Posts tagged ‘adoption’

Birth Family Christmas

photo 3(1)Tonight we kicked off the first of our family Christmas gatherings. But it was unlike any others we’ll experience this week. A local BBQ restaurant made a great ‘neutral’ meeting place as we traveled across town to get together with people we met a little less than three years ago. A group who we see only a few times each year, yet consider them family. Our birth family.

When we initially began our adoption process we requested a semi-open arrangement. We were cool with exchanging first names and maybe state or city, but we didn’t think we wanted a lot of contact with the birth family. Mae’s adoption came along unexpectedly and detoured our plans. The situation created an open adoption by default. And now looking back over the past three years, I couldn’t be more thankful that our plans and preferences changed.

photo 2(1)I don’t talk about our open adoption a lot, nor have I ever specifically blogged about it. But coming off of a night like tonight, I felt I needed to share about how wonderful this arrangement can be, and how fortunate we’ve been to have a birth family enter our lives. Sure, it’s nice to have a direct connection to Mae’s birth mom for reasons most would assume – health history and knowing her story, etc. But more than that, it’s amazing to have a birth mom, birth uncle and cousin and birth grandparents in the picture for indescribable reasons. There’s something about continuing and nurturing the bond of family even if it looks a little different from the ‘norm’ that is powerful. Redemptive. And all around blessed.

We sat and laughed tonight (mostly at my energetic three-year-old.) We told stories and caught up on life. We exchanged Christmas gifts. And more than anything, we all gleamed an unspoken appreciation for one another yet again. It happens every time we get together. And as the years go on and our relationships deepen, I know it will only continue to grow.

photo 1(1)I recognize that not everyone in an open adoption has this kind of relationship with their birth family members. There are a lot of other stories out there that aren’t so ideal. We’re lucky to have a birth family that’s kind, considerate and amazing with boundaries. They’ve truly made this an incredible experience.

Open adoption might not be for everyone, but I’m glad that it was the right path for me. Our birth mom is the strongest person I know and she continues to amaze me. Her love for [our] daughter has taught me more about selflessness than anything on this side of heaven ever will. Knowing the family my daughter was born into gives me even more appreciation and understanding of her. That in and of itself is an amazing gift – especially at Christmas.

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December 23, 2013 at 11:30 pm Leave a comment

Princesses

I always thought I’d have a boy. Rough housing and baseball – I was certain that was what my future entailed. So when we got a call about adopting a little girl, I wasn’t so sure. I’m not really the girly-girl type (outside of my fascination with huge earrings.) I wouldn’t even wear dresses as a child. But as our adoption went through and we’ve spent the last three years raising a little princess, I couldn’t be more thankful The Lord had other plans for me.

The pink and purple palooza has taken some adjusting, but I’ve learned a lot from having a little girl. The Barbies and larger-than-life headbands show me that feeling beautiful is an innate female desire, at least in some way. The careful way she stuffs a fake baby bottle into a cloth doll’s face shows me women are built to nurture. To mother. Her interest in ballet moves and love of a frilly tutu shows me ladies want to offer grace. And the obsession with everything princess reminds me daily that Christian women are truly a royal priesthood and daughters of the King – regardless of if tiaras are “our thing.”

I still don’t consider myself someone who’s super girly. And I do plan to get a ball into her hands at some point. But for now I’ll gladly wear the pink hair or dress up in pearls for my girl. Because she is showing me the purest form of the princesses we were born to be.

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November 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION

A little while ago I kicked off a new blog series with a social worker and to-be adoptive mama friend, Nikki.

We kicked off our first post – Adoption After Cancer: What Are My Options?

Today, we introduce our second post and talk specifically about international adoption. If you have ANY questions, leave us a comment or visit Nikki’s blog to get in touch with her directly!

INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION + CANCER

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – September 2013

1. Can I adopt from ANY country if I’ve had cancer? If not, which countries are closed to me? 

Countries open for cancer survivor adoptions depend on the type of cancer, length of time since the patient has been in remission, and again, that all important doctor letter. (See our first blog post.) The only country that was giving a firm “NO” to cancer survivors was Russia, but that’s not even an option for anyone now.

2. Are there any countries that cancer survivors have an “easier” time adopting from? What are some good options?

There are some countries that perhaps would be considered “easier” in terms of cancer survivors adopting. This includes most of the African countries and Haiti that generally have less stringent requirements of adoptive parents in general. However, if interested in adopting a special focus (aka. hard to place) child from China, agencies are having some success in getting “waivers” for their clients for all kinds of things, past history of cancer included.  Colombia also has been pretty good in giving approval to families with a cancer history who have a favorable doctor letter. I think Russia would have been the only country that would have been too big of a challenge.

