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Birthmothering

Abrazo has coined a new verb, to describe the process of upholding one’s role after placing a child in an open adoption, and it is this: “birthmothering.”

Unlike in a closed adoption, in which an adoptee’s first mother is expected to slink away quietly into the shadows after placement and never be seen nor hear from again, birthmothers in open adoptions are expected to somehow occupy a position of honor in the lives of their child and his or her family, a role most fulfill with little preparation and even less definition.

Birthmothering is actually harder than most people would suspect. You are expected to demonstrate ongoing interest in the child the legal paperwork says you surrendered forever, yet never overstep your welcome.

You still get all the feels that any parent does, of course, when you see photos of your child or hear of his/her latest achievements, or get all-too-brief opportunities for visits. Meanwhile, you are always mindful of the fact that you are a guest in your child’s life, and that your access is always at the adoptive parents’ discretion.

You have a lifetime connection to people with whom you made a lifelong commitment, when you chose them to parent your child, though you may come to realize over time you really didn’t know them that well, and you might occasionally wish you’d made some other choices.

Seeing the child you placed over the years means you can never pretend the encounter or relationship that led to his or her existence never happened.

To be perched on the periphery of your child’s life and yet to have no formally-recognized relationship to your child and his/her family anymore is precarious, and made even more so by the lack of laws enforcing any open adoption contact agreements in most states.

These, perhaps, are some of the downsides of birthmothering.

And now the good news…

The good news, though, is that as a birthmother in an open adoption, you don’t have to go through life worried that your child has been lost to you forever. Birthmothers in closed adoptions never knew who their child was with or how they were doing, or where they were. Birthmothers in open adoptions get to witness the joys of adoption, too, and not just the sorrow-and-grief parts.

Birthmothering in open adoptions means having a place at the family table; birthmotheringyou don’t eat every meal there, but you always know you’re welcome. You have a relationship with your child’s parents, and you know where they are. You need not worry about the child/ren you are parenting ever accidentally dating or marrying a sibling without knowing it. You don’t tense up every time there’s a horrific news story on TV, wondering if the child you placed was involved– because you already know where your child lives, and who their parents are.

Birthmothering means getting to be the “cool” parent; the one who is usually closer in age to the adoptee than the mom and dad who raise him/her, the one who doesn’t harp at them about doing their homework or brushing their teeth or improving their grades. It means enabling the children you are raising to have a lifelong connection of some sort to the child/ren you placed. It means getting to take pride in all your children, not just the ones you raise yourself.

Birthmothering means finding a healthy balance between your loyalty to the adoptive parents with your devotion to the child you share. It means reserving a space in your life for the adoptee and his or her family; making yourself available for calls or visits, finding a way to explain to newer people in your lives who the adoptive family is to you and why they matter, and growing into that relationship over time. It means learning to communicate respectfully when differences arise (as they will; every authentic relationship requires us to deal with challenges now and then) and yes, learning to pick your battles, when necessary.

But birthmothering also requires that you learn to forgive yourself, too, and to be willing to receive the adoptive family’s love as well. This can be especially hard for first moms who tend to beat themselves up for having placed a child for adoption; they sometimes think they don’t deserve to still be in their child’s life, and they struggle to believe that their presence is truly welcome– or needed.

Birthmothering like the best of them

A few ideas, for mothers who place, about birthmothering effectively:

* Learn all you can, upfront, from other birthmothers who have placed. The internet has done much to help get birthmothers out of shadows, so learn from those who have gone before you. Birthmothers from the closed adoption era harbor more anger and shame about their losses, perhaps, yet still have important perspectives to share. Birthmoms who have placed more recently may have more experience with negotiating post-adoption contact and adoptive family relationships, but may also be still learning their way. Remember this: both possess wisdom from which you can benefit.

* Make use of open adoption counseling, which is always free to birthparents at Abrazo. Good counseling is not about telling you what to think or feel, but rather, helping you find answers that work for you. Any open adoption is always a work in progress: it will be what you and the adoptive parents decide to make it, so getting a great adoption therapist to help you all work out what arrangements fit your needs can go a long way towards avoiding problems, and preparing you all to effectively address any issues that do arise over time.

birthmothering* Remember: the adoptee’s needs must always come first. This doesn’t mean that your feelings don’t matter, of course. But it means that in all things, all the parents involved must always be mindful of their duty to honor the adoptee’s needs at all times. The adults (birthparents and adoptive parents) can attend to each other’s needs and to their own, but they must all agree to work together to meet the adoptee’s needs, always (even when they may not agree on how best to get the job done.)

* Commit to communicating effectively.When you don’t have all the answers, it’s okay to admit it (and if it’s the adoptee asking something you don’t know how to explain, feel free to say “hmmm… that’s a good question; I’d need to think about that.”) If you’re not feeling up for a visit, it’s all right to say so, but be certain that you are not shutting the door on the entire relationship by doing so. If you’re feeling forgotten or left out, then own those feelings and find a way to respectfully express your needs to the adoptive parents in a way that compels them to want to help make things right. This is scary stuff, we know– birthmothers are never being sure of their footing, for fear of intruding or offending, but birthmothering well means building relationships out of trust and a rock-solid shared commitment to the child you all love.

* Set and respect boundaries. This is really important– not easy, but important. Everybody has their own, of course, so being “in relationship” with the adoptee and his/her family means learning theirs and teaching them yours. When you choose an adoptive family, you essentially subscribe to their values, too, by picking them. So whether or not you choose their values as your own, you need to agree to the standards by which they live in your contact with them (which may mean avoiding profanity in your conversations because you know it’s not how they talk, or not showing up for visits if you’re under the influence, because you know they don’t want your child to see you like that.) Likewise, you set your boundaries with them as you see fit (by asking them not to tag you in social media because if there are people on your friend list that you do not wish to share your adoption story with, for example. Or telling them that you are not comfortable with them sharing any information about your current whereabouts with the birthfather. Or asking them to limit the religious language in their letters to you, if it makes you uncomfortable.)

* Be consistent. Demonstrate that you’ve got your child’s adoptive family’s back, and nearly always, they’ll do the same for you. Whatever name you may have chosen for your baby in the beginning, good birthmothering means using the name the adoptive family chose when you address the adoptee. Honor the adoptive parents’ titles by referring to them as “your mom” or “your dad” in conversation with the adoptee; refer to yourself as “your birthmother” (never as “your real mom,” because you know biology is not all that makes a mom a mom, right?) When sending Christmas gifts to the child you placed, include a gift also for any other child in the home, if you’re able? And please, don’t forget your child’s birthday, even if it involves painful memories for you, because adoptees need to know their birthparents have not forgotten their special day.

