This guest post is by DeeAn Gillespie, an adoption attorney.
So you’ve decided adoption is the best thing for you and your baby. The next step is creating a successful adoption plan.
After already making such an emotional decision, outlining an adoption plan may seem like an undesirable hurdle.
And while it is a tender process, adoption plans serve two important purposes.
First, it allows birth parents to hand select an ideal family for their baby, ensuring their child a happy and stable future.
Second, it allows birth parents to heal, assured their child is right where they want them to be.
The latter will take time, but it’s a possible and likely outcome that begins with an adoption plan.
But not just any adoption plan—a successful one.
So how do you begin? The steps below will help guide your thought process throughout the adoption plan to meet the two goals above.
But most importantly, remember you’re creating an adoption plan for your baby.
While you don’t know the personality or characteristics of your baby yet, you do know what makes a great parent.
Here are the steps to consider when creating an adoption plan for your baby.
1. The Personal Step
One of the most personal questions you’ll have to answer is what type of adoption you’d like: open or closed?
While all decisions are guided under the best interest of the child, it’s impossible to predict how your child will feel about open versus closed adoptions.
Differing from the early years of adoption, however, open adoptions are now more common in America, with some sources citing as much as a 1:10 ratio, closed to open. There are pros and cons to both, of course.
In closed adoptions there is no communication between biological and adoptive parents; however, the adoptees still receive medical records.
Most other information, including any identifying information, is sealed. Biological parents will have no access to the child nor be updated on their well-being.
Equally important to consider, it can be a long and difficult process should your child ever want to unseal these documents.
Generally speaking, and assuming your state allows it, the child will have to file a petition and meet with a judge in court to explain their reasoning.
Unfortunately, a desire to know their biological parents is often not enough, so they may need to meet with a family attorney to work out the discussion with the judge.
If approved, biological parents must mutually agree.
In some states, adoptees may request non-identifying information– education, hobbies, reason for placement—at 18 or 21-years-old.
Some advantages may include a sense of closure for birth parents, no danger of birth parent “interference” for the adopting parents and protection from an unstable or potentially harmful birth parents, in more extreme cases, for the adoptee.
Disadvantages may include not meeting and connecting with the adoptive family as well as less trust and possible empathy from them.
Perhaps the widest concerning disadvantage, though, is if the child should want to reconnect with the birth parents one day.
On the contrary, open adoptions come with a range of options.
In open adoption, all units act as an adoption triad, meaning the biological and adoptive parents and adoptee are connected to one another.
If any identifiable information is provided to the adoptive family, it’s a type of open adoption, generally speaking.
There are various levels of openness, ranging from exchanging photos and letters to phone calls and visits.
As mentioned earlier, open adoptions are increasingly more common as many birth mothers or parents want to select their child’s adoptive family and know how their child is doing.
The level of openness must be decided mutually, and the agreements are not always legally binding.
One disadvantage for birth parents may be following the agreed upon boundaries and potentially coping with adoptive families not meeting all communication expectations.
All of this can be discussed further and in great detail with your adoption agency and/or with a counselor.
For those selecting some form of an open adoption, it’s time to develop an adoption plan that provides a promising future for your child and peace of mind for yourself.
2. The Idealistic Step
While there’s no exact number, it’s estimated around 120,000 children are adopted in the U.S. annually.
What that means for your adoption plan is options—hundreds of thousands of families looking to adopt a baby.
Birth parents need to narrow their scope before diving into adoptive family profiles by creating an “ideal” situation for their baby.
For starters, ask yourselves some of these questions:
- What kind of life do I want my baby to have?
- What characteristics would my baby want to have in a family?
- What values do I want my baby to grow up with?
While these questions seem vague, they are open-ended and all-encompassing for valid reasons.
Adoption is a monumental and emotional decision.
Creating a parenting plan is just the first step. To make it successful, you need to feel happy and confident with it and the impact it has on you and your baby’s life.
Answer these questions with your child in mind; take the necessary time to emotionally dig deep and list out answers. From religion, to educational opportunities to location, there’s much to consider.
If you begin to overthink the questions or your answers, remember these are mostly personal preferences; you’re creating your ideal situation for your unborn child.
Try to keep some of your answers short (college educated parents, Catholic, Arizona residents, etc.) and then prioritize them from most to least important.
Remember this is only the “ideal” list; potential parents’ personalities usually seal the deal for many, even if they don’t check off every ideal box.
3. The Investigative Step
Now that you know the values and characteristics you’re looking for in an adoptive family, it’s time to explore adoption profiles.
