Social Media’s Effect on Post Adoption Communication

Social-Media-Communicat-on-between-a-Birth-MotherBoth technology and communication after an adoption have changed quite a bit over the past 20 years. As birth mothers and adoptive parents become more “connected”, the way they communicate becomes less formal. They normally have plenty of time to get a comfort level with each other during the adoption process.

Methods of Communication: Introduce Facebook

Usually, during the adoption process, the birth mother and the adoptive parents will get to know each other with face-to-face meetings, letters, emails, phone calls or prenatal visits. Once the adoption is complete, contact with the birth mother can dwindle, and in many cases can be completely severed. Now with Facebook’s popularity (as well as other types of social media) and ease of use, it’s a way for both parties to have an open line of communication. Facebook is a convenient and timely way to communicate. Adoptive parents’ expressed delight over no longer needing to reproduce, print and mail pictures from their digital devices. And birth mothers were thrilled to be able to see spontaneous pictures with attached comments.

Communication Tips

When communicating through social media, especially Facebook, often times there can be miscommunication, misinterpretation, over-analysis and hypersensitivity. So it’s important to be both smart and practical when communicating.
  1. If using Facebook, create a separate account and set guidelines for whom you’ll share your content with.(Use Facebook’s “Group Option”)
  2. Outline the types of photos to post, what type of comments can or can’t be posted, etc.)
  3. Don’t get too close too fast; take your time to get to know each other. Build trust and create proper boundaries.
  4. Make sure the conversation is about the child and in the best interest of the child.
For many open adoptions, Facebook has become the main form of communication after an adoption. So it should be used carefully with respect to both the birth mother and the adoptive parents.

Questions to Think About Before Posting

  1. Will I offend anyone with my comment?
  2. Is it appropriate for Facebook, or should I communicate my response in another way?
  3. Can my comment be taken out of context?
  4. Is my comment reactive, or is it well thought out?
  5. Am I venting or is this something I really want to share?
While we look at social media as a convenience and a way to share our lives with each other, many experts warn that virtual contact should be used with caution. A difficult conversation, a side comment or photo can be taken out of context causing an already stressful situation to be more challenging. Everyone should make sure to stick to common sense rules and keep an open dialogue with all parties involved. Whether you’re a birth mother or adoptive parent, and you need assistance with the open adoption process, contact Shorstein & Kelly today (904) 348-6400.

15 questions adoptive parents should anticipate

Serious father talking to teenage son at home All adopted children have questions about their origins, and sooner or later they’ll want answers. Working as board certified adoption attorneys for more than 25 years, we’ve become very active with adoptees and their desire for information about their birth parents. Here are a few observations that will help you, as adoptive parents, anticipate your child’s future questions.

Get answers early

Information gets harder to find as it ages. So it’s best to seek the information you’ll need early, either during the pregnancy or shortly after placement, while the details are more easily obtainable. You can decide when to share it.

Know their areas of concern

Most of the adoptees we meet with want to know more about themselves, their medical histories, birth parents, and adoption circumstances. They’re interested in learning as many details as possible about their birth parent’s adoption plan.

What questions do they ask most?

Here’s a list of the top 15, based on our experience:
  1. Where and what time was I born (hospital and city)? Who was there?
  2. Did my birth mother or birth father see me or hold me?
  3. Were there any complications when I was born? Were there any medical concerns I should know about?
  4. What were the circumstances surrounding my adoption? Why did my birth mother choose adoption?
  5. Did she choose and/or meet you (the adoptive parents)? What was she like?
  6. Did my birth mother help name me or have a different name for me?
  7. How old were my birth parents when I was born? Were they married?
  8. Do you have a picture of my birth parents?
  9. Do I have any [biological] brothers or sisters? Do they know about me?
  10. Does anyone else in my birth family know about me?
  11. What is my ethnic/racial background?
  12. Do my birth parents have any special interests, hobbies or talents?
  13. Can you tell if I inherited any traits from my birth parents (personality, looks, or mannerisms)?
  14. Did my birth parents write anything to me (journal/letters in a file)? When can I see it/them?
  15. If I called my birth parents or wanted to meet them someday, would they want to meet me? Would you want me to meet them?

Know when to share

Most adoptive parents share this information with their child at an early age and certainly before he or she becomes an adult. This helps establish a stronger sense of identity and often helps avoid issues in the future. Information that might be matter-of-fact to a child at a younger age may become a crisis as they grow older. If there is a concern about when to share certain information, it’s best to seek advice from a professional child psychologist who has experience working with adopted children.

