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!”
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.
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 Valentine’s Day, we collected a few thoughts and stories from those who have directly experienced the joy of love of adoption. We hope you will enjoy them, and the stories will help encourage you to begin, reflect, or continue your adoption journey.
Parker Herring’s Family:
“I started my own adoption journey 21 years ago by signing with The Gladney Center and became an adoptive mother three months later when I was blessed with my son, Mackenzie. Three years later, I took the adoption journey a second time. This time via an independent adoption. My second son, Michael, turns 18 this year. Two years after adopting Michael, God helped me through the assisted reproduction process to give birth to my beautiful daughter Mary. My heart is always full with love for them.” – E. Parker Herring
Kelly and her three children
The Dunbar Family:
“’If you have the heart for adoption, don’t let fear stand in the way,’ is a quote I love! As an adoption counselor and as an adoptive parent it really hits home! Loving a child you did not give birth to is one of the easiest things you will ever do! As a mom of three children, two biological and one adopted, the love I have for them is equal and ever growing!” – Adoption Counselor Supervisor Kelly Dunbar
The Extended Kaufman Family Birth mothers (far left and right) next to their respective sons. Adoptive parents, Hal and his wife (center).
The Kaufman Family:
“We’ve seen our sons’ birth mothers every few months since the kids were born (almost 12 and 14 years ago), but this 2017 photo captures the first time the 6 of us were together. We started this journey with awkward, guarded conversations, but now we are family. That can be anyone’s story and I love that I get to play a role in helping adopting parents experience the love I’ve experienced.” – Hal Kaufman, Founder, My Adoption Advisor
Birth Family and Adoptive Family Together Adoptive mom, Jill (far left) and adoptive dad, Jimmy (far right) – Birth family (Mom, dad and brother (center) – Palmer in birth mother’s arms.
A Birth Mother’s Story:
“Having an open adoption taught me a new type of love. I never have to worry if my daughter is safe or loved because I know I handpicked the best possible parents for her. The adoptive parents of my daughter have shown me that family is not defined by blood, it’s defined by commitment and love.” – Loving Birth Mother
Andrea, 16 – Adopted in 2002
An Adopted Child’s Love:
“My name is Andrea and I’m 16 years old. Let me tell ya, my family is great. Thanks to being adopted, I can see myself having a bright future. I don’t know who I’d be or what I’d even be doing if I had grown up living with my birthmother. I don’t think I’d be getting the good education I have now. I feel like I was saved from living in poverty or being involved in some type of illegal activity. My adoption was definitely a win-win situation. My parents couldn’t get pregnant and I was able to bring them the joy of being parents.”
Respite Care Providers Judy and Allan
The Love In Respite Care:
“Little souls find their way to you, whether from your womb or someone else’s. Every time the phone rings asking us if we can care for a baby awaiting adoption our hearts are full of love and excitement. Nothing can compare to seeing and feeling the joy and love on the faces of adoptive parents as they see their new son or daughter for the first time. Caring for each of these precious babies throughout most of our marriage has been both a blessing and our ministry.” – Respite care Giver Judy
Birth Mother and Adoption Counselor Laura (left) and Rebecca (right)
An Adoption Counselor’s Love:
“The thing I love most about being an adoption counselor are the bonds I form with my clients. Each birth mother and adoptive family I’ve worked with has left a lasting mark on my heart. I feel honored to be a part of their adoption journeys and enjoy staying in touch with and supporting my clients long after the adoption process is over.” – Adoption Counselor Rebecca Anderson
Ryan’s First Christmas Dad Matt, mom Laura and Ryan
Adoptive Parent’s Love:
“Our experience with adoption has truly changed our lives in ways we cannot describe. Ryan has brought us such joy and love! We have gained new family members in Ryan’s birth family and love them for the wonderful gift they have given us.” – Adoptive Mom Laura
Worth The Wait Josh and Melissa
Waiting Parents Growing In Love:
Josh and Melissa are waiting to adopt and are happy to have the chance to share their love with a child, whenever that happens!
“Love is all about family and we can’t wait to share our love with a child through adoption!” – Waiting Adoptive Mom Melissa
Whether you are an adopted child, adoptive parent, birth parent who placed your child for adoption, or an adoption professional we know that you have done what you do because of love and your life is better for it. Share your story and share your love.
Wow, what a year! A total of 21 babies to date have been placed in forever homes! Moreover, we have three more birthmothers signed with December due dates that we hope will choose adoption! It has been a year of many firsts for the agency.
