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Adoption Blog: Adoption: Not Just My Profession, My Life

Facing a Possible Adoption Disruption After Bringing Sweet Pea Home



During the adoption process, most prospective adoptive families feel as though they are on a rollercoaster of emotions, with lots of ups and downs along the way. One moment there will be a setback, and the next a leap and bound forward. Because the adoption process is so individual and personal, there will never be two experiences that are exactly alike. That is also why the adoption process is only somewhat predictable.

For us, the length of our wait wasn’t the challenge. We waited only 46 day from going in the books until we got “the call” for an emergency placement. We were thrilled and could not believe it was happening; the next day, we headed to the hospital to meet Sweet Pea. But the day after returning home with her in our arms we got a second call—one we were hoping to never get.

We had spent only eight days snuggling with Sweet Pea by this point—three spent in the hospital followed by five days in a hotel huddled along the DE/PA border waiting on ICPC clearance. We had only officially been home all together as a family for a little over a day when the phone rang and my heart sank as I heard our social worker share some devastating news. We knew through all our adoption training that disruptions were a risk—and I still firmly believe that the revocation period is important and just—though, when it happens to you, that training and knowing how infrequently it happens are no comfort.

It was a Wednesday night, just after Dave left for work, when our social worker called to let us know that there was a change in the birth father situation. He was no longer an unknown birth father and he decided that he wanted to parent his daughter. I tried to hold back the tears as I listened to her explain the situation in depth. The knot in my throat made it impossible for me to respond to her in words. The deepest parts of my heart ached, yet I also absolutely knew that, if her birth father wanted to parent, he should be afforded to option to do so. I had no anger or hate towards him, only sadness for us. It also gave us a glimpse, only a small glimpse, at the pain birth parents must feel when deciding not to parent.

From Wednesday to Friday we waited, held our breath, and loved on our precious little girl as much as we could. Each day I woke feeling how priceless it was to spend one more day as her mother. That Friday, a DNA test would verify his paternity. After that, pending additional checks, Sweet Pea would be placed in his care. It was important for me to work through the heartbreak and write him a letter to share with him everything about her first few weeks. I told him how she loved to snuggle and preferred skin to skin contact. I explained how she was always curling her tongue and how she lifted her one tiny eyebrow when she heard me in the room but wasn’t yet ready to wake up. I also told him how each of the nurses had a special name for her as they cared for her in the hospital.

Dave also wrote Sweet Pea’s birth father a letter: “…since the day we met her we have loved being with and caring for her. The first time we held her in our arms, we felt just like when I held our other two sons in my arms. She is a sweet precious girl who loves to be held close and seems to always be calm and soothed the moment she lays her head on our chest. I can understand as a father wanting to be a part of your child’s life. Just know that even though she was with us for a short time, the time she spent with our family will always be remembered and cherished.”

I also wrote our sweet little girl a letter, which you can read here, and began gathering items I wanted to send with her: the outfit she came home from the hospital in, diapers and wipes, her favorite binky, photos, etc.

Without revealing details, on the day the DNA test was to be done, some additional information came to light about his identity and history indicating that there may be cause for concern. There was no clear answer as to whether or not Sweet Pea would remain with us as we went into Mother's Day weekend. I can recall very few life experiences that were as painful as what we were facing. Again, it was an incredible reminder of the pain birth parents may feel in making one of the most difficult and life-long decisions possible.

We held our breath but refused to hold back our love. As the next week went on, attorneys and the agency social workers verified that, because of his situation, she would not be released into his care. However, that did not officially mean that the adoption process would proceed either. So we held our breath. Sweet Pea’s birth mother remained certain of her plan and was prepared to go to court to fight for her to stay in our home.

We did not know the official outcome until four months later, when a judge reviewed all the facts and heard testimonies and made his decision to terminate the birth father’s rights. It wasn't until we heard the judge's ruling that we would take our first deep breath since we got "the call" saying we were picked for a placement.

As I work on a future post about the benefits and challenges of going through the adoption process as a professional with more than 10 years of experience in the field, I emailed the birth parents’ social worker, my colleague Amanda, for a quote. Her