The Fascination with the ‘Open Adoption Gone Wrong’ Narrative

You see the adoption horror stories all the time on your favorite daytime talk shows: A “crazed” birth mother demands her baby back from the adoptive family. 

Stories like these are incredibly rare compared to the vast number of successful open adoptions. So why does it seem like ‘open adoption gone wrong’ stories are always making headlines?

The simple answer is sensationalism. The headline “Adoption Gone Wrong” is more likely to pull someone in than a headline along the lines of “Birth Mother Retains Healthy Relationship with Child’s Adoptive Family.” When tragedy occurs, its human nature to be curious about what went wrong.

Media specialists and tabloids know this and are more likely to run a story depicting a devastating event rather than a story that has a happier ending.  

Due to what’s known as negativity bias, our brains are wired to pay attention to negative news. This psychological trait that once kept us safe by making us more aware of nearby danger, now makes us more predisposed to latching onto negative headlines.

So while these open adoption horror stories rarely ever happen, they are easy for people to remember and fixate on.

5 Open Adoption Myths and Misconceptions

With so much misinformation and sensationalized media at our disposal, it’s easy to feel discouraged or nervous about pursuing an open adoption.

Below are 5 common open adoption myths and the facts debunking them:

Myth 1: The birth parents can take their baby back.

This is one of the most common myths surrounding open adoption that generates a lot of fear in prospective adoptive parents. Once the adoption is finalized and the birth parent relinquishes their parental rights to their baby and the revocation period passes, there is no going back. The myth of the birth parents coming to reclaim the baby is just that: A myth. It’s not legally possible.

The birth mother can change her mind about adoption at any point before then, but since adoption is meant to give the child a sense of permanence, there are rarely any plausible circumstances that would allow for the birth mother to regain custody.

Myth 2: The birth parents will stalk you.

Just as with many of these ‘open adoption gone wrong’ scenarios, this one rarely happens. As the adoptive parents, you will not be required to share any personal information you don’t want to with the birth parents. The sort of post-placement contact arrangements that will be in place after the adoption has been finalized will be up to you and the birth parent to discuss. You don’t have to agree to anything if you feel it is not right for you.

Open adoptions have been proven to be beneficial for the whole adoption triad. It allows the birth parent to know that their child is healthy and happy, the child never has to wonder where they came from, and the adoptive parents will have peace of mind knowing that the birth parent chose them to raise their child.

Myth 3: The birth parent will regret their decision.

This one goes hand in hand with the fear that the birth parents will try to take their baby back. By the time a birth parent has relinquished t heir parental rights, they will have given their decision a lot of thought. Adoption is never a choice that is made lightly. While birth mothers often experience normal feelings of grief and loss, she knows that she is making the right choice for her and her baby.

Myth 4: The child will grow up hating their adoptive parents.

Unlike in the past where a child might be “shielded” from the fact that they were adopted, 97% of adopted children over the age of 5 today know their adoption story. There is less likely to be resentment when their adoption is something that can be discussed openly and honestly.

Myth 5: The child will grow up hating their birth parents.

Open adoption allows for the child to stay in touch with their birth parents, so they never have questions about where they came from or why they were placed for adoption. Children who have some amount of openness with their birth parents have been shown to have more positive feelings about their adoption.

Open Adoption

Open adoptions have become more popular in recent decades with 95 percent of today’s adoptions being open to some degree. Open adoptions are generally the healthiest option for everyone involved.

 Listed below are just a few of the benefits of open adoptions.

  • The birth parents will find comfort knowing that their child is happy and thriving with their new adoptive family.
  • The adoptive family will have better access to their child’s medical history.
  • The adoptive family will feel encouraged that the birth parent picked them specifically to raise their child.
  • When birth parents are able to communicate with the adoptive family and their child, they are less likely to experience feelings of guilt and doubt.
  • The adopted child will have a better sense of identity and will never have to wonder about where they came from.

Closed Adoption

While closed adoptions do still exist, they are less popular due to them not being as beneficial to those involved as open adoptions. The disadvantages that you could face in a closed adoption include:

  • The birth parents may feel guilty if they do not have the opportunity to explain to their child their reason for making their decision to place them for adoption.
  • Not knowing how their child is doing could make the birth parent depressed or anxious.
  • The adopted child may feel unwanted if they don’t know their birth mother’s reason for placing them for adoption.
  • It may be harder for the birth parent to experience closure without information about their child.
  • The adoptive family will have limited medical history on their child if new medical concerns develop.
  • The adopted child may struggle with their own identity and wonder about who they are.

If you’re new to the world of adoption, you may be overwhelmed and not sure what to expect. An open adoption allows for both the birth parents and adoptive family to have some clarity as they move through the adoption process. Reach out to an adoption professional today to get more answers to your open adoption questions.

Should You Get the COVID-19 Vaccine If You’re Pregnant?

If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, you have enough to worry about without adding contracting COVID-19 to the mix.  Fortunately, a vaccine could be an option for you.

As of December 11, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer for emergency use. A second vaccine developed by Moderna was approved on December 18th.

