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Thankful

Given that November is the month that we honor adoption and celebrate Thanksgiving, what better time of year is there to be thankful?

January will mark Abrazo’s 24th birthday, and in the nearly two-and-a-half decades since our agency opened, Abrazo has served 2839 birthfamilies and adoptive families.

ThankfulWe are thankful for every one of them; for the trust they have placed in us and for the love they have demonstrated for their children.

These are parents who have truly “gone the extra mile” on behalf of their kids. They faced down some of life’s greatest challenges and completed mountains of paperwork and jumped through countless hoops to ensure that their child’s fate would never just be left to chance.

Each of them are people of grace and integrity, who have been true to their word and who rarely get the thanks they deserve for being the amazing people they really are.

So if you are one of these parents: thank you. Your sacrifices are much appreciated… truly.

Bragging Rights

We are thankful for every single adoptee who has been placed and/or adopted here since 1994.

Each is so very loved. So valued. And so unique.

We wish we could tell you how proud we are of all of them… here’s just a sampling of their many achievements:

Lindsay is earning her Master’s degree in Social Work and works in child welfare.

Michael is winning rave reviews on the East Coast for his proficiency in ballet.

Kate competed for the title of Miss Maine in the Miss America system.

Kevin won no less than 4 gold medals in the 2017 Special Olympics.

Lexi, who’s a high school volleyball star, is already being scouted by college recruiters.

Tyson got his driver’s license, and his brother Teyler won early acceptance to two different colleges.

Elektra came in third at her gymnastics meet, and big sister Tasia’s team placed second in their soccer tournament.

Henry is mastering tummy time like an old pro already, and he just rolled over for the first time.

Roxanne just learned to ride a bike. Her brother was the Star Student of the Week at school this fall.

Reece was one of the 2% of Boy Scouts who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout this year.

Ollie made people cry with the precious letter he wrote his birthfamily and shared on Facebook.

Maguell, who has Down Syndrome, has just learned to stand by himself.

Emma Claire and Grace Ann and Mia are all accomplished cheerleaders.

Mikayla finished in the top 40% of track stars at the UIL State Championships this month.

Joshua, who’s a high school football star, recently sang a solo at his church.

(And this list could go on and on, of course.)

Let Us Also Remember…

There are many other Abrazokidz with equally-important accomplishments, like those who have already become proud parents themselves; and the ones who have chosen to join the military to serve their country; and the ones who were failing a class at school but made a genuine effort to improve and pulled their grade up; and and those who befriend the unpopular kids at school, and who stand up to bullies.

We honor our many adoptees who go out of their way to help out the elderly or care for small animals or children; and those who have proven to be safe drivers; and the ones who attend their youth group at church; and them that help around the house without complaining.

We hail, also, the merciful few who have bravely weathered the grief that comes with the death of a parent; and those who contend with mental health issues yet still bring joy to those around them; and the ones who persevere in life despite chronic health conditions.

And we commend our adoptees who have had the courage to share their adoption stories at school, along with those who appreciate their parents’ efforts to keep them connected with their birthfamilies, and we voice support for those who struggle with questions about their adoptions, for those who value and respect all their parents, and for those who never give up hope of reuniting with lost or missing birthfamily members.

This Thanksgiving, we give thanks for all the members of the Abrazo community, all across America. We are grateful for our staff, past and present. We are thankful for every one of our parents-in-waiting, expectant parents, birthfamilies and adoptive families. We appreciate the many extended family members who support them (and us.)

Most of all, we are thankful for each and every child within the Abrazo community, big or small; for every birthsibling, for every homegrown sibling, and for every adoptee.

May they always know how beloved they are, and how thankful we are for them and their proven potential to change the world for the better.

Dealing with Change

Ask anybody who has ever placed a child for adoption, adopted a child or been adopted, and they can tell you plenty about the adjustments that are required when dealing with change in life.

As we have often mentioned at our Parents of Tomorrow Orientation Weekends, it’s often been said that the only constant in life is change, and with change comes stress, because what we already know is our “normal” and anything new or different requires adjustment to the unknown, and that is almost always stressful.

Mental health professionals teach that there are basically two kinds of stress: there’s the negative stress that is commonly known as “distress,” that icky, gnawing feeling that something is unfamiliar or out of our control. And then there’s the less commonly-known term for positive stress, which is “eustress,” which is that exciting-but-nervous feeling that propels people going through change forward, into new growth.

dealing-with-changeSo the lesson to be learned is that nothing ever stays the same, that change requires adaptation on everyone’s parts, and that this is likely to invoke both positive and negative feelings along the way, as we get to wherever we’re going.

Anyone who ever survived nine months of pregnancy knowing that in the end, they intended to place can probably relate. So can anyone who ever hoped to adopt and waited through a match, only to discover how quickly everything in life can change afterwards, regardless of the outcome. And adoptees surely know this feeling, as they grow up with answers provided to them by others and eventually embrace their own sense of identity.

Adoption Has Changed

On a smaller scale, if you want an example of how big changes can occur in a relatively short span of time, you could look at the more than 1400 infertile couples who have come to Abrazo over the past 23.9 years. Despite documented infertility, they still harbored dreams of building their families, and at Abrazo, they succeeded in making those dreams come true, most in less than 12 months time, and a startling number of them did so in six months or less.

