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Suffering in Silence

Suffering in silence is one of the most toxic symptoms of adoption trauma. (And one of the most common.)

To the uninitiated, “adoption trauma” seems like an oxymoron; after all, if adoption is a good thing, how could that possibly be traumatic?

It’s a fair question, of course. Yet all adoption is borne of loss. So what does this mean?

It means that every adoption happens only because somebody has lost something or someone that was integral to their happiness. suffering-in-silenceAdoptees gain a surrogate family when an adoption is done, but traditionally, adoption means forever losing your place in your biological family, losing your birth identity, and sometimes losing your cultural identity, as well. Adopting couples have infertility, meaning they lost the opportunity to produce a child genetically related to them, and they lost control over their own bodies in that process. Birthparents have lost control over their bodies, too, when unwanted pregnancies have occurred, and in the process of placing a child for adoption, they voluntarily lose the opportunity to raise that child– “voluntarily lose being a true oxymoron, right there.

And every loss in life impacts us to some extent. Negotiable losses result in alteration; more significant losses result in trauma. Every loss requires some process of adjustment and adaptation in order to move forward in a healthy way. Adoption trauma can cause cause lifelong issues, if not addressed, which is why it is so important that those suffering adoption trauma be heard and validated, so they need not suffer in silence.

What suffering in silence looks like

Seventeen years ago, she chose adoption for her baby boy. She was in a fog of her own making at the time; a single mom already, she and her boyfriend were unsure of where their relationship was going, and she wanted her newborn son to have the sort of security and stability her life did not offer.

She placed with a couple who had adopted previously, so her baby would have a sister in his adoptive home (just as he would’ve had, had he grown up in her home.) The couple was willing to have her and her boyfriend visit, but in the backwash of grief she underwent at relinquishment, she felt unable to handle that. Her boyfriend did have several visits with the baby, but in time, it was too awkward to go without her, so the visits ended and contact dwindled to nothing more than a letter and photos the adoptive family sent them once in a while.

Years went by. The adoptive family got used to the birthparents not being in touch. They could not have known how many times a day the birthparents stopped to think of their son, however. They didn’t know how the sight of every toddler in a stroller caught their hearts in their throats. They didn’t have any idea how the birthmother kicked herself for not having availed herself of the opportunity to visit when she could. Would they have responded differently, had they known? We’d like to think so, but some folks do, and some folks don’t.

Every holiday, the birthparents hope for a call or a card that too often never comes. Their own families don’t understand why the birthparents keep thinking of the child they’d lost, not understanding that as loving parents, they can’t not think of him. Their adoption loss has impacted their health, their relationship, their other children, and even more. They can talk about their feelings with the agency staff and they can attend the agency’s birthparent events, but short of that, there are few outlets for their grief in a society that abhors abortion but seems to prefer that birthparents be unseen and unheard.

Adoptees can suffer even more debilitating forms of adoption trauma, especially when they have been the victims of closed adoption practices that deprive them of needed answers and access to their birthfamilies. (There’s no way of knowing yet how the son of the above-mentioned birthparents may have been impacted by the absence of them in his life, nor whether the parents who adopted him have likewise suffered in their own season of silence.) Adoptive parents also can find their adoption experience leaves them feeling unsupported, or inadequate, or overwhelmed by their child/ren’s needs or by the expectations of their child/ren’s birthfamily, after all.

Remember this: anyone who suffers in silence while/after placing, adopting or being adopted deserves support and relief, rather than judgement and isolation.

What can help those that suffer?

Those who suffer in silence and/or who struggle with adoption trauma need to know their losses are recognized. Denial can be debilitating, even when it’s well-intended, so find ways to “be present” for those who are grieving an adoption loss, no matter how long it’s been or how “positive” their adoption experience seems to have been for them.

This can sometimes be difficult for well-meaning friends or family members who may think the adoption survivor should “just focus on the positives,” or who feel somehow responsible and therefore indicted by their emotions, or who consider their losses self-inflicted. suffering-in-silenceLearning about the meaning and impact of adoption trauma is an essential part of understanding what it is and how to help those who suffer from it, so they need not be suffering in silence.

Simple activities like “active listening” (hear out those who typically suffer in silence, and then repeating back what they said by saying “so you’re saying you feel ____”) goes a long way towards helping them feel heard. Inviting them to talk about their lost family member(s) or just referring to them by name can be a comfort far more often than it’s not. Sending a loving note on adoption-related anniversaries (“I know this may be a hard day for you and I just want you to know I remember”) or forwarding resources like articles on adoption loss or counseling events can help them know you care.

If you yourself are a survivor of adoption trauma, please know you do not have to suffer to silence (nor is it healthy to do so.) Therapy is available, and can be a lifesaving resource for those who previously felt all alone in that ocean: click here to find a therapist who specializes in adoption trauma.

And even if you don’t consider yourself “traumatized” yet you are suffering in silence, then keep in mind that you are not alone! There are more resources online for birthparents, adoptees and adoptive parents than ever before. Abrazo maintains private Facebook groups for adoptees, birthmothers and adoptive parents, in which our clients can find affirmation and support; similar groups abound for those whose adoptions occurred elsewhere, too. If you need help finding one, feel free to contact us.

Suffering in silence heals no one, but finding affirmation and peace has the power to change the world– for every adoptee, birthparent and/or adoptive parent who feels heard and acknowledged at long last.

Do It Now

Decades ago, Abrazo’s founder was a bored high school student listening to a motivational speaker drone on, and every twenty seconds, he would pause dramatically to utter a three word warning:

DO IT NOW!

That speaker’s name was W. Clement Stone, and he wrote the book Success through a Positive Mental Attitude with Napoleon Hill. Stone had made millions selling insurance, and one of the recipients of his generosity was the Interlochen Arts Academy, where Abrazo’s founder was a scholarship student.

do-it-nowElizabeth and her classmates were required to attend Mr. Stone’s long, repetitive speeches, and they often got the giggles as the tiny man with the seemingly-painted-on pencil mustache repeated his catch phrases with oblivious delight. “Do! It! Now!” he would thunder, then he would fall silent, as if struck by lightning.

“Fiiiiive… longgggg… seccccconds… havvvve… passsssed…” He would intone dramatically. “Think! Think! Make a change. Do it now!”

The boarding school students had all been given a complimentary copy of Stone’s book and were expected to read it, but Elizabeth and her classmates were largely unaware of Stone’s material success. do-it-now The philanthropist W. Clement Stone, who started out shilling newspapers to diners in restaurants, eventually donated over $275 million to charity before his death in 2002 at the age of one hundred.