The authorization of these vaccines has brought about many questions and concerns, especially among pregnant women. Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for me if I’m pregnant? Will the vaccine harm my unborn child?

These concerns are valid. In short, if you are a woman who is pregnant, you can receive the vaccine.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, while pregnant women were excluded from the vaccine clinical trials, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are an mRNA which does not contain a live or whole virus. This means it’s highly unlikely to harm women who are pregnant or their unborn baby, and have historically been proven to be safe.

While not much is yet known about how the vaccine interacts with pregnancy, pregnant women are at a greater risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19, which could result in a high risk pregnancy.

If you are a woman who is pregnant and you want the vaccine, talk to your adoption professional and healthcare provider to determine if receiving the vaccine is the right choice for you.

3 Facts to Know When Considering the COVID-19 Vaccine

A few things you should know if you’re pregnant and thinking about get the COVID vaccine:

  1. There are two COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Pfizer. This vaccine requires 2 separate injections 21 days apart. Data shows that it starts working soon after the first dose and has an efficacy rate of 95% after the second dose.
  • Moderna. This vaccine requires to injections 28 days apart and has an efficacy rate of 94.1% after the second dose.

2. The vaccine is an mRNA.

Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines and do not contain a live virus. These vaccines work by using genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) that gives your cells instructions on how to make a protein similar to that found in coronavirus.  Your immune system recognizes the foreign protein as a threat and starts building an immune response.

3. Pregnancy is a risk factor for COVID-19.

Many side effects of pregnancy such as hypertension and weight gain increase the chance of contracting COVID-19. Researchers recommend that healthcare providers do not withhold the vaccine from women who are pregnant.

3 Busted Myths about the COVID-19 Vaccine

You’ve likely heard some myths about the vaccine, including:

Myth 1: The COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.

One of the most common unfounded rumors surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine is that it can result in infertility. There is no scientific backing to support this, whatsoever. Since the vaccine is an mRNA, it does not contain the live virus and does not interact with genetic material.  Other mRNA vaccines have not resulted in infertility in the past.

Myth 2: The COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe because it was developed so rapidly.

The urgency of the pandemic spurred many pharmaceutical companies to invest in a vast amount of resources so that a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed as quickly as possible. Though the development of the vaccine was quick, this does not mean any corners were cut.  The development of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine followed safety protocols and have been approved by the FDA.

Myth 3: There are severe side effects.

There have only been reports of mild reactions such as soreness at the site of injection, and half of recipients reporting headaches, fatigue, or fever that typically resolves in a day or two. These side effects are a result of your body’s immune system responding to the vaccine, and have been observed with other vaccines.

If you are pregnant woman and worried about COVID-19, you can get the vaccine. If you still have reservations or questions about the vaccine’s side effects or how it might affect your pregnancy, talk to your doctor and adoption professional.

A Very Strange Year in Review

There’s no denying that 2020 was a very, very strange year for us all. The world faced new challenges, and the adoption world was one of the many sectors impacted.

However, adoption professionals, birth parents, adoptive families and adoptees all faced these challenges head on, and adapted. Let’s look back at the obstacles we’ve faced and will continue to surmount. 

Here’s what happened this year:

International Adoptions Were Halted

As the world struggled to slow the deadly spread of COVID-19, countries were forced to close their borders, and travel bans were enacted. For families in the midst of an international adoption process, this was devastating. Hopeful parents and children awaiting adoption became separated by national borders and oceans.

International adoptions have been on a consistent decline in recent years as countries encourage adoptive families to consider the many children waiting for a family within their own communities. COVID-19 may signal the end of international adoptions as we know it.

Fortunately, domestic adoption remains an option, even in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.

Domestic Adoptions Continued, Sometimes at a Distance

Unlike international adoptions, domestic adoption was largely unaffected by COVID-19. The primary differences were new social distancing precautions. For birth and adoptive families, this meant fewer in-person meetings and more virtual talks. Many adoptions were even finalized virtually!

Although adoptive families still need to exercise reasonable caution when traveling within the U.S., domestic adoptions have been able to continue safely — a blessing in the chaos for the many families who grew through adoption in 2020.

Faith-Based Adoption Agencies’ Ability to Turn Away Same-Sex Couples Was Upheld

In a blow for waiting foster youth, more states have granted foster adoption agencies the ability to turn away prospective adoptive parents based on sexual orientation. Data consistenty supports the benefits that LGBTQ adoptive parents provide to the foster care system. Removing these families’ ability to foster or adopt through foster care only serves to harm the waiting children in foster care.

Same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals are now turning to private infant adoption agencies in the hopes of growing a family, especially the national non-denominational professionals. So, although LGBTQ families will still be able to pursue adoption through agencies, there are now more children in foster care who have been denied a family due to these laws.

Families Continued to Grow through Adoption

Despite the many challenges that 2020 brought, adoption professionals, birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees persevered. 