Good birthmothering means continually tending the garden you planted at placement. You may not always see it yield results, and yet, it will, in time. (Trust us on this.) It may not change anything in ways that seem to matter right away, but it will make a difference, and you’ll see it in the ways that you (and the child you placed) blossom and grow, as the years go by.

When your family opposes adoption

Adoption is never an easy choice to begin with, but it can become even more difficult when your family opposes adoption.

Whether you are thinking about placing a child for adoption or adopting a child, it’s normal to want your family’s approval.

It’s not required, of course. Your family’s consent is not required in order for an adoption to occur.

There is no “age of consent” in Texas, so legally, any teenager old enough to get pregnant can make an adoption plan without her family’s knowledge or permission. And while homestudy workers are required to ask adopting parents what their family’s feelings are about the pending adoption plan, the negative response of extended family is not considered a “deal breaker,” per se.

And yet. (And yet…)

It’s hard to go through placing a child or adopting a child without the support of the people you love. Family opposition to adoption is not uncommon, but that does not make it any less painful.

When family doesn’t “get it”

For birthmother Monique, knowing her mother disapproved of her adoption plan added untold stress to an already-difficult situation.

“She told me she gave up everything to raise me as a single mom and me deciding not to do the same thing for my baby felt like a slap in the face to her,” she says. “I tried to tell her this isn’t about her, it’s about me and my child and what I want for us both. But to her, it seems like I’m saying what was good enough for her isn’t good enough for me.”

For Dave and Shari, who came to Abrazo to adopt, their family’s refusal to back their adoption felt like a rejection of them, as well. when-your-family-opposes-adoption“They knew all we had gone through with the infertility treatments that didn’t work! For them to suggest we hadn’t tried all we could to have a baby of our own was totally unfair. And then to say they weren’t sure they could love a child who wasn’t related to us by blood just made us look at our own family in a whole different light. (And not a good one.) It took awhile to get over that, for them and for us.”

In time, of course, Monique’s mother came to realize she would rather be a part of her grandchild’s open adoption than lose her access to her grandchild forever. Dave and Shari’s relatives, too, came to love the adopted baby just as much as their other nieces, nephews and grandkids.

In both instances, however, Abrazo’s clients found that their families’ resistance to adoption and their initial lack of support did have some lasting impact on those family relationships.

For Juanita, who came from a very traditional family, choosing adoption meant offending her family’s cultural mores. Initially, her parents, who hailed from Mexico, told her she would bring shame upon the family name if she shirked her parenting responsibilities by placing a child for adoption. Her father went so far as to tell her she would be dead to him if she went through with the adoption. Her sisters told her they would blame her for breaking their father’s heart by placing.

However, it was eventually her mother who showed up at the hospital to support her after birth, revealing that her dad’s aunt had once lost a child to closed adoption, and that in time, her father would surely come around. Juanita found the courage to allow her child’s adoption to proceed, and although one of her sisters still bears her ill will for doing so, her parents have forgiven her and even participate in visits with the adoptive family when they come back to see Juanita.

Not all relatives’ hearts do soften over time, however, nor does every relative always find it in their hearts to embrace an adoption after it happens. This is a painful truth, as one adoptive parent discovered, when a deceased relative’s will was read in court, revealing the inheritance was divided among all the grandchildren except for the adoptee. It is also hurtful for birthparents who must never display their placed children’s photos nor utter their names for fear of offending family member who disapproves of the adoption decision that was made.

If it becomes clear that the child you place or the child you adopt will be treated unfairly by your relative(s) as a result of the adoption decision, then it is your responsibility to shield that child to whatever extent you can– not denying the truth, of course, but rather, aiming to minimize the child’s exposure to those who would reject him/her.

How to break the news

There is, unfortunately, no magical formulation by which you can reveal an adoption plan and be guaranteed a positive response every time from every relative.

Generally, Abrazo recommends breaking the news in a private setting, one-on-one, using I-statements: (“I know you know how hard things have been for me/us lately and I know you want the best for me/us so I hope you will find it in your heart to support me/us because I/we have been feeling that adoption is going to be my/our best option, given my/our circumstances.”)

Keep in mind that the first response you get to this news doesn’t have to be how the listener/s will always feel about it. They may respond with shock or anger or horror or disgust or compassion or confusion or hope, and any one of those reactions would be normal.

Know, too, that most relatives’ resistance is likely rooted in concern for you, and that they may come to feel differently about the risks involved once they learn more about the open adoption process, how it works and why it matters.

Be prepared to get different responses from different relatives; one set of in-laws or birthgrandparents may feel very differently than the other, and that’s okay, too. Adoption practices were handled very differently in yesteryear, so be prepared to help educate your relatives about what open adoption is and isn’t, if you find this would be helpful.

Give them time to come around. Assure them that you are carefully exploring your options, that you are not making any snap decisions, and that you are only working with the best of adoption resources. Welcome them to ask you questions, if you do welcome their interest, or invite them to join Abrazo’s Forum if you prefer that they get information within our community. (A couple books that may also be useful for relatives of adopting parents are In On It, Adoption Is a Family Affair, and for birthgrandparents, check out Meeting the Adoptive Parents and Walking the Open Adoption Trail.)

If your relatives oppose your plans and drag out the heavy artillery (ie., offers of financial support in exchange for your commitment to keep the baby or to pursue additional fertility treatment,) consider getting a counselor involved to help you evaluate to what extent those offers would or would not impact your decision– and potentially, your future. A few joint counseling sessions with your relatives might also be a good idea, if the family dynamics have any bearing on your decision-making process?

Ultimately, however, you are responsible for your fate (and that of your future child/family,) so keep this in mind, whatever you decide. When your family opposes adoption, that says much more about them than it says about you, so make your own best choices and know that the kinfolk who truly love you unconditionally will come around eventually, whatever choice you make, and regardless of how they feel about it from the git-go.

Dear Texas Adoptee…

Dear Texas Adoptee…

We regret to inform you that (barring any last-minute miracles,) the Texas Legislature has once again drawn to a close without responding to the cries of thousands of Texas adoptees, birthparents, adoptive parents, adoption professionals and other concerned citizens who plead every year on behalf of adoptee rights.

The average Texan may think that our dear Texas adoptees have the same civil rights as any other American, yet that would (sadly) be wrong.

