Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Adoption Day, Hannah Grace!

Friday, April 23rd was a special adoption celebration at Family Life Services as Hannah Grace became the daughter of adoptive parents, Eric and Heidi.  Hannah Grace is Eric and Heidi's first child and this special day was celebrated with some extended family members from Heidi's family. 

Eric and Heidi first met Hannah Grace's birth mother at the beginning of this year and made an immediate connection with her as they shared about what God has done in each of their lives and how He had led each of them on their respective journeys.  The day was a vivid reminder of God's grace, protection, and goodness to each of His children.  A slideshow has been posted on the sidebar with pictures from this blessed placement day for Hannah Grace.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Best For You - By Kelsey Stewart

The Best For You, by Kelsey Stewart, is a unique children's book that is written from the birth mother's perspective to a child placed into an adoptive family.  It simply, yet delicately, explains how the birth mother found out that she was pregnant at a time that she was young, not married, and wanted her child to be raised in a secure home, by two parents, who would love her child just as much as she did.  This book does a masterful job of conveying the love of a birth mother, basic reasons for choosing an adoption plan for a child, how the birth mother decided that she was not ready to parent, what she was looking for in an adoptive family, and the sacrifices that she made to provide the best future for her child.

For parents of an adopted child, this book provides positive affirmation for a child, of any age, and opens the door to an age-appropriate conversation about the child's own birthmother.  The concepts and values in this story can be applied to any domestic, infant adoption situation where birth parents voluntarily make an adoption plan.  From the beginning pages that read, "This is a story about love.  This is a story about a gift from God that became an even greater gift to a family.  This is a story about a beautiful baby whom I gave birth to.  This is a story about you." to the closing statements of, "Always know that I love you.  Adoption does not mean that I gave up.  Adoption does not mean you were not loved or not wanted.  Adoption means you have more than one family who loves you.  Adoption means you will always be in my heart, whatever I may do.  Adoption means I wanted the best for you." - the message is one of mutual respect for the birth mother and adoptive parents and one centered around unconditional love for the child.

The illustrations are simple, hand-drawn pictures yet they seem to enhance the authenticity of the story as it is not one driven by commercialism, but rather one directly from the heart of a birth mother.  There is one section in the story that references the birth mother placing the child directly with the adoptive family in the hospital setting, which would not directly apply to families who utilized foster care, yet would be a time for adoptive parents to pause for discussion.  I give this book a positive recommendation and believe that it fills a gap where literature has not been available in the past.  The Best for You is available directly from the publisher for $9.99 at AuthorHouse Publishing, but is also available from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

The author, Kelsey Stewart, is the mother of 5 children:  a daughter and twin boys that she placed for adoption and two boys that she is raising with her husband.  She is an advocate for open adoption and loves to share her positive adoption story with others to show that she has been able to become a healthy, happy, and experience mother.  Her personal blog is The Birth Mother Voice

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adoptive Families Magazine - Mommy and Me Contest Winner

Adoptive Families Magazine has a number of photo contests throughout the year to feature families in their magazine.  Pictured to the left is the recent winner of the Mommy and Me contest for Mother's Day.  You can view some of the runners up here.  FLS has had several of our families' photos featured in the magazine and we hope to see several more!

Appropriately, there is a Daddy and Me photo contest that is open for entries until May 20th.  Visit the link to review guidelines and see how to submit an entry.  The winning photos will be featured in the July/August issue of Adoptive Families Magazine.  Get outside and begin capturing those precious moments with your kids!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

While I'm Waiting

Rachel Curley, Adoption Caseworker, is our guest blogger.  Rachel has several years of experience providing foster care for children in Thailand and now works directly with birth mothers and adoptive families pursuing both international and domestic adoption.

This morning, on my way to work, I heard a song I’ve heard many times before, but this morning for whatever reason it really struck a heart chord. The song was, While I’m Waiting by John Waller.  It seems in life, we are always waiting on something. Perhaps, it’s the money to buy a new car, or a promotion at work. Perhaps it’s waiting to get married, or to become parents, start school, or to graduate. Perhaps the waiting is for a job opening or a loved one to come to know the Lord. Yes, life is full of waiting. Why do we have to wait, sometimes so long that it hurts? Why does God allow us to wait? He, who holds the universe in His hands, certainly does not have to make us wait. He could answer our heart’s cries instantaneously, but so often He doesn’t. Could it be that God wants us to wait? And perhaps not just on something but on someone?

Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

Could there be a purpose in the waiting...something he wants us to learn...something He wants us to do...something He wants to accomplish in us? Oh, for the grace to learn to wait in a way that daily I find my strength renewed. I desire to learn to exercise confidence in God’s perfect timing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

There's Always Something to Learn...

Our guest blogger is Erica Dogini, Adoption Caseworker.  Erica works with birth families and adoptive families for pre-placement and post-placement services and is also the facilitator of an Adoption Class and monthly Birth Mother Support Group.

The Caseworkers of FLS had the opportunity to attend the Barker Foundation Annual Adoption Conference, located at The University of Maryland, on Saturday, April 10th. The theme was “From Patches to Quilt: The Joys and Challenges of Complex Blended Families.” This message was definitely accomplished from the beginning session with keynote speaker, Collins Tuohy (the daughter of the family portrayed in The Blind Side) to the closing address by Scott Simon, an international adoptive father and inspirational radio announcer for National Public Radio.

The conference provided a variety of classes led by experts and individuals with personal adoption stories. Each year, this conference is a highlight for our agency’s staff and would be a wonderful investment for waiting adoptive families or adoptive families to attend as well ( One session, in particular, that impacted me was the testimony of Rhonda Roorda, an adult African American woman who was adopted into a Caucasian family. Her insights challenged me professionally and caught my personal attention while opening my mind to considering new aspects of transracial adoption.

Rhonda provided a glimpse into what it was like being raised in a Caucasian family. She shared the following key concepts:

• She relayed the feelings of an adopted person who desired to fit into her family and shared adoptees will try to assimilate into their family, at the cost of their own cultural identity.
• She shared about her struggle to connect with individuals who were the same race as herself.
• She identified herself as an adopted person who advocates for transracial adoption.
• She made a point to acknowledge that, although it has come a long way in recent years, transracial adoption still has major areas in need of improvement.

Her personal and practical suggestions for transracial adoptive families are the following:

• Provide diversity in your child’s life (examine your communities—is your child the only minority?).
• Provide a mentor of the same race and gender as well as someone who shares the family’s values.
• Provide books and materials about the history and customs of the child’s culture of origin. For an adopted child, having the option to explore his or her heritage within the family reinforces acceptance of their identity and affection from their family.
• Provide the necessary tools for your child to advocate for him or herself – Society’s view of your child is not necessarily the same as your view, prepare them for challenges and teach them how to stand up for themselves.

Adoptive families who desire to adopt transracially may feel a sense of worry or a burden that they are not equipped or do not possess what it takes to raise a child of another race. I would like to leave you with something Collins Tuohy said that stayed with me, “Don’t raise your child based on race, but as how you want them to be as individuals. Raise them in such a way that they will acquire the attributes and standards you desire him or her to possess to be successful.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adoption Tax Credit 2010

Talking about T-A-X-E-S this week will be bitter to some and sweet to others, depending on if you are mailing a check or waiting by your mailbox for one!  However, there is some updates that you should be aware of as we proceed through the coming year.  The signing of the Health Care Bill in March was a controversial topic, to say the least.  However, most of us will agree that a positive result of it is the Adoption Tax Credit which increased from $12,150 to $13,170.  The credit has been extended through December of 2011 and is now refundable (if the family has no tax liability, the IRS will refund the amount due).  This is not a deduction, it is a dollar for dollar credit applied to the tax that a family pays to the government.  I am not going to pretend to understand the "ins" and "outs" of the Tax Credit, but it is wise to learn about it early in the adoption journey so you can appropriately document your adoption expenses.

For those of you who are interested in reading the portion of the Health Care Bill that deals with the tax credit you can go here and read on page 903.  If you want a free, crash course on the Adoption Tax Credit you can go to Adoption Learning Partners and take a brief class to help you understand the general principles behind the Tax Credit (there is a $25 charge only if you request the certificate of completion).

We are Adoption Professionals, not Tax Professionals, so please consult with a Tax Professional to help you wade through your specific situation to take advantage of the money available to you. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birthmother's Day - May 8th, 2010

Mother's Day is soon approaching and we want to make sure that you take time to acknowledge Birthmother's Day on that special weekend.  Birthmother's Day falls on the Saturday before Mother's Day - May 8, 2010 - and should be a time that you pause to let birthmother's know how special they are to your family.  This time of year can be difficult for birthmothers, if nobody takes the time to recognize the sacrifice of love that they have made for the child.  Don't let this date pass you by, start planning now!