Pregnant women still sought out loving adoptive families for their children, adoptive parents continued to welcome children through adoption and children continued to find loving, permanent homes. Adoption professionals continued to work from home to help support pregnant women and adoptive families. Even at a distance, birth parents, adoptive parents and adoptees all continue to grow and strengthen their triads.

Many pregnant women considering adoption as well as would-be-parents who are considering adopting are worried that the uncertainties of 2020 mean adoption is no longer an option for them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Adoptions continued in 2020, and will continue in 2021. Not even a global pandemic can stop the love that goes into each adoption placement, or the desire to give beloved children the best life possible.

If you’re considering adoption, 2021 may be your year. Reach out to a licensed adoption agency to learn more, and to take your first steps.

Should You Adopt in 2021?

2020 was a year of uncertainty, fear and wait-and-see. But through it all, families continued to grow through adoption. After all — babies won’t stop being born just because there’s a lot going on in the world!

As 2021 approaches, you may be wondering if this is the year you welcome a child into your family through adoption. To help yourself decide if you should adopt in 2021, ask yourself these 5 questions:

1. Will the continuing struggle with COVID-19 affect your adoption process?

This is a concern for many would-be parents. But, you’ll be glad to know that unless you are hoping to adopt internationally, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t likely to affect your adoption process much. Here’s why…

2. Are you planning on pursuing a domestic adoption?

Domestic adoptions, whether through foster care or through adoption agencies, have largely been unaffected by COVID-19. International adoptions, however, were massively affected and have virtually ceased.

We were all hoping that there would be a widely-available vaccine at this point, and that the world would be able to return to “normal.” However, it’s not likely to happen for quite some time. So, for now, international adoptions are not recommended in 2021.

However, this might be the year for you if you’re adopting domestically. One important thing hasn’t changed: There are still women who are currently (or will be) facing unplanned pregnancy and want to find a loving adoptive family for their child.

3. Are you financially stable enough to pursue adoption right now?

Adoption is always a costly endeavor (unless you’re pursuing a foster care adoption), but right now, you might be a bit more worried about finances. Many families suffered financial losses as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you were similarly affected, you may want to put a temporary hold on your adoption plans while you build your savings back up, so that you can be financially prepared for the needs of a new family member.

4. Are you physically ready for adoption?

This is always a consideration for adoptive families. Are you physically ready to care for a newborn and growing child? Do you have a safe and ready home? If so, 2021 might be the year for you to adopt.

5. Are you emotionally ready for adoption?

Again, this is something that any hopeful parent must ask themselves and carefully consider. The adoption process is always an emotional experience, but 2020 was an exceptionally tough and emotional year. 

Do you feel emotionally ready to start the adoption process? Do you understand the emotional process for the birth parents and adoptees, as well? If so, then you’re probably ready to take the next steps!

If You’re Ready, You Can Begin the Process Now

Truly, no matter how prepared you might be, no one is ever 100% ready to become a parent, whether biologically or through adoption. But, if you think that you’re physically, financially and emotionally ready to take on the adoption process, 2021 is the time to do it. 

There are still countless waiting children in foster care and pregnant women who are making adoption plans for their unborn babies. These children will need loving, safe and permanent families. If you think that could be you, reach out to a licensed adoption professional now to take the first steps!

12 Tips for Bonding with Your Adopted Baby

Hopeful adoptive parents are often worried about bonding with their newborn adopted child. Will I bond as easily with this baby as I would with a biological child?” “What if he or she doesn’t want me?” “What if I don’t feel the love and special connection right away?”

Adoptive families will assure worried parents-to-be that this isn’t something to fret over. It’ll happen! Additionally, even biological parent-baby bonds require time, consistency and effort, and aren’t inherently stronger just because of the biological connection. All relationships require love and work!

However, learning some tips for bonding with your (adopted) baby may do more to soothe your anxiety than reassurances from experts or experienced adoptive families. These 12 tips are applicable for bonding with any newborn, not just an adopted child:

1. Try Baby-Wearing

There are plenty of wraps and carriers on the market that you can try. Even just wearing your baby as you do some light cleaning around the house, running an errand down the street or on a walk around the block can be an easy way to stay close.

2. Consider Cocooning

In adoption, “cocooning” is a buzzword that has gained a lot of attention. What it boils down to is spending time with your baby in the first few weeks after you bring your new child home. But, it would just be you, your spouse (if applicable) and immediate family members like your other children. No grandparents, extended family or friends, just yet.

Some families like this alone-time together, primarily for settling into a routine and focusing on adjusting to one another.

3. Make Eye Contact

Eye contact is a simple but effective way that humans bond. Newborn babies can’t see very far, so gently holding (never forcing) loving eye contact while feeding your baby is an easy and special way to feel more in touch with one another. This also helps your baby recognize your face.

4. Read Together

Turn story time into a daily habit. Reading to your baby:

5. Cuddle Often

Physical closeness is one of the primary ways that humans bond. Never force cuddles or physical affection upon your child. If he or she fusses and doesn’t want to remain sitting in your lap or be picked up, give them some space. 