3. Is my wait time extended in international adoption because of my cancer history?

Absolutely not. If you are approved for adoption, regardless of your past history, you are now in the waiting line just like everyone else. Most international adoptions are pretty organized and the countries process applications in the order they are received, so they are just processing one after the next, not skipping over people due to health history or background.

4. What kind of physicals are needed to adopt?

This depends on what country you are adopting from.  Some are pretty easy, such as Ethiopia, that is just a quick letter from the doctor that says “I have examined (name) and find her/him to be in good health and free of communicable diseases.”  Some other countries, such as China, have more significant forms where doctors fill in blanks about health history, current issues, medications, and require tests for HIV and TB. Any cancer survivor should expect to prepare an additional letter from his/her oncologist about the cancer, treatment, length of time in remission, and likelihood of recurrence.

5. What types of documentation do I need to provide to internationally adopt as a cancer survivor?

You will have to comply with the medical form or letter as required by the country, and then will also need to provide a supplemental medical letter, as summarized in our last post about adoption after cancer.

6. Would you recommend me look into international vs. domestic — or does cancer history impact that at all?

This comes down to where you feel more of a connection. It’s nice that we have a choice in this day and age on where and how we can complete an adoption and a cancer history does not prevent a person from one or the other.

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We think adoption is SUPER!

7. Do cancer survivors have an “easier” time adopting one method over another?

I would say that perhaps domestic adoption would be “easier” for folks with a history of cancer because they are being chosen by the birth parents.  An individual with a cancer history adopting internationally might have to gather more medical letters or documents to present to the country for approval, or get a medical waiver, whereas, if a birth parent domestically choses the family, she/he may not be concerned about the health history. All this to say, I certainly would not rule out international adoption, it just may result in more hoops to jump through.

8. Do other countries understand cancer like the U.S.? Anything we can do in a home study to help the process go smoother?

I think with medical advancements in other countries, we are all starting to understand cancer better. However, there are some developing nations that still do not understand quite as well as we would like.  It is through people adopting from these countries that we can advocate for our cancer survivors and teach these countries the great medical advancements and successes we have in 2013!

9. Does it cost more to adopt internationally if I’ve had cancer?

Absolutely not! When you begin an adoption process, your agency should provide you with a fee agreement and nothing should deviate from that. The only potential additional cost to a cancer survivor would be if you have a doctor who charges you $25 or $50 to write this supplemental letter. Some doctors offices charge extra for letters or paperwork processing. But, regardless, you will not be paying extra money to the agency or country due to your health history.

10. What if my cancer returns when I’m in the middle of an international adoption? What if I’m doing post-placements?

This is a tricker question and has three variables.

1) If the cancer occurs again while you are waiting for the adoption, my advice would be to put your status on hold and focus 100% on your treatment. If you are a cancer survivor and reading this, you understand better than I do how important it is to keep your “head in the game” with your treatment.  Focus on getting rest, eating right, keeping your strength up, praying and giving what you can to your work and your families. To put an adoption in the middle of that…I would say that’s the variable that can wait and the responsible thing for everyone involved is for you to put your application on hold.

2) If you are in the post-adoption phase of your journey, God bless you! You are then running around after a toddler, trying to bond with your new child, in between chemo, getting drained and trying to get some rest. Bless your heart. Your mom or best friend is going to be more helpful in this time than your social worker will be! But seriously, other than you dealing with your health and crazy life situation, your adoption should not be affected as it has been finalized and that child now is just like a biological child.

3) If you are in the post-placement phase of your journey (meaning the adoption has not yet been finalized) I can’t venture a guess how the judge or commissioner in your municipality would handle this. This is going to be a question for your legal counsel. I once went to court for an adoption finalization with a family who disclosed, under oath, in court that the reason the mom didn’t travel to adopt the child is because she found out about her breast cancer about eight weeks before she was set to get on a plane to adopt internationally. Her husband went by himself and she blamed her staying home on her hectic work schedule. I believe the perfect “0” my mouth made for a solid 30 seconds showed the judge my complete and legitimate surprise when the mom made this disclosure during the hearing! The judge approved the adoption, but he was not happy. However, he felt that removing the child would do more harm to the child who had been in this couple’s home for six months. Which, is absolutely true and of course, agreed. So that’s just one example, but certainly not exhaustive of all the possibilities. Consulting your attorney is going to be key if this situation presents itself.

