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Adopting in San Antonio

If you’re adopting in San Antonio or need a family to adopt your child and you need a trustworthy, well-respected local adoption resource, Abrazo has 23 years of nonprofit adoption experience and our agency is eager to help you, so call 210-342-5683 and let’s get things started.

adopting-in-san-antonioBut if you’re already signed up with the best little adoption agency in Texas and you need to know where to stay, where to eat and what to do in the Alamo City, Abrazo has some helpful local suggestions for you. (As we’ve long told folks, a San Antonio adoption is just as exciting as an international adoption because you’ll feel like you’ve gone someplace exotic; we do have sunshine and palm trees, we do both speak English and Spanish here, and yet you can still drink our water!)

Where to Stay

If you are attending Abrazo’s Parents of Tomorrow orientation weekend, our usual host hotel is the Hyatt Place Stone Oak, so be sure to book there for Orientation, and if you call the property directly and tell them you’re with the Abrazo orientation event, you’ll get the reduced rate. This property is beautifully maintained and it’s located just north of the crossroads at Loop 1604 and Highway 281, so it’s not convenient to downtown but it is just up the interstate from Abrazo’s office on San Pedro Avenue.

When you come to San Antonio to meet the prospective birthparents with whom you’re matched, you may want to stay at any of the Hyatt Place locations around town, or at the brand new Candlewood Suites just a block or two from Abrazo’s office. Want to stay downtown near the Riverwalk instead? It won’t be economical, given that it’s a tourist market, but the Westin Hotel, the Hotel Contessa, the Drury Inn, or the Embassy Suites all offer a memorable downtown stay.

When you return for placement, you’ll need to plan to stay 7-10 days for Interstate Compact, so either look into AirBnb properties or focus your search on extended stay suite hotels, like Residence Inn, or Staybridge Suites or Homewood Suites. Make sure to call the local property to ask about specials for adopting parents staying a week or more (yes, that really IS “a thing” and local hotels typically will compete for your business, unless you’re trying to book during Fiesta or the Final Four.) Remember to check which hospital the birthparent/s will be delivering at, so you can request a booking at a hotel in that area.

Finally, when you come back for the final adoption hearing at the Bexar County Courthouse (usually 6-18 months after placement,) you’ll most likely want to stay at one of the downtown hotels cited above, so you’re close to the courthouse and ready to go tell the judge to make your child’s adoption official– forever.

Where to Eat

San Antonio has over 4k restaurants and eateries, so there’s no shortage of great vittles in these parts! But here are a few that the Abrazo Chicks recommend…

Of course, good Mexican restaurants can be found all over the city, but a couple of the best are the touristy and historic Mi Tierra, the hip and trendy Rosario’s, or the friendly and traditional Boudro’s and be sure to get the fresh guacamole made tableside or for pricey Italian food, Paesano’s.. On the outskirts of downtown (North) we recommend Tony G’s (for soul food or Sunday brunch) or on the South side of downtown, Pico De Gallo for a filling Mexican plate.

Most locals’ favorite burger joint isChris Madrid’s. For breakfast (note: be prepared to wait for a table!) head to Magnolia Pancake Haus, or for decent 24-hr food with no wait, there’s always Jim’s Coffee Shops (our locally-owned version of Denny’s) or the old local fast food standby, Taco Cabana.

For sentimental folks, the two restaurants we use for orientation meals are Two Bros BBQ and Alamo Cafe, so if you want to go back for a taste from the beginning of your journey with us, that’s where to head. For an unforgettable pizza, drive out to Big Lou’s. If vegetarian is your thing, check out Green. And if a decent steak is what you’re craving, we recommend The Barn Door or Saltgrass, unless you want to dress up and break the bank at Ruth’s Chris or Bohanan’s. (P$$t: remember, we warned you about those prices!)

What to Do

There’s plenty to do here, of course, but beyond Sea World San Antonio, Fiesta Texas, the Alamo, the Riverwalk and the other tourist stops, adopting-in-san-antoniohere are some activities and options that may provide adopting parents and birthfamilies with things to do together, like The Do-seum or Incredible Pizza Company (for parents wanting to keep little ones busy) or ZDT’s for those needing to entertain school-age kids or teens. There’s the San Antonio Zoo or MoMak’s Backyard for those who prefer outdoor fun, or the Witte Museum, for those looking for an indoor activity on a rainy day. Like to shop? Visit La Cantera or North Star Mall or Market Square.

If you want to get a family portrait session done with the birthfamily when you come for placement, we recommend an AbrazoMom who does extraordinary adoption photography: Elizabeth Nelligan Photography. Need to see a pediatrician outside the hospital? Northeast Pediatrics may agree to do a one-time visit on a cash-pay basis. Need to grab some diapers or formula or provisions while you’re here? Our local grocery store chain is H-E-B, commonly referred to by locals either by the letters or by a word that’s pronounced “heeb.” (Anything else you need to know about adopting in San Antonio, just call Abrazo’s family services coordinator, Samantha Arnold, LMSW at 210-342-5683, and she’ll gladly get you the answers you need, right quick.)

So as we say in these parts, bienvenidos! We hope you’ll enjoy your time with us, and come back often. Welcome to Abrazo, and welcome to adopting in San Antonio!

Last Minute Adoption

To others, it may have appeared she was making a last minute adoption plan.

But not to her, because she’d already been thinking about it for most of her pregnancy.

(Or trying not to think about it, because when you’re pregnant and don’t want to be but have few options, denial can seem like a safety shield. For awhile, anyway.)

During the first trimester, she’d kept the pregnancy secret while she waited on the babydaddy to make up his mind about whether he was going to stick around or not.

