Common Questions About Adoption

for prospective adoptive parents

I. Adoption Consultation / What is Full Circle?

What is Full Circle Adoptions?

Full Circle Adoptions is a fully licensed non-profit adoption agency. We specialize in domestic adoption. We also provide homestudies and post- placement supervision for Massachusetts residents pursuing international adoption. We provide services to birth parents who live throughout the country. We help adoptive families who live throughout the country and internationally as well.

The agency offers comprehensive adoption services: Agency social workers provide adoptive families with a homestudy or a “limited assessment” if they have a homestudy from another agency. You write the text for your “Dear Birthmother letter” or “profile” and we provide assistance with editing. Your fee includes a professional photographer taking a picture of you and your home and the work of the agency’s graphic designer who prepares a visually pleasing layout for your letter and photos. The finished profiles are later shared with birthparents. We help families understand and anticipate the needs of birthparents. Recommendations are offered with regard to ways you can educate yourself about the range of options open to you for post placement communication (e.g. closed, semi- open and open adoptions). We don’t take a dogmatic position about the choices you make, but, rather, aim to give you sufficient opportunities for education that enable you to decide what is best for you and your family.

The team at Full Circle assists you with pre-placement advising and coordination of legal, medical, and clinical aspects of in-state and inter-state adoption plans. We have a foster care license and can provide (usually short-term) foster care with a loving family, if requested by birthparents. The agency completes placements in Massachusetts and prepares the “Interstate Compact” packet so that you can receive official authorization to return with the baby to your home state. For families who receive a placement in another state, Full Circle is active in case management reviewing such matters as on-going medical records, Native American heritage, clinical/social aspects to the case and compliance with the applicable laws. We complete adoption finalizations for families finalizing (as non-residents or as residents) in Massachusetts. The agency offers post-placement consultations as well.

We are comfortable working with families who are working with more than one adoption professional at a given time so long as the adoptive family is not matching with more than one birthmother at the same point in time. Birthparents need to be able to trust that, if they choose a family, that family has made a commitment to her and is not continuing to hold themselves open to other birthparents.

The agency’s birthparent services include assistance with housing, assistance with pregnancy related living expenses, and a birthparent buddy program. We offer a weekly support group and free counseling (before, during and after a pregnancy/delivery). The agency has a separate Birthparent’s Center for birthparents. When delivering in this area, the Birthparent’s Center is a place where birthparents can come to socialize, watch tv and relax away from their residence. It also serves as a meeting place for groups. There is a separate entrance and facilities that are separate from the offices where adoptive parents are provided services.

We offer a monthly seminar series called, “Family Building Through Adoption.” Each month we focus on a different issue of interest to birthparents, adoptive families, adopted children and professionals. Our social workers have MSW (Masters of Social Work) degrees, extensive general clinical experience and experience in the field of adoption. Our clinicians are available for counseling and consultation with birth and adoptive families as well as with children over the years.

Full Circle takes the time to offer free, individual orientations because we’ve found that adoptive families have very personal questions that are best answered individually. Please feel free to call to schedule an orientation. We realize that families who live in other states may need particular flexibility in the scheduling of the orientation. We want to work with you easily and we make every effort to accommodate your schedule.

What Questions Should I Be Asking?

Adoption may be a new subject for you. It’s important to ask a lot of questions, including, “What questions should I be asking?” The most frequently asked questions about adoption are: How long? How much does adoption cost? How safe? How long do the birthparents have to change their minds? Can the birthparents ask for the child back?

In addition, your personal questions may include these: Are we too old? Are there Caucasian newborns to adopt? Are there newborns of African American heritage, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American heritage to adopt? Can we adopt if we are single, lesbian/gay, have disabilities or a background with certain medical, legal or fiscal difficulties? Will we have a harder time being chosen if we already have one or more children? Will we be chosen if we are of a particular religious faith (Jewish, Catholic, Agnostic etc.)? Full Circle offers free individual orientations so that you may discuss your personal questions with us.

Adoption professionals, generally, encourage you to ask yourself some questions as well: What preparation (reading, workshops, talking with other adoptive parents etc.) have you undertaken to learn more about adoption? How clear are you about your adoption goals (e.g. what age child are you hoping to adopt, what ethnicities are you open to, with which medical histories are you comfortable and with which medical histories are you not comfortable? What degree of legal risk (e.g. single “surrender” placement) are you comfortable with? How willing are you to be active in your own adoption process? What are the most effective ways you’ve found to manage stress in a process so deeply personal to you?

Other questions tend to be: Do we need a separate attorney? What can protect us from fraudulent “birthmothers”? What can protect us from ineffective adoption professionals? How can we prevent our costs from soaring out of control?

Here are some answers. There is always more to say on these subjects, but we begin this discussion with you below.

Are We Eligible For Services Through Full Circle?

Full Circle provides adoption related services for birth and adoptive parents. If you are a prospective adoptive parent, it may be comforting to know that we gladly work with singles and couples, both heterosexual and gay/lesbian. A married or committed couple can have a marriage/relationship of any length; there is no minimum number of years required.

We don’t discriminate on the basis of age, religion, race/national origin, sexual orientation or family form. If you have suffered infertility, we ask about this as part of our usual review of medical history, but there is no requirement that an adoptive family have demonstrated infertility nor any requirement that you have submitted to any degree of infertility treatment.

Families without a child as well as families who already have children are welcome to request our services. In general, we see our role as that of serving families and feel strongly about making these services available to everyone who can reasonably benefit from these services.

How Long Does It Take?

A homestudy is the first step in the adoption process and generally takes 1-2 months to complete depending, in large part, upon when you and the social worker schedule your meetings. Full Circle has home study social workers throughout Massachusetts who can come to you. You need not live near the agency to conveniently receive our services. We also work with families who have homestudies through other agencies licensed in this state and other states. We describe the homestudy process later in this outline.

Toward the end of the homestudy process, families prepare a “dear birthmother letter,” also referred to as a profile, usually with the agency’s guidance. An agency photographer comes to your home and helps with the family photograph as well as a photo of your home. If you live very far away, you’ll make arrangements with a photographer close to you. An agency graphic designer helps with the graphic design of the profile. These services are included in your fee. You write the text and we offer suggestions for topics that birthparents are customarily interested in. The profile takes about a month to complete and may overlap with the last part of the homestudy process.

The final “Dear Birthmother Letter” or “profile” includes color photographs interwoven with text. Multiple color copies are produced to easily share copies of the profile with birthparents. The profiles on our web site are a simplified version of what birthparents receive in their hands. The version on the agency’s web site includes the full letter and one photograph of the adoptive family (for ease of downloading). The hard copy is 4-5 pages in length and includes many more photographs than the web site version.

Birthmothers (and fathers) review the profiles and may select one or two families to talk to by phone or to meet in person, or they may feel strongly about one family. If the birthmother would like to have a phone conversation with the adoptive family, she can arrange with the agency to set up a pre-arranged time to call them, toll free on the family’s “800” number, or to receive a call from them. In this way, the first connections are made.

Full Circle measures the “waiting period” as that period between the day your “Dear Birthmother Letter” is ready to be shared with birthparents and the time when the family is selected by a birthmother. It is prudent to estimate a wide range of time, even when it may often take a shorter time, because no agency can see perfectly into the future. We’d rather be conservative in our estimates and hopefully have you feel pleased later. The agency estimates that families without children achieve a match with a birthmother between 6-18 months after the profile is ready to share and we estimate 9-18 months for families with one or more children. Often the matches occur sooner, but it is better to be cautious in estimates.

Why does the presence of a child or children make a difference? Many birthparents wish to place their child with a family who does not yet have a child because they are trying to work some “justice” in the world. They want to give a chance to families who have not had the experience of parenting. On the other hand, families with children have been chosen easily. Some birthmothers have stated, for example, that they grew up with sisters and brothers. The best way they can make sure their child will also have sisters and brothers is to choose a family who already has a child or more than one child. While generally we predict that families who already have a child or children may take a little longer to match, families with a child or children have been easily matched with good timing and can feel confident pursuing domestic adoption.

The other factor that is important to take into consideration is the agency’s breadth of outreach and advertising. You want one birthmother to choose you, not ten. Thus, you want to work with an agency, which, like Full Circle, advertises widely enough to generate interest from birthmothers seeking and open to a wide variety of families.

Will We Get Chosen?

Most adoptive families worry about whether they will be chosen. Some also feel uncomfortable about having their plans to be parents dependent on the choices of someone they don’t know. We understand these feelings. At the same time, it can be useful to realize that birthparents have similar worries about whether adoptive parents will like them. Just as adoptive parents may worry about being chosen, the birthmother and birthfather, too, are often worried about rejection. The birthmother may worry that you may think less of her because of her situation. Usually when a personal connection is made between birth and adoptive parents, adoptive parents and birthparents find that there are many feelings that are shared. A sense of a mutual planning develops and these concerns are often replaced by genuine respect and compassion for the path that you have each taken to the point of meeting.

Many families are concerned about age. Birthparents are generally interested in a family’s “vitality” rather than just chronological age. They want to know whether you will be able to provide the child with love and to play with them. We offer a free initial orientation to all prospective adoptive families during which we encourage you to bring some photos that you might consider including later in your profile. We will provide our honest impressions concerning whether we think that age or any other factors are likely to affect the time it takes for you to be chosen by birthparents.

Other families are concerned that other factors might affect the timing of their adoption – e.g. being a single parent, being gay or lesbian parents, and being parents with an on-going medical concern or serious medical or other history. Feel free to raise these questions in a conversation or at the time of the orientation. Often there are other factors that are very attractive to birthparents (greater comfort with post placement openness, a stay at home full time parent, a particularly interesting life-style or home setting etc.) that may counter-balance a factor that may, in the general view, be seen as lengthening the time it would customarily take to achieve a connection with birthparents. We will share our views about what factors, in our opinion, might affect the timing for your family and we will discuss various options and perspectives with regard to your family’s plans.

It bears mentioning that almost every prospective adoptive family harbors a fear that they’ll be the “one family” who isn’t chosen. In fact, both birth and adoptive parents share an almost reciprocal fear of being rejected at some point in the process. It may sound simplistic to say that “everyone’s human,” but there is so much truth to this in the adoption process. We encourage both adoptive and birthparents to be gracious with themselves and each other. There is a lot of warmth and good connection to be experienced in domestic adoption. However, it’s hard to imagine until that sense of connection is your personal experience.

At times the disappointments involved in infertility have fostered a nagging worry that “maybe nothing will go right”. The process is hard enough without adding to it with undue pessimism. Be gentle with yourselves. It’s a process. It’s good to do what you can to reduce stress, bolster confidence and encourage patience with the process. We, at Full Circle, are here to accompany you on the path and we understand that many different feelings arise during the journey.

How Much Will It Cost?

Full Circle Adoptions is a fully licensed, non-profit social service agency. We have a regular domestic adoption fee schedule and a fee schedule for families of modest income open to special needs or otherwise harder-to-place children. The fee schedules offer a menu-style listing of services. We have found that, if we can have a conversation with you about what services your family needs, we can give you the most accurate projection of the likely costs for your adoption process. Domestic adoption is expensive and, for this reason, we also like to discuss the range of options that families have considered for affording the professional services, including resources for loans and employer reimbursement benefits.

From time to time, we add a service to the fee schedule and, since it can take some time to change documents on a web site (and we always want to be accurate with you), we prefer to provide the fee schedule to you, at no charge, with a current request. Feel free to email or call us to request a free “welcoming packet” including a fee schedule and we will be happy to provide this to you. You may also call us (413) 587-0007. Please feel free to explain your family’s particular adoption plans and we can discuss your likely costs this way as well.

How Safe Is It?

Adoptive parents often speak of a fear that the birthparents will “come back” and wish to reclaim the child in years to come. There are several important perspectives on the issue of safety:

It’s important to achieve a realistic understanding of birthparent motivations and feelings:

Some of this is “projection.” – You may already feel love for a child who you can’t even see. You presume that the birthparents must feel even greater attachment if they are bearing the child. You project your own intense longings onto others and think that birthparents must have your same feelings or feel them more intensely.