However, find as many opportunities as you can to be physically close with your baby. Hold them during feeding times, relax in a rocking chair together before bed and give as many kisses and hugs as they seem comfortable with.

6. Make Time for Play

Never underestimate the power of play and the bonds it can create! As your baby grows, make plenty of time for regular games of peek-a-boo, make silly faces and noises, give gentle tickles and just enjoy making your baby laugh.

7. Keep Talking

From the moment you bring your child home, start speaking to them softly. Talk about anything: Tell them their adoption story, go through your grocery list and tell them how much you love them.

This is especially important after 9 months of hearing his or her birth mother’s voice through her body. This loss can be confusing and upsetting to infants. So, hearing your voice (and feeling the vibrations through your body) help your baby to recognize your voice and associate it with you. 

8. Be Responsive

When your baby cries, immediately go and pick them up. If he or she smiles at you, smile back. Quickly and consistently responding to your baby’s physical and emotional cues will assure them that you will always be there, and that they can count on you.

9. Take Advantage of Parental Leave

If your employer offers parental leave, always take advantage of it. If both parents can take leave, all the better. 

Particularly in the weeks after placement, you and your spouse will want to spend as much time with your baby as possible — for bonding purposes as well as simply taking time to adjust to parenthood and finding a routine.

10. Spend One-on-One Time

It can be hard to find alone time with your baby if you’re also raising older children. Try having one spouse spend time with your older children while you spend time alone with your baby, and then switch. 

This is only a temporary practice as you focus on one-on-one parental bonding with your new baby. Soon, you’ll want to encourage time spent together as an entire family.

11. Sing to Your Baby

Just like talking, singing lullabies, nursery rhymes or even just along with the radio helps your baby attune to your voice. Even if you’re not the world’s best singer, a quiet round of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can be enormously meaningful and relaxing to your baby.

12. Create Routines and Rituals

Not only do routines help newborns fall into a healthy biological rhythm for sleeping, waking, feeding and playing, it’ll give your child a sense of security. Routines are especially important for adopted children (yes, even infants) as they experienced a major disruption in the first days of their life. 

Knowing that you will always be there to read them a book after bathtime, or to give them a goodnight song, will be an important source of comfort and stability as they grow.

Again, we’ll remind you that bonding with an adopted newborn is typically fast, natural and easy. 

If, however, you do find that you’re having a harder time bonding with your new child, working with an adoption-competent family counselor may help. Needing a little extra help bonding with your baby doesn’t make you a bad parent! 

Good parents put in the patience, love, time and repetition that any strong parent-child bond requires, regardless of whether or not you’re biologically related.

Why Do Adopted Kids Look Like Their Parents?

Adoptive parents and adoptees who are out and about together have often heard comments like, “Your son looks just like you!”

Adoptive families who are multi-racial won’t typically receive those comments. Parents and children who don’t share the same race can’t exactly “hide” the adoption, so they’ll instead be asked questions about their story (whether they want to talk about it or not). But, there are many adoptive families who can “pass” as biological.

Why do so many people seem to think these parents and their (adopted) children look alike? For many adoptive families, “You two look so much alike,” is a frequently-heard comment. Why? 

We have three theories as to why some people may think that parents and their (adopted) children look alike:

  1. People See What They Expect to See

Because the majority of families are formed biologically, people default to that assumption. If they see a child and adult together, they’ll typically assume that the two are biologically related as long as they look relatively similar. 

If a child and parent have the same hair color or skin tone, the average person will hone in on even a small similarity as confirmation of their assumption. If the default assumption is that most family members are biologically related, then they will assume this is true until told otherwise.

  1. People May Begin to Look Alike Over Time

This has been an observed phenomenon in spouses and couples who cohabitate over long periods of time. The same theory may be applicable to adopted children and their (adoptive) family members.

Research into the theory that couples and non-biological family members begin to look like each other has found that facial similarities don’t converge over time, but rather, the perceived similarities may be a result of human social patterns. Which brings us to…

  1. Learned Behavior Plays a Role

Humans “mirror” one another’s facial expressions, pattern of speech, body language and more. This is a subconscious behavior that is common among socially-driven animals like humans. That’s why you find yourself picking up your friend’s phrases, falling into your regional accent and more.

Babies, in particular, pick up on these physical cues as part of their natural development. Infants learn facial expressions, speech patterns and emotional response by watching the people they interact with every day: Their parents. This is called “affect attunement.” 

This developmental process helps babies understand the correct facial expressions to match his or her emotions. And, because children learn those facial expressions and emotional responses from their parents or caretakers, their facial expressions will tend to match the parents’. Their glad looks like their parents’ glad, and their mad looks like their parents’ mad. 

Just like you find yourself “attuning” to your close friends or to your spouse, adopted children don’t need to be biologically related to their family members to attune to them.

Find a Better Compliment Than (Perceived) Shared Appearance

The well-meaning person who remarks, “You and your daughter look just alike,” probably intended this as a compliment. But, why? And what message is that sending to an adopted child?