Initially, he seemed happy about the pregnancy… until he decided to go back to his wife. Then she had looked into abortion, but either it was too expensive or she was already too far along.

During the second trimester, she’d considered parenting. But given how stretched her resources were already, and considering the many times her ex-husband had called Child Protective Services and filed false reports against her over the years, she couldn’t see starting all over again by bringing a new child into the fray.

It just didn’t seem fair to anyone: not to the baby, not to her, and not to her other kids, who were already going through life with less than they surely deserved.

By the time the third trimester rolled around, she was just completely overwhelmed. She didn’t know where to turn for help. And she was already so down on herself, she didn’t need anyone else adding to her burden by piling on any judgement or scorn.

Not Everyone Plans Ahead

Why didn’t she start adoption planning earlier, the hospital social worker had asked her, when she showed up at the emergency room in labor?

She didn’t know how to answer. She knew it looked bad, a woman with children already going without prenatal care and waiting until the end to plan a last minute adoption.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care about the baby. She did, very much. (Maybe it was just herself she’d stopped caring about?) She wanted this baby to have all the advantages in life that she and her kids didn’t– she just didn’t know how to go about making that happen, until the social worker told her about Abrazo.

When Abrazo got the call, we immediately went to the hospital to provide this mother with options counseling, and we saw her several times before an adoption plan was officially made. Even though she said her mind was made up already, Abrazo wanted to get to know her, first. It was important to us to make sure she was fully-aware of all her alternatives and fully-informed of the positive (and yes, negative) impacts that adoption decisions can have on mothers who place, and for their children, too.

We talked about the meaning and the opportunities and limitations of open adoption. About the importance of honoring the bonds between adoptees and their birthsiblings. About the baby’s birthfather and how the courts would be asked to terminate his rights without his consent, since he was not a legal father and he’d abandoned her with knowledge of the pregnancy.

We talked about the meaning of relinquishing parental rights and the permanence of that decision, once the legal documents are signed in Texas. We talked about the grief that birthparents experience after placement, even when one knows adoption was the best possible decision, and about the services Abrazo provides to help mothers that place manage the emotions that come with that experience.

We talked about living with an open adoption in the years after placement. About the questions that adopted children most commonly raise, and about how birthparents feel about their open adoption relationships, looking back, once their children are grown.

And we talked about her life and her goals, about her wounded perception of herself, and about rebuilding her self-esteem, too. We talked with her about the availability of counseling, about self-care, and about teaching her children to love themselves by modeling that value in her own life.

Abrazo Can Help, Anytime

last-minute-adoptionShe chose an adoptive family for her baby whom she said looked and sounded most like the parents she wish she could’ve had. She spent time with them in person, getting acquainted. And although she had initially wanted to avoid seeing or spending time with the baby, for fear of getting attached, in the end, she realized she needed some time to hold onto him before she could let him go– and so did her kids.

After the papers had been signed, permitting Abrazo to place her child with the family she had chosen, she said she was surprised at how at peace she felt. For having waited until the last minute, she told us, her decision didn’t feel rushed at all.

That was because Abrazo had given her time to learn how open adoption works, and time to think it through, so she and her children could have a lifelong opportunity to get to know the adoptive family– and to build a relationship with this child, too, long after the adoption paperwork was done.

If you have been hiding a pregnancy or found out late that you were expecting, or you’re already in the hospital having a baby, or you chose to parent and now need to place a child already born, you can reach Abrazo any hour of the day or night by calling Abrazo at 210-342-5683 (in Texas, call toll-free: 1-800-454-5683) or by submitting this form online.

Abrazo can help you plan a last minute adoption that honors your right to consider all your options and helps you feel proud of any adoption decision you may end up choosing, because you and your child deserve the very best.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

What is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, better known in adoption circles as “ICPC”?

ICPC is an unwieldy title for a national agreement that has, since 1960, existed to coordinate the transfer of foster and adoptive children across state lines.

Interstate-Compact-on-the-Placement-of-ChildrenAll fifty states (plus the USVA, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) are participants. This federal pact protects children by ensuring that the state a child leaves and the state a child enters are supervising the welfare of any child crossing state lines for adoption, foster care, relative placement by a third party or group home care.

Abrazo files for Interstate Compact approval anytime after an out-of-state couple takes placement of a child in Abrazo’s care. The process typically takes 7-10 business days, and during that time, Abrazo requires the adopting couple to stay in the locale in which placement occurred, to ensure that the adoptive parents have continued access to the medical professionals familiar with the child’s care, and that the birthfamily and adoptive family can continue to spend quality time together with the child.

For adoptive parents anxious to get home with their new son or daughter, the wait for ICPC clearance can seem interminable, of course. But with fifty adoptive families nationwide awaiting every one baby that is placed for adoption these days, being “stuck” in Texas with a newborn is something of an enviable hardship, of course.

Interstate Adoption Advice

Interstate adoptions are subject to the laws of both the sending state and the adopting state. At Abrazo, we take state adoption laws very seriously, and we routinely caution our clients that violations of ICPC laws can be grounds for adoption disruption.

Abrazo encourages its out-of-state families to take advantage of the following pointers, in preparation for the ICPC stay:

* Think of this as a “babymoon” and make the most of this opportunity to get to know your new child. Once you’re home, you have to share your precious child with a host of well-meaning relatives and friends and neighbors who will tell you what to do, but for now, enjoy the uninterrupted time with your baby.

* Get out of your extended stay hotel room and see the sights! Unless your new baby was a preemie, getting out of the hotel can be a good antidote for cabin fever and helps the time go quicker. (Abrazo can recommend plenty of extended stay hotel accommodations in the area that offer reduced rates for adopting families… just ask us.)

