Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Voice from the Court Room: Are Adoptions Dying?



“The report of my death was an exaggeration” — Mark Twain 

I participate in several adoption discussion groups on the internet.  Typical topics include adoption 
laws and changes to make adoptions more secure and efficient, litigation strategies, etc.  Lately, 
however, there is a lot of discussion about the decline in adoptions domestically and worldwide. 

The numbers are irrefutable.  Adoptions have been declining across the board – so much so that they 
are hard to even accurately track.  The decline has hit certain categories of adoptions harder than 
others, but why? 

Let’s start by looking in our own backyard.  

Domestic Adoptions – Private 

Recently LDS (a large Mormon affiliated adoption agency with nearly 70 offices) announced that 
it was shutting its doors and getting out of the adoption business.  They claim that not enough young 
women are willing to relinquish babies for adoption, making their business model incapable of 
turning a profit. 

The numbers back up their decision, but why are fewer young women entering into adoption plans? 

The first reason is quite simple – there are fewer young women entering into adoption plans simply 
because there are fewer pregnant young women.  Teenage pregnancies are down across the country. 
The decreasing rate means far fewer babies are being born to American teens now than at any time 
in the past 75 years.  In the 1970s, teenagers gave birth to around 650,000 babies each year.  Last 
year, that number was closer to 275,000. 

You have to go back a little further to appreciate the significance of these numbers.  In 1957, there 
were 96.7 births to teenage mothers per 1000 teens.  That number has dropped to 26.6 per 1000 in 
2013. 

From the 1950s through the 1970's, millions of women relinquished children based on perceived 
social stigma that attached to being an unwed mother.  However, in the 1970's abortion laws were 
liberalized and acceptance of single parent families grew.  Consequently, the number of Caucasian 
unmarried women who relinquished for adoption went from 20% in the early 1970's to around 1% 
today.  That is not a typographical error. 

Compounding this issue is that many pregnant women considering their options are more likely 
today to have access to the experience of women who have been in their shoes in the past.  In fact, 
over 40% of all children born in the US today are born to single mothers.  Historically, that would mean 
adoptions should be going up, but the perceived stigma attached to having children out of wedlock 
is either much less or non-existent in 2014 compared to the decades leading up to the 70's.

Abortion would seem a likely culprit for why there are less adoptions today, but the statistics do not 
bear that out.  While adoption is often presumed to be the pro-life alternative to abortion, the 
numbers indicate that it is the greater acceptance of single parenthood, rather than abortion, that is 
driving adoption numbers down, as abortion rates have fallen along with adoptions.  From 1991 to 
2009, the pregnancy rate fell 44% and the birthrate dropped 39%.  But during that same time, the 
abortion rate also fell 56%.

And births are down across all age groups, not just teenagers.  In 2007, the trend in the number of 
births in the United States hit a historic high.  However, births have declined since then, and now 
in just 7 years the birth rate in the U.S. is at a historic low. 

On a final note, I have noticed another trend.  When I first came out of law school in the late 90's, 
the average ages of birth mothers was around 15 to 22 years old.  In recent years, however, I 
have seen that number creep up, and we now see more 25 to 36 year old birth mothers.  At the same 
time, however, while many teens decide to keep their babies initially, these children all too often 
enter into the foster care system later at age 1 or 2.  

Foreign adoptions 

The number of Foreign adoptions has dropped even more dramatically in the past few years, and 
over the last ten years foreign adoptions are down 65%.  There is a lot of debate in the adoption 
community as to the cause. 

The easy and popular answer is the ratification of the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, 
which establishes ethical standards for international adoptions.  An explanation of the Hague, what 
it does, and how it impacts foreign adoptions is beyond the scope of this article.  But suffice to say, 
the Hague’s emphasis on best practices to avoid child trafficking and other evils comes at a price: 
more time and money involved in adoptions for adoptive parents and agencies.  Ironically, in a result 
that probably was not contemplated by lawmakers, the countries that have not adopted the Hague 
are now more valuable to some adoptions agencies for foreign adoptions, and the non-Hague 
counties seem to be seeing an increase in adoptions. 

