Category Archives: Open Adoption

20 Questions: Guide to Choosing an Adoption Agency

When we decided to go the domestic infant adoption route, we were fortunate that through no real calculated effort, we happened to fall into an excellent adoption agency. And by “excellent,” I mean two specific things:

    • An excellent agency counsels hopeful adoptive parent on two fronts: (1) processing grief to heal the wounds of infertility, and (2) living in open adoption.
  • An excellent agency is squeaky-clean in its dealings with both hopeful adoptive parents and expectant parents. Ethics toward expectant parents may not be high on your agency checklist at the front end of an adoption, but make no mistake. It is in your long term interest, and that of your future child, to make sure that your child’s first parents are also treated ethically.

So plan on doing some research once you hone in on an agency or two. Ask to talk to past customers of adoption services (adoptive parents) and consumers of pregnancy counseling services (first parents).

20 Questions: A Girlfriend’s Guide to Choosing an Adoption Agency
Needless to say, choosing an adoption agency is one of the biggest decisions you face, because you need to go where your child will be. My advice is to follow both your head and your heart.

How? First, your head. Research the agency by interviewing its counselors and asking to speak with both adoptive parents and firstparents they have served.

Ask the agency

  • What’s the shortest wait you’ve had? What made it so short?
  • What’s the longest wait? Why do you think this couple had such a long wait? What did you do to help them?
  • What is a typical wait?
  • How many couples do you have actively waiting at one time?
  • How many placements did you have last year?
  • How do expectant parents find you?
  • What is your counseling approach for expectant parents? (Information on parenting should be easily available to people coming in for pregnancy counseling. The agency should never push, but rather provide information and support.)
  • How often do expectant parents decide to parent after being matched with adoptive parents?
  • At what stage of the pregnancy do you suggest expectant parents choose adoptive parents? (Many professionals suggest not entering a match until at least 7 months into the pregnancy. Expectant parents go through a lot of ups and downs, and you don’t want to be riding that roller coaster for very long.)
  • Please explain your fee schedule. (A not-small portion — up to 1/3 of the total — should be due only after placement.)

Ask adoptive parents

  • How long was your wait?
  • What kind of grief counseling did the agency offer? (Expect some support in healing from infertility so you are ready to parent whole-heartedly).
  • How active was your agency?
  • What kind of after-adoption support is available? (Look for an agency that provides post-adoption counseling or parenting classes as part of the supervision process).
  • What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s first family?

Ask first parents

  • How did you come by your decision to make an adoption plan? (An ethical agency will let the expectant parents take the lead and not push them into ANY option. This is crucial to reducing the risk of expectant parents changing their minds. The decision has to be freely made, and I would run fast from an agency that puts pressure on expectant parents to “give up” a baby.)
  • To what degree did you feel supported by the agency?
  • If you had a friend who was pregnant and needed help deciding what to do, would you recommend this agency?
  • How did you hear about the agency?
  • What kind of relationship do you have now with your child’s family?

Look for healthy situations where both parties feel well-served and well-represented by an agency. A good agency will make the adoption process collaborative (with the child as the focus), rather than adversarial (where one side’s loss is the other’s gain).

After you gather the facts, let your heart weigh in on the decision. Sit quietly and find out what your intuition tells you. If you have a “feeling” about an agency, go with that feeling. Adoption — like parenting — is a very intuitive process. Adopting with your head and heart will prepare you to parent with your head and heart.

Image: Master isolated images /

Another Reason Open Adoption Works for My Children & Me

no medical history in adoptionMy childhood friend Juli tells me that one of the worst things about being adopted is going to the doctor. The nurse always asks about her health history, including her parents’ health history, to see what kind of risks to watch out for.

She draws a blank. Each and every time. She has no clue if the experiences she’s had with her body and mind are rooted in her genetic makeup.


A friend had some bad news recently: her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer  (caught early; the prognosis is good).


So what does this have to do with open adoption? My children will know.

Tessa will be able to ask Crystal at what age she started her period  — did you know that before age 12 is a risk factor? She’ll know if and where cancer may occur in her genetic line.

Reed will have access to heart and lung, skin and kidney, prostate and stomach history and everything else. And if he ever has a daughter (or a son), he’ll be able to tell about the presence or absence of breast cancer in his genetic line.

adoptee blank medical chart

I want my children to have dynamic information about the health of the people whose DNA they carry — not static information about the health of their birth parents at age 20. Open adoption enables Tessa and Reed to know over time what goes on with their birth relatives, clues to  what their own medical puzzle may look like.

What my friend Juli wouldn’t give for that.

Image by OpenClipart [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


Lori Holden's book coverLori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

Adoption Issue? Parenting Issue? Ego Issue?

In response to my Triangle Tangle, I’m getting a lot of empathy, for which I’m grateful, but not a lot of concrete advice. I believe this is because Open Adoption is still largely uncharted territory. And Crystal and I are like Lewis and Clark.

One person asked me privately if such a situation gives credence to Closed Adoption advocates. Or to anyone who judges one’s parenting decisions from the sidelines. She says:

People have their own agendas, and validation of their beliefs may be one of them. And my children’s behavior may be one of the indicators used in vindicating a cherished doctrine.

At first I thought she was talking about people who say “Told you it was a mistake to have Crystal in your lives,” (which no one has said). But she continues thoughtfully with:

So I wondered if something similar may turn the heat up a little higher on you when these questions begin. And maybe cause you to read more into it than Tessa may have meant; maybe in this case it really WAS about the purse and keys. Maybe it’s about wanting to feel grown-up.

Me, have my own agenda and need validation?! Oh, that damn ego again. No matter what happens, there I am having to deal with me.

So maybe, as my friend says, Tessa really just wants to carry my purse and keys and phone (don’t suggest giving her old ones — we’ve tried that and they must not be “me” enough for her because she still comes after my real ones.)

Maybe lipstick is just lipstick. Reframe the tangle as a parenting issue, not an adoption issue.


Maybe this is a problem with Open Adoption (not that I would throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater). Tessa has enough information on how her life would otherwise have been to build an idyllic picture in her head about it. She can see the grass on the other side of the fence, but it will never be her yard. Yet her older bio-brother gets to play there all the time.

I am still wondering about a day at Crystal’s or even a sleepover. Would either help to resolve the issue for Tessa, or would it exacerbate it? Would it help her to see that the grass isn’t greener? Or just intensify a longing for that yard?

Someday I will know these answers…I’m thinking in about 16 years. For now I just try to lead with my heart and be aware of my ego’s motives.