On Mother’s Day Adam & Kate share their story of adoption with Spectrum News reporter Anton Day.
Jacob was born during the beginning of COVID Pandemic when rules and policies were changing daily. Only one parent was allowed in the hospital to see Jacob and had to be screened multiple times. This means Adam did not get to see his new son for several days.
This is the second child Adam & Kate have adopted. Their first son, Anthony, is 2-years old.
Q. The courts are closed. Are adoptions still happening in NC?
A. Yes. Most counties in North Carolina are allowing filings at the courthouse, which means adoption files are being opened and processed. At A Child’s Hope, we filed three adoption petitions in March – having the adoptive parents sign the petitions in a sterile office environment in the presence of a notary. We then file the paperwork in designated boxes located at the courthouse to prevent attorneys and staff from going into the Clerk’s office.
Q. Are hospitals letting adoptive parents into delivery rooms?
A. In North Carolina, we see hospitals allowing only the pregnant woman and ONE support person in the labor and delivery room. Also, during the COVID crisis, North Carolina hospitals are only allowing ONE of the adoptive parents to care for the child during hospitalization That parent needs to stay with the child throughout the hospitalization – they cannot come and go from the hospital.
For example: during the COVID crisis, there was a baby who was in the NICU for ten days after delivery. The hospital allowed the adoptive mother to stay in the NICU during that time. The adoptive father was able to see pictures through messaging but did not hold the baby until after discharge.
Q. How are women with an unplanned pregnancy finding out about adoptive parents during this pandemic?
A. Birth mothers traditionally locate an adoption agency or adoptive parent profiles through the internet. Fortunately, the internet is Coronavirus safe. All of our waiting families are listed on our website for birth parents to review. See the Family Profiles page.
At A Child’s Hope, we provide three ways for birth mothers to contact us. They call the pregnancy hotline at 877-890-4673, text Pregnant to 919-971-5663, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotline operator then communicates with the birth mother and talks her through the process.
After the initial discussion, one of our seven adoption counselors spread throughout the state works with the mother. They communicate via phone, meet virtually, as well as arrange in-person meetings in open spaces such as parks or our sanitized agency offices. We ask that masks and gloves be worn, but we can meet.
We provide the same options to match meetings with adoptive parents. They can occur virtually or in-person practicing proper social distancing and wearing PPE.
Q. Has the type of financial assistance to birth mothers changed during COVID-19?
A. Yes, we are offering more support. There are additional stressors on the birth mothers due to unemployment and other critical logistics, such as fewer Uber drivers providing transportation services.
We see more acute housing needs – shelters are often full so hotels are being used for housing. In addition, the stay-at-home order is affecting the length of support necessary after childbirth. Fortunately, North Carolina law allows up to six weeks of support after delivery.
We can be flexible in how financial support is provided. We pay landlords directly, hotels by the week, and suggest that birth mothers see if a relative will take them in for a fee. We are also able to offer gas money, instead of Uber fare, to reimburse friends or family members who provide transportation.
Q. Is there any change in when birth mothers are contacting agencies?
A. Yes, we are getting more calls from women in the early stages of pregnancy, as well as those close to delivery or at the hospital. Adoption agencies such as A Child’s Hope are well prepared to work with all timeframes.
The more notice an agency/family has, the more help we can give in terms of answering questions and making the process go smoothly. But, we will gladly work with a woman who chooses an adoption plan at any time. We can quickly respond when childbirth is imminent, matching mothers with one of the nearly two dozen waiting families ready to bring a child into their home.
Q. Is now a good time to contact an agency about becoming adoptive parents?
A: Yes. We are able to offer virtual education classes and consult with you remotely.
Families whose life is stable and are healthy can use this time to investigate and meet with agencies and plan a future course of action. It takes approximately 90 days to process a family, so they are eligible to adopt a child – conducting a home study, creating their adoption profile and website, as well as completing the education classes.
Q. Does this mean interstate and international adoptions, as well as fertility treatments and surrogacy, are still happening?
A.Not entirely. Travel restrictions internationally have all but closed down international adoptions, as well as international surrogacy. Within the US, air travel is quite limited so that out-of-state adoptions can be difficult.
Families who adopt interstate during this time are finding that driving is easier than flying, but it is also a time issue. Moreover, once you are in a hotel in another city where you can go while waiting for ICPC clearance is limited, and many restaurants are not offering food services.
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:
The child must be a full Caucasian girl; and
The birth mother had prenatal care throughout the pregnancy never consuming nicotine, alcohol or drugs; and
The birth father provided DNA as well as signed a parental release; and
The birth parents are in peak mental and physical condition; and
The adoption must be closed or semi-open
The wait may be less than one year if:
The adoption is open; and
The child can be an African American boy; and or
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
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.
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
“Touchpoints” series 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.
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 placednearly 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.
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!”
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 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.
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.
Ask if you were adopted through private agency or DSS.
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.
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.