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Adoption Reunification: Questions to Consider Before Beginning the Search for Birth Parents

Adoptions today are frequently open or semi-open with continued communication after placement between birth and adoptive parents, but adoptions 20 years ago often looked much different. Many birth and adoptive parents consented to closed adoptions, but with recent widespread availability of genetic testing, ancestry searches, and open adoptions becoming the new normal, many adoptees born in the 1990s and 2000s are turning 18 and beginning to search for their birth parents, and in the age of technology this can create challenges with adoptions remaining confidential.

But this raises several important questions for all parties in the adoption process. A birth parent may have signed an agreement to release their contact information should their child begin looking for them once they reach adulthood, but a lot can happen in 18 years. A birth parent may be experiencing other stressors in their life that might cause them to feel unprepared to begin communication with their child after all these years, or they may have started their own family who may or may not be emotionally prepared to begin a relationship with the child. The birth parent may have other children who may not yet be aware of having a half sibling, or their children could be at an age where they may not yet understand. Although a birth parent may have signed a consent for communication at the time of placement, they may be in a different frame of mind now regarding what they are capable of coping with emotionally, or what they feel would be best for their child or family.

Adoptees also have several questions to consider regarding their emotional readiness for reconnecting. Is the adoptee prepared if their birth parent is unable to be located, or if they do not feel comfortable reconnecting? If their birth parent is prepared to begin a relationship, has the adoptee considered the frequency or type of communication they are looking for, and what types of boundaries all parties may want to discuss in the development of their relationship? Is the adoptee ready to meet their birth parents in person, or would they prefer to continue messaging or talking on the phone for a period of time while getting to know each other? What level of connection would the adoptee like if they discover they have half-siblings? The adoptee may also want to discuss their plans with their adoptive parents, and consider how reconnecting with their birth parents may affect family dynamics.

With genetic testing now available that can connect people with others who share their DNA, confidentiality in adoptions has become more complicated, and sometimes impossible, to maintain. Many adoptees who complete genetic testing have been connected to half siblings, cousins, and grandparents, and therefore discover the identity of their birth parents. With this in mind, families who have been involved in the adoption process may want to begin considering how completing genetic tests may lead to unintentional connections to biological family members.

For those interested in pursuing reunification with their biological parents, considering these questions may be important before beginning the search. But despite the emotions and anxiety that may surface during the process, reunification can result in meaningful connections that can be a positive experience for all involved. Biological parents may have been thinking of their child frequently over the years, wondering about how they have grown, and they may be holding out hope that their child will one day reach out to them.

If you are interested in beginning the search for your biological parents and you have worked with Hausmann & Hickman, please feel free to reach out with questions about your specific situation. For Florida birth parents and adoptees who have not worked with our office, the Florida Adoption Reunion Registry can provide an opportunity to reconnect.

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“My Children are in State Custody”: A Birth Parent’s Right to Choose the Right Family for their Child through Private Adoption

Having your parental rights taken away can make a parent feel like they no longer have any control over their child’s future. You can think of nothing else but your child and the kind of family he or she is with. You may be thinking: Is my child safe? Is the family too strict or too permissive? Would they be open to my child visiting with me? Will they want to adopt my child, or will my child move from home to home?

But as a birth parent, until the court has actually terminated your parental rights, you have decision-making power and the right to choose private adoption. Statute F.S. 63.082(6)(a) states:

If a parent executes a consent for the placement of a minor with an adoption entity or qualified prospective adoptive parents and the minor child is in the custody of the department, but parental rights have not yet been terminated by the court, the adoption consent is valid, binding, and enforceable by the court.

When a birth parent consents to a private adoption while the child is in state custody, an “intervention” must take place in order for the child to be adopted privately. With adoption intervention, birth parents are able to design an adoption plan for their child, including choosing a family for their child. Birth parents can choose if the family has children already, if they are a traditional family, a single-parent home, or a same-sex couple. Birth parents may even be able to negotiate a communication agreement with the adoptive parents to include a schedule to receive pictures, updates, and perhaps even visitation with the child.

Adoption intervention, however, is not always appropriate. Considerations, including whether it is best for the child to be removed from the current foster home, should be made. If the child’s foster family has maintained custody for some time and expressed a desire to adopt, consenting to the foster family adopting, with an agreement for continued communication, maybe in the best interests of the child.

