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Countering the ‘Soft Stigma’ Against Adoption

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“What kind of mother would give her child up for adoption?”

“The thought of my baby being out there, with total strangers, creates a lot more guilt than the thought of an abortion!”

“I don’t know if I could love an adopted child like my own child.”

“Adopted children are more likely to struggle in school—both in terms of academics and behavior—than children from other types of families.” 

The first few statements are examples of anecdotal comments I have heard countless times regarding the choice of adoption. The last statement summarizes an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data performed by Nicholas Zill and W. Bradford Wilcox and posted here on the IFS blog. All of them contribute, I think, to the soft stigma against adoption. By “soft stigma,” I mean that while most people say that they support adoption, it is very rarely chosen—either as a response to a crisis pregnancy or as a way to build a family.

There are many ways to combat this stigma and to correct misunderstandings about the contemporary practice of adoption. The language we use in talking about adoption (e.g., say “make an adoption plan” instead of “give up for adoption”) can help to reframe the way others think about it. Our language can also help us avoid reinforcing the unspoken, negative narrative that children placed for adoption are “unwanted” and “abandoned” by their birthmothers. We must also “walk the walk” when people choose adoption—by supporting expectant mothers considering adoption, by providing generous post-adoption emotional resources for placing parents, and by coming alongside foster and adoptive parents, stepping in to support them with respite care, meals, and other tangible forms of assistance during difficult times.

But even when we are speaking truthfully about the challenges associated with adoption, we need to be sensitive to whether we are contributing somehow to this soft stigma. Even if social science data demonstrates the challenges experienced by adopted children, we must take care to distinguish adoption itself from the circumstances leading to the need for adoption.

The reason for this sensitivity is that one of the greatest barriers to adoption is fear. Parents fear placing their child for adoption because they think that it will be bad for the child. People fear adopting a child because they worry the child may have greater needs than they can handle. The result of these fears is pregnant women prefer to abort their children rather than a place that child for adoption, doing so at a ratio of 50:1. Infertile couples choose costly, risky procedures like IVF to create their own biological children, rather than take the risk of what they might “get” through adoption or foster care. Meanwhile, over 110,000 children in the foster care system wait for a “forever family.”

We should take care not to reinforce these fears by focusing on the problems of adopted children—as adopted children. Adoption is not the problem, but rather a response to the problem. The problem is the brokenness that already exists in the human condition. And, when a child has to bear the weight of that brokenness, how can we fail to step in to help? Whatever challenges that brokenness might continue to pose in the life of an adopted child or a placing or adoptive parent, the alternative for that child may have been far worse.

In all that we do to research and understand adoption, our focus ought to be on the needs of the child and how we can best respond to those needs in love, rather than from fear.

When my husband and I adopted our first child, we had an experience that I can only describe as a sort of benediction—a providential stamp of approval—that has forever stood as an icon for me of the beauty of adoption and its capacity for healing. A few days after his birth, it was nearly time to leave the hospital and return home with our new baby boy. We left the birthmother’s hospital room to give her and her family time with the baby. As we walked down the hallway, we were overwhelmed with so many emotions.

We were euphoric because, after many years of infertility during which we had longed for a child, we had held our dear, little son who was, and is, an answer to many prayers. We were also nervous because we wanted to live up to the trust the birth family had placed in us through the tremendous gift of this beloved child. We were relieved because, like all prospective adoptive parents, we worried that the birth mother might change her mind at the last moment. And, woven throughout all of these feelings, we were heartbroken because we loved the birth mother and her family, and we knew—even if we could not understand fully—the pain of the goodbyes they were sharing in that hospital room.

While we whispered all of these jumbled cries of our hearts to one another, a woman at the nurse’s desk motioned us to come over to her. We walked up to the desk, assuming there was some paperwork to sign. “You’re the adoptive parents, right?” she asked. We nodded. I will never forget her next words. As a smile illuminated her face, she said, “Oh! I wanted to tell you that I am a birth mom.”

We stared at her in surprise. It was the last thing we had expected her to say. “I placed my son for adoption 40 years ago,” she continued. “I wasn’t married, and I just wasn’t ready to be a mother. It was the best decision I ever made.” She went on to tell us how, after she had married and had more children, her grown son contacted her. She told us he was thriving and happy. As she spoke, we could see the joy in her face and the assurance she felt that she had made the right decision—one that made her feel proud.