* Remember only one parent has to stay in Texas with the baby, if the other one needs to return to work. (Check also with your employer about the option of working remotely, if necessary?)

* Spend all the time you can with your child’s birthfamily. This can have important health benefits for any newborn or child being adopted, as it lessens the trauma of their separation from their parents of origin. (But beyond that, birthparents know that whatever time you spent with them before placement, you may have had a vested interest in doing, but the gift of self you give after placement truly comes from the heart.) Go out and get family portraits made– all together. Go to church together. Have lunch. Take in a Spurs game. Have the birthfamily over to your hotel for pizza and swimming. There’s plenty to do, and you’ll never regret having spent that time together.

* Get lots of pictures! You may not think of it, but that tiny child of yours will one day want to see a photo of the hospital where he or she was born, a picture of the hotel where you all stayed, what the birthparents’ home or apartment looked like, and how little he or she was in comparison to the objects around you at placement time (ie., next to your tablet or in the bathroom sink or with a newspaper bearing his or her birthdate.)

There’s no need to call Abrazo each day to check whether the agency has heard anything from ICPC yet, if you’re waiting, because we will contact you the moment we hear anything from our state officials.

And when you do get approval, we will need you to do two things for us before you head for home: see the birthparents in person to say your see-you-laters, and sign the Interstate Compact affidavit before a notary public in Texas, so you have documentation of your clearance and so do we. (Sometimes, you may get word that you’re approved to re-enter your homestudy before we get your approval to leave Texas, so this affidavit makes sure everything is “good to go” when you do.)

Once you do, you’re free to head for home. But since the terms of your Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children filing confirms you’ll be returning to Texas to finalize your adoption, we’ll see you again in 6-12 months for court– so y’all come back now, y’hear?

Girls Too Close to the Edge

This is a plea on behalf of girls too close to the edge.

One of those girls too close to the edge was killed yesterday, in San Antonio.

And it happened very early in the morning, right at the intersection in front of our building.

girls-too-close-to-the-edgeHer name was Chandra Elysse Spears, and she had reportedly been living at Haven for Hope, the local homeless shelter downtown.

We didn’t know Chandra. We don’t know what Chandra was doing on the northside at 5 am, although we’re guessing she may have been coming from or going to the bus stop across the street.

What is known, though, is that while crossing San Pedro Avenue, she was hit by one vehicle. Then another. And another. The first two trucks to hit her reportedly sped off without stopping. The third stopped to render aid, but Chandra died as she had apparently lived– in the street.

She was just twenty-five years old, although initially, authorities had guessed she was in her thirties or forties.

Life on the street surely ages girls too close to the edge.

Who They Are

We’ve all known of those girls too close to the edge, whether or not we ever stop to help them.

They’re those young women whose lives are all too fragile, whose resources and support systems are all too limited, and whose risks are far too high.

They’re the girls who grow up with way too little; too little stability, too little nurture, too little opportunity to stay in school, and too much reason to grow up too fast.

Often, their life’s descent has been fueled by sexual abuse, or the influence of drugs or alcohol, or the lure of the streets or the challenge of mental health issues.

They rarely come from two parent homes. (They usually have no home, at all.) They hardly ever have any job or steady income, other than food stamps or SSI.

They do have hopes and dreams, like any young women their age, but in real life, their options are typically far more limited.

Like all of us, they long to be loved, yet they all too often mistake sex for love. And sex is often more readily available to them than birth control, so when unwanted pregnancies occur, it only compounds the myriad of problems already facing them.

What They Need

Ask any of the girls too close to the edge what they need most, and they’re likely to tell you about their most immediate needs: housing, food, money and medical care. (But that’s only for starters, of course, whether or not they realize the scope of their problems.)

There are some community resources out there, of course. Women and girls living close to the edge in San Antonio can find a very small assortment of shelter options. Food is also available through the San Antonio Food Bank or Christian Assistance Ministries. Free medical care can be found at the Kenwood Clinic or through Centro Med. Mental health services (including substance abuse treatment) are available through Center for Healthcare Services.

In San Antonio, adoption agencies like Abrazo can offer girls too close to the edge who are also pregnant and wishing to make adoption plans limited maternity support, such as housing, groceries, clothing, medical care, counseling and transportation during their pregnancy and for a brief post-partum period after placement.

Yet handouts alone are not likely to produce any lasting change– and therein lies the problem.

What You Can Do

The world is full of Chandras, of course.

We’ve all seen them in passing, the girls too close to the edge– panhandling at the intersections or walking the streets or hanging out at the mall with too much time on their hands, or too much makeup on their faces, or too much ink on their bodies.

girls-too-close-to-the-edgeWe all struggle with not knowing what to do (or not do) for them, and we all avert our eyes as we wonder whose daughters they are and where their families failed them. We don’t want to get too close, often for good reason. But we all wish someone could help them and turn their lives around.

We’ve seen it happen, in some of the open adoptions we do. We’ve seen some amazing transformations come about, when girls too close to the edge gain the love and affirmation of an adoptive family who truly embraces not just the child being placed, but their child’s birthmother, as well. And we draw hope from every such story.

Adoption is not the right answer for everyone, of course. And not every adoptive family can bring about lasting change in the lives of every birthmother. But for those who do, the children they share can be proud of them both.

(And if you want to help transform the lives of other young women in need, please consider making a donation in Chandra’s memory, to the shelter she called home: click here.)

Today, we look down from our office windows at the San Pedro intersection in sad remembrance of a girl we never knew, and we say a prayer on behalf of all girls too close to the edge.

Wanting to Adopt

If you are wanting to adopt, there may never be a better time to apply to adopt with Abrazo.