Blaming the Hague, however, oversimplifies the issue and ignores other dramatic recent changes. 
Like the U.S., most countries are experiencing declining birth rates.  Second, birth control and 
education about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases is working and gaining acceptance 
in many countries.  Third, like the US, there is not as much shame as their once was in being a single 
parent.  Finally, nationalism is increasing around the globe, and countries do not like to see their 
children leave. 

The difference between the foreign adoption decline, as compared to the decline in domestic 
adoptions, is that the need for foreign adoptions has not declined.  The numbers of unparented 
children in foreign countries in need of nurturing homes has been growing and will continue to grow. 
The current numbers are enormous, with some 8-12 million children living (and dying) in 
orphanages, and hundreds of millions on the street.  Available adoptive homes in-country can serve
no more than a tiny fraction of all those in need. 

Are Any Adoptions Increasing? 

Adult adoptions and step-parent adoptions seem to be slightly increasing, as the aforementioned 
external factors do not influence those adoptions.  Also, anyone who has been to one of my seminars 
or talked with me about adoption knows that when I counsel couples interested in adoption, I give 
foster care a strong push.  Adoption through foster care has some advantages for the adoptive parents 
(as well as a direct impact to the community), and as it relates to the topic today, adoptions through 
foster care seem to be slightly increasing each year.  I do not believe that will changes anytime in the 
near future (the reasons why could be the subject of a whole other blog). 

Conclusion 

Adoption is not dead, nor is it dying.  There are ebbs and flows in any industry, but if you are 
considering adoption, you cannot ignore the current numbers.  

If you intend to adopt from a foreign country, you need to consider the added expense and time that 
may come from a Hague country, or the uncertainty that could come from a non-Hague country. 
Adopting a newborn child may be more difficult due to the time involved in processing the adoption 
(depending on the country), and so adoption of children one year or older might be more realistic. 

If you intend to adopt domestically, you need to consider that it will not get cheaper adopting through 
an agency as agencies close.  As competition decreases, and the number of adoptable children 
decrease, the expense of adoptions will go up.  On the bright side, social media has given potential 
adoptive parents new avenues of getting their names and profiles to birth parents at little or no cost 
at all.  Furthermore, in Missouri, there may be changes in the law on the horizon that may make 
adoption an easier choice for biological parents (subject of another blog). 

Finally, many of the reasons people tell me they would not consider adopting a child in foster care 
are based on anecdotes or simply misunderstandings about the system and process (at best) to 
uneducated generalizations about foster children (at worst).   If you have not considered foster care, 
or dismissed it as something you would not consider, maybe it is time you took another look.


Joe Hensley is an attorney with offices in Joplin and Carthage, Missouri, and was just recently elected as  the Associate Circuit Judge .  His practice includes civil trials and litigation, with an emphasis on adoptions.  He is the former Chief Legal Counsel for the Jasper County Juvenile Office and is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Resource Review: 58 The Film




As I sit down to begin this Resource Review, I have to be honest with you – I feel a little like the kid who brings her large diorama science project into the classroom only to realize that the rest of her classmates chose the 3-page paper option.  My resource may not fit the mold of what you are expecting…

The resource I want to tell you about today isn’t a parenting book, it isn’t an adoption story, and it isn’t a new attachment theory.  It IS an incredibly moving documentary that paints a vivid picture of what it is like to live in poverty around the world and what is needed to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime.

I believe this resource to be useful to any and all people to gain a broader worldview.  Additionally, I have noticed that families who adopt tend to have a heart for the poor and underserved populations in the world and therefore may be interested in the film.  And finally, for those families who have adopted a child born into a poverty situation, from a country stricken by poverty, or who have adopted an older child who was living in poverty, this film will provide an incredible window into the hardships that stare down these children from birth.