In fact, as birthparents contemplate an adoption plan, many speak of separating emotionally as they prepare for a plan they feel is best for their child and for their own lives. Some spontaneously report feeling as though they are bearing the child for the adoptive family or talk about their planned adoption in other phrases that suggest that, for them, the adoption plan feels “meant to be”. Birthparents love their children, but they may be in a different place in their lives than the adoptive parents are. Rather than wishing to reclaim the child, most birthparents are hoping that the bonding between their child and the adoptive parents will be strong.

Birthparents often spontaneously talk about not wanting to be experienced as interfering with the connection between the adoptive family and child. They want to promote the healthful development and growth of their child. They sometimes wish to be reachable to answer questions for a child. They usually have an interest in knowing that their child is doing well over the years. Adoptive families provide photos and letters to the agency or directly to the birthparents at a frequency agreed upon between the birth and adoptive parents. Birthparents feel love for their child, but this is not the same thing as having a wish to reclaim.

There is a lot for birthparents to do in making a voluntary adoption plan. Birthparents who make a voluntary, well thought-out plan are in a different emotional “place” than birthparents whose children may have been removed involuntarily by the state.

We have observed over 60% of the birthmothers who’ve made adoption plans with Full Circle families are already mothers. They are very loving and appropriate mothers. They know about bonding and often want to send the adoptive family ultrasound pictures so that they can share the excitement of the impending birth. It is hard to imagine the courageous process whereby a woman and man separate emotionally from a child for the sake of what they feel is best for the child, for themselves and perhaps for their other children. They may feel overwhelmed with their other responsibilities and grateful to you for caring for and loving their child. The birthparents love the child but this love for the child’s well-being means that they want the child to do well with the adoptive family.

There is often a legal risk period, but honesty and good counseling are the best protections against disappointments during this period.

Most prospective adoptive families have heard a story from a friend or through the media suggesting that domestic infant adoption is unsafe. It is frustrating for those of us who practice domestic adoption because, from our perspective, the media has given very disproportionate attention to a few national cases that have been, arguably, handled improperly. If domestic adoption was as unsafe as the media has suggested in some of these stories, we adoption professionals would not find our work as satisfying nor feel drawn to spend our lives helping families grow through domestic adoption.

The most important area of safety has to do with honesty. Those exceedingly rare cases where birthparents “have come back” have tended to be situations where the birthmother has not been honest about the identity of the birthfather. This has, understandably, upset the birthfather when he has learned later of an adoption placement. Full Circle takes great care in its work with birthmothers and birthfathers and, by offering free and early counseling, hopes to involve everyone in a thoughtful and safe process. Whenever possible, we ask birthfathers to consider participating in paternity testing (which now, with the “buccal swab” test, does not have to involve a blood test) so that everyone can feel confident that the adoption is legally safe and that accurate medical information has been received.

The other related area of safety has to do with “changes of heart”. Each of the states has a different set of procedures by which birthparents may make an adoption plan. The general protocol is that some period of time after the child’s birth (e.g. in Massachusetts, this period is four calendar days), the birthparents can complete paperwork by which they make an adoption plan for the child. In some states, this paperwork is final and “irrevocable” upon signing (e.g. Massachusetts, Florida). In other states, there is a “revocation” period; for example, in several states, the surrenders can be signed approximately 72 hrs after birth and then there is a ten day revocation period during which time the birthparents can change their mind.

Who cares for the child during this time? Newborns are generally discharged from the hospital sooner than the time when birthparents may sign adoption paperwork. In almost all cases the birthparents ask the adoptive parents to care for the child from the moment of discharge from the hospital; they want the adoptive parents to bond. Most birthparents are vigorous in their request that professionals avoid foster care, even when foster care is offered by a loving and well-established private family. As a result, most adoptive parents are asked by the birthmother to take a legal risk placement for those few days between the baby’s discharge from the hospital and the day when the signatures on the adoption papers are considered final and irrevocable.

In the vast majority of cases, this legal risk time period passes without event. Sometimes birth and adoptive families get together for a meal and to admire the baby. Sometimes each family is spending time alone adjusting to the birth and their feelings afterwards. There is the chance that birthparents will decide to parent during this time. Usually there’s been enough counseling beforehand and this has helped birthparents clarify for themselves what their wishes and feelings are.

If a birthmother or father changes their mind, this can be sad and upsetting for the adoptive family. Sometimes, because the birth and adoptive families have come to know each other, the adoptive family, in those relatively rare instances where a “change of heart” occurs after birth, feels understanding and “at peace” with the birthparents’ change of heart because they know them. Most birthparents are already very good and loving parents. Most children placed in voluntary domestic placements will thrive whether in the arms of their birth or adoptive parents.

If there is a “change of heart” during the legal risk period, an adoptive family may understandably feel discouraged. That is one of the reasons it’s very important to work with a licensed agency that is comfortable helping birth and adoptive parents navigate both the procedural and emotional path of domestic adoption. The staff at Full Circle is always available to talk about the course of your adoption plan, whether things are going well, or whether there are bumps in the road or disappointments.

Are there disappointments short of a post-birth change of heart? How many “fall throughs” do families generally have before the match that results in a placement? It is not uncommon for a family to have several situations which seem promising in the moment, but which, on closer evaluation, are not right for them. The agency is very careful about evaluating potential adoptive matches, directly, and with the help of our allied colleagues in other states. We listen for important information regarding the mother/child’s health, presence/absence of drug/alcohol use, risk factors (social, medical, and legal) and other factors. As a result, you may decline one or more offered matches. You are not judged for this. We believe this is your life and you need to make choices that are right for you and your family. In the other direction, a birthmother may decide to parent shortly after reaching out to the agency. This can be disappointing but may not be overwhelming for the adoptive family since a short time is involved. While domestic adoption has “ups and downs”, the joy of the work is in witnessing the connections that result when adoptive and birthfamilies persevere and have faith.

Our fees are “flat fees” so the agency bears the risk of disappointment with regard to our professional time; you do not pay the flat service fees to Full Circle more than once. What you have paid already continues to cover our time during a subsequent match. Depending upon the birthparents’ comfort level with counseling, early counseling is recommended to help the birthparents sort through a variety of natural feelings that may include both wishes to parent and wishes to make an adoption plan. The goal of counseling is to help the birthparents figure out what’s important for them and what, in their opinion, is important for their child.

In the vast majority of cases, post-birth changes of heart do not occur. Birthparents are aware of adoptive families’ fears. They know you are worried until the procedural part is final. You are surprised to hear the birthmother taking care to reassure you of her steadfastness to the plan and how grateful she is to you for your loving her child. The hospital nursing staff refreshes you on aspects of newborn care and loads you up with formula as you leave the hospital for your hotel room. You and the birthmother stay in touch by phone and you reassure her about how the baby is doing. This is often a time when your heart has the difficult task of loving a child and holding back a little until the birthmother and birthfather’s paperwork is final. Usually while you’re diapering the baby, she’s on the phone talking about how she’s doing, sharing genuine reassurances that she’s firm about her plan and happy that the child is blessed with you as parents.

As you proceed in a domestic adoption match, our staff will share their expertise in evaluating the match with regard to a range of risk factors. We hope to empower you to make decisions about whether the match feels strong and safe. The matches that seem to warrant the greatest confidence are those where there is a genuinely warm connection between the birth and adoptive families. There tends to be a shared sense of planning for the welfare of a child for whom everyone wants the best. Sometimes the conversation turns to names that everyone likes. The birthmother expresses her wishes as to whether she’d like you present in the delivery room. There is talk about when the first photos and letters might arrive. Our professionals can provide you with our best impression of how things are going. When they are going well, you often have a strong sense for yourself as well.

How Open?

Many adoptive parents want a less open adoption at the beginning. Over the months and years ahead, the adoptive family often longs for more information or for more connection than the birthparents are available for. The birthparents may have gone off in new directions in their lives. As a result, we see one of our primary functions as educating both birth and adoptive families about the range of options they have with regards to whether or not to have communication before and/or after placement and about some of the typical patterns.

Generally, we think it can be very helpful for children to know about their birthparents, and, where it is comfortable, for the children to have photos of them. Anything that helps reduce the “mystery” and that can help them have a firm sense of their full heritage and history usually contributes to developing a strong sense of self-esteem. We also honor that an adoption placement is a very emotional process. Birth and adoptive parents have a wide range of comfort levels with regard to meeting in-person and exchanging information. Some birthparents feel it may be too painful to meet with the family who will know the joys of raising their child. It may just be “too hard.” We honor birth and adoptive family’s comfort levels and try to help you harmonize your needs with each other.

Birthparents vary in the degree to which they want to share information or meet. At the time of an adoption placement, they may feel less confident of themselves and feel awkward about what might be shared with a child. We respect birthparents’ wishes for privacy and also respond to their wishes for connection by finding families who feel responsive and open to the desired level of connection or wish for privacy.

The agency does not have a dogmatic “position” on openness. We see our role as one of educating birth and adoptive families about what is known about the various degrees of openness, and helping birth and adoptive families explore their own comfort level and wishes. The agency has cooperated with “closed” adoptions; these are usually closed at the request of the birthparents. Most birthparents, these days, wish to meet pre-placement and want to receive regular photo and letter updates to know how the child is doing or to have these saved at the agency in case they later wish to see them.

Many adoptions are “semi-open” – birth and adoptive families meet, know each other’s first names, but they may not exchange full names or addresses. In these cases, photos and letters and other communications generally flow through the agency following placement.

When adoption professionals speak of “open” adoptions, we think there are actually two types. There are adoptions that are “open in fact” and adoptions that are “open emotionally”. For example, birthparents in California and Nevada sign their adoption paperwork on a form that indicates clearly the names and addresses of the adoptive parents. Sometimes, regardless of the state of the birthparents’ residence, the birthparents express an interest in knowing the last name or address of the adoptive family and an interest in communicating directly following placement. The adoptive parents are informed of this ahead of time and certainly have the option to decline the match if this is not comfortable for them. In these cases, the birthparents have the reassurance of knowing where and with whom their child lives. This does not necessarily mean that the birth and adoptive families get together for Sunday brunch or have other in-person post-placement contact. We refer to these as adoptions that are “open in fact”, but which may not be open emotionally. We have noticed that birthparents who make a subsequent adoption plan speak proudly of the fact that their first child was placed with the first adoptive family who is described with their name. They may have only intermittent contact with the family but they feel proud to share that the first adoptive family trusted them enough to share their full names and address.

Some birth and adoptive families agree that they would like to create the possibility of an adoption plan that is more “open emotionally”. They may agree to spend some time together after the adoption is finalized. Most adoptive parents, at the beginning of their process, find this hard to imagine. And yet, often when they come to know the birthparents, they are grateful for the connection. I remember one adoptive mother commenting that, as her son sprouted his first tooth, she couldn’t wait to develop two sets of photos because she knew who else would be as excited as she was – the birthmother. When this feeling flows naturally and comfortably, it can be a wonderful part of the foundation for the child in years to come.

Are We Able To Choose The Type of Adoption We Would Like To Participate In?

Yes. We follow the comfort level of birth and adoptive parents. In domestic adoption, we do find that birthmothers (and sometimes fathers as well) increasingly want to meet pre-birth. This is something to anticipate regardless of which agency or adoption professional with whom you choose to work.

Birth and adoptive families can agree to an adoption plan that meets their needs with respect to post-placement communication, if they wish this. All families are expected to share photo and letter updates, through the agency, post birth. Some birth and adoptive families agree to more than this or to communicate directly with each other. The agency’s role is to help the families achieve a plan that feels comfortable for them.

How Do I/We Get Started?

If you would like to pursue domestic adoption with Full Circle, what would your first steps be?

1. Schedule a free individual, orientation with the Agency Director by calling (413) 587-0007. After your questions are answered and when you’re ready, you may make an application for services to the agency. A copy of our application can be found on this web site. You would review and sign acknowledgement of the agency’s policies. Due to length, we provide a copy of the agency’s policies at the time of orientation or upon request. You can request our full adoption services or just the services you desire e.g. a homestudy.

