SECRETS TO SUCCESS FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS
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It is helpful if you have read the independent and agency adoption articles prior to this one. Familiarity with the details of those (and the ins and outs of each type of adoption) will make this one more beneficial to you. There are several basic steps to success. The underlying key is to educate yourself about the different types of adoption and determine which is best for you, then put all your energies into success with that method. How do you educate yourself? There are three basic essential steps, all of which should be employed at the same time. The Adoption101.com articles are a start - but they are just that - a start. We have done our best to give you a tremendous amount of information in an easy to read, compact format. The rest is up to you!
Step 1: Adoptive Parent Associations and seminars.
Attend the meetings of adoptive parent associations or support groups in your area. Not all regions have such groups, but many do. Call local agencies and attorneys and ask if they are familiar with any such groups. Also, look at the compiled national list of adoptive parent groups in each state in THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK. Adoptive parent associations and support groups are made up of people like you, not adoption professionals, who have been where you are going. They can usually offer not only helpful general advice, but valuable information about the best, and worst, of the local adoption agencies and attorneys. Don’t assume everything you hear is true, however. Your own research is important. Also attend every free seminar offered in your area offered by adoption agencies, parenting organizations, attorneys, etc.
Step 2: Read yourself into "expert" status.
Many say that the articles here on adoption101.com are among the best available anywhere on the subject of adoption. Even though we appreciate those compliments, there is no way even our detailed articles can equal the breadth or detail of a 300 page book. And we highly recommend reading all the adoption books you can get your hands on. Are you interested in books describing the different methods of adoption, and how likely success will be for you in that type of adoption? The books most helpful in that determination are: ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year by adoption attorney Randall Hicks, THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK, by Laura and Raymond Godwin, and THE ADOPTION RESOURCE BOOK by Lois Gilman. Although all are similar, each takes different approaches and offers different information.
A second category of books prospective adoptive parents should read as they prepare for adoption are those dealing with the emotional aspects for themselves as individuals starting an adoption (and the stress and uncertainty it can bring), and knowing how to work with a birth mother and her unique emotions and needs. Another area adoptive parents should be familiar with is discussing adoption with their future child. This is beneficial to know prior to adopting to impress the birth mother and adoption professionals vital to your success, so they can see your readiness to adopt and motivation to best serve a child’s needs now and in the future. Books in these categories include DEAR BIRTH MOTHER, RAISING ADOPTED CHILDREN, by Lois Melina and ADOPTION WITHOUT FEAR by James Gritter.
Remember, the books discussed in the articles are not just learning tools, but information offered by some of the leading adoption professionals in the country. Consider them your "professors." To become a doctor, teacher or engineer, etc., think of the years of education and hundreds of books required to achieve your goal. By comparison, your required education to become an adoptive parent is quite minimal, but it is required for your best chance at both short term and long term success. One good thing about our Internet Adoption School which is different from law or medical school: we promise you won’t have to take out a student loan or cut up a frog to graduate!
Step 3: Select the best lawyer or agency for you.
After completing your reading, and perhaps obtaining the help and insight offered by any adoptive parent associations or support groups which may be in your area, you are ready to put all your energy into finding the right attorney or agency to assist you in your chosen type of adoption. If you are planning an independent domestic adoption, you will be looking for an attorney (with a private or state agency handling the home study). If you have chosen to do a domestic agency adoption, you will be searching for an agency. The attorney or agency you select is often there to do more than do the legal work of adoption, but often to help use his or her connections and special skills to speed up the time in which a child is placed in your home.
Selecting the best attorney or agency is likely one of the biggest decisions you will make in your adoption, and a lot is involved in making this determination. If you are planning an independent adoption, read the "Independent Adoption" article for detailed tips on how to find an excellent attorney. Likewise, extensive advise on selecting an adoption agency is found in the "Agency Adoption" article.
Step 4: Considering attorneys and agencies outside your home state.
Whether you have decided to work with an attorney or agency, you can find the few local agencies or attorneys in your yellow pages. You might not want to be limited to those, however. The best one for you may be a few counties, or even a few states, away. Why would some adoptive parents elect to hire an attorney or agency outside their home state? There are many reasons, and it is a practice becoming quite popular. Some adoptive parents live in states where there are few birth mothers, or their state laws do not permit active efforts to locate a birth mother by adoptive parents or attorneys (what is called adoption networking). As a result, some adoptive parents are selected by a birth mother through an attorney or agency in the birth mother's home state, then the adoptive parents complete the adoption itself in their home state court, with a local attorney or agency handling that aspect of the adoption.