So what is it?
58: The Film is a documentary created as part of a grassroots movement to eradicate extreme poverty by 2035.  It was created by 10 major international Christian organizations, the most notable being Compassion International.  It is called “58” because the documentary and movement are based on Isaiah 58, a Biblical passage where God commands his people to, "loose the chains of injustice... to set the oppressed free...to share your food with the hungry... to provide the poor wanderer with shelter...
when you see the naked, to clothe them.”  Read the whole chapter of Isaiah 58 here.

The film combines powerful stories of individuals and families living in extreme poverty in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Brazil, and India with words from Isaiah 58 and stories of Jesus’ life and teachings.  Additionally, Wess Stafford (President Emeritus of Compassion International) is shown visiting the places where Jesus taught some of his most influential teachings about caring for the poor.  The way the film alternates between all of these pieces creates a strong message that the need is great, the time is now, and the Church and its people need to step up.

While the film is sobering because the hurts of the world are revealed with names and faces, there is a measure of hope throughout.  Additionally, there is an extensive website located at www.live58.org/ where numerous ways to participate in the movement and “Live58” are listed.  I liked that the end of the film wasn’t the end – there were additional resources I could access on the website to continue the journey.

I believe the film to be better-suited for mature viewers age 16 and up because it can be heavy for kids.  It is not graphic or gory, but it does accurately portray the conditions and problems of extreme poverty and some children may not be ready to face these realities.  The Live58 website could be used by a family working together and talking through the material and action steps, and there is also a game on the website that I’d recommend for teens and up.  It’s called "Survive 125"and the objective is to survive for a month on $1.25 a day when faced with realistic obstacles and decisions.  The first time I played I survived 4 days – I had a lot to learn!

And finally, a disclaimer: I saw this movie for the first time three years ago and it changed my life then and continues to influence my life today.  Something about it got through to the very core of who I am and changed me in ways for which I’m incredibly grateful.  Viewing this movie may deeply affect your life too.  




Friday, September 19, 2014

Our Story



Have you ever been going about your life thinking that you have just the right amount of “challenges” to face…things are fairly comfortable…you’re feeling really blessed and then God speaks to you so clearly and you start sweating?
                  
 It was a Sunday in November 2011 and I was sitting in church listening to a presentation from the director of Bethany Christian Services. It was Adoption Awareness Month and we had been highlighting stories of children in need of adoption for a few weeks. That day something was different. I felt a tug on my heart and I KNEW God was calling our family to act. My husband is the pastor of our church and, therefore, not usually sitting with me - so there were no meaningful glances to share…only my heart racing as I wondered how I would broach this subject later! 



Sure, we had talked about adoption when we first got married and before we had children. At that time though, in 2011, we had 3 children (ages 3, 5 and 7) and we hadn’t discussed adding to that number.

When we got home that afternoon, got the kids down for naps and put football on the TV, I brought it up. I said, “Can we pause the TV for a few minutes? I’ve got something to say and I really want you to hear me out so we can talk and pray about it.” He said, “Don’t worry. I already know what you’re going to say. God talked to me this morning too!” Okay – stuff like THAT doesn’t happen every day! We agreed to spend some time praying about next steps and, after a few weeks, we felt compelled to sign up for the 9 week state mandated course for adoption that would start in the new year.

We completed our course in March of 2012 and agreed to tackle all of the home study paperwork over the summer. Just 6 weeks later, while we were at church and Kevin was preaching a sermon titled “Giving Thanks in ALL Circumstances”, our house caught fire and we lost almost every material thing. Along with the loss of material possessions and the emotional turmoil that goes along with starting over and rebuilding, we wrestled with how this fit into our plan for adoption. Did we hear God wrong? Was He still in this? A lot happened in the year it took us to rebuild…a lot of personal growth, life lessons taught to our kids that I never thought they would have to learn the hard way, and some of the biggest testaments to God’s provision that will stay with us forever.
                  