Sure, you can attend public school here, vote and pay taxes here.

You can register for the draft as required by law.

You can even come testify before a Senate subcommittee hearing about what it’s like to be an adoptee in Texas.

But if you were adopted in Texas and you’re over the age of 18, you cannot see nor have the piece of paper by which the State of Texas documented the true facts of your birth.

Read that again: if you were adopted in Texas, no matter long ago you became a legal adult, you cannot obtain a copy of your original birth certificate— not unless you already know your birthmother’s name or you paid an attorney to get a court order signed by a judge allowing you access under extreme circumstances.

Now, mind you, every other American has access to their original birth certificate, if they were not adopted.

But not you– not if you were born and adopted in Texas. You’re different, according to the State. You are not entitled to the same civil rights as everybody else born here in the Lone Star State, through no fault of your own.

Why not?

That’s the question that gets raised by adoption reform advocates in every Legislative session, every other year, since 1991. Why is the average Texas adoptee of age 19-109 not permitted to access the one unaltered legal document that is unarguably “theirs” from the day of their birth, onwards? Why shouldn’t adult adoptees in Texas have the means to obtain updated family medical information? Why can’t adult adoptees in Texas know the truth of their ethnicity? Why shouldn’t they have the ability to avoid dating or marrying birthrelatives? Why aren’t they be able to apply for passports as easily as any other adult legally-born in Texas?

These questions were given voice by a large contingent of citizens concerned about adoption rights. Many were part of S.T.A.R. (Support Texas Adoptee Rights), an advocacy group that has worked tirelessly for years in its efforts to secure original birth certificate access for adopted adults in Texas, educating the public and lawmakers alike about the need for adoptee rights legislation here.

This legislative session, Senator Brandon Creighton filed SB 329 in hopes of resolving these questionsDear-Texas-adoptee for once and for all, and we thank Senator Bettencourt, Senator Birdwell, Senator Estes, Senator Garcia, Senator Lucio, Senator Menendez, Senator Miles, Senator Perry, Senator Rodriguez, Senator Seliger, Senator Van Taylor, and Senator Watson for having the integrity to join him in this quest. We thank also Representative Joe Deshotel, sponsor of the companion bill HB547, and his honorable cosponsors, Representative Metcalf, Representative Minjarez, Representative Thompson, Representative Parker and Representative Farrar.

Tragically, however, the best intentions of many were once again seemingly foiled by the opposition of few. It seems that something about truth and transparency is somehow threatening to those who still subscribe to the outdated concept of adoption being a dirty secret best kept hidden. And the power apparently wielded by the individual(s) that feel(s) this way is costing thousands of Texans born and adopted here to yet again be denied their own truth, for yet another two years, until the next Texas Legislature reconvenes in 2019.

What can you do?

As any adoptee can tell you, some of the worst feelings are those of insignificance and being powerless; having your voice disregarded by those who should be listening, and being as powerless as an adult as were you were as a baby to influence the choices being made on your behalf.

We genuinely apologize for the State of Texas’ failure, once again, to bring this adoptee rights bill to the floor for a vote, as it should have. This is inexcusable, in our opinion, and we cannot fathom how we are to explain this lack of regard for your rights, as a Texas-born adopted adult citizen of the United States.

However, we want to assure you that you are not powerless– and we (those who support adoptee rights in Texas) are not giving up. You can (and should) help in the quest to enact legislation in Texas that will uphold the rights of all Texas-born adopted adults in this State, for once and for all.

Start by joining S.T.A.R. in the important work they do. (They can’t do all the heavy lifting alone, after all.)

But don’t stop there: make your voice be heard. Contact your legislator and tell them why adoptee rights legislation is important to you– whether you are an adoptee or birthparent or adoptive parent, or whether you just care about someone who is.

And finally, help vote to put into office those who recognize and support adoptee rights. Urge those around you to do the same. Those who oppose adoptee rights must be opposed: it’s just that simple.

We didn’t get the job done this legislative session, unfortunately, but not for lack of trying.

We are behind you, dear Texas adoptee… and we will continue the fight to get the right thing done here in the Lone Star State: that’s a promise.

What does God think of adoption?

It’s an interesting question: what does God think of adoption?

Abrazo is not a church-related adoption agency. We are not affiliated with any religious institution, nor does Abrazo receive funding from any faith-based organizations. Yet, our adoption community is undoubtedly fueled by faith, and even as a private, nonprofit, secular adoption agency, we do believe that the healthiest of children, parents and families typically are those with a strong spiritual foundation.

We do not purport to have “the answer” for everybody. We do, however, support each individual’s quest for answers as to life’s greatest questions, wherever that search may lead them.

What does the Bible say about adoption?

According to the Bible says, the concept of adoption goes as far back as the Old Testament, as found in the stories of Moses (Exodus 2:10,) Esther (Esther 2:7) and Genubath (1 Kings 11:20.) In the New Testament, Ephesians 1:5 tells us that God predestined us in love to be adopted as His children through Jesus Christ, “in accordance with God’s pleasure and God’s will.”

The Jews of the Old Testament had no adoption laws of which there are any records. Still, by the time of the New Testament, the Greeks, Romans and Babylonians had carefully-prescribed standards and rituals for adoption, and the loving and sacrificial connotations of adoption are reflected in the Scriptural references of adoption as a form of grace and salvation.

Yet if we are to assume that adoption is part of God’s plan, does that mean infertility and unplanned pregnancy (and the grief and loss that can also accompany adoption) are, too? And if God’s plan is perfect, how do reproductive issues fit that claim? It’s difficult to reconcile this with the concept of a loving, benevolent God whose parental desire is to shield His children from harm, isn’t it? Abrazo’s clients and staff often struggle to understand this at times– and yet, we have to believe that even God Himself/Herself compassionately hears and understands our questions, even if the answers may seem slow in coming.

We would never be so presumptuous as to seek to speak for our Creator. Based on our years of faithful service to the adoption community, however, this is how we make sense of it, here at Abrazo.

Where is God in all of this?

These are age-old questions for which there are no easy answers. Yet any loving parent can remember a time that their children failed to follow their parents’ wishes for their lives, resulting in disappointment or pain. Any child can remember a time when they thought their plan was better than that of some grownup they knew, only to find out it wasn’t so.

Most people of faith believe that God’s plans are not subject to human understanding, much as we strive to make sense of that which seems counter to our own wishes or desires. That’s where faith comes in, and trusting in God’s promise to bring God’s purposes to pass, in all situations. Most Christians believe that God gives human beings free will, which means our plans are sometimes subject to developments God would not have chosen for us, yet God is with us in the face of every challenge.