Additionally, the involuntary inheritance of physical traits seems like a far less meaningful “compliment” than:

  • “I love that you and your son share such a passion for sports.”
  • “Your children are so polite.”
  • “You have such a creative daughter.”
  • “You’re so kind and compassionate. Just like your mom!”

So, instead of complimenting parents and children on perceived physical similarities, let’s encourage meaningful praise that doesn’t hinge on the assumption that all families were created biologically.

4 Things to Expect During Your 2nd or 3rd Adoption

This isn’t your first rodeo. If you’ve adopted once (or even twice) before, you have the benefit of insider knowledge and firsthand experience. But, welcoming a new child into your family via adoption is always going to be a different experience each time — the people and relationships involved are unique.

But first: Congratulations! Taking the first steps toward welcoming a new child into your life is always worth celebrating.

But, what can you expect from this new adoption journey in comparison to your last experience? While there’s a lot that will be familiar to you, you can expect a few differences. Here are 4 things to keep in mind as you begin this new adoption process:

1. Each Adoption is Unique

This is especially true if you’ve changed agencies, if you’re pursuing a different type of adoption, or are selected by different birth parents.

However, even if you’re working with the same adoption agency and home study provider — or you’re even adopting from the same birth parents; that doesn’t mean things will be exactly the same as your last adoption. Each pregnancy experience and child is as unique as the people involved in your adoption journey! Be ready to roll with that uniqueness.

2. Things May Be Faster

One benefit you’ll likely enjoy: An expedited adoption process.

Unless your child’s birth mother has approached you and asked you to adopt your child’s new sibling, you’ll still have to wait to be matched with prospective birth parents. That wait will always vary, and will always be tough.

However, the screening and home study processes may be a little easier this time around, especially if you’re working with the professionals who completed your last adoption. Your agency and home study provider will likely have some of your information and documents on file, so the preliminary steps may be as simple as reviewing that paperwork to make sure everything is still accurate and up-to-date.

3. It May Cost Less

If you’re working with the same adoption agency and home study provider, your overall adoption process may cost less than your first adoption. This is typically because there is less administrative work for these professionals if they already have your preliminary documents on file. So, because they won’t need to repeat some of the same steps, these professionals sometimes offer a discounted rate for families who adopt through them again.

The financial support that each individual pregnant woman will need will still vary, so keep this in mind. You’ll also still need to be cleared to adopt, and a home study professional will need to visit your home again to make things are still going well. But, this time there may be a few less steps, which saves you a bit of money.

4. You’ll Feel More Confident

Adoption is never easy. And, there will always be unknowns. However, this time, you have the benefit of firsthand knowledge and experience.

When you were completing your first adoption journey, you probably felt a little clueless and very nervous. The nerves will be always be there, no matter how many times you adopt, but now you have a firm grasp on the process and what to expect.

So, as you prepare to take on a new adoption journey, you can look forward to some of the same experiences — as well as the new aspects of this next journey (and the unique child you’ll welcome)! If you’re ready to get started, contact a licensed adoption agency now.

15 Ways to Save Money for Adoption

Adoption can be expensive. But, with the right tools and steps, you can afford the family-building path of your dreams. 

Start building up your adoption funds today with these ideas. We’ve just scratched the surface with this list, so don’t forget to research all the possibilities available to you! 

1. Revamp your personal budget.

When saving for adoption, make the first place you look your monthly and annual budgets. Just like you would when saving for anything else, create a detailed list of what you spend each month and think about where you can cut corners. 

Look at your monthly subscriptions — are you using them enough to justify the cost? Can you reduce the amount you spend eating out each month?  

Create a strict (but realistic) budget based on your monthly income and necessary expenses. Stick to that budget and put any extra money into a savings account straight away (more on that below).

2. Create a designated savings account.

“Out of sight, out of mind” couldn’t be truer when it comes to savings accounts. Set up a designated savings account for your adoption journey, and pledge to not touch that money for anything other than adoption. Allocate a set amount of your direct deposit into this account for a painless, straightforward way to grow your savings. 

As you look for savings account, make sure to research your options. There are plenty of high-yield savings accounts you can use for free, if you meet certain requirements. A few percentage points can make a stark difference your long-term savings.

3. Start a fundraiser.

Fundraisers can be a great way to add to your adoption funds. Let your friends and family members know that you’re adopting, and make it easy for them to contribute to your fund with online platforms like GoFundMe. 

Before you start your own fundraiser, think about the pros and cons. Adoption fundraisers are as controversial as they can be helpful. Talk with your spouse (if applicable) about what you feel comfortable with before advertising your fundraiser to a large audience.

4. Ask for monetary gifts in lieu of holiday and birthday presents.

Monetary gifts may not be as exciting as the newest gaming system, but receiving money in lieu of physical presents can add to your adoption funds 

Don’t just ask for money for holidays and birthdays without an explanation. Take this opportunity to explain your adoption decision to your friends and family and express just how important their financial gifts can be. Give your loved ones plenty of heads up before the holidays so they’re not caught off guard.