She didn’t mention whether her son had struggled in school or whether he had behavior problems as a child. Maybe he did. She didn’t mention if her son had grappled with being adopted, or suffered a sense of loss. Probably he did. She didn’t mention how devastating the loss was for her as she placed her firstborn child in the arms of another couple and left the hospital with empty arms. Most assuredly, it was. Instead, when she said, “I am a birth mom,” she spoke with confidence and joy.

These are the sorts of stories about the experience of adoption that we need to hear to counter the stigma against it. Human life is messy, and we need loving responses like adoption to help children vulnerable to its brokenness. We do need social science to help us fashion effective public policies that make adoption a more meaningful option and a less complex, overwhelming process. For example, we need to understand better a woman’s decision-making in considering her options in a crisis pregnancy, and to ensure that informed consent materials contain accurate, complete, and non-coercive information about the option of adoption. We need to understand the impact of adoption legislation (such as the adoption tax credit, shortened waiting periods, or putative father registries) on the choice of adoption by birth parents and by those seeking to adopt and promote those policies that do make a meaningful difference. We need to take what we know from neuroscience and psychology about the effects of abuse, trauma, and loss on children and apply it in the context of family treatment plans in foster care, to expedited permanency planning, and to the prioritization of post-adoption resources. We also need to arm prospective adoptive parents with demonstrated, successful practices to support their desire to welcome and connect with vulnerable children. Finally, we need to better understand the impact of private and religious child welfare organizations and placement agencies on the provision of public foster care and adoption services in order to support robust partnerships for the sake of children.

Above all, in all that we do to research and understand adoption, our focus ought to be on the needs of the child and how we can best respond to those needs in love, rather than from fear.

Elizabeth Kirk is a lawyer, writer, and consultant, and serves as an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Elizabeth and her husband, Bill, have been blessed to adopt four children. 

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Is Surrogacy Right For You?

When it comes to starting a family, there are many different parenting options to consider. Surrogacy is becoming a popular alternative for those who aren’t able to have children of their own but desire a biological child. At Hausmann and Hickman, we are adoption lawyers that specialize in surrogacy in Florida. Florida is one of the very few states that provides full parental status to intended parents once the child is born, without having to go through the entire adoption process.

There are two types of surrogacy options which are legal in Florida: traditional and gestational. Many people are opting to use surrogacy, which is a viable consideration for single people, members of the LGBT community and couples experiencing infertility problems who want to have children of their own.

Couples Struggling With Infertility

Many couples who are experiencing infertility problems and have exhausted their fertility treatment options may feel hopeless. Surrogacy is a chance for them to finally create a family and realize their dreams of parenthood. Gestational surrogacy allows both parents to be biologically related to the child. This type of surrogacy utilizes In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, to fertilize the eggs of the intended mother with the sperm from the intended father and transfer them into the surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate would not be biologically linked to the child, and would only be considered the carrier for the child.

Same-Sex Couples/ LGBT Community

Surrogacy can give the option of one of the parents being biologically related to the child for same-sex couples and members of the LGBT community. Gestational surrogacy uses the intended father’s sperm and a donor egg (unrelated to the surrogate mother). This type of surrogacy can be a great option, especially for male same-sex couples.

Single People

For single people, surrogacy may be an option that has fewer restrictions than adoption. Many adoption agencies have requirements when it comes to one’s age and marital status. Single women who have healthy eggs but cannot carry a pregnancy to full term can benefit from gestational surrogacy, using a sperm donor. Meanwhile, single men or single women who do not have healthy eggs can use gestational surrogacy with a sperm and egg donor, as well.

At Hausmann and Hickman, we believe that being able to start a family is an option that should be available to everyone. Our dedicated staff can help you to achieve that dream through various parenting options. We have many years of experience helping prospective parents create families through surrogacy in Florida. We also know how sensitive and complicated the surrogacy process can be and that is why we will be with your every step of the way. If you are interested in starting a family through surrogacy, give us a call today at 1-877-703-0774 to find out more information.

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What Options Do I Have For Adoption In Florida?

Adoption in Florida can be a complex process. At Hausmann and Hickman, we understand how important it is for prospective parents to thoroughly research and educate themselves on all options, legal matters, and requirements concerning adoption.

We are Florida Bar certified adoption lawyers that specialize in adoption with a focus on reproductive law. Our mission is to provide guidance and resources to birth families and legal representation to adoptive parents. In Florida, adoption law authorizes adoption for all people including minors and adults.