11. Are there any groups or agencies that are “cancer survivor friendly” in regards to international adoption?

Again, for most international adoptions, getting a waiver is going to be necessary. When you are researching agencies, ask them their thoughts about how likely it would be that they could get you a waiver. Most ethical and compassionate agencies will process this for you before you have even applied with them or paid a penny. It is a fine request for you to ask this of them before you start paying.

FYI - you CAN adopt if you've had cancer.

FYI – you CAN adopt if you’ve had cancer.

12. Why do some groups have a waiting limit on how far into remission cancer survivors must be before they can apply?

I think that’s to do with our thoughts as social workers and adoption professionals about safety for the family. Adoption and parenting are hard enough in and of themselves. Battling cancer is hard enough in and of itself. Trying to make all that happen together is almost unimaginable.  Trying to bond with your new child, while dealing with cancer treatment, or being in-and-out of the hospital during those formative months of attachment certainly add an extra layer that we would all prefer not be there. With sufficient time and a strong letter from the doctor, it shows the family is more set up for success out of the gate.

The bottom line is, you can see there is a lot of gray in this area. But talking with your agency, being honest, and having a cooperative oncologist are going to be key.

Cancer is very common now and everyone is becoming more knowledgeable about it. It is no longer the firm “no” that perhaps it once was in the past.

Stay Tuned…

Have a question we didn’t answer? Leave us a comment! And stay tuned for our next post – adopting domestically after cancer!

October 21, 2013 at 6:28 am 1 comment

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

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Me & Mae (domestic adoption at 4 mo.)

As an adoptive mama with a cancer history, I’m often asked about the adoption journey for cancer survivors. Our friend Nikki who works as an adoption social worker sat down with me many moons ago as I researched my adoption options.

That coffee date has always stuck with me as it provided great insight.

So – it’s with complete joy that I bring you some Q&As with Nikki – one of the best adoption social workers out there. (And she just so happens to be going through her own adoption process right now, too!)

Nikki’s answering some of the most commonly asked questions I hear from cancer survivors who want to adopt.

Enjoy our first post & stay tuned for more to come!

ADOPTION AFTER CANCER:  WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS?

Nikki-desimone-pauls-msw

Meet Nikki, licensed social worker

Questions answered by Nikki DeSimone Pauls, MSW – August 2013

Q:  What are the types of adoption I can consider if I’ve had cancer?

A:  The only type of adoption that may be completely closed to certain cancer survivors is embryo adoption, based on what treatments they had and if those treatments rendered the individual infertile. Everything else is a possibility:  domestic adoption (both private and through the state) as well as international adoption.

Q: Are there any adoption paths/options NOT open to me as a cancer survivor?

A:  I don’t see any options that are not available on the whole. Most types of domestic adoption will be options, as will quite a few international options. Foster care, or adoption through the state, would generally yield even more flexible options.

Q:  What does a social worker look for in a couple who’s ready to adopt?

A:  Being a social worker who has written favorable home studies for cancer survivors, the thing I look for most is their oncologist’s report and supplemental medical letter. I also talk with the client for more information.

One recent example:
A prospective adoptive mom found out she had breast cancer the day I sent her the draft of the home study. A few days later she was scheduled for surgery and then had to reply to my request for her to submit changes needed to their home study. Boy, did she have a big change to submit! I did write a favorable home study; however, it was conditional based on the outcome of her surgery and treatment. As soon as the home study was done, the couple effectively went on hold. The surgery went well, treatment even better, and when she had been over one-year cancer free, she got a fantastic note from her oncologist. I did a home study update and they were placed with a baby a couple of months later. I had a lengthy note from the doctor so I was able to make the assessment that her prognosis was excellent, so I basically used that information in the home study and it went just fine.
This is clearly best case scenario, I know they can’t all be this great, but for example-sake, this was a good one.

Q:  Will having cancer impact eligibility to adopt in any way?

A:  A person who is currently undergoing cancer treatment should be 100% focused on their health and treatment and not focusing on adoption. But after cancer, and with a good prognosis, there are very few limitations for a cancer survivor.

Q:  Is there special documentation is needed for a cancer survivor to adopt?

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My oncologist Dr. Rosen wrote a great letter for us when we adopted Mae.