We’re always erring on the side of caution with regards to the number of adoptive families we accept in any given year, because we don’t like the concept of having a waiting list.

Yet this means that when our matches and placements exceed the numbers of applicants we took in, things can sometimes happen more quickly than expected, for some.

Kevin and Denise, a Texas couple in their thirties, found this out firsthand last year.

They’d struggled with infertility for five years, before sending their application to Abrazo in June of 2016.

Having no children of their own and having never adopted before, they knew the process might be long and arduous, but they had no doubt they had plenty of love to share.

They made plans to attend Abrazo’s Parents of Tomorrow Orientation Weekend orientation weekend in October of 2016.

In July, they had Abrazo start the homestudy.

In August, Abrazo called them about a special mom who was expecting a baby and wanted only a
childless Texas couple who lived within a certain distance from her and would be truly comfortable with an open adoption in which post-placement visits would be possible.

Abrazo had no other available couples at the time who met this description, yet this couple had not yet attended orientation. Would they be willing to move forward? Were they ready? Could they be trusted to truly embrace this mother and keep the promise of visits after placement?

“Yes, yes, and yes,” they assured Abrazo. (And they meant it, too.)

want-to-adoptSo they did match, and in September, they became the proud parents of a beautiful newborn son.

The story doesn’t end there, though. In December, when their baby boy was chosen to play the role of Baby Jesus in their church Christmas pageant, Kevin & Denise invited their son’s birthmom to come, to visit their home and to attend the baby’s baptism that weekend.

So she did. And it was a good visit for all, in every way.

Then in February of this year, Kevin and Denise finally made it to Abrazo’s orientation weekend, to speak on a panel and share their story with other hopeful adoptive couples.

They heard stories, also, from other birthmothers. Of this experience, Denise later wrote:

“My heart opened and was filled with love, but it was a love I hadn’t experienced before– a mother’s love. Having Mason for these past five months has created a love I never knew, but wanted so badly. This mother-love is amazing, and my heart was filled with compassion and touched by each birthmother. We talked about open adoption and simply what this looks like, in reality. We love that our birthmother shared Christmas Eve with us, because it was special. We shared how quickly placement can occur, and not to wait on preparations. And I shared a quote that has nourished my faith over these past months: ‘Before the child is born, the adoptive family is at the mercy of the birthmother, but afterwards, the birthmother is at the mercy of the adoptive family.’ This has been convicting to me and has made my spirit grow wide with mercy. This is the love our Savior has asked us to bestow on everyone. It’s all about love, just love from one to another. We love Mason so much, and we are so thankful for the decision his birthmother made. At the end of the day, life is all about relationships and how we love each other.”

If, like Kevin and Denise, you believe in relationships and you feel ready to love an adopted child (and the birthfamily who will make that adoption possible,) Abrazo is ready to hear from you.

If you live in Texas and want to start your homestudy, Abrazo can start your background checks and assist you with this right away.

If you are able to open your hearts and your home, to trust and be trusted, Abrazo is working right now with prospective birthparents who are just waiting to see new profiles and choose adoptive families for babies due between now and fall.

If you wanting to adopt and you are ready to learn all that Abrazo has to teach you about open adoption, please download and return the AP Inquiry preapplication form and let’s get you on your way to a successful adoption, to forever change a child’s life for the better.

When is Open Adoption Too Open?

We spend a lot of time at Abrazo educating folks about openness, so we think it’s only fair to spend a bit of time addressing the question: when is open adoption too open?

After all, too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing, right?

Abrazo’s definition of open adoption is “the pre-placement voluntary exchange of full identifying information between parents when-is-open-adoption-too-open who are placing and parents who are adopting, enabling them to enjoy ongoing and direct contact before and after placement, until the adopted child reaches adulthood and can decide for his/her self how much contact he/she wishes to have with his/her first family.”

It’s not scary. It’s not some new, unproven social work experiment. And it’s not any less secure (legally) than any other style of adoption. (So rest assured.)

Because when we’re talking about open adoption, we’re not talking about co-parenting. This isn’t joint custody. And in the twenty-three year history of Abrazo, we have never had a problem with anybody showing up on anyone’s doorstep uninvited for Sunday lunch.

But for all the skeptics out there who think Abrazo’s passion for openness and transparency is somewhat naive, we hereby bring you…

Our Top Ten List of Open Adoption Mistakes To Avoid

10. Your adoption is “too open” if you can accurately describe all of the other party’s private-area tattoos in full detail because you’ve seen them first-hand (L&D instances excluded.)

9. Your adoption is “too open” if either party (birthparents/adoptive parents) permanently moves into the other’s home with them.

8. Your adoption is “too open” if either party (birthparents/adoptive parents) think it’s okay to ask for, borrow or loan money from/to the other.

7. Your adoption is “too open” if either of the adoptive parents and either of the birthparents start sexting each other.

6. Your adoption is “too open” if the birthparents start disciplining the children the adoptive parents are raising or the adoptive parents start disciplining the children the birthparents are raising.

5. Your adoption is “too open” if the adoptive parents think it’s okay to ask the birthparents to “produce” another child for them to adopt by getting pregnant again.

4. Your adoption is too open if your mother is doing the other party’s laundry on a regular basis.

3. Your adoption is “too open” if the adoptee is changing houses every other week.

2. Your adoption is too open if your adopted child feels too many strangers know the specifics of his or her adoption story.

