Friday, May 10, 2013

The Case Against Celebrating a Separate Birth Mothers' Day

There is a movement afoot to celebrate “Birth Mothers’ Day” on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. There is something unsettling about the prospect of celebrating such a day.

There is no doubt that the proponents of “Birth Mothers’ Day” do so out of love and respect for birth mothers.

However by creating a separate day for birth mothers, we inadvertently communicate that birth mothers are not “real” mothers. Think about it. We don’t celebrate stepmother day, adoptive mother day, biological mother day, in-vitro mother day, aunt who was like a mother day, neighbor lady who loved all the kids day, etc. etc. etc. Instead, there is one day, for Mothers of all kinds. We celebrate women who made sure we were safe, and loved, and cared for – and in many cases – brought us life.

And so, what have these birth mother’s done for their children? They made sure their children were safe, loved, cared for, and brought them life. The solution? Recognize and acknowledge that when a woman makes an adoption plan, she is fulfilling her responsibilities as a loving mother.

“Mothers’ Day” is big enough to celebrate all of the women whose love and sacrifice contributed to creating, raising, and loving each child.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Protecting the Light

My amazing nine year old daughter Emma sang in chapel with her good friend Grace Ann.  They sang "Firework" by Katy Perry.  I think I may have been even more nervous than she was.  I just wanted her to be happy with herself, proud of herself, to gain a small glimpse into the magic that is Emma.  Just seeing her get up in front of her school . . . wow!  She did it . . . in front of her school, her grandmother, and her grandfather (both with tears in their eyes).  With a beautiful little voice my scared little girl and her friend sang . . .

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards,
One blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
6 feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you

You just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh"
You're gonna leave 'em all in "awe, awe, awe"
. . .

I could not help thinking of that quiet little girl I first held in Russia almost 9 years ago.  She did not smile easily.  She was so serious . . . so reticent.  She had almost lost her light -- that spark that God gives each child.  That light that gives hope for our future and joy to our lives. 

I also can't help but think of a another little girl, we will call her Kathy.  Her mother was not ready to be a mother, but she was guilted into parenting, forced into parenting -- by her family.  They had to protect "their blood" . . . their genetic material.  Kathy's mother made her bed . . . she must lie in it. Kathy's mother had to "step up to the plate." 

So, Kathy has enough to eat and she is adequately dressed.  But, her mother, who struggles everyday, cannot delight in her.  There is no time for tickles and giggles.  While she tries her best, Kathy's mother, who does love her, still does not want to be a mother.  And the family who insisted she parent, is little to no help.

I suspect (hope) Kathy's physical safety will never be an issue.  But each day, her light will dim just a little bit more, until it is so far gone, that it cannot be ignited . . .  her colors will not burst . . . she will not shoot across the sky.

CPS will (hopefully) protect her physical safety, the family protected "their blood" . . . But who protects her light?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What to do in the Hospital?

It would be nice if these posting went in the order of the process, however, I am going to have to vary things a bit. 

You have received the call . . . . Now what?!?!?  Depending on your arrangement with the birth mother, she is probably in labor and you are on your way to the hospital.  That hospital could be around the corner, or across the nation.  What are YOU supposed to do at the hospital.  Hopefully you have had time to develop a relationship with your birth mother by this time.  However, that is not always the case.  You may be meeting for the first time. 

While you may be nervous and anxious, remember this time is about her and her needs.  She is facing the one of the hardest decisions she will ever make.  She is in pain, her hormones are very active, she may have anesthetic in her system, and she may be facing abuse from family and friends and even herself for the decision she is about to make.

The hospital will almost always have a social worker on staff.  That person, depending on the hospital and/or the state will assist with things like discharge, medical records, and making certain any decision is voluntary.  In some cases, he or she will simply make a brief appearance. 

If you are working with an agency, that agency will usually have a worker come to the hospital to check on birth mother and you.  However, most hospitals frown on adoption workers "camping" at the hospital.  It can give the appearance of overreaching.  So do not be surprised if those visits are not extended.  However, do contact your agency if you have any problems or concerns. 

You may be stressed, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed.  But it does not compare to what your birth mother is going through.  You must not focus on yourself at this time.  Focus on her and her needs.  She may or may not verbalize those needs.  While she may have told you before birth what she wanted in the hospital, those needs may have changed.  So, ask her.

Would you like us in your room with the baby, or in our room with baby?
Are you tired?  Do you need to rest?  Do you want time alone?
Can I bring you anything?  Food? 

Once the baby is born, your birthmother may start to feel forgotten.  Flowers or chocolates can go a long way towards making her feel appreciated at this vulnerable time.  Show her how much you appreciate her. (Be sure and check with your attorney and/or agency about the laws in your state regarding gifts.)

Your birth mother will be watching you for signs that you love her child.  Fair or not, she will be examining your every action to measure whether she has made a good choice.  So, if she wants to see you interact with the child -- let her.  To the extent you can, stay at the hospital and take every opportunity to bond with the child and every opportunity to show your concern and appreciation for your birth mother. 

This is not the time to have your emotional guard up.  While you may be terrified she will decide not to place, you still must open your heart.  She needs to know that you love this child, or she cannot have peace about her decision.  This applies to adoptive mothers and adoptive fathers.

To the extent she is open to it, show your birth mother the love due to the person who has brought a miracle into your life. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Homestudy -- Maximizing your Net Worth

Alright, so you have started the homestudy process. Odds are your agency has given you a packet of information to complete as well as a library of documents to collect. Please note, the agency that completes your homestudy may or may not be your "placing" agency, ie the agency that "places" a child in your home. However, make certain whichever agency you choose for the homestudy is acceptable to your placing agency. Some states and some countries have restrictions on the qualifications of the agency and/or the credentials of the individual conducting the homestudy. For example, China requires that the homestudy agency (not just the placing agency) be Hague Accredited, and the State of Connecticut has a short approval process required for out of state agencies involved in some interstate adoptions. There are other idiosyncrasies involved in other adoptions, so check with your placing agency. You do not want to pay for two homestudies.

Generally you will be producing the following:

1. Financial documents, including tax returns and employment verifications;
If you are self employed, you will need to have your accountant or bookkeeper prepare the verification. Be sure to instruct him or her to add back your depreciation and other like expenses. You need your income to be calculated in a manner which would be comparable to a person with who is not self employed. Otherwise, as most self employed people work to expenses as much as possible, it will appear that you do not have sufficient income to raise a(nother) child. This method is perfectly acceptable so long as you make certain that you retain a record of how your accountant arrived at the final number. If you are employed and recieve bounses, include those in your employment verification. If you need to, ask your HR department to average the last few years to come up with a prediction of future bonuses.

2. You will likely be asked to prepare a financial statement. This too can be a bit overwhelming for some. If you own a home, it is likely your largest asset. You will want to accurately maximize the value of the asset. If you do not have a recent appraisal, then look at your latest tax appraisal. If you live in an area with significantly below value tax appraisals, then contact a realtor for a market analysis or just check with local Realtors for information regarding sales in your area of similar homes. Again, be sure to document how you arrived at the value listed. The key is to make certain your number is reasonable.

Many people forget to include the contents of their home as an asset on their financial statement. One way to arrive at that number is to contact your insurance agent and ask how much the contents of your home are insured for at the time of the homestudy. Depending on the condition of the contents, you may want to use a percentage of that number. Again, keep a record of how you arrived at the value.

For vehicles values, utilize the Internet. Finally, do not forget the cash value of life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, college funds, etc. Your goal is the legitimately maximize your net worth. Just be reasonable, and document, document, document.