5. Consult with a financial planner.

There’s a lot of DIY financial planning you can do on your own but, if you have substantial debt or assets, a financial planner may provide helpful insight. They can evaluate your personal finances and create a plan to reach your adoption savings goals most efficiently.

6. Find cheaper alternatives for your favorite activities.

COVID-19 has forced us all to embrace virtual activities. An unforeseen benefit? These activities are often much cheaper than their in-person alternatives. 

If you spend more money than you’d like on dining in or takeout, think about hosting a socially distant potluck or starting a meal train with a group of friends. Rather than go out to the movies, find one you haven’t seen before on our streaming services and stay in for the night. If you’ve got a habit of buying new books, dust off your library card and take advantage of your free local offerings. 

These changes can seem little at the start, but they can quickly add up and make a difference in your adoption savings account.

7. Consider the pros and cons of less-expensive adoption options.

While adoption is inherently expensive, there are ways you can reduce your expenses. However, with adoption, you get what you pay for — so do your research before making any big decisions. 

Take foster care adoption, for example. It’s by far the cheapest adoption option. In fact, most of the costs are covered by the state or reimbursed through the adoption tax credit.  

While it may be cheaper, adopting a child from foster care comes with unique challenges. You should never choose aspects of your adoption solely based on cost. Consider what’s best for your family and for the child you will adopt. 

The same idea goes for independent vs. agency-assisted adoption. Independent adoption may seem cheaper at first, but understand how the a la carte costs of different professionals will eventually add up to a full-service agency’s costs. If you’re ready for the responsibility of an independent adoption, you could save thousands of dollars.

8. Consider a loan, if the terms are good.

You might consider a loan to build up your adoption savings, but be wary. Loans can come with high interest rates and end up costing a lot more to pay back — which can be difficult when you have a new addition to your household. 

Before taking out a loan to pay for your adoption, talk to your spouse and/or a financial planner and decide if it’s the right financial step for you.

9. Apply for adoption grants.

Although adoption grants aren’t guaranteed funds, there are plenty out there that you can apply for. It’s free money — what are you waiting for? 

Start your research with this list: 

10. Research employer adoption assistance.

More and more employers are adding adoption assistance to their benefits package. Talk with your HR department and see what options are available to you. There may be financial assistance or grants that you don’t know about! 

Don’t have an adoption assistance program at your current company? Consider bringing it up during your meeting about parental leave. Your employer may be able to add more perks and benefits for your specific situation.

11. Use credit cards and rebate programs wisely.

When you use them correctly, credit cards can actually make you money. Many providers offer rewards and cash-back credit cards. If you pay off your balance every month, you don’t have to pay interest — and those cash or other rewards can be deposited straight into your account. 

Similarly, use online programs like Honey and Rakuten to save and get money back for everyday purchases, respectively. Sock away any of that extra income into your adoption savings account to keep that total rising.

12. Refinance a loan, a mortgage or car payment.

It’s a good idea to talk with your financial advisor before taking this step, but you might be able to save money now by refinancing any existing credit accounts. By lowering your monthly payments, you can put that extra money toward your adoption funds.  

Talk with your loan provider for more details about how a refinance could affect your account balance.

13. Save raises, overtime and bonuses. 

When you have some extra income, it’s tempting to quickly splurge it on a treat for yourself. But automatically saving this money into your adoption funds account will help you in the long run. 

You’re used to living off your usual income, so view any extra as strictly hands-off savings. You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow your adoption account with even the smallest additions.

14. Clear out your closets or start a side hustle.

Most people have some extra clothes, toys and other household supplies lying around. If you haven’t used yours in years, consider selling them. Sites like Poshmark and Ebay allow you to easily upload your items and make money off what’s been collecting dust in your back closet. 

You can also save funds by monetizing your hobbies. If you’re a pro at home improvement, offer your services for small DIY projects. Put any money earned directly into your adoption funds. 

15. Don’t forget the federal adoption tax credit. 

Finally, remember that the federal adoption tax credit will reduce some of your financial burden. Although you will need to pay your adoption expenses in advance, you can receive a tax credit in the form of a reimbursement for the year your adoption is finalized. The 2019 limit was $14,080 per child. 

Only qualified adoption expenses are eligible for the tax credit. Speak with a tax professional when filing to ensure you receive the proper amount for your situation. 

Have any more ideas to save for adoption? Let us know in the comments! 

10 Things Never to Say to an Adoptive Parent

For the final part in our three-part series, we’ve gathered some of the comments and questions adoptive parents are tired of hearing.

Before you jump into a conversation with the adoptive parent in your life, read this blog. Understand why these phrases are so harmful, and strike them from your vocabulary to better spread awareness and education about modern adoption.

1. “Where did they come from?”

An adopted child isn’t just picked off the street, and a transracially adopted child isn’t automatically an internationally adopted child.

An adoptee’s story is no one’s business but their own. The best adoptive parents recognize this, and they won’t feel comfortable sharing their child’s adoption story without their consent.

Furthermore, this question only serves to “other” a transracial adoptee, who likely stands out from their family already. Just as you wouldn’t ask any person of color where they “came from,” don’t do so with parents of adoptees of color.