Who Can Adopt In Florida

Adoption law in Florida states that an adult is eligible to adopt as long as they are living and working within the state. Florida adoption law does not discriminate against age, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Types Of Legal Adoption Options In Florida

Four types of adoption can be legally done in the state of Florida:

  • Entity adoption through an adoption agency or adoption lawyers
  • Step-parent adoption
  • Close relative adoption
  • Adult adoption

Adoption Process In Florida

Each type of adoption is unique and has its own procedures. Before an adoption can take place in the state of Florida, the court must receive consent from the biological parents of the child that they understand and accept that they are forever giving up their parental rights. In Florida, there are certain requirements for valid consent.

For children 6 months old or younger:

  • The biological mother cannot sign consent until 48 hours after birth or on her discharge day from the hospital. Once consent is signed, it cannot be revoked unless the birth parents can show proof of fraud or duress at the time of consent.
  • The biological father can sign consent any time after the birth or an irrevocable affidavit of non-paternity at any time before or after the birth.

For children older than 6 months:

  • The biological mother and father can sign consent at any time.
  • There is a revocation period of three days where either party is allowed to change his or her mind.

After consent has been received and signed in front of a notary, the judge can then terminate the parental rights of the birth parents. Once a judgment has been made, the adoptive parents can file a petition for adoption. Parents cannot file until 30 days after the judgment to terminate parental rights or 90 days after placement of the child within their home. After this time, there will be a final hearing to finalize the adoption.

If you are a birth family facing an unplanned pregnancy or prospective adoptive parents wanting to start a family then the adoption lawyers at Hausmann and Hickman can help. We specialize in adoption in Florida, as well as surrogacy options. For more information and resources about adoption law in Florida, give us a call at (561) 732-7030.

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How Is Adoption Through Adoption Lawyers Different From Adoption Through An Agency?

When choosing adoption, prospective parents can retain an agency or utilize adoption lawyers to handle an adoption placement. Each adoption method offers unique services and benefits. Hausmann and Hickman is a law firm that specializes in all types of adoption and surrogacy. Prospective adoptive parents may be confused about the different roles that adoption lawyers and adoption agencies in Florida play.

Prospective adoptive parents who chose a private attorney to handle their adoption needs to benefit from direct and continuing legal advice regarding all aspects of their adoption. The adoption lawyer directly represents the prospective adoptive parents and is accountable to them as clients to protect the child’s best interests. Direct legal representation to the prospective adoptive parents is not available through an agency placement until the finalization of the adoption.

Additionally, in a placement handled by an adoption attorney, the adoptive parents will become guardians of the child following relinquishment and continuing through finalization of the legal process. As the legal guardians, the adoptive parents have peace of mind that the child will not be removed from their home absent court review. This secured placement is not available in an agency adoption.

Unlike a larger adoption agency, adoption lawyers are able to give personal attention and care to each individual situation. At Hausmann and Hickman, our staff is dedicated to helping prospective parents navigate the sensitive and somewhat complicated process of private adoption and surrogacy. We also provide guidance for matters concerning reproductive law. If you are considering creating a family through adoption or surrogacy or a birth mother wanting to create a personalized adoption plan with support every step of the way, then contact us today by calling 1-561-732-7030.

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Famous Adoptions

Adoption serves as a foundation for the lives of many remarkable people in our society. The decision to adopt is a very personal and significant moment in a family’s life, so it is important to think things over. We can see those who have made amazing strides in their respective fields. From athletes to entertainers, entrepreneurs to humanitarians, and authors to politicians, there are several famous people who were either adopted or have adopted.

Famous Celebrity Adoptions

Steve Jobs

A testament to the potential for success of adopted children is Steve Jobs, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. He was adopted at birth because his biological parents were not yet ready to get married. Due to complications of heritage, no option for abortion, and the problems of being a single mother, he was instead given to a more cohesive family. Steve would then become co-founder of  Apple, one of the largest computer technology companies still growing today.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton witnessed death at a young age after his father had died. Spending the first four formative years of his life with his grandparents, young Bill eventually moved back into the care of his mother and new stepfather. Bill’s stepfather would go on to adopt Bill as his own. Not allowing this experience to hinder him, Bill would later attend Yale Law School and make his way into the Oval Office in 1993.

Angelina Jolie

Widely known for her acting and humanitarian services, Angelina Jolie became well-known for adopting three children from orphanages in Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Vietnam. Possibly one of the famous families in the world, Angelina Jolie and then-husband Brad Pitt added three of their own biological children to the pack.