Working in adoption, neither Elizabeth nor any of Abrazo’s employees will ever amass the sort of wealth that W. Clement Stone had, of course. And yet, it was the late millionaire’s message that came to mind this weekend. That was when the agency received word of a tragedy in Houston that happened to befall one of Abrazo’s birthfathers, a man who surely could have benefited from Stone’s positivity, if only he’d been able to learn from him.

This weekend, that birthfather was shot in the face following an altercation at an apartment complex in the early morning hours. He tried to drive himself to a hospital for help, but he ended crashing his car. He died shortly thereafter, leaving his son’s birthmom to relay the sad news to the adoptive mom, who then had to face the hard task of breaking it to her son.

This birthdad was just forty years old. He hadn’t been a part of the open adoption, by his own choice. Now, the son who was adopted will know him only through his connections with the people who knew his birthdad in this lifetime.

It could have been so different… if only it had been.

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”

W. Clement Stone never had any adoption connections of which we know, but as it turns out, he did have some wisdom to share even with those in adoption relationships, as evidenced by the quote above.

Abrazo’s adoptions are open, of course. Yet that doesn’t always mean that all the people involved in every adoption we do choose to stay in touch– much as we wish they would.

Some birthparents think it will hurt less the more they stay away; they tend to find out too late that the longer they deny their feelings, the harder those are to deal with later on in life.

do-it-nowMany adoptive parents work hard at honoring their children’s connections with their birthparents, as the adoptive mom in this case has done, but some try valiantly for years to engage them without ever getting much response, for reasons unknown, which becomes understandably exhausting in time.

And some adoptive families misread the birthparents’ lack of communication as disinterest, and give up trying, thinking the adoptee can seek the birthfamily out “down the road” if they so choose, but this makes the adoptee responsible for doing what the parents have failed to do on their behalf, which was simply to keep in touch so the adoptee would never have to search for what was always his/hers to begin with.

Open adoption isn’t a magic bullet, and it cannot cure all the losses that come with infertility, crisis pregnancy, or pregnancy loss or family divisions. But love goes a long way towards answering the questions that come with each of those things, and empowering children to know and love all “their people” (those by birth and those by relationship) helps kids who have been adopted to grow up whole (and hopefully, more happy, as a result.)

“Success is achieved and maintained by those who try and keep trying.”

The final efforts of the birthfather in Houston to get help may not have resulted in the saving of his life, but he did succeed in getting help, as EMS responded to his car crash, and as a result, he did ultimately make it to a hospital, so he did not die alone.

His family, as well as his son who was adopted and his son’s mom and birthmom will be together to pay tribute, when he is laid to rest.

do-it-nowHe did not afford himself the pleasure of knowing this son in this lifetime, yet his boy is a smart, talented young man with mad skills in baseball, who is sure to achieve great things in life. He regularly makes his mother and his birthmom and his teachers proud, and we hope he knows that his every success will be a credit also to his late birthfather.

So if there’s one takeaway in all of this, perhaps, it comes from the wisdom of W. Clement Stone, who reminds us that there’s no time like the present to reach out to those we love and tell them what they mean to us.

If you’re a birthparent who has lost touch with the family of the child you placed, or if you’re an adoptive parent who longs for some connection with your child’s birthparent(s), or if you’re a grown adoptee who is trying to find the courage to pursue a search and reunion, don’t assume that there’s plenty of time to make it happen… do it now.

Because life is short, and time is precious, and adoption connections matter. Please, don’t wait! Don’t put it off. Your peace of mind is more valuable than you know.

Make a change. (Do. It. Now.)

Going Through Relinquishment

She hadn’t been sure what to expect, but she knew going through relinquishment wouldn’t be easy.

“Amaya” had listened to other birthparents in Abrazo’s birthparent support group talk about what it was like. Most said it was the hardest decision they ever had to make. A few said they really didn’t remember much of it, except that it was a lot of paperwork. One mom said she’d cried so hard, she’d burst all the blood vessels in her eyes and the white parts of her eyes were red for days. Amaya hoped that wouldn’t happen to her, because having hidden her pregnancy from family and friends, she didn’t want to have to explain anything afterwards, either.

She’d gone out with one of her boyfriend’s coworkers to get back at him for sleeping around, and what was just supposed to have been a few drinks ended up as an unanticipated overnight. By the time she missed her period, she and her boyfriend were back together, and they’d forgiven each other’s transgressions, so that positive pregnancy test she took at home had been anything but good news. Neither guy was in a position to parent, and a baby didn’t fit into Amaya’s plans for the future, either, so being opposed to another abortion, adoption seemed to be her better option.

As her pregnancy progressed, she began to realize that what seemed like it would be “just signing a bunch of papers” at the end was going to be a Really Big Deal. She’d been given a copy of the paperwork for reference the first day she came here. She knew that signing the relinquishment papers in Texas meant forever terminating her legal right to be her child’s mother, and enabling someone else to become her child’s parents. Open adoption could still afford her the privilege of staying in touch with her child’s new family, but it wouldn’t be “just the same” and she knew that. She chosen a prospective adoptive family and got to know them; they were the parents she wished she’d had, growing up.

But in the hospital, after the birth, a tidal wave of emotions hit her when it came to complete the relinquishment documents. “I knew it was right,” says Amaya. “I just didn’t know how to deal with anything that was that permanent. Every other thing I’ve done in my life, I knew I could probably undo if I had to, but this wasn’t like that. And that freaked me out, knowing I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. I know I did the right thing. But knowing how final it was, that was huge.”

What happens at relinquishment?

In Texas, a parent cannot surrender parental rights to their child until at least 48 hours after birth (Abrazo typically waits 72 hours after a birth by C-section.) The parent must be free of any mind-altering medication, and they can opt to delay signing more than 48 hours, too, of course, if there is any doubt in their mind(s) that they feel ready to make a final decision.

Relinquishment papers can be signed in a hospital room, or at Abrazo, at home or in a public place, wherever the parent(s) may feel most comfortable. At the time that the relinquishment documents are signed, there must be two reliable witnesses present and a notary public. (Texas law specifically permits adoption professionals to serve as notaries and/or witnesses, as long as the signor agrees to their presence as such.)