1. Your adoption is “too open” if you’ve swapped spit for any reason other than DNA testing.

Other than that, we think you’re doing good, so carry on! Wanna FaceTime or Skype on a regular basis? Be our guest. Can the adoptee serve as ring bearer or flower girl at a birthparent’s wedding? You bet. Can the birthparents’ other children call the adoptive parents by their first names? Ask them. Should the adoptive parents tag the birthparents in pictures posted on social media? Just ask first. Enjoy going camping together? Have at it. Want to exchange family recipes every holiday? That’s lovely. Is it okay to name your dogs the same thing? Feel free. Can you register to serve as organ donors for the other? Ask your doctor.

Openness is as openness does, and what’s done in open adoption should always come from the heart.

What does this mean?

It’s quite simple, really. (Hopefully, you arrived at that realization after reading the list above.)

Open adoption is about honesty, shared goals, mutual respect and promises kept.

It means that while all open adoptions may look slightly different, depending on the differing needs of the participants– all relationships need both healthy communication and healthy boundaries, and open adoption relationships are no exception.

Any adoption professional who helped you construct an open adoption should be available to help you address issues or questions that may later arise, and if for any reason they’re not, then any licensed adoption agency like Abrazo can certainly refer you to qualified open adoption professionals that can offer post-adoption support.

Open adoption is not a one-size-fits-all garment that covers every person and all their needs, but it is a way of life that has the capacity to enrich the lives of those who commit to it.

Open adoption doesn’t make things easier for the birthparents nor adoptive parents, but nor is it meant to. When open adoption is done the right way and for the right reasons, it is the adoptee it empowers, and that’s the best reason of all to choose an open adoption and stick with it.

For as even the Good Book promises: “The truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

Keep this in mind– the next time anybody asks you “when is open adoption too open?”

The Adoption Industry

A recent news story about troubling trends in the adoption industry is making the rounds and casting doubt and fear in the minds of adoption agency clients and adoption professionals alike.

The story was precipitated by the sinking of the slickly-marketed, hugely-funded Independent Adoption Center (based out of California) last month. Hundreds of hopeful adoptive families across America have found themselves out of money and dreams upon learning of that national agency’s shutdown.

On the heels of that debacle, the news broke in Ohio that the FBI raided European Adoption Consultants there, as part of an ongoing investigation. That international adoption agency was barred by the US State Department last year from providing any adoption services for a period of three years, due to assorted legal violations that reportedly resulted in harm to children.

It was not that long ago that shock waves rippled across the nation at the news that a San Antonio-based adoption agency called Adoption Services Associates had filed for bankruptcy, leaving its clients out of tens of thousands of dollars in lost fees and escrow funds.

Such incidents, coupled with continued reports of adoption fraud out of Utah and allegations like those cited in in Newser that a hundred American adoption agencies have closed in the last decade, it’s easy to understand why the adoption industry is not inspiring confidence these days.

Is adoption on its way out?

the-adoption-industryAt Abrazo, we have always cringed at references to the adoption industry, because for us, adoption is a social service and a mission and a calling– not a business, an enterprise or a factory.

That said, however, there is no question that adoption has become increasingly commercialized. An ever-growing pool of adoption marketing companies, adoption facilitators, adoption lawyers, adoption coaches and adoption agencies now compete for a continually-shrinking supply of healthy infants being voluntarily placed for adoption in this country.

The reasons that fewer mothers today now consider adoption as a solution to unplanned pregnancies are well documented: decriminalization of child abandonment via safe haven/Baby Moses laws, the availability/affordability of abortion, the de-stigmatization of single mothers, governmental assistance, a growing acceptance of fathers raising children alone, etc.

Yet other factors, too, are impacting the adoption industry in ways that may have not been anticipated. The legalization of gay marriage has flooded the market, so to speak, with more couples seeking to adopt than ever before. The implementation of the Hague Treaty has significantly reduced the numbers of international adoption placements, meaning that a number of unaccredited American agencies no longer able to handle international adoptions have converted to domestic placements, instead. Deregulation of adoption standards has enabled nondegreed, nonlicensed brokers to hang out shingles in some areas, claiming to be adoption matchmakers, despite the fact that licensed adoption professionals are still needed to actually provide the needed adoption services for homestudies, legal work, counseling, etc.

And with ever-growing adoption fees (which seem, inexplicably, to continually rise as the federal adoption tax credit does,) the prevalence of the Internet and social media has made it increasingly tempting for adopting parents and prospective birthparents alike to attempt DIY adoptions, despite all the inherent and considerable risks therein.

It’s easy to understand why all these factors make it seem that adoption may be becoming extinct. Certainly, it is unlikely that adoption numbers will ever return to the level of the Baby Scoop Era? But neither should they. Adoption must be a choice of last resort for children in need of loving homes, not an abortion alternative nor a compensatory option for those with infertility.

There will always be children whose parents find themselves unready for parenting or unable to provide for them. There will always be nurturing adults who feel called to open their hearts and homes to children in need. Adoption will continue to exist (indeed, by some accounts, domestic adoption rates have risen slightly this decade.)

The days of the large national adoptions-r-us-type adoption agencies may be waning, however. And it appears that clientcentric adoption boutiques like Abrazo just might be due for a renaissance.

Why isn’t bigger always better?

The big national adoption programs (like AdoptHelp or Lifetime Adoptions or Adoption Network Law Center) have big budgets with big fees (and big waiting lists) to match. Big adoption agencies may have big campuses, like Gladney, or big reputations, like Bethany, but what they don’t have typically is the personalization, familiarity and comfort of a smaller adoption agency. At IAC, some suspect the agency was playing a shell game and their numbers simply ran out– yet wasn’t adoption always supposed to be about the children?

When it comes to adoption, truly: smaller can be better– and please note: we’re not referring to the age of the children placed, but to the size of the program.

