Parenting

National Adoption Awareness Month Honors All Families

New Dads Spoil the Princess

By E. Parker Herring, executive director

 Two Dads with Their New Princess
On Placement Day with Hallie Grace
June 2017

I am fortunate to see a lot of happy, new fathers on placement day in our office. This adoption was especially touching because these two dads had been waiting to adopt for five years. Married in 2015, and domestic partners for more than 23 years, they felt the instant love with their daughter.

Their little girl is named Hallie Grace. Dwayne and Scott held her so tenderly. With her pink bow placed just so on her head, Hallie Grace smiled a bit as they went on about every feature in her tiny face.

Dwayne and Scott reached out to me in February 2017 when they learned that the adoption agency they had been signed with for five years had suddenly closed. The closing of Independent Adoption Centers left many prospective adoptive parents in shock and in despair. Dwayne and Scott had been matched with a birthmother just before IAC closed, and they needed help with counseling the birthmother and finalizing the adoption upon placement.

When we first met in our offices, the two of them joked about how they would be able to take good care of a little girl. “We figure that I can keep her hair always done just right,” said Scott, who owns his own hair salon. “And Dwayne, as a sheriff, can always keep her safe.”

Hallie Grace, 5 months old
Halloween 2017

Something tells me that this little girl will be a princess from the start. As the first Father’s Day and first Halloween will never be the same, there are lots of firsts still to come, including their first love.

Each November marks National Adoption Awareness Month, it gives us pause to still be looking at misconceptions in adoption. Every step is about understanding that not all families look the same. Some have one parent, others have two. In some cases, all the family members are from the same racial background, in others multiple races are represented. In some, there is a mom and a dad, in others there may be two moms or two dads. Some are in contact with the birthparents, many are not. None of this really makes a difference. Want does? The ability of the parent or parents to provide a happy, nurturing, safe home filled with love. I certainly saw that in Dwayne and Scott. 

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 birthmothers and families looking to adopt within the state. A Child’s Hope has placed more than 300 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.

Birth mothers Can Show Love to Their Child Placed for Adoption

Parker Herring, is a Board-Certified Family Law Attorney and Director of the NC-based adoption agency, A Child’s Hope. In this blog, she discusses the most frequent asked questions about adoption that she gets from birth mothers. Plus, shares many of her firsthand experiences as she’s adopted two children of her own.

Parker Herring Answers Questions About AdoptionOne of the questions about adoption I often hear from birth mothers is:

“How can I let my child know how much I love him/her?”

I explain that although she will not be there physically to do the daily tasks that let a child know he/she is loved, there is a lot that can be done before and after the placement to help the child understand the difficult act of choosing adoption. Remember, a child can never have too many people loving him/her. These eight ideas are written as suggestions for birth mothers, but of course, birth fathers can follow the same protocol.

Letters — Write a letter to your child for the adoptive parents to read later. What is most important is that this letter be in your own words and from your heart. Explain why you made this decision, how much you love him/her and how he/she will always be in your heart. My middle son’s birth mother wrote a nicely worded letter on lined paper with a pen. It’s simple and beautiful.

Lifebooks — Consider doing a photo book. Known as a lifebook, these scrapbooks can include photographs of you, your family, and even the birth father. Over time the child can get to know you. For some ideas on photo books, Amazon has a nice selection.  

Make Something for the Child — Making a blanket or giving a stuffed animal to the adoptive family to give to the child is special. The child can keep it, it’s tangible and something you have gifted. If you are okay with parting with a stuffed animal or toy that you had as a child, this can make the gift even more meaningful.

Books About Adoption — Purchase a children’s book about adoption and inscribe inside a message from your heart. Maybe something like: “Never forget how much I love you!” For a list of children’s books, visit amazon and your local library.

Send Clothes and Toys.  Ask the adoptive parents to let you know about sizes for clothes and favorite toys to send to your child. Even something small, but sent on a regular basis honoring an important day or event, will let the child know that they continued to be loved.

Naming the Child — If you are in contact with the adoptive parents, ask them to work with you on choosing a name for the child that either has part of your name, or a name you chose for the baby. Ask the adoptive parents to share with the child how he/she got their name. Names are a sensitive subject. If you are uncomfortable bringing up the suggestion of being involved in the name process, consider asking a counselor for help. If you don’t have a counselor, email or ask the question in a note to the adoptive parents. My oldest son’s birth mother chose a name for him, but never told us. I didn’t know until after the mother’s birth certificate arrived. I’ve told him the name she chose, and he cherishes it. If I’d known of her choice, I would have honored it by using at least one of the names.