2. Request a homestudy from Full Circle or another licensed agency. If you have a homestudy from another agency, you would sign a release so that we can receive a copy of this homestudy and copies of the supporting documents. Our regulations require us to verify the elements of a homestudy when completed by a different agency and this is called a “limited assessment.” We charge a small fee to cover the professional time in the “limited assessment” but work efficiently so that this regulatory requirement is not a barrier to families’ easy access to our services.

3. The agency and you will work together to help you prepare a “Dear Birthmother” letter or profile. The profile the birthmother receives is about 5 pages in length and has a combination of photographs and text. The profiles on our web site have the complete text, but, include only the cover photograph, not the many on the hard copy version, for ease of downloading.

4. The agency then provides assistance connecting you with birthparents. The agency provides assistance with the clinical, medical, legal, fiscal and other aspects of a domestic adoption plan. We are particularly thorough in gathering helpful medical records and medical background as well as other information used by you in evaluating the strength of a potential match.

5. Following placement and finalization, we hope you will continue to enjoy Full Circle’s educational programs. Please plan, if convenient for you, to come to our yearly picnic held in June!

II. Domestic Adoption

What services does Full Circle offer Prospective Adoptive Parents?

Domestic Adoptions in Mass and Maine
  • Orientation and Consultation
  • Home Study
  • Matching and Communications Coordination with Expectant Parents
  • Case Oversight/Coordination with Colleagues
  • Interstate Procedures
  • Placement and Finalization
  • Post-Adoption Communication (openness)
  • Search and Reunion
  • Adoptive Parent Counseling – before, during and following the adoption process

III. Home Study Services

A First Step Is Getting A Homestudy: What Is A Homestudy?

A homestudy is the process that leads to permission for you to go forward to the next step to adopt. Agencies also consider the homestudy as an opportunity to help you form a strong foundation for both the adoption process and some adoption issues that may arise in the years ahead. We emphasize education. We help you to consider what your preferences are for various aspects of the process (e.g. to reflect on characteristics of the child you would like to adopt, what degree of openness you are comfortable with, etc.). The homestudy process is an important time for you to reflect on the ways in which you might like your parenting style to be similar to or different from your parents or other early caretakers. We spend some time helping you anticipate some of the adoption-related questions and feelings children often have when they are older.

Although called a “homestudy”, this process really focuses on getting to know you, rather than your house or apartment. During one of approximately 3-5 meetings, the social worker will visit your home to see that the basic needs of the child will be covered (e.g. electricity, heat, safety, etc.), but the emphasis of the overall homestudy is not on your apartment or house.

There are a series of approximately 3-5 meetings, usually lasting 1 ½-2 hours, during which the social worker talks with you about a number of subjects including: your relationships, how you came to consider adoption, whether there has been adoption in your family (or in the families of those close to you) and how those experiences have affected your views of adoption now, and your views on parenting, and your thoughts about how to talk with children about adoption.

The social worker writes a document, usually between 12-20 pages, summarizing this information. We share it with you for feedback and information about accuracy before putting it in final form. The adoptive family, social worker and agency supervisor sign the homestudy, and you are provided with a copy for your records.

By law, a homestudy in Massachusetts is valid for one year. It is the responsibility of the adoptive family to arrange for an “update” prior to the expiration of the homestudy’s one-year validity and to submit requests for updated “criminal record checks” and “child abuse and neglect registry” checks before the one-year expiration of these verifications. A “homestudy update” reviews all the elements of the original homestudy to verify what aspects of the family’s life are the same and which are different. Many adoptive families complete their placement within a year and, thus, do not have to complete an update. If needed, Full Circle staff make every effort to help you complete this process efficiently. We know you don’t want to feel as though you are re-doing steps.

All in all, we hope to create an experience that both satisfies the regulations and gives you a good educational foundation as well. Please feel free to raise topics that you would like to cover in the homestudy. We are here to serve your needs and interests.

Who Reads The Homestudy?

The homestudy is a personal document. It is generally read by the out of state agency or attorney (in birth mother’s state), the interstate compact office and the court at finalization. Birthparents are informed that a family has an approved homestudy and they are informed about what checks the family must pass (e.g. child abuse and neglect registry; criminal records check etc.). Most birthparents do not ask to read the homestudy.

If Birthparents would like to read the homestudy, the adoptive family is asked if they would like to sign a release of information giving permission to share this. The family may agree to share this or not, just as the birthmother can decide whether or not to sign a release with regard to her medical records. At times an adoptive family is comfortable sharing the homestudy but not all the information (e.g. income or other financial matters).

In such instances the birthmother would be informed of the subject matter topic that the adoptive family isn’t comfortable sharing. Usually the birthmother just wants to verify basic soundness of the family and understands if there are particular details (e.g. exact amount of income) that you’d like to keep private. Under Nevada law, it is a requirement that birthparents review the homestudy or sign a statement waiving the right to view it.

What Factors Might We Consider As We Select An Agency To With Whom To Complete A Homestudy?

If you are considering working with Full Circle and are having your homestudy completed elsewhere, please obtain a homestudy through a licensed agency rather than an individual social worker because under Massachusetts’ regulations, we must work with a licensed agency.

A homestudy serves as an opportunity for you to receive some one-to-one education about adoption. The homestudy period is also a time when you can carefully consider your comfort level with various aspects of the adoption process. Full Circle offers additional programming including a monthly educational program “Family Building Through Adoption” (free to clients) in addition to the homestudy process itself. You are not required to attend; the program is offered as an additional service to you. Full Circle’s social workers are experienced in adoption. Most are adoptive parents as well and know the path you are traveling from personal experience. You want to benefit, as much as possible, from any wisdom they can share.

Massachusetts’ regulations require that if you have a homestudy from one agency and wish to work with another Massachusetts agency for matching/placement, the second agency needs to complete a “limited assessment” verifying all the elements of the original homestudy (including redoing the criminal record checks). The limited assessment is not as expensive, nor as time consuming, as a homestudy. The first agency can help minimize the burden of this step by promptly providing, with your permission, a copy of the homestudy and the supporting documents.

As you consider adoption agencies you may also want to know:

1. Whether or not the agency is comfortable with beginning a homestudy while you are also completing further infertility treatment? [Full Circle educates you about the stress of doing both, but ultimately feels this is your decision. Some adoptive parents prefer to have a homestudy in place so that if “the last IVF cycle” or other treatment measure doesn’t work, one isn’t starting “from the very beginning.”]

2. The agency’s leanings in terms of how much information is shared between birth and adoptive parents (pre and post placement) — otherwise referred to as how open, semi-open or closed is the adoption? [Full Circle follows and helps harmonize the wishes of birth and adoptive families. We truly feel our role is to follow the needs and comfort levels of our birth and adoptive families. Most adoptions are semi-open, but we are comfortable with the full range of choices that families make.]

3. Whether the agency allows adoptive families to specify gender? [Full Circle understands this as a reasonable wish, but, so far, the most commonly employed medical test (the ultrasound) is not definitive and is often “wrong.” Most birthmothers do not have an amniocentesis. We work with families who, even though they have a preference, are completely open to the child regardless of the gender the child turns out to have. One exception: More of the children ofAfrican American heritage may be unmatched at birth (when gender is generally definitely known) and so it is possible to request to be matched with a child of specific gender where there is part of full African American heritage. ]

4. How carefully the agency requests medical records? [Full Circle is particularly thorough in requesting medical records and helping birthmothers connect with doctors if they are not receiving prenatal care when they first contact us.]

5. The agency’s philosophy and approach to reaching out to birthparents, including birthfathers? [We believe in offering free counseling and related services to both birthmothers and fathers. Birthfathers, when involved, often are able to make decisions in the best interests of the child even if the relationship with the birthmother is conflicted.]

6. How the agency generally treats you if you decline a particular adoption possibility? [The team at Full Circle does not have time to judge families for their choices. We simply want to find the match that is right for you. We try to educate you about your choices, but your choices are yours. We do not judge you.]

7. How clear is the fee schedule? Does the agency quote only their fees or does the agency give you an idea of total costs, including possible out of state fees and expenses? [Our fee schedule is shared at no cost. Simply ask. We provide details, not only about our fees, but also about the typical costs that may arise so that you can feel as prepared as possible for the range and types of expenses.]

8. How many babies have been placed with adoptive families? How many are waiting (how long?)? What’s the estimated waiting time? [As numbers of placements change daily, this is information we provide in conversation in order to be current. We are pleased with the number of agency placements. We generally work with fewer than 20 families at any given time and many families have circumstances that are different from other families. Thus, you may not be “competing” with other families in the program.]

9. What steps does the agency take to clarify whether or not there is Native American heritage in the birthparents and to inquire of the tribes whether or not they wish to intervene in an adoption? [The agency sends inquiry letters to the relevant tribal offices. Under federal law (ICWA stands for the Indian Child Welfare Act), Native American tribes have the opportunity to research whether the child is eligible to be a member of the tribe and whether the tribe wishes to assert an interest in the child’s adoption. This is a very important law to honor and follow. We do so conscientiously and thoroughly. It is seldom a difficulty in a domestic adoption cases, in practice, but it’s a very important detail that Full Circle handles with expertise.]

10. How much money does the agency pay for advertising that is likely to reach interested birthparents and whether/how the agency helps with pre-screening of possible situations? [Full Circle’s advertising budget includes many thousands of dollars of yellow pages and other forms of advertising. Please feel free to ask us for the current amount we are spending on advertising. We want you to feel informed with the most up-to-date information. A licensed clinical social worker answers the birthparent line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides support for birthparents seeking services.]

Does Full Circle Have Any Particular Recommendations For Adoptive Families Embarking On Domestic Adoptions?

Yes, we have several suggestions:

1. Line up your team of consultants and experts.

You want to be able to respond to the agency’s inquiry, “Do you want your profile shown to a birthmother who ….” (some examples: has a grandmother with bipolar disorder, where the child carries a risk of inheriting a certain medical condition, where the birthmother smoked pot two times during the pregnancy and denies further use (confirmed by testing). Most cases do not have these issues, but you should consider talking with medical professionals and asking if they will make themselves available to help you consider these types of questions should they arise. We generally recommend that you have the names and contact information for: a geneticist, an alcohol/drug specialist (who knows about impact on babies), an ob/gyn (to review the birthmother’s prenatal medical records, with a signed release) and a psychiatrist (who feels able to speak to the likelihood or not of any known family mental health disorders being inherited).

2. “Overstudy”: Tennis, instructors often advise students to “flex their knees” so that they can turn easily left or right. Reading can lead to that same flexibility in adoption. Reading as much as you can about all aspects of adoption can help you anticipate the different scenarios that can unfold. You may find that you have more choices if you are working from a wider base of knowledge. What many people hear about domestic adoption is limited to having seen the TV shows that tend to depict bizarre cases with disturbing fact patterns. Reading can provide you with familiarity how domestic adoption truly proceeds in the vast majority of cases.

Reading about birthparents’ experiences is particularly important. If your orientation to adoption is a “polarized” view, e.g. the birthparents give and you receive, this can affect your relationship with the birthparents. If your understanding of the birthparents’ experience can be more well-rounded, your relationship with birthparents will be more comfortable. You will feel more as though you are on “the same side.” You are part of a team effort, with the birthparents, to provide the best for the child.

We particularly recommend these books: The Third Choice: A Woman’s Guide To Placing A Child For Adoption by Leslie Foge and Gail Mosconi (Berkeley, CA: Creative Arts Books Co., 1999) and Dear Birthmother by Kathleen Silbur and Phyllis Speedlin (San Antonio, TX: Corona Publishing Co., 1991).

After We Apply How Soon Will The Homestudy Begin?

Immediately. Full Circle does not have a waiting list for homestudies. Full Circle social workers are licensed MSW’s and complete homestudies for families throughout Massachusetts. We provide both domestic and international homestudies for Massachusetts residents.