At Abrazo, all our staff knows all our current clients. We don’t use an automated phone system, and we don’t leave our calls on hold forever with endless Muzak playing. There’s no long phone tree to work through when you call our office: you’ll know our voices and we’ll know yours. You’re going to meet with us personally before you have to make any formal commitments to our program, because at Abrazo, we’re like a family, and we want you to feel at home– before and after your adoption here.

Abrazo birthparents know that they can walk into any one of our offices anytime and sit down and talk. They know we play by the rules set by the State, so Abrazo’s adoptions are legally-sound and ethically-solid. They know each member of our staff cares personally about them and their children, and they can trust that we are still going to be there for them after placement and in the years that follow.

Adopting parents at Abrazo don’t languish on lengthy waiting lists here: those who are truly ready for any child who needs them most usually take placement within weeks or months (not years.) And our agency does not have hundreds of adoptive families waiting, since we only accept as many families as we anticipate needing in a year’s time. Our fees are well under the national average, and don’t require our clients to fund costly national television ad campaigns (nor to pay anyone on our staff a six-figure salary.)

Our greatest source of referral at Abrazo comes from our past clients and alumni. Parents who place through Abrazo refer their friends and relatives to us, as do parents who adopt here, because they know we put our hearts and souls into the work we do for the people we serve and the children we protect. We operate on as lean a budget as we can, and we keep the costs of our cases as reasonable as possible. We’ve done this for 23 years now, and God-willing, we plan to keep doing so for just as many more to come.

The public’s concept of the adoption industry may prevail, despite our reservations, yet Abrazo’s higher calling carries on, and we’re grateful for the small-but-special place our adoption agency continues to occupy in the social service known as adoption in America.

Working in Adoption

When you’re working in adoption, you learn a lot about people.

You see people (whether they’re placing or adopting) at their worst and at their best, and you are often humbled by how far loving parents will go to give children a better life than they themselves even had.

You learn that even people in the worst of circumstances can make the very best of choices, and that children’s needs are best met when adult needs take second seat.

Working in adoption, you learn that money doesn’t ensure good parenting, and that adoption is not always a guarantee of a better life, only a different one.

You learn that adoption is not the “right” decision for every parent who considers it, and that even if all the parents consider adoption to have been the best choice, the adoptee may not see it that way, and that is their right, as well.

When you work in adoption, you begin to see that none of your clients are anywhere you couldn’t have been. Unplanned pregnancies and infertility can (and do) happen to anyone.

You often hear that “you shouldn’t take your work home with you” but the truth is that when you work in adoption, it’s not just a job you can leave behind at 5 o’clock or on weekends. You hurt when your clients hurt. You celebrate their joys with them, and you’re expected to help bear their burdens, as well.

You get tired of hearing people find out what you do for a living, then saying “oh, what a great job, making people happy!” Because you know that every adoption, for all its happy parts, is borne of loss.

Yet if you try to explain that to the average bystander, it makes them uncomfortable, because nobody wants to think about grief being part of the adoption process. But when you work in adoption, it’s really important to recognize this truth and to help prepare your clients for it, because whether someone is placing or adopting or being adopted, they are going to have to be able to deal with loss and you are going to have to help them through it, sooner or later.

If you’re an AbrazoChick, you travel all across the state (and beyond) on a moment’s notice, because babies don’t always come when they’re expected. working-in-adoptionCourthouse employees know you by name. You keep a notary seal and a change of shoes (and/or clothes) in your car trunk. You find stray pacifiers in your office drawers now and then. You know how to run across a parking lot balancing a briefcase and a car seat. You can change a baby’s diaper in an airplane lavatory in less than four minutes flat. You know your way around all the local hospitals. You know how to do Lamaze breathing, whether or not you’ve ever given birth yourself. You learn that “work hard, play hard” is preventative medicine against professional burnout. You’ve been peed on by other people’s kids, you understand the devastation of both timely and missed periods, and on occasion, you’ve even seen other women’s husbands cry.

When you work in adoption, you become a part of many adoptive families’ stories. You earn yourself a starring role in many birthparents’ personal tragedies. And you have to balance both, for the welfare of each tiny child whose future is at stake.

You have to decide for yourself where professional boundaries are drawn and when your clients may rightfully need for you to ethically still ‘be there’ for them, not as a caseworker but as a friend, long after your official case duties may have concluded.

You won’t be called on to answer for the promises that were kept, but you will definitely struggle with a sense of guilt for any promises not kept, even if these were promises made by the birthparents or adoptive parents and not by you, yourself.

For ultimately, you learn, working in adoption, that everything you do has to be all about the children— even though they are the one party that rarely has any voice in the adoption process at the time that an adoption plan is being made.

Every adoption must be child-centered, in order to happen the right way and for the right reasons, even if the precipitating factors (unplanned pregnancy, infertility, pregnancy loss) seem to have been primarily adult problems.

For every adoption you do, when you work in adoption, you have to remember that some day, you may have to answer to each child for the choices that were made on his or her behalf, and that’s what makes what you do so very important, every hour of every day.

When you’re working in adoption, you can never forget this, because you carry this responsibility with you always– and that’s what makes the work we do at Abrazo not just a job– but rather, our sacred calling.

Find The Perfect Family

“Find the perfect family for your baby!” the ad read.

It was a Google ad online, placed by a large West Coast adoption network. (Or adoption facilitator. Or baby broker. Same thing.)

Obviously, the company is targeting pregnant girls and expectant mothers in Texas who may be considering adoption for their baby.

Given the thousands of unplanned pregnancies in Texas each year (and the ever-shrinking availability of cost-free prenatal services in our state,) we get why out-of-state adoption businesses are farming Texas for cases.