Whenever Abrazo handles relinquishments, the parent signing the documents does not do so in the presence of the people hoping to adopt, to ensure that the signer feels no pressure nor coercion. going-through-relinquishmentThe signer is asked to read the documents carefully, or to have them read aloud, to ensure that they understand the meaning of the paperwork and to give them a chance to ask any questions they may have before signing. They are placed under oath by the notary public, and a copy of the relinquishment that is signed is provided to the parent(s). Abrazo birthparents do not have to appear before a judge in Texas, because the agency’s attorney takes the legal documents to court on the agency’s behalf. And those legal documents are later sealed by the courts, to ensure that the parent(s) signing them have their privacy protected from the general public and all aothers– even in an open adoption.

The legal impact of the relinquishment process is to free the biological parents of any and all future legal responsibility for the child being placed, who is free to be adopted by another family as a result of the irrevocable surrenders the birthparent(s) signed. In Texas, when a birthparent signs an irrevocable relinquishment of parental rights to a licensed Texas child placement agency in accordance with the law, that decision is permanent and final, and there is no “grace period” during which the surrender can be revoked or the child reclaimed by the biological parents.

What should parents signing relinquishment expect?

Expect to see the same legal relinquishment document Abrazo provided in the packet you received when you first came to our agency. While you couldn’t sign it before, you were given a copy to ensure that you could review it long in advance, and take it to any lawyer or legal advisor of your choice to make sure you understood its meaning. Signing it in front of two witnesses and a notary public can be very emotional for some parents, while for others, it is simply a long legal document that makes official the decision already made in their heart/s weeks or months beforehand. Afterwards, some birthparents report feeling relief that the choice is no longer hanging over their head, but it’s also not uncommon to be overcome with feelings or sadness or regret. (Remorse that doesn’t mean they’ve made the wrong choice for their child– it just means they are human.)

Parents who voluntarily place a child for adoption in Texas by relinquishing parental rights to a licensed adoption agency should be able to expect confidentiality, respect and post-adoption support from their adoption agency staff. They often experience a variety of emotions after relinquishment, from guilt to sorrow to anger to shame to numbness, so it is important that the adoption professionals involve continue to offer counseling and sustenance as promised, ongoing assurance of the child’s well-being, and healthy access to the adoptive family.

Birthparents typically do not receive legal updates as to when the termination order is being signed by the judge, as such notice is waived in the Texas relinquishment proceedings. At Abrazo, birthparents are encouraged to continue spending as much time with their child and his or her adopting family as they feel comfortable with. Such contacts are healthy not just for the birthparents and adoptive parents, but especially for the baby or child undergoing the transition of placement. Out-of-state adoptive families must typically remain in Texas for 7-10 days after placement while awaiting Interstate Compact (ICPC) approval, so they welcome visits with the birthfamily during this wait.

Going through relinquishment is an act of pure parental sacrifice. It should only be done after much careful forethought, and all who do it should be surrounded with love and understanding, for going through relinquishment means having had the courage and selflessness to forever put their child’s needs before their own.

Learning from Adoptees After Adoption

What if learning from adoptees after adoption were what mattered most to everyone?

Ask online if adoption is good or bad, and you’ll get as many different answers as there are people impacted in any way by adoption.

Ask persons who were once adopted, though, and you’re likely to get far more significant insight. The birthparents’ decision and their reasons for entering into it is important, as is the way the adoption was handled and the adoptive parents’ adjustment to their new parenting responsibilities.

Yet what if it’s the adoptee’s own evaluation of how their life unfolded after adoption that measures the true value of each placement? (And what if that measure has the capacity to grow or change as they do?) How would that impact adoption practices, as a whole?

Adoption can be “good” for birthparents if it enables them to successfully continue to care for the children already in their care, or if it frees them to escape an abusive relationship or complete their education or wait until they are truly ready to become fulltime parents.

The same adoption can be a blessing in the lives of the adoptive parents if it empowered them to become parents after years of infertility, or enabled them to grow their family as desired or made it possible for them to meet the needs of a child who needed them.

after-adoption

Still, what birthparents and adoptive parents consider to have been successful adoptions may not be all that successful in the eyes of an adoptee. That doesn’t invalidate the parents. But it means that adoption may not always be seen as the “best” option by an adoptee who feels a wrenching grief over having been denied the opportunity to grow up in their original family or who suffered a sense of rejection or alienation in the adoptive home or culture, or whose right to access information about their origins has been violated, or who was mistreated in the adoptive home or abandoned to foster care, or who always has felt the pressure of having had to fulfill others’ expectations just because they were adopted, or who is angry at having been forced into a family arrangement they don’t feel truly met their needs best.

After adoption, it is essential that we listen to the voices and learn from the experiences of those who have been adopted, for they and they alone have the power to transform the entire adoption institution, from the inside out. It may be too late to change things for them, but it doesn’t mean things can’t be made better for others.

What Adoptees Can Tell Us

A Today feature on one Texas adoptee recounts how a child adopted twice went on to launch a Facebook group called “I Am Adoption” that has become a huge source of support for more than 7k people whose lives have been touched by adoption.

Pamela Radisek was born in Paraguay and adopted as a baby, but after six years and some abuse, she ended up in CPS care, resulting in her second adoption, which provided her the safe home and loving family she had always deserved.

As Radisek recounted to Today contributing reporter Brian Mastroianni, “This all shaped my life profoundly, and really everything, both negative and positive, played a huge role in my life.”

Nobody’s life is all good or all bad, and every adoption, likewise, is a conglomeration of both positives and negatives.

For adults who place, adopt or work in the adoption field, it’s all too easy to discount the adoptee experience in an effort to exonerate ourselves. It’s hard to hear that what you went to such lengths to help make happen may not, in the eyes of an adoptee, have been optimal for them.

It’s essential, however, that we honor the right of every adoptee to speak their piece, in order to find their peace. And all we need to do, to do that, is to l-i-s-t-e-n. That’s right: just listen. Don’t “yes, but” them. Don’t point out what you think they’re forgetting. Don’t take any criticism personally (unless you should.) Listen to what they have to say. Let them know you have heard what they’re feeling, by repeating it back to them (“so you’re saying that…?“) and then you don’t even have to agree or disagree, because that’s not your place. Just hear them out, make it clear that you’ve heard them, and thank them (honestly) for having had the courage to share their truth.

(And then, do one thing more: learn from it.)

Positive or not, learn something.