On a larger level, though, consider how drastically adoption has changed over the century. It was one hundred years ago that the first state in America implemented closed adoption records (in Minnesota in 1917,) in hopes of sparing foundlings and orphans the public indignities of being “born out of wedlock” and discriminated against, as a result. A whole adoption industry grew out of such laws, as orphanages and adoption agencies and adoption attorneys and adoption facilitators began serving as the gatekeepers that arranged adoptions and hid the parties from each other under a cloak of “confidentiality.”

Society’s love-hate relationship with illegitimacy and birth control gave rise in the fifties, sixties and seventies, to what came to be known as the “Baby Scoop Era,” in which tens of thousands of unwed-but-pregnant American women dealing-with-changewere hidden away in maternity homes in anticipation of secret (aka closed) adoptions. By the ’80s, however, social workers and adoption professionals had begun questioning the liabilities of secrecy and shame in adoption, thus the pendulum swung back towards a more open approach to adoption. Many who feared such transparency sought to complete costly closed adoptions internationally, yet the corruption sometimes entailed in such arrangements led to global prohibitions that have since curtailed foreign adoptions drastically.

Nowadays, the vast majority of privately-arranged domestic adoptions do entail some level of openness, and a growing number of state legislatures are mandating open records access for adult adoptees, righting a civil rights injustice that has prevailed for far too long already. Likewise, a growing number of adoptions nowadays are being arranged independently by attorneys or via the internet. Some of America’s largest, best-known adoption agencies are battling to stay relevant in an ever-changing society, in which single motherhood is increasingly common, abortion rates continue to rise, and the numbers of babies being placed for adoption drops every year.

Changes at Abrazo

All of these changes do not happen in a vacuum, of course, and the changes around us invariably require changes within Abrazo’s programs, as well. Our agency struggles to keep fees as low as possible, even as overhead costs for rent and health insurance continue to skyrocket. Many small nonprofits like Abrazo find it difficult to keep staff salaries competitive with a booming for-profit job market. In just the past decade, outreach options such as the Yellow Pages have disappeared, as more and more prospective clients use the internet to explore their adoption options. Open adoption relationships are changing, too, as technology changes commonly-preferred means of communication from phone calls to texts and emails, and as Skyping and Facetime begin to replace in-person visits.

Like most adoption programs nationwide, Abrazo is facing a season of change, dealing-with-changeas well. Staffing changes necessitate the hiring of a new social worker, and our part-time post-adoption caseworker is retiring this week, so a “changing of the guard” is already in the works. The agency website is about to undergo a major revision, and we hope to re-evaluate all our policies and program requirements before the year’s end, in order to identify needed updates and make timely adjustments. Abrazo has always prided itself on being “the little adoption agency that can” and much as we hope to continue doing great things with a tiny budget, it may be necessary to redefine our agency’s goals in light of limited resources and ever-changing societal needs.

On top of all this, the State of Texas has made a recent decision to completely overhaul its Department of Family & Protective Services and the Residential Childcare Licensing division, so big changes are in the works that will inevitably impact every licensed adoption agency in this state in the year to come. Yet as a longtime Abrazo board member, Karen Stumbough, reminds us: “Adoption– and adoptees– prove to be resilient in an ever-changing world.” Truly, this wisdom should serve as inspiration for us all, as we contemplate adoption’s future in America.

Dealing with change, whether in our individual lives or in the workplace, is never easy, but hopefully, all the growing pains will prove beneficial in time. Thank you for your loyalty, patience and support as we work through upcoming changes and strive to make adoption at Abrazo even better for all.

Being “Woke” in Adoption

Being woke in adoption is a new concept, but it’s definitely worth the time it takes to get there.

The Urban Dictionary describes being woke as having a new awareness, leading to an evolved understanding of a current condition previously understood in a different way.

But ask the average American on the street about adoption, and you’re bound to get an overwhelming sense of how many folks are not woke when it comes to adoption.

After all, myths and misunderstandings abound, being-woke-in-adoptionwhen it comes to adoption in America. Here are just a few: “mothers who give up babies for adoption are all teenagers who cannot possibly raise a child, or crack whores who shouldn’t be allowed to parent. Every adoption costs $30k or more. Open adoption means the birthparents can come take the baby back whenever if they want. All adoptees secretly long to be with their birthfamilies. Healthy adoptees don’t have any interest in meeting their birthfamilies. Giving a baby up for adoption is something every birthmother deeply regrets. People with infertility were never meant to become parents. Once you adopt a child, you’ll get pregnant with one of your own.”

We’re guessing you’ve heard a few of those yourself, and we sincerely hope you know better.

Being Woke: Hard Truths

Still: being woke in adoption means much more than being able to identify fallacies. It means having a deeper understanding of the issues involved, and being genuinely concerned about making those issues better-known in the world around you.

Here are five facts that are commonly known to those who are truly woke in adoption:

* Adoption doesn’t ensure a better future, just a different one.

Nobody can guarantee that adoption will make the adoptee a better person. Nobody can promise that the adoptive parents will stay together, or that the home will be better for the child than remaining in the family of origin. The only certainty is that the adoptee’s life will turn out differently than it would had they remained with the birthfamily, and only they can decide if that was good or bad.