Here is a fact many adoptive parents don’t know. Most adoptive parents assume they can only process and complete an adoption in their home state. They believe that even if they meet a birth mother through an attorney or agency in a state different than their own home state, they must still return home to complete the adoption in their home state. This is not always bad, but what if they live in a state which gives unreasonably long periods for a birth parent to reclaim a child, or the process is too slow or expensive? Fortunately, there is a little known type of adoption called "non-resident adoption."
About half the states in the nation permit non-residents to adopt within their state in both independent and agency adoption. Although each state is different, usually the states permitting non-residents to adopt only require that the birth mother live in their state, or the child be born there. If you feel non-resident adoption is for you, and you need to decide in which state to try to adopt, and which professional to hire within that state, you will find the books ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year and THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK tremendously helpful. Both these books break down which states permit non-resident to adopt, explain key adoption laws within that state, and give information about attorneys and agencies within that state.
Step 5: Networking to meet a birth mother.
though one reason many adoptive parents retain an adoption attorney or agency is to help introduce them to a birth mother, who will in turn select them as the selected adoptive parents, most adoptive parents understand some "adoption networking" on their behalf is also important to their success. What is adoption networking? It is simply the notion that couples hoping to adopt outnumber the number of children available for adoption. So to whom do these children go? The answer is. . . to the lucky. . . and to those who work the hardest and know the most about the process and how to help themselves. (If you think about it, "lucky" people usually make their own good luck due to their hard work.)
Adoption networking starts with the adoptive parents’ photo-resume letter. This is what a birth mother will usually initially see (via the attorney, agency, or others receiving it through your networking campaign) in her search for the right adoptive parents for her and her baby. Photo-resume letters usually have one or more photographs of the adoptive parents, and a typed self-written letter describing themselves and why they want to adopt. The best letters are short (no more than one page, single or double-sided) and personal in tone. Bad letters read like a job resume, describing colleges attended, height and weight, and ethnic ancestry. Most birth mothers would rather learn about your personal side: how you spend your free time, what are your hobbies and interests, hopes and dreams. She can learn more when she meets you.
Preparing a good photo-resume letter is a science. The greatest failure of adoptive parents is that they have a bad letter or picture, and don’t know it. Excellent advice on creating an effective photo-resume letter can be found in ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year. When you have perfected your photo-resume letter, you are ready to use it in a networking campaign. A big (and easy for you) part of it is simply to give copies to your attorney or agency to have ready to show to birth mothers with whom they come in contact. Why stop there when you can do so much more to help yourself?
So, let's explore adoption networking. By telling others you want to adopt, and encouraging them to tell others they know, you may find your photo-resume letter gets in front of far more people than you alone could manage. THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK gives you this example of networking: "If you tell 25 people that you are interested in adoption, and they each tell another 25, you will have ‘told’ 625 people. This ‘ripple effect’ does work." Now, think if you told 50 people. You do the math!" Networking works with "everyday" people like your friends and neighbors, as anyone can hear of a friend or neighbor whose daughter has an unplanned pregnancy. It also works with professionals who come into contact with pregnant women: doctors, ministers, health clinics, hospitals, school health centers, nurses, even beauty salons, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had 1,000 or 2,000 or more of these people with a copy of your photo-resume letter in hand? They may know you personally, or the friend of yours who gave it to them.
Regardless, the idea of bringing together adoptive parents and a birth mother (and being the ultimate matchmaker) is something many people are anxious to be a part of. Some adoptive parents reason, likely correctly, that although networking with friends is worth doing, those most likely to come into contact with a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy are professionals in pregnancy-related fields. These may include OB/GYNs, other physicians, hospital labor and delivery departments, counselors, ministers, university student health centers, to list just a few. To send to such groups, mailing lists can be purchased for any state for certain categories of health care professionals. Not every adoptive parent, or even the majority of them, elect to do this extensive networking. The reality, only a small number know how to effectively do such networking, and actually follow up by doing it. This fact, and the fact the total of these pregnancy-related professionals number in the hundreds of thousands nationwide means a great deal of diversity amount recipients.
You can try to compile your own mailing list for free by obtaining a yellow page directory for the region in which you wish to network and writing the names and addresses of the professionals to whom you wish to send your photo-resume letter. Unfortunately, however, yellow page phone directories don’t list zip codes or office suite numbers, the absence of which will often render your letter undeliverable, making "do it yourself" labels not a real option unles you have more detailed professional directories. By shopping around on the internet, however, you can find companies who sell mailing labels.
