Parenting

2020 a Year to Remember

With November celebrating National Adoption Month, I cannot help but think back to the changes I have witnessed in the 20 years and 399 babies placed with loving families. Our next placement will be a milestone of 400 adoptions.  Children are flourishing, several have graduated high school and are going on to college. Some are excelling in sports, others in music and art, and still others in academic pursuits.

Progress not Perfection in Adoption

The most significant change over the years has been how the stigma of adoption has diminished. While some stigma still exists, great strides have been made with adoption being more openly discussed in a positive manner within family and community settings.

As a result, more single parents and same-sex couples can adopt. It is also easier to place children of color. When the agency first started, I would spend days looking for families to adopt African American and multi-racial children. Today, Caucasian families are more willing to adopt and welcome a child of a different race. In addition, more families of color and interracial couples are interested in adopting.

Another change relates to privacy issues. In the early years, closed or semi-open adoptions were the norm. Now, almost all of our adoptions are “open” with birth parents and the adopting families staying connected after placement. Some of these go beyond information exchange or planned updates to include scheduled visits by the birth parents with the child and adoptive family.

COVID and Adoption

While this milestone year has been one of great joy and success, it has also come with some challenges. COVID has impacted us all and will continue to affect adoption into 2021. It has not stopped the need for adoption. However, the Coronavirus has changed some of the events and circumstances that lead to birth parents choosing adoption as the best life for their child. It has also changed the process of adoption.

In March 2020, hospitals began restricting access to the delivery room and the baby. For four months, we struggled to get into hospitals and obtain signatures on documents. In the early days of safety protocols, we had three adoptive fathers who did not see their newborn until the baby was discharged from the hospital into the parking lot. Today, many hospitals still restrict visitation with the birth mother and baby to only one of the adoptive parents.

We have also had to change almost every step of our adoption process, which is heavily dependent on people meeting and making a connection with one another. We have become creative using video calls, public parks, and parking lots. While we can hold some meetings in the office today, we are conscious to follow a strict routine of wiping down surfaces, limiting the number of people, providing hand sanitizer, wearing masks or rubber gloves, as well as spreading out in the conference room.

Despite the struggles of 2020, I am venturing into the new year with hope and gratitude. The world is becoming more embracing and supportive of adoption. There is greater diversity in the types of families able to adopt. Birth parents are finding comfort in the ability to stay connected with the child as they grow. And, the children are becoming remarkable human beings. 

About Author E. Parker Herring:
Parker Herring has a deep respect and understanding of family law and the adoption process, through which she adopted two of her children. 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 for 35 years in the Raleigh area. She is a member of the N.C. Bar Association, Wake County Bar Association, and N.C. Collaborative Lawyers.

Preparing for the Holidays When Pregnant

The holidays are full of emotions, even more so when experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Friends and family that you may not have seen in a while may have questions or well-meaning advice. Preparing yourself ahead of time can help relieve some of the stress during these encounters.

Three tips to help you survive the holidays:

  1. Role-play with your adoption counselor some of the scenarios you might encounter.
  2. Spend as much time as possible with supportive friends and family.
  3. If you are matched with a family, connect with them and talk about the beautiful life planned for your baby.

Remember you are in control. You do not need to tell anyone anything you do not want to, and you can excuse yourself from conversations if you are feeling uncomfortable. 

Understanding Domestic Adoption

We recently spent some time talking with MyRDC & CW22 TV host Bill LuMaye on his show Community Matters about domestic adoption.

Agency Director, E. Parker Herring shares an overview of the adoption and A Child’s Hope.

Adoptive parents Brandon & Lydia, as well as Adam & Kate share their adoption experiences.

Adoption Counselor Supervisor Kelly Dunbar discusses a little about birth mothers and open adoption.

Birth mother Stephanie shares her experience in placing her child for adoption.

Start your Adoption Journey

Mother’s Day 2020

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.

Start your Adoption Journey

Seven Questions About Adopting a Child During the Coronavirus

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 admin@achildshope.com. 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.

Talking to Your Children About COVID-19

NCTSN suggests opening an ongoing dialogue with your child.

  • Talk about their feelings and validate them.
  • Help them express their feelings through drawing or other activities.
  • Clarify misinformation or misunderstandings about how the virus is spread and that not every respiratory disease is COVID-19.
  • Provide comfort and a bit of extra patience.
  • Check back in with your children on a regular basis or when the situation changes.

The CDC offers Six General Principles for Talking to Children:

  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Make yourself available to listen and to talk.
  • Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
  • Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
  • Provide information that is honest and accurate.
  • Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.

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.

Birthmother Hotline: (877) 890-4673

Envia Un Texto: (919) 218-6270

Text: Pregnant to (919) 971-4396