Abrazo had contact with two adults recently whose placements were done through our agency years ago. One came in the form of a message from an adoptee, who wrote:

about 20 years ago, you gave me a family, a home and a life with my adoptive parents. I’ve always wanted to reach out to you and thank you for your incredible work. My life would not be the same without you! Because of you, I have the most beautiful relationship with my birth family, and the knowledge that I was cared for and loved before I was even born. So, thank you, thank you, thank you. ??

Another adoptee, however, wrote to update us about the problems the adoptive parents had hidden from the agency, which had eventually caused the adoptive parents’ marriage to fail and ultimately led to the adoptee (now a parent) making the difficult decision to end contact with the adoptive parents. Even so, the adoptee said, the birthmother’s choice to place had been the best decision she could have made, given her circumstances, and the adoptee and birthmom have a positive relationship today, even if neither is in contact with the adoptive couple anymore.

It was heartwarming to receive the first message, and heartbreaking to read the second, and yet, both have value and wisdom from which we can learn. It’s easy to share good news, of course, but not so easy to admit that not every adoptive placement has a “happy” outcome.

There will always be adults with things to hide in the adoption process, and all agencies must do better at somehow confirming what isn’t known, in order to better protect the interests of children.

And there will always be adoptees whose positive adoption experiences can help to affirm best practice, especially when adoptions are open, and involve healthy adults who are well-informed about the importance of making sure their open adoptions stay that way, for the kids’ sake.

After adoption, it is surely the adoptees who have the most to teach us– if only we’ll let them?

In the Parent Hood

In the parent ‘hood, we neighbors know that for all the great job titles, this is a rather poorly-paid gig.

Don’t get us wrong– parenting can be wonderful (at times.) It’s glorious to bring a new baby home, for example (no matter how that baby came to be yours.)

Snapshot memory moments rise like cream on fresh milk, when we think about the happy times: introducing family and friends to our little ones, late night cuddles, the feel of tiny kids in freshly-washed jammies, those sleepy arms wrapped around your neck when you get them out of the crib in the morning, their first steps, the first tooth, bath times, Christmas mornings, birthday parties… you know the drill.

And yet. (But then.) There are also the less-glorious moments, like when our children start to say and do things that disappoint us, or when the stressors of parenting take a toll on our marriages, or when medical issues arise that were unanticipated, or the costs of having children begin to drain us, or when we realize we may not have been as prepared for all the challenges of parenthood as we thought?

That’s when we find ourselves in the parent hood.
in-the-parent-hood

Welcome to the Neighborhood…

The parent hood can be a very gratifying club to belong to, especially for those who long admired its ranks from afar and pined to be counted among its elite members. To celebrate your first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day can feel like a dream come true. To have others tell you how well-behaved your child can make your heart swell with pride. To be referred to as someone’s mom or dad is a title of honor, of course. (That’s what sometimes makes it so hard to share, in the adoption world.)

When your child is doing well, the parent hood applauds you. Looks up to you. Gives you cred.

You get a speaking role at PTA meetings, a place of honor in your child’s classroom if you sign up to be room parent, and sometimes, even handmade crafts on holidays (at least while your child is in daycare.) Other parents may ask you for advice. You draw affirmation from your child’s successes, and you brag on your kid incessantly on social media, just because you can, not because it makes you look good, of course.

Along the way, though, there are moments when the wheels fall off the bus. And then, we are reminded what a really crappy job parenting can be, sometimes.

Raising kids is truly a thankless task, because it’s way more labor-intensive (pun intended) than anyone realizes– whether you give birth and especially if you don’t. If you do parenting “right” then more often than not, your child gets all the credit, but if your best efforts don’t bear fruit, then you get most of the blame (from yourself, if not from others.) In this corner of the parenthood, it can feel very lonely. You don’t want to admit that this job is a lot harder than it looks, but keeping it to yourself is very isolating.

And if you became a parent through adoption, then you win a whole ‘nother subset of issues; what do you do if everything you think you wanted most isn’t everything you’d hoped it would be? Are your child’s shortcomings the result of nature, or nurture? What will the birthfamily think of the job you are doing of raising their child? What if your child doesn’t seem as attached as you’d like, or if you don’t feel the bond to your child that you’d always thought you would? Does the agency really need to know when problems arise, and can they do anything about it, really? This corner of the parenthood is an especially shadowy place, because it’s hard to know who you can talk to and where to find help when you need it most.

Please, won’t you be my neighbor?

In those times, we are reminded of the words of Henry David Thoreau, in his thoughts on quiet desperation.

“The mass of (people) lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things…”

What does this mean? In short, dear parent, it means this: most parents go through moments (or days, or even weeks or months) of quiet desperation, so you are not alone! Parenthood is an enormous undertaking even in the best of circumstances, and those are typically not the situations in which most of us become parents.

Parenting is the hardest, longest-lasting, underpaid, overworked, underappreciated and underrated job you will ever have. (Ever.) But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be committed. (Well, let’s say invested, because committed parents have additional burdens to bear.) Even your mistakes (and yes, we all make them) can pay off, if you and/or your child learn from them.

In the parent hood, we could do a whole lot of good if we would learn to reach out more, to risk sharing and to share our experiences with others. In the Abrazo community, we have a currently under-utilized resource called The Abrazo Forum, which is our online community. It’s been usurped by social media in recent years, but it’s a safe place in which to pour out problems and vent frustrations and share heartaches and seek support– whether or not you adopted through Abrazo.

If you are an adoptive parent, you need the support and input of other parents, particularly those with adoptions that resemble your own. (The same goes for birthparents, by the way.) You aren’t an island, and you really can swim better with supportive friends close by.

And keep in mind, always: birthparents and adoptive parents have the enormous potential to support each other, in a way that the world is unlikely to understand, but which can open up beautiful new vistas in the parent hood for everyone, if only we’ll let this happen.

Needing Adoption Advice

She was just needing adoption advice, the caller said. She had never told her child that she was adopted, and the caller was feeling like it might be time to break that news, perhaps? She hadn’t adopted through Abrazo, but she didn’t know where else to turn for help.

We offered her all the encouragement we could, assuring her that adoptees need to know of their own adoptions from the earliest possible point.

She said she knew she should’ve already told her child, but she loved her child so much, she didn’t want her child to ever feel rejected or abandoned.

We affirmed this mother’s love for her child, but reminded her that the sooner she told her child the truth, the better it would be for both of them. She admitted this was the same thing her eldest child had told her. “So your older child knows about the adoption?” we asked. She said yes, everyone in the family knew except the adoptee.