But what we don’t understand is how any company can claim to have perfect families. (Or to set prospective birthparents up to think they even can find the perfect family.)

Get some counseling, before you start having contact with prospective adoptive families. Not to be sure you aren’t going to change your mind about adoption, but to be certain whether or not adoption is the right choice for you (and your child) in the first place. Give yourself time to learn about your rights and to certain of what you want for your child’s future.

At Abrazo, we have awesome, caring adoptive families with integrity and stability. (Click here to see their adoption profiles.) Yet none of them are “perfect,” and they’d be the first to admit it.

(That’s part of that integrity thing we mentioned…)

What Your Baby Will Need in a Home

A baby’s needs are pretty basic, at first: they need a safe place to sleep, clean diapers, regular feedings, and supervision, love and nurture during their waking hours. (Oh, and a good car seat. And pediatric follow-ups. And immunizations.)

Never assume that financial security is the best reason to make an adoption plan, for starters.
Money problems are temporary, after all. And you don’t want to make a permanent plan like adoption based on a temporary problem like finances. Just because adoptive families may own their own homes or have steady jobs or go on nice vacations doesn’t mean they will be perfect parents, so don’t let fancy house pictures or pretty online profiles sway you.

Yet the demands of parenting (like the needs of children) grow by the day, and if you know in your heart that you are not ready to keep up with both, then a loving open adoption plan might truly be in your child’s best interests.

Your child, if he or she cannot grow up in your care, is going to need the sort of family that is the most like yours, if you grew up in a healthy home–or the kind of family you wish you’d had, if you didn’t. And to know that, you’re going to need to get to know them, personally. find-the-perfect-familyAnybody can say anything in an online message or over the phone. Your child needs you to do the footwork to get to know any prospective adoptive family in person, if possible, before you sign any legal papers.

There is nothing, legally, that you are not permitted to ask them (or to know about them.) You have the right to ask an adoptive family what their last name is, where they live, what they do for a living, how many times they’ve been married before, why they are seeking to adopt, how they plan to discipline their child, how far they went in school, what their health is like, and whether they have ever struggled with addiction or bankruptcy or domestic abuse or been arrested or whatever. They have the right to choose not to answer, of course, but you reserve the right to choose another adoptive family (or another alternative besides adoption) if you have any doubts about them.

There’s no “perfect” adoptive family, but the “right” kind of people will tell you the same thing: you need to be able to make your own best decisions. The wrong kind of people will try to talk you into choosing them no matter what. (Just keep this in mind.)

What You Need in an Adoptive Family

You are going to need, first and foremost, to find an adoptive family you can trust– and if you’re not using the services of a licensed nonprofit adoption agency like Abrazo, this just might be harder than you think. Because there are more than fifty couples waiting for every one baby placed for adoption in the USA these days, plus adoptive couples from outside America who try to adopt here, and they’re all hoping to get chosen for an ever-shrinking supply of adoptable babies.

So start by deciding what’s most important to you. Do you want the adoptive family to be a certain religion, or from a certain state? Do you want your child to grow up in a traditional or nontraditional home? Do you want your child’s adoptive parents to be the same race as your child, or is that not so important to you? Do you want your child to be the adoptive family’s first child, or do you want your child to have brothers or sisters in the home already? Do the adoptive parents’ educational values match your dreams for your child’s future education? Do you want an open adoption, so you can keep in touch with the adoptive family in the years after your child joins their home, or do you prefer to not stay in contact until your child is old enough to seek you out on his or her own?

Expect to hear some things that are not the perfect answers you want to hear, because that will be a sign to you that you’re getting the truth from them. Someone who agrees with everything you say may be someone who’s just telling you what you want to hear, and that’s not what you really need. You need someone who is going to have the integrity to be authentic and honest with you, before you place, and for 21 (or more) years to follow.

Expect them to trust you with their full names and other identifying information. This doesn’t mean you have to exchange last names and addresses and blood types in your very first conversation, but it does mean that no birthparent should be expected to entrust their child to someone who acts like they’re in the federal witness protection program. Trust runs both ways– or at least it should!

Expect to see the best and worst of them, as you get to know each other. (And deal with it, when you do.) Adoptive parents sometimes feel like they are expected to have perfect lives, and to live up to some unreal ideal, in order to “prove” they deserve to parent someone else’s child. The truth, however, is that nobody is perfect, and in the best of forever families made through open adoption, we see each others’ faults and flaws and love around them.

And remember: even if you do somehow manage to find the perfect family for your baby, there are no guarantees that the adopted child will see them the same way. (Nor should they have to. Nobody thinks their own family is perfect, after all.)

So consider all your options, ask all the questions you can upfront, and invest yourself fully in building a friendship with any adoptive family you do choose. It may be impossible to find the perfect family for any child who needs to be adopted, since any adoption is borne of imperfect circumstances– but find the family that is imperfectly perfect and chances are things just might turn out right for everyone involved.

Texas, abortion and adoption

In Texas, abortion and adoption may seem diametrically opposed, but for one Texas woman who passed away last week, Texas, abortion and adoption were irrevocably linked.

Her name was Norma… Norma McCorvey, and she was one of the most famous birthmothers you never knew.

Norma grew up in the Dallas area, and like many mothers who place children for adoption, she had not had an easy life with every advantage. Her grandmother had been said to be a prostitute. Her mother was an abusive alcoholic. Her dad was largely absent. Her brother was mentally ill.