If the child’s current foster placement is not suitable in the eyes of the birth parents, a private adoption plan may be a great alternative. With private adoption, even when you are not a direct part of your child’s life, you can still plan for the kind of life and family you envision for your child. Whether your child is placed with a two-parent family, in a home with (or without) other children, in a Florida home, and whether your child has a stay-at-home parent can all be decided by you. An agreement for pictures, letters, and/or visits from the adoptive parents may also be created so as to stay up-to-date with all of your child’s milestones.

No family is ever going to be you, but until your parental rights have been terminated, you can certainly choose the kind of life you desire for your child.

The attorneys at Hausmann & Hickman, P.A. have experience handling adoption interventions in Florida for families in many different situations. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about Florida adoption intervention, please feel free to contact our office.

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Faith, Loss, Love, and Open Adoption – An Adoptive Mother’s Story

This blog was written by an adoptive mother about her family’s spiritual journey to creating their forever family through adoption! We are grateful to be able to share her story, and we thank her for her openness in writing about her family’s experience with open adoption.

We started our adoption journey, just like so many other couples before us – emotionally filled with a mix of excitement, trepidation, anxiety, and most of all, a longing for a precious child to call our own.  Little did we know, our journey would not be so typical.  Oh boy, was it not!

After years of emotionally preparing for adoption, saving money, and getting our quintessential proverbial ducks in a row, here we were one afternoon with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in our home. She was a warm, educated person, with a soft compassionate voice, and a sincere heart for adoption. She truly was and is an advocate for Birth Families. When we got into the crux of it, she asked us if we wanted an open adoption.  Without hesitation, we said No.  Yep, we were that couple.  We had been through so much already with years upon years of infertility and various treatments, that we simply wanted to be a family of three and move on with life.  While I thought I had read every book and blog on adoption, she said “have you read Dear Birthmother (by Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin)?”   Needless to say, the book was ordered, and a few days later I spent the entire weekend reading this book, cover to cover, always in tears. Just like that, the decision was made that we could not adopt a child WITHOUT knowing the birthparents and experiencing some sort of openness.

Several months passed and then we got “the call” that a Birth Couple had chosen us, but before making their final decision they wanted to meet us.  This was like the biggest interview of our lives, and an important step in showing our honesty to facilitate an open adoption.  A lunch date was set, we continued praying, and within a week or so, we drove three and half hours to meet this couple, and their three daughters, ranging from 18 months of age to age 5.  As quiet and reserved people, we knew we had to be ourselves, but at the same time we could not miss this opportunity to get to know this couple and express just how warm, loving, trusting, and capable we were to be given the privilege to raise their daughter. Turns out they were nervous too!  At the end of the chaotic lunch and the glares from bystanders within ear-shot of the conversation, we headed outside to say our good-byes.  However, to our surprise, the Birth Parents needed no time to decide.  The Birthmother embraced us and told us right then and there – she chose us!!!!  We hugged and cried and took our first family photo.

With three young children already, this couple had made the difficult decision to place their fourth child for adoption very early in her pregnancy.  Consequently, we had this amazing opportunity to get to know this couple before the arrival.  We texted often, we were invited and went to all of the prenatal appointments for six straight months.  We heard the baby’s heartbeat, and learned the sex of the baby at the very moment the Birthmother had heard it.  The Birth Mother was young, but seemed so committed to this process.

During the next six months we drove across the state to visit often, have lunch together, and play with the girls at the park and local bounce house facilities.  As the birth date was approaching our visits were occurring weekly.  There are many definitions to open adoption, but we were experiencing a seriously open adoption triad.

Then at 36 weeks of pregnancy the Devil stepped in.  It was a cool night late in the year, about 9:00 p.m., and we received the most anticipated call – she was in labor!  However, something was not right and she was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance.  So, we did what we had done so many times before, we prayed, oh did we pray, and traveled three and half hours, in the dark of night.  About an hour into our trip, something had changed.  The excitement turned to pure panic. No matter how hard we prayed, we could not get this nagging feeling to subside that something was terribly wrong.  We kept saying, this is not happening.  Nope, this is not happening! Devil, leave, this is not happening!!!  It was almost as if God was preparing us for what was ahead. Shortly after midnight, we finally arrived and entered the hospital.  It was like the movies, the halls were dark and no one was present, just the receptionist with a glowing light above her.  Somehow, she knew our names, which spooked us (as you could imagine) and she proceeded to take us down the dark hallway to where the Birth Father was sitting with his head in his hands crying, and he was being consoled by his Mother-in-Law. He looked up, came to us crying, and while simultaneously hugging us he said in a whisper, “she did not make it”. We knew nothing of what transpired, we had not received any texts since the initial call, so of course we were filled with questions.  What do you mean? Who did not make it? How is the Birth Mother? What happened? Where is the baby? And, just like that, our adoption journey took the biggest dive.  Our daughter was born a Sleeping Angel.

