Thanksgiving, Family and Chocolates

1363289_handmade_chocolatesIt’s Thanksgiving week and almost the end of November, National Adoption Month, so I wanted to share a very personal post. In truth, it has only a little to do with adoption, but much to do with giving thanks for family.

I have only very recently reconnected with family members… cousins on both sides of the family and an uncle who were “lost” due to factors, some within, and others totally beyond my control.

Over the years, in spite of the fact that we were out of touch, I thought of them often. But it was only in reconnecting that I truly realized how much I missed them and how our shared history and memories enriched my life. I regret those “missing years.”

Yesterday, I was thrilled to get back in touch with two “long-lost” cousins while visiting their father, my uncle, who is terminally ill. My cousin Joan remarked, “so what have you been up to the last 30 years?”

Thirty years? How could it have been that long? How could we, who were once almost as close as sisters, have let life get so in the way of staying in touch? Fortunately, we fell into easy conversation, in spite of the sad reason for our reunion, and we were able to pick up where we left off. I’m certain we’ll all stay in touch now, certainly via email or facebook… in spite of living more than half the country away from each other.

As I think about Family, I realize it’s a funny thing. Family is like a box of chocolate. Sometimes you love them to pieces. Other times, a little goes a long way. But even the ones that are a little nuts sweeten your life.

So this week on Thursday, I will be giving thanks for family. I will give thanks for my wonderful husband and two amazing daughters who wouldn’t be family without the institutions of marriage and adoption. I give thanks for friends who are like family and family who are friends. And I will give thanks for finding lost treasures.

What will you give thanks for?

This post was originally published on November 21, 2011 on my former blog, Family, by Choice.

Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

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Responsibilities of The Mature Parent

This was a very difficult post for me to write, and probably one that’s hard for you to read, but one that I simply had to share. While this is aimed at the adoption community because adopted parents are often older when they become parents, this really applies to all parents, young and mature.

* * * * * * * *

little-boy-looking-up-sxc-smallMany older parents decide to adopt after going through years of infertility. Others select that path simply because they met their life partner later than they would have anticipated. Sometimes people simply aren’t ready to become parents until they’ve done certain things in their lives, then suddenly realize they’ve missed out on what they consider to be one of the most important aspects of it…children .

When my husband and I adopted, we were only two years younger than my father was when he passed away, leaving a wife and three young children adrift without the beloved father/husband who filled our days with joy and gave us all gentle direction. There was also no financial plan in place for his demise. I have often had to deal with the fear this past raises for me in thinking of my own daughters’ future.

Fortunately, my husband and I are both healthy and we look and feel fairly young for our ages… at least most of the time. I know that I am a much better and more patient mother than I’d have been when I was in my twenties or thirties. Still, the specter of my father’s untimely and unexpected death haunts me.

I recently read a story of a woman who adopted young children when she was in her 50s. I ask, “…and why not,” happy that this is now an option. Yet a nagging voice in my head fervently hopes she has a plan in place, “just in case.” Of course, an accident or health issue can happen at any age, and all parents – but mature parents in particular – have a responsibility to their children… to make a will, to plan for their child’s financial security, to identify loving and competent guardians who will protect, love and guide their child, assuring his or her future.

Of course, no amount of planning can ever replace a parent. These steps simply assure that the child set adrift by loss can and will be cared for in whatever ways are needed. It is the least and also the most that parents can do to protect their children. It is the most important gift you can give your child.

This post was originally published on my Family, by Choice blog on March 21, 2011. Although I have made the decision to close that blog, I chose to re-post some of the more important information here, on this blog.

Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

Guest Post: Reflections on Adoptions in the 1960’s and 1970’s

This article is written by guest author, Peter F. Eder. Peter is Senior Editor of The HUB magazine, a marketing publication and Contributing Marketing and Communications Editor of The Futurist magazine. Peter, a Darien CT resident, is an adoptive Parent.

father-child-on-beach-sxc-smallWe adopted our daughters in 1968 and 1971.  Reflecting on the passage of time and events, the adoptions occurred during a period of enormous social and cultural change.  Recognizing that the past is prologue, I would like to describe the period, the process and the impact of these dramatic changes.  Hopefully, it will be helpful to others as we live in a world of even quicker and more radical changes.

 The Late 60’s and the Adoption Process

In the late 1960’s, adoption was still an in-the-shadows activity.  Unwanted, unplanned pregnancies or an inability to raise children were a secret – there was a strong societal emphasis on privacy for what many considered a shameful event.