2. “What’s wrong with their real parents?”

First off, an adoptive parent is a child’s “real parent.” They are the parents who stay up all night, go to all the soccer games and are there for their child’s milestones. While a birth parent plays an important role in an adoptee’s life, the phrase “real parent” diminishes the hard work and love an adoptive parent shows to a child — just because they don’t share genetic material with their child.

Second, placing a child for adoption or having a child adopted through foster care does not mean there is something “wrong” with a birth parent. Adoption is one of the most difficult decisions a parent can make, and it’s a lifelong journey of grief and loss (even when they know it’s the best thing for their child).

A birth parent should not be described only by their faults, and adoptive parents don’t have the right to share a birth parent’s intimate story to anyone who asks.

3. “How much did they cost?”

An adopted child is not a puppy or a kitten. It’s not only rude to simplify an adoption into financial terms, it’s also unethical. Equating a child with a “purchase” risks human trafficking accusations.

Adoptive parents have to pay for adoption, but it’s not to “buy” a child. Their funds are put toward prospective birth parent living expenses, legal services, counseling and more — all important services to maintain ethical adoption practices.

And, like many other aspects, how much someone paid for adoption is simply none of your business.

4. “Don’t you want your ‘own’ kids?”

An adopted child is no less someone’s child than a biological one. Phrases like these only codify the unspoken “standard” that biological connection is always best.

No matter how a child comes into a parent’s life — through adoption, kinship guardianship or another path — they are still their parent’s “own” child.

5. “I’m sorry you couldn’t have one of your ‘own.’”

Again, an adopted child is their parent’s child — full stop.

Many adoptive parents overcome infertility loss before deciding to pursue adoption. When they choose adoption, they are excited about the possibilities ahead of them.

They don’t want or need sympathy for their previous attempts to have a biological child. Ask any adoptive parent, and they’ll tell you they wouldn’t change anything about their family-building journey.

6. “Your kids are so lucky to have you.”

If there’s anyone “lucky” in adoption, it is the adoptive parents. Adoption allows them to reach their lifelong dream of parenthood, but it doesn’t come without its own challenges.

Children who are adopted may be fortunate to live in a home where they are provided and cared for, just as any biological child is fortunate to live in a home where they are provided and cared for. But being adopted also causes unique traumas. Adoptees are separated from birth parents and have to navigate the complexities of a post-placement relationship, as well as come to terms with their own identity as an adoptee. And those children adopted out of foster care would certainly argue they aren’t “lucky” for the years they spent in the foster care system.

7. “You’re a saint for adopting.”

Similarly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find adoptive parents who believe they should be congratulated for how they built their family. They may have brought a child who was in desperate need of a home into theirs, but the desire to become a parent or add a child is inherently self-serving. Any good adoptive parent will be the first to admit that.

You wouldn’t say biological parents are any more selfless or worthy of praise than anyone else — and the same goes for adoptive parents.

8. “Aren’t you scared their birth parents will try to get them back?”

There are a lot of misconceptions about adoption, but this is the one that seems to persist the most. It comes from a misunderstanding of exactly how adoption works. Adoption is permanent, and open adoption is not co-parenting. An adoptive parent is an adopted child’s legal parent, often at the choice of the birth parents themselves.

Educate yourself before talking to any adoptive parent about their adoption to avoid commonly asked questions like these. An adoptive parent will thank you for it.

9. “Will you tell them they’re adopted?”

Pop culture sells us plenty of “separated at birth” and “didn’t know they were adopted” stories — but that’s simply not the reality of adoption. Adoptive parents commit to being open and honest with an adopted child as she or he grows up. An adoptee knows their adoption story and, in many cases, has a direct relationship with their birth parents.

Asking this question will likely earn you an eye roll or an incredulous look. Of course an adoptee will know their adoption story; it’s not a decision that’s up for discussion.

10. “Why didn’t you adopt domestically/internationally/through foster care?”

Adoption is not right for everyone — and neither is every adoption option.

Each adoption path comes with its own challenges and rewards. It’s up to an adoptive parent to decide which option is best for their family. It’s not a decision they make lightly, and their choice doesn’t need your scrutiny.

Accept that an adoptive parent made the choice that was best for their personal needs and don’t pry. It’s no one’s business but theirs.

Any other comments and questions that we missed? Drop them in the comments below.

And check out the other two parts to this series: “10 Things Never to Say to an Adoptee” and “10 Things Never to Say to a Birth Parent.”

10 Things Never to Say to a Birth Parent

Birth parents are perhaps the most misunderstood members of the adoption triad. The decision to place a child for adoption at birth — or the inability to reunify through foster care — affects a person for the rest of their lives.

And, because only fellow birth parents can understand what this position is like, there are a lot of misunderstandings and harmful comments out there.

In the second part of our three-part series, we’ve gathered 10 things not to say a birth parent, regardless of their personal adoption story.

1. “Why did you give your child up?”

There are two reasons why you should never say this to a birth parent.