We spent the remainder of the night at the hospital consoling each other, and worried for the Birth Mother’s health as her life had come close to an end as well.  In the morning the hospital staff came into the room and advised of the next steps.  At that moment, the Birth Mother looked at us, tears in her eyes, and said “she was yours, please make the decisions”.  Really, we had all been through so much and now, instead of planning for the arrival of a baby, we were planning and responsible for a funeral.  How could this be! As God is our witness, we could not turn our back on this precious baby, whom we named Katelynn, or the family, and so we made plans and carried out the Funeral Service the day after Thanksgiving.  After Katelynn’s service unfolded, we gave the family long, deep hugs, cried, and gave them the Christmas presents we had purchased for their three girls, and said our final good-byes.  We texted a few times after the service, but very few, as we each had this internal compass pressing us to move on.

This experience left my husband and I in a very dark and lonely place.  Seriously, most people don’t know how to deal with death, and they certainly don’t know how to deal with the death of child through adoption.  So, unfortunately, we found ourselves going through the grieving process essentially alone.  Each day, as the cliché goes, we put one foot in front of the other, and emotionally carried ourselves forward, praying.

We were at a cross roads – do we take this as a sign and jump off the adoption journey now, or forge forward.  After sleepless nights and endless prayers, we decided to keep going.  We contacted our Adoption Attorneys to let them know that we were probably not emotionally ready, but we needed to keep going, we needed to stay relevant in the adoption search since it can be lengthy. Heck, we were already nearly 12 months into our journey.  And, so they did their part and continued to put our profile in front of other Birth Parents.  A few possibilities were presented, but it just did not feel right in our hearts, the stars did not seem to align, and so we continued to wait.

A few months had passed, and we prayed for answers, we prayed for directions, and we prayed for strength.  Someone once said to me “Maybe you should be happy for what you have”.  She was referring to our happy marriage of 12 years, and inseparable relationship.  This was true, we were very grateful for each other, and the simple life we had together, but that desire to be parents would not go away.  God put that desire in our hearts for a reason. So, we kept praying and waiting.  Ugh, the waiting game is tough.

In early Spring of the following year, I had this feeling come over me (just as on that frightful night) that I needed to call the Adoption Attorneys.  So, I did, I picked up the phone, and Mrs. Michelle Hausmann answered the phone. When does that happen!  It was usually the team that answered. I told her that something or someone, God, was prompting me to call.  It was a divine moment, as she shared that she had a potential case on her desk, that very moment, and she was contemplating calling us, but not sure if it was the case for us for various reasons.  However, she told me that she knew how I operated (intuition) and she proceeded to share the details of the case and set the expectation that we had a very small window of time to consider the case because she was meeting with the Birth Parents on Monday morning (it was then Thursday afternoon). We slept on it, and we called her in the morning, asking her to please present our profile with all the other couples.

Monday afternoon, we received a call that we had been tentatively chosen and the baby would be born in approximately six weeks.  Oh boy! We were so scared, yet so excited, and sooooo impatient!  Could we wait six more weeks – of course we could, but we did not have to.  God was at work!  Wednesday morning, not even 72-hours after learning of our acceptance, Michelle called with the exciting news that the baby was born.  Later that day, at dusk, we walked into a very busy, hustling and bustling hospital.  The place was huge!  We were told to go straight to the nursey, several floors above, where we would meet the Social Worker and she introduced us to our daughter.  Our daughter was tiny, 4 pounds 6 ounces, approximately 6 weeks premature, and she had every imaginable IV and medical cord attached to her precious body.  At that point, we were not allowed to hold her, we just gazed at her, and then we meandered through the sea of hospital hallways and elevators to find her Birth Parents. We stepped out of the elevator, and from down the hall, we heard our names being called in excitement.  Our Birth Mother was almost running towards us, we hugged for a long moment, as if we had known each other for some time. Right there in the hallway, we met for the first time, we spoke for the first time, and it was the first moment of our open-adoption triad.  She quickly whisked us down the hall to her room were we meet the Birth Father.  He, too, seemed so excited to meet us and share the story of the birth. But, it was adoption after all, it was bitter-sweet, it was deeply emotional for all.

