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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.

Rise Again

Anyone who has ever been through infertility, an unplanned pregnancy, a pregnancy loss, an adoption or a failed adoption plan can attest to the miracle of being able to rise again.

As millions of Christians worldwide this week herald the Good News of Christ’s resurrection, Abrazo extends heartfelt spring greetings to our friends and families of all faiths: those who celebrate Easter, those who are remembering Passover, and those who simply are reveling in the coming of spring.

Because any time a living being overcomes the hardships of the cross or persecution or winter to rise again, that is something that is truly worth celebrating.

Any sacrifice made out of love for another is something truly worth celebrating.

(As is anybody who makes such a life-changing sacrifice.)

Birthparents

We were reminded of the sacrifices that loving parents make for their children just this week, as a mature couple in north Texas faced down one of the hardest decisions any parent ever has to make– just to give their newborn daughter every best chance in life– even when their own lives have forced them to contend with circumstances that have been anything but the very best, through no fault of their own.

To place one’s child for adoption, and to participate fully in that process: choosing your child’s new parents, being fully present for the birth, cuddling that precious baby in the hospital and enduring the bittersweet joy and sorrow of seeing your child in the arms of another whom you have come to love even as you wish you were in their shoes and not your own– that is a sacrifice of enormous proportion.

rise-againTo the birthparents of that very-much loved little girl, who are enduring great grief in order to grant her great joys in life, we say: rise again! There are brighter days ahead, and you can get there from here.

To those birthparents who feel their children’s adoptions were somehow a mistake, as well as those who have felt beaten down by life (or society) ever since their children’s adoption, we say: rise again! Don’t let where you have been limit where you are going.

To all birthparents who have suffered great loss and lived to tell about it, we say: rise again! You have important lessons to teach the world, and more and more are ready to hear them.

Adoptive Parents

The couple who were fortunate to become first-time parents here this week have already expressed their gratitude for this amazing change in their lives and for all who have supported them through it. Yet their road to parenthood, however short their time with Abrazo has been, has been marked by loss and challenge, as well. Now, they are a mother and father at long last, and learning what it means to fulfill those roles, even on very little sleep– this, too, is a start of a sacrifice of considerable proportion. To them, we say: rise again! (Then sleep when the baby sleeps.)

To those who are suffering from infertility and have lost any hope of building a family, as well as those who are still hoping to become parents through adoption, we say: rise again. The world is full of children in need and have more opportunities to share your love than you may even know.

To those who are parenting and know what an “easy job” it isn’t, to those who have sacrificed mightily on behalf of their families, and to those who struggle with feeling they’re really entitled to the children that are theirs, we say: rise again. Keep doing what you’re doing, and know that even if all you do isn’t truly recognized as often as it ought to be, your efforts do matter, and so do you.

Adoptees

Finally, we are reminded of those at the center of all we do here: the adoptees, some of whom are children and others of whom are grown. They did not ask to be adopted, nor were they given a say in the matter, yet they are expected to appreciate all that has been done for them (or keep quiet if they don’t.) It’s hard to be a kid, and it’s even harder to be an adopted kid, and sometimes, it’s hard for adoptees to know exactly where they belong in life (no matter how much everybody loves them.)

To them, we say: rise again and go forth and conquer, because you (and your thoughts and feelings and dreams) are the apex– the center of it all, whether or not you know it (yet.)

No parents, no families, no adoption agencies are perfect. Yet you, dear adoptee, are of the utmost importance to us all. We all want you to achieve every happiness in life, to become everything you wish to be, and to exceed all our expectations for ourselves, because in you, we hear the promise of every hope of every living cell that whispers: rise, again!

This Easter, we wish everyone in our community every blessing of spring. Our prayer for you is that this season of renewal restores your faith, and that you find in it every good reason to blossom, and rise again.

For Birthmothers Who Place

The days and weeks after relinquishment are especially hard for birthmothers who place.

It might seem like this goes without saying, of course. No woman carries a pregnancy to term for forty weeks, endures the pain of childbirth and then faces down the grief of a placement decision only to skip away happily afterwards.

It doesn’t matter how much you might like the adoptive parents you chose for your child, nor how sure you are that going through with the adoption decision is the best option for your baby’s future.

It doesn’t change anything no matter how much you might dislike your child’s father, nor how ready you are to be out of the hospital or back in your skinny jeans nor how how tired you were of being pregnant.

Placing a child for adoption is never (ever) an easy thing to do, and going through this experience can be extremely tough on anyone who ever signed a stack of relinquishment documents.

Don’t bother telling us about the friend of a friend who said it wasn’t really hard on her, or the heartless ex-wife of your cousin who did it twice without ever shedding a tear, or the rape victims of yesteryear who were put under for the birth so they could wake up without ever remembering having had a baby and therefore never went through any associated grief.