Steven Spielberg

One of the most influential personalities and filmmakers of the 20th century, Steven Spielberg is also known for his ever-growing family. After adopting two children, Spielberg created the Starlight Children’s Foundation. This organization aims to aid children all over the world with the care and resources they deserve.

Nelson Mandela

Known for his political activism and peaceful approach to freedom, Nelson Mandela was adopted and raised by a tribe chief after the passing of his father in South Africa. Mandela developed a strong understanding of the injustices within his home country. He would make great strides to help end the social injustices that were occurring in South Africa. He would later become an integral symbol of global peace.

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What To Know About LGBT Adoption

Many couples desire to be parents and want to experience the joy of raising a child. Hausmann and Hickman’s child adoption services in Florida provide a full range of services to families of diverse backgrounds and situations, including single parents and same-sex couples. Hausmann and Hickman P.A. provides services which include private adoption, surrogacy, and reproductive law. Michelle Hausmann and Amy Hickman are Florida Board Certified Adoption Attorneys who specialize in reproductive law. They are experienced in handling various types of adoption cases and have an in-depth understanding of these laws.

What To Know About LGBT Adoption:


The adoption process can be exciting, emotional, and lengthy. For many years, LGBT couples were not allowed to adopt due to discrimination and marriage requirements. Same-sex adoption laws have been modified in recent years which allows for more freedom for LGBT couples who desire to adopt. The law states that LGBT couples have the same rights to adopt as heterosexual couples. As long as the couple is able to meet particular state requirements, such as completing home study and background screening requirements, they can move forward in the adoption process.


The eligibility process to adopt for LGBT couples varies by state and may be different if the couple is not married. Eligibility requirements to adopt in Florida include having a stable income, passing all background check and home study requirements, and being able to provide a stable environment for the child.

Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. is a private adoption attorney in Florida which provides legal services for families hoping to adopt. LGBT couples who wish to start a family may consider pursuing adoption. Call Hausmann and Hickman P.A. at (877) 682-3403 to speak with our team about adoption, and visit us online at for more information regarding the adoption process.


Financial Assistance Options For Birth Mothers

Florida adoption law allows birth mothers to receive financial support during pregnancy and for a period following delivery. Many birth mothers receive assistance with various expenses such as rent, groceries, and utilities that may be hard to afford due to difficulty working during pregnancy. Private adoption attorneys such as Hausmann & Hickman work with birth mothers to establish a budget that will help ease the burden of expenses during pregnancy. While working with an adoption agency or attorney, birth mothers may also receive counseling and legal services that are covered through the adoption process.

Financial Assistance Options For Birth Mothers:

Medical Expenses Assistance

Medical expenses can become a burden during and after pregnancy. Birth mothers need to visit a physician regularly in order to receive prenatal care before adoption. Many birth mothers are eligible for Medicaid which will cover expenses of a pregnancy. Hausmann & Hickman assists birth mothers in obtaining coverage for their medical expenses during pregnancy and delivery, which may help reduce the stress of co-pays and medical expenses of prenatal care, resulting in a healthier and happier pregnancy.

Living Expenses Assistance

Birth mothers also may receive housing financial assistance as well as assistance with costs of living. This may include assistance paying rent for an apartment or transportation. Other covered living expenses may include groceries, utilities, and phone services, depending on the birthmother’s needs. State, federal, and local laws determine the amount of financial assistance that a birth mother can receive.

Counseling Services

Placing a child for adoption can be a very emotionally difficult process. Speaking to a professional counselor may be a great resource for a birth mother to work through her thoughts and emotions during and after placing her child for adoption. Hausmann & Hickman works with several experienced counselors who can help provide support at no cost to the birthmother during the adoption process.

Legal Assistance

During the adoption process, it is crucial for a birth mother to understand her legal rights and the full agreement made during the adoption process. Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. can provide referrals for legal services for the birth mother during the adoption process with little to no cost to the birth mother.

Hausmann and Hickman P.A. can help birth mothers with financial needs, counseling needs, and legal assistance. If you are considering placing your child for adoption, call Hausmann & Hickman P.A. today at (877) 682-3403 or text (561) 777-3320 to speak with one of our qualified representatives.

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What You Need To Know About Surrogacy

When entering into a surrogacy arrangement, there are specific legal issues to consider. Each state varies in the legal requirements for creating a surrogacy agreement, and it is important to be informed of the specific requirements of your state. Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. has extensive experience drafting contracts, representing carriers and egg donors, and finalizing third-party reproductive arrangements under all aspects of Florida’s reproductive law.

