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Post-adoption services

Q: When our son was first placed in our care by the state, we were told that he'd qualify for a certain amount in subsidy payments due to his special needs. But now, two years later, as we're finalizing his adoption, we've been told that we have done such an incredible job with him that he will not qualify for that amount. His disability hasn't vanished, however, and his needs will extend beyond high school. What can be done?

A: Unfortunately, states are not required to provide much in the way of post-adoption services. And the more expensive (residential treatment) or adult-oriented (vocational training) the service, the less likely a state is to provide it. Adoptive parents must make the best arrangement possible at the time that they negotiate the adoption subsidy—that is, before the adoption is finalized. Once it has been finalized, there is extremely limited leverage with regard to expanding the services that their child needs or increasing the subsidy. To determine whether you have any recourse in this case, contact your state adoption program manager. [Find your state's program manager at http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/general/nad/index.cfm.]
—Madelyn Freundlich,
Policy Director, Children's Rights
New York City.

Why one attorney won't do

Q: We have identified our birth family independently, and are having a difficult time finding an attorney to handle the entire adoption and represent both us and the birthparents. Can you help?

A: If you have been looking for one attorney who will agree to simultaneously represent both yourselves and the birthparents, this is unethical, if not illegal. The birthparents need to be advised of their rights. Your attorney, in turn, should solely have your best interests in mind.
—Mark McDermott,
Former president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
Washington, D.C.

Ending the comparison

Q: Whenever we speak on the phone or visit with our 16-month-old son's birthmother, she points out physical resemblances. ("He has my teeth" or "We have the same big eyes.") We understand her enthusiasm, but it's begun to dominate the conversation. We feel that the beauty of our open adoption arrangement is that our son will be able to see the likeness for himself as he grows. Are we off-base with this?

A: Often, at the moment of placement, everyone is too excited to think about what will happen in six months or six years. But now is the ideal time for you to meet with the birthmother, and perhaps with a competent professional, to talk about how the open adoption is going and to set parameters for the future. It may be difficult to speak up, but ultimately, it will make for a smoother relationship that will better serve your child as the years go by.

As your son grows, all the adults involved must set their egos aside in the best interest of this child. And you are right: Because of your open adoption, your son will be able to see that he is related to—and looks like—his birth family. He will also see that, although he may not look like you, he is a part of his adoptive family forever.
—Joyce Maguire Pavao,
Center for Family Connections
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Prenatal substance exposure

Q: We are in the process of adopting a child who may have been exposed to drugs prenatally. How can I learn more about this topic?

A: An excellent book on this topic is Adoption and Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure: Research, Policy and Practice, edited by Richard P. Barth, David Brodzinsky, and Madelyn Freundlich. [This book is available from the Adoptive Families online bookstore.]

You should also consult a competent adoption doctor to review the medical records. Find one listed with the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Adoption and Foster Care.
—The Editors of AF

Is there an adoption watchdog organization?

Q: We were unhappy with the lack of disclosure, the low level of professionalism, and the lies that we were told by our adoption agency. Is there any national "watchdog" organization that could help us warn others of this behavior? Are there organizations out there that allow families to give their opinions without backlash?

A: Unfortunately, there is no national watchdog organization, but you can report the agency to the state licensing authority, to the Better Business Bureau, or to the Attorney General in the agency's state (and in your own state, if they are different).

If the agency is a member of the Joint Council, the largest affiliation of licensed, non-profit adoption organizations, there is a complaint process that you can access at www.jcics.org/Complaint_Policy.pdf.
—The Editors of AF

Adoption-related separation anxiety?

Q: My 3-year-old appears to have a higher level of separation anxiety than most children her age. Her preschool administrators believe that it's related to the fact that she was adopted, but I don't think this is the case. In fact, when I was young, I had a lot of anxiety, too. What can I do about this?

A: Are you concerned about leaving your daughter at school? Children tend to take cues from their parents. If this is a sensitive area for you, it's possible that she's mirroring the anxiety you are feeling. Talking with someone about the situation may help. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable your child will be.

Some schools tend to view many issues as adoption-related and, unfortunately, it can be difficult to change people's thinking. Perhaps mentioning your own prior nervousness would help the administrators to see that, in your child's case, adoption may not be the explanation.

You might also ask about arranging for a speaker to talk about adoption during a teacher's meeting. Many parents have found this to be effective when their schools don't quite "get" adoption.
—Ronny Diamond
Adoption Resource Center
Spence-Chapin, New York City

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