To quote Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People:

“God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people,and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, what-does-God-think-of-adoptionliving in a world of inflexible natural laws. The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God’s part. Because the tragedy is not God’s will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are.”

How to manage an adoption-related crisis of faith

Finding yourself pregnant at the worst possible time, or not pregnant at the best possible time, or feeling not at home in your adoptive family can easily lead to a crisis of faith.

It’s not uncommon for birthparents, adoptees or adoptive parents to wonder if adoption truly is/was part of God’s plan for their lives–or not? If you find yourself in this spot, rest assured that it’s okay to question where God is in all of this, because God is surely great enough to bear the burden of your uncertainty. God knows what is in your heart, and God can lead you to the answers that you seek– all in God’s perfect time.

Birthmothers considering adoption have often been told by well-meaning busybodies that if God didn’t want them to parent, God wouldn’t have allowed the pregnancy to occur, which may be a dangerous misconception (pun intended) of God’s presence in any sexual assault, incest case, date rape or one-night-stand. God doesn’t wish for His/Her children to become victims in any way, but the gift of free will means we sometimes find ourselves the victim of our own actions, or those of others. And if we are victimized, God responds to our cries for help, and yes, can bring blessings and miracles about– the amazing scope of which we never may have anticipated.

Some people with infertility who long to become parents sometimes find themselves thanking God for their unwanted fertility diagnosis after an adoption occurs. Why is this, when surely nobody would voluntarily have signed up for that heartache? It’s because they come to realize that for all the pain and loss of their infertility, they could never have had the child they now do had it not been for their inability to conceive as they had once hoped they would. God doesn’t (ever) wish tragedy upon us, but when tragedy strikes, God can send help and yes, bring about abundant blessings and miracles we may never have encountered any other way.

Adoptees who have gone through life longing to have known their birthfamilies or who never felt they truly fit into their adoptive families or who experienced abuse or rejection or shame can easily find themselves doubting God’s master plan for their lives. The God of wanderers like Moses and doubters like Sarah and lonely messiahs like Christ undoubtedly understands an adoptee’s sense of loss. God didn’t wish their loss on them, yet God surely longs to be a part of their redemption, drawing them close and enabling them to receive the blessing of belonging, the miracle of fullness and so much more.

If you are struggling with a crisis of faith in the midst of your adoption, please know that you do not have to go through it alone. If you belong to a faith community, find a pastor, priest or rabbi who you can talk to, and if you don’t have one, or can’t find one within your community that understands, keep searching for a qualified pastoral counselor who does– remember that they need not belong to your particular denomination to be effective. Other options that some have found helpful are keeping a prayer journal or meditation or making use of free prayer hotlines like the ones at KLOVE or Guideposts.

How does all this apply to me?

Glad you asked! (This is a lot to think about, isn’t it?)

We do believe that the God of the Gospels holds accountable anyone who exploits or misuses the adoption of children for nefarious purposes, considering the Scriptures (Matthew 18:6, Luke 17:2 and Mark 9:42) that warn that anyone who causes harm to a child would be better off drowning with a millstone around their neck.

We do not believe that adoption is ever intended by God to be a punishment, even if church institutions may have historically recommended the adoption option to unmarried women as a sort of penance for being pregnant out of wedlock.

We believe that God would almost surely frown on any parent using adoption as a threat voiced to misbehaving children, or making open adoption covenants they do not keep.

And we would strongly encourage any expectant parent or prospective adopter with infertility who harbors secret fears that God “struck them down” with pregnancy or infertility as a penalty for past mistakes to seek pastoral counseling to free themselves of such a notion.

After all: if the word of God assures us that God Himself/Herself intended for us all to be adopted by Him/Her, then we have it on good word that the answer to “what does God think of adoption?” is that He/She intends it to be “very, very good” (to quote the Creation story in Genesis)— if only we can all learn to do it in a more divine manner.

Here’s to you, Mom

Whether you got to the ‘hood that is motherhood by placing or adopting or whether you’re currently expecting (via unplanned pregnancy or via adoption,) this weekend is all about you.

Saturday is Birthmother’s Day and Sunday is Mother’s Day. Regardless of which day you consider to be yours, the weekend is all about the women who bring life into the world and the women who raise a new generation of life so they are prepared to go out into the world and succeed one day.

At Abrazo, we are blessed to know the very finest of mothers. They (you) all came to Abrazo as the result of some of life’s most trying crises.

Yet they (you) rose to the challenge and have proven to be the most devoted and selfless of mothers we know.

So here’s to you, Mom. Thank you for setting such a fine example of what the best of mothers truly look like.

Here’s looking at you, Mom…

Our Abrazokids have been birthed by and are being raised by some truly extraordinary women, of all races and religions and backgrounds.

When we think of the diversity of our mothers at Abrazo, it makes us smile.

The village of Abrazo includes moms who are single, moms who are married, and moms who are divorced or widowed. heres-to-you-momWe have moms in our community who are gay and we have moms who are straight. We have moms with tattoos and piercings and implants and others without, but you can’t always guess which is which. (Which is cool. You really can’t judge a book by its cover, and you should never underestimate the remarkable mothers of Abrazo, either.)

Within Abrazo’s population, we have mothers who have beat cancer, and those who are waging valiant battles against it. We have moms who have overcome addiction and domestic violence and depression and enormous personal losses and whose grace and resilience is a lesson in itself. We have mothers who dropped out of school yet found the courage to go back, and we have mothers who have doctorates yet who have chosen to stay home to be full-time moms.

Our community includes mothers who are pilots, doctors, lawyers, accountants, researchers, clerks, social workers, artists, musicians and dancers, government officials, clergy, waitresses and domestic engineers, too. There are teachers (both who have placed, and who have adopted.) There are writers and journalists who advocates publicly for adoption at every chance they get. Some of our mothers are wives of military members and professional athletes, so they know how to move on a dime and who keep the home fires burning for weeks or months on end while their spouses are away. We have moms who work in daycare centers, who work in fast food, who don’t work but would if they could, who forfeited what they always dreamed of doing in order to do for their families, instead.

All birthmothers and adoptive mothers typically have way more in common than anyone knows. We have birthmoms who have adopted, and we have adoptive moms who have placed, and we have mothers, too, who were themselves once adopted. We have mothers who never imagined themselves ever being in the position of having to place a child for adoption, yet who did, and we have mothers who never imagined the possibility of birthing a child after adopting, and yet who did.