Stay in touch. Both with open and semi-open adoptions (hot link to web pages), you can send letters and pictures over the years. Birthday cards, Valentine’s cards, all holidays. Send in advance so the child receives on his/her holiday celebration. Your pictures can show the child how you are doing. I saw one birth mother hold up a sign in a photograph with the lettering “Forever in my Heart”. You can also set up SnapFish, Shutterfly or Flickr accounts to share pictures.

Visits – It is important to always follow through with plans to stay in touch. If you had agreed on visits, follow through. At the visit remember that your emotions may be difficult for the child to understand, so do your best to put the child’s needs first. It’s always good to give a small gift – whether it be a card, coloring book or some other small token. Physically demonstrate your affection for the child at the visit, but take cues from the child. You do not want to make the child feel uncomfortable. If there has been a long time between visits, it may take your child awhile to warm up. Don’t insist that the child call you “mom” – use your first name.

There are many ways show the child that you love and care for him/her as they grow. Determining which will be best for you, the child and the adoptive family is a partnership and should be planned for, as much as possible, before the adoption. Holding open and honest conversations with the adoption agency counselor and the adoptive parents will go a long way in providing you comfort that the child knows how loved they are, as well as providing the child the knowledge of who the birth parents are, where they come from and, most importantly, that they are loved dearly.

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 332 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.

Three Sisters, Three Different Birthmothers, One Happy Family

Over the years, Beth and husband Steve have stayed in touch with A Child’s Hope through Christmas parties, picnics and other functions. Not a day goes by that Beth doesn’t think of A Child’s Hope in some way as she and Steve raise their family of adopted daughters, thanking God for the gift of their three girls.

Adopted Daughters | Three Sisters, Three Birthmothers, One Happy FamilyBeth and Steve’s first daughter came in a whirlwind. In March of 2000, a birthmother called the agency and asked: “Can Beth and Steve come to the hospital and pick up the baby?”

You see, this young woman had not met with an agency counselor. She had not contacted the agency. She had plans to do so, but never did. However, she had gone to the website, read the Waiting Families section with profiles of those looking to adopt. Like so much in life, the unexpected happened, the baby came early.

There were legal matters to be resolved, but the director of A Child’s Hope, E. Parker Herring, located Beth and Steve and asked if they would be interested in taking home a baby that day.

“We were very nervous as it was our first child, and we had only waited a few months,” says Beth.

After Beth and Steve met at the hospital with the birthmother and A Child’s Hope counselor they agreed to become the newborn’s family. Her name was Alexis. She was one of the first adoption placements by A Child’s Hope. “It was so reassuring to know that A Child’s Hope was working on the birthmother’s behalf, as well as ours,” says Steve. “We were so impressed with the people there; the social workers, Parker, Bobby, everyone.”

About two years later, Beth and Steve signed with A Child’s Hope to adopt a second child. This time the adoption was a little more typical. Beth and Steve were matched with a birthmother during pregnancy and Meghan (again named by Beth and Steve) was placed with them a year later.

“By the time we adopted our second daughter we felt a little more confident in what we were doing,” says Beth. “The three of us went to the office and picked her up with big sister, Alexis, leading the way. It was so nice to see our oldest so happy to have a little sister.”

In 2005, this young and vibrant family was ready to welcome home a third child. Thirteen months later they became a family of five. Savannah came home in October of 2006.

“When A Child’s Hope called about our third little girl, we knew our family was complete,” says Steve. “We were driving home from the children’s museum when the social worker called to tell us we had been selected by the birthmother. For the second time, we a went as a family to A Child’s Hope and our daughters met their new little sister.”

“We will always be eternally grateful to the three birthmothers who so unselfishly placed their children for adoption,” says Beth. “These girls have no biology connecting them, but they are sisters in every sense of the word.”

So today, through adoption the Gracey family includes  17, 15 and 11-year-old adopted daughters, and they wouldn’t change a thing. Beth and Steve still remember each time they learned that a birthmother selected them, and the joy they felt in building a family. Beth explains, “The reason we were able to be the family we are is due to the caring, genuine and knowledgeable team at A Child’s Hope, and the birthmothers they so compassionately work with.”

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 birthmothers and families looking to adopt. A Child’s Hope has placed 332 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 N.C. Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the NC Collaborative Lawyers.

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. “

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.”

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.

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.

Pregnancy: What to Know about The Second Trimester

Looking-out-window---blk-and-whiteThe second trimester of pregnancy often feels like the best. You may no longer get morning sickness, and you may now enjoy a hearty appetite along with a resurgence of energy. You also are starting to see visible changes in your body as the baby grows, but you don’t yet have some of the late stage discomforts.

Baby’s Development in the Second Trimester

The second trimester begins in week 13 and goes to about week 28. During this time, the baby continues phenomenal growth as the systems that are now in place continue to develop. Sweat glands develop, and eyebrows, eyelashes and fingernails start to grow. Other internal organs that have already formed continue to mature.