First, placing a child for adoption is not “giving up” or “giving away” a child. If a child is placed through domestic infant adoption, a birth parent makes the active decision to do so. They plan their child’s future by selecting their adoptive parents and deciding what post-placement relationship they’ll share. Similarly, if a child was adopted through foster care, their birth parent did not voluntarily “give up” the child; instead, reunification efforts failed after the child was removed from their custody.

Second, it’s never anyone else’s business why a birth parent chooses adoption. Placing a child is such a personal, difficult decision. Birth parents often agonize for months before choosing this path. They don’t owe anyone (except their birth child) an explanation for why they did it.

2. “Did you get paid for adoption?”

Among the many misconceptions there are about infant adoption, this continues to be one of the most prevalent. Birth parents are never “paid” for placing their child for adoption, and it’s incredibly rude to even suggest it.

Birth parents receive financial assistance during pregnancy to protect their health and wellbeing, but these payments never obligate a woman to ultimately choose adoption. A lot goes into that ultimate decision, but the implication of “payment for placement” is not part of it.

3. “Your child would have been better off with you.”

This is an easy blanket statement to make, and you’ll see it frequently from adoption critics. But the fact is that no one knows what’s best for her child except for a prospective birth mother.

No one can understand a birth mother’s position and the reasons why she chose adoption. She may have been financially unprepared to raise a child, or she may have been struggling with substance abuse or an abusive relationship.

With or without knowledge of those reasons, this is a cruel statement to make. It invalidates a birth mother’s choice to do what is best for her own child. Even if you disagree with a birth parent’s decision, you must respect it and their belief that it was the best path for their own and their child’s future.

4. “At least you didn’t choose abortion.”

Just because a woman chooses to place her child for adoption doesn’t mean she didn’t also consider abortion. In fact, many women equally consider their three unplanned pregnancy options before deciding on adoption.

A pregnant woman has the right to make whatever decision is best for her, even if it’s abortion. You may think you’re applauding a woman for choosing adoption instead of abortion, but you don’t know how seriously she may have considered the latter. Abortion may have even been her first choice, whereas adoption was the necessary second option.

Bringing up abortion after the pregnancy and adoption are complete can also bring up lingering feelings of guilt and regret. It’s best to look to the future, not the past, when discussing adoption with a birth parent.

5. “Do you regret your decision?”

Every birth parent experiences some degree of grief and sadness about their adoption decision. For many, it can take years to fully recover and be proud of their decision. Some days are easier than others; it’s normal for birth parents to have conflicting emotions during and after their pregnancy and placement. And, for birth parents whose children are adopted via foster care, it’s an even more complicated bundle of emotions.

Don’t ask this question. Doing so will only bring up those tough emotions that a birth parent has worked hard to overcome.

6. “A pregnancy/child is a gift.”

Not everyone wants to be a parent. This blanket statement won’t apply to every birth parent — and it can make birth parents feel guilty when it doesn’t.

There are many reasons to place a child for adoption, but not wanting to be a parent or have a child is equally as valid as the others. Don’t impose your beliefs on birth parents. Instead, respect their own (including whatever personal details they choose to share with you).

This statement, while well-meaning, can only increase the guilt and sadness a birth parent already feels about their choice.

7. “How could you give away your child to someone else?”

Remember what we’ve said before: Adoption is not “giving up” or “giving away.”

Whether you’re speaking to a birth parent of a private infant adoption or a foster care adoption, be sensitive and don’t pry. You may not understand their personal decision, and that’s OK. But you do have to respect that this decision was theirs to make.

And, again, a birth parent doesn’t have to explain their adoption story to anyone except their birth child.

8. “Adoption was the selfish thing to do.”

In most cases, adoption is actually the most selfless thing a prospective birth parent can do. It involves making the difficult decision to recognize what’s best for their child — even if that is found with another set of parents.

It’s not “the easy way out” to place a child for adoption. It’s a decision that requires months of soul-searching and selfless steps.

By using this phrase or another like it, you invalidate the hardest decision a birth parent has likely made in their life.

9. “You’re not a ‘real’ mom/dad.”

Just like adoptive parents, birth parents can’t catch a break when it comes to qualifying the “realness” of their parenthood. But parents and parent figures come in many different shapes and sizes. Birth parents play a unique role in a child’s life, just as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends do.

A birth parent is just as important as an adoptive parent. They made perhaps the bravest decision a parent ever could. Whether or not they are an active part of their child’s life, they are still just as much a “parent” as the person who raises their child.

10. “Didn’t you want your baby?”

There’s no point in asking this question unless you want to shame or guilt a birth parent. Of course the majority of birth parents would have preferred to parent their child. Placing a child for adoption is not a decision made overnight; a birth parent likely labored for months before choosing this path.

Rather than ask this question (which you know the answer to), you can commend a birth parent on their brave and selfless decision. That’s something they don’t hear every day — even though they should.

Any other comments and questions we missed? Drop them in the comments below.

And check out our first part of the series, “10 Things Never to Say to an Adoptee,” here.