Institutions – private and public – controlled a rigorous process and served as gatekeepers and bankers of information.

This was clearly reflected in the intense scrutiny that was key to the adoption process.  Proof was required not just for financial fitness (income, savings, life insurances, ownership of property, condition and size of the home), but physical, psychological, and spiritual fitness as well.  It meant visits to the institution’s case worker, documented proof of everything, at –home visits, testimonials from clergy, community leaders, and employers.  It meant visits to the home – often on very short notice.

The process took one to two years, and once the child was identified and delivered to the parents, on-going supervision continued for the next twelve months, including surprise visits to the home.

Once the process was finalized, the institution ended its oversight and retreated into its privacy.

The prevailing social philosophy was to tell the child from the start about his or her adoption, but to quickly and completely create cultural assimilation.  Parents were encouraged to pass on their own heritage, language, religious values to the adoptee, to ensure a fit into the family and community.

It was also a time when nationalism was intense and adoptable children were kept in-country orphanages, rather than made available for adoption. (Viet Nam was just one example.)  The sole exception was South Korea – the Korean government felt it was in the best interest of its children to place them in a father / mother family household.  Its adoption program was strong, clear, fraud free, far-reaching and intense.

 The Societal Shifts of the 70’s

The early 1970’s saw several monumental changes to American law and culture that impacted and changed the adoption process.

One was the activity of Florence Fisher, a New York City adoptee who searched for her biological parents.  In the 1960’s she founded the support group ALMA (Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association) and wrote the autobiographical story, The Search for Anna Fisher.  It brought to wider public notice what adoptees craved and were willing to do in their search for their biological parents – breaking down or penetrating institutional walls by legal or illegal means.

A second major happening was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, in effect legitimizing abortion.  While oral contraceptives had been on the U.S. market since the early 60’s, in 1971, there were 774,000 reported abortions.  Since 1973, the average annual abortion rate is 1,405,640 fetuses (more than 52 million babies aborted in the 1973 – 2010 period).  The ruling resulted in a dramatic decline in the pool of adoptable infants and saw the blossoming of the movement to consider older children for adoption – children who had been institutionalized or resided for years in foster home, or “less perfect” children with handicaps, and physical and psychological challenges.

A third major happening was that a number of major adoption institutions decided that a worthwhile alternative to adoption might be programs which would encourage and support the biological parent in retaining and raising the child as a single parent; in effect becoming shelters as opposed to serving solely as adoption agencies.

Finally, there was also a shift in cultural beliefs that began to stress that it would be more beneficial for the adoptee to be adopted by those of the same ethnicity or religion.  This further narrowed and affected the availability and stretched waiting times for adoptions.

The Foundling Family Newsletter is Born

In this shifting climate, a handful of New York Foundling Hospital adopters came to the conclusion there was a real need for a post-adoptive parents program.  We realized that as our adopted children aged, we needed to acquire special skills and resources and to do it as a group rather than individuals, allowing us to provide each other with greater support and clout.

Fortunately when we approached the New York Foundling Hospital, we found its leadership was of the same mind and we easily secured their agreement and support (though it created no changes in their stringent privacy policies).

We decided to secure answers to a series of questions.  Among them:

  • How should we remember and celebrate the institution that serves as a catalyst?
  • How do we deal with health issues – routine and emergency, – when we typically knew little about the adoptee biological history?
  • How do we reconcile religious beliefs and values in explaining reasons for adoption?
  • How do we help a child recognize and accept the past from a psychological point of view?
  • How do we deal with a child, while testing our own commitment to the process?
  • What are children and parents legal rights in a changing privacy climate?

We launched the Foundling Family post-adoptive parents group in 1971 and I was involved in it for the next four years.  During that time, my wife and I created the Foundling Family Newsletter and organizing a Nassau and Suffolk County group we met more than 15 times over the next five years.

The Newsletter contained information on events, book reviews, meeting highlights and announcements, ads for children available for adoption, trend reports and personal sagas.

In addition to the Newsletter we held meetings inviting experts on medical, psychological, social, religious and legal subjects, conducted surveys organized and led discussion groups, held reunions at the New York Foundling Hospital, did publicity on more-difficult-to-adopt children, and lobbied on behalf of the adoption process and its adoptees and adopters.

It was at the time ground-breaking, helpful and rewarding to all.

by Peter F. Eder

Copyright 2011 © Peter F. Eder – All rights reserved.