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent-AdoptionAdopting a child is one of the most exhilarating moments you can ever experience. The wonderful feeling is magnified when you adopt a stepchild because the adoption is formalizing a relationship that already exists. By officially adopting your stepchild, you become the legal guardian of your spouse’s child thereby removing all logistical questions as to who is the child’s true parent.

Stepparent Adoption Process

Stepparent adoption is certainly not mandatory, but, often times, highly recommended for an involved stepparent. This form of adoption is typically easier to complete than the standard adoptive process. The reason for this is because the stepparent adoption can often be streamlined thanks to the permanence of the home, the other family members involved, and the applicable laws. Typically, adoptions require a long list of formalities, including a waiting period, home study and multiple court appearances. However, many of these requirements are not necessary for a stepparent adoption. This allows for a stepparent adoption to be less expensive and completed on an accelerated basis.

The Importance of an Adoption Attorney

However, this isn’t to say that a stepparent adoption doesn’t come with its own struggles, both financially, legally and emotionally. When multiple parents are involved there may be resistance, and children will often experience emotional stress even under the most loving of circumstances. This is why it is essential that an experienced adoption attorney become involved in the process. Utilizing a skilled adoption attorney will provide you with insight, support and legal advice during the entire adoption process. Most importantly, an experienced adoption attorney will be able to fast-track the case through the court if all of the paperwork is in order.

Quick Facts about Stepparent Adoption

The stepparent adoption process is typically used when one parent is absent or has lost parental rights. It may also be completed when one parent wishes to remove parental rights from the child’s second parent. This is common when the child has little or no connection with the second parent. There are several issues that can pose problems during even a standard stepparent adoption, which is where an adoption attorney is most beneficial. These issues include:
  • Terminating the rights of a non-consenting parent
  • Proving the absent parent has abandoned the child
  • Proving that the presumed father is not, legally speaking, the father
  • Complying with all statutory requirements to complete the adoption
Having an adoption attorney to guide you through this can make the entire process easier.

What about a lawyer for the birth mother?

Young Woman Having Counselling SessionOne of the differences between hiring Shorstein & Kelly as a law firm and hiring an adoption agency is that Shorstein & Kelly only represents adoptive parents. Adoption agencies say that they represent everyone who participates in the adoption plan. As attorneys, it is not ethical for us to represent both the prospective adoptive parents and the birth parents at the same time.

We help birth mothers

Shorstein & Kelly provides exclusive legal representation to the prospective adoptive parents, as required by Florida law. As such, some may ask: if the law firm is only representing the adoptive parents, who is looking after the birth mother and who is providing for her needs? Answer: Shorstein & Kelly!

Supporting birth mothers is not giving legal advice

Providing legal representation is not the same as helping birth mothers with medical care, financial assistance, counseling and other adoption related services. Our firm has been providing this type of support to birth mothers for over 20 years––in a kind, loving and respectful manner. As for legal representation, we let birth parents know of their right to have their own attorney and, if they chose to have one, the prospective adoptive parents will pay for the costs.

Birth mothers understand choices

As a practical matter, very few birth parents choose to have their own attorney. Some say it’s because they feel comfortable with our experience and dedication to ensuring that their needs will be met. Some say they prefer working directly with us because we provide support in a non-judgmental, pressure-free manner. Others reference a prior birth mother’s recommendation as the reason for working directly with us. No matter what the situation, each birth mother makes all of her own decisions as part of Shorstein & Kelly’s comprehensive adoption program.

Creating a compelling profile

177384604(1) For many adoptive parents, the most daunting part of the process doesn’t even involve the child directly. It’s the profile – the detailed document you create about yourself so birth mothers can select you as parents. Since this document affects your chance of being chosen, it’s a good idea to put good effort into its content.

Essentials of a winning profile

Creating your own profile gives you a chance to step back and see yourself as you want others to see you. At Shorstein & Kelly, we purposely limit the number of adoptive parents we work with at any given time. This policy makes it easier for your profile to get noticed. The basic elements of a strong profile include:
  • The profile cover should be simple and include your first names and your best recent picture.
  • A letter addressed to the birth mother.  If possible, it should be personalized to the interests of the particular birth mother.
  • Photos with detailed captions for all sections listed below (Instead of saying “This is us on vacation last year,” describe what you’re doing in the photo, how much you enjoyed it, or something that you learned about the experience).
  • Individual sections about each family member including activities, hobbies and interests. Talk about your work, your upbringing, education and values. If you already have one or more children and/or pets, you can mention them too.
  • A section that includes physical description of your home environment and the community where you live.
  • A section about your family activities – including vacations, hobbies, interests.
  • A section about your future plans – where you’re headed professionally, physically, spiritually – if you are looking for a more open adoption, say it!
  • Conclusion, thanking the birth mother for her decision and recapping the main reasons why you could be the perfect choice.
178281231(1)You don’t need a separate page for each section, and you can structure your profile in any way that feels natural for you.  Some people use a Q&A format. Others prefer it to read more like a long personal letter.

