start and they become fierce advocates. For many, it’s a lifetime commitment.

One of my favorite memories as an adoption agency director is seeing a three year old named Matthew laughing at a local mall as he tried to run away from his parents, Jack and Peggy. His parents smiled broadly. They were so proud. He was a beautiful toddler, with black curls and a smile that was big and open. And he didn’t walk, he ran.

“And this is the child that we were told might never walk,” Peggy said. “And look at him now. We have to run to keep up.”

The family added another son by adoption, Michael, a few years later. Now the brothers are best friends. Michael was born with a life threatening physical condition called esophageal fistula. He was airlifted shortly after birth to a major medical center. Jack and Peggy were with him while he had seven operations, first to connect his esophagus to his stomach and then later to remove a finger that didn’t function and construct a thumb from his index finger. He still has challenges swallowing and has had four procedures in the last two years.

Jack and Peggy’s time and heart commitment has been enormous. But Michael is now thirteen years old and doing well!

“You have to take on what you feel you can handle,” Peggy said recently. “We feel blessed. “

Surrogacy Adoption and Twins

It’s always a very special holiday season for any family when there is a newborn in the house. But when there are two newborns as twins, and the twins were carried by a surrogate who is their aunt, well as you might expect there is even more magic and excitement in the air.

When 34-year-old Tiffany and her husband Will were not able to carry a second pregnancy to term, they consulted with the fertility specialists at Carolina Conceptions in Raleigh. Tiffany and Will have a six-year-old biological daughter, but they wanted a sibling for her and Tiffany was not able to conceive a second child. It was decided that the best way for Tiffany and Will to add to their family was through the surrogacy adoption process.

And what better surrogate than Tiffany’s own sister, Jennifer, who is 36 and lives only about one mile from Will and Tiffany. Jennifer volunteered to carry a child for her sister. The result was a twin pregnancy and a birth on November 18 of two healthy babies – a boy Liam and a girl Lee.

The pregnancy was high risk and Jennifer suffered through kidney stones, but all turned out well. The twins arrival was a bit more dramatic than hoped for when Jennifer had an emergency labor and had to go to a local emergency room due to some complications, but, the twins are healthy and Jennifer has recovered from the difficult pregnancy.

All has turned out well. It’s obvious when you see these two sisters together that there is a lot of love. Little Liam and Lee have a special aunt who helped her sister with the dream of having more children.

This article was originally posted at HerringandMillsLawfirm.com. E. Parker Herring is a Board Certified Family Law Specialist and has practiced family law for nearly 30 years.

Birthmothers and the Best Gift of All

A birthmother placing a newborn baby into the intended adoptive parents arms for the first time is an emotional moment any time of year. But when a newborn is placed for adoption at Christmas, emotions can easily run much higher.   

Last Sunday, I watched as a young woman with an unplanned pregnancy have her baby’s adoptive parents visit her in the hospital to meet the baby. She wanted them to share in the moment. She had delivered him three days before and she cuddled the baby on her chest and watched as she handed the baby over to the new adoptive mom to be. She said how much she loved him.

Everyone in the hospital room tried to hold their emotions in check. North Carolina law allows birth parents seven (7) days to revoke her consent. Even though the birth mother in this hospital room had signed relinquishments the day before, all were mindful that despite all her best intentions that she could change her mind and the baby they were holding would not be theirs to raise.

The birth mother admitted that she was feeling very emotional, but she knew that she was giving the Best Gift of All to a young couple who had struggled for years with infertility and waited with an adoption agency for a child to love and call their own. And she smiled when their eyes filled with tears as they held him.

What do your adopted children want from you as the adoptive parent?

