Adoption

Why Adoption Wait Times Are Longer For Some Families

By Parker Herring

One question I am always asked is, “how long will it take to adopt?” The answer is always, “it depends.”

A family’s wait time is dependent on how open they are to the seven common factors seen in adoption.

The Race of the Child
The single most significant factor in how long a family has to wait for a baby is their willingness to adopt a child of a different race. While consideration of race is important for many adoptive families, having openness in adopting a minority-race child will dramatically shorten the wait time.

Over the past 20 years directing an adoption agency in North Carolina, I have observed firsthand that the number of minority newborns and children of color available for adoption outnumber Caucasian children three to one.

Specifying Gender
If a family specifies that they only want a boy or a girl, the wait time may increase. While 51% of babies born are male, by specifying a gender – male or female, the adopting family automatically eliminates themselves from consideration as parents to at least 49% of the available children. Moreover, the decision to place a child for adoption is seldom predicated on the child’s gender. So, there may be periods when nearly 100% of the available babies are not a gender match.

Tolerance for Birth Mother Substance Use 
At a Child’s Hope, one in four women considering adoption for their baby admit to consuming alcohol and using other substances. There is a nationwide opioid abuse crisis, and drug use among pregnant women has increased proportionately. It is typical to see alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use in many of the opportunities. The openness and willingness to evaluate each situation individually will allow prospective parents to say YES to more birth mother situations.

Birth Mother Prenatal Care
A woman with an unplanned pregnancy may not realize she’s expecting until after the second trimester. Several times a year, we have birth mothers who wait until they get to the hospital before they make an adoption plan. In these cases, the birth mother may not have had any prenatal care.

In addition, she may have issues that stand in the way of making all of the recommended doctor visits like transportation, childcare, or work conflicts. A Child’s Hope works hard from the time the birth mothers’ signs with the agency to ensure regular prenatal care going forward. We will even accompany her to appointments. Therefore, acceptance of a less-than-perfect prenatal history opens the door to more available babies.

A Verified Birth Father from the Outset
Situations where the birth father has been identified, provided DNA and signed a parental release only account for roughly 60% of the adoption scenarios. That leaves about

40% of A Child’s Hope placements that have complicated birth father issues. In these cases, the expecting mother may state she doesn’t know who the father is, or name multiple men. Even when the correct name and contact information is provided, he may not be locatable or responsive. Every situation is different; evaluate accordingly.

Family Medical History
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness says 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness. The National Health Council reports that chronic disease affects more than 40% of Americans. Insisting on a clean bill of physical and mental health from both birth parents can greatly prolong wait time in adoption situations.

Level of Openness
Generally, there are three types of adoptions available: Closed, which means that neither the adoptive parents nor the birth parents meet, see pictures or stay in touch. Closed adoptions are rare today. Semi-open is when the adoptive parents and birth patents communicate through the agency over the years. Open adoption is where adoptive parents and birth parents exchange contact information, and then set a plan for communication. At A Child’s Hope, approximately 98% of birth parents are looking for an open adoption.

How these decisions may affect wait times:

The wait may be three years or more if:

  1. The child must be a full Caucasian girl; and
  2. The birth mother had prenatal care throughout the pregnancy never consuming nicotine, alcohol or drugs; and
  3. The birth father provided DNA as well as signed a parental release; and
  4. The birth parents are in peak mental and physical condition; and
  5. The adoption must be closed or semi-open

The wait may be less than one year if:

  1. The adoption is open; and
  2. The child can be an African American boy; and or
  3. The adopting parents are flexible on prenatal care, substance usage by the birth mother, as well as the overall health of both birth parents; and or
  4. The adopting parents are willing to work through birth father issues.

No Regrets
The family you are building is YOURS and a lifelong decision. So, it is perfectly okay to be clear on your child’s race, gender, prenatal care and other considerations. So be patient. The right child for you is out there, but it requires patience. He or she may not have been conceived yet.

Great Parenting Books for Waiting Families

By Parker Herring

All expectant parents, including adoptive parents, need to prepare for a new baby. Parenting books come in a variety of styles and formats. One author might not appeal to you, while another author’s style and the layout you may find very readable.