Profile writing tips

Consider these suggestions for writing an effective profile.
  • Write in first person (“I” and “we” rather than “he,” “she” or “they”).
  • Write from your heart and be genuine in everything you include. Put your best foot forward and let your personality come through.
  • Remember the goal: To connect with the birth mother whose child is perfect for you. You don’t have to be all things to all people.
  • Put yourself in the reader’s (i.e. the birth mother’s) shoes. What kinds of details would she want to know about someone who wants to adopt her child?
  • Focus on what makes you stand out. Anyone can claim to live in a nice neighborhood. Paint a picture of yourself, including relevant details like schools, neighbors, resources, recreation.
  • Assess your strengths realistically and write about them in a way that connects to the child’s welfare.
  • Write to the birth mother as an equal – without unintentionally sounding like you’re patronizing or talking down to her. Empathize with her humanity and her situation.
  • Sign the letter with your first name(s).
It takes work to write a compelling profile. Just the act of writing your profile will give you perspective on your own adoption goals and aspirations. It will give you a chance to think about how far you’ve come and where you’re headed. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to communicate directly with the birth mother whose child might be perfect for you.

Overview of an adoption plan

Gone are the days when a woman felt disgraced by finding herself pregnant and unmarried. Also gone are the days when married couples felt inadequate because of their inability to conceive a child. Today, pregnant women and married couples embrace the adoption process as the best alternative to their seemingly desperate situations. In fact, they soon discover that adoption has become a widely recognized and socially acceptable option. In adoptions of the past, the newborn was whisked away immediately after birth to some unknown family. Now the birth mother has the opportunity to select and meet the family who will raise her child. For the birth mother, the adoption process begins when she meets with an adoption professional (attorney or social worker) to discuss the legal and emotional ramifications of adoption. After much discussion she may decide to parent the child or to initiate an adoption plan.

The adoption plan beginspacifer

If the birth mother decides to implement an adoption plan, the next step allows her to express preferences as to various characteristics of prospective adoptive families. Religion, family size, geographical location, hobbies and interests are all important considerations. Once these facts are decided, the birth mother is presented with photographs and background profiles of adoptive families*. The profiles are unique portrayals created by each prospective adoptive family. Similarly, adoptive families consider the individual characteristics of birth mothers. Birth mothers range in age from 15 to 40––some are married, others single, some have children, some were adopted themselves, some are professionals, while others are unable to break out of the welfare cycle. All have one thing in common; they have made a decision to ensure their child is raised in a safe, financially secure, loving home.
*The birth mother may also choose to have little or no information about the adoptive family. In this situation, the adoption professional usually selects the adoptive family. This is sometimes referred to as a “closed” adoption which is discussed later in this article.

adoptive-familyChoosing an adoptive family

The key factor to the successful completion of an adoption plan is the involvement of a committed, energetic and influential adoption professional. The adoption professional becomes a close ally to the birth mother by offering guidance and reassurance during each stage of the adoption plan. Assisting the birth mother in the selection of an adoptive family serves as the first major act which reinforces her commitment to the goals and objectives of the adoption plan. Once the birth mother has settled on the family to parent her child, the family and the birth mother are encouraged to freely communicate throughout the pregnancy, through either personal meetings or by telephone. Through open communication a warm bond is established between the birth mother and her chosen family. Such a bond provides the birth mother with a genuine sense of contentment about her adoption decision while enabling the adoptive family to become secure with the birth mother’s commitment to the adoption plan.

baby-identifcationOpen or closed adoptions

Many different relationships may be developed between the birth mother and the adoptive family. In confidential (“closed”) adoptions, the birth mother chooses to have little or no information whatsoever about the adoptive parents and the adoptive parents receive little or no information about the birth mother. In closed adoptions, the adoption professional usually selects the adoptive parents and there is very little, if any, contact between the birth mother and the adoptive parents. In an open adoption, which is much more common today, the birth mother and adoptive family exchange comprehensive personal information. The birth mother receives a background profile and photographs of the adoptive family as well as non-identifying information about the family’s life. Likewise, the adoptive family receives the birth mother’s complete biographical and medical background information along with photographs depicting her family members and, if available, pictures of the birth mother as a child. Additionally, the birth mother may prepare letters or diaries for the adoptive family to present to the child at age-appropriate times. Although not required, more frequently than ever before, birth mothers are offering adoptive families complete identifying information (address, phone number, social security number) so that the family may contact the birth mother in the future, if necessary.


