As we are adjusting to stay-at-home orders and social distancing, anxieties can arise. This is entirely normal and natural.
NCTSN suggests opening an ongoing dialogue with your child.
The CDC offers Six General Principles for Talking to Children:
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.
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 wait may be less than one year if:
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.
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.
“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.
“The No-Cry Sleep Solution” series 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.
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.
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.
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.
This article was originally published by Herring & Mills PLLC on www.parkerherringlawgroup.com
By taking advantage of the federal adoption tax credit, US Military benefits and employer advantages, thousands of American families are eligible and receive financial benefits each year for the cost of adoption. Here’s a quick breakdown of those three methods:
Federal Adoption Tax Credit
The federal adoption tax credit (FATC) allows a monetary boost for adopting families whose gross annual income is not over $200,000. For those families which qualify, the federal tax credit provides up to $13,460.00. You can find more information on the FATC here. We’ve written about the federal adoption tax credit on this blog before.
“My wife Priscila and I have adopted twice through A Child’s Hope. Our two boys – one adopted in 2008 and the other in 2013 – are priceless to us, but the Federal adoption tax credit helped make the fees and expenses affordable for us. We both work in research; I am a medical writer and my wife is a research scientist.”
— Bill Siesser
Employer / employee adoption benefits
Many employers across the country also provide the benefit of financial assistance once a child is placed in the adoptive home of its new parents. Check with your Human Resource department at your company to see what benefits or advantages there might be (if any) which your company provides.
This financial assistance from employers can take the form of a lump sum, or payment of certain fees related to an adoption or partial reimbursement to employees for expenses. Each company that offers financial assistance varies in what the payment is, but the nationwide average is around $4,000, with a range generally from $3,000 to $5000. The application process with businesses and employers tends to be relatively simple and easy.
Why do companies do it? Businesses justify these benefits as an investment in retaining their employees, and that the payment towards adoption increases worker loyalty to the business. They see it as a win-win, since training new employees is almost always more expensive than retaining current staff.
Some companies are now also offering family leave for adoption, which is a benefit that can lower the cost of your adoption if the leave is paid. (Here’s a list of America’s top adoption-friendly workplaces.)
US Military adoption benefits
The United States Military Service is an employer too, and servicemen and women in the armed forces are eligible in many cases to take advantage of adoption credits while serving. The military can be quite adoption friendly.
“The military provided us with $3,000 as financial assistance for our son Joe Joe’s adoption. Overall, the military has been extremely supportive of our adoptions.”
One of our own adoptive parents recently shared with RaleighMomsBlog her experiences of having a family and how she has empowered her 5-yr-old daughter with the skills to be strong, proud and respond when questions and comments by the curious arise. (Original Blog Post by Cindy Stranad, November 26, 2018)
“Mommy, you’re peach, and I’m brown,” she said.
“I know honey, is that ok?” I asked.
Without hesitation and a smirk running toward the toy box, “Of course mommy, don’t ya know.”
In 2012, I adopted my daughter as an infant. I suppose you could say my biological clock didn’t strike midnight until around the age of 40. After much research and sitting on the fence, independent adoption was the right choice to build my family.
A little older than the average mom, it wasn’t uncommon for many questions to pop up from strangers as our twosome toddled around the neighborhood or headed off to the pool or grocery store. What was evident is that I adopted as a single parent by choice and my baby was a different race than myself or that of my family.
The wish I had for my daughter had nothing to do with race. It is what we all want for our kids no matter of their ethnicity or gender – “Be strong in who you are.”
Ever-present in my mind still today – is playing out a strong sense of self for her because we are confronted with it often – I am single, she is adopted, and she looks different than me.
What I did not know in the beginning and equally as important, was the notion of letting the questions come. Not only to listen intently to the question but embrace each one with a smile. (OK, the smile may be a stretch.) Not only fielding this variety of questions from strangers but from friends, family and — between us — as mother and daughter. What I did know was questions would come surrounding our reality, and I had to prepare her to answer them with confidence.
This year, my daughter started Kindergarten. A first for both of us, I had to trust the snapshots of conversations we have had about our transracial family, and our collective response to all those questions over the last five years has prepared her to stand proud, to have the answers for the moment.
Don’t wait. Ask your child a leading question, don’t wait for them to ask you. They may not want you to be uncomfortable or know exactly the question to ask. It may be something like, “Look there are another mom and daughter who looks like our family. What do you think about that?” or “Does anyone ever mention that you and I have different color skin?”
Open the dialogue. Let them know it’s okay to talk about it.
Be careful not to create a defensive posture. Role-Play with your child on how a conversation may go with a friend if they ask about skin color or other personal questions. It’s like practicing a talk for training at work, a lesson plan at church or perhaps a job interview. It’s about anticipating the question, so you have an answer.