Recommendations from my personal library of parenting books

Touchpointsseries by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton M.D., revised by Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow M.D.
This is a two-book collection – “Birth to Three” and “Three to Six.” Dr. Brazelton was a Harvard medical professor and Director of the Children’s Hospital in Boston. The fully updated second edition by Dr. Sparrow includes informative sections on fathering and co-sleeping as well as general childcare.

When I started parenting 22 years ago a good friend of mine told me to pick up Dr. Brazelton’s Touchpoints. She said the large print and easily marked age sections would make it easy to find just the section I need when I become bleary-eyed from sleep deprivation. She was right. It’s still a great book for new parents and it has been updated and completely revised since its original printing in 1992.

What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff
This bestselling classic was originally published in 1962. Now in its third edition, it recently went through a line-by-line update. While there are many used versions available, I highly recommend purchasing the recent third edition.

Your Baby and Child by Dr. Penelope Leach
This childcare book has sold over two million copies and is very easy to read. Dr. Leach was educated at Cambridge and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, as well as a founding member of the UK Branch of the World Association for Infant Mental Health. She is a strong advocate of reading to newborns, toddlers and all ages.

Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim G. Ginott
This book has been recently revised by the author’s wife, psychologist Dr. Alice Ginott. It talks about how parenting is a skill that anyone can learn. It offers advice on how to respond properly to your child including how to discipline without making threats, punishment or bribes or sarcasm; how to criticize without being demeaning; and how to acknowledge your child’s feelings.

The No-Cry Sleep Solutionseries by Elizabeth Pantley
This is a three-book collection – “The No-Cry Sleep Solution,” “The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns” and “The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.” These are must-have books for new parents, as the one thing everyone wants for themselves and their child is sleep, beautiful, wonderful sleep.

On that note, the calming sound of a parent’s voice can often be this the best way to quite a child. Reading “Good Night Moon aloud always put my kids to sleep.

Take it easy and don’t let the reading list overwhelm you. You don’t have to read and memorize the parenting books cover to cover before your child arrives. Nevertheless, you should start by reading the sections on newborn care while waiting to become parents. Leave the remaining chapters as your child grows.

A mother of three children, E. Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process (for which she’s adopted two children of her own). She is the founder and director of A Child’s Hope, a North Carolina licensed adoption agency located in Raleigh that focuses on helping birth mothers and families looking to adopt and answer questions about adoption. A Child’s Hope has placed nearly 400 children since 2000, and is the only North Carolina domestic adoption agency directed by an attorney. Herring is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist who has practiced family law for nearly 30 years in the Raleigh area. She’s a member of the NC Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the NC Collaborative Lawyers.

**The links shared in this article are for the convenience of the user to preview the books online. A Child’s Hope is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse any specific retailer.

Thank You Respite Care Providers Judy & Alan

In 1980, Judy and Alan started providing respite care for babies in Erie, PA. They moved to NC in 1995 and in 1999 began providing respite for A Child’s Hope. They have cared for more than 200 babies, 89 for A Child’s Hope.

On Dec. 19, 2019, Judy & Alan will retire. Judy shares, “It has been an incredible journey with lots of wonderful memories and we will miss it!”

Stories of Finding Your Birth Family

If you are an adoptee and considering searching for additional information about your birth family, it can feel daunting. Some seek medical knowledge; others want to know more about their family history. But primarily, adoptees have a genuine curiosity of who their birth mother is; appearance or personality. The internet and DNA technology has allowed for the sharing of information about birth relatives and family trees. 

Caroline’s Story

Looking for your birth family

Caroline is far left. Birth mother and adoptive mother are in the middle.

Caroline, 49, was adopted as an infant in Arizona. The mother of five children herself, she always had a curiosity about the identity of her birth mother. Last year, her husband gave her the gift of an ancestry kit for Christmas.