We also complete “limited assessments” for families with homestudies from other agencies (in Massachusetts and other states). Most of our homestudy social workers are also adoptive parents. Likewise, there is no waiting list for updates (when families’ homestudies are about to surpass the one year validity date) or for “limited assessments” (the required review of a homestudy from another agency in Massachusetts or other states). We look forward to helping you get ready to move forward in your adoption plan!

We Have Fears That We Are Not Going To Be Approved?

Most adoptive parents are very high functioning people who’ve simply experienced infertility. The fear of not passing the homestudy tends to be a frequent anxiety for adoptive parents even if it is rare. Many adoptive parents have been surprised and disappointed over the infertility.

Those experiences sometimes fuel the worry that “nothing will go right.” We try to normalize the fear of not passing the homestudy. The principal focus of the homestudy is to help you to have a good foundation for the adoption process and the process of raising a child who joins your family through adoption.

We're Worried About Whether We'll Be Approved Because of Some Sensitive Matters.

11. A first step is getting a Homestudy: what is a Homestudy?

12, Who reads the Homestudy?

13. What factors might we consider as we select an agency to with whom to complete a Homestudy?

14. Does Full Circle have any particular recommendations for adoptive families embarking on domestic adoptions?

15. After we apply, how soon can the Homestudy begin?

16. We have fears that we are not going to be approved.

17. We‘re worried about whether we’ll be approved because of some sensitive matters.
If you have a particular worry about the homestudy, raise it as early as possible in your communications with the agency. If you have had a criminal record (regarding anything, even if you were told it was dismissed, expunged or sealed), bring this up right away with the agency. If you have a significant health issue, also bring this up. We can help you learn whether or not those factors will have a bearing on whether or not you can be approved or what steps might need to be taken to qualify you for an approved homestudy. Honesty is very important to the agency.

In some cases, the factors may provide a useful focus for one or more sessions For example, a family with a significant medical issue might spend time in the homestudy talking about a “back up” plan for the family should that family member’s condition worsen.

If there’s been a history of substance abuse, marital difficulties in the current relationship or other important matters, the agency may request a neutral consultation with a professional who would be asked to share their impressions of where the adoptive parent is “now” with this issue. Sometimes the counselor or professional currently working with the adoptive parents can provide sufficient information.

If there should be some difficulty with the homestudy process, we are very easy to talk to. If anyone (including another adoption professional) suggests that you hide something from the agency or your social worker, please reconsider this and don’t. Our goal is to help you, not screen you out. We can’t provide the answers you need, helpful information, or supportive preparation unless we know what we need to know to help you. From our perspective, honesty is one of the most important parts of the homestudy process.

Do You Require Letters From Our Employers? "I Was Hoping Not To Tell My Employer My Adoption Plan Until It Was Closer To The Time When A Child Would Be Joining Our Family."

The state regulations require us to establish and document your financial stability. Underlying the regulations is the effort to make sure that children who are adopted will not need further state support. Most agencies, including Full Circle, ask for a letter from your employer that confirms your employment, job title, income and stability in the position.

If you do not want to disclose your adoption planning to your employer, we understand. We work together to come up with documentation that can satisfy the underlying inquiry, re: financial stability. Some families may provide a copy of the last performance appraisal (to establish stability in your job), a pay stub (to establish your employment and rate of pay), etc. We also work with you to help you document your work if you are self-employed. If you want to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to bring this up.

Is There An Adoption Attorney In The Agency? If Not, What Legal Support Exists?

The agency’s director is both an actively licensed and practicing attorney and clinical social worker. She does not represent either birth or adoptive families who are clients of the agency.

The agency’s attorney can finalize the adoption in Massachusetts without the adoptive family needing separate counsel. The cost of this is included in your fees. The agency files the finalization packet in court and asks the court to divest the agency of legal custody and to award full (legal and physical) custody to the adoptive family.

If adoptive families wish to have separate legal advice or assistance, they are free to retain counsel at separate expense or the agency is happy to provide a list of experienced adoption attorneys convenient to you.

An adoption attorney may help a family review policies and contracts as they consider working with an agency or other adoption professionals. An attorney may also help evaluate an adoption possibility, particularly legal risk aspects. An attorney assists with surrenders and/or judicial terminations of birthparents’ rights. The choice of attorney will usually depend upon where the birthmother and/or birthfather reside or where the adoption will be finalized.

Most families do not feel the need for separate counsel but are free to retain counsel at their separate expense if they wish. We are happy to work cooperatively with all your chosen professionals.

Can We Work With More Than One Agency or Adoption Professional In Addition To Full Circle?

Yes. We understand the wish to maximize your opportunities to be selected by birthparents. What we do ask is that you allow both adoption professionals (e.g. attorneys, agencies etc) speak with each other freely and that you pursue only one match at a time. If you are pursuing a match, it is important not to have two birthparents, at a time, thinking that they may safely place their child in your arms.

Can We Accept The Placement of Two Children, Born To Two Different Birth Parents Close in Time?

In the adoption field, this is sometimes referred to as “artificial twinning”. There are anecdotal clinical reports suggesting that this arrangement can be emotionally difficult for the children over the course of their development. Most agencies, including Full Circle, understand your wish to welcome more than one child into your family as soon as possible. However, for the children’s sake, current wisdom is to recommend against accepting a placement of two non-biologically related children born in close timing.

IV. Expectant/Biological Parent Services

Full Circle provides comprehensive adoption planning and neutral options counseling

How Does Full Circle Help Us Connect With A Birthmother?

Birthparents contact Full Circle by responding to our advertising, e.g. Yellow Pages, our web site, etc., and through networking with professional colleagues. Some women learn of us through friends who have felt good about working with Full Circle. We first learn about what services they need from us, e.g. help with housing, legal consultation, help terminating birthfather’s rights etc. If they wish to review adoptive family profiles, we provide profiles that fit their criteria, such as religion, age, and number of children in the family. We usually send 6-8 profiles at any given time. We send more if she wishes to review more. Profiles are about 5 pages in length and include text and photographs.

The birthmother expresses interest in one or several families. It is up to her, and the birthfather if he is involved in the process, to decide how they wish to select the family. Some like to talk on the phone. Some wish to fly to Full Circle to meet one or more families. We can arrange for this. Other birth parents wish for the adoptive family to fly to their area to meet them. We are very flexible and work hard to meet the birth families’ wishes.

How Far Along Is The Birthmother in Her Pregnancy When She Is Matched With An Adoptive Family?

Birthparents can be at any point in their pregnancy when they select an adoptive family. If an adoptive family does not want to be considered for situations in which the birthmother is earlier than a certain month in her pregnancy, they can request this.

Some adoptive families may be concerned about an adoptive situation involving a woman who is early in her pregnancy. They may be concerned that there is a long period of time, during which she could change her/their mind. However, the agency does not recommend basing the determination of the strength of a situation solely on how early a woman is in her pregnancy. There are many women, particularly those who are single-parenting one or more children already, who make an adoption decision early in their pregnancy because they are very aware of their circumstances. These birth parents are clear about what they want for their expected child, and are generally very confident in their decision-making process.

Some professionals encourage birthmothers to wait until a certain point in their pregnancy to select and meet potential adoptive parents. At Full Circle, we take the birthparents’ lead. Many birthparents have spent a lot of time thinking about adoption before they call the agency. Sometimes the call to the agency is the act that defines, for them, the moment when they feel most resolved. When they make the first phone call to the agency, many birthparents have been talking with friends, family, and the birthfather for weeks or months. A birthmother may have carefully deliberated before requesting the opportunity to review profiles of families. We follow her lead and allow her to choose these next steps when she says she’s ready.

Many birthparents feel it is very important to know, as soon as is possible, who will care for their child. A birthmother may find it hard to imagine that a loving and wonderful family will respect her and offer unconditional love to her child. There is so little in our media that presents this picture. It’s hard to know the reality of the adoptive family until she talks with them and meets them in person. We have found that many birthparents feel they can only know the full choice of adoption when they can look the prospective adoptive parents in the eye and know them as real people. Many birthparents invite the adoptive family to meet their parents or other significant people in their lives. They want to listen to their hearts about what is best for the baby, including whether the adoptive family can fulfill the dreams she has for her child.

If a birthmother and/or birthfather seems undecided and needs time to focus on the decision, separate and apart from their interest in a particular adoptive family, we are glad to follow their lead on what they need. We would focus on helping them reach a decision that feels right for them.

Do You Work With Birthmothers From All Over The Country?

Yes.

What Are The General Demographics of Birthparents?

The women and men who place with us are generally in their 20’s or 30’s, though we have also worked with younger women as well. Over half of the birthparents we have worked with are parenting one or more children. They want to devote their time and energy to caring for their older children at the time of a subsequent unplanned pregnancy. They are loving parents already and feel the limitations of what they can provide for another child.

Other birthmothers are not yet parents and they are trying to stay in school or return to school. They care dearly about their futures and their quality of life. It may feel difficult to acknowledge how important it is for them to focus on their own needs but this often is an important focus for them. Many birthfathers also feel that they don’t want to be parents at this particular time and wish to pursue their education or work-lives as well.

Nearly 100% of the birthmothers with whom we work have Medicaid or private health insurance. If they don’t have insurance, we are usually able to help them obtain health insurance. Most, though not all birthmothers, are on welfare and many are feeling strains in their relationships with the birthfather, their family and others in their day-to-day lives. They know the limitations of the supports they have for parenting. When they are already parents, they are usually very loving, excellent parents who are making a selfless decision for the sake of their child.

What Are The Characteristics of The Children Placed Through Full Circle?

Most of the adoptive families proceeding through our agency have asked to be placed with newborns of Caucasian heritage. They have had no difficulty being matched or placed with. We are also delighted to work with families who are interested in trans-cultural/trans-racial adoption and who are open to children of races and heritages other than Caucasian/European Ancestry. This agency has helped place families with children born domestically who are of part or full African-American, Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic and other heritages. We support multicultural family building and would like to increase the number of families with whom we work who are prepared to love and nurture a child of African American and other heritages.

Most of the agency’s placements involve newborns. If a child is older than a newborn, the agency recommends a careful assessment of the child’s needs, alone, as well as the child’s needs with respect to the caretakers he/she has known. Sometimes families come “pre-matched.” A family needing to place an older child connects on their own with an adoptive family interested in adopting the older child. We assist with the homestudies, birthparent counseling, placement, finalization and post-placement consultation in these cases.

Does Full Circle Support Transracial & Transcultural Adoption? Special Needs Adoption?

Full Circle is comfortable with and experienced in helping families achieve a transracial/transcultural adoption as well as in helping families open to adopting a child who may have or who may develop special needs (including assistance with applying for a special needs (or potential special needs) subsidy.

Full Circle understands that there is a wide diversity of professional and popular opinion with regard to the advisability of placing African American children with Caucasian parents. We understand and empathize with those who feel that African American parents can best raise African American children to understand African American heritage, culture and how to respond to racism in our society. However, there seem to be fewer African American adoptive parents seeking to adopt than there are African-American children needing loving homes. Full Circle welcomes families of African American heritage to our program; we would love to help more African American and biracial families adopt. If a family is of modest means, we also have a modified fee schedule so that, hopefully, professional fees are not a barrier.

Full Circle also welcomes families of part and full Caucasian (and other heritages) to adopt children of part and full African American heritage. We encourage you to explore not only your openness of heart, but your ability to anticipate the child’s needs. We encourage the family to review their dedication to helping the child know their heritage and their commitment to helping the child experience themselves as a member of a community in which the child can routinely connect with other children and adults of African American heritage. We encourage families to talk with members of Multicultural Family Building social groups, to read about transracial/transcultural adoption and to talk with their extended family and social group to assess the acceptance level of their family and friends. The agency encourages all prospective adoptive families, in general, to talk about the subject of adoption, not just transracial adoption, with their friends and family members. Adoption involves a learning process for everyone.