It took almost exactly one year to tear down the half burned structure of a house, build a new one and move in. We decided to take the summer of 2013 to get settled and regroup and then we were back on track for adoption. We called our case worker with Bethany Christian Services and asked how to move forward. By December 2013 we had completed our home study and were officially approved to adopt! We sent out our family flyer to every agency across our state and I scoured the internet daily (sometimes multiple times per day) looking at kids’ profiles and making inquiries. We had a few good leads, but nothing solid was taking shape and it quickly became apparent that the system is SLOW. We had a celebratory dinner just about every time we even got an email back from a social worker – no matter what it said!

One morning in March 2014, my eldest daughter came to me and said she had a dream the night before. She explained that, in her dream, we were in a room filled with children who were available for adoption and we ended up adopting one of those children. Of course, my first question was “Did you get a name??” I told her that was a sweet idea and reflected on how awesome it would be if such events actually took place, but I had never heard of any. That very afternoon, at 4pm, I got a call inviting us to a “match banquet” where we could interact with various children from our region that are currently available for adoption. I’m not sure I can adequately describe the feeling I got during that call…the very real sense that God was doing something.

In April, we went to two different matching banquets. Coming face to face with so many children who need their “forever family” was heartbreaking and eye opening in so many ways. The event that would lead us to our new son happened at the end of April 2014. We went to a bowling party with a few other families and about 15 kids. We saw him walk in and it was all over for my husband! I quickly ran up to Kevin and told him not to get his hopes up because I had inquired about this child 4 months ago and was told he wasn’t a good fit for us because of dog allergies (we have a dog). My husband would not be deterred. The boy’s social worker had accompanied him to the event and Kevin pleaded with her to reconsider her position. Our youngest son is allergic to dogs as well and we got our dog with that in mind. We were confident that this was something we could overcome! He was persuasive enough that she asked us to send her our home study the following Monday.
                  
Clearly there are plenty of things that went on behind the scenes in the following weeks, but at the end of it all, we were asked to travel to their agency to be interviewed and considered for his adoption. It was between us and 2 other families.

At the end of our interview, they asked us “What makes your family unique? What can you give him that no one else could? Why should we pick YOU?” Yikes- no pressure! Between the two of us, Kevin and I told them this…”We aren’t unique and I don’t believe there is much that we can give him that NO ONE else could. Clearly, we can offer him a better home life than what he was born into, but so can a lot of other deserving families that want to adopt. So, WE aren’t special, but HE is. We believe that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us and we want to help our kids live into their specific purpose. If we have the privilege of welcoming him into our home, we will love him and spend our time learning about him and what his gifts are. We know that God has called us to adopt a child and if you believe that we are a good fit for THIS child, then we will be honored to welcome him into our family and help equip him to be the man that GOD has called him to be.”
                  
One week later, in June 2014, they called and told us we would be his family! After about 2 months of weekend visits, we signed our adoption papers and Jayden moved in at the end of August 2014. We are now 3 weeks into it and this journey is JUST beginning! I know I haven’t spent much time talking about how all of this has impacted our 3 bio children, but there just isn’t enough space for all that info! 

Our other 3 children have been gracious, loving, accepting and everything in between through every stage of this journey. Jayden is only 8 months older than my youngest son and they are already fighting like brothers (and it warms my heart)! Our older 2 daughters have taken him under their wings and have been so nurturing and willing to step into the gap at times when I’m stretched so thin and just can’t give anymore.



I’m not going to say our family feels “complete” now. Our family feels FULL, but our commitment to going where God's lead remains…and it may lead to creating more space in our home and in our hearts for kids who need it. We’ll see!
                  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September Giveaway!



Our September Giveaway is by Jen C's Steeped Tea
 
 Did you know...

~loose leaf tea has been around for centuries, but has just recently gained popularity in the US media for its health benefits as well as it's pure deliciousness (thank you, Oprah!)?

~Steeped Tea is a company that sells premium loose leaf tea at a very affordable price in 80+ different flavors?

~5 out of 6 North Americans drink tea, making Steeped Tea the perfect gift for friends and family?

~all Steeped Teas can be cold-steeped or hot-steeped, making tea the perfect year-round beverage?

~Steeped Tea has only been in the US since May 2013 and has only been in the Southwest Missouri area since July 2014 (which means this is the PERFECT time to join our TEAm)?

~Steeped Tea has AWESOME customer specials and host rewards that change each month?

 
 
From Jen:
One of the main reasons I became a Steeped Tea consultant was that I wanted to have a business that I could use to bless others.  One awesome way I can do that is through the Steeped Tea fundraising program.  I am so hopeful that I will be able to use this business to "pay it forward" for the financial blessings we received through our adoption process and bless families in the adoption process by running fundraisers for them. 

If you are interested in conducting a fundraiser for your own adoption or for friends or family members in the adoption process, please contact me at jen.c.tea@gmail.com for more information.

The winner of this giveaway will receive one bag of Steeped Tea and a package of 10 steeping sacks

To enter this giveaway you must share the Facebook post and like Jen C's Steeped Tea Facebook page.  Once you have done both of those things comment on the Facebook status that you “liked and shared” and you will be entered to win!  Winner will be announced on Thursday, September 18 at 9pm. 


 
Dark Chocoloate Chai Chiller
 

Friday, September 12, 2014

When God Brings You "Risks"



When I thought about how our adoption phone call would go, the phrases “We need to talk,” “You have options” and “This baby has risks,” never came to my mind. But, that was our reality, and that was just the beginning of how God used an unexpected, miracle phone call to defy our wildest dreams and bring us our beautiful baby girl.

As waiting adoptive parents, you often spend lots of times dreaming and creating possible scenarios of how “THAT” phone call is going to go. You picture a perfect sunny day, the quiet ring of your phone, and the world’s cheeriest adoption social worker on the other line. Naturally, “THAT” phone call also comes with news of the most healthy, most beautiful, and most perfect baby ever waiting for you.

Our phone call didn’t exactly go that way. Instead, when we were called, we were asked to come in immediately for a meeting with the social worker in order to discuss an available 4 week old baby that desperately needed a home. However, as the social worker mentioned in our call, the baby came with risks that would require us to really question what our options would need to be. To complicate things even further, she also informed us that we would need to meet and make our decision on the baby within a maximum of 24 hours… yikes!

We made it to the adoption agency in record time. I mean, it was so fast that even the agency had to ask us to take a walk to get a cup of coffee so that they could finish preparing the paperwork that they needed to present to us in regards to our baby girl and whatever risks she would be bringing.

Despite the utter chaos that came with our phone call, I look back at the day and remember nothing but the peace and joy that my husband had in our hearts. It was such a joy and peace now that I can look back and say with pure conviction that it was placed in our hearts from God.  From the time we hung up that phone, something within us both knew that the “risk” baby on the other line was not meant to be a risk to us. Instead, she was designed by God to be our child, our miracle, and our sweet four-week old baby girl. She was finally here, and she was waiting somewhere nearby for us to just pick her up and bring her home to our family.
Whenever I tell the story of that phone call to someone new, I often get looks of panic from people that are quickly followed with a parade of questions: How did we ever manage? How could my husband and I have been so calm? What about those risks? What was wrong with the baby? Why didn’t you wait for a baby “without” all those risks?

My response is always so simple, but it’s nothing but the truth. As the chosen parents to this miracle baby, what in the world could have possibly kept us away from her?!? There could never have been enough risks in the world to have kept us from bringing our daughter home to our family.  She was designed for us. God picked her for us, and he picked us for her. What risks could ever be possible when that’s in mind?



As adoptive or waiting parents, we all have our stories of how our children have been, or will be, brought into our lives. They are stories that I love and cherish because no matter what the circumstances are they are always a true picture of God’s unending love and faithfulness, no matter what “risks” may be involved in our journeys to bring our miracle babies home forever.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Minute with Nikki - Post Placement Issues from the Social Worker's Perspective




Sleep.

We all have to do it.

Many of us don’t get enough of it.

But one thing that is certain for us adults is that we love it.

For most of us, sleep is the few hours of time we get to ourselves. Even if we share our bed with another, sleep is a time every one of us gets to be all alone.