There are many, creative ways that you can let her know that she is special.  The key is to plan now and get it there on time, BEFORE May 8th so she knows that she is not forgotten.  This day is more about the emotional and sentimental value, than the monetary value.  Here are some suggestions that you may consider:
  • Create a photo greeting card of the child on a site such as Snapfish or Shutterfly with a personalized message
  • Frame a piece of artwork that the child has created for the birthmother in a simple frame to showcase the creation (fingerpainting, drawing, colored picture, etc.)
  • For young children, send handprints or footprints of the child framed, in clay, on a card, etc.  I have seen some adoptive families get really creative with this and send a piece of artwork with "handprint" flowers, etc.  You can find some ideas at Handprint Craft, Baby Handprint Crafts, Enchanted Learning, and more available by doing a quick search!
  • Arrange to have flowers delivered to her on May 8th (if you have a mediated adoption through FLS, this can usually be arranged by calling Rose Marie in our office)
  • Have a mug, necklace, keychain, etc. personalized with a photo of the child
  • Consider sending a recordable card from Hallmark with a simple message recorded by the child (this can be especially cute for those little tikes who are just learning to talk!).
  • If you are in close proximity to one another, plan a picnic at a local park or playground to spend some time together and take photos.
  • Set up a time to have professional pictures taken with your family and the birthmother in the next month - purchase one of her favorite proofs following the session.  If you are in the Lynchburg area, check out Simple Reflections Photographic Art who have an FLS Adoption Package.
There are limitless ideas that will help to make the birthmother in your life feel special.  Remember, plan now and get it to her on or by May 8th.  What are some of your ideas for celebrating Birthmother's Day?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Local Colors Festival - Roanoke, Virginia

Local Colors is an organization in the Roanoke Valley (Virginia) that celebrates diversity and promotes multi-cultural understanding through education, services, and events.  On Saturday, May 15th, there is a Local Colors Festival at Elmwood Park in Downtown Roanoke, Virginia.  Representatives of many countries come together with native foods, music, costume, dance and performances for a unique cultural celebration!  The event is free and is a wonderful place to spend a sunny Saturday with your family.  Keep checking the link for a schedule of events. 

I recommend that you arrive hungry so you can sample the food available and bring a nice blanket or lawn chairs to camp out in the park to watch the performances that take place all day on the main stage.  My husband and I have had the opportunity to attend portions of the event for the last 3 years and I highly recommend it for adults and children of all are sure to have a great time - hope to see you there!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Donate $1 to FLS - It Won't Cost You A Penny!

GoodSearch will donate a $1 for every toolbar that is downloaded between April 6th at 9am EST and April 9th at 9am EST up to $5,000!! Please download the toolbar right now by following this link -

Our new FAMILY LIFE SERVICES-LIBERTY GODPARENT FOUNDATION toolbar is free to download and allows you to raise money for our cause every time you search or shop online! Once added to IE or Firefox, each time you shop at more than 1,300 stores (from Amazon to Zazzle!) a percentage of your purchase will automatically be donated to FLS - at no cost to you (and you may even save money as the toolbar provides coupons and deals as well!). The toolbar also has a search box and each time you search the Internet, about a penny is donated to our organization.

We would be so appreciative if you would download our customized toolbar so we can earn the $1 bonus per toolbar!

And, please pass this along to all of your friends. The two minutes it takes to add this toolbar to your browser can make a lifetime of difference for our cause!

Get the toolbar NOW! 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chocolate, Butterscotch, Cocoa....Which Shade Are You?

Sometimes the best children's books to incorporate into an adoptive family's library are not written specifically on the topic of adoption!  Such is the case with The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz.  It is a simple, well-illustrated book that celebrates diversity by recognizing the beauty of the various shades of skin tones that surround us.  The main character is a seven-year-old girl, Lena, who takes a walk through her neighborhood with her mother and notices that all people are various shades of brown.  They find friends in shades of caramel, French toast, chocolate brown, butterscotch, etc.  Is this book making you hungry yet?  It is a simplistic view, as diversity is about much more than skin tone, but is an appropriate book for a young child that will help them to recognize our similarities that connect people and celebrate the differences.

I encourage adoptive families to scatter books about adoption and diversity on the bookshelf along with the tried and true favorite stories.  In time, the books will open the door to questions and conversations that the child can have with their parents to gain a better understanding of their own adoption story.  The Colors of Us is available in a paperback and a hardcover version and is an excellent addition to any child's collection of books.
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