Now that the adoption agency I founded here in North Carolina is 16 years old, and now that my two adopted sons are teenagers, I’ve learned a bit about what adoptees (adopted children) want over time from me as an adoptive mother. Every adoption situation is different, but there are some common threads:

Adoptees want to hear their birth story:

Birthdays and holidays like Christmas and Easter can be hard for adoptees. That is why we encourage adoptive parents in open adoptions to send photographs and update them three times a year at a minimum – the child’s birthday, and Christmas and Easter. We get the most inquiries from birthmothers who have placed their children on the child’s birthday and around the holidays.

And if you are adopted, hearing the story about the first time you as an adoptive mother saw you and held you is very important. Share these details. Share photographs from the hospital if you were lucky enough to be there and also share photographs from placement day (or “Gotcha day!” as they’re sometimes called).

Adoptees want to be reassured that you will never abandon them:

For adoptees, I think there is often the question of why didn’t she keep me? It’s especially important with adopted children that their adopted parents remind them frequently that adoption is forever. I tell my sons that “I will always be there for you” and when one of them acts out or makes a mistake, I let them know that there is nothing they can do that will stop me from loving them. It’s my mantra, and no matter how they act out, I repeat it.

Adoptees deserve to know why they were placed for adoption:

It’s important for adopted parents to share what they know about what was behind the birthparents’ decision to place them for adoption rather than raise the child. Whether she was an unwed teenager or a woman struggling with addictions, domestic violence or poverty, information about why there was an adoption helps adoptees cope with the reality that they couldn’t be raised in their birth family.

When the facts behind placement are especially dire – rape and incest, abuse by a birthparent, etc. the facts can be shared at a later time in development when the child can understand. In the meantime, if the adopted parents met the birthmother, telling the child about shared physical characteristics you observed is a link that helps an adoptee feel connected.

Adoptees need to know that they were not a mistake:

No one is a mistake. But I think for adopted children it can look and feel that way. Little do they know that many pregnancies are not planned, whether there is an adoption or not. But when you are an adoptee, it’s important to state the obvious often and without reserve – “I am so glad you were born! You have made me so happy! And I will always love you!”

When I told my son this recently, he challenged me. “But I was a mistake!” he yelled.

I hesitated and then recovered. “Not to your dad and me,” I said. “God made you just for us.”

How long will we have to wait to adopt?

Two questions we get the most when talking to prospective adoptive parents is 1) how long they will have to wait before adopting, and 2) how much will it cost.

Wait times in domestic adoptions are directly related to the adoptive parents openness to the “issues” that you see in adoption. The more open the adoptive parents are to these issues the shorter wait time they will have. 

The biggest issue is race, and the longest wait is for full Caucasian. The shortest wait is for African American. I’ve seen statistics quoted that for every full Caucasian baby available for adoption there are 45 to 50 couples that would be open to that situation. The reverse is true for African American. There are at any one time in the US at least 45 or 50 African American babies available for adoption.

The second biggest issue is gender. If you are gender specific then you are going to increase your wait. Girls are less available than boys.

Another issue is alcohol and substance abuse during pregnancy. Women with unplanned pregnancies may have consumed alcohol and substances that normally they wouldn’t consume if they had been planning a pregnancy. We advise adoptive parents to look at each situation and do research on the effects of alcohol and other substances.

Another key issue in adoptions is the identity of the birthfather and the willingness of an identified birthfather to sign consents to the adoption. Its not uncommon for a woman placing for adoption to name multiple birthfathers. Although each case should be examined for legal risk, as turning down adoption opportunities because there is uncertainty about the birthfather is going to increase wait time. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate the risk and make a decision on whether the opportunity is a good one for you.

Other issues in adoption include no prenatal care or irregular prenatal care, and mental and physical health issues in the birth parents or their extended families that can be passed on to the unborn child.

And the more open adoptive parents are to open adoptions, the shorter their wait time can be for a child. There is a definite trend towards openness in adoptions, and in North Carolina by law all adoptions are open by law. So if you limit yourself to a closed or semi-open adoption, you are going to have a much longer wait.

Adoption & Parents: Will my child hate me?