As someone who got married later in life, and then quickly became a mom of a tween, I cherish this time. Working a number of jobs, I don’t get nearly enough sleep, but when I do head up to bed it is a magical thing. If someone told me that I could have more of one thing in my life, I would really have to take a good long while to decide if that would be money or sleep. It’s a solid 50/50 on that.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Really, think about it, you overly tired, baggy eyed momma, who just wishes you had enough energy for a workout, never the less going to bed by 11. You, momma who wonders if you can sleep in just 5 more minutes in the morning if you send your child to school tomorrow with a Lunchable, rather than filling her bento box with homemade hummus, organic carrots, freshly grilled naan bread, and a whole grain brownie (made with sprouted flour, of course). Just 5 more minutes. Think about it. It might be glorious.

But for as much as you cherish your precious sleep, your best time of day, your most relaxing, this could be the scariest time in a 24 hour period for your child. The time when everything is quiet and she has her thoughts…and the dark…and perhaps a pang of hunger…and silence…and fear. The night is the time when she is forced to be alone with her thoughts - when she is forced to really think about her past, her former life, perhaps her abandonment...the time she got lice in the orphanage and they had to shave her head...the time she got made fun of by teachers and students in school because she didn’t have a mommy and daddy, and then when she told them with great elation that she had a mommy and daddy in American they told her that her American mommy and daddy just wanted to adopt her to kill her and sell her organs on the black market (and wondering, just a tiny bit, if that wasn’t still truly going to happen). And, perhaps the scariest of all is the great unknown as to if and when she would be abandoned again, and start this whole thing anew.

And this little vignette is for the folks whose kids can think through all this stuff logically because they are old enough or have the cognitive abilities to do so. Bless those of you whose kids are too young or unable to even quantify what they are scared of. Those children are just terrified.

So of course she’s scared of going to sleep! With all that head trash, it’s easy to see how scary nighttime can be. Therefore, the question you should be asking yourself every night is “what can I do to help my child sleep a little better tonight than last night?” And if you just hold this question near to your heart and take it seriously, things will probably calm much more quickly.

So let that boy sleep with you. Don’t listen to your mom; he’s not going to be sleeping with you still when he’s 15. Or maybe you start to sleep with him in his bed. Let that girl sleep with the lights on. Go into the room the second that baby starts crying. Let him sleep with a monster truck toy in his bed if he says it will make him feel less scared. Let your teenager fall asleep while reading, even if you don’t let your other children do that. Perhaps suggest to your child that he falls asleep while listening to one of his favorite CD’s (again, even if your other kids are not allowed to do that). Or maybe bring your computer nearby her bedroom door to do some work while she is falling asleep, just to be comforted by the sounds of your breathing and you typing on the keyboard. Or get crazy and let him sleep on the living room couch if a thunderstorm is moving in if he wants to. Or just listen to what your child is asking for and see if you can answer that with a “yes.”

Think now, are these things that difficult for you to agree to or suggest? Are they really that big of a deal to do? Would they really take that much effort on your part? But think about what an incredible difference it can make for your child. In one move, you can both show your child how much you care for him AND make him more comfortable. That’s a win/win for attachment parenting!

It’s all so simple. But when your first reaction is to just tell her to close her eyes or to count sheep, and doing what I’m suggesting takes more thought and foresight, it might not seem so obvious. True, there are some children who, even the most dedicated of parents can wake up with 20 times per night or have them sleep right between them will still need more than this. And those children might really benefit from some professional intervention. But those kids are the exception. For the most part though, a solid dose of mom and dad and some flexibility might be just the ticket to getting some quality sleep.










Nikki has been working as an adoption social worker for the past 10 years.  The consummate single gal was married in 2012 and started an adoption process to adopt a 10-year-old with special needs from China soon after.  Nikki loves writing home studies in the Western Missouri area and preparing families for the realities of adoption. - See more at: http://joyinthejourneyadoption.blogspot.com/2014/08/after-placement-issues-eating.html#sthash.2aVLiQN9.dpuf

Friday, September 5, 2014

Resource Review: The Great Behavior Breakdown