This guest post was originally published on the blog Family, by Choice on April 26, 2011.

Click Here to view videos that were broadcast on RCTV in the Family, by Choice Series.

12 Adoption Tips for November, National Adoption Month

My husband and I are adoptive parents.  We met, courted and married in a mere 10 months. 

Getting pregnant proved not so easy.  After a year of anticipation, and because our time clock was on the 11th hour, we consulted a fertility specialist.  We were soon told our only option was an egg donor.  We chose to pursue adoption instead.

There were hiccups along the way – paperwork and adoption delays – but just over 2 years after we had begun the adoption process, we flew to China to pick up our amazing 9-month old twin daughters.

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Nicole and Danielle, age 14 months, with Mommy

Last week, our beautiful, funny, smart, sweet little daughters turned 10 years old. They are our sunflowers and we agree it has been a most amazing journey.  

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Danielle and Nicole, Age 7

Because November is adoption month, I wanted to share the following advice for those of you considering adoption, in the hopes that you will decide to welcome a parentless child into your home, giving him or her a Forever Family.  It will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

  1. Begin by reading several books about adoption – Most adoption books will walk you though many of the things you’ll want to consider (whether it’s right for you; the determinations you’ll need to make about adoption choices; how to choose an adoption facilitator, etc.).  Most offer a list of resources, but I have provided some below as well.
  2. Attend a workshop offered by an organization that provides comprehensive adoption information. (In New York State, the Adoptive Parents Committee  offers a wonderful one-day conference each November. This year it’s on November 22 in Brooklyn, NY)  Many adoption agencies offer informational sessions as well.  Your state agency that handles adoption (see resources below) may be able to provide additional resources for workshops.
  3. Speak with other adoptive parents to explore their experiences. Every adoption is unique.  By hearing many stories, you’ll have a better idea of  what to expect.
  4. Investigate agencies and attorneys who handle adoption and get references.  Decide whether you want to work with an agency or an adoption attorney.   Do due diligence on the adoption organizations you are considering.  Have there been any complaints registered about them? Do they have age or financial parameters that might be restrictive?   Do they handle the type of adoptions you are considering?
  5. Investigate your state’s requirements.  Each state has unique requirements. The  Child Welfare Information Gateway offers links to each state’s department that handles adoption.
  6. Start making decisions about the direction you want to take. Do you want an open adoption where the birthparents can remain in the child’s life? (For international adoptions, this may not be possible)  Do you want a domestic or international adoption? Do you want a single child or would you welcome a sibling group?  Is an infant or older child right for you? Is a child with special needs right for your family?  Will your age limit which agencies and/or countries you can work with?
  7. Begin collecting your pertinent information.  You’ll need things like birth certificates, tax returns, income statements and many more documents.  Many need to be notarized or verified in other ways. Be sure to check with the organization you’ll be working with to find out what is required. Get the documents together, organized in one place.  Get your home study(s) done early.
  8. Investigate financial assistance for adoption, if needed.  Recognizing that adoption can be a financial strain, some companies offer financial help.  Grant funding may also be available (see below).
  9. Prepare for the wait.  Some adoptions move quickly, others, especially international adoptions, can take multiple years. Your adoption facilitator should be able to give you an estimate of how long it will take.  But remember, you’re working with a bureacratic process and sometimes delays arise for no apparent reason. Keep yourself busy; read about adoption and adoptive families; Discover what adoptive children experience…But understand that each adoption is unique.  You can take guidance from others, but you’ll find your own path that feels right. 
  10. Join an adoptive parents support group.  The experience of others who have adopted or are waiting will help answer questions and handle the stress. See “The Adoption Guide” below.
  11. Your adoptive child will become your own.  If you have any hesitation about adopting because you wonder whether you can love a child you didn’t give birth to, I assure you, your adoptive child will be as much yours as a birth son or daughter.  He or she will simply be born of the heart rather than the womb.
  12. Final Words.  No one else can tell you what is right for your family.  You will simply know it in your heart.  Sometimes when people learn of the adoption, they will comment on how lucky the child is.  In truth, you will be the lucky one.  Not a day will pass that you will not feel showered with blessings to have your adoptive child in your life.

There are many wonderful and legitimate adoption information resources available online.  Here are but a few:

If you know of other great adoption resources, won’t you please share them with our readers?  Thank you!

Many thanks for these resources shared by my Readers: