National Adoption Awareness Month with Rachel Garlinghouse

Adoption education has been very important to me since I began my journey into adoption. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was ignorant to all of what adoption was and could be. I was looking to build my family. Nothing more. It was surprising that I couldn’t just adopt and forget it. Adoption forever altered the way I look at the world.

As a mother, I want to make a world for my children that they are proud of and safe in. At the very least, teach them that they matter, are powerful, and can build a life they love.

By sharing my experiences with motherhood and adoption, I am planting little seeds to make this adoption world more positive, more educated, and more tolerant. Adoption awareness month helps me do that. All the other mothers touched by adoption gave me courage, education, and support. For that, I am thankful.

Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of many adoption books for parents and children. Most recently, I read ‘The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption : The Whit & Wisdom You Need for the Journey’. I had the opportunity to read it and write a review recently. It was truly the book I needed as a mom to be via adoption in 2014 when I felt isolated, overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if I’d ever fit in as a mom. Rachel creates a space for a mother via adoption to find validation in their feelings and their journey. She shares her own story and champions you along in yours, all the while standing for a positive educated adoption world for our children to live in. She also answered some questions for Adopt Mom Style in support of National Adoption Awareness month.

-When I first announced my son’s arrival on facebook. I was floored by the crazy things people said to me. It was a huge wake up call for me that adoption is very misunderstood. That was my motivation for sharing my experiences with motherhood and adoption. The goal being to give my children a more positive adoption world to live in.
What was your moment? What is your why?

Waiting to adopt is really when I realized the many misconceptions people have about adoption. We were asked, “So you can’t have your own kids?” Or, “Don’t adopted kids have issues?” Or, “Doesn’t that cost a lot of money?” And I realized, adoption isn’t just about joyfully adding a baby to a family. Adoption is BIG and complicated and misunderstood.

The reason I do what I do today, everything from my books to articles to blog posts, is to educate, inspire, and empathize. I want parents-by-adoption and hopeful parents to not feel isolated, downtrodden, and scared. I want them to parent with joy, education, and empathy. And I want them to be able to educate others.

-National Adoption Awareness Month brings more attention to children available for adoption. How would you get more children adopted from foster care? (not necessarily teens)

There is an incredible need for adults to adopt children from the foster care system. At this time, over 120,000 children are free for adoption, just waiting for a forever family. It is heartbreaking. Unfortunately, the system truly is broken. Some states (mine included: Illinois) are much worse than others. There’s budget issues, staffing, a lack of people willing to adopt. Case workers are overworked and underpaid. There are so many things that need to be fixed, but I will say that if someone feels that nudge to consider adopting from foster care, they should meet with other families who have done the same, get educated on things like trauma and attachment, and take the necessary steps to move forward. Even though the system makes it difficult, it is not impossible.

– What does National Adoption Awareness Month mean for you?

I love November. As a writer, I’m able to share my experiences and resources, but I’m also able to highlight the stories of others. This month on my blog, I’m featuring four interviews that will be of interest to families-by-adoption, including with Heather Avis (author of The Lucky Few) who adopted two children with special needs, Alyssa Schnell (author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing), and Matthew Paul Turner (author of the incredible children’s book When God Made You). Each person offers insight and encouragement. I’m also sharing books and articles and posts by adoptees and birth parents. I think the more voices we have, the better off we are.

– If you could completely erase one thing about the adoption process or just change it, what would it be?

I think there needs to be national domestic infant adoption laws when it comes to termination of parental rights, birth father rights, revocation, etc.  When different states have different rules, it encourages unethical practices:  moving expectant mothers to a more “adoption friendly state,” for example.    I don’t understand why, in 2017, we are still allowing unethical adoption laws.   If you aren’t sure what this means and why it matters, read the book ‘The Girls Who Went Away.’  What those young women endured was heartbreaking, and I don’t ever want one expectant mother to place her baby for adoption under coercion.   One way to stop this is to have national adoption laws.
You can read more from Rachel at her blog: White Sugar, Brown Sugar.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month 2017

I have a ton of feelings about National Adoption Month. On one hand, I feel like it has a little bit of an adopt-a-thon feel. Adoption is the most sacred part of who I am. Giving it a month seems a bit off. On the flip side, I am determined to make this world a better place for my children. Who will all have been adopted. If this month helps to make the world of adoption a caring, compassionate, positive place, then I better jump on board.

What is adoption awareness month?

It is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau with a goal to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S. foster care system. This years theme is ‘Teens need families, No matter what’

What can you do to support the cause?

If you have experience, specifically with older child adoption, SHARE your story! Talk about your experience! It could be your story that gives another family the courage to be open to a teenager.

What if I only have experience with infant adoption?

You can  share your story! Adoption needs to be talked about. All angles of adoption are so very important to the big picture of creating an adoption positive world for our children.

I really do stand behind sharing adoption truths. It is the adoption streo types that hurt our children the most. Whether they are already adopted, still a glimmer in our eye, or completely grown, working together to make adoption a positive main stream component to our families will change the world they live in. So, National Adoption Awareness Month it is.

What are your thoughts on adoption awareness month?

 

Writing Your Adoption Profile Letter

The Letter: ‘Dear Expectant Parent’.

This is the step I save for last. I think it is the hardest. The Book is pressure. The Letter is something else. If you like tackling hard things first, start with the letter.

To my knowledge, most agencies use these letters as the first tool when an expectant woman is considering an adoption plan and choosing a family.  Our agency puts them in a three ring binder with other families.  As hard as it is to write the letter, I cannot even begin to understand how overwhelming it is for an expectant mother to be responsible for finding parents for her child by reading a letter.

The first time we made our letter, the result was kind of awful.  We poured out all of our hearts. Every time we tried to make it look pretty, we felt dumb. How do you cutesy up a letter so meaningful? Making The Book look pretty made sense. It’s an album. It has pictures by default. There were endless templates to help with the design.  (Spoiler: Use a template for your letter.)

Using what we learned from the last time, I found a template from Vista Print.  It was in the flyer section. We ordered right from Vista Print.  They had very fast shipping. I am very happy with the quality. However, if you use a flyer template, you have to order the minimum quantity required. (Yes, I have half a million copies of our letter.) After the fact, I found canva.  They have template options and you print at your own location.

A few tips:

  1. Breath. You can do this.
  2. You will not make it perfect. I just found a typo in our letter. 🙂
  3. Who chooses you will love it!

 

 

  • Please do not use our words or copy this letter in any way. The intention is to help other families find a starting point and inspiration.
  • If you would like more details about our letter, email me directly. chrischelse at gmail dot com

National Adoption Month and Being Thankful

***originally published November 2016***

November is National Adoption Month. This year, the theme is foster care adoption and older child adoption. I do not have any personal experience with foster care adoption or older child adoption. That is probably why I didn’t feel really connected to adoption awareness month this year. I was also extra busy with the life thing right now. I did, however, think a lot about what adoption has meant to me this past year, and how far I have come with adoption in its complex glory. I decided to write about all of the ways I am thankful that my life has been touched by adoption.

  1. The ‘Wait’: It’s not a secret that we are hoping to grow our family again through adoption. Part of the reason this blog has been neglected is because my time has been spent figuring out ways to get the word out that we are ready for our second child. I have stretched myself, gotten so far out of my comfort zone, and challenged everything I thought I had learned during years of infertility and our adoption journey the first time.I had thought that I had finally figured it out. Adoption was the answer to building our family so I had thought that growing our family would be easier the second time. I had felt kind of guilty about it too. I fought so hard to become Knox’s mother. I pushed myself, the people around me, and I challenged everything that I thought was true. I wanted to be 100% that I had done everything in my power to create a life he would be proud of.With #2, I felt like I was following the motions in the beginning. Call the agency, update the home study, the physicals, the fingerprints, make the book, write the letter, and get the online profile active. Then, after all the work, get the baby.  Guess what? It hasn’t happened, not just for us, but no one in the pool of families ready to adopt have been chosen.I never wanted to create this blog and this site. I am very private. I have a super hard time talking about things that make me feel vulnerable. The ‘wait’ is what has forced me out of my comfort zone. I have a unique and special story that needs to be shared. I didn’t realize it until the ‘wait’. My second child is giving me courage. Our second child has already taught me so much about my strength as a mother.

    By having to wait, I have found how immensely strong I can be. I have found my voice. My journey to Knox taught me about faith and perseverance, among countless other things. My journey to our number 2 is teaching me to find my voice and to realize my responsibility to my community. In the ways that I previously felt guilty, I now feel empowered. Like each pregnancy is special, each adoption journey is special. I love a child growing in my heart and I am doing everything I can to be the best possible mother I can be for them.

  2. I am thankful for this site. I understand that I have a lot to learn and I am capable of doing hard things. It is a skill that I value about myself. It’s because of that skill and being very stubborn that I figured out the personal work I needed to do to create this space. 3 years ago, I couldn’t talk about infertility. I got blotchy talking about adoption. Now, I’m writing about my feelings about adoption to 4 million people on adoption.com. I feel valuable in my journey to motherhood.
  3. I am thankful for all of the families waiting to adopt on this site. I was very nervous to reach out and ask if you wanted to be included. I really felt vulnerable expressing all of my dreams to change the world of adoption to you. Thank you for agreeing to be included. Thank you to everyone who answered my emails. Thank you so much more to everyone who wrote a post to contribute to this site and our community.

I know this is hard. The holiday season is not going to be easy if your waiting. I am challenging you to acknowledge how different and amazing you are because adoption is hard. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

 

***originally published November 2016***

Dear Expectant Woman,

Dear Expectant Woman,

This has to be the hardest time in your life. The most confusing, lonely, emotionally raw time you’ve ever experienced. I cannot imagine. I hurt for you.

This is what I would like you to know. There are hundreds of women like me ready to parent your child. All of us are hurting too. We are madly in love with a child that we have not met yet. We don’t even know if they are conceived yet. It doesn’t matter. We are preparing. We are telling and educating our families about adoption. We are helping them prepare to welcome this child into their lives forever too. The rooms are ready. The blankets are washed. Teeny tiny gray leather ballet slippers are in the mail for the child you are carrying.

As you are about to send the email that will change my life forever, you may not know that this opportunity to parent this child has been in my thoughts every day for years and years. You may be looking for an option or solution to the situation that you are in. I understand that. I support you. I believe in your right to explore all of the options. Remember that I am also a person in this. From the time I see I have an email to the time I read your first words, my heart stops beating. The second you become real, you start to become a little part of me too. I want to know everything about you. What you like, what you don’t like. How you spend your weekends. What your hopes are. How you want your future to be. I want you to become my family too.

In the weeks or months that our relationship unfolds, my heart hurts for your pain. I will wish you weren’t in this situation. I want what is best for you. I believe in you.

During this time as you are testing the waters, please remember that I also have feelings and a life that I am trying to hold together during all of this. I have been preparing my heart, my home, my son for this child and for you because you asked me to. In an email, remember? I still have it. I was saving it for the child you are carrying so that they can know you. They can learn about themselves and where they came from. How strong and brave you were. How much you love them from the beginning.

If this journey we have been on together is not what you choose, be gentle with me. Treat me with respect. Treat me how you would want to be treated. Please tell me. At the very least, please let me know that you are going to be the mommy to the baby that you are carrying. I will be sad for me. I will be happy for you, over the moon happy for you and your baby. I just want to know because I care about you. This relationship we have been building matters to me. It was real for me. I understand that my role is to be an option for you. I would like some closure. You do not need to explain yourself. I would just like a goodbye.

 

 

To Do or Not To Do an Online Adoption Profile

 When it comes to making an online profile, there are a lot of thing to consider. Chris and I are always hesitant. We have to overcome the fear of emotional scammers. There’s also the huge task of choosing a site to advertise on and building the actual profile. How much do you put on the Internet about your family? Your other children? It’s complicated. The process of building your family through adoption is long, invasive, and time consuming without the Internet.

We feel like we have to do everything we can to be seen, but at what cost? We felt this way the first time and we still feel this way. It’s kind of strange too. Chris and I have been building our lives on the Internet together for years. We work in affiliate marketing. We’re into the Internet. Chris’s passion is technology and how to market effectively. You would think it would be easy for us to jump on the online profile bandwagon.  We are actually really private.  The thought of putting everything we hold close to our hearts on the Internet is overwhelming.

It’s kind of like asking for help, the kind of help where you should be able to do it yourself, but can’t, borderline embarrassed but few other options exist kind of help.  ‘Please Google god, won’t you help me build my family?’  Then, Google responds with 5 profile views for 7 months so you are hanging out in the world with your feelings showing and talking to Google. Fun stuff.

We do have an online profile. It’s important for my sanity to know that I am doing everything I can, even if it’s hanging my feelings out for the world to see and talking to Google. We have used two different sites: Adoptimist.com and Parent Profiles (now connected with Adoption.com). (If you would like a review / more details about that experience, email me.)

So why did we use an online profile when we are already in an agency pool, our book is amazing, our letter is perfect, and our feelings are all safe and tucked away from the Internet?

The Internet is a part of our daily lives. It is more than likely a daily part of most expectant women’s lives too. Our son’s birth mother found us through a Google search. She saw our profile online. The Internet is not only the way we support our family, it is also how we build it. Oh, Google. Google searches are a part of our daily lives. They just are. Kind of like how online dating used to be taboo. Building an online adoption profile is becoming more and more necessary for families built through adoption.

 So much of our time is online. For better or worse, the Internet connects people without bounds. It doesn’t, however, make it an easy task to build an online profile.  Sharing all of your very personal and heartfelt feelings about a child you hope to raise someday is really scary. I get nervous every time I make a post. Every time a profile goes live, I get nervous. Being vulnerable to the world is hard. Having online presences makes you a target. You are now open to scammers, to haters, and to people who may copy your letter and call it their own. It’s so hard. On a road that has already been hard, why make it harder on yourself.

My friend, times are a changing! They may have in fact already changed. Think it over. Do some research. Then decide. You can do this. You will, if you choose, make a really great profile.

Choosing a Quality Adoption Agency: A Guide for Expectant Parents

There are many factors you should consider when choosing an adoption agency.

The importance of choosing to place your child is unmatched in the parenting world of most.  Aligning yourself with professionals that are looking out for you and what is best for your baby is key. A quality agency will make you feel supported and informed as you move through the process of adoption. Here are seven ways I would share with someone I love who is looking to choose a quality adoption agency.

Click here for the entire article.

3 Things I Learned by Not Experiencing Pregnancy

I thought about what to title this post for over a week. Learning to talk about how I felt when I was mourning the loss of pregnancy is a piece of me that I wanted to share.

There was a time (it seems like a lifetime ago) that I had a goal to be finished building my family before I turned 30. I used the phrase ‘Done having babies’. My vision for myself was filled with baby bumps. Me, the hot mom with a perfect post pregnancy body. I was ready. Fast forward a few years: not pregnant, not yet, and not ever.  Choosing not to experience pregnancy is a loss that I mourn.

When I was first learning to own this new reality, it was not easy to talk about. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt like I was less of a woman. Wrapping my head around the fact that something so common and so easy for some was not going to be my reality wasn’t simple. I didn’t realize how much of my self worth was tied to having control of my family building or how profoundly different my life was turning out than my peers.

Everyone around me was getting pregnant. They were planning showers, complaining about pregnancy, and doing maternity photo shoots. Around every corner, there was a baby bump or a shower invitation.  My friend and I both started to ‘try’ around the same time. We would fantasize about our kids being the same age and experiencing motherhood together. She ended up pregnant not once, but twice! I watched as her family planned her gender reveal, her shower, and decorated the nursery. Pregnancy is an event where women rally around one another. They share stories and experiences. It’s a bond. I wanted that. It felt like a right of passage.

There wasn’t a congratulations ‘you can speak about infertility without getting hives shower’. Or a ‘never going to be pregnant photo shoot’. It was isolating. I felt like I would never fit in with other women or other moms.  I felt like I was one of the boys.  Where was my ‘building my family through adoption never gonna be pregnant woman tribe’ party?

Not being pregnant helped me to learn so many things about myself and the world I live in.  Here are three of them…

  1. Pregnancy is a journey and an experience.

It’s a life changing amazing experience. Most people are pregnant to become a mother. You can be a mother and a parent without being pregnant.  I originally thought that pregnancy was a journey to motherhood. It is not the only journey. I was writing letters, creating photo books, and making online profiles. I was learning adoption language, practicing adoption language, taking classes, and being finger printed. I was discussing my weaknesses with our social worker at my kitchen table. Believe it or not, there is not a cake cutting at a ‘we’re adopting reveal’.  This is my journey to motherhood. My experience.

2. Not experiencing pregnancy is also amazing.

It’s different not being pregnant. People have a harder time relating to things they themselves did not experience. Being pregnant is amazing, I’m sure. I’m sure because everyone tells me so ;p. Not being pregnant is also amazing. My journey is a testament to how much strength and how much love it took to bring my child into my world (reference your favorite facebook video or meme about labor/ delivery/ pregnancy here) The fierce unconditional bond that flows between my son and I is truth that my journey is amazing.

3. Motherhood is a privilege and an honor.

Infertility was one of the first times I had to learn to accept and live with things out of my control. When I let go of my expectations for myself in regard to pregnancy, I learned that I am enough as I am. I can do hard things. I am worthy of the best life I can dream up. No one is entitled to be pregnant. No one is entitled to be called mommy. Motherhood is not a given. Living with infertility allowed me to own the shape of my life. Having the time (oh, so much time) to consider life without being a mother allowed me the freedom to see the gift of the fray of motherhood.

How has infertility changed you? Was it a surprise?

Positive Attitude Month

I am honored to have the opportunity to share my experiences in this adoption world on Adoption.com as a staff story teller. I’m in way over my head sharing with the rock star ladies that blazed the trail for me and helped me find my voice in this thing called adoption.

Staying Positive When Adoption is Hard.

I cannot count the ways adoption has taught me to dig deep layer by layer and choose who I want to be. It has allowed me to practice being that person in the world.

When the road seems to stop and a hard patch is present, breathe through it. Find your grace. Forgive yourself. Have patience. Read the rest

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