There are a multitude of misconceptions about adoption that can cause worry for both prospective birth parents or adopting families. Adoptive parents might wonder if they will be able to love an adopted child as much as their biological children, and sometimes birth parents worry that their adopted child will have ill feelings toward them.

However, some are working to fight that preconceived notion. The U.S. Department of Health and Services has published the most recent statistics from the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP). This is the first of its kind, an empirical study with verifiable data that can be used to fight common misunderstandings that birth parents and adoptive families have about the adoptive process. These stats show that many of the more widespread misconceptions are simply incorrect.

Here a a few general adoption misconceptions: 

“Will the adopted child enjoy as much love as a biological child?”

This is an expected feeling that both the adoptive family and birth parents share before adopting. Any fear of the adoptive family not caring for a child simply because it doesn’t have their genes are quickly gone as soon as the adoptive parents first sees their child. This is true for almost every adoption! 

Just watch how the adoptive parents interact with the adopted child: Nearly 75% of adopted children ages one to five are read to or sang to every day, compared with only half of non-adopted children who receive the same attention from their biological parents. That’s amazing!

Moreover, well over 50% of all adopted children eat dinner with their families at least 6 days per week.

It’s no surprise that adoption statistics show how much adoptive parents cherish the time they have with their children. And it shows, because they appreciate every day the opportunity to be a mom and a dad. They are the first ones at their son’s team’s practice, and they are in the front row of their daughter’s play. Their lives simply revolve around their kids. 

“My child will hate me because I placed her for adoption?”

This notion comes about from people and media that are inexperienced in adoption, or simply too caught up in Hollywood depictions of the adoption process. A family member or a friend who might not agree with a pregnant woman’s desire to place her child for adoption might try to claim that the child might hate the parent if this were to happen. And some television shows and movies have unjustly portrayed adopted kids in this way as well. 

But here are the facts: around nine out of ten adopted children ages 5 and older have good, positive feelings about their adoption. Most adopted children are raised in happy homes by loving adoptive parents, so why would an adopted child hate his birth parents, the ones who provided him with a great life and his mom and dad? Think about it.

A few more points about adoption myths:

-The best way to ensure that your child knows that you love him or her is to give the adoptive parents something – a letter or a life book – that will show your love and express how you feel. In the letter you can explain why you made the decision to place for adoption.

-In “open adoptions” you can over the years show your love and affection by staying in touch. Look up studies on how adoptive children feel and quote from it. (Adoption Institute, Adoptive Families, etc.) Follow up with communication over the years that can be passed on to your child as he grows.

-Cases where the adopted child doesn’t know why the adoption plan was made are more likely to result in anger towards the birth parents, so make sure that you provide a letter and pictures, and express how you feel.

Top Adoption Myths, Busted

The most common concerns I hear from birth mothers regarding adoption are concerns about the child feeling abandonment or resentment toward their birth mother, and also whether adoptive parents have the capacity to love adopted children as much as they would a biological child. These seem like logical questions at first, unless you’ve worked with adoptive families for years. The length that these families go through to adopt — the expense, the work, and the time that these families invest in the process — is reflective of a very strong desire for a family.  And the absolute joy in their hearts when they are matched with a child is nothing short of extraordinary. These children are the most wanted, adored, and loved on the planet!

As open adoptions have become the norm for our agency, we encourage birth mothers to communicate with the child over the years. The best way for you to assure that your child knows that you love him is to give the adoptive parents something – a letter or a life book – that will show your love and express how you feel. Then continue to follow up over the years, and the child will be assured that you never forgot them, and only want the best for them.

The U.S. Department of Health and Services has posted the latest adoption statistics taken from the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP). This is the first empirical study with quantifiable evidence that can be used to combat common misconceptions that prospective birth parents and adoptive families have about adoption. These adoption statistics prove many of the more widespread misconceptions to be false.

General Adoption Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics

Misconception: “Will the adopted child be loved as much as a biological child?”