We started the year placing a set of twins marking 350 placements since we began in 2000. Now approaching 375 placements, we are so thankful.
In May, we celebrated our first graduates! Five of the placements from the year 2000 graduated from high school in 2018.
We saw placement diversity grow exponentially. For the first time at our agency, a birth mother chose to place with a same-sex couple. In addition, more families have been open to adopting racially diverse babies. Moreover, we have seen more bi-racial and tri-racial and even one quad-racial baby placed.
We take great joy in seeing each family in our offices. Each child is a wonderful blessing with bright futures in their forever homes!
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.
Here are three things I did to prepare for the questions:
1. Start the conversation.
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.
3. Plant another family tree
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.
Adoption respite care is an important part of the adoption process in NC. Under North Carolina law, consent may be revoked by the birth mother within 7 days of signing. Revocation seldom happens, but when it does, it can be very difficult for adoptive parents. As a protection against the added emotional impact of having bonded with the baby during this revocation period, A Child’s Hope provides respite care for the child during this first week. In addition, some infants may have short-term health issues that require special attention. Respite caregivers are trained and experienced in dealing with these issues and are invaluable in providing the child and adoptive parents the best start to a new and happy family.
Two everyday heroes of adoption respite care are Judy and Alan. They recently cared for their 200th respite baby. Judy and Alan shared with us some of their experiences as adoption respite caregivers.
“Judy and I greet them in the driveway. We are like little kids. We are just as excited about our 200th placement as our first placement,” says Judy.
Q: When did you start doing adoption respite care?
We started in 1980 in Erie, PA and cared for babies up to the time we moved to N.C. in 1995. Both our 100th and 200th placement were with A Child’s Hope. Of the 200 babies we have cared for, 83 have been with A Child’s Hope.
Q: When did you start helping A Child’s Hope?
Our first placement was Matthew who was born Oct. 30, 2000.
Q: Why did you choose to be an adoption respite caregiver?
We have always had a special love for babies, even as children, and then, Judy, as a Registered Nurse, worked in the hospital nursery. We feel this is our ministry.
Q: What is your favorite experience with respite?
Meeting the adoptive parents and sharing their joy on “Placement Day” is wonderful.
Q: What have you learned from this experience?
Each baby is unique and has his/her own special story!
Q: What are your qualifications?
Judy and I are the parents of three wonderful sons and grandparents of 6, five boys and one girl! We both have the love, time and availability to care for these babies. Also, Judy was an RN and worked with babies in the hospital.
Q: Any advice for new parents?
Relax and enjoy each stage of your child’s life. The days are long but the years are short!
If you are a birth mother and are looking to place your child in a loving home, contact our Birth Mother’s hotline to speak with an adoption counselor today at 877-890-4673. To see placement day videos of A Child’s Hope families, click here.
February 6, 2018, was a historic milestone for the adoption agency A Child’s Hope. We placed twins, which were the 349th and 350th children adopted through the agency. It was hard not to get a bit teary when I held them in my arms.
In our first year, 2000, we placed six newborns in North Carolina from a small office in one corner of my law practice, Parker Herring Law Group, LLC. We had one part-time assistant and one part-time social worker. In 2017, A Child’s Hope placed 18 newborns and we have a full-time staff person, a part-time assistant and eight adoption counselors spread throughout the state.
A first in North Carolina, A Child’s Hope adoption agency was started by two attorneys and is still directed by an attorney today. Unlike other adoption agencies, we are not directly affiliated or tied to any faith-based organization. This means the decision of who we serve is not predicated on the mission of any specific religion.
For A Child’s Hope, our “mission” was and still is, to reduce the time and cost of adoption. After adopting my oldest son from New Mexico in 1998, his dad and I were stressed to the max emotionally and financially. His adoption cost us nearly $55,000 in 2018 money ($36,000 in 1998).
When we started the adoption agency, I would answer the birthmother hotline and be ready to drive across the state at a moment’s notice. I remember driving to one address where the young woman had her baby at home because she did not want to tell her mother she was pregnant. On the way to her apartment, I walked her through tying off his cord with a piece of string and swaddling him until I could get there.
It was also a time when I was not able to find homes in North Carolina for the African-American children, like the twins, that needed adoption. I would literally spend days calling all around the United States trying to find families for these babies. Today, it is a different story. Adoptive parents in North Carolina only see a child to call their own, not the racial or ethnic heritage of the birth parents.