And every one of them is an inspiration to us, each in her own way.

Here’s how to thank her.

So how does one even begin to recognize such greatness? As a nonprofit adoption agency (that’s really nonprofit,) we know of no other way than to pay public tribute to these women by expressing our heartfelt admiration, respect and thanks for all they do for all of us– and especially for their children (your children… our children.)

And if you know one of these remarkable mothers, please make an effort to reach out to her this weekend and just say “hey, you’re appreciated.” Whether she has placed, is placing, has adopted or is adopting, every mother needs validation and every mom (and mom-to-be) deserves to be affirmed for the woman she is and the hopes that she harbors.

Because motherhood, however it comes to you, is never (ever) an easy calling. And it is nearly always a thankless task, with expectations and obligations that seemingly never end. Whether you birth and place or adopt and parent, your maternal responsibilities forever weigh on you, and no matter how much you love your kids, even the best of mothers get weary at times.

So if you’re living with a mother (yours or someone else’s): this weekend, please pick up your own clothes and put your dishes in the sink, and give her a few extra hugs (and maybe even some flowers or a card or something,) just because you can.

If you’re a mother because of another mother’s sacrifice on behalf of her child/ren, be sure you reach out to say “you’re never forgotten, you know… thank you,” just because you can.

And if your child is being raised by another mother, take a moment to call or text her, just to say “thank you… you’re never forgotten you know,” just because you can.

Happy Birthmother’s Day… Happy Mother’s Day.

Here’s to you, Mom.

Expect the Unexpected

Given all the political upheaval in America as of late, if we had to tell people navigating the adoption process how to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, we would offer just three words of advice: expect the unexpected.

There is, of course, a lot of fake news out there and it is not our intent to add to it.

However, there are legislative changes pending that may potentially impact both placing parents and adopting parents, and it seems prudent to know what potential complications one should be watching out for?

Is Texas legalizing adoption discrimination?

Texas state representative James Frank out of Amarillo is the author of HB 3859, which proposes protections for private adoption agencies (including some that receive state funding) by allowing a religious exemption that would allow faith-based organizations to opt out of working with certain groups that “conflict with the provider’s sincerely-held religious beliefs.”

The media has made much of this, with blaring headlines virtually guaranteed to incite anger. The Daily Beast, for example, ran a story entitled Texas Bill Could Let Agencies Bar LGBT, Atheist, Single Parents from Adopting under the catchy heading “Bad Faith.”

The prospect of it draws outrage, of course, and maybe rightfully so. But here’s the reality: private adoption agencies across America are already permitted by state licensing bodies to self-define their client admissions standards as specified by law. Private agencies are already allowed to decide whether they feel qualified to work with single adopters or whether they only wish to serve legally-married couples, and they have the right to determine what minimum length of marriage is acceptable to them. Private adoption agencies already set their own standards for how young or old applicants must (or can) be, whether or not an infertility diagnosis is a prerequisite for adopting, whether or not a specific church affiliation is required, and what income levels constitute financial stability, etc.

HB 3859 also explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin, and this bill specifically disallows Child Protective Services’ employees from discriminating based on religious beliefs. (By some accounts, at least 25% of the placements of CPS children in Texas are facilitated by private agencies that contract with the State. Abrazo is not one of them, nor is Abrazo a faith-based organization.)

Of greater concern, perhaps, should be the abuses that could occur as a result of its application to foster care organizations and the potential for foster care providers to require children in foster care to submit to a faith-based organization’s religious requirements? Yet again: private foster care agencies, whether or not they contract with the State, already set their own program standards in accordance with licensing standards.

In Texas, this legislative session is already crowded with ridiculous proposals like the Bathroom Bill or the Anti-Masturbation Bill, and this proposed legislation may just be one lawmaker’s effort to accommodate the concerns of his conservative voters.

However, when it comes to proposed legislation in Texas, the bill that we believe does deserve passage, which could effect very positive change in the Lone Star State, is SB 329, which would enable adults adopted in Texas to access their original birth certificates.

Why is this so vital to Texas adoptees? So that they need not go through their entire lives having to expect the unexpected, just because they were once adopted. And so they don’t have to endure a lifetime of adoption discrimination in Texas.

What are the pending federal changes impacting adoption?

On the national front, two issues in particular are making waves for birthfamilies and adoptive families, lately.

The first has to do with the repeal of Obamacare and the sweeping list of pre-existing conditions that may render Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance holders exempt from coverage under Trumpcare.

As noted in Romper’s piece, How Will Trumpcare Affect Adoption?, an adoption-in-progress may, under the Affordable Health Care Act, constitute a pre-existing condition, as would prior infertility treatments within 2 years, endometriosis, sexual assault, bipolar depression, and a horrifying list of other factors that are common both to placing parents and adopting parents. This may also precipitate a reversal of the protections under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which guaranteed the right of children being adopted to the same insurance coverage as biologically-related children in a family, meaning getting insurance coverage for kids being adopted may become more complicated and costly.

You can be sure Abrazo is watching this one very carefully– as are most Americans.

And finally, in an announcement sure to set off alarm bells for adopting families, Emily Dudak Taylor wrote from the Quad A adoption conference in Montreal this week that “it is almost certain that Senate Republicans are going to eliminate the Adoption Tax Credit by reconciliation.” This may come as a shock to adoptive families, especially those who assume that the powerful, well-funded lobbyists for the National Council for Adoption had this covered, but the venerable Washington Post alluded to this pending change more than a month ago, when they published this piece: Helping the Poor Get Poorer.

Our prediction is that the “powers-that-be” may find some way to save the adoption tax credit, even if the amount gets pared down significantly or if the qualifying criteria becomes more exclusive?

These are potentially scary prospects, of course, but don’t panic just yet. Let’s wait to see if calmer heads prevail, and then (either way) let’s work together to see new solutions, as needed?

After all, if there is anybody out there who has learned to expect the unexpected and rise above all possible challenges, it is most surely America’s veterans of adoptions, past and present and future.

Sitting out the Big Give

Having participated in the Big Give SA in the past, Abrazo is truly thankful for all who donate, but Abrazo is sitting out the Big Give this year, and this is why.

The Big Give is intended to be like the Super Bowl of philanthropy. It’s a single day in May in which Americans are encouraged to contribute to nonprofit organizations and causes all across the nation– not to be mistaken with Giving Tuesday each November.