Whether adopting transracially or intra-racially, all families are well served by reflecting on issues of difference. If a child, regardless of ethnicity, does not resemble the adoptive parents, one may be asked more often about adoption from strangers and others. It’s important to explore your feelings about these questions and how they may “press your buttons.” One Caucasian family (both of whom had brown hair) had adopted a child with bright red hair. Everyone asked them, “Where did he get his red hair?” It had been a closed adoption and so the adoptive parents assumed it had been the parents – they found themselves explaining their adoption story on every street corner. Then we had a conversation about it. They learned that both birthparents had brown hair and that the grandparents had had red hair. After that, they were able to share the adoption story when they wanted, but not all the time. In answer to the question about red hair, they could just say, “From his grandparents…” Regardless of ethnicity, families can have a wide range of feelings about differences and how those may highlight adoption. We encourage all families to explore these feelings on their own, with each other and with the agency social workers. This is part of the process of helping you to build a firm foundation for adoption.

Due to the long and on-going history of racism by others with varied ethnicities toward those of African American heritage, the focus of this discussion of transracial adoption has been on the Caucasian/African American transracial placement. Similar principles (focusing on the anticipated needs of the child) apply to the adoption of children with other heritages, e.g. Hispanic, Asian (Chinese, Japanese), etc. or adoption of a part/full Caucasian child by a family who is of a different ethnicity than Caucasian/European. The agency’s focus is the same as with all adoptions: to help the adoptive family, through the homestudy and other programs, to build the best foundation as possible to serve the best interests of the child. We want to help you create a happy and healthy family.

Can We Pick The Sex of The Child?

Full Circle is comfortable with and experienced in helping families achieve a transracial/transcultural adoption as well as in helping families open to adopting a child who may have or who may develop special needs (including assistance with applying for a special needs (or potential special needs) subsidy.

Full Circle understands that there is a wide diversity of professional and popular opinion with regard to the advisability of placing African American children with Caucasian parents. We understand and empathize with those who feel that African American parents can best raise African American children to understand African American heritage, culture and how to respond to racism in our society. However, there seem to be fewer African American adoptive parents seeking to adopt than there are African-American children needing loving homes. Full Circle welcomes families of African American heritage to our program; we would love to help more African American and biracial families adopt. If a family is of modest means, we also have a modified fee schedule so that, hopefully, professional fees are not a barrier.

Full Circle also welcomes families of part and full Caucasian (and other heritages) to adopt children of part and full African American heritage. We encourage you to explore not only your openness of heart, but your ability to anticipate the child’s needs. We encourage the family to review their dedication to helping the child know their heritage and their commitment to helping the child experience themselves as a member of a community in which the child can routinely connect with other children and adults of African American heritage. We encourage families to talk with members of Multicultural Family Building social groups, to read about transracial/transcultural adoption and to talk with their extended family and social group to assess the acceptance level of their family and friends. The agency encourages all prospective adoptive families, in general, to talk about the subject of adoption, not just transracial adoption, with their friends and family members. Adoption involves a learning process for everyone.

Whether adopting transracially or intra-racially, all families are well served by reflecting on issues of difference. If a child, regardless of ethnicity, does not resemble the adoptive parents, one may be asked more often about adoption from strangers and others. It’s important to explore your feelings about these questions and how they may “press your buttons.” One Caucasian family (both of whom had brown hair) had adopted a child with bright red hair. Everyone asked them, “Where did he get his red hair?” It had been a closed adoption and so the adoptive parents assumed it had been the parents – they found themselves explaining their adoption story on every street corner. Then we had a conversation about it. They learned that both birthparents had brown hair and that the grandparents had had red hair. After that, they were able to share the adoption story when they wanted, but not all the time. In answer to the question about red hair, they could just say, “From his grandparents…” Regardless of ethnicity, families can have a wide range of feelings about differences and how those may highlight adoption. We encourage all families to explore these feelings on their own, with each other and with the agency social workers. This is part of the process of helping you to build a firm foundation for adoption.

Due to the long and on-going history of racism by others with varied ethnicities toward those of African American heritage, the focus of this discussion of transracial adoption has been on the Caucasian/African American transracial placement. Similar principles (focusing on the anticipated needs of the child) apply to the adoption of children with other heritages, e.g. Hispanic, Asian (Chinese, Japanese), etc. or adoption of a part/full Caucasian child by a family who is of a different ethnicity than Caucasian/European. The agency’s focus is the same as with all adoptions: to help the adoptive family, through the homestudy and other programs, to build the best foundation as possible to serve the best interests of the child. We want to help you create a happy and healthy family.

When Do We Meet The Birthparents?

Most birthparents want to meet. It is not a requirement of the agency, but most birthparents find great comfort in feeling they have met and know who will care for and love their child. Birth and adoptive families usually meet once before the birth and then again around the time of placement of the child. Most adoptive families say, later, that they felt nervous about meeting the birthparents, but that after they got over their initial anxiety, it was very meaningful and heart warming. Birthparents are often nervous too. After the first few moments, most describe the meetings as very reassuring and warm.

In one case, an adoptive family said they would decline to be chosen unless the birthparents would agree to meet. They had adopted once and knew how meaningful it had been, during the first adoption, to know the birthparents. They wanted that same level of connection and information for their second child. The birthparents who chose them were impressed by how important this was for the adoptive family. Although, at first, they did not want to meet, because they weren’t sure what to say, they decided to do so and found it very meaningful. The birthfather was able to share, with the adoptive father, his fear that his child would be unhappy with him and would feel abandoned. The adoptive father was able to reassure the birthfather that he would raise his son or daughter to think positively of him and to understand how much he truly cared. Sometimes underneath the wish not to meet is a sense that there are feelings that are too painful to articulate; when both birth and adoptive parents speak to each other from the heart, often sentiments and information, important to the child and both sets of parents, is shared.

Some birthparents would rather not meet and may not have the words to describe why they don’t feel ready for this. Whatever the reason, we follow the birthparents’ lead and comfort level.

How Much Information About The Birthparents Does The Agency Share With The Adoptive Parents?

We ask birthparents’ permission to share anything that could be relevant to your decision to accept a placement. This includes medical information. If the birthparents would prefer not to share last names or identifying information, we respect their privacy, just as we do for you.

What Type of Medical History Do You Obtain From The Birthparents?

22. How does Full Circle help us connect with a birthmother?

23. How far along is the birthmother in her pregnancy when she is matched with an adoptive family?

24. Do you work with birthmothers from all over the country?

25. What are the general demographics of birthparents?

26. What are the characteristics of the children placed through Full Circle?

27. Does Full Circle support transracial and transcultural adoption? Special needs adoption?

28. Can we pick the sex of the child?

29. When do we meet the birthparents?

30. How much information about the birthparents does the agency share with the adoptive parents?

31. What type of medical history do you obtain from the birthparents?
Birthparents routinely sign a release so that the agency may receive actual prenatal medical records. The release also requests permission to share a non-identifying version of medical records with a doctor of the adoptive families’ choosing, so the adoptive family can be advised of the health of the mother and child.

We also provide a very comprehensive family medical history form in which we ask birthmothers and fathers to kindly complete to the best of their ability. Sometimes birthmothers and fathers will ask their family for further information as well.

Can We Accept The Placement of Two Children, Born To Two Different Birth Parents Close In Time?

In the adoption field, this is sometimes referred to as “artificial twinning”. There are anecdotal clinical reports suggesting that this arrangement can be emotionally difficult for the children over the course of their development. Most agencies, including Full Circle, understand your wish to welcome more than one child into your family as soon as possible. However, for the children’s sake, current wisdom is to recommend against accepting a placement of two non-biologically related children born in close timing.

Do Birthmothers Receive Prenatal Care?

Most do. Most birthparents are already parents. They understand that each pregnancy is different and it’s important to obtain routine prenatal care. We help a woman connect with a doctor in her area if she needs this assistance. We also help pay for or manage transportation to doctor/midwife appointments if needed as well. We request permission to share a non-identifying copy of her medical records with a doctor of your choosing so you are reassured about the health of both mother and child.

Some birthmothers do not engage in regular prenatal care. When they do not obtain prenatal care, it is often because birthmothers are having a hard time thinking about the pregnancy. Going for medical care reminds them about the pregnancy, which may not have been planned. Some birthparents avoid prenatal medical care because they wish to evade drug/alcohol abuse screening, but more often this avoidance has nothing to do with this.

Some birthmothers do not yet have insurance. We are able to help them obtain insurance and connect with the health care professional of their choice (e.g. doctor, nurse-practitioner, mid-wife). Sometimes they are feeling uncomfortable about broaching the subject of their adoption plan with their health care professional and need some help raising this subject before they can engage more easily in prenatal care. We encourage women to get routine prenatal care for the sake of their own health and that of the expected child.

Are We Expected To Pay Pregnancy And Related Living Expenses For A Birthmother?

The agency is pleased to provide lawful living expenses to birthparents in need of pregnancy related assistance. In some cases, it is appropriate to follow the laws of her state. At other times, the procedures call for the agency to follow the laws of the state where the adoption will be finalized, which is usually where the adoptive family resides. In either case, we are happy to provide the lawful assistance that is needed in an expeditious and respectful manner. For example, where birthparents do not want their landlord to know of their adoption plan, we can arrange for a money order to be sent instead of an agency check.

Birthparents make adoption plans for a mix of reasons. Birthparents often have other children for whom they are caring and they do not feel able to care for another child. They may have educational or career goals they want to pursue. Often they do not feel they have enough emotional energy, time, money or family resources to give the child the life they want for that child. It is seldom a choice made solely because of a lack of funds. A lack of resources is often a part of the birthmother’s current circumstances though not necessarily central to the ultimate decision. Often the pregnancy itself makes it difficult or impossible for them to work and maintain an income during this time.

State laws, regulations and practices vary with regard to the legally allowed amount of living expenses a woman can receive during her pregnancy while considering an adoption plan. There are several interests that legislators take into account when writing the various statutes and regulations. On one hand, one does not want a birthmother to suffer during a pregnancy for lack of food or clothes or for lack of a way to travel to see her chosen health care professional. On the other hand, one does not want to give funds in any manner that makes a birthmother feel that she is in any way being “paid” for making an adoption plan or indebted to those who’ve helped her. States harmonize these interests by promulgating regulations that detail the types of expenses that are covered (e.g. rent, food, maternity clothing, transportation to medical and adoption related services etc.). Some states require prior approval by a judge. Other states simply take care to detail the “ceiling” with regard to the overall amounts of financial assistance. The specific parameters of allowable expenses are discussed with adoptive families on a case by case basis as it depends upon where the birthmother lives.

There are many birthmothers who are poor or of modest income who do not request any assistance with living expenses. When women would like assistance, all payments for allowable living expenses must be handled by the agency or by another lawful adoption professional (E.g. in some states, attorneys can assist with living expenses). It is improper for an adoptive family to give a birthmother anything of value or to make any direct or indirect promises of assistance in the future. The reason is that birthmothers may be at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives. A small amount of money may feel “small” to an adoptive family, but may feel “large” to a birthmother. One never wants a birthmother to feel indebted to the adoptive family. Her surrender needs to be completely free and voluntary.

If the adoption does not go forward for any reason, money spent for lawful living expenses is lost. At one point, MBO/Kemper in Menlo Park, California offered adoption “insurance” for such instances. But this was discontinued around year 2000. It behooves the prudent adoptive parent to explore whether any other insurance company is offering coverage at the time of their adoption planning. We are not aware of any such policies available at the time of preparing this section of the web site. Since these are funds that can be lost, it is important to work with adoption professionals who do careful assessments of the birthmother’s overall situation (motivation, legal risk, birthfather availability etc.).

While one wants to be cautious, at the same time there may be situations where, following an initial social work intake/assessment, it would be appropriate to cover some initial living expenses (e.g. one month) while certain information is still being gathered. For example, one might have a social work assessment and the birthfather’s stated cooperation, but might not yet have the first medical record because the birthmother is still working on getting health insurance before she schedules her first appointment. There are times when some initial support is provided to a birthmother while some information is still being gathered.

Are We Expected To Pay Birthmother's Medical Bills?