* All adoptions are borne of loss, and all losses must be grieved in order for healing to occur.

Many birthparents ultimately come to the adoption decision as a result of loss of reproductive control, and ironically, so do many adoptive parents. Yet whatever their origination point, to have to forfeit parental rights constitutes an inherent loss for the birthfamily and for the adoptee, and adoptive parents can also feel that loss acutely, when their lack of biological connection alters their ability to fully meet their adopted child’s needs.

* The kids most desperately in need of adoption rarely come wrapped in baby blankets.

For every adopting couple who longs to adopt a newborn, there are countless older children (bonafide orphans as well as foster kids freed for adoption) who have an even more urgent need to be adopted. If you want to see who the children are who are in most desperate need of adoptive homes right now, and whose adoption costs are nominal and/or covered primarily through state-funding, click here.

* Adoption can cause trauma, the results of which can affect adoptees and parents across the lifespan.

Adoption should always be a last resort, because separating a child from his/her mother causes trauma, which is why adoption should be an option reserved for those instances when it is impossible for a child’s needs to be safely, fully and permanently met by their birthparent/s. Trauma does not just impact kids who are “old enough to know what’s going on,” but also (and perhaps especially) newborns; each child may respond to adoption trauma in different ways, which is why it is so essential that adopting parents be prepared to recognize and respond to the effects of adoption trauma.

* It is a human right to know where and to whom you were born, and all laws should honor that right.

Every adoptee should be raised to know the truth of their origins, and whenever possible, they should be allowed age-appropriate access to information about their birthrelatives. At Abrazo, we strongly believe that state laws should grant adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, and that adoptive parents must join in the fight for adoptee rights and adoption reform.

The Impact of Being Woke

Being woke in adoption can be downright painful. (Just ask the Abrazo staff, who could use about a month of therapy to recover from all the pain we witness every time we attend an annual conference sponsored by the American Adoption Congress.) It hurts to bear witness to the damages of adoptions that began well but ended badly; or to acknowledge the harm that the adoption industry sometimes wreaks through carelessness, negligence or greed; or to understand that even the best-laid plans don’t always render the most hoped-for results, and that the most loving of parents cannot always meet the deepest needs of the most wounded of adoptees.

Yet only by honestly recognizing adoption’s flaws can we hope to work towards the institution’s redemption, and that’s going to take all of us, working together. Being woke in adoption can also be healing for birthparents, for adoptive parents, for adoptees, and for adoption professionals, and when you know better, you do better. So why not begin here and now? After all: the whole world stands to gain from it, one person at a time.

There’s no time like November (National Adoption Month) to be woke in adoption. Listen for adoptees’ voices and consider their perspectives, even (especially?) when it hurts to do so. Honor your adoption promises, even when it seems hardest to do so. Teach the world around you how to treat parents who place and parents who adopt with respect. Take up for adoption professionals who do adoptions right, and challenge those that don’t. And never, ever assume that you don’t need to keep learning all you can about adoption and its effects, because there’s always more to be learned and somebody who will benefit.

Being woke in adoption is well-worth your effort, so please: make it your goal, and begin today.

Choosing Open Adoption

If you are choosing open adoption, then kudos to you, because even before your adoption happens, you are making a commitment to a lifestyle with the potential to enhance your child’s future.

And that’s a really big deal. (So good for you!)

You may not understand exactly what this means, though? That would be perfectly understandable, because open adoption is defined differently by different people and agencies. Yet in order to know what you’re committing to, it’s helpful to be able to see the big picture, so let’s take a look at what choosing open adoption really means?

At Abrazo, we don’t just see open adoption as a means to an end, unless that end is about ensuring that adoptees here can grow up always knowing their adoption truths and the people connected to them. It’s about sharing information and sharing love and recognizing that only the adults can commit to this relationship for themselves, because ultimately, every adoptee has the right to decide for himself or herself if they want to actively maintain these relationships for themselves, once grown.

choosing-open-adoptionChoosing open adoption means choosing to not shame your child by making his/her adoption a secret to be hidden at all times. It doesn’t mean necessarily “going public” with his/her adoption story, because that’s the adoptee’s decision to make, of course. But it does mean always acknowledging your part in the first chapter of the adoptee’s life story and answering his/her questions honestly in an age-appropriate manner, because that’s part of being open, after all.

And know this: choosing open adoption will not make everything easier. It doesn’t ensure that the adoptee will never struggle with having been adopted. It will not ensure that nobody has to grieve any losses. In fact, agreeing not to pretend the adoption never happened may be harder on the parents, even if it ultimately makes things better for the adoptee. But this is all supposed to be about whatever is best for the adoptee, right?

So if you’re going to do this thing, then do it with openness and honesty and integrity and empathy for all parties.

Openness Before Placement

If you’re placing, you might be thinking this just means you’re going to choose your baby’s new family and maybe get to know them beforehand. (And yes, that’s part of it.) If you’re adopting, you may be thinking this means you’re going to have some idea of who is planning to give you her child and maybe have some contact with her before. (And yes, that’s part of it.) So far, so good.

There are some uncomfortable truths that go along with openness, though, and it’s important to know these. For starters, openness means transparency, which means recognizing that however appealing an adoptive family may look in their profile or however sure of their plan an expectant couple considering adoption sounds on the phone, you’re going to (hopefully) get to know each other really well before placement, and you’re not always going to like everything you see. Nobody is perfect, and the stress of the adoption process can amplify anxieties and fears along the way, so keep this in mind.