If location was a top priority for you, only look at families in that state; if religion was important for you, scan profiles for religion, etc.
Birth families should dedicate time to reading and exploring the provided profiles; adoptive families put much thought into how they represent themselves.
More importantly, though, is identifying families with qualities you like.
You’ll want to develop some kind of organizational system for this.
A simple way is to write down the name of families you like and make a tally for every “ideal” they meet.
At the end you can review your top 3 families’ profiles again and then select one.
Of course it’s much quicker to tell you how to do the “investigative step,” but it’s an important decision.
Depending how far along you are in your pregnancy, feel comfortable taking some time in selecting a family. Once you do, it’s time for the true test.
Okay, it’s not really a test. But most birth parents want to meet the selected adoptive family in person, if possible, or by Skype.
While more personal, in a way parent profiles are like resumes—the best examples of themselves.
Truthful, yes. Qualified, yes. Selective, yes—so not all first round family picks go on to be the adoptive parents.
To find lifelong happiness with your baby’s adoption plan you’ll need to remember you’re looking for the best family for your baby, not necessarily who you think will follow your wishes the most.
But how do you figure that out? Here are just a few questions you can ask when you meet the family:
- What was your childhood like and how did you two meet?
- What’s your neighborhood like? Are there other children around?
- Do you spend time with extended family members? Do you travel?
- What’s your daily routine like now? How may t change when you have a baby?
- What do you think makes a great parent?
- What are your hobbies? What would you like to do as a family?
There’s truthfully a plethora of questions you can ask a family, and you should be prepared to answer questions from them as well.
Beyond getting to know them you’ll also want to dive deeper once you’re all feeling more comfortable.
Ask them what their families think about adoption, what kind of relationship they’re interested in having with you post placement and how they want to raise your baby.
On the opposite end, you’ll want to avoid getting too personal or asking for help with questions like why they can’t have children on their own or asking for help with bills.
Remember, this is about your child and finding them a loving and stable home.
Depending on the circumstance you may be able to meet with the families again, or at least arrange additional phone calls if you’re still unsure after the meeting.
If they weren’t the family you imagined for your baby, that is also okay.
Selecting the family is the most important phase of creating a “successful” adoption plan.
Successful, meaning your baby finds an adoptive family and you are happy and confident your baby will prosper with them.
4. The Evaluation Step
The “tests” are over and you’ve picked a loving family to raise your baby. Of course, this doesn’t mean your emotions come to a halt.
From sadness, anger and even shame to excitement and hope for you baby, birth mothers are constantly weighing the pros and cons to their created adoption plan.
Before placement, you have the right to change your mind at any time.
However, this in itself can be a painful and heartbreaking scenario for all involved.
For this reason and in keeping with what’s best for your baby, the “evaluation” step is to ensure you are comfortable with all your previous decisions.
Do you feel comfortable with your open adoption?
If not (or even if so), have you met with an adoption counselor to discuss your thoughts?
Do you feel a connection with the family you selected to raise your baby?
Be sure to think about less than ideal scenarios, as well.
For example, if the adoptive family started sharing updates with you less frequently, would you still be confident your baby is happy?
The point of answering these questions is to make sure one, this adoption plan places your baby in the best possible home and two, you truly believe this is what’s best for your baby.
Fear and guilt are mentally challenging emotions all birth mothers must face. However, through personal evaluations of your plan you can hopefully avoid the “should have” doubt and “what if” questions after placement.
If, at any time, you no longer feel comfortable with your adoption plan you may put it on pause or end it altogether.
But don’t let this time slip away.
Dig deep and meet with an adoption counselor if necessary until you can answer why you are no longer comfortable with the plan.
Perhaps you’re not truly happy with the adoptive family or maybe you’re not comfortable with the open adoption.
There are countless reasons and all are acceptable. Just keep your baby’s best interest in the forefront.
Once you’re confident of your baby’s future and with your adoption, you should work on a hospital plan for yourself and the adoptive family.
Many birth mothers also find comfort in connecting with others through various support groups during and after the adoption plan creation and placement.
Once placed, adoption is permanent.
Hopefully these steps help you guide you through the planning process and remind you to do what you feel is best for your baby in the end.
The more honest you are with yourself throughout your pregnancy, the more successful your adoption plan will be.
DeeAn Gillespie is an attorney at Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb, an experienced team of Phoenix family law attorneys dedicated to helping families since 1985. Together they specialize in a range of adoption cases including open, step parent and grandparent adoption.
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