“I don’t want (the adoptee) to be angry at me for not having told the truth before now,” the caller worried.

We reminded her that the adoptee may indeed feel anger or sadness or frustration or sorrow, but that it would be important for the mother to empower her child to feel whatever was felt upon learning this news, and to be assured that those feelings do not threaten the parent’s love for and support of her child.

We suggested that disclosure of the adoption would ultimately be a relief for both parent and child, since the mother is clearly struggling with guilt over having not shared the truth before now, and many adoptees sense that there is more than their origins than they know, even before knowing of their adoption?

“Oh, my, that’s a sign right there, that you said that,” the called said. We asked why this is, and she said she and her child were watching a television program about adoption and the caller had said to her adopted child that someday she had things she needed to share, but that she wasn’t ready yet, and the caller sensed that the adoptee might already have an inkling based on that passing exchange.

“Well, how old is your child?” we asked.

The caller then revealed that she is a retiree, and her child is already a grown adult.

We talked a bit more, and then we offered the caller resources in her own locale, where she might be able to get further counseling and support to complete the important task at hand.

(And we sure hope she does.)

When to Tell

Talking to your child about adoption is not easy, no matter how young or old they may be.

Yet every adoptee (whatever their age) deserves to know the facts of their birth and adoption from the earliest possible point in life. Every adoptee (whatever their age) needs to know the facts of their ancestry. needing-adoption-adviceAnd certainly, every adult adoptee should be given legal access to their original birth certificate.

Adoptees who are not told the truth of their origins until later in life (at age 13, or 18, or 25, or 50 or 75 or whatever) are what is known as “late discovery adoptees.”

For late term adoptees, the burdens of being adopted are complicated considerably by the grief of having been lied to for years or decades on end by the very people they were supposed to be able to trust beyond all others: their family. Their adoption grief is compounded by the loss of trust, and even more so when they discover the truth of their adoption too late to ever reconnect with their birthparents.

However, for anyone who may be reading this having kept a living child’s adoption a secret, please note that it is never too late to do the right thing.

Don’t make your passing from this life even harder for your son and/or daughter by waiting until you’re on your deathbed to reveal the truth. Don’t force them to learn the truth on their own by going through your papers after you’re gone.

And in this day and age, don’t wait until they do DNA testing on their own and find out without you the truth of their genetic relationships.

If you did a legal adoption, then you made a sacred promise before a judge to always do what was in your adopted child’s best interests, no matter what.

If you’re wondering why adoptees need to know, then spend some time learning from Kevin Gladish, author of a blog called “A Story With No Beginning. In Chapter 3 of his blog, Kevin writes “Adoptees would often be asked: What do you have to gain from knowing? The real question should have been: What do you have to gain by keeping us from knowing? What I have come to discover is that, even for those of us who learned at an early age that we were adopted, the need to search can serve a deep purpose. For me, having been kept in the dark my whole life, It’s like turning on hundreds of lamps, one after another. Like many adoptees whose stories I have read and heard, I have always felt a little fractured, out of place, and distrustful. A deep part of who I am, my history and identity, was hidden away from me. A wall was built around a core part of myself, and I was not allowed entry beyond it.”

In Chapter 7, he follows that theme with this thought: “I have a right to want this… without explaining myself or apologizing for it… That matters. Because it’s who I am. This idea that it’s better to pretend that adoption is irrelevant, not true, or that it “shouldn’t matter” is an idea that doesn’t work. It discounts a deep truth that adoptees know and feel down in their marrow.”

With secrecy comes shame. With honesty and transparency can come release and forgiveness.

How to Tell

Now is the time to do right by the child you adopted– if you haven’t done so already.

Say to your adopted child, in a private setting: “I have always taught you the importance of telling the truth, right? Well, it’s important to me to talk about your truths. I need you to know that I will always love you. And that our family is bigger than you know, because you also have a birthfamily. I didn’t tell you sooner because I didn’t know how. But now I do, and I need you to know that another mother carried you before I became your mom, and if you want my help to look for her, I’ll help you with that. I understand that you may have a lot of different feelings and questions, just as I do, and I want you to know it’s okay to talk about them, with me or with (our pastor, or a counselor, or another trusted adult.) But please remember: I love you, forever and always.”

This will not be an easy conversation. (It shouldn’t be, frankly.) It’s going to feel uncomfortable, and it may be scary (for both you and your child.) Your child may respond with confusion or anger or fear or sadness, and you will want to “make it all better” but you can’t, because they need time to process what this means to them. It may change nothing or it may change everything, of course. But everything that it could change is ripe for the changing, because the truth truly does set us free.

If you have photos or letters or mementos from the birth or gifts from the birthparent(s), this is the time to share them. Put a picture of the birthparent(s) in a frame, if you have one, and leave it in the adoptee’s room. Give the adoptee time to look over these things in private, if they need to do so. Keep in mind that many adoptees fear that expressing interest may be misinterpreted as disloyalty, so find a healthy balance between encouraging their curiosity and letting them explore what this means about their identity at their own pace.

If the adoptee wants to find the birthfamily, the search is your responsibility, as parents, if the adoptee is a minor; if the adoptee is an adult, then it is your job to support the adoptee in their efforts to search.

And if you, as the parent, are struggling with your own emotions about the adoptee’s reaction to the news of his or her adoption, please talk with a professional. Don’t make your child responsible for your emotions, and don’t make this be all about you and your needs. (And note: we say this with love. We know this isn’t easy, and we commend you for wanting to make things right.) We’re not here to cast blame; you did the best you knew to do, given what you knew before, but now you know better, right?

(Please note: the same message applies to birthparents who may not yet have told the sons and daughters they are parenting about the child/ren they placed. Honesty IS the best policy, after all.)

As the caller on the phone said, when she called Abrazo needing adoption advice: “Hard as this is going to be, I don’t want my child to have to find out without me.”

Can I Sell My Child?

Google the question “can I sell my child?” and you may be horrified to learn how often this gets asked. (Along with “is it illegal to sell your child?”, “child selling in america”, “buy my baby”, “black market baby adoption”, “child laundering”, “how much do babies sell for?” and “baby buyers.”)

Obviously, folks, this is going on in 21st century America, no matter how illegal it is.

And yes, it IS illegal to buy or sell a child in all 50 states. (But still, whoever even knew that “child laundering” was a thing?!?)