And no matter how well you get along, or how pleasant your visits are, the awkward truth is that you likely wouldn’t be building the friendship you are if you didn’t both need something from the other. And neither side can promise that the end result will be what either side hopes it will be, because the future is never guaranteed.

So keep in mind that all plans are necessarily subject to change, and trust each other to make the best possible decisions, no matter what that may mean after the birth.

Openness After Placement

If placement does happen as planned, then expect that your roles and your needs are going to change dramatically, and that’s going to mean an adjustment on everyone’s part– but no less concern for each other’s needs. Becoming new parents is stressful, no matter how long-anticipated a dream it has been; bearing witness to the sorrows that adoptive placement entails is never easy. And losing a child (no matter how it happens) is always going to incur grief, however certain a birthparent may be about “what needed to happen.” So be gentle with yourselves and with each other. Birthparents and adoptive parents often feel they have to “put on a brave face” for the other after placement, but the more honest you can be about what you’re feeling and what you need from the other, the better it is. (For everyone.)

Adoptive parents in open adoption can sometimes struggle with feeling guilty after placement, because they are acutely aware of the collateral losses that their dream unintentionally caused the birthfamily (and, yes, the adoptee, too.) Birthparents in open adoption sometimes find themselves feeling envious of or resentful towards the adoptive parents they genuinely love, for getting to take over their parenting roles. These are all normal feelings as everyone adapts to their new roles, and having a trusted adoption caseworker or counselor to talk to can help put these emotions in proper perspective.

Hopefully, your adoption professional (whether that’s an adoption agency or an adoption attorney) will have helped you work out a written post-adoption contact agreement, whether it’s legally-enforceable or not, so that everyone knows what can be expected to happen and when. (Please don’t just go “free-style,” because however awkward these negotiations may seem, it’s way better when there’s a voluntary contract that helps everyone feel more secure.) It’s okay to have more contact than you have committed to, but please don’t do less. And if you need to change the arrangements that were made, make sure you make those decisions together, for the child’s sake.

The irony of open adoption is that if you do it right (and you keep that relationship healthy,) the person who is likely to appreciate it the least is the adoptee. Why is this? It’s not because openness doesn’t matter to the adoptee or doesn’t make a difference in his/her life– it’s because he/she has never not known the benefits that come with truly open adoptions. And that means his/her parents (all of you) did things right.

Choosing open adoption doesn’t mean the adoptee will never take issue with the decisions that were made on his/her behalf; in fact, it means you may not be shielded from the fallout if the adoptee doesn’t agree with what was done or how things unfolded. (But that’s okay, too.) Because an adoptee who feels empowered to be open about his/her feelings about the adoption, whether positive or negative, is an adoptee who truly has gleaned the benefits of openness. This means that openness achieved what it was supposed to. (And that you and the other parents can weather any discord together, as the committed friends-and-family that you are.)

Adoptees are not a gift that parents can ever give each other. However, choosing open adoption can become an act of love on the part of the placing and adopting parents, when they all work together with their child’s best interests always in mind.

Her name was Annabelle

Her name was Annabelle and her life ended yesterday, at the tender age of fourteen.

Annabelle Pomeroy was the adopted daughter of the pastor of the First Baptist Church at Sutherland Springs.

Yesterday, after Sunday School, Annabelle went to the sanctuary for worship. Although her parents were out of town, her church family was there and so was she, as every good preacher’s kid should be.

And that was where she was, when an angry gunman with local ties to that congregation shot up the church in the worst mass church shooting in America (yet.)

The world is full of dangers, we all know that.

And Annabelle likely knew it, too. her-name-was-annabelle

She was said to have been in state care, prior to being adopted by the Pomeroy family, and Frank and Sherri Pomeroy had made it their mission in life to keep her safe from harm.

Their youngest daughter was flourishing in their loving care, undoubtedly.

But yesterday, it was allegedly the father of two other children who took her life– and that of a reported 25 other innocent victims in that church.

A military veteran who lived outside San Antonio, he’d reportedly faced charges in the past for domestic violence, and his wife was friends with members of the Pomeroy family.

We won’t repeat his name here, because he’s also dead, now, and to add to his infamy serves no purpose.

Yet our hearts go out to the family and friends of the 26 churchgoers killed by this man, to the twenty or more who were injured in the attack– and yes, to his family, also.

It’s all too common to offer up platitudes in the wake of a tragedy like this, because certainly there are no plausible answers to explain the slaughter of innocents in a house of worship. (Churches are supposed to be a safe refuge from the world in times of trouble, after all?)

This latest massacre is sure to fan the flames of social dissension about the need for fewer guns (or more of them, depending on which side of the debate one supports.)

Our intent is not to fan those flames, however. We’re not here to debate the politics of gun control nor to dispute the sovereignty of God or to preach about the power of prayer.

Our intent is simply to offer support to a small town in Texas that has been rocked by an evil act, and to offer comfort to dozens of families who have been forever changed by this tragedy.