Over 95% of the women with whom we’ve worked have had health insurance that has completely covered their medical expenses. In a small percentage of cases, the woman has had a private 80/20 plan and the adoptive family has paid the 20% up to a ceiling of e.g. $2,000. Most pregnant women are eligible for health insurance through their state. If they’re not eligible for full Medicaid, they may be eligible for a related state program that might cover all medical expenses after payment of a small monthly premium (e.g. $25).
Adoption professionals differ as to whether they expect that the adoptive family will simply pay, out of pocket, for the birthmother’s medical expenses. Our view is that insurance should apply in any case for which insurance is possible.

What Are The Best Ways To Avoid "Fraudulent Birthmothers/Birthparents"?

Sadly, there are some people in this country who perpetrate adoption fraud. They may go through steps to present themselves as birthparents, request and receive living expenses and then facts emerge, such as information in medical records, that suggest they are frauds. One learns they are working with and receiving living expenses from more than one professional at a time. It is relatively rare, but the people who commit fraud are usually either not pregnant or deliberately lie about an intent to make an adoption plan.

There are steps that one can take to detect adoption fraud and to prevent losses for prospective adoptive parents.

Adoption professionals have a duty of confidentiality with regard to birthparents. For this reason it is hard to learn if birthparents are working with more than one adoption professional at a time. One way that a pattern of working with more than one professional may be detected is during the request for medical records. It is a good practice to always ask for medical records to be sent directly from the doctor’s office. If the doctor’s office notes indicate that copies of the record were sent to other adoption professionals, one can ask for a release to the other professionals to confirm whether or not the birthmother is working with more than one professional at a time. These and other methods of detecting fraud are well known to most adoption professionals.

Sometimes an honest birthmother is legitimately not ready to disclose her adoption plans to her health care providers. Perhaps her doctor is also the doctor for other relatives and she is not confident that the doctor’s office won’t “slip” and disclose her plan to them. Perhaps she’s sensed that the health care professional doesn’t feel comfortable with adoption and might make comments that feel insensitive to her. Perhaps she’s still contemplating her feelings and is not ready to take in the reactions of others, whether or not they are supportive. As with all questions, how to interpret this is a matter of good clinical judgement. It may well not be a fraud case simply because a birthmother is not ready to tell her doctor. It is simply one of the cues to listen for and consider in the context of many other aspects of the case.

Another point that many adoption professionals listen for is whether birthparents seem to be overemphasizing a need for living expenses. If there is an early request for living expenses, for example, many adoption professionals consider this to be a risk factor to examine closely. Having said this, adoption professionals who have handled a sufficient volume of cases, will also note a different pattern. Sometimes birthparents who are legitimately making an adoption plan are at a point in their lives when several areas of their lives, including their finances, are unstable. Sometimes an early request for living expense assistance is completely consistent with a legitimate adoption plan.

We, at Full Circle, are aware of the risk of the occasional “fraud” and take steps to increase your safety and minimize your risks. We also provide readings to you during the orientation whereby you can educate yourselves regarding signs to watch for as well. As with every aspect of the domestic adoption process, it is important to be aware of common patterns, exercise good judgement, listen to the wisdom of adoption professionals and listen to your own intuition and comfort levels as well.

Does The Agency Ask Birthmothers to Submit to Drug & Alcohol Testing?

The purpose of learning about prenatal drug or alcohol exposure is not to embarrass or shame the birthmother. The purpose is to make sure that she has an opportunity to review and choose a family who is sufficiently prepared to care for and love a child who might later have some medical or educational needs related to intrauterine drug/alcohol exposure.

We have never had difficulty finding a wonderful and loving family for a child who has been exposed to drugs and alcohol. We want to make sure that the child has a family who is equipped, willing and indeed eager to love and care for a child who may or may not have special needs. Birthmothers often fear that if they are honest about this prenatal exposure that they won’t find a family at all or one whom they like. There are so many loving and waiting families in this country that it bears repeating: We’ve never had difficulty finding a family open to a child with such exposures. Also, if you are such a family, please let us know.

If a birth mother discloses information about substance use, here are different types of tests that can be requested. During routine prenatal care, it is not unusual for the woman’s doctor to inform their patients that their office completes routine “urine screens.” Most birthparents are honest, for the child’s sake, about any exposures the child might have had to drugs or alcohol. If there is some drug use during the pregnancy, the birthmother may complete a “hair follicle” drug test in her doctor’s office, which can show substantial drug residues dating back earlier than a urine screen. Routinely birthmothers sign a release form for a meconium test, which is a test completed on the first fecal matter of the baby. This test can often detect residues of prenatal drug exposure going back a considerable time during the pregnancy. These tests are completed only with the birthmother’s full and written consent. When information about drug and alcohol use is known, the child’s possible needs can be anticipated.

While most individuals under-report drug or alcohol use, in our experience most birthparents are honest about whether or not they have used substances. They know how important it is to provide information for helpful planning for the child’s future.

The vast majority of birthmothers have not had alcohol or drug use during the pregnancy. Some report having had a few drinks before knowing they were pregnant. Most women making adoption plans usually are on the more mature end of the spectrum and have not abused substances during pregnancy or have deliberately stopped for the health and safety of the child.

Does Full Circle Require HIV Testing For The Birthmother?

We do not require an HIV test, but we request it. Most birthmothers are happy to provide this extra reassurance about her health and the likely health of the child.

In What Percentage of Cases Do Birthmothers Have Health Insurance?

Over 95% of birthmothers either have health insurance when they first call us, or we are able to secure some insurance for the birthmother and pay the premiums. The birthmother may be reimbursed for a copay, deductible or “20%” on an 80/20 plan. All such reimbursements must be completed through the agency, not paid directly by adoptive parents. All “direct” payments of any kind are not allowed as this could make the birthparents feel indebted to you and undermine the “voluntariness” of their consent to adoption. The adoption professionals should, at all times, handle any matters involving money.

Does The Agency Request Paternity Testing?

We respectfully request this of birthfathers so that we can provide greater medical and legal certainty for the child. We request it, but it is not a requirement. Most men, when they understand why it is requested, are willing to participate. The test does not involve a blood test, now that the “buccal swab” test is possible (involving a kind of “Q-Tip” type swabbing on the inside of the mouth) and it is completed confidentially.

What Rights Do The Birthfathers Have?

In general, there is a duty to exercise “due diligence” to locate a birthfather, inform him of the pregnancy and impending adoption plan, offer him counseling and legal advice and learn what his wishes are. Many birthmothers are very uncomfortable with this. They may feel angry towards the birthfather. Leaving him out of the process is one way to express that anger and disappointment and to feel in greater control. We spend time with the birthmother considering ways to meet her needs for greater control over her situation. She can feel very powerless with an unplanned pregnancy (with all the changes to her body and her life) and it can feel unfair that the birthfather is not experiencing the same or similar changes in his life.

In most states, birthfathers have a right to receive notice of the pregnancy and adoption plan and to express their wishes regarding care for the child. It is very common to see a difference between the birthfather’s communications with the birthmother and communications with adoption professionals. He may tell the birthmother “no child of mine will be adopted,” but, then, may not follow through with proposing a parenting plan for the child or may not follow through with meeting to talk with adoption professionals. He may pressure the birthmother to parent, directly or through communications of mutual friends and family members. However, when offered assistance with discussing parenting and child care options, it is very common for a young man to come to the realization that he does not feel prepared to parent at this time. We offer birthfathers free neutral options counseling helping them to explore their feelings about parenting as well as adoption.

We have found that birthmothers are more likely to accomplish their goal of having a smooth adoption plan if the birthfathers can be contacted. She may wish to contact him first or to have the agency handle all the communications. We respect the birthmother’s wishes and requests with regard to who is contacted and how. When birthfathers are informed that adoption professionals have nothing to do with child support enforcement and that talking with us is not an admission of paternity, they generally feel much safer about talking and openly considering their options. We try to help both birthmothers and fathers feel safe, cared for and respected during this very emotional process.

We have found a frequent pattern. Often birthfathers have suffered the loss of a significant male figure (e.g. father, grandfather) in their early lives. They need time to sort through whether cooperating with an adoption plan feels like a repeat of the pattern of abandonment or a healing of that pattern (in that adoption often involves placing a child in a home with an intact, stable married couple, including a father). We strongly encourage birthfathers to engage in a decision-making process regardless of what his ultimate decision may be. We find the image of the birthfather “who doesn’t care” is often a stereotype. Often, in fact, he does care, but is having difficulty finding the words for his feelings or figuring out how to sort out the various feelings he’s having. He may not know who to talk to. If he’s open to working with a social worker, we provide him with free counseling to help him make a decision that will feel okay to him in the present time and for his future as well.

The laws regarding birthfather’s rights vary from state to state. We consider it good practice to give actual notice to birthfathers of the impending birth and adoption plan even when it is not required. An increasing number of states (e.g. Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, Idaho) have statutes indicating that there is no duty to give notice to the birthfather. He is presumed to know about the possibility of a pregnancy by virtue of the sexual relationship. However, this statutory process may not sufficiently envision the situations where a birthmother has directly or indirectly led a birthfather to believe she had an abortion or suffered a miscarriage or was infertile. Without notice to the birthfather, one may not learn of Native American heritage that may be essential to complying with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Unless a neutral adoption professional reaches out to the birthfather, one may never know if he was simply not interested or whether he was intentionally or unintentionally misled, however well intentioned on the birthmother’s part.

The other difficulty with such statutes is that, while it may make the adoption process seem easier around the time of placement, not notifying the birthfather can lead to clinical difficulties later. What will the adoptive parents answer if the child later asks, “How did my birthfather feel about the adoption plan?” If the adoptive parents answer, “Oh, because you were born in (Minnesota, New Jersey etc.), we didn’t have to give him any notice”, this could raise a number of difficult feelings for the child and create tension for the whole family.

Thus, in general, we recommend that, with the birthmother’s permission, adoptive families ask adoption professionals to go beyond what the law requires in most states where notice is not required. If seeking out the birthfather leads to learning that he wants to parent, then perhaps that adoptive placement was not “meant to be.” We don’t think that adoptive family’s fears that “domestic adoption may be hard” or the scarcity model (thinking there aren’t enough babies) is sufficient justification for an adoption plan that does not have a firm foundation.

Having said this, we believe that adoption planning is a very personal part of your and the birthparents’ lives. We see our role as one of education and empowerment. We try to empower birthmothers and adoptive parents to make decisions that are right for you and the children. We hope to help you anticipate your family’s needs over the course of the whole life cycle, not just at the time of placement.

If a birthfather can not be located, or if, once reached, he refuses to become involved in planning for the child, the next step involve seeking a judicial termination of the birthfather’s rights. If it is not possible to give actual notice to a birthfather, one gives “notice by publication” which is a legal notice in a newspaper designated by the Probate Court. Usually the birthmother’s name is not in the legal notice, but the child’s is and, the birthfather’s may as well. This is not meant to humiliate those involved but rather to respect the due process rights of the birthfather – to give the best possible notice to him. After a period of time passes (usually one to two months), if no man has asserted paternity and petitioned for custody, the Court issues a decree terminating any and all unknown birthfather’s rights.

When the birthfather can be involved, there is a greater opportunity for health information (sometimes potentially life-saving information such as about allergies), a sense of a full blessing for the adoptive family to be the parents and greater legal security. In years to come, the child can feel greater self-esteem arising from the knowledge that both birthparents cared enough to be involved in thoughtful planning for his/her care.

How Often Have Placements Involved Both Birthmother and Birthfather providing Health History And Signing The Adoption Papers?

Over 70% of our cases have involved “dual surrender.” Sometimes we are able to obtain health history even in those cases where the birthfather does not want to come forward and sign surrenders.

IV. Placement & Finalization Services

How Will I/We Know The Baby Has Been Delivered?

We recommend that all clients obtain a toll-free nationwide pager. This way the birthmother can easily page you to let you know she is about to deliver the child. Some families also have cell phones, but, often, the phone is not on, the battery dies, or you are out of range just when you need it most. The birthmother and you may propose other ways to stay in touch close to the time of delivery.

May I/We Be At The Hospital When The Baby is Born? May I/We Be in The Delivery Room?

Most birth and adoptive families talk about this in advance of the delivery. The birthmother may raise this as a topic for discussion as you talk on the phone or meet in person. Birthmothers are often already parents, and they know the meaning of bonding for the parent and child.

