Adoption overview at Hopeful Beginnings
The first thing that I want to address is “the fit” when choosing the adoption agency that you plan to work with. Our belief at Hopeful Beginnings is to do your due diligence in researching the different agencies out there. You will get an immediate feel by how they address certain issues such as how they treat their birth moms, are you just a waiting family or are you Mary and Joe, who have been trying to have a family for the last 10 years? The wait is an important issue. No one can honestly tell you what the wait is, but we say on average, 2 years. What type of adoptions do they do? The majority that I know is Open Adoption. Even attorneys are doing Open Adoptions as research indicates that they are more advantageous for the child. How is the first consultation? Is it in a small room with a social worker the way Hopeful Beginning does it or is it in a large room with folding chairs lined up and you are addressed classroom style? Do you feel like you are in someone’s home or does it feel more like a business? These are all things that contribute to the “feel” of the agency. We understand that everyone has needs for their “fit”. When choosing a wedding dress, some like off the shoulder, strapless, a princess fit, or a sheath. There is no bad choice. People are different but you do know when “This is it!” That’s how it should be when you go to different agencies. You will know when the AHA moment hits you. We do free consultations and encourage families to explore their options. Options give all of us freedom. Remember, you will be working with the agency that you choose for a long time. In fact, it is a lifelong commitment for you. The adoption agency will be there to answer your questions long after your adoption is completed.
I would like to clarify the terminology that we use for adoption. Words are powerful, they get into our brain, and we believe them after a while. Women do not “put their child up for adoption, or “Give their child up for adoption.” Rather they do decide the best option for their babies and themselves. The correct terminology is to say, “I am placing my child for adoption.” You are placing your child for adoption with a family that you believe can best take care of them. Our birth mothers choose the family that they would like to take care of their children and raise them. All adoptive families must take workshops and courses on topics like open adoption, substance abuse, and various other concepts to educate them on the issues that surround adoption. Right now, due to covid, all of our courses are online. Both potential parents must listen and give us a copy of their certificates. We certify to the judge that the families have done their due diligence and taken their coursework, thus are ready for the permanency of adoption. The people who apply for adoption, make a book that tells their story about their marriage, illustrating the love that they have for each other through pictures, their home, if faith is part of their lives, how they will raise their child, as well as their hopes and dreams. They usually write a beautiful letter to the potential birth mom. In addition, they address how the birth mom who chooses them will be incorporated into their lives. Now, some people are afraid, that the birth mother will co-parent with them. This is so far from the truth. The birth mom is a friend, like a favorite aunt to the child. She is thrilled to be included in the child’s life. The goal is for the children to see for themselves that the woman who gave birth to them is a living, breathing, person, who loves them. By getting to know her, they will know that she didn’t “leave them.” That truly is important in the nature of adoption. Some children have attachment disorders and abandonment issues. We talk with our adoptive families about both of these issues and help them by providing education in these two areas. If the child knows that he has a “Birth mom” as part of his life, there is a good chance that he will realize that not only his adoptive parents love him, but so does his birth mom. Every adoptive child has a “Story” to tell and everyone has a different one. Children love to hear their stories over and over again. Eventually, they will tell their own story to people. This illustrates the emotional stability and validates the child.
I know that Open Adoption is a foreign entity for some parents. They are afraid that the birth mother will come after them and try and take their baby away. Legally, this cannot happen. About 6 months after parents are placed with their child, they go to court. The judge gives them their official adoption decree. The child’s birth certificate now reads the child’s new name and that they are the parents of this child. Visits with the birth mom are supervised by Hopeful Beginnings and if there are ever any safety issues, our staff puts measures into a place where your personal data is never shared. There is a beautiful App called, “Moment Garden.” It is a collection of the child’s pictures, which shows the child growing up. It is also password protected and you have to be invited to be “part of the group.” It is a great way for adoptive and birth parents to communicate with each other and the birth family can see that their child is thriving. Sometimes, Moment Garden is the only way to communicate, while other times, in-person visits work. You can design a special email that is used for only you and the birth family, thereby bringing both parents together. We, at Hopeful Beginnings, provide a safety net for you to feel comfortable.