This is a very natural feeling that both the adoptive family and birth parents share before entering into an adoption. Any fears of the adoptive family not loving a child simply because it doesn’t have their genes are immediately eliminated as soon as the adoptive parents first lay eyes on their baby. This is true in nearly every single adoption.

Look no further than how the adoptive parents interact with the adopted child: Nearly 3 out of every 4 adopted children ages 0-5 are read to or sang to every day, compared with only half of non-adopted children who receive the same attention from their biological parents. Furthermore, well over half of all adopted children eat dinner with their families at least six days per week. 

It’s no surprise that the adoption statistics show how much adoptive parents cherish the time they have with their children. They appreciate every day the opportunity to be a mom and a dad, and it shows.

They are the first ones at their son’s soccer practice, and they are in the front row of their daughter’s play. Their lives quite literally revolve around their children.

At first glance, the statistic about the majority of adopted children being read to every day may not seem like much, but looking further into the stat gives a glimpse into what adoptive parents are all about. Couples who struggle with infertility gain an astounding appreciation for the gift of parenthood. Adoption presents the couple with another chance to reclaim their dreams of raising a child, and it shows in the little things, such as reading to him or her before bed.

Another national adoption statistic says that 9 out of every 10 adoptive couples said the relationship they share with their adopted child is “very close,” and nearly half said that their relationship is even “better than expected.” Also, more than 9 out of every 10 people said they would “definitely” make the same decision to adopt again.

These statistics are remarkable considering all of the special needs babies that are adopted and the other complexities that may occur through adoption. These statistics proves that no matter how difficult the adoption process can be emotionally, the end result is what matters and that the family unequivocally loves the child.

Birth Mother Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics

Misconception: “My child will hate me because I placed her for adoption.”

This feeling is a consequence of people and media that are inexperienced in adoption. An extended family member or a friend who may not agree with the pregnant woman’s desire to place her child for adoption may say that the child will hate her if she goes through with it. Similarly, some television shows and movies have unjustly portrayed adoptees in this way as well.

The adoption statistic shows that over 90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption. Most adopted children are raised in happy homes by loving adoptive parents, so why would an adopted child hate his birth parents, the ones who provided him with a great life and his mom and dad?

Recently we posted a blog by a woman who shared her journey as an adopted child, speaking of the love that she felt for her adoptive mother, who she knew only as “Mom.” It’s a beautiful testament to the bond between mother and child that has little to do with biology, and everything to do with love.

For more, read about how Scott and Jennifer feel about their birth parents.

Birth mothers who are considering placing their child for adoption, are encouraged to contact A Child’s Hope on our 24-hour hotline at 877-890-4673 or text “pregnant” to 919-971-4396. Our compassionate counselors can listen and provide the information you need to make the best decision for you and your child.

Things on a Birth Mother’s Mind

Ask almost any pregnant woman and she’ll tell you: her mind races from anxiety to anticipation in a heartbeat. For a pregnant woman who has decided to place her child for adoption, the emotional roller coaster may have even greater ups and downs.

Deciding on Adoption Details

Birth mothers may need to decide on a family for their child. In an open adoption, the most common kind, the birth mother may meet many adoptive families, trying to decide which one will be a good fit for the baby. The birth mothers must determine what legal issues to negotiate related to the adoption, such as type and frequency of communication or visits.

Dealing with Questions About the Decision

In addition, birth mothers must face the barrage of questions such as “what are you going to name the baby” and other questions that assume the woman will raise the baby. Does she explain to everyone who asks that she has made the difficult, but loving decision to place her child for adoption? Does she say nothing or lie, just to avoid getting into a potential conversation or debate?

It’s not just strangers a birth mother may have to defend her decision to, but family and friends as well. Although adoption is a deeply personal issue, it’s not uncommon for others to offer opinions about what the birth mother should do. Most birth mothers, however, have given this option a great deal of thought and have done significant research before coming to the decision that this is in the best interest of the child. Rather than receiving criticism, birth mothers should receive support.