I was taken off-guard during preschool when she brought home the family tree. This child exercise scared me. Will she be compared to other families unfairly? I had to let go of my insecurity, and teach her to make room for different types of trees in the family backyard – birth parents, stepparents and single parents, as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles from each of these family connections. Moreover, there is your village of close friends and godparents. Most of us probably have something that looks more like a sprawling vineyard than a simple tree.
I say all of this because I had to trust myself. And, I am encouraging you to trust yourself. Release the adult definitions of family and wake up to the reality of what your family looks like from your child’s perspective.
As we celebrate gratefulness during November as National Adoption Awareness Month, remember that open and honest talks across the board on adoption, race and family diversity will go a long way in building your child’s self-esteem. You may even be surprised at some of the reactions and aha moments created as we all widen our thinking about the beauty of transracial families.
North Carolina, as is the nation, is experiencing an opioid addiction epidemic. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one infant every 25 minutes was born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2012, and the numbers are continuing to rise. NAS occurs when newborn babies experience withdrawal after being exposed to drugs in the womb.
Every new parent wants a child that is happy and healthy, but opioid addiction and other drug use by a birth mother during pregnancy is something that makes many adoptive parents wary, and with good reason. However, the fact is many birth mothers choose adoption because their life situation makes parenting a child impossible or difficult. Often, the life situation can be traced back to drugs and alcohol. In the case of opioids, sometimes the usage starts innocently enough with a doctor’s prescription for medications like Vicodin, Percocet, Hydrocodone, tramadol, and Zanax, and progresses to buying these drugs on the street and using harder drugs such as Heroin.
Regardless of the circumstance leading to opioid addiction, there is currently an increase in the number of unborn babies that have exposure to drugs or alcohol. Adoption by a caring family can make all of the difference in this precious child’s life and help them to thrive as they grow.
It’s a sign of the times that hospitals statewide have developed a drug-tittering protocol for weaning babies. In the case of a child that is going to be adopted, adoptive parents are encouraged to be in the hospital during the withdrawal period. Often a prescribed opiate such as Morphine is used to help the baby cope, with the amount prescribed being reduced over time. Adoption counselors with A Child’s Hope may also coordinate birth mother visits during the 7-day revocation period to help the baby by holding him or her.
Fortunately, the effects of opioid withdrawal pass within a matter of weeks and the babies seldom need long-term medication. At A Child’s Hope, we have had babies born testing positive for opioids who spend as little as four days in the hospital. The longest hospital stay with one of our babies has been 10 days.
Statistics indicate that it will take a total of six to eight weeks for all of the symptoms to disappear if a birth mother is on methadone for as little as one month before the delivery. Therefore, intervention as early as possible is essential to help the birth mother transition to medically prescribed opiod such as methadone, suboxone or naloxone. Then when the baby is born withdrawal will be easier and shorter.
To help identify potential drug use issues, our adoption counselors work closely with each birth mother. They ask about alcohol, drug and cigarette use in a nonjudgmental way that expresses our mutual interest in the health of her and the unborn child. In addition, criminal checks, Accurint checks and obtaining medical records can help reveal information that the birth mother may be too afraid or embarrassed to share. In short, we do a great deal to try to discover what, if any, substances a birth mother may be using during pregnancy. Then we try to help her and her baby in getting treatment.
Our policy is to do the best we can to get the birth mother into a substance abuse program. When appropriate, a regulated opioid, such as methadone, suboxone or naloxone, will be prescribed so that her cravings are controlled and the baby’s withdrawals will be more comfortable.
We connect waiting families who have concerns about adopting a NAS baby with some of our past placed parents who adopted babies who went through opioid withdrawal.
Three-year-old Jaxon is one NAS baby that is thriving now after being born testing positive for opiods. His mom, Shannon, talks about Jaxon’s care after birth:
“It’s hard to believe that its almost three years since Jaxon was born! Jaxon spent ten days in NICU, and I spent every waking minute with him. It was important for me to bond with him and for him to feel that love.
From day one, Jaxon was a happy, healthy baby boy who just loves life. I was never fearful of his drug exposure because I knew he had me in his corner fighting for him. I would get him any help that he needed. Jaxon was on morphine and then was switched to methadone. He spent nine months on methadone. So far we haven’t seen any long-term effects, there have been no developmental delays.
Jaxon is now 3 and so full of life; he always has a smile on his face. Anyone that is thinking of adopting a child with NAS, I beg you to take the risk. The joy that our son Jaxon brings to our life far outweighs the risks.”
A Child’s Hope encourages waiting families to do their research about the effects of opioids on the unborn, speak to your adoption counselor and a healthcare professional.
Two years was our adoption journey wait, from the time we signed with our adoption agency until our precious baby boy was placed in our arms. We knew from the beginning that we should prepare ourselves for a long wait because we already had a child in the home. So we set out for a wait, we knew that the right child at the right time would come to our family, the one that was meant to be.