They are often eager to have you at the birth or in the hospital soon after the birth, so they can witness your bonding with the child. Sometimes they prefer greater privacy. Adoptive families follow the comfort levels of the birthmother.

What If The Child Is Born With Medical Difficulties or Defects. Do We Have To Adopt The Baby?

If you do not want to adopt a baby for any reason, including the child’s medical condition, it will not be in the child’s best interests that an adoption plan proceed. No one can compel you to sign a petition requesting that you be able to adopt a child, nor would this be good child welfare practice.

If a child is born with medical difficulties, the birthmother is going to want the child adopted by a family who is prepared and, indeed eager, to provide the care that that child needs. There are many loving families prepared and delighted to adopt a child who might have short or long-term medical difficulties, so you need not feel as though you are abandoning the child. If this should happen, the birthmother would receive support and counseling and would be offered the opportunity to review and select other adoptive families open to that child and his or her needs.

What Are The Needs of Other Members of The Birthmother's & Birthfather's Families?

Many birthparents who make adoption plans are already parents. Their older children may be able to understand that their mother is pregnant and making an adoption plan for the expected child. We trust birthparents to decide how to handle this given their greater understanding of the needs of their children. We also make ourselves available to talk with birthparents about various ideas about how to help their children adjust to the impending adoption plan. It may be important to address the older sibling’s fears that they could be placed for adoption. It may also be important for the birthparents to actively reassure them that they are secure. Sometimes the other children have questions that they don’t know how to articulate. As birthparents consider being open with their other child(ren) about the adoption plan, they may wish to hide the adoption plan out of a wish to protect the child or a wish to avoid witnessing that child’s feelings which may include anger or grief. Where birthparents have been honest about what’s going on, their children seem to be able to share their feelings, work through them and to ask the questions that help them come to a place of greater peace with the plan.

Some adoptive parents have sensitively offered to provide a separate photo album for the sibling so that they can be reassured that the baby is thriving, without having to ask to see their mother’s photo album. One little boy asked for a video so he could see where his baby brother or sister would be living. The adoptive family was happy to provide him with this.

When birthparents are young, sometimes their parents have particularly tender feelings toward the grandchild. It can be nice to offer to send photos and letter updates to grandparents who’ve shared a desire to know how the child is doing over the years ahead.

A child can grow up feeling loved by everyone who knows him or her. There needn’t be a polarity of those who “don’t care” and those who “do”. The child can be nourished from the roots with the awareness that his or her birth family love him/her and care to know that s/he is thriving in the adoptive home.

Prior to the placement and around the time of the birth, it can be very meaningful for the adoptive parents and the birthparents to meet. Sometimes the families take pictures that they can later share with the child. Sometimes the grandparents wish to share a blanket or family bible with the adoptive family. Assuming the birthmother has given permission for communication between the adoptive family and the grandparents, the adoptive family can acknowledge their feelings as well. There are often warm expressions of gratitude flowing both ways.

Who Names The Baby?

Shortly after the birth of the baby, a form is completed listing the child’s name on the child’s first birth certificate. The birthmother can name the child on the birth certificate application form in the hospital. The birthmother may choose not to name the child.

The name may be “Baby Boy/Girl Jones” listing the birthmother’s or birthfather’s last name or another last name that she chooses. If the adoptive parents later wish to change the name, they can do so at the time of the finalization of the adoption. Sometimes the birth and adoptive families discuss names prior to the child’s birth and the birthmother completes the birth certificate listing the name they have chosen together.

Will The Baby Go Into Foster Care?

In most instances, the birthparents want you to take a direct placement of the baby from the hospital. If you are open to this request, this is usually what happens. Most of the time, if there is legal risk period, the birthparents usually want the adoptive family to be the “foster family.”

If the birthparents honestly are not sure what they want, but are clear they do not want to take the child home from the hospital, they can request neutral, loving foster care services. This is sometimes called “cradle care” or other names to distinguish it from foster care involving many different age children. Also, there are select cases, e.g. state of Wisconsin and some areas in Missouri, where the requirements of the area include some period of foster care. If this takes place, the foster family usually allows frequent and long visits between the adoptive parents and the child. The birthparents want the child to be with you as much as possible from the beginning because they want you to bond with the child.

What Is The Agency's Practice if The Adoption Process Is Interrupted?

If a birthmother changes her mind pre-birth or after birth, this is clearly a disappointment for the adoptive family. The service fees paid to Full Circle continue to work for the family through placement. They are not paid again. We give you time to heal, and when you are ready, we begin to show your profile again toward your goal of enlarging your family.

If you withdraw from a case for any reason, including discomfort with medical or other information, you are not penalized in any way. Many adoptive parents worry, if they turn down a situation, that somehow they’ll be moved to “the bottom of the list.” At Full Circle, we’re working too hard to even think this way. We share profiles of adoptive families who have the characteristics that a birthmother is looking for. We don’t have a “list” of priority order, nor do we take any action in response to your withdrawal other than to try to respond to your feelings of disappointment over a situation that did not feel right to you for any reason and to connect you with a situation that will suit your needs.

Does The Agency Ever Place Children Through Legal Risk Adoption?

Yes. Regardless of the state in which the child is born, the child is usually ready to be discharged from the hospital before adoption surrenders can legally be signed. Many of the women who place with Full Circle’s assistance are already mothers, and they know the importance of bonding. They do not want the child going to foster care. They will ask you to take a legal risk placement of the child because they want you to care for the child from the beginning.

Most state laws, with some exceptions (e.g. Washington State), do not allow birthmothers take the first steps to terminate their rights until a number of days after the birth of the child. Most birthmothers ask adoptive families to begin bonding at the hospital and for them to take a legal risk placement between the time of the hospital discharge and the time when the adoption paperwork can be completed. While this is a legal risk placement, most of the time this does not feel uncomfortable because the birthparents have shared consistent and strong messages that they want the adoption to proceed.

After the birthmother’s rights are terminated, there still could be some time when the birthfather’s rights are not yet terminated. This is still considered a legal risk period. This is usually the period of time during which a notice is sent to the birthfather’s last known address (if it hasn’t been possible to reach him in person), when a legal notice is published in the relevant newspaper (e.g. once a week for three weeks) and the Court enters a decree terminating “any and all unknown birthfather’s rights.” Some states have a brief appeal period as well. If an adoptive family is not comfortable with taking this risk, in general, or in a specific case, they may decline the match or ask professionals to see if there is a way to harmonize the birth and adoptive families comfort levels.

In some instances, e.g. where one or both of the birthparents have some ambivalence about whether to parent or make an adoption plan, the birthparents can request “neutral foster care”. Neutral foster care is when a loving family cares for a newborn during a decision-making time for the birthparents. During foster care, the birthparents can request the return of the child at any time. In most cases, however, the birthparents do not want neutral foster care. The birthmother may request that she be matched with a family who will take this risk because she (and the birthfather) care so much that the child be loved and cared for by their “forever family” from the start.

There are some states (e.g. Wisconsin) that require a period of foster care immediately following the birth of the child. Usually the foster family welcomes frequent and long visits by the adoptive family during this time. Most birthparents are not interested in required foster care but foster parents and the adoptive parents are usually able to make arrangements so that the adoptive parents spend a lot of time with the baby during this relatively short period of time.

In most cases, the birthfamily wants the child to be placed into the arms of the adoptive family when the baby is ready to be discharged from the hospital. Most hospital nurses know this and help fulfill the birthmother’s wishes. Most adoption professionals understand this wish and help to facilitate this smooth transition for the child. At Full Circle, we are comfortable with direct placements and know how much the birth and adoptive families are relieved and reassured when the baby is discharged and placed in the loving arms of the adoptive family.

If a birthmother wishes to carry her child out of the hospital, this is also honored and respected. If she wishes to take additional time to reflect on her choices and wishes to care for the child at home during the legal risk period, this is her right. If a woman is seriously considering an adoption plan, this is seldom what she wants but clearly this is an understandable wish and every effort is made to give her the space and time to consider what decision is the right one for her and her child. If a woman would like neutral foster care during a deliberation period, this too is arranged to give her a chance to reflect on her choices.

What Is The Interstate Compact (ICPC) And How Long Does It Take To Pass Through The Interstate?

ICPC stands for the Interstate Compact for the Protection of Children. States have adopted this procedure so that a child does not cross state lines until an administrator in each state (sending and receiving states) has reviewed all the paperwork to make sure the adoption process was handled correctly. The ICPC “packet” is usually comprised of a copy of the birthparents’ surrenders or the court’s termination order, a birth record for the child, a counseling and medical summary for the birthparents, the adoptive family’s homestudy and other paperwork which documents how various parts of the process were handled.

The most important thing for adoptive families to know is that you need to stay in the birthmother’s state until you receive clearance that both states have “okayed the compact.” If one parent needs to return home to go to work or care for another child, this is fine so long as one parent stays in the birthmother’s state with the child. If a prospective adoptive parent leaves the state with the child before the compact has been approved, the compact has the right to refuse to “ok” the packet and thereby can quash an adoption. It is very important not to leave the state with the child until the two ICPC coordinators and the agency director confirm that it’s ok.

Full Circle’s director has created a thorough Guide to the Massachusetts ICPC that assists out of state colleagues in satisfying the requirements of this state’s compact office. We have found that this helps inform out of state colleagues about what is needed ahead of time and that this can help speed up the process of preparing the packet. We have found the various state administrators to be very sensitive to your wish to go home as soon as possible. While they technically have a period of up to 30 days to respond to a packet, most ICPC offices review and respond to the packet within 1-2 days. We appreciate the Compact’s part in helping to keep domestic adoption safe. Overall, it usually takes 1-2 weeks from the time the baby is born. The agency or law office preparing “the packet” usually needs some time to gather the documents together and to complete some paperwork.

Is There a Grace Period For The Birthparents To Change Their Mind After They Have Signed The Adoption Paperwork?

In many states, the paperwork is considered final and irrevocable after signing the surrender paperwork in front of witnesses and a notary or a judge. In some states, (e.g. Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia), after the initial surrender paperwork is signed, there is a period of time when the birthparents can change their mind, e.g. 10 days.

The most important question is whether the birthparents have received sufficient counseling, so that, when they sign the paperwork, they feel clear that this is the decision they want to make.

What Happens During The Placement Period?

Since many birthmothers are already loving parents, they know the meaning of bonding. They may ask you to be there at the birth or close by so that you can bond with the baby as soon as possible after birth.

Birthmothers who want you there close to birth may still want to spend the first day or two holding the baby and caring for the baby. Many women see this as very special time when they can acknowledge the child and say some special “hello’s and goodbyes”. Her other family members may also want to see the baby and hold him or her.

This period can be very difficult for the adoptive parents. You may feel ready to embrace the child and yet you do not yet have any protected “right” to the child. Many adoptive parents realize that they have both an outpouring of love for the child and also find themselves holding on to their hearts, so as not to be too badly hurt if the birthparents have a change of heart.

During particularly sweet connections with the birthfamily, there may be a lot of shared time at the hospital. One adoptive mother noted, with tears in her eyes, that, as the birthmother’s own parents came to visit, she told them the baby’s name, “Sarah”, and then said to her parents, introducing the adoptive couple, “Here are Jack and Sharon, Sarah’s parents.” These types of moments are a typical and poignant experience during domestic adoptive placements.

It can be very helpful if you can bring with you, to the hotel or the hospital (wherever you’ll be waiting) something to do that does not require a lot of concentration but which can also help you manage anxiety. If you enjoy knitting or other portable crafts, this can be a helpful activity. If you can lose yourself in a good book during stressful times, go for it. Count on there being seemingly interminable waiting periods during which you may not know if the time she’s sharing with the baby are goodbyes or hellos. Give the birthmother as much space as she wants and needs. If she wants to be alone, leave her alone. If she wants you to keep her company, share those special times with her. Do whatever you can that also takes care of you during this time.

Introduce Yourself to The Hospital Nursing Staff And Social Worker. Help Them Understand The Plan.