Regardless where you purchase your labels, some worry a networking campaign is doomed to failure and never start. Be glad many have this mentality, as it means they are not out there competing with you. The nay-sayers say "why bother, if I send out these letters, the people who get them will just throw them away." Actually, they are right. Most of the letters will be thrown away. You may not like it, but it's the truth among professionals receiving your letter. But here is the failure in that reasoning: "You only need one birth mother." Not ten birth mothers. Not fifty. Reaching one person, who gives it to one birth mother, who in turn picks you as adoptive parents, makes it a completely successful networking campaign. But the reality is that it will take a thousand or more letters to have likelihood of reaching that one birth mother. The more you send, the better your chances of quick success.
If you examine the time and effort you spent to accomplish other important goals in your life - getting into the college of your choice, finding your job, selecting your house, etc. - how does the time you have spent, or plan to spend, in success in adoption match your efforts in those areas? Some people spend more time researching which car or truck to buy than they do in their adoption networking. Yet they wonder why they failed at adoption while others they know are "so lucky." For guidance in how to effectively network, either among friends and/or professionals, read either BEATING THE ADOPTION ODDS, or ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year. (The latter book dedicates two entire chapters to the subject.) You will find specific steps in preparing your photo-resume letter, and effectively sending it out to reach the people destined to receive it.
Newspaper Advertising and the Internet. Another way of reaching many potential birth mothers who are seeking adoptive parents is to use a mass market approach, like classified advertising (which might read "Adoption. Loving, childless Arizona couple hopes to adopt baby. Medical expenses paid. Confidential. Call (555) 555-5555"). Advertising, particularly in newspapers, is not a favorite method of every adoptive parent. Some find it too impersonal, or feel the potential for fraud is too great if they are being contacted by someone, unseen, thousands of miles away. Actually, the concern for fraud can be avoided by hiring an adoption agency or attorney in the birth mother’s region to be sure everything appears appropriate, before agreeing to help the birth mother with any costs which are permitted by law. Still, there is less control than if a birth mother lives locally. It is also important to realize that not every state permits adoption advertising by private citizens, like adoptive parents. About half the states do not permit it, some even making it a crime. To find out which states you can advertise in, you will find a listing in THE COMPLETE ADOPTION BOOK and ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How To Adopt Within One Year.
A newer approach to the mass market approach of newspaper ads is to use internet sites devoted to adoption. Similar precautions to newspaper advertising are appropriate. There are several such sites, which can be found with any search engine. Most charge a monthly or yearly fee for the right to display your photo-resume letter, or to offer a link to your personal web page. We are sorry, but Adoption101.com does not sell such advertising space to adoptive parents, as we would have no way of knowing if the adoptive parents were using a competent and ethical attorney or agency to handle their adoption. (Instead, Adoption101.com’s policy is to only permit listings by licensed adoption agencies or adoption attorneys who are admitted to the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Those entities, in turn, will often showcase couples waiting to adopt to women facing an unplanned pregnancy.)
Step 6: Consider avoiding adoption "facilitators."
Some adoptive parents turn to what are called facilitators to help them locate a birth mother. A facilitator is a person or organization which is not an attorney or agency, but which charges a fee to help locate a birth mother. Many professionals in the adoption field oppose the existence of facilitators, as they contend that attorneys and agencies are licensed and trained to do what they do, while facilitators (often little more than paid baby finders) usually required no special licensing or education. Furthermore, attorneys and agencies charge a fee based upon substantial services over the course of an adoption, only a small part of which is locating a birth mother. Since facilitators are generally barred from doing any legal work (since they aren’t attorneys) and can’t take consents or do home studies (since they aren’t agencies), many people question what does that leave them to do to justify what is often a hefty fee, often more than attorneys or agencies charge? It is for this reason that they are sometimes categorized as "paid baby finders."
This is not to say that there are not good facilitators, or that there are not some with reasonable fees. However, extreme caution should be used if you employ someone in this group. It is hard enough to find a truly qualified, skilled attorney or agency. Do you even want to include someone in that search who is not even licensed? Would you do that in other areas: medical or dental care, tax preparation, financial investments, etc.? Some states make "facilitating" for a fee a crime. Other states, like California, permit them to exist. Sadly, this creates confusion among many people, as many facilitators employ names which sound like adoption agencies, making it confusing for inexperienced birth and adoptive parents.
Adoption101.com takes a position on this issue. Some adoption websites accept advertising from any adoption entity, including facilitators, or attorneys with no showing of expertise in adoptions. Since the goal of Adoption101.com is to provide a source of quality education to help you plan a safe and ethical adoption, we only permit adoption professionals to list themselves at Adoption101.com (you can see our "Listing of attorneys and agencies") if the agency is licensed as an adoption agency, or if it is an attorney, if the attorney is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (adoptionattorneys.org). Unlicensed agencies, facilitators, or attorneys not admitted to AAAA are not accepted.
Success is waiting for you. Be aggressive and go get it! If we mentioned a book, you know it is a good one and will help you in your quest.
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