A:  Yes, the oncologist’s letter is paramount. Ideally, the letter will include:

  • what type of cancer
  • what stage it was caught
  • treatment plan
  • expected prognosis
  • percentage of recurrence (if that information is able to be stated)
  • if the physician would recommend the patient for adoptive parenting

The social worker will use this in making his/her favorable determination for adoption and may also pull quotations out of it for the home study (as home studies become legal documents.) So, getting a letter as favorable as possible is helpful.

In the above example that I gave about the gal who found out about her breast cancer on the day of the home study finalization, her doctor’s letter was so favorable that due to the early time period of catching it, aggressive surgery and treatment (double mastectomy, hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation), the percentage chance of her cancer recurrence became less than me getting breast cancer in the future. So being able to summarize that in the home study was compelling and the judge had absolutely no problem with it.

Q:  Do I need to be in remission for a certain amount of time before I can pursue adoption? How long?

A:  In talking with others about this, and after taking my own personal opinion into effect, we all believe that at least one year in remission is a good amount of time. In addition to the toll it takes on the survivor’s body, possible hormone imbalances, stress on the marriage and family, financial stress, time off work, etc., may all add up after a cancer diagnosis. One year out seems to be a good amount of time. That’s really the case in anything adoption though!

We social workers like to see a year after a life-changing event regardless of if the event is happy, sad, or scary, so this is no different. Some international countries will have additional requirements, such as needing someone to be 5-years in remission, and some agencies have their own requirements, others of them 3-years in remission, but that is all on a case-by-case basis.

Q:  What are some good resources for cancer survivors to look into when researching adoption adoptions?

A:  I think just talking with social workers and adoption agencies about the possibilities for adoption is a great place to start. We can help with some of the basic information and research anything that is unknown. Things are so conditional when it comes to this topic, nothing is black and white, and talking with someone is a great idea for gathering accurate information specific to your case.

For example, I would be a lot more inclined to approve a family similar to the one I’ve been referencing here throughout, rather than someone who just had the one breast removed, no hysterectomy, and tested positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 genes.

Additionally, no two adoption agencies or social workers are going to react the same way, too. I’m more on the cautious side, but I also place a lot of emphasis on the oncologist’s letter. Whereas, someone who has never worked with a cancer survivor before, and has some negative family history (e.g., mom died two years ago from cancer), might not be as willing to consider the prospect.

FertileAction.org has a helpful resource page for cancer survivors. I also recommend calling an adoption consulting agency to talk to experts about your particular case. Consulting agencies network with a lot of adoption agencies and are advocates for those wanting to adopt. They can steer you clear from agencies that are not flexible when it comes to cancer survivors adopting and point you toward agencies who are more friendly toward the issue. A great group who would love to be an adoption resource for cancer survivors is Christian Adoption Consultants.

BOTTOM LINE:

It’s Danielle again —

So as you can see, Nikki is a WEALTH of knowledge and there is HOPE for the cancer survivor who wants to adopt!

Stay tuned – we’ll have Nikki’s advice specifically for cancer survivors who want to internationally adopt and domestic adoption for cancer survivors coming up.

And – if you have a question for us, please leave a comment and we’ll address it in a future post!

-danielle

August 22, 2013 at 6:18 am 7 comments

Mae Day – Take Two!

Can you believe it? We can’t either.

Two years ago I sat down and told the world I had suddenly become a Mama. And yes, I mean suddenly.

But, the Lord is good. There’s not much more to say.

(Oh – other than we absolutely adore this child and are blessed by her each day. That she is beautiful. Funny. Talented. And a perfect fit for our family. That I couldn’t have asked for a more precious daughter to be a forever mama to – and that I pray that God blesses her life in even more ways than she has blessed mine – which is pretty innumerable.)

To Celebrate…

We had a party – chili, cornbread and cupcakes. We watched movies. We talked about how cold it was two years ago. We talked about how God is good.

We’ve very much enjoyed our second Mae Day.

He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.

Praise the LORD. – Psalm 113:9

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I took last year’s blog posts and made a book for Mae called ‘Mae’s Adoption Story.” Now she will always know what took place those crazy three weeks before she moved in.

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The three of us – two years later!

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Blessed by so many loving grandparents!

 

January 31, 2013 at 10:42 pm 1 comment

Learning to obey :: a devotional on parenting

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. – Deuteronomy 8:5

There’s something missing from photos of children featured in adoption calendars and brochures. Sure, they are adorable and cute. But a small line saying something like “Warning: these children are normal and may cause you to pull your hair out from time to time” needs to be somewhere in the marketing materials. At least I think so.