It is the same for birth mothers. In 2000, placing a child with a well-qualified single parent or same-gender couple was nearly impossible. Today, birth mothers are much more open to selecting non-traditional families.
Over the years, many of the birth mothers and adoptive parents have stayed in touch. I recently heard from one birth mother who placed her child in 2004:
“If I can ever help in any way, as a birth mother, I would be happy to help. … There is a strong, loving and wonderful family out there because this happened [placing my daughter up for adoption]. I can never thank them [the adoptive parents] enough for being my daughter’s family. She’s having an amazing life. The life she deserves. A Child’s Hope made that possible. Thank you for what you do. The counseling is what helped me do the best thing for my daughter. … She saved my life. Again thank you with all my heart.”
So today 350th placement. Hopefully, there will be another 100 or so before I retire.
If you are interested in becoming adoptive parents email us at ACH@AChildsHope.com or call 919-839-8800.
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 350 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 is a member of the NC Bar Association, the Wake County Bar Association, and the NC Collaborative Lawyers.
Why Your Schnapps-Drinking Uncle Oscar Might Not Be the Best Choice as Guardian
By Angel Simpson, Attorney
Angel Simpson, Attorney Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC
You love him! I mean what is there not to love? He is delightfully eccentric, has never been married, wears lederhosen to family funerals and brings his own Peppermint Schnapps to holiday functions. But is he the best choice of guardian for your child/ren? No way!
Choosing a guardian and a backup guardian for your child/ren is critically important as this person will be raising your child/ren if something happens to you. Read the following blog authored by Angel Simpson, attorney with the Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC for tips on how to choose a guardian.
How to Choose Guardian
Most people assume that if something were to happen to them, their loved ones would care for their children. However, the best way to protect your child/ren is to have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Planning ahead allows you to decide who will care for your child/ren when you are no longer here or unable to care for them yourself.
Choosing a guardian for your child/ren may not be as easy as you think. So, how does a parent determine who is the right person to care for their child/ren if they are unable? The following are some important factors that all parents must consider before making this decision:
Discuss: Parents need to have a conversation about planning for the future and putting legal documents in place. Parents should at least have wills that name your guardian. If you already have estate planning documents, make sure to update them when necessary, especially when you experience major life changes (children, marriage, divorce).
Needs: Discuss your child’s needs now and through early adulthood. Start thinking about who you would want to take care of your child/ren if you were no longer here.
Religion, child rearing and family values: It is important to choose a person or couple that will raise your child/ren in an environment that is similar to the one you provide for them now.
Ability to parent and capacity to care for your child/ren for a long time: Steer away from people who have struggled with addictions and mental health issues. Although they may love your child/ren, they may not be able to provide a stable home life for them. Also, think about age and health factors – you want to choose a guardian who will most likely be around until your child/ren is at least 18 years old, but hopefully, even longer.
Financial ability to care for your child: Make sure the person you choose is financially stable. They do not have to be rich – as long as you know they are capable of managing finances, you can provide life insurance if the guardian will need financial assistance.
Familiar with your child and your family: If something happens to you, you want your child/ren to be close to other family members for support. Choosing someone who already lives close to your family will be beneficial to the child/ren, especially if they are grieving the loss of a parent. It also helps if the guardian already knows other family members.
Once you make a decision, talk to that person about your desire for them to fill the role of guardian of your child/ren. They will most likely be honored that you chose them. On the other hand, they may have issues going on in their life that you know nothing about or they may feel they do not have the ability to parent your child/ren. If not, you will need to choose someone else. Also, discuss your choice of guardian with your family so that there are no issues or disputes down the road.
Keep in mind that one of the biggest reasons that guardians fail is parents not providing funds to support their child/ren. Make sure that you set up a life insurance policy, or some other financial support, so that the guardian can adequately care for your child/ren.
So, although you want Uncle Oscar to have a permanent place in your child’s life, he should not be the one chosen to take care of your child/ren!
Angel Simpson is an attorney with Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC. Angel represents adoption clients all over the state of North Carolina and has experience guiding clients through the adoption process, both locally and when crossing state lines (interstate adoptions). She represents both birth parents and adoptive parents. In addition to handling all types of adoptions, Angel assists clients with estate planning and guardianship matters. Angel is a 2013 graduate of North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Considering adoption? A Child’s Hope has been helping families wiht adoption placement in NC since 2000, and we will be there to support you through every step. The first step for any hopeful parent or an expectant mother considering adoption is to contact A Child’s Hope. Keep up to date on all the waiting families, new placements and important adoption issues by following our Facebook page.