(We’ve known all those mothers, too, and believe us, they went through post-placement grief just like anybody else– even if they didn’t let those around them see their tears.)

If you’re thinking about placing your child for adoption, call Abrazo day or night (1-210-342-5683) for honest upfront information about your options, alternatives and how adoption may impact you. And if you’re already placed, whether through Abrazo or somewhere else, remember that Abrazo’s counseling services and our weekly birthparent support group are always available to you, free of charge.

How birthparent grief looks

Ask the average stranger on the street what birthparent grief looks like and they’re bound to tell you that mothers who give up their babies for adoption are either strong and brave teenagers who knew better than to try and raise a kid, or they’re selfish, unfeeling monsters who didn’t want their kids.

Ask the average adoptive parent, and they may tell you it was really painful to witness their child’s birthmother’s grief in the hospital, but that she seems to be “better now” (whether “now” is weeks, months or years after the placement occurred.)

You just can’t look at any birthmother who places and know what she’s feeling, because most know instinctively that they’re expected to hide their pain, to keep others feeling comfortable around them.

for-birthmothers-who-placeYet ask the birthmother of any adopted child how she is doing with her grief, and see what she says? She’s likely to tell you that post-placement grief like the ocean: it comes in waves, and there’s not always a way to tell in advance if the tide is coming in. All you can do is try not to walk too close to the waterline, so that you won’t get swept out to sea unexpectedly if a big wave hits.

Grief isn’t a journey to recover from, really. It’s a process that changes us over time, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, depending on how we manage it, how we grow from it, and how those around us support us through it.

You can try to stuff the feelings down inside, and that may seem to work for awhile, but in truth, all that does is put off the inevitable, as countless birthmothers of yesteryear have discovered. Many birthmoms fear that letting the adoptive parents see their pain will cause the adoptive parents to reject and avoid them, so they put a brave face forward and assure the adoptive family they feel better than they do.

The truth is that if anybody truly understands the ongoing nature of grief as it relates to child loss, it should be that infertile couple who could never have become parents without you. (They have no reason to fear you, and every reason to support you, after all?) It doesn’t always work out that way: some adoptive parents struggle with insecurity and/or guilt after placement and they do fear the birthparents’ emotions, leaving the birthparents feeling even more vulnerable.

Birthparents need to know it’s okay to feel what they feel without fear of judgement or abandonment. Adoptive parents need to know they are not the cause of the birthparents’ loss nor can they cure their grief. And adoptees need to know that all their parents truly do support each other.

The best way we know to deal with this is for all parties (birthmothers, birthfathers and adoptive parents) to get plenty of education and yes, counseling (individual and joint sessions) before, during and after any adoption is done.

How to cope with grief after placing a child for adoption

Look, nobody can tell you how to cope with the grief that comes with placing a child. It’s different for everyone. Some birthmothers work through their grief before the baby is even born. Others put it off until long afterwards. Some find it utterly devastating, while others find it was not as overwhelming as they had expected. Whatever it is for you, it’s yours, and you are entitled to feel what you feel, for as long as you feel it serves some purpose. That’s what grief is for, after all.

Here are a few pointers to consider along the way, however. (And we’re here, if you need more support.)

*Self-care is essential. If you are going through grief, you need to be very gentle with yourself. While you may find it helpful to stay busy, there’s no magic in pretending you haven’t been through what you’ve been through, so don’t take on too much too soon. Avoid use of drugs and alcohol, as depressants only make you more depressed. Eat right (even if you’re not hungry), get outside for some sunshine, fresh air and exercise, and get more rest than you think you need– because you do need it all.

*Find a healthy outlet for your emotions. Some find it therapeutic to write in a journal every day. Others draw strength from prayer or meditation. Counseling can be enormously helpful, because not only does it give you a means to express yourself, it gives you the opportunity to be heard and listened to and validated, as well. (And at Abrazo, birthparent counseling is free, so remember that, and call if we can make an appointment for you anytime.)

*Spend all the time with the adoptive family that you can. This may seem counter-intuitive to those who think that “out of sight means out of mind,” but the reality is that the more in-person time you spend with the child you placed, the healthier it is for all of you (birthparents, adoptive parents and baby, too. Really– trust us on this one.)

*Join a birthparent support group. You’ve heard the old saying “there’s strength in numbers,” right? Well, when you’re a birthparent, it can really help to have a private group of friends who know how it feels to be a birthparent, who have stories of their own about the experience, and who can lend support and affirmation in the years that follow your adoption experience. Nobody’s journey is exactly the same, but there are common themes and emotions and knowing others who have “been there, done that” just might do you a world of good.