“The DNA kit led me to a man who turned out to be my half-brother,” Caroline explained. “The first step, it was that easy.”  From there, contact information was obtained about Caroline’s birth mother. And, she took another step. A call. “My birth mother was so excited,” she recalled. A few months later, they met in person. Since then, Caroline’s birth mother and adoptive mother have also had a chance to meet. For Caroline, meeting her birth mother gave her closure on her biological identity. “We have added to our family and it has been a blessing to everyone involved,” she said.

David’s Story

One 23andMe DNA kit led to a 65-year-old Raleigh man learning he had a son he never knew.

“I was given a DNA kit for my 60th birthday by one of my siblings,” said David. “I used the kit to research some of my genealogy and then we reached a dead end and forgot about it.”

Five years later, David received a phone call one night from a man how lived in South Carolina. The caller told him that Ancestry 23 was indicating that he was either a brother or his biological father.

I was shocked, David recalls. “He asked me if I had known his mother, and sure enough, I had dated his mother in college. She gave birth to a son after we broke up and had not told me. So, at age 65, I am a new dad.”

David and his son messaged back and forth and met for lunch. “It was enlightening to find out that I had another child, but it was so important to him.” He is a fine young man and I am proud to refer to him as my son.”

David and his son both add a cautionary note that while their genealogical searches had positive outcomes, it is best to be prepared for whatever you may find. Some birth parents are not going to want reunification, and some biological relatives may turn up unexpectedly.

Finding Your Biological Relatives

Invest in a DNA kit such as 23andMe. It can certainly help you get started. However, you really need to do a little digging first. Glean every bit of information you can from your adoptive parents and other relatives about your adoption.

  1. Ask if you were adopted through private agency or DSS.
  2. Look at your adoption documents to see if there is any information – confirming your birth date, the name of the hospital and any information about your biological parents.
  3. Find out if anyone remembers your birth parent’s first names, ages, circumstances behind the adoption.

Once you have this information the DNA kit results may provide you a list of genetic matches that may lead to your birth family. Organizing the information gathered will be useful in starting the conversation with the people you connected via the DNA kit.

Like Caroline and David, often the journey of becoming reunited with your birth family comes in the form of a gift from a loved one. If you know someone that is curious about their family, an ancestry or DNA kit may be the perfect gift this holiday season.

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN

Just starting school or returning from summer break can be difficult. For many children who are adopted this can be compounded with an awkwardness about family relationships. In some cases, the difference is obvious, such as when a child and their parents are different ethnicities or the parents are of the same gender. While taxing at times, a visual difference can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It often evokes questions or comments early when meeting people and allowing the issue to be addressed head-on.

For other students, skin tone doesn’t tell the story. For them, the awkwardness arises during school assignments. Examples may include: creating a family tree or student timeline, researching genetics, or bringing in baby and family pictures for a bulletin board. Uneasiness can also occur in student-to-student conversations about family and background.

Some parents choose not to address the issue at all, one mother stating:

Just as I don’t go to the school and point out that my children are biracial or fantastic athletes, or that their dad is a doctor, we leave it up to the kids whether to mention adoption. Our children share information about their adoption—and
other information—when it seems right to do so for them. It has worked for us.”

Many adoption experts suggest that parents talk to teachers to explain the adoption connection. They recommend using a simple explanation that includes only the information that the parents and child are comfortable sharing. The conversation starter may go like this:

“Michael was adopted by us as a newborn, and we have an open adoption with his birth mother.”

Or, keep it really simple:

“Michael is adopted and he (does or does not) know his birth family.”

Ultimately, it is up to the parents to decide what is right for their child and family. For parents that choose to be proactive, bringing the topic up with teachers at the start of the school year is often best. The teacher may wish to make a discussion about different family types as part of their lesson plans.

School Resources

For teachers who are not familiar with the world of adoption, offering your own knowledge as a resource may be extremely helpful and very welcome guidance. Handouts like the one by Adoptive Families magazine help both the child and the teacher answer many common questions – Click here to download.

A discussion about positive adoption language and words can also be valuable. Consider sharing with the teacher this link to an article on the Adoptive Families website.