The organization behind the Big Give promotes the event, of course, and takes a cut of each donation, which seems reasonable, considering its sponsorship of the concept. (In prior years, that cut has been 8%; this year, it was reportedly pared back to 6.2%.)

Abrazo and the Big Give

In 2015, the first year in which Abrazo participated in the Big Give SA, our agency had eight donors, and raised a total of $1240.

In 2016, the second year in which Abrazo participated, our number of donors was down to six, but the amount of donations to Abrazo rose slightly, to $1600 (meaning our little agency was still more fortunate than 665 of the 1054 Bexar County nonprofits that registered with the Big Give that year.)

sitting-out-the-big-giveHowever, a system-wide technology failure caused the Big Give website to crash in 2016, making it impossible for would-be givers to contribute during the originally-scheduled event. This necessitated an awkward extension of the event during the week, when the event’s momentum had already been damaged behind repair.

In 2017, the Big Give organizers announced that a new vendor was secured to prevent the problems that occurred the year before, which is good.

However, in addition to the surcharge to be deducted from every donation, the Big Give 2017 has implemented a $200 “upfront participation fee” for each nonprofit, which is not necessarily a good investment for small nonprofit adoption agencies like ours.

How to support Abrazo directly

Two hundred dollars and 6.2% of the total contributions may not seem like much to huge United Way agencies with well-heeled donor bases that give tens of thousands of dollars.

Yet for small nonprofit agencies like Abrazo, that’s not just chump change, and given last year’s big snafu, this year, Abrazo is sitting out the Big Give.

For the record: we trust that the Big Give has the best of intentions, and we truly appreciate all they do to help nonprofit causes of all sizes, all across America. We know the problems that occurred during last year’s fund drive were beyond their control, and we wish them every success moving forward.

Abrazo simply chose not to move forward with the Big Give this year, because much as Abrazo values every single gift and donation we receive, we prefer to use our limited funds on adoptions, not fundraising.

If you wish to donate to Abrazo, please feel free to click here to contribute via Network for Good or Paypal, or mail a check.

Rest assured: we’ll still put your gift to good use, to help birthparents and adoptees and adoptive families through Abrazo’s Angel Account, through the Abrazo/Mitchard Birthmother Scholarship fund and through our pending Abrazo/Wilkins Scholarship Program for Adoptees and Birthsiblings.

And we’ll still be just as thankful for any and all tax-deductible contributions folks may wish to make on May 4 or any other day… this year, Abrazo is just sitting out the Big Give and all the fees that come with it.

Newborn Adoption

Newborn adoption is something Abrazo has specialized in since 1994.

Most of the children Abrazo places go home from the hospital with new adoptive parents personally chosen for them by their first parents (also known as birthparents.)

The term “newborn adoption” itself is something of a misnomer, since even infants placed 48 hours after birth cannot legally be adopted by Abrazo’s adoptive family until 6-18 months after placement, when the adopting family has completed all the necessary post-placement supervision and returns to court for the actual adoption hearing.

In most of Abrazo’s adoptions, each adoptee’s birthparents and adoptive families have exchanged identifying information and spent time getting to know each other prior to the placement, and they stay in direct contact with each other after the adoption, continuing to do so throughout the child’s lifetime.

This is open adoption, and at Abrazo, this is our normal.

Who chooses newborn adoption and why?

Our agency wasn’t opened for the purpose of placing only newborns, of course. Abrazo is licensed to place children of all ages, and since 1994, we have found loving homes for not just newborns but for toddlers, for sibling groups and for children as old as seven years of age.

Yet the vast majority of parents who call Abrazo in need of homes for their children are pregnant and choosing not to parent (or not to parent another baby), and the vast majority of parents who seek to adopt, nationwide, are hoping to adopt newborns and infants.

Abrazo is one of the ethical adoption agencies that offers unbiased counseling and seeks to educate even prospective birthparents who are adamant about placing about the parenting options available to them. We don’t sugarcoat the fact that placing a child for adoption can entail long-lasting losses for the adoptee as well as the birthparents, and that the decision often comes with great grief that can last a lifetime.

Likewise, Abrazo is forthright in its efforts to advise adopting parents that adoption is never a cure for infertility and that the process is not about providing good children to homes but rather, providing good homes for children.

The birthparents who place through Abrazo are typically in their 20s-30s, and most have other children already. newborn-adoptionMost already know what it takes to be a good parent, and they see adoption as a necessary means to ensuring their child’s healthy ends. Most are already on public assistance, or they qualify for it, and employed or not, they want a far better standard of life for their child/ren than parenting another child will afford them. Birthparents cannot be paid nor rewarded for allowing their child/ren to be adopted; what Abrazo’s birthparents want most is know the child they placed is happy and healthy, and it’s the openness in our adoptions that affords them this assurance.

By the same token, Abrazo’s adoptive parents know they cannot buy a child, nor be compensated for their years of sacrifice in raising a child originally born to someone else– nor would they want this. Their desire to adopt a child as young as possible is not about pretending a baby was born to them. Rather, it is wanting to maximize their ability to positively impact a child from the earliest possible waypoint, and learning to love their child’s birthfamily is also a crucial component of that journey.

Abrazo makes every effort to ensure that newly-delivered mothers in the hospital who are considering adoption have ample time with their newborns, and our adopting families are taught to respect this, as well. For this reason, Abrazo does not allow its families to enjoy nursery privileges, and we ask our adopting parents to not “room in” with a child that is not yet theirs, because we believe that each newborn baby needs to spend as much time as possible with his or her original parent/s. Abrazo’s adoptive parents assume a parenting role only after placement occurs, and even then, we believe that being a good parent means continuing to honor your child’s other parents’ place in their lives.

Not everyone likes the idea

Even so, the concept of newborn adoption (even a child-centered one) is an affront to some people, even some who have placed, adopted or been adopted.

As one visitor to Abrazo’s website recently opined (note: we have not edited the poster’s typos, so as to not censor her words in any way):

I think if adoptive parents were really kind and courteous, they would never adopt at all! Taking another woman’s newborn is not a good, kind thing to do. If adoptive parents really, truly wanted the best for the child and the parents, they would do everything in their power to keep newborns and their mother’s together. That’s true, unslefish love. Help vunerable families, don’t help yourself to their newborns! Families belong together. Infertility is a terrible affliction, but it cannot be cured by taking another woman’s newborn. ISA, infant stranger adoption should be very rare, and no one should ever, ever pay to buy a newborn. I am an adopted adult, and I wish newborn adoption was a thing of the past. I hope someday it will be. –Marylee

Our initial response to Marylee’s comment, honestly, was to take offense to it. Her words may seem unnecessarily harsh and unkind to many in our community, and we apologize in advance to anyone who is hurt by what she has to say. Marylee’s opinion obviously reflects her own apparent biases; she seems to think that every adoption is infertility-driven, that everyone who gives birth is inherently qualified (and driven) to parent, and that families are defined solely by blood.