There’s a blood drive in San Antonio to help victims of the Sutherland Springs; there’s a taco sale being held at the school in Floresville Friday morning to help raise money for the funerals; and HEB is collecting donations, as is a nonprofit disaster relief organization called HHFRF.

Is any good to be found in the midst of such evil?

This being the month known for thankfulness, we’re struggling to find anything for which to be grateful in light of yesterday’s news.

So let us just say that we’re thankful for small, rock-solid churches like that one in Sutherland Springs. Being built of people of faith, we trust that their faith will sustain them in the days and weeks to come, as they lay their parishioners to rest, as they heal from their wounds, and as they struggle to make sense of the horror that befell them on a sunny Texas Sabbath.

We’re thankful for the members of law-enforcement and for the first responders who are ministering to the people of Sutherland Springs in their time of need, who sprang into action on the weekend and who continue to investigate this terrible crime that occurred.

We’re thankful for the medical professionals who are caring for the wounded; for the doctors and nurses and nurse’s aides who are seeking to fix all that the bullets tore asunder. And we’re thankful for the funeral directors and their staff, who are taking care of those that the medical providers could not.

We lift heartfelt prayers for those left to mourn all the lives of those who were lost yesterday, for the friends and families who held them so dear.

And just days into National Adoption Month, we pause to remember some very special adoptive parents named the Pomeroys, and the beloved daughter they lost yesterday.

Her name was Annabelle, and she will not be soon forgotten.

The Power of One

This being National Adoption Month, we can’t help but be reminded of the power of one.

What is the power of one? It’s the amazing potential that every single living individual has to effect meaningful change in the life of another, given the right intention(s) and some effort on their part.

All it takes is one person to change the world– one child, one family, one case at a time.

How One Person Can Make a Change

For example, there’s this one woman we know. We’ll call her “Maria.”

Years ago, Maria’s teenage daughter was facing a catastrophic diagnosis; she was battling a brain tumor, when the family discovered she was also pregnant. Maria and her husband came to see adoption as the best possible option for the coming baby, and their daughter agreed. An open adoption through Abrazo gave them all the opportunity to continue a lasting family bond with this beloved child and her adoptive parents, but Maria’s commitment didn’t stop there. Maria, a skilled jewelry maker, now donates some of her artwork to help raise funds for the Angel Account at the Camp Abrazo raffle in the summer. Beyond that, Maria has spoken at Abrazo’s orientation weekends, and also is one of the Elite members of our Forum, mentoring others in the adoption process. Maria’s generosity in continuing to support her adoption community is just one example of the power of one birthgrandmother to positively impact the world around her.

Then there’s a couple in Abrazo’s program, who had prayed for years for a child to love. the-power-of-oneThey were good, hardworking people. They didn’t live in a gigantic mansion. They don’t travel to exotic places on vacation. They weren’t certain that adoption would work out for them any better than fertility treatment did(n’t.) Yet they longed to be parents– and all it took was one special birthmother, who saw in them the stable, secure home she wanted for her child. “Alexis” worked in fast food and she didn’t need her child to grow up as a trust fund baby; rather, she wanted for her child to have the traditional, down-home kind of life she wished she could’ve had. “Alexis,” in making the enormous sacrifice she did on her baby’s behalf, demonstrated the power of one birthmother to change not just the life of her own child, but the life of her child’s new family, as well.

That family, in turn, has found their own way to harness the power of one to do good for others. After their prayers were answered and their baby came home, they opted to pay it forward by creating a series of lovely “baby baskets” as a welcome gift to celebrate the arrivals of other babies in the Abrazo community. Each month, their generosity has enabled another Abrazo couple who has taken placement to start out their parenting journey with some extra supplies and provisions– again, illustrating the power of one family to touch the lives of others in the course of adoption.

Another father-by-adoption named Walt Manis contacted Abrazo this week to encourage our agency to share the message of his adoption of their beloved daughter Chloe. Walt and his wife now live in Austin and since adopting, they have made it their mission to help others better understand how adoption works. As Walt wrote Abrazo: “We love adoption and have talked to so many people who have come to us who are having fears or questions. It’s been good to walk alongside them.” They don’t do this because it benefits them in any way. They do it because they believe in The Power of the One whose love inspires love to be shared, all through the power of one.

Year after year, here in Texas, one former foster kid who finally got adopted summons the troops and marches up to the Texas State Capitol for a cause near and dear to all our hearts. Her name is Connie, and she is the reckoning force behind S.T.A.R. (Support Texas Adoptee Rights.) Connie already has found her own birthfamily, so this isn’t just about her. It’s about helping make adoption better for generations of Texas adoptees (past and present) who are denied access to their own original birth certificates, and come 2018, Connie and S.T.A.R. (including Abrazo) will again prevail upon the Texas Legislature to use the power of one bill to finally make things right for all adoptees (past and future) in the Lone Star State.

What Can You Change for Good?

We are reminded of the power of one person to educate the world around them when we see all the Abrazofolks posting adoption quotes and photos and memes online for National Adoption Month. If just one person sees one of those posts and comes to understand open adoption in a whole new light, then the power of one will have proven itself again! This week, one brave Abrazo birthmom even went public with the story of her adoption decision for the very first time. On her Facebook page, she wrote “I wanted to share something with y’all that is so personal to me. For a long time, I was afraid of the back lash I would receive but I’m not afraid anymore. (Five years ago) I made a decision, the hardest decision I have had to do” and shared a picture of herself and her children with her birthson and his adoptive family. It was an amazingly courageous act depicting the power of one first mom to bear witness to the fact that even out of life’s hardest choices, good things can grow.