Hospital staff often see only one “frame” in the “movie” of the on-going relationship between birth and adoptive parents. They aren’t aware that you and the birthparents may have met before, that you may have talked on the phone frequently during the pregnancy, emailed and spent time together planning for the child’s birth. They see a physically exhausted and sad birthmother and they also see eager and elated adoptive parents in the nursery. It’s not hard to understand why the nursing staff might perceive the adoptive parents, incorrectly, as intruders and feel “protective” of the birthmother.

It is often the birthmother’s strong wish that the adoptive family spend time with the child and that she have some quiet time, alone, to heal and feel her feelings. However, it can also be difficult for a woman who is having a change of heart to articulate her feelings if they are different from how she has talked and felt, prior to the birth of the child. When nurses ask to speak with their patient alone and if they ask the adoptive parents to leave for a while to give the birthmother space, this is an important request to honor. Sometimes the birthmother needs time to feel her grief and then she reaffirms her adoption plan. At times, though less often, a birthmother or birthfather may decide they wish to parent.

When nursing staff and hospital social workers are brought into the process, they are often very welcoming and helpful. A social worker may find a room that the adoptive family can stay in until the baby is ready for discharge. Nurses will shower you with formula, advice, and reassurance that you’re caring for the baby well. It’s important to help them understand and feel a part of the birthmother’s plan, whatever the plan may be.

It can be helpful, if possible, to schedule a time, during the pregnancy, when the birth and adoptive parents can meet the hospital social worker and charge nurse and even take a tour of the maternity unit. It’s a great time to ask questions and receive helpful information and advice from the hospital staff. Meeting each other ahead of time can help everyone feel more comfortable at the emotional time of the birth.

We Recommend That You Arrange For Your Older Children To Be Cared For At Home During The Adoptive Placement Period.

We strongly recommend that you make other arrangements for the care of your older children around the time of an adoptive placement. Since so many initial placements occur at the hospital and before the birthparents can definitively sign adoption paperwork, there is always the chance that they may change their minds. Even if they don’t change their minds, the birthparents can be emotional and there can be lots of feeling expressed. We think that it can be overwhelming for other children to witness this. While adults can “digest” this emotional content, it can be bewildering and even upsetting to children. We recommend that you make arrangements for your older children to be cared for by someone familiar to them (e.g. a grandparent, aunt/uncle or other caring adult) until you get home.

While you are waiting for the Interstate Compact to clear, it is also possible for one parent to return home as long as one parent stays with the baby in the birthmother’s state. You can invite a friend or family member to stay with the parent who remains behind with the baby if they’d like company and a little relief.

We also think that there are distinct ways to encourage a warm connection between the baby and an older sibling. When you return home with the baby, one parent might go in the house first and spend some special time, “one on one” with the older child. That parent can hear about the adventures that took place while the parents were away. Perhaps the alternate care providers will have helped the child draw a picture for the baby or have gone shopping for a special present for the baby. The parent who comes in the house first can help the child to get ready to see the baby and bestow their affections together. We encourage you to think about these memorable moments and make a plan that works best for you and your family.

Health Insurance Reminder

Adoption professionals have a variety of approaches to Medicaid. Some feel that the adoptive family should cover the costs of the baby’s care in the hospital because the child later becomes their legal child. However, the problem with this analysis is that most health insurance companies will only allow the insured (adoptive parent) to add a child to their policy after the child has been legally placed with them. In other words, most health insurance policies won’t cover an adopted child from the day of birth, but from the day of legal placement. By expecting the adoptive parents to assume responsibility for the costs of the child before they had any legal responsibility for the child, they are being asked to assume costs on top of an already expensive process.

In our view, Medicaid is a social program designed to help those who are uninsured. A newborn child who does not otherwise have health insurance seems to be one of the best served clients of this social program. Usually the costs of a newborn’s delivery and care are low, but a child may need more extensive care. We heartily recommend that adoptive families request that the agency or attorney, assisting them in the birthparent’s state, help, the birthmother submit a retroactive request for Medicaid coverage for the child, unless there is other insurance that covers the child. The time periods for when this application must be submitted vary widely from state to state (e.g. can be 10 days from date of Medicaid service or a longer period e.g. 30, 90 days). Request that this be submitted as soon as possible to protect yourself fiscally.

DOES FULL CIRCLE REQUEST BIRTHPARENT UPDATES? ARE THERE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS?

We invite updates but do not “require” them. Many birthparents get busy with their lives after a placement and want to put some emotional distance between them and the placement period. Even in the warmest of placements, birthparents may need some ‘space’ to heal and integrate the experience. We offer regular post-placement counseling. Some birthparents participate and benefit from post-placement counseling. Other birthparents prefer to do counseling at a later particular time.

“together” or confident. We welcome a chance to talk with birthparents about any part of their experience and the ways in which they’ve woven their adoption process into the overall fabric of their lives.

AFTER THE BIRTHPARENTS' SURRENDERS ARE "FINAL", DOES THIS MEAN THE ADOPTION IS "FINAL"?

State laws differ with regard to the timing of various aspects of the adoption process. In most states, the birthparents’ surrenders are considered final and irrevocable (absent a showing of fraud or duress) at the time of signing or after a revocation period (e.g. 10 days) has passed. The surrenders are, thus, final a number of months before the actual finalization of the adoption itself. The adoption finalization usually occurs six months after placement. The period of time between placement/ birthparents’ rights being terminated and the adoption finalization is the “post-placement supervision” period where the agency meets with you and consults with you to help you with any areas of adjustment. This is not a period of time during which most adoptive parents worry. This is usually simply a time of adjustment and adaptation to the newest member of your family.

HOW LONG IS IT BETWEEN THE PLACEMENT OF THE CHILD AND THE FINALIZATION AND LEGALIZATION PROCESS?

In Massachusetts, adoptive families are eligible to file papers seeking finalization after the child has resided with them for six months. The agency can complete the finalization for adoptive families in Massachusetts. This is included in your fee. Other states may vary with respect to the time period. If an out-of-state family adopts in Massachusetts, the agency can also finalize the family in Massachusetts, as non-residents, after 6 months.

WHAT IS THE "POST PLACEMENT SUPERVISION"? WHY DO I/WE NEED THIS? WHAT IS FINALIZATION LIKE?

Most states require that you meet with and talk on the phone with your adoption social worker to discuss various aspects of the adoption adjustment over a period of time (usually six months), immediately following the placement. The goal is to help you with any issues that come up. These issues include your adjustment (translation: how you’re dealing with sleep deprivation), any health issues for the child, communication with birthparents, adjustment to work and responsiveness of family and community to your child. The period of time for post-placement supervision varies from state to state. Some states have a particularly abbreviated post-placement period (Kansas). Most require that the child be with you for six months before finalizing (e.g. Massachusetts and most other states).

After the designated time period, the agency or your attorney can file the necessary paperwork in court and request a short hearing. Often the judge will sit with you at a table rather than sitting, removed, behind the bench. Your family and friends can attend if you’d like. Everyone admires the child and the court ceremoniously signs the final adoption decree. Judges will offer to pose for photographs with you and your family. This is usually one of the happiest times for a probate court judge and they are usually very warm and friendly with you and your family.

After the judge signs the adoption decree, the court clerk will send a request for an amended birth certificate to the “vital records” clerk in the town or city where the child was born. Some weeks later a new birth certificate will be issued which lists the adoptive parents as the parents of the child. The original birth certificate, bearing the birthparents’ names, is sealed and is, generally, no longer available (with the exception of some states which have changed their laws e.g. Oregon). The “amended” birth certificates do not generally record the name of the birthparents or indicate that the child was adopted.

Before the finalization and before the amended birth certificate is issued, one can request copies of this birth certificate for the birthparents to cherish. Adoptive parents may also wish to ask if they can receive a copy (only with the birthparents’ permission) to share with the child in the years ahead.

IS THE AGENCY WILLING TO KEEP BIRTHPARENTS AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS UPDATED ON MEDICAL ISSUES?

Yes. We have an “update form” by which we ask birthparents to keep us and adoptive families informed of any medical information that might be meaningful to the adopted child. We encourage all birthparents and adoptive parents to update the agency and each other with regard to medical issues and other developments in their lives.

WHAT'S THE AGENCY'S POLICY OF PHOTOGRAPHS AND LETTERS?

Most birthparents, though not all, want to see photos and letter updates over the years to be reassured that their child is doing well. Some birthparents are clear about what they want around the time of birth and placement. Other birthparents are not as clear. We have noticed that some birthparents only gather the strength to see photos of their child years later. It is particularly for these latter birthparents that Full Circle has created a general policy that preserves their right to see photos/letter updates later. All families proceeding through Full Circle are asked to provide to the agency two photo letter updates per year for the first two years and once a year thereafter until age 18. Some birthparents never ask to see the photo/letter updates; others may do so years later and are greatly reassured that all is well. Some birth and adoptive parents decide to share these updates directly with each other. Full Circle is available if you’d like us to convey these communications for you.

CAN BIRTHPARENTS AND ADOPTIVE PARENTS HAVE A JUDICIALLY ENFORCEABLE POST PLACEMENT COMMUNICATION AGREEMENT/DECREE?

Massachusetts is one of very few states where there is a statute expressly allowing birth and adoptive parents to create a legally enforceable post placement communication agreement. Birth and adoptive families can establish, in writing, what types of post-placement communication they’d like to share after the child is placed for adoption.

If the adoption is finalized in a state other than Massachusetts, then this law doesn’t apply. If the adoptive family lives in another state (and finalizes the adoption there) and/or the adoptive family finalizes (as non-residents) in the state where the birthmother has delivered her child (other than Mass.), the law does not apply. Some states have modified versions of this law (e.g. Indiana allows such agreements where the child is over two years old and there is a substantial relationship between the birthparents and child). Some birthparents wish to deliver their child or make an adoption placement in Massachusetts because they like the idea of having a judicially enforceable post placement communication agreement. The statute provides that while enforceable, non-compliance with the agreement not affect the adoption decree itself.

AFTER FINALIZATION

Full Circle professionals remain available to you in the years ahead. During the first few years of a child’s life, you are usually pretty busy. When the child begins to talk, she or he may have occasional questions about adoption. Questions may arise about how to best handle a situation in school or about how best to respond to your child’s needs and questions. Please feel free to call us up to talk about whatever might be on your mind. We are available for phone or in-person consultations.

If you are in the area and wish to stop in for a visit, we greatly enjoy seeing you and your child. It’s a delight to see the little person, whom we last saw as a baby, walking, talking and sharing her or his thoughts about the world. We enjoy seeing you as parents and learning about how life has been since finalization. We look forward to seeing you whenever your schedule permits.

It also bears mentioning that you continue to be welcome at the Family Building Through Adoption seminar (which occurs monthly) and you should feel free to suggest topics. June tends to be the month for our annual picnic. Families and children seem to enjoy meeting each other and making new friends. Families are often surprised to find other families who live close by to them. We hope you will come and enjoy a fun and heartwarming day with us.

Last but not least, we welcome your involvement in agency planning and growth. We welcome your making suggestions for how Full Circle can best meet all our clients’ needs. There is an Advisory Group that considers suggestions for change and additions to our programming. You may express interest in being part of the group or you may simply make suggestions for the group to consider. We welcome your involvement and suggestions. We look forward to knowing you better and better over the years.

VI. International Adoption

What services does Full Circle offer Prospective Adoptive Parents?

A. Incoming International Adoption

  • Orientation and Consultation
  • Home Study
  • Interagency Coordination with Placement Agency/Primary Provider
  • Post-placement Supervision
  • Finalization

B. Incoming International Kinship Adoption

  • Orientation and Consultation
  • Feasibility Study
  • Home Study
  • Primary provider services
  • Post-placement Supervision
  • Finalization

C. Outgoing International Adoption

  • Orientation and Consultation
  • Home Study Review (of home study prepared by receiving country)
  • Interagency Coordination with Receiving Agency
  • Matching/Coordination by FCA
  • Post-placement supervision (in receiving country, not USA)
  • Finalization (in sending or receiving country, case by case)

You can reach Full Circle Adoptions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-452-3678