These two souls cared so deeply for our (theirs and ours) Daughter.  They genuinely cared for her and loved her unconditionally.  God gave them the strength to fulfill their adoption plan and place her into our care. A privilege of a lifetime!!!  God would also give us the strength and guidance to fulfill an Open Adoption – as this was desired by all, but there are no instructions on how to go about it.

It has been six-years since our daughter was born, and in those six-years we have paved the way for an incredible Open Adoption, and I mean open.  Most recently, we have flown our Birth Mother into town, for a few days. We invited her into our home, she ate dinner at our kitchen table, she said Grace with us, and saw the very world that our daughter lives.  This was an AMAZING experience – almost surreal – and something we will plan to do again.   Prior to this visit in our home, we always (annually) traveled out of State to visit in their home towns. We have been blessed to have met our daughter’s two siblings, her Grandparents, her Aunt, and her Uncle.  Each visit is filled with love, love and more love, and kid friendly stuff, such as painting rocks, feeding ducks, gently riding ATVs, swimming, picking sea shells, boating, and having meals together.  Each visit is perfectly perfect in every way.  When we experience our daughter saturated in this love, and connection, we can see that she deeply needs the connection.  God is guiding us is such a way to protect her, yet allow her to grow in this life knowing the very roots from where she came from, knowing the very person she inherited her curls from, or the very person she inherited a certain behavior or facial expression.

As we have learned, Adoption is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those with a deep desire to be parents, and for those willing to fight for a child they have never met.  Adoption is not like fertility treatments and “if” it is going to happen, Adoption is about “when” it is going to happen. We hope our story of persistence and God’s Will comforts you in knowing that no matter what path your Adoption Journey may take, God is always with you.  He will protect, guide, and fulfill a plan for you that is far better than you could have ever imagined.

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Alexa, A Birth Mother’s Perspective

My name is Alexa and I am a mother of five.  I have placed three of my children for adoption and I am a stay at home mom for two.

My journey to becoming a birth mother began in 2005.  While going through a divorce we found out I was pregnant with a second child.  I could not, in good conscience, use abortion as a method of birth control so I looked at my other options.  Parenting was not an option because I could barely care for myself and my then 18-month-old daughter as a newly single mom.  I decided the only option for my second daughter was to find an awesome family for her to grow up in.  Through the adoption process, I found a family that fit my criteria and who I knew would care for her as I would if parenting was an option for me.  We decided that yearly updates and pictures were the only method of contact we were all comfortable with.  I receive many pictures each year and it is wonderful to watch her grow up in a stable, loving household.  Sometimes it is difficult but I know I made the right choice for her.

In 2010 my significant other and I  found out we were pregnant unexpectedly.  We went to the doctor and found out we were having spontaneous triplets.  Needless to say, we were in shock.  After looking at the finances and our current children from separate relationships we knew we could not raise triplets and care for our other 4 collective children.  We did not want that for any of our children.  We knew we could care for one, but three? We chose to parent one and do an open adoption with visitation with the other two.  Visitation was necessary for this adoption because the boys needed to grow up knowing they were adopted and knowing each other and their other siblings.  We found a great couple who agreed with us on this thought process.  A lot of people have asked how you choose one.  We decided to choose before they came out and we decided to parent the last one born.  This was incredibly difficult but I knew that I could not leave the hospital like last time and be able to pick the pieces up and continue being a present parent for my daughter.

Some may ask why I would share so much of my personal story with the public, I know some of my family does.  My answer is that if I can help just one person understand that adoption isn’t abandoning your child, or help one birthmother know she not alone in how she feels, or help an adoptive couple know how to connect with the birth mother of their future child then what I went through can do other people good.  This blog is an open book into my life as a birthmother.

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Open Adoption? What Does That Mean?

“What do you mean, you have an open adoption?” “How does that work?” ” I would just take that baby and never look back.” “Aren’t you worried she’ll want to take her back?” “Is she confused about who her ‘real’ mom is?” These are just some of the things that I hear when I tell people that we have an open adoption.

There are lots of people on the outside looking in that are confused by open adoption, but they just don’t understand.

In the beginning, these comments made me feel defensive and sometimes question my decision. In spite of all of these feelings, I knew in my heart the decision I was making was right and was best for my children. Plus, the quote “If a mother can love more than one child, why can’t a child love more than one mother?” never left my mind.