And speaking of pictures, next week, on November 9, all across America, moviegoers will have a remarkable opportunity the-power-of-oneto witness what the power of one can do, as the movie Mully makes an encore presentation in select theaters around the country. It is an extraordinary documentary about the power of one abandoned child, Charles Mully, who grew to be a millionaire yet sacrificed nearly everything, to open his heart and his home to children in need… and lots of them. We encourage you to take your family and go see this remarkable movie, which will surely leave you inspired to unleash the power of one in your own special way, whatever that might be.

Not everyone can adopt thousands of homeless children, we know that. Not everyone makes jewelry, or can go public with their adoption story, or can find the resolve to place a child for adoption, or has the time or means to gift others with baby supplies. Not everyone can donate money to launch a birthmother scholarship fund at Abrazo as novelist and adoptive mom Jackie Mitchard has done, and not everyone can seed an adoptee and birthsibling scholarship as basketball legend Dominique Wilkins once did for Abrazo. We understand that. Not everyone can click on a link for the Texas Heart Gallery and pick out a needy child in state foster care to love and parent for a lifetime.

But everyone can do something, and that is the magic of the power of one. Every single individual reading this blog right now can think of one way, however small, to help meet the needs of children or to spread the word about adoption or to support those touched by adoption.

You have the power of one– yes, you! How can you help change the world?

#thisisopenadoption

November is National Adoption Month, and Abrazo invites you to join us in showing the world #thisisopenadoption, not to “sell adoption” but specifically, to raise awareness of the kind of adoption Abrazo promotes.

We say “not to sell adoption” because there is a perception that National Adoption Month is an industry strategy to do just that, and that is not our intent at all. For some birthparents (especially those who call themselves “mothers of loss”) and adoptees and even adoptive parents, the mention of adoption may trigger painful memories or feelings of rage or unbridled grief, and we must all be sensitive to those for whom adoption has not been positive.

Yet it is just as insensitive to downplay or disregard the thousands of families for whom adoption has been a child-centered and life-changing experience– particularly those with open adoptions, who have learned firsthand that sharing their lives with a child means sharing their child’s life, too, and that becoming “forever family” means including everyone forever as family.

Why does this matter? It’s because there are so many misconceptions, even today, of what open adoption is and how it works– and because so few people truly understand the importance of open adoption.

What’s good about open adoption?

The biggest benefit of open adoption is that it enables children who must be adopted (for whatever reason) to “own their own truth” every day of their lives. (This is huge.)

this-is-open-adoptionOpen adoption empowers adoptees to grow up with full access to their own life stories from Chapter One, helping them to form a stronger sense of identity and to feel more grounded in and attached to both the family who gave them life and the family who teaches them to live it.

Beyond that, open adoption enables parents that place to be more at peace with their placement decisions because they know how their child/ren is/are doing, and it empowers parents that adopt to enjoy healthy relationships with their child/ren’s birthfamilies, thus enhancing their comfort and security within their own parenting roles.

Open adoption eradicates the secrets and lies that used to produce adoption shame. It allows adoptees to enjoy lifelong access to, information about and relationships with their biological kinfolk while gaining the benefits and security of a stable adoptive home. It provides more accurate family medical histories with the capacity for updated information that can be advantageous to both birthfamily and adoptive family members as well as future generations.

How can you help others learn about open adoption?

Here’s how you can join in Abrazo’s campaign to show the world #thisisopenadoption this November.

* Share your story with us, to be shared on Abrazo’s social media throughout National Adoption Month. (Just write up your experience or your perspectives on the value of open adoption and email it to info@abrazo.org with a note permitting us to share it online; let us know if you want some, all or none of your name used. Just be sure you’re sending original material; we’ll edit it as needed.)

* Post your own open adoption messages, each day throughout November, using the hashtag #thisisopenadoption.

* Send Abrazo your favorite photos that depict what open adoption looks like that we can share online with the hashtag #thisisopenadoption throughout the month. (Again, just email submissions to info@abrazo.org with a note permitting us to publish on our social media accounts and/or our website; no names will be used. Please be sure all individuals pictured consent to this use of their photograph/s.)

* Each one tell one: make a point of talking to people around you about the concept of open adoption. Whether it’s a grocery store clerk or someone at your church or a coworker who’s considering adoption or your doctor during a check-up, or just someone you cross paths at random, make it your business to say “I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but open adoption can be really amazing and here’s how I know this…”

* Finally (and most important of all), be sure you’re living up to your own open adoption promises. If it’s been awhile since you last heard from (or checked in with) your child’s other family, there’s no time like the present to reach out and renew those family ties, for your child’s sake. November being National Adoption Month and the season known for Thanksgiving, it’s a perfect opportunity to call or text or email or write or visit, just to remind your child and his/her people what they mean to you.

This is open adoption, after all; people joining their lives and their resources to ensure that children grow up happy and whole, with all the best of both worlds.

If that seems like a message worth sharing, then remember to add #thisisopenadoption to the messages you share in the month to come, because if it helps even one person to embrace open adoption, then that brings the whole world one person closer to nirvana– which is a good thing for everyone.