Now, let’s take a look at the families who seek our help in completing their families. Traditional families often have worked with doctors, infertility specialists, undergoing test after test, given themselves injections, and the focus of their coming together is strictly for making a baby. There is pain, loss, questioning themselves as to what they did wrong, and why me. Infertility is a medical diagnosis that can involve a female or male partner. Sometimes, it is both. It is advisable for the couple to undergo counseling with an outside therapist prior to undertaking adoption. Then, when adoption occurs, both people can be ready to undergo “the journey.”
Same-sex couples have the option to start their families in other ways. Many have explored surrogacy or surrogacy from family members prior to coming to us for adoption. Some have explored in vitro methods. And singles usually come to us after looking at surrogacy or in vitro options.
My point is that by the time a couple or single comes to us, they have explored other options of starting their family. They very much want to start the process, as there is a waiting period that they must go through. I always say that adoption is not for the faint of heart. That means it is a journey of faith in that the right baby will be placed with them eventually. Sometimes potential birth mothers are absolutely sure that they want to place their babies with a family, but at the last minute, change their minds. This happens and although they have the right to do so, it is painful for the waiting family. It is very difficult when the family is “counting” on this to happen. We try and tell families to be “cautiously optimistic.” That is, to be positive, but know that the birth mom can change her mind. This is a very emotional time for the birth mom and she is carrying her baby inside of her. It is a leap of faith that she will make that last decision 72 hours after birth to place by signing a surrender to her parental rights.
When a family is chosen, prior to birth, we advise them to wait to set up the nursery until the surrenders are signed. It is better to wait until surrenders are signed and the baby is “officially with them.” The best thing to do is have a shower after the baby is placed. Most of our families run to Target or the store of your choice, filling their cart with the bare necessities the night before or the day of placement.
Your adoption journey is full of paperwork, the waiting game, and faith! Our couples have said that people say that adoption is the easy way to have a child! That is so far from the truth! It is a journey filled with ups and downs. Your profile book is shown, but you were not chosen, and then wait some more until you are shown again. Most people choose not to know if they are shown. It is too disappointing to be shown and not chosen. We explain to families as challenging as it is, it is important to continue living, continue vacationing (informing us of their plans and a phone number that we can reach them, in case), and continue working. No one knows when a woman with an unplanned pregnancy will be at our doorstep and that she will choose adoption, and pick them for a family. That is why it is important for them to continue doing what they love to do as a couple and continue building their own relationship. Your baby will come into your lives and you have established a strong foundation for that little one to grow and flourish!
I usually address the typical adoption situation, that is when a birth mother comes to work with us and chooses adoption or we receive a call from the hospital social worker asking us to come by to see a patient. There is a third type of adoption known as a Safe Haven Baby. An adoptive family chooses if they want to parent a safe haven baby or not, with the understanding that they will usually have no background information on the baby, including race, psychological or genetic issues. Again, this is a leap of faith. We offer the longest waiting family the opportunity of having that baby placed with them for adoption. The Safe Haven Law governs safe Haven babies. Any baby can be brought to a hospital or Fire Station where there is 24-hour coverage and can hand over the baby with no questions asked. The baby must be less than 30 days old and healthy. Hopeful Beginnings is one of the Illinois Agencies signed up to receive a Safe Haven situation. Babies come to us every year to 18 months that is when a baby is relinquished to a hospital for care. There is a special procedure that is used by the hospital to inform DCFS of the situation and they see which adoption agency is next on the list. If we get the call, we are ready and waiting to drive to the hospital that the baby is located in and bring them to one of our interim homes.
