Magazine article USA TODAY

Finding - and Bringing Home - the Child Who Is Right for You

Magazine article USA TODAY

Finding - and Bringing Home - the Child Who Is Right for You

Article excerpt

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ADOPTION has changed. The process that once seemed cold, secretive, and formal has been transformed. Sure, adoptive parents still must deal with waiting lists, reams of legal paperwork, and visits from social workers, but the heartening truth is that the entire process has become faster, less costly, and more open and human. While there are many reasons for this friendlier new face of adoption, one of the biggest undoubtedly is the Internet. The world of hard drives, URLs, and bandwidth can yield a decidedly untechnical result: a deeply cherished bundle of joy.

Successful adoptions are all about information, communication, and resources, and that makes the Internet a natural tool for bringing families together. In the past several years, the adoption community has developed a substantial presence on the Internet. It has connected adoptive parents to agencies and facilitators, lawyers, and social workers, creating a thriving online community of adoption professionals and enthusiasts. Cyberspace now is filled with countless "hotlinks," online adoption resources that range from private and public agencies, to chat rooms, to birth mother profiles, to attorneys. Without the Internet, many thousands of families would not have found the children who have made each of their lives wonderfully complete.

Yet, beyond the Internet, there are a number of simple techniques to help improve the odds of finding--and bringing home--the "right" child. For example, do not let "reclaim" fears hold you back. It is a common belief, reinforced by media sensationalizing, that a birth mother can come back during the child's life and reclaim her offspring. If the adoption is legal (no fraud nor duress), then it is irrevocable. However, for a period of time after the birth, as set by state law, the biological mother may decline to sign papers relinquishing parental tights to her child, an act known as reclaim. In ' Washington State, she has 48 hours; in California, 36 days; and, in some states, six months. Do your research; choose a good adoption professional (who knows the red flags); and make certain the adoption is legal and aboveboard.

If at all possible, consider open adoption--in which the birth parents may select the adoptive family and sometimes have contact with the child afterward--as it is healthier for everyone involved. The birth parents will be satisfied that they made the correct choice, and the adoptive parents will have access to the medical information necessary to raise their child safely. The level of contact the birth parents have with their offspring can vary. It may be the exchanging of photos, e-mails, and letters, or having more direct contact, such as telephone calls, or, in some cases, getting together on occasion.

In writing your Dear Birth Mother letter, speak from the heart. Your adoptive parent profile has to sketch an intriguing and truthful portrait of who you are and the kind of parent you will be. For instance, when you tell about your childhood, the birth mother wants to know what you learned that made you into the person you are, the parent you will be: the morning you saved the life of a sparrow fallen from its nest; or the time you broke your mother's favorite cookie jar and she responded not with anger, but with love and a kiss. You will want to cover the essential topics: life in your home; the people in your family; the fun things you do; and your ideas about parenting. Share yourself with your birth mother. She will appreciate it.

Remember, too, that little things can mean a lot. Something you might consider trivial could be the deciding factor. I once worked with a couple whose profile had not gotten a nibble from even one of some 50 birth mothers. The reason? The husband had a full, bushy beard that made him look, in the words of one birth mother, like "an axe murderer." Once he shaved his beard and submitted a new photo, the couple soon was matched with a birth mother. …

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