Keeping Themselves and Their Babies Healthy

Most birth mothers are deeply committed to keeping their babies healthy, and marvel at the baby’s growth. The mothers know they must take care of themselves and their babies—by eating well, exercising, going to regular prenatal doctor’s visits and taking pre-natal vitamins. If a birth mother needs bed rest or special care, she must figure out how to manage work, other children or commitments while keeping her unborn baby safe.

Worrying About the Baby’s Reaction Later in Life

Will the baby, once grown, understand why adoption was the best choice? Even when the birth mother is at peace with the decision, she still may wonder if the child will understand. The birth mother has no illusions: she knows it will be difficult not raising her child, but many birth parents find that staying in touch with the adoptive family makes it a little easier. In addition, with the opportunity to communicate with the child through an open adoption, a birth parent can convey the reasons for the sacrifice.

A birth mother has many things on her mind because she, like every mother, wants to ensure the best outcome for her child.

If you are considering adoption and want to learn more, or need support, please call A Child’s Hope in Raleigh, NC. Our understanding counselors can provide the information you need to make the right decision for you and your child throughout the North Carolina area. Dial our 24-hour hotline at 877-890-4673 or text “pregnant” to 919-971-4396.

A Letter To My Child — How Can I Let Them Know…

Although a birthmother may not be there for the little things like feeding, diapering and other daily tasks which help a child know that he or she is loved, there is a lot that a woman placing a baby for adoption can do before and after the process to help their child understand the difficult and brave act of asking someone else to raise their child.

These following notes are written as suggestions for a birthmother and birthfathers struggling with how to explain this either at the time, or perhaps in the future:

Letters — Write a letter to your child for the adoptive parents to read to him or her later in life. It’s important that this letter comes from your own words and from your heart. Explain why you made the decision, how much you love him or her and how he or she will always be in your heart. Sometimes, handwritten can have the best affect. For some ideas see this post.

Lifebooks — Consider doing a photo book. Known as lifebooks, these scrapbooks can include photographs about you and the birthfather so that over time the child can get to know you. For some ideas on photo books, see this example.

Make something for the child — Making a blanket or a stuffed animal for the baby or buying something for the child to keep and be told is from you is a great way for the child to have something tangible that represents your love. One idea is that you might consider a stuffed animal “mother and baby” so that you can keep the baby and the child will have the matching “mother”. If you are okay with parting with a stuffed animal or toy that you had as a child, that is a wonderful link to you as well for the child to keep.

Books about Adoption — Purchase a children’s book about adoption and inscribe on the inside something from your heart … like ”never forget how much I love you!” etc. For a list of children’s books about adoption see this list.

Naming the child — Ask the adoptive parents to work with you on choosing a name for the child. Many parents will often incorporate part of their name into the child’s name, or perhaps part of the name that the birthparent was going to pick. To start, ask the adoptive parents to tell the child where his/her name came from and build on that. Names are a touchy subject and if you are uncomfortable bringing up the suggestion, sometimes a counselor can help. If you don’t have a counselor, email or ask the question in a note to the adoptive parents and make sure they understand you’re coming from the heart. While many parents are skittish to make such a request, it’s common for adoptive parents to be very helpful here as they want the child to form strong and healthy bonds.

Stay in touch. Both with open and semi-open adoptions, you can send letters and pictures over the years to your child – Birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, and all other holidays. Send the card in advance so the child actually receives on his/her holiday celebration and remembers that you were planning this ahead of time! Your pictures show the child how you are doing and can help form stronger bonds.

Send clothes. Ask the adoptive parents for the current size the child wears and send some thoughtful clothing, perhaps married to the current season or weather.

Visits — Remember, the best way to connect with a child and show them you care is to visit and do so enthusiastically and lovingly!

Birthmother Hotline: (877) 890-4673

Se Habla Español: 1 (866) 805-2323 (BEBE)

Text: Pregnant to (919) 971-4396