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about-adoption/positive-adoption-language/.

Books for the School:

Parents may also wish to donate a book or two to the classroom. Here are a few titles for consideration:

The Mulberry Bird by Braff Brodzinsky & Anne Braff

Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose Lewis

If the teacher isn’t comfortable with books that speak directly to adoption, some alternatives include

On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman

The Family Book by Todd Parr

It’s Ok To Be Different by Todd Parr

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

How parents communicate with teachers about adoption sets the precedent for how the teacher will likely treat the topic of adoption and address situations that arise among the students. Parents that are concerned about questions or conflicts should consider taking a proactive approach and engage with the teachers.

Breastfeeding For Adoptive Moms

Breastfeeding biological children is generally believed to have huge health benefits. Breast milk builds up the baby’s immune system and creates a special bond for mother and child. Babies who are breastfed suffer only a small fraction of the colds and ear infections experienced by bottle-fed babies during the first year.

Most people don’t realize that adopted children can be breastfed, as well as breastfeeding adopted children is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians. There are medications and supplements which help women lactate and along with breast pumping several months before the child’s expected birth usually brings on lactation.

One intended mother who recently adopted her son, Maxwell, through A Child’s Hope began breastfeeding him on the day of his birth in the hospital.

Rachel Breastfeeding Max

Rachel Breastfeeding Max

“I had the advantage of already producing milk because I never stopped pumping after my son Ari, who is now 21 months was born,” said Rachel. “But women can plan ahead even if they are not already producing milk and with a combination of pumping and medication or herbs like Fenugreek and Goat’s Rue can help you produce breast milk.”

Rachel produced a freezer full of breast milk before a child became available for adoption so her son will not want for breast milk whether fresh or frozen. Lactation consultants are generally positive about the likelihood that a woman can produce milk for her adopted child. If milk supply is not enough, frozen milk can be used to supplement, as well as formula.

“Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing,” said Rachel. “It’s been shown that even two ounces of breast milk a day provides a tremendous boost to building a baby’s immune system.”

Any woman who is planning on adopting a newborn and would like to breastfeed should first consult with her doctor who may prescribe medications and refer her to a lactation consultant who can discuss pumping and medications and herbal supplements. To find a lactation consultant near you, visit the International Lactation Consultant Association website.

Breastfeeding an adoptive newborn will take commitment and the support of your partner, as well as a lactation consultant before and after the baby is here. But the physical benefits of breast milk and the emotional health benefits of the skin to skin contact are more than worth the effort for both mother and baby!

For more information on breastfeeding an adopted child:

Medela

Healthy Children.org

Huffington Post

Breastfeeding.org

A Mother’s Day Adoption Journey – Caitlin

WTVD – ABC 11 – Wake County couple celebrate first Mother’s Day after adopting a baby boy.

Caitlin and Chris are still in disbelief when they look into two-week-old Henry’s eyes.

Growing their family was all they ever wanted.

“We’ve always wanted to be parents. I’m from a large family,” said Caitlin.

The college sweethearts tried conceiving one year after marriage but had no luck. After four years of fertility treatments, they considered adoption.

“We were open to basically anything…race or gender. For us, it didn’t matter,” said Chris.

Two weeks ago, the couple brought home a special gift that weighed seven pounds and 12 ounces.

The couple is thankful adoption gave them a chance at making their family whole, and particularly this Mother’s Day.

“Just looking at him, I wouldn’t change it,” said Caitlin. “It makes him that much more special.”

See another Mother’s Day story

Start your Adoption Journey

Megan Celebrates Her First Mother’s Day

After adopting Noah in January, Megan opened their home to reporters on Mother’s Day to share a little of her adoption journey and thank the birth mother.

CBS 17

Spectrum News

Thank You on Birth Mother’s Day

This Birth Mother’s Day, we say THANK YOU and send our LOVE to all birth mothers. You hold a special place in our hearts ❤️ for there are two kinds of strength – the strength to make a parenting plan and the strength to give that plan to another.

Birth Mother's Day

Hear directly from a few of our birth mothers – watch the videos

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