In Corpus Christi, Texas, 29-year-old Esmeralda Garza is accused of having allegedly sold her 7-year-old son for $2500 to pay down a drug debt. She was reportedly in the process of selling her two and three-year-old daughters, as well, when she was arrested during a drug search. Garza is currently in jail; her children are in protective custody, and the relatives are saying they had no idea any of this was going on. There is no word, yet, as to whether the child’s buyer will face charges as well.

It’s not just an American problem, either. In India, a nun and a worker at an orphanage founded by Mother Theresa have also been charged with the selling of children.

can-i-sell-my-childA satirical site called Landover Baptist Church makes a joke out of evangelical baby buying, but the truth is that the purchase or sale of any child is no a laughing matter. It’s a felony offense, for one thing.

For all those who search online to find out “is it illegal to sell your child?”: yes, it is illegal to sell your child.

For all who call adoption agencies asking “how much money do you get for giving your baby up for adoption?” the correct answer is that no person can legally pay another for giving a baby or child up for adoption.

For those who wonder “how much is adoption compensation for birthmothers?” there is no such thing as “adoption compensation” in any legal adoption.

What makes an adoption legal or illegal?

Here’s the Texas penal code statute on buying or selling a child… just in case you’re curious?

A legal adoption is rarely an easy nor simple procedure, but it is the only kind of adoption that makes all the associated sacrifices worthwhile. A legal adoption, one done ethically and in accordance with all the laws, allows you to live with your conscience afterwards. It won’t land you in prison nor land your child in state custody if the details ever get out. Any adoption worth doing is worth doing the right way, for the right reasons. And “personal profit” should never enter into that equation.

We all know someone who knows someone who says they were given cash a car or a Rolex or some other gift of value in exchange for having given someone a child to adopt, and every one of those instances could constitute a felony offense in nearly any state in America. Does this go on, in real life? Certainly… more often than any adoption professional wants to think. Is it ever justifiable? We believe not. (N-E-V-E-R.)

In a legal adoption in Texas, state-licensed adoption agencies like Abrazo are legally permitted to assist placing parents with what’s called “maternity needs” during pregnancy and for a brief post-partum period. This is known as “maternity support,” and it is only allowed to cover certain “pregnancy related expenses” such as housing, food, clothing, etc. It is charitable assistance for which receipts are required, so Texas agencies can pass these expenses along to prospective adopters, but cannot require birthparent repayment should a prospective birthparent change their mind about placing.

However, the amount of any such assistance provided by Texas adoption agencies should never (ever) be substantial enough to influence a parent’s decision to place nor to not parent. This is all that the birthparents can legally “get” in the adoption process in Texas, and it does not come directly from the adopting parents nor constitute payment or compensation of any kind.(Any mother who is only considering adoptive placement out of financial desperation should contact Saving Our Sisters for assistance, instead.)

Who is the real victim when children get sold?

Obviously, people have to have suffered to be the kind of folks desperate enough to buy or sell a child. But even worse than that is what it does to a child who gets bought and sold.

Think about what the legacy of having been a bought or sold child means to the person to whom it happens. To have been bought or sold is to have been reduced to human merchandise, and it means you grow up unable to trust that you are loved for just being who you are. It also means that there’s no telling what price the parents willing to pay any price to get you might exact if you don’t live up to their expectations.

Whenever you see news reports like this one, ask yourself: how will this child ever make sense of what these parents that should’ve put his best interests first did to him?

Don’t take our word for it, though. Here’s a real-life account from one black market adoptee: Bought and Sold by a Child Trafficker. Here’s another: A Hollywood Mystery. And here’s one more A Montreal Black Market Baby Speaks.

It’s easy to condemn parents who seek to sell their children. (We know what a visceral response such inquiries can evoke, because we feel this, too, whenever folks call us to ask “what can I get if I do this?”) However, it’s essential to remember that at the end of the day, it’s the children about whom we must be most concerned.

So to mothers like Esmeralda, caught up in addiction, we say “if you need help to get clean and parent effectively, call us for referrals, and if you know you can’t be the parent your child needs and you want to place, you can reach us day or night (1-800-454-5683) and we’ll help find a loving, permanent home for your child through an open adoption.”

And for those who are seeking an offer in response to the question “can I sell my child?” we’ll gladly help put you in touch with law enforcement or child protective services, for your child’s safety.

Adoption: Undecided

The young mother who came to our office to discuss all her pregnancy alternatives listed the very last one as “adoption: undecided.”

She was too far along to consider abortion. She had too many children already to realistically consider parenting another by herself. The baby’s father had too many family violence charges to be able to take the child. Their families had already cut them off.

And yet, to voluntarily place a child for adoption seemed almost too daunting to consider.

“What if the baby hates me for giving him up? What if my other kids hate me for keeping them? What if the baby’s dad finally changes someday? What if the adoptive parents are ever abusive? What if I win the lottery and want my child back? What if open adoption makes it harder to live with this decision?”

We assured her that these are important questions for every parent to consider when they’re deciding whether or not to consider adoption: undecided parents have every right to explore all their options and the ramifications of each well in advance of making any final decision(s.)

If you are adoption undecided, then welcome to the club! There are far more people who “think about adoption” than the number that ever actually do it, and this is not a bad thing.

Whether you are considering adoption for your baby or you are considering adopting a child, adoption is a permanent commitment, so it’s essential to keep three basic points in mind:

Adoption means sacrifice, with no guarantees of satisfaction.

Whether you place or if you adopt, you are making a lifetime commitment on behalf of a child, and just as life offers no guaranteed outcomes, neither does adoption. Adoptive families are not automatically better (or worse) than bio-families. Birthparents do not automatically bond or parent any better (or worse) than adoptive parents do. Kids who are adopted are not guaranteed to turn out better (or worse, nor any more appreciative of their parents) than kids who grow up with the families they’re born into. Neither a homestudy nor an adoption decree warranties a perfect outcome for any child, nor can any adoption professional accurately predict any adopted child’s potential.

Adoption requires the child’s interests take first priority, no matter what.

Traditionally, the public’s perception was that children “belong” to the parents that raise them, and that all the power over that child belongs to the parenting parents, as well. Birthparents today who expect that forfeiting parental rights means they won’t owe the adoptee anything are bound to be surprised in years to come that the adult once adopted does feel entitled to answers to their questions, at the very least. Adoptive parents who expect a healthy adopted child to just “fit into” their lives (and expectations) are equally surprised to learn that good parenting instead means adjusting their lives to accommodate their child’s needs, at every age. Parenting is not for sissies, and whether you place or adopt, you are entering into a sacred vow on behalf of that child, for better or worse: that child’s needs come first.