We had some disappointments, and at times we were discouraged, but we always kept the faith that God knew exactly what He was doing. God was writing our adoption journey story, and that story included our sweet Jaxon. All the praying and wondering when we would get the phone call with the news that an amazing birth mother had chosen us was answered on my birthday.
We met her, “L,” two days later for lunch with our adoption counselor, and hit it off from the start. I remember being very nervous and wondering if she would like me.
Here she was meeting the family that was going to raise her son, what if we weren’t what she wanted, how devastating that would be. I imagine these same very thoughts run through every adoptive momma’s mind at one point or another. As we were getting to know one another, she asked us if we had picked out a name, the very same name that we picked out was the name she had chosen for him earlier on in her pregnancy.
Two weeks after that very first phone call, our son was born. The next morning which happened to be Valentine’s day we are on our way to visit with “L” and meet our little boy. I will never forget the moment when she took us to meet him — this beautiful 6lbs 8oz, blonde hair, blue eyed, precious baby boy. I remember the tears streaming down my face and the joy that I felt, she was making my heart whole. I knew what she was facing, and she was entrusting us to take care of him, love him, and to give Jaxon the best life possible.
Jaxon spent ten days in NICU to help him through opioid withdrawal. I spent every waking minute with him. It was important for me to bond with him and for him to feel that love. I was never fearful of his drug exposure because I knew he had me in his corner fighting for him. I would get him any help that he needed. Jaxon was on morphine and then was switched to methadone. He spent nine months on methadone. So far we haven’t seen any long-term effects, there have been no developmental delays.
“L” and I have a bond that’s unbreakable, and I have so much love for her. We have an open adoption with Jaxon’s birth family; he has two families that love and adore him. We see them on a regular basis, and it’s important to me that he gets to have that bond with them. We love them; they are our family too!
We hit some roadblocks during our adoption journey. I will share that as fearful as I was, I knew that A Child’s Hope would ease my mind. In addition to being a NAS baby, Jaxon’s birth father came unexpectedly late during the adoption process.
I can remember the fear and heartbreak that I was feeling wondering what was going to happen next. The staff at A Child’s Hope eased my fears and told me they would be there every step of the way. It was the reason we went with ACH to begin with; they were always in contact with us on the status.
Jaxon’s birthmother gave me the best birthday present and Valentine’s Day gift! My husband tells people all the time that he could never top that! Jaxon’s birth father gave me the best Christmas gift that year as well – he gave his consent to the adoption.
What a gift Jaxon is to our family! So yes, the wait was worth it. I tell people all the time that I would have waited forever for my sweet Jaxon. He is worth every second that we waited. He brings so much joy to our lives. I will forever be thankful to A Child’s Hope because not only were we able to grow our family through adoption but I feel like we also gained a family, from Jaxon’s birth family, and from the staff at A Child’s Hope.
To start your adoption journey, click here and complete the “Would You Like To Adopt?” form or call us at (919) 839-8800.
Adoptive parents get a substantial boost from the federal government in the form of a $13,570 adoption tax credit. If you adopted in 2017, before you file your 2017 taxes, make sure that you and your tax preparer understand the Federal Adoption Tax Credit. You may also be able to amend a previous year’s return if you had expenses related to adoption, but didn’t claim them.
The bottom line is that if your modified adjusted gross income is below $203,540 you are eligible to receive the full adoption tax credit, and the credit can be spread out over five years. With the average cost of a domestic adoption at $36,000, this tax credit covers more than a third of your costs.
There are “fine points” in the adoption tax credit. So, you are encouraged to consult with a tax preparer who is familiar with the provisions.
The tax credit is designated to offset real expenses associated with the adoption of a child, other than a spouse’s child. Eligible expenses include:
The credit is per child, the maximum that can be claimed depends on the number of children adopted. The credit adjusts for inflation every year. For 2017, the credit is $13,570 per child non-refundable*
*Nonrefundable means the tax credit is limited to the taxpayer’s tax liability for that year. However, any credit in excess of the tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years.
For domestic adoptions, (a child who is a citizen or resident of the U.S. or its possessions before the adoption effort begins):
The income limit on the adoption credit is based on the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI).
The dollar limits for any single adoption effort is:
Filing status limit – The filing status of Married Filing Separately is not eligible for the Adoption Tax Credit.
The taxpayer may be able to claim both the tax credit and an income exclusion for qualified expenses. However, you must claim any allowable exclusion before claiming any allowable credit. Expenses used for the exclusion reduce the qualified adoption expenses available for the credit. As a result, you can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expenses.
A taxpayer may be eligible to file an amended return to claim the Adoption Tax Credit for previous years. Consult a qualified tax attorney, CPA or licensed tax professional to determine specific eligibility.
To learn more about the Adoption Tax Credit visit the IRS website at https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.
The information contained in this article is for general knowledge purposes only. Individuals interested in claiming any tax credit should consult a qualified tax professional to determine specific eligibility and amounts.
To learn more about the adoption laws in North Carolina, click here.