Being birthmom strong doesn’t mean never breaking down or wondering “what if?” It doesn’t mean getting through the entire adoption experience without any tears or scars. It means dealing with the bad days while continuing to look forward to the good, giving yourself credit for making a tough choice with the best intentions, and building a new future for both you and your child/ren, because each of you deserves the best.

For birthmothers who place, emotional recovery can be a long, slow process, one brightened by the ongoing support of their child’s adoptive family and the unwavering respect of their adoption community; may you always know you are respected and loved here at Abrazo, not just for what you’ve done but for who you are.

For A.S.A. Clients

This is an update for A.S.A. clients– for over five thousand birthfamilies, adoptive families and adoptees across the globe who got left in the lurch when Adoption Services Associates folded in April of 2012.

Although Abrazo has never had access to any of the A.S.A. files, our agency still gets calls every week from A.S.A. clients who are desperate to access missing information, or to find lost birthparents or hidden adoptive families.

Unfortunately, before closing, A.S.A. made no accommodations for another local adoption agency to take over their cases nor to manage their files.

This was especially tragic because unlike Abrazo (which practices fully-open adoptions,) Adoption Services Associates did primarily closed adoptions and semi-closed adoptions.

This means the majority of birthparents and adoptive parents did not have each others’ identifying information, so any and all post-placement communication went through that agency. (Until it didn’t.)

How the A.S.A. bankruptcy unfolded

for-a-s-a-clientsWhen A.S.A. shut down without advance notice in April, 2012, the A.S.A. staff sent an email to adoptive parents letting them know the doors were closed. Over 900 adoptive parents reportedly filed claims in the resulting bankruptcy court case.

However, the thousands of birthparents who had entrusted their children to A.S.A. since 1984 got no notice had no recourse. (None whatsoever.)

Abrazo reached out to A.S.A.’s abandoned birthparent population to offer them free access to Abrazo’s counseling services, and for five years, Abrazo’s staff has provided them with post-adoption support to whatever extent possible. Without having any access to A.S.A.’s client rosters, trying to help panicked A.S.A. birthparents search online for their children’s missing adoptive parents with nothing more than first names, state or country names and sometimes an occupation is difficult– but not impossible.

What Abrazo had not anticipated, however, was the fact that many families, once found, would not be open to continuing the minimal updates the A.S.A. birthparents had been told they could expect (albeit through the agency.) At the request of A.S.A. birthparents, Abrazo’s staff made contact with a number of missing A.S.A. adoptive families, only to be told that these families felt any obligations to the birthparents were null and void, now that A.S.A. was done and gone.

Not all the A.S.A. families responded so coldly, of course. Abrazo was able to help successfully reconnect some A.S.A. birthparents with their children’s adoptive families. And Abrazo’s weekly support group is still open to A.S.A. birthmothers who wish to attend, and several dozen A.S.A. birthmothers and birthfathers still belong to the private A.S.A. birthparent group Abrazo launched for them on Facebook.

Yet every week, those calls still come in, from more and more adoptees, birthparents and adoptive families who were victimized and disenfranchised by A.S.A.’s closure and bankruptcy, and the human toll continues to rise.

A.S.A.’s founder and director, Linda Zuflacht, is still licensed as an attorney in Texas and New Mexico, and incorporated a new nonprofit in NM just last year. She is currently seeking to raise $50k for a “fetal moniter” (sic) on GoFundMe, but regrettably, it doesn’t appear Zuflacht’s new charitable organization will do anything to address the unresolved needs of her last one.

How to seek information, if you were an A.S.A. client

Just last week, Abrazo got a call from another A.S.A. adoptive mother desperate to find her grown child’s birthfamily, due to a medical issue. These calls, from A.S.A. clients who placed, adopted or were adopted there between 1984-2012, truly break our hearts, because we wish we could do more to help, and because we know A.S.A. should have done so much more for their program’s clientele as their staff was preparing for their program’s demise.

Here’s what we can tell you, though: A.S.A.’s client files are warehoused at the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics, and for a fee, they will send you a redacted record. The state officials will also urge you to sign up for the state’s Voluntary Adoption Registry, but be forewarned that this state registry has reportedly facilitated less than 300 reunions in the past ten years. We would encourage you to also register for free with the International Soundex Reunion Registry, which has a better track record.

If you are an adult who was adopted through A.S.A. and you do not know your birthmother’s identity, you may want to pursue DNA testing in your quest to find your birthparent. Genetic testing is an increasingly effective way of locating birthrelatives that does not require a court order to open the original adoption record.

If you are an A.S.A. birthparent or adoptive parent and you wish to re-establish contact with the other parent(s), we encourage you to consider hiring a licensed private investigator to do a search for you, if your own online efforts turn up nothing.

But no matter what: don’t give up! For A.S.A. clients, you deserve to know the truth, so keep searching until you find the answers you seek, because the truth does have the power to set everyone free.