You see, I didn’t start out with an open adoption plan. Our first adoption went pretty quickly. We were matched and our daughter was born all in the same week. We were supposed to meet her birth mom, Rebecca, the Monday after she was born. Instead, we all met at the hospital.

I was so nervous and excited on the four-hour drive to the hospital. My feelings went from “oh my goodness we’re going to be parents” to “what if Rebecca doesn’t like us,” etc. I remember knocking on Rebecca’s hospital door and her saying “Come on in.” We entered her room, and that’s where the story really begins.

Our daughter was not in her room. This gave us all time to spend together to talk and share. I cherished that time and thought, “I want to remember everything about this amazing, strong, funny, brave woman so I can share it with my daughter one day.” After about an hour went by we called down to the nursery to have them bring the baby (Riley). As soon as the door opened and we saw her little purple crocheted hat the tears began to flow. We were all crying like babies, except Riley. My husband and I would not pick her up and just kept telling Rebecca how beautiful she was. Finally, Rebecca picked her up and gave her a little kiss on her head, handed her to us, and said, “This is your mommy and daddy.”

One thing I was not prepared for was the love I’d have for Rebecca. I already knew I loved Riley. I knew the moment I found out she existed. Rebecca was a different story. Her love for Riley was undeniable. Her strength and commitment to do what she thought was best for this amazing, tiny, 5 lb. 12 oz. angel was awe-inspiring. I loved her from the moment I walked into that room. Every book I ever read on adoption could never have prepared me for these feelings; there was no mention of this. Was this normal?

We moved through the next two days in a blur. Taking care of the legalities and making sure each other were okay. I woke up the second day in tears. The tears were not because I was worried she’d change her mind or anything along those lines. The tears were for her. For what she was going to have to do that day, for the love I knew she felt for this sweet baby. I wanted to just help her, to hug her and reassure her. She left the hospital that day arm and arm with her mother. As she left the nursery I couldn’t let go of the feeling that I would see her again.

In the first months after we were home, I grieved for Rebecca. Songs would come on the radio and I would just cry for her. I sent letters and pictures, but it just didn’t seem like enough. Finally, I got the nerve to contact Hausmann & Hickman and have them reach out and see if a meeting would be possible. She was open to it. First, my husband and I met with her on our own. During that meeting, we set up the next one when we’d all meet together.

A few weeks later we all met up to spend the weekend together. I remember Riley getting out of her car seat, walking up to Rebecca, and saying, “I came out of your belly.” Rebecca picked her up, breathed her in, and said, “I know you did.” All was right in the world at that time and then Riley ran off to play.

Things have been open now for 5 years. We spend every Thanksgiving together. Rebecca is an excellent cook. We respect each other and our roles in this little girl’s life.

Open adoption isn’t always easy. However, we have made a pact to always share our feelings and be honest. I say it’s not always easy, but keep in mind, it’s worth it. We’ve all grown as a family not only in love but in size. The relationship is not only with Rebecca but with Riley’s biological siblings, grandmother, and extended family. She loves to be with them too. We all stay in touch and visit when possible. Most of our time together is spent laughing and telling stories. Just recently Rebecca came for a four-day visit and we kept referring to one another as “My baby’s momma.” As I write these very words Riley is on the phone with her biological brother Aaron discussing Minecraft and different strategies. It’s a wonderful place to be, it’s our normal. Family is defined however you choose. We define it as love and caring for one another. That’s our choice and we are all better because of it.

Open adoption is not about having the same political views, or religious views (we don’t). It’s about the child and their happiness. It’s about the child knowing that they were always wanted by everyone and surrounded by love. After all, you can never have enough love. It’s about having your questions answered and not wondering when you look in the mirror where your blue eyes come from, or where you got your cute curly hair and freckles. Open adoption is about making it work for everyone. It’s not about co-parenting, or proving who loves the child more. In fact, it’s not about “you” at all. We know our roles. We love and respect each other. We share a common goal and are joined together as a family. But most of all, we love this little girl and want what is best for HER.

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Countering the ‘Soft Stigma’ Against Adoption

This blog was originally posted on ifstudies.org.

“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 is a complex process. It is important for prospective parents to thoroughly research and educate themselves on all legal requirements including representation. 

Michelle Hausmann and Amy Hickman are Florida Bar certified adoption lawyers that specialize in adoption and reproductive law. 

Who Can Adopt In Florida

Florida law authorizes both instate and nonresidents to adopt, and does not discriminate against age, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Types Of Adoption Options In Florida

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

Adoption Process In Florida

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.