Preparing for the child’s birth date

As the date of birth approaches, the birth mother anxiously awaits the culmination of a long pregnancy and the adoptive parents plan for their ascension into parenthood. The adoption professional ensures that the birth mother and the adoptive family are well prepared for each and every circumstance that may arise when the birth mother goes into labor. When will the adoptive parents be called? Will the adoptive mother be present in the delivery room? How will the birth mother get to the hospital in the middle of the night? Will the birth mother “room in” with the baby? Every minute detail is addressed by the adoption professional so that everyone feels comfortable and ready for the big day.

finalizing-adoption-planFinalizing the adoption plan

A well-formulated and effectively orchestrated adoption plan will yield positive results for everyone. Forget all of the sensational horror stories reported on 20/20 or similar entertainment news shows. With few exceptions, properly prepared adoption plans succeed. The birth mother signs the surrender documents, the baby is healthy, the adoptive family leaves the hospital as new parents and the birth mother is ready for a new beginning, secure in her adoption decision. Following discharge from the hospital the birth mother meets with the adoption professional to review the concluding aspects of her adoption plan, including her participation in post-placement counseling groups, her receipt of annual pictures and updates from the adoptive parents and her participation in the Florida Reunion Registry.

Where to begin?

All of your information is confidential. Call us at 1-888-41ADOPT (1-888-412-3678) right now to speak with an adoption professional. We’ll explain the adoption process and the adoption options that are available to you. Your phone call or e-mail is completely confidential and does not obligate you to adoption in any way.

Adult Adoptions: A Growing Trend in Florida

Earlier in 2012, when the media learned that a 40-year-old South Florida polo tycoon adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend as his daughter, the awareness of adult adoption skyrocketed.  It was reported that the tycoon used the adoption process to protect his fortune from the family of a man he killed in a DUI crash.  Once his girlfriend became adopted, as the legal child of the tycoon, she was immediately entitled to at least a third of a multimillion dollar trust fund.  The tycoon’s attorney argued that “the adoption was meant to secure the assets of his children and family investments, nothing more.”  Nevertheless, ever since this case became public, Shorstein & Kelly has been inundated with requests for information about adult adoption.  As such, set forth below is a summary of the typical reasons, requirements and results for completing an adult adoption in Florida.*

Reasons for Adult Adoption:

Inheritance Purposes – In the past, adult adoptions served as a means of ensuring the passage of property rights or financial assets to the adopted individual more easily.  It was also used as a mechanism for protecting the family surname – later in life, a childless couple or a couple who bore only daughters could adopt an adult male to carry on the family name. Formalized Existing Relationship – Through adult adoption, parents can now adopt an adult foster child or stepchild without the consent of the child’s parents or custodian.  In such a case, adult adoption is finalizing or formalizing an already existing relationship.  So to, adult adoption may be used to reestablish a formerly existed relationship – such as for children who find their birth family after reaching maturity or fathers who find children they were previously unaware of. Providing Long-term Care – Utilizing the adult adoption process, an adult adoptor may become the responsible party and primary decision-maker for another adult’s care.  As such, the adopting adult can provide long-term care for someone who has diminished capacity, mental illness or disabilities.

Requirements for Adult Adoption:

The requirements for a Florida adult adoption are much simpler than those of a child adoption.  The only absolute requirement pertains to the consent of the adoptor and the adoptee – each of their consents is required.  If the adoptee is married, the spouse of the person to be adopted should consent to the adoption but such consent may be excused by the court for good cause or other reasons set forth in the statute.  The adoptee’s parents are not required to consent to the adoption – they are only required to receive notice of the final hearing.

Result of Adult Adoption:

Similar to a child adoption, with an adult adoption all existing legal relationships with the biological or custodial parents are severed.  Also, as part of the process, the adoptee will have an opportunity to change his or her name.  The new name (or the same name if the adoptee chooses not to change the name) will appear on the new birth certificate which will be issued subsequent to the completion of the adult adoption proceedings.  Just like a child adoption, the adoption records will be confidential and the file will be sealed.Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult. * Adoption laws are enacted by each state and, therefore, the laws for states other than Florida may be vastly different.  Other states may have restrictions or requirements making adult adoption much more difficult.