The State of Adoptee Rights in Texas

Consider this an update on the state of adoptee rights in Texas.

Abrazo sent staff to Austin on March 27 to testify in the Senate committee hearings on SB 329, and it was an eye-opening experience for those of us who are concerned about the state of adoptee rights in Texas.

Adoptee Rights & OBCs

What are adoptee rights, you may ask? That’s a very good question– because there seem to be far too few references to these in Texas law. Under the existing law in Texas, once a child has been adopted, the original birth certificate (or “OBC”) is permanently sealed by the courts, and a “new, improved” birth certificate is issued that names only the adopters as the child’s legal parents.

the-state-of-adoptee-rights-in-texas“Adoptee rights” refer to the right of an adult who was once adopted to access their original, unaltered birth certificates and to know Chapter One of their own life story. Why should they need this, you may wonder? We could explain it from our perspective, but it would be far more effective for you to hear it from an adoptee, so please: read this.

Not every adoptee is seeking his or her original birth records in order to pursue a reunion with their birthfamily, of course. Many want their OBC simply to verify the information they have already been told, or to access desperately-needed family medical history, or to confirm that they were not the victim of child trafficking or a blackmarket adoption.

Some simply want to exercise their civil right to possess unfalsified documentation of their own beginning in life (since the “amended birth certificate” issued when a child is adopted is, in fact, the only court-sanctioned altered-truth legal document any state produces.)

When mothers here voluntarily place children for adoption, they are never promised anonymity forever. In Texas, state licensing standards require adoption agencies to prepare birthparents and adoptive parents for the possibility of the adoptee seeking out their birthparent/s or birthparent/s seeking out the child/ren they placed by advising them of the Voluntary Adoption Registry, by which the State assists in reuniting birthparents and adult adoptees who seek reunion.

The proposed Senate Bill 329(and its companion House Bill 547 would enable adopted adults born in Texas to obtain their OBC after the age of eighteen, thus granting them access to the same original birth records to which every other nonadopted American is entitled. It would also eliminate the “second class citizenry” which has impeded adoptees in America ever since 1917, when the first closed records adoption law was implemented in Minnesota.

And then, there’s Texas

The Senate committee hearing on March 27 was a long, often emotional reminder of how closed adoption records have impacted Texas adults of all ages. More than forty Texas testified for and against the proposed legislation, many of them adopted persons, birthmothers and adoptive parents.

the-state-of-adoptee-rights-in-texasAbrazo appeared to be the only adoption agency present. Although we are certainly not the only nor the largest adoption agency in Texas, Abrazo seems to be one of the few willing to take a public stand for adoptee rights, and we thank our adoption community for supporting us in this regard.

One of the most outspoken opponents of the proposed bill was there, as well. Although Senator Donna Campbell is not on that Senate committee nor was she testifying, she was very vocal in her claims that birthmothers need protection from adoptees (?) and that closed adoption deserves legislation to protect the rights of those who choose it. (No mention, however, was made by Senator Campbell of adoptees deserving legislation to protect those who were never given any choice in that matter.)

A number of crisis pregnancy centers also testified. Curiously, they claim that without closed adoption being protected by law, abortions in Texas are sure to rise. (This is a false argument disproven by statistics and it makes about as much sense as saying “if open adoption is made available, unplanned pregnancies will increase because everybody will want one.”) Their testimony, while surely well-intentioned, appeared to compare apples and oranges, since abortion is an alternative considered by those deciding whether or not to remain pregnant and adoption is an option considered by those deciding whether or not to parent.

What seemed to be forgotten in the course of the opposing testimony was the fact that most birthmothers nowadays are not “young girls in trouble” worried about keeping their pregnancies secret, but grown women (often with other children already,) for whom being found by a grown child placed for adoption is the least of their worries… and since Texas law requires any adoption being done to be done in the best interests of the child, then the rights of any Texas adult adoptee should still come first.

Will adoption reform prove to be a cause that this Texas Legislature will genuinely support? Will Texas-born adult adoptees finally be granted the same legal and civil rights this session as every other person born in Texas? There is still much work to be done to ensure that our lawmakers fully understand the importance of making this proposed legislation the law of our land.

Abrazo genuinely appreciates the sponsors of Texas Senate Bill 329 and House Bill 547. We urge all in our adoption community to encourage other lawmakers to support this proposed legislation and to work together to put first the state of adoptee rights in Texas.

Adopting in San Antonio

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

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

Where to Stay

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

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

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

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

Where to Eat

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

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

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

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

What to Do

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

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

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

Last Minute Adoption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not Everyone Plans Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abrazo Can Help, Anytime

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

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

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

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

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

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

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

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

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

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

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

Interstate Adoption Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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