An adoption experience will transform you in ways you cannot imagine.

Adoption changes everything. It’s not only changes family trees, it changes the very fiber of every branch, in ways that can be both good and not-always-good. Every adoption is borne of loss, and every loss in life has the capacity to grow us or to break us, depending on what we do with it. Becoming a parent is a lifetime responsibility, whether or not you choose to parent. Being adopted is a lifetime weight, depending on how you balance the burden. Expanding your family means having to make room to expand your heart. The hard part about this is that adoptees have no say in whether or not they wish to participate in this transformation, so it’s essential that parents understand why adoptees may not see adoption as having been an asset in their lives– even when the outcome has been positive.

If you’re adoption-undecided, then take advantage of the opportunity to learn all you can about adoption before you commit. Talk to other parents who have placed, adopted, and decided not to. Listen to all the adoptees you can. Learn from adoption experts; not those who “do adoptions,” but particularly, those who care for those touched by adoption afterwards. There’s a lot of anti-adoption propaganda out there, but there’s also of really good information available to help you make a well-informed decision.

And while there’s no “perfect solution” to any imperfect life circumstances like infertility or unwanted pregnancy, if you’re adoption-undecided, take the time to examine all your options, think them over, and if Abrazo can be of service, keep in mind: we’re just a phone call or an email away.

Pregnancy Breakups

There are no national statistics on the numbers of pregnancy breakups, but we’re guessing this happens more than anyone knows, given how many women we work with who got dumped when they got pregnant?

Some pregnancy breakups happen as soon as Prince Harming finds out you’re late and starts to ghost you. pregnancy-breakupsOther guys stick around briefly to make themselves feel good but then start in with all the “how do I know it’s mine” questions before they make you so miserable you can’t wait for them to be gone. Other guys do the “well, okay, I’ll help with the baby but not until it’s here” shtick, then you don’t see them again until they show up at the hospital– with their new girlfriend. Some pregnancy breakups happen when the mom-to-be comes to her senses about having to spend a lifetime with a guy she was never planning to have a baby with. And still others occur when pregnant women finally find the courage to leave an abusive partner (be forewarned: violence usually escalates during pregnancy, so if you need help getting away, click here or call your local family violence shelter.)

Breaking up during a pregnancy, however it comes about, can be particularly difficult, so do be gentle with yourself, if it happens to you, and get free counseling if you need it. (One place you can find pastoral care around the clock is through the KLOVE Helpline.) It’s normal to feel especially vulnerable during pregnancy, so be sure to ask your ob-gyn for local resources for support, also. (Abrazo offers free counseling day or night, so whether or not you’re considering adoption, if you need to talk with a counselor, we’re here to help: 1-800-454-5683.)

Know that the changing hormones of a pregnancy can make crises seem even bigger than they are, kind of opposite of the message on the side mirror of a car that says “objects in (the) mirror may be closer than they appear.” Try not to make any snap decisions when you’re dealing with the stress of a breakup and the stress of a pregnancy. Feel what you feel, but remember that things might look different after a long hot bath or a good night’s sleep.

Pregnancy Breakup Rule #1

If your relationship ends during pregnancy, the most important thing you can do is to make sure that mom and baby have everything they need, physically and emotionally. Pregnant women need shelter, food, medical care and emotional support, throughout pregnancy and afterwards, too. If a relationship is ending, the mom-to-be needs to know in advance where she’ll go, how she’ll care for herself and her child, and who she can count on. Abrazo provides that assistance for moms who are placing; other organizations (such as Single Parent Alliance of America, or Single Parent Family or Arms of Hope) offer aid to single parents who are parenting.

Pregnancy Breakup Rule #2

First things first: if you break up during pregnancy, you need to set up a new bank account, just in your name. Call it your “freedom fund” or whatever, but open a savings account and whenever babydaddy comes crawling back offering to help if you’ll just take him back, tell him to put his money where his mouth is and make deposits there to show you how much you can trust him. And you make deposits there, too, all through your pregnancy. It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are; what matters is that you are building a nest egg to assure yourself that you are taking care of you for the future. Don’t dip into it for any random expenses! Just keep adding to it, little bit by little bit, so you have the kind of peace of mind that money does buy, when you need it most.

Pregnancy Breakup Rule #3

Take the high road wherever you can, and remember: having a child (with or without the other parent) means you have to empower that child to love and respect the other parent (unless you place your child for adoption, in which case that becomes the adoptive parents’ responsibility.) Avoid social media drama, because if you’re pregnant, you don’t need any extra stress, right? Anything you post online is basically out there forever, so resist the urge to stalk your ex online or to blast him to the world, no matter how big of a shmuck he may be. Write your baby a letter detailing all the good things you remember about the dad, while you’re feeling hormonally generous, so your child has that someday to remind him or her of what a great mom you have always been.

Pregnancy Breakup Rule #4

If you’re planning to parent, then you need to do some research so you are clear on your rights and responsibilities and those of your child’s other parent. In Texas, for example, the other parent cannot be listed on your child’s birth certificate unless he is present at the hospital, so you can give your child your last name or his, but you cannot put him on the birth certificate without his consent (unless you’re legally married, in which case your husband must be listed– whether or not he’s the bio-dad.) A family law attorney can advise you as to how to pursue child support and what visitation agreements need to entail; Abrazo can provide information about adoption, if you are considering placement.

Pregnancy Breakup Rule #5

Never use a pregnancy to try to hold on to someone who doesn’t want to be with you. And always resist the urge to make up with someone whom you’ve broken up “just for your child’s sake.” This may surprise you, because normally, it is best for children to grow up in happy two-parent homes; however, the truth is that pregnancy is rarely (if ever) an experience that enables two people who shouldn’t be together to build a happy, lifelong relationship. And kids who grow up with parents who didn’t belong together to begin with usually grow up always knowing it, and bearing an unfair sense of responsibility for those unhappy unions. If you think maybe you and the father should give the relationship another chance, then go through couples’ counseling together to figure it out, but don’t just get back together for your kid, or your kid may end up paying for that mistake… and so will you.

A pregnancy is normally a forty-week-long phase in a woman’s reproductive cycle; pregnancy-breakupsa child’s life is a large, beautiful canvas out of which masterpieces can be created. And a breakup is just the universe’s signal that two persons are meant to seek out life in different directions. Just as pregnancy does not determine the entire course of a child’s future, nor does a pregnancy breakup define the worth or the potential of the people involved.