The skin becomes less transparent as necessary fat accumulates. The baby begins to have sleeping and waking cycles. Although the baby may have begun to move at the end of the first trimester, during the second trimester, you can begin to detect the movement. Doctors can find the baby’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.

By the end of the second trimester, the baby measures a little over a foot—about 14 inches in length and weighs about 2 ¼ pounds. For comparison, the baby is about the size of a whole cauliflower.

Changes for You During the Second Trimester

Just as the baby is undergoing amazing growth during the second trimester, your body changes to support that growth.

Some of the changes you’ll notice may include larger breasts, stretch marks and finally, a baby “bump.” You may also notice skin changes, almost as if you were in puberty all over again. You may get more frequent bladder or kidney infections and leg cramps as your body adjusts to the increased work it is doing.

Toward the end of the second trimester, you may feel aches as the ligaments in your abdomen stretch to accommodate the growing belly. You may also begin to feel a temporary tightening, or mild contractions, called Braxton-Hicks, which help prepare your body for delivery. As the baby takes up more room, squeezing your stomach and lung area, you may feel indigestion and occasional breathlessness.

By the end of the second trimester, most women are wearing maternity clothes and the pregnancy is real and undeniable.

Making Use of “Honeymoon” Period

Without the frequent nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester, and yet before the tiredness and discomfort of the third trimester, the second trimester is one of the best times to plan for your baby. For women who are considering placing their child with an adoptive family, this is an important time in the information gathering and decision making process. A Child’s Hope can help. Our empathetic counselors can listen and provide the information you need to make the right decision for you and your child.

To learn more, please call our 24-hour hotline at 877-890-4673 or text “pregnant” to 919-971-4396.

The Journey to Becoming a Parent Through Adoption!

NewbornAs a child, I dreamed of becoming many things: a doctor, a ballerina, and a marine biologist, but, more than anything else in the world, I wanted to be a mom someday. However, as a teen, I realized that due to being born with heart defects, my dream of becoming a mom, at least biologically, may not be possible. At the time, I did not know anyone who was adopted, but, starting in college, I began to hear more and more about adoption and met both children and adults who were adopted. When I got married just after graduating, two family members and my best friend offered to be surrogates for my husband and me when we were ready to start a family, but by that time I knew that someday I was meant to become a mom through adoption!

My husband and I adopted our first child, Bella, seven and-a-half years ago through A Child’s Hope. Though the whole process took less than 6 months, it was not without its ups and downs. Just before we matched with Bella’s birth mother, we were matched with another birth mother whom we met but who ultimately chose to parent. It was hard to get past the pain of this revocation, but about a month later we became parents to our beautiful Bella, who does not look like us due to her Honduran heritage, but whose personality is a perfect combination of my husband’s and my own.

Two and-a-half years later, we adopted our son, Carter, again through A Child’s Hope. This time we knew we wanted a Hispanic child so that Bella could have a sibling that shared her wonderful heritage that we had learned so much about during the first few years of her life. Carter was born about 6 weeks early, less than a week after we matched with his birth mother. He had some health issues the few first years of his life but is now an always on the go, a super-ready for Kindergarten 5-year-old.

While Bella and Carter truly made my dream of becoming a mother come true, being one of four children, I felt that I had room for more children in my heart and we had more room in our house. Bella, while having a great bond with her brother, wished all the time for “a baby sister named Maia.” So when Carter turned 3, we decided to start the adoption process again, this time specifically with the goal of adopting a little girl. We decided to sign with an adoption referral service this time to find a birth mother in a different state with a shorter revocation period than NC and ended up matching with a birth mother in NV. Like her brother, Carter, Maia Jane could not wait to join our family and ended up being born at Thanksgiving instead of around Christmas when her birth mother was scheduled to have a C-section. We ended up spending about 2 weeks in NV with my mom, Bella, and Carter, the first week of which Maia was in the NICU. Since we had gotten to know everyone at A Child’s Hope so well, we had Bobby Mills finalize our adoption of Maia in NC.

Not a day goes by that I do not look at my kids and think how lucky I am to be their mother but also how it all really seems meant to be! There is no doubt that adoption is a roller coaster, and I am not a big fan of roller coasters, but, as I have been told about childbirth, once your child is in your arms, the joy you experience erases from your mind any pain you experienced.

Thank you to Lyla and her family for sharing their story with us!

Do you have a story you’d like to tell?  Email us at blog.ach@foryourlife.com.  Visit us at www.AChildsHope.com, or call our Birth Mother Hotline at 1-877-890-HOPE (4976) so one of our adoption counselors can answer your questions confidentially.

Please remember that this is a public site open to anyone; therefore, anything you post can be seen by anyone.

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