A Sonnet for Sherin

a-sonnet-for-sherin

What can possibly be said for a child now gone,

though through no fault of her own?

Punished by her dad in the hours before dawn;

choked to death with milk for an offense unknown?

Sherin was born in India, first abandoned there,

then was adopted and moved to Texas to stay.

She surely deserved all the best of care

yet even loving parents her needs would betray.

At first, they insisted “no harm” did they yield,

though authorities have since charged abuse.

Still, her sad, small corpse found in a nearby field

now leaves the world awash in grief that’s profuse.

Wherever the truth lies: this child now does, too.

Your loss is ours, also, sweet girl. We mourn you.


In memory of Saraswati / Sherin Mathews


Saraswati Sherin Mathews was reportedly a newborn abandoned in the Gaya district of Bihar, India and found in bushes by passersby.

She was placed in the care of a now-defunct orphanage, and a year later, adopted in July 2016 by an Indian couple in Kerala, in a placement said to be supervised by Holt International.

She was a special needs child. In early October, at the age of three, she was reported missing by her adoptive parents in Richardson, Texas.

Her adoptive father, Wesley Mathews, has been charged with injury to a child. No charges have been filed against the adoptive mother.

The couple’s other child remains in the care of Child Protective Services at the present time.

For information about child abuse prevention, please visit American SPCC.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect in the State of Texas, contact 1-800-252-5400, or visit www.childhelp.org.

How to Give Up a Baby for Adoption

This is how to give up a baby for adoption.

(Hey, that’s not normally how we like to talk about the process of making adoption plans, but if adoption is new to you, we know it may be the information you start searching for?)

For most moms who think about giving a baby up for adoption, it starts with finding out you are pregnant and not knowing what else to do.

You may be so in denial you go for weeks or months without buying a pregnancy test at the dollar store because you’re hoping somehow if you don’t find out for sure it won’t be for real.

(That doesn’t really work, by the way.)

Or you put off going to the doctor or starting prenatal care because you’re hoping if you just ignore the problem, it’ll go away. (Yeah… right. That one’s not effective, either.)

You start wearing bigger clothes to hide your growing belly and you tell others you’re just putting on some extra weight.

You can fool some people some of the time, as they say. But you can’t fool yourself for long. (Not really.)

You might even text or leave a message for the babydaddy or try to run into him or drop some hints to see if he wants to man up and be a part of what’s going on, but if he doesn’t respond or blows you off, then you’re left to deal with the problem all by yourself. (Again.)

Thinking about adoption? That’s being responsible. (Yay, you!)

You know there’s a baby growing inside of you. how-to-give-up-a-baby-for-adoptionYou know at some point you are going to have to do something about it. You know you could parent, and you know it’s your right to keep the baby if you want to, but there’s so much more you wanted to do, and a baby is going to change everything. You know there are programs out there that help moms (like AFDC and WIC and stuff) but this isn’t just about not being able to afford a kid.

It’s about wanting to become a mom or grow your family when you feel the time is right, and not just because a condom broke or you missed a pill or somebody had his way with you when you had a weak moment.

So kudos to you for having the courage to “do you” and having the conscience to want the very best for your child’s future, too. That’s the best that any parent can do: to take good care of herself and to make sure her child is taken care of, also.

Society may claim that birthmothers who place don’t care about their kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. Adoption is a loving, mature and responsible decision made by caring parents and that is nothing to be ashamed of, if it’s done the right way and for the right reasons.

So you know your reasons, and you know your rights, but what’s next?

The right way to give up a baby for adoption

Let’s shoot straight, here: motherhood is a lifelong responsibility, but pregnancy is a temporary condition, and if you are not ready to be somebody’s mom in every way, then it’s perfectly all right to admit it, and to enable someone else to step in and help get the child’s needs met through adoption.

Adoption means legally allowing another person or persons permanent and full legal rights to take over the responsibilities of serving as your child’s parent(s).

If that’s what you know you need to do, either for a baby you are expecting or for a child already in your care, then here’s how to give up a baby for adoption (or how to make a loving placement plan):

1. Call Abrazo (210-342-5683 or 1-800-454-5683) anytime, or text the word “PLACE” to 210-860-5683. Abrazo is a private, nonprofit agency that’s been licensed by the State of Texas since 1994, so you know you can trust the help we offer.

An Abrazo staff member will contact you promptly and confidentially to talk with you about the adoption process and your preferences and our services. If you are already in the hospital, Abrazo can come meet with you there.

2. Abrazo can either mail, email or bring you a packet of information about your adoption options, your rights and responsibilities and the emotions and support you can expect during the adoption process.

It’s up to you if you want your family or the baby’s father involved in your adoption plan (note: if you are legally-married to the baby’s father, he must be informed of the pending adoption, but it is not your responsibility to get the father to sign papers.)

If you are pregnant, we can also assist you in lining up prenatal care, housing, maternity transportation, counseling and other support services you may need during pregnancy and up to 8 weeks afterwards.

3. Abrazo gives you the option of choosing your child’s future family and getting to know them in advance. You also have the option of keeping in touch afterwards, if you wish.