If you do experience a pregnancy breakup, know that while it may not be easy, it need not destroy you. Take heart! You’ve got this, and in time, that pregnancy breakup may prove to have been a blessing in disguise, so focus on you and your little one, and keep moving forward, one swollen step at a time.

The pain of pregnancy breakups have nothing over the power of a woman with the capacity to give birth– so onwards and upwards, girl!!

Adoption Backlash

There was much talk at this year’s NCFA conference in DC about the forced family separations and the need for family reunification, but the elephant in the room was clearly the gathering storm being fueled by a growing adoption backlash.

Those with a Hallmark-shaded view of adoption may be completely blindsided by this. “Adoption is all about saving children and that’s a good thing, right?” reflects the perspective of this population. They tend to think of adoption as a happy saga in which parentless children are lovingly welcomed into picture-perfect homes by grateful new parents. The children in these stories are so appreciative of their new families, they quickly forget their old ones, and everyone lives happily ever after… no questions asked. Yet this is not how most adoptions come about, and it’s not a true depiction of how adoption impacts the lives of the people involved.

The American way of adoption has been ripe for reform for many years now, and those who remember what they thought adoption used to be like (operative words in italics) have fought long and hard to prevent that needed reform from taking place. They tend to be adoption professionals, who have come to enjoy the power and control (and yes, revenue) that comes with being “in charge” of adoption, and adoptive parents, adoption-backlashwho fear that their authority may be threatened by proposed reforms (such as original birth certificate access for adopted adults, or legally-enforceable post-adoption contact agreements, or permanent conservatorship in lieu of adoption.)

Those who argue for adoption reform (or the abolition of adoption altogether) tend to be adoptees, who have borne the brunt of adoption’s shortcomings, and birthparents, many of whom were traumatized by adoption losses that changed their lives forever. There are also some progressive adoptive parents and adoption professionals who campaign for adoption reform, of course, but their motives and involvement are often questioned by those who see them as being part of the problem and therefore disqualified from joining in the effort to generate new solutions.

Adoption has come under new scrutiny in recent years, with the “Flip the Script” campaign waged during National Adoption Month each year in November, and growing social media outcry about the proliferation of adoption marketing and predatory adoption practices in both domestic and international adoption. However, the recent involvement of one of America’s largest private adoption agencies in the care of refugee children involuntarily separated from their parents at our nation’s border has set these debates aflame, potentially fueling the adoption backlash to come.

The Bethany Debate

Bethany Christian Services is a large, well-funded national adoption agency with lucrative foster care contracts with the federal government and a well-established program offering services to refugees and immigrants. Contrary to online gossip, Bethany is not owned by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (nor by her family,) although the DeVos family has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in support to said agency, and Betsy DeVos’ husband’s second cousin is a senior vice president at Bethany in Michigan. And whatever you think of their multi-million dollar budget, Bethany has done a lot of good for a lot of folks, over the years.

Since the zero-tolerance standard was enacted, enabling immigration officials to seize the minor children of immigrants entering the US to request asylum, countless young refugee children involuntarily separated from their parents have been shipped across the nation to be placed in Bethany’s foster care, as well as in other facilities. adoption-backlashThis has led to a public outcry by those who suspect that these foster care placements are part of a strategy to free/steal these children for adoption, rather than to reunite them with their rightful families.

Is there any truth to these rumors? Avoiding any personal commentary on the politics at hand, we concur that Americans have ample reason to question our government’s commitment to family reunification. We understand why the public assumes that agencies like Bethany may have a fiduciary interest in refugee children becoming available for private agency adoptions, especially given the shrinking availability of American children for domestic adoption these days. There is a legal possibility that panicked immigrants being denied asylum might voluntarily forfeit parental rights, in hopes of gaining their children American citizenship through adoption. There is also the risk that some minor refugees’ parents cannot be identified or located, or that the length of time the naturalization process could take may constitute a sufficient delay to meet the legal standard of abandonment, thus enabling foster families to seek permanent custody through adoption.

However, Bethany has issued public statements that clearly confirm its intent to facilitate family reunification wherever possible, and it has likewise taken the rare and courageous position of dissenting from the Attorney General’s misuse of Scripture to justify forced family separations.

We’re not naive; we understand the concerns here. And we don’t have any “dog in the hunt,” as we say in Texas, since Abrazo does not work for or with Bethany nor are we handling any cases involving refugee children, nor do we plan to. But as citizens of this country, Abrazo condemns forced family separations; we are concerned about the welfare of these children and their parents; and we trust that a long-established Christian organization such as Bethany Christian Services is not the enemy about which Americans should be most concerned at this time— no matter how much money the DeVos family may donate to their cause.

At present, Bethany appears to be serving as a convenient target for the public’s fury about the refugee children as well as the collective sins of adoption industry as a whole. The adoption backlash tidal wave, it seems, is still rolling towards the shore, and it threatens to wash all in its wake.

Strange bedpartners? Not at all.

Some might be wondering if it is counter-intuitive for the adoption community to genuinely support family reunification for the minor refugees? After all, how can we say “family connections matter” if the adoption work we do eradicates family connections?

At Abrazo, our answer is this: the best of voluntary adoptions honor family connections, all across the lifespan. adoption-backlashAt Abrazo, we don’t place children whose biological parents are ready, able and willing to parent them; children with ready, able and willing parents are not in need of adoption services, which is why we feel so strongly that refugee parents who wish to continue parenting their children must be supported in this goal. For children to be involuntarily separated from loving parents is traumatic, and all of the adoptions done at Abrazo are voluntary placements in which there is ample counseling available for all parties, before and after adoption.

Beyond this, though, all of Abrazo’s adoptions are open adoptions, because we know how much continued family connections matter, and we want all of the children we place to grow up knowing and loving their family of origin– and being forever known and loved by their first families and their adoptive families, in return.

Adoption reform is still much-needed, there’s no debating this. And family reunification for the refugees will require ongoing effort on the part of the professionals, as well as continued scrutiny by the public, to ensure that it comes about as promised. There is still an adoption backlash brewing, and it is going to impact both the biggest of agencies like Bethany as well as the smaller nonprofits like Abrazo. But if the adoption backlash helps expose the sins of the past and brings about needed corrections, the adoptions of tomorrow will only be better, as a result, and that will surely be a good thing… for everyone.