Everyone wants to know what the process is like. The first thing that we ask couples to do is fill out a comprehensive application, which involves many, many, questions about themselves, their families, how they were raised, disciplinary methods when they were children, what they enjoy about each other, why they married, etc. It also includes being fingerprinted and being checked by the FBI and police departments for any prior misdemeanors or felonies. It is important to note that if you were in college and got arrested, to let us know, honestly and write it in the application. This way, when it comes up, we know that you have honestly disclosed the situation. Otherwise, we are caught by surprise and the trust factor is broken. There is a financial statement or budget to ensure that you have the means to undertake this commitment. If you are young and newly married and live with your parents, and they pay all of your bills, we have to ask you to come back when the two of you are independent and living on your own without parents covering your monthly bills. You must be married for at least one year. The social workers review your paperwork, and then it does get to me. We all look for stability, emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, and that you have support from family and friends. We accept all faiths or no faith. We need letters of recommendation, physicals from your family doctor, as long as the doctor is not family, and the commitment to fill out your paperwork in 6 months or less. Many people, these days are seeking to adopt and we want you to never miss the opportunity of being shown to a birth mom. If any one of us sees a red flag, we will have a meeting to identify it and encourage you to proceed in a different way.
Adoption can be done through a Licensed Illinois Agency, like Hopeful Beginnings. We are a smaller agency that gives you individualized care. You will know your counselor and you will know the Executive Director. It is a hands-on agency that is interested in forming relationships.
You may choose to go with a larger agency in Illinois that may have out-of-state capabilities. You can also go with a Nationwide Adoption Agency, which works with women with unplanned pregnancies across the United States. A Nationwide Agency is usually more costly and you then have to hire an agency, like ours to complete your Home Study. This is a comprehensive study of you and your partner, your home, everything about you to determine that you will be fit parents, according to the law. You will be working with us to lead you down the right path and the birth mother will be working with another agency for counseling. You will need to travel out-of-state anywhere from 1-2, sometimes 3 weeks and must finalize the adoption in that state with those laws. And finally, you may want to work with a private adoption lawyer, who will wind up having the birth mom work with a private adoption agency, like Hopeful Beginnings to do her counseling, and you have a Home Study from a licensed agency, as well. The adoption attorneys that we work with are always referring birth moms to us for counseling. We recommend that you start a page on Facebook so that you will be more visible to mothers who are considering adoption. We recommend that you tell everyone you know about your plan to adopt, so if they know someone they can refer them to you. We do NOT recommend Craig’s list or any other non-reputable method. You are not buying a car, but working with a very sensitive situation involving a pregnant woman. If you refer a pregnant woman to us, she will be shown your profile, but honestly, she is the one that will identify you as the people that she wishes to place her baby with.
When you are chosen, and the mother has identified you as the ones, it depends on her if she wishes you to come to the hospital. Sometimes, your social worker will get in touch with the social worker from the hospital to get you a room on the same floor so that you may hold the baby and bond with the baby. Some women ask that one of you be there during labor and delivery, as this is a very intimate thing, and she wants you to hold her baby. But everyone must remember, that it is her baby until the papers are signed. She is the one who decides if the baby gets circumcised and gets the first Hepatitis B vaccine at the hospital. If the mother wishes to breast-feed or bottle-feed her baby, that is her choice. That is a very difficult concept for many families, but they know it is for the good of everyone involved. Often times, the baby goes into interim care, which is a private home that we have licensed to be safe, including all of the steps that a family goes through to ensure a baby may be placed there. Or, the couple can take a legal risk and take the baby home for the 72 hours. I guess that I am fairly biased in that I like for the couples to wait 72 hours, insuring that the papers are signed and the baby is free and clear to go to your home. There will be no last minute surprises or changes if the birth mom changes her mind.
Once the baby is in your home, he/she is still in our custody, and this process usually takes 6 months for the baby to be legally yours. Legal adoption takes place after the baby has been your care for 6 months and that the post adoption visits by your social worker are great.
In our agency, we do not charge you for the care of your birth mother. Hopeful Beginnings covers that cost which includes anything pregnancy related. That is why we fundraise, so that the proceeds of the funds pay for the birth mother’s care. Also, after the baby is born and placed, we can only cover pregnancy related costs for up to 3 months. Otherwise, the State of Illinois sees this as “buying a baby.”
The first meeting between the birth mom and the adoptive family and many more of the meetings include the staff from Hopeful Beginnings. Best practice has the birth mom having one social worker assisting her while another social worker assists the family. Both parties are usually nervous and it is a time where there are many lulls in conversation. The social workers usually pick up the pace and ask questions. The birth mom is usually a lot more nervous and she often times do not have the support of a partner. This is a great time to bond with both families and set the stage for positive future relationships. If something bothers either party, they should share that with their social worker and the other one can address it with their client. People are different, we were all raised in different families, and so things may not feel comfortable, at first.