We’ll respect your wishes, whether you want to pick a family and get acquainted or if you just want the agency to choose a family for your child. It’s your choice, after all.

4. When you go to the hospital to deliver, you let Abrazo know. If you want our adoptive family there with you for the delivery (or afterwards,) that’s your right. You can sign Abrazo’s legal documents to release your child for adoption anytime after the child is 48 hours old, provided you are free of any mind-altering medication, and that decision is permanent and irreversible from the time the papers are signed.

Your child can go right home with the adoptive family of your choice. Your decision is private and confidential, and you don’t need to appear in court. And you can continue to participate in Abrazo’s counseling program afterwards for as long as you choose.

Want to learn more? Visit www.abrazo.org, or contact Abrazo, and let’s turn your need to know how to give up a baby for adoption into a beautiful placement plan that changes your life, your child’s destiny, and an adoptive family’s home, in all the very nicest of ways.

What Open Adoption Means

One of Abrazo’s staff found herself in an exchange with someone this week about what open adoption means.

That’s a conversation we find ourselves in nearly every week, of course, in one way or another.

What is open adoption? How does open adoption work? Why is open adoption better? These are questions we answer all the time, for prospective birthparents and adopting parents. It’s not co-parenting, nor joint custody, we tell them, and it’s not legally-enforceable in Texas. But it is a sacred covenant to be truly known to each other, to relate to each other as family and to maintain some level of communication with each other in the years to come, for the good of the adoptee.

And this is what broke our hearts about having to explain to a former Adoption Services Associates birthparent who’d been told she had an open adoption why it wasn’t not an open adoption if she never was allowed to know the adopting family’s identifying information and did not have the option nor access to stay in touch with them. (That was a tough one.)

See, this birthmom had never given the adoptive family (nor agency) any reason to fear her. She never made demands. Never sought to interfere. All she wanted was to be informed of how her child was faring. Exorcising her from the life of the baby girl she faithfully placed nearly 20 years ago was not in that child’s best interests nor her birthmom’s (even if it did alleviate the adoptive parents’ insecurity or fears or apprehensions.)

Allowing this mother to think she was doing an open adoption (in order to induce or persuade her to sign the paperwork) and then denying her the benefits of a genuine open adoption was anything but an act of charity. Rather, it was about power and control– and yes, personal gain (whether that of the agency and/or adoption attorney and/or adopters.) Using a promise of open adoption as a means to anyone’s end is cruel, dangerous and deceitful. There’s no other way to explain it.

So how does genuine open adoption work?

Open adoption means the joining of two families for the benefit of one (or more) child(ren.) It means the families agree and commit to the sharing of their identifying information as well as the sharing of their lives– across the child’s lifespan and without anonymity or an intermediary.

Even if open adoption arrangements seem to come together quickly, for some, the relationship doesn’t just happen overnight. These connections requires deep trust, and it takes time to build trust in any authentic relationship. (But if people can’t trust each other, then why should they share a child?) Open adoption relationships are always “works in progress” that grow and change over time (just as children do.) This requires mutual respect, love, patience and kindness.

There’s even a biblical foundation for this sort of thing. Sister Joan Chittister says that “one of scripture’s most powerful icons” was that of the prophet Abraham’s rush to welcome strangers to his table, because this calls us to be “keepers of an open tent in the desert.”

what-open-adoption-meansWhen you welcome relatives over, you don’t open your front door to admit one relative in and then say to the others through the closed screen door “… but not you, you stay outside, okay?” (That would a rude thing to say to anyone, even the dog.) Openness means transparency and access and clarity and understanding. There’s no such thing as being “semi-open” and the adoption community needs to state clearly that “semi-open adoptions” are really just closed adoptions in prettier wrapping paper.

Forever families make room and time for each other

Open adoption means setting a place for everyone at the table, and making room as needed.

In open adoption, you love your child’s people because you love your child and you want your child to feel proud of who they are and where they’re from.

This doesn’t mean that those in open adoption never disagree or never misunderstand each other. It doesn’t mean that the child will necessarily value the relationship as the adults do. It doesn’t mean that there’s never a need for space nor for healthy boundaries. But what it does mean is that the best of family treat each other like the best of family, that “forever family” includes everyone forever, and that any problems are dealt with as a family.

Open adoptions take work to make them work, and it’s not uncommon for Abrazo’s adoptive families to sometimes feel that they’re doing most of the work. (This is particularly true if their child/ren’s birthparents are struggling with post-adoption grief, are nomadic, or are seemingly ambivalent about or incapable of keeping in touch.) Yet we have almost never heard anyone say their efforts were “not worth it,” whatever it’s taken, because few people harbor regrets about doing the right thing.

Adoption guru Jim Gritter described open adoption as “hospitious adoption” in his book by the same title. In it, Gritter writes:

“It is not that adoption done well erases or nullifies the sadness. What was lost remains lost, but loss need not be the entirety of the story. When separation and disconnection are addressed with hospitality, adoption holds new potential.”

(And that is the very message we hope to convey to ASA’s adoptive family, when we reach out to attempt to reunite them with the ASA birthmother who contacted us for post-adoption assistance.)

What open adoption means, essentially, is doing an adoption without secrets nor shame and one that honors all of the adoptee’s family connections, never forcing them to choose between them.

And then, what open adoption means can truly be good for everyone involved.