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.

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.

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.

Adoption Agency vs. Adoption Attorney – a birth mother perspective

When a birth mother first requests information about developing an adoption plan, she often asks about the differences between working with an adoption attorney or an adoption agency. After talking with hundreds of birth mothers who have experienced working with both an adoption attorney and an adoption agency, we have compiled a list of four areas mentioned most often.

Birth Mother Independence:baby swing

Adoption Attorney Freedom – An adoption attorney prefers to work with a more independent birth mother – in other words, a birth mother who wishes to maintain control and supervision of her own everyday activities. The adoption attorney will propose ideas and make recommendations to the birth mother while sharing the benefit of many years of experience. This practice eases the stress, worry and fear of the birth mother that may accompany her adoption plan. But, most importantly, the independent birth mother continues to manage and control her own life. Adoption Agency Control – Many adoption agencies require birth mothers to adhere to rigid rules, practices, and procedures which force the birth mother to become dependent upon the adoption agency. For example, several local adoption agencies require the birth mother to be accompanied by the agency caseworker for each OB/GYN appointment, including the examination room. Other adoption agencies require each birth mother to live in a certain place, maintain a certain diet, adhere to certain schedules and attend specific, regimented activities.

Access to Decision-makers:76800031(1)

The adoption attorney works directly with each birth mother. As such, the adoption attorney is immediately responsive to the needs of each birth mother, especially in times involving a desperate situation. To the contrary, many large adoption agencies assign less experienced caseworkers to several birth mothers. These adoption caseworkers have very limited decision-making authority on behalf of the adoption agency or the adoptive parents. This practice tends to extend the time needed to approve birth mother expenses on a timely basis.

Choice of Adoptive Parents:

Most adoption attorneys network through state and national organizations in order to provide each birth mother with the great access to the largest pool of prospective adoptive parents. On the other hand, an adoption agency first limits a birth mother’s selection to that adoption agency’s list of waiting families. The adoption agency prefers the birth mother to select one of its families because of the substantial upfront fees the adoption agency charges the prospective adoptive parents.

Confidential Professional Assistance:

While both an adoption agency and an adoption attorney are ethically responsible for providing confidential assistance to each birth mother, in most cases, only an adoption attorney can provide complete, consistent, and comprehensive legal guidance on an as-needed basis. When working with an adoption agency, if a birth mother has a legal question, the adoption agency, most often, will not have an attorney readily available to respond to the birth mother.