The question is frequently raised, how do you do adoptions, who picks the babies, who picks the families, are people given a baby in order of when their paperwork is completed? What they are getting at is if there is a baby, do you show the birth mom all families? The answer is no. We compile a list on each family of what they feel would be most advantageous to them. They must answer questions of race, physical issues, psychological issues of them and their immediate family, etc. We consider them “open to those various factors.” They will identify the races that they would accept as well as everything that we ask. We also ask things like if the mother smoked cigarettes during her pregnancy, would you accept that? Or if the mom smoked marijuana would that be acceptable to you. We have our parents take a substance abuse course that addresses each substance and how it can affect the baby. It is surprising to see the scientific literature that is on those substances, such as marijuana is safer than almost any drug, including alcohol. Cocaine can produce a healthy baby. All of these things need to be looked at prior to your placement and thought about very carefully. I always say look at the data, call your pediatrician and discuss it with him or her to get your final answer.
Today, families come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. We teach you about racial differences and how to care for a baby with a different racial background than you. Before Covid, we had in-person classes teaching you hair care for different races. Your comfort level is very important to the baby’s success and integration into your family unit and extended family.
The one thing that I say is that you cannot come to any adoption agency and say that you want to have a blonde hair, blue-eyed little girl. The bottom line is that a baby is a baby. We don’t take choices like a boy or a girl. Red flags mean when we know someone won’t do open adoption and just tell us what we want to hear. That is a no go for us. We give our word to our birth mom that visitations will occur if they wish and the ability to see their baby after birth with their new family. That is a promise.
We had one couple that was Caucasian, but was open to all races. The birth mom, Cara, was African-American and her boyfriend was white. She decided to work with us after hearing a commercial on the radio. We worked with this young woman, and sadly, she was in and out of jail. Her outlook was bright and she understood open adoption perfectly. She loved the couple that she chose and that couple had waited years working with other adoption agencies for their little one to be born. They came to us to restart the process. They were open to all races and mostly all situations. Cara, the birth mom chose them to parent her baby girl. They met each other after the baby was born at our agency and they fell in love with each other. Mary, the adoptive mom, as well as her husband, Sam, knew that Cara had issues, but they respected her as their baby’s birth mom. It was an amazing dynamic and they talk about how blessed they were to have Cara walk into their lives. About 3 years later, Cara contacted us again and told us that she was pregnant again. She was embarrassed to have us call Mary and Sam to see if they were interested in parenting another one of her children. With Cara’s approval, we contacted Mary and Sam and they were overjoyed!!!! Now their family would be complete. The new baby was full African American and the children were half sisters. Cara continued to be in and out of their lives and Mary and Sam were devoted parents to their babies incorporating both cultures into the little ones lives. We get to see them at family picnics and parties. They are one of our model parents. They understand and appreciate that they were chosen to parent Cara’s two little girls. They frequently tell me that their children were worth the very long wait and that they were meant to have their two beautiful girls.
We have a variety of women who call us that are considering placing their children for adoption. We take the time and care with each one. These are our maternity clients. The social workers are available night and day for their needs. Uncertainty, fear of the unknown, and anxiety doesn’t occur from 8:30am to 4:30pm. They may text us or call us with questions or a difficulty. All of our maternity clients are equipped to call “911” for a serious issue. We work with the hospital that they plan to deliver. Before covid, we would attend the labor and delivery of the baby, as many women do not have the support of family. We mentor these women and plan for their future with them. We do a career assessment and see if they need classes to fulfill their dream. We are a lifelong resource for both adoptive families and birth mothers. We cherish our careers in this field and wouldn’t have things any other way. I describe it as a labor of love.
If you or someone you know has an unplanned pregnancy, is experiencing anxiety/depression during pregnancy or postpartum, had a miscarriage or stillbirth, is grieving over an abortion, or is having difficulty adjusting to motherhood, please give us a call at 847-870-8181 or Text Hope 1 to 67076 or go to freecounselingnow.com and someone will get back with you right away!
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