Teaching a child to obey

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Photo from cafepress.com

To say we’ve entered the “Terrible Twos” might be a decent way to describe most days and nights at our house. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. The highs are a bit higher as Mae gets older and builds a relationship with us. My heart swells when she says “love you” before I walk out of her room at night. Mike digs the fact he asks, “Mae, who is this?” while riding in the car and she answers back either “Beastie Boys,” “Chili Peppers,” or “Dave Matthews.” She even requests “Beach Boys” these days.

But with these highs come a few lows too. I wasn’t ready to be told “no” and physically hit and smacked. Telling a toddler to change her attitude and close her eyes, only for her to repeat those words back to me, can get under my skin. “Mae, obey” is a famous phrase around our home and the time-out spot is beginning to show some serious wear due to her hesitation to follow the rules.

Learning to obey

In the midst of trying to keep my cool, hold my tongue and not overdose on chocolate, I’m humbled by how gracious of a Father we have in Jesus. As I nearly go bald trying to parent an independent two-year-old, I am humbled by the Lord’s grace as I try to pull the same stunts in the spiritual sense. I ignore God some days. I don’t want to sit and read his Word, much less obey it. I have my own ideas of how my day will go, how my money is spent, how to use my time and what my future holds – I don’t want Him to interfere. I want to do my own thing.

Following God’s discipline and instruction

Any parent knows that discipline and instruction for our kids is ultimately for their benefit – it’s not fun making anyone mad, much less a two-year-old. We don’t upset our kids because we want to, we instruct them because it’s ultimately best for them. And while this concept makes sense when I’m in control, when I put myself in the “child’s seat,” it seems to be a bit more difficult.

God’s commanded us to love and obey him. To surrender our independence and to follow the commands and calling He’s placed in our lives. When we choose to push back on that, half-way obey or even “hit and scream” at Him, we’re missing out on the joyous relationship He offers us. Sure, he offers us grace over and over. But the chance to know Him and experience true joy and fulfillment is lost each time we say “no.” We become just like those sweet kids on the adoption calendar who need a disclaimer under their name. “Warning: this Christian may look sweet and say the right thing but her heart is really a mess.”

Friends, it’s time to obey… without being told twice. God’s love awaits us.

November 26, 2012 at 10:28 am 1 comment

Help Needed: The Adoption Tax Credit

When you adopt, there’s this “little” thing called the Adoption Tax Credit. Let’s just say the tax season after your adoption is final, it’s your best friend. Unfortunately many adoptions do not come free (there ARE some routes where costs are minimal) … however in the case of our domestic adoption of a little gal outside of the foster care system – it took a little capital to have it all go through.

The Adoption Tax Credit allowed us to claim up to a certain amount of dollars on our tax return and receive a nice refund around tax time. It’s a one-time credit you can claim in addition to claiming a dependent. And while it doesn’t cover all the adoption expenses for some, it’s certainly a very nice chunk of change that comes back for anyone who’s adopted a child.

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Help Keep the Adoption Tax Credit

Unfortunately, this tax credit isn’t a permanent feature in our Congressional system, and it happens to be up for review and is set to expire if we don’t take action. It needs our help.

If you have a few minutes, can you help write your representative and ask them to sponsor & support the bill? (It’s easier than standing in a Chick-fil-A line or making signs to protest, right?)

Our adoption agency, American Adoptions, has made this very simple. Follow the steps below. I just did it and it took less than five minutes. Help stand up for adoption and keep the tax credit in place!

If Congress does not act, the tax credit will expire on December 31, 2012.

Action: Contact your Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. You can reach your Representative by calling the U.S. Capitol Operator at 202.225.3121 and asking for your Representative’s office. You can find your representative by going to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and entering your zip code in the box provided.

I opted to send an email to my representative once I found his page.

Message: Here are some good things to include in your message:

  • I am a constituent in your district and the adoption tax credit is important to me. (It matters to me because…)
  • I urge the Representative to become a co-sponsor of The Making Adoption Affordable Act, H.R. 4373.
  • If Congress does not act – the credit as we now know it – will expire in December 2012.
  • H.R. 4373 is bipartisan, and it supports all types of adoptions (domestic private, foster care, and international adoptions).
  • This tax credit has made adoption a more viable option for many parents who might not otherwise have been able to afford adoption, allowing them to provide children with loving, permanent families.
  • Thank you for your support of H.R. 4373.

If you want to learn more about the adoption tax credit, visit http://adoptiontaxcredit.org/. You can also like the Save the Adoption Tax Credit mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AdoptionTaxCredit.

August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am Leave a comment

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