Yet, when we’re honest, we have to admit, there is some truth in what Marylee has to say. Infertility is a terrible affliction and adoption does not reverse it. Infant adoption is rare already, and getting more rare as society changes. Money is the root of all evil, and evil surely compels anyone who would seek to buy or sell a child. And finally: if adoption became completely extinct because no child was ever born to anyone who was not fully stable and ready for parenthood in every way, that would be a good thing.

So to these points, Marylee, we totally agree.

To label anyone who adopts as being unkind or bad, however, is as twisted and unfair as denigrating any woman who elects not to parent, for whatever reason. To impose one’s own values on somebody for whom child welfare (not family preservation) is the prevailing goal would be as coercive as is the practice of seeking to exploit another person’s vulnerability in order to acquire their child. And to deny any other child a healthy and happy life via adoption because your own adoption story was neither healthy nor happy is simply wrong, as well.

We don’t know Marylee. Yet if she is the author of this heart-wrenching poem, posted in March 2012 on a blog entitled “Marylee’s Dream”, then this may lend greater insight as to how and why this adoptee came to feel the way she does.

At Abrazo, we believe in listening to adoptees. Doing so is admittedly painful, at times. We know adoption is not always a conduit to a “happily-ever-after” ending, much as we wish it were. And being reminded of the very human toll that it can take when adoption did not make everything all better makes us all uncomfortable. Yet from that discomfort, we have the opportunity to learn and to grow, and to hopefully, work together to make things better.

So Marylee, whomever you are and however you found Abrazo: thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. We appreciate your candor in expressing your opinions. We’re genuinely sorry that your own story, whatever it was, has led you to view adoption as such a overwhelmingly-negative option. We know there is much about which we may disagree, but rest assured that we do share some common ground. We agree that the newborn adoption can be exploitative, and that far more needs to be done to ensure that adoption is always a last resort, used only by and for the birthparents and children who truly need its protections most.

Open adoption is about common courtesy

If we had to describe open adoption in six words or less, we’d put it this way: open adoption is about common courtesy.

Common courtesy is an integral component of all human relationships; being family is no different.

And make no mistake about this: any adoption decree makes relatives of birthparents and adoptive parents, just as surely as a marriage license can make spouses of two unrelated adults.

Whether an adoption is open or closed, any legal adoption forever relates a birthfamily and an adoptive family.

So for the sake of any adoptee, why not treat each other like the family that you are? It is far less confusing, after all, for an adopted child to understand why the birthfamily is in their lives than why they are not.

We don’t want to sound like your cranky great-aunt here, but how about we address the topic of good manners in open adoptions? We know you already know the basics: be considerate of the other party’s feelings. Wipe your mouth with a napkin when dining out. Don’t show up for visits uninvited. These are “givens” that never seem to be much of a problem in the open adoptions that Abrazo does.

Yet there are a few other areas in which it seems that reminders are sometimes needed, so here’s a little “brush-up” course on common courtesy in adoption, both for parents who place and for parents who adopt.

Say Please…

Everyone knows that you should say “please” when you’re asking for something, of course. And that word goes a long ways in open adoptions, as well.

Birthparents who wish that their child’s adoptive parents would use Skype or Facetime so they can actually “see” the child they placed know that they can always just say “please, can we video chat when the baby is up, so I can see how he (or she) is growing?” Want to see more photos than just what the adoptive parents post on social media? Just say them to please send you some that they don’t share online. Wonder when they plan to come visit next? Ask them to “please let me know when we can get back together– I miss you all!”

Adoptive parents who wish their child’s birthparents will remember to look into some of the family medical history questions the pediatrician asked about during the child’s last checkup know they can always say “hey, please remember to ask your doctor and let us know if you have any family history of allergies, okay?” Want to take the birthmom out to lunch when you’re in town, but you’re hoping she’ll leave her new boyfriend with all the racist skinhead tattoos at home? Say “please let us take you out for lunch, just you and us, so we’ll have plenty of quality time just to focus on (our child) without anybody else around.” Wish the birthparents would share some of their baby photos for your child’s babybook? Just say “would you please copy some of the pics from your baby book for us, when you can? We’d love to have those for (child’s name.)”

As an adoption agency, our “say please” is this: we know both adoptive parents and birthparents are courteous people who don’t want to infringe on the privacy of the other… but please don’t wait to hear from the other party when you’re thinking of them or wondering how they’re doing? Err on the side of caring and you can’t go wrong.

open-adoptions-about-common-courtesyWe get that adoptive parents and birthparents are often apprehensive about calling at a bad time or they worry that their concern might seem intrusive, somehow. Yet you wouldn’t let your relatives suffer in silence when you know they going through something challenging, would you? So please make the effort to say (or write or text) “you’re on my mind today, hope everything’s okay?” when you haven’t heard from the other or when you wish you would.

And if you’re the party being contacted, please respond. Whether you just answer a text with a “thumbs up” or smiley-face emoticon, or you take time to actually reply, acknowledging someone’s concern for you is just plain good manners. (If for some reason you are not in a place where you feel ready for contact, or if you’d rather postpone it, then find a gracious way to communicate that, or have your adoption professional do so on your behalf, in a way that is kind and doesn’t make the other party feel forever rejected.)

Say Thank You

Make a point of letting your child’s other family know they are appreciated, not just at the time the adoption is done but throughout the months and years that follow.

You don’t always have to put it in words, although the sentiment itself is nice when truly intended. There are other ways of letting others know you are grateful for their place in your life that can mean just as much.

And it’s important to remember that birthparents and adoptive parents alike can still need to feel needed, even (and sometimes, especially) as the adoptee grows up.

Birthparents often find the birthdays and placement anniversaries of the child they placed to be painful, so getting a special note or call from their placed child’s family to remind them that they are never forgotten can be a much-needed salve for a wounded heart.

Parenting can feel like a thankless task, especially in the adolescent years, so it can mean the world to adoptive parents to receive a random email or message that the birthparents still think they’re the best parents that child could ever have had.

Say I’m Sorry

Every good relationship takes work, and all authentic relationships have moments when misunderstandings and disappointments arise.