Norma was allegedly sexually abused by a Catholic nun in boarding school. She then said while working at a gas station at the age of ten, she stole some money and ran away from home with another girl. That got her sent to a girls’ reform school for four years, which she remembered as “the best years of my life.” She married at age sixteen and got pregnant soon afterwards. The couple separated before the child’s birth, and beset with alcohol and drug problems, Norma allowed her daughter Melissa to be adopted by her mother (although she claimed she’d been tricked into signing the adoption papers for insurance purposes.)

Four years later, in 1967, she was again single and pregnant, and she reportedly placed another baby for adoption. Some say the child was adopted by another family, while others say the baby was adopted by the biological father, a guy she identified only as “Joe.” Norma said she never even knew if that baby had been a boy or a girl, and she never saw the child at birth nor after.

In 1969, Norma claimed to have gotten pregnant yet again as the result of a gang rape (her account of that assault was later recanted.) She had wanted to do an abortion, she said, but was unable to come up with the money to travel to one of the six states where abortion was legal then (Hawaii, California, New York, Oregon, Alaska or Washington.)

So she contacted Henry McCluskey, an adoption attorney in Dallas, and another adoption plan was made, with Norma having to promise never to seek out nor contact the adoptive couple.

McCluskey owed a colleague a favor, however, so he also put Norma in touch with two Texas attorneys seeking to represent a woman in a case challenging Texas’ anti-abortion laws. And three years later, after the adoption of her third child, Norma became publicly known as “Jane Roe.” (Yes, that Jane Roe, as in “Roe vs. Wade,” the contentious landmark legislation that made abortion legal in America.)

In Texas, abortion and adoption are each still hot topics of debate, and we’re not here to stir up dissent, nor debate the merits or shortcomings of either option.

We’re here to commemorate a woman named Norma, and to honor the complex life she led.

The Sad Saga of Jane Roe, aka Norma McCorvey

Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) never had an abortion herself, but she was forever changed (for better or worse) by the impact of three adoptions (one open, two closed) by the age of twenty-two.

As Norma said in a 1982 Dallas Morning News interview, talking about the “victory” of the legislation legalizing abortion (which she sometimes referred to as “my law,” until her feelings changed):

“I was bitter. I thought I had been cheated, but everyone feels that way sometime in their life.. But I was glad for everyone else. I was glad to know some other poor woman wouldn’t have to go through what I did. I thought at least she wouldn’t have to face the agony of waking up in the morning and driving to work and seeing kids walking and wondering which one was hers. Because it’s not easy to give up something you helped grow, regardless of how the seed got there.

Norma had a ninth grade education. She worked as a carny, as a housepainter, as a bartender, in an abortion clinic and as a cleaning lady. She became a lesbian. She converted to Christianity. She then abandoned her gay lifestyle (at least publicly.) She joined the anti-abortion movement. She was the poster child for the pro-choice movement for awhile, and then she switched teams and became the face of the evangelical pro-life army. She reportedly struggled with depression and substance abuse. She got two book deals. Holly Hunter even played Norma in the television movie about Roe vs. Wade.

Yet there is reportedly one thing Norma didn’t ever get to do: reunite with two of the three children she placed for adoption.

What became of Norma’s children?

By all accounts, Norma never knew what became of two of the children she had placed for adoption. But she did wonder about them, and it could be said that she never forgave herself, not for the loss of millions of babies’ lives resulting from the legalization of abortion in America, and not for the forfeiture of the three children that she birthed but could not raise.

According to an article published by pro-life activist Chuck Colson on the very day Abrazo was born, January 4, 1994: “The baby girl that (McCorvey) put up for adoption is grown up now-and, ironically, has become a committed pro-lifer. When she learned that her birth mother was the infamous “Jane Roe,” the daughter was horrified and refused even to meet her.”

Norma’s lifestyle did not make her the perfect spokeswoman for the pro-life movement nor for the pro-choice forces– although it could be said that both sought to use her for their own purposes.

And Norma was not the shining icon that the adoption industry would seek to uphold as a sterling representative of the best of birthmothers, either, if we’re honest about it. She’d admitted to drinking heavily during pregnancy. She had slit her wrists before signing the legal affidavit that made her the star of Roe vs. Wade. She claimed in her first book that she had punched herself in the stomach when told by attorneys she would be too far along to terminate her third pregnancy by the time the courts heard the abortion suit. She allegedly solicited money from others for interviews and misappropriated funds donated to a charity she began, and veracity was not always her strong suit.

Even her first born daughter, Melissa, didn’t have particularly positive things to say about her birthmother, in a 2013 Vanity Fair interview, when she told a reporter “Norma has never been able to do the right thing. Never.”

As Norma herself said to People magazine in 1989: “It’s the hardest thing in the world to give up a child,” she says. “But what it’s all about is choice.”

(It seems tragically ironic, that a birthmother in closed adoptions would see ‘choice’ as having been an advantage afforded to her in those placement experiences?)

The feature in People closed with this haunting paragraph: “The one thing that Norma wants now, she says, is to find the child she tried to abort 20 years ago. Attorney McCluskey is dead, the adoption papers have been sealed and the prospects look dim. Still, she says, she is trying. “I want to find out what he or she looks like,” says Norma. “And I wonder whether they’d like me and what I stand for.””

In the end, it was her first child, Melissa, who was with her when Norma died of heart failure on February 18, at the age of 69. Wherever her other two children may be today, we hope Norma now knows how their lives turned out, and that she has the reassurance and peace that so eluded her in this lifetime. And we hope all of her children can grieve for her, reconciling what they may know of her life with her better angels and the dreams she held in her heart.

When it comes to unwanted pregnancies in Texas, abortion and adoption are still imperfect solutions to reproductive crises, but Norma McCorvey three times chose life and chose abortion, and undoubtedly, the children she leaves behind are surely the better for it… May she rest in peace.