What Is Surrogacy?

There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate mother’s ovum and donated sperm from one of the intended parents or from a donor. Under current Florida law, a surrogate mother who uses her own egg must sign a consent to terminate her parental rights to the child, which may be rescinded up to 48 hours after the child’s birth. Because of this, Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. recommends the use of a donor ovum instead of the surrogate’s ovum.

A gestational surrogacy prohibits the surrogate from donating her own ovum, and the embryo is created utilizing either the intended father’s sperm (with donor egg), the intended mother’s ovum (with donor sperm), or the egg and sperm of both intended parents. The gestational carrier has no biological relationship to the embryo she is carrying, and neither the commissioning couple nor the surrogate may change their mind and “back out” of the surrogacy agreement, regardless of the health of the child, once a pregnancy is conceived. Since the surrogate is not biologically related to the embryo, the commissioning couple assumes immediate physical and legal custody of the child upon birth.

Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. has represented intended parents who reside in the United States and internationally, as well as single parents and non-traditional couples. Whether interested in becoming a surrogate mother, creating your family through surrogacy, or simply interested in learning more about Florida reproductive law, please contact us at 877-830-8208 or visit to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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Does A Pending Adoption Affect Your Taxes?

It’s tax season, and many adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents may have questions about how their adoption affects their taxes, and what they are able to claim for the year. We have good news: in some instances, adoptive parents are eligible to claim their adoptive child as a dependent even if the adoption has not been finalized yet. In situations where adopting taxpayers are not able to obtain the child’s Social Security Number because the adoption is pending finalization, they may be able to apply for a temporary taxpayer identification number for the child, or an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN), to use on their tax return.

In order to apply for an ATIN, the adoption situation must meet certain requirements. Adoptive parents must be currently in the process of adopting a child, and the child must be legally placed in their home for legal adoption by an authorized adoption entity. The adoption must also be domestic, or foreign only if the child possesses a Permanent Resident Alien Card or Certificate of Citizenship, and adoptive parents must have made a reasonable effort to obtain the child’s social security number but they are unable to obtain it because the adoption has not been finalized. For more information on the adoption, temporary taxpayer identification number, and requirements to apply, visit the IRS’s Q&A page regarding the ATIN program (click here).

Please note: we are not accountants and cannot give tax advice. Please consult with an accountant for specific financial and tax advising.

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What do you say to the woman who has agreed to make you a mother?

After months of waiting, you are notified that you have been “picked” as the adoptive family for a baby due next month. Caveat – she would like to talk with you on the phone…. Wow!

Nothing could prepare you for the overwhelming sense of eagerness, excitement, and outright fear you are faced with at the prospect of a telephone call with this earth angel. After all, she has exactly what you have wanted, for as long as you can remember. So, what do you say?

First, keep perspective. Birth mothers, while special, are still “normal.” They have likes and dislikes (which may include some interesting foods at this moment). Don’t be afraid to ask her how she’s feeling, sleeping, eating, etc. Does she have food cravings or aversions? How does this pregnancy compare to her prior pregnancies? How has her prenatal care been thus far?

Second, remember she is a woman and not only a birth mother. Odds are, she will appreciate your genuine interest in who she is, what she has experienced, and the plans she is making for her future. Does she have hobbies or talents which might be shared with the child she is carrying? What about the child’s extended family? Does she have photos, letters, or any items she would like you to give to the child when they are ready?

Finally, keep in mind that as nervous as you may be about this initial contact, your birth mother is probably equally apprehensive. She may be concerned she will not meet your expectations, or not able to answer all of your questions. Like you, this is probably uncharted water for her too. Although your birth mother may already know of your fertility struggles, she may be unfamiliar with the terms which were included in your vocabulary for the past few years. IVF, IUI, etc., are not part of today’s everyday language. If she wants more information about what lead you to adoption, share your story sensitively. Does she have questions for you?

Most importantly, remind your birth mother that you realize every adoption is different, and you want her to feel comfortable with you… Discuss your willingness to be available to speak with (or meet) her during her pregnancy, and your commitment to providing pictures, letters, etc. post-birth. A birth parent’s biggest fear is her child feeling they have been abandoned by their family. Your promise to share your adoption story with the child will resonate.

Above all, be yourself. This phone call is the first step toward motherhood and building a mutually (beneficial) relationship for two special women.