The stakes may seem higher in open adoption relationships because the trust factor is so important, but know that miscommunications can occur, and when they do, you need to make every attempt to repair them with patience and grace.

Be mindful of the need for sensitivity in your communications, especially where technology is concerned, because the tone of texts or emails can easily be misinterpreted, and passive remarks made on social media can have a devastating impact, even when unintended. Try not to engage in communication when your judgement is impaired by drugs or alcohol, and if you do, make amends as needed.

If you are a birthparent, please make every effort to follow through where your placed child is concerned. Try to remember the adoptee’s birthday with a phone call or a birthday message, even if a birthday card or gift is not in your budget. If you have the opportunity to see your child and his or her family, don’t let nerves cause you to no-show, because you’ll feel worse about yourself if you don’t go, and your child and the adoptive family will also be hurt by your absence.

If you are the adoptive parents, please make every effort to return to the birthmother’s locale for a visit at least once a year. Most parents who place do not have the means to travel to you, and being able to see the adoptee is important for the emotional well-being of your child as well as his or her birthfamily. If your budget does not allow for this, then express your regrets and let the birthfamily know when you do plan to be able to return.

If a visit is planned and either the birthfamily or adoptive family have to cancel, please let the other party know with as much advance notice as possible, and be sure to offer a genuine, heartfelt and personal apology.

When it comes to open adoption, let the Golden Rule be your guide, and treat the other party as you would want to be treated. Open adoption’s about common courtesy between relatives, and children learn from the adults around them, so love your child’s other family as your own, just as they are.

How NOT to do an adoption

The recent story about a missing baby in San Antonio reads like a textbook example of how NOT to do an adoption.

The baby’s name is Yaritza. She was born in late February to a single mother of two from Crystal City, who had reportedly been thinking about adoption for awhile.

From the news reports, it appears her mother, Justine Torres, felt unable to parent a third child alone but was undecided about whether or not adoption was the best decision for her child.

Did she call licensed adoption agencies in San Antonio? Looks into foster care alternatives? Visit a crisis pregnancy center for options counseling? Meet with an attorney to discuss her legal rights?

Unfortunately, it seems that she did not. Perhaps she was scared, or maybe she didn’t have a phone or a car or she wasn’t sure where to turn for help, other than her family?

How Yaritza Got Lost

How-not-to-do-an-adoptionFOX29 reported that Justine Torres had mentioned her dilemma to a relative, who told her about a San Antonio woman who wanted a baby.

Did this woman who wanted a baby adequate resources to provide for a child? Was she and everybody in her home emotionally stable? Had they been through the required background checks, fingerprinting, physicals and a homestudy? Had anyone in the house ever been investigated for or charged with abuse or neglect? Had an adoption professional checked out the home thoroughly in advance to ensure that it was suitable for childcare?

And did Justine Torres even know to ask? These answers are all too unclear.

However, what is known that that following baby Yaritza’s birth, her mother and the San Antonio woman who wanted a baby apparently drew up (or downloaded) some sort of guardianship letter.

Justine signed it in front of a notary public, and her newborn baby went off with the stranger.

Was a social worker monitoring the new home to ensure that the child was being well cared for? Was Justine getting counseling to help her address her post-birth needs and emotions? Was Medicaid duly informed that the child was not in her mother’s care? Was the woman who wanted a baby taking any steps to honor the parental rights of Yaritza’s only legal parent(s)?

Again, there’s just no way of knowing.

Yet we do know that Justine Torres was able to see her baby girl on her first-month birthday. We don’t know if she noticed anything amiss, but we do know that shortly afterwards, she told the stranger who was caring for her child that she wanted her baby back.

Yaritza’s caretaker told her no, she couldn’t reclaim her child, and she reportedly ended contact with Justine, blocking her social media accounts in hopes that out of sight would mean out of mind.

But it didn’t exactly work out that way.

How Yaritza Got Found

Justine went to the media and to the Heidi Search Center, reporting her child missing. The resulting news stories will remain online, forever documenting this child’s troubled start in life.

Within days, Baby Yaritza had been located and she is now reportedly on her way back to her mother’s care, having spent the first two months of her life in another home.

Some might say “all’s well that ends well,” but has it? (And will it?)

Will Yaritza now form a successful attachment to the indecisive mother who wasn’t sure she initially wanted her? Will Justine be able to care for three children successfully? Will she end up calling the San Antonio stranger back and turn Yaritza back over if she cannot? How will Yaritza understand why the first few months of her life unfolded as they did? Will Yaritza’s father learn of Justine’s actions from the media and opt to take his child out of her care, as a result? Will Yaritza’s siblings bond successfully with the new baby, or resent the attention and resources she requires in a family where presumably both are already somewhat limited?

Only time will tell. (One can only hope.)

Any adoption worth doing is worth doing the right way and for the right reasons, as Abrazo always tells its clients. A temporary guardianship letter does nothing to ensure any child’s permanent well-being, and a loving, responsible mother does not send her newborn home with anyone who cannot be permanently trusted.

If You Need Help

If you are a mother who is considering adoption for her child, please go about it the right way, for your own protection, as well as for the safety of your child.

Call Abrazo, any hour of the day or night, by dialing 210-342-5683 (or in-state, call 1-800-454-5683.) Or email us (info@abrazo.org) or visit our website, at www.abrazo.org. We can provide you with free counseling, maternity support, foster care options, medical care, transportation, legal consultations, and more.

Abrazo is a private, nonprofit adoption agency licensed by the State, so all of Abrazo’s adopting families have already completed in-depth background checks, fingerprinting, adoption training and homestudies in order to adopt. Whenever a child goes home with one of our families, we make sure we know how that child is doing, and both the birthfamily and adoptive family have full access to ongoing post-adoption support.

We trust that Justine Torres thought she was doing the best she could for her child, both when she sent Yaritza off with the San Antonio woman who wanted a baby and when she decided to take her back (something that could not have happened in any legally-executed adoption arrangement involving a licensed Texas adoption agency.)

We know that adoption is never an easy decision, especially when a mother is trying to do it all on her own. We know adoption is not always the right choice for every mother and child, yet neither is single parenting if you know you cannot possibly meet the needs of all your children. We hope that if Justine ever does consider adoption again in the future, that she’ll contact an ethical adoption agency like Abrazo first, to get help she can trust.

And we hope, too, that any other parent out there who may be considering adoption will learn from this story how not to do an adoption– because any baby as precious as Yaritza deserves for the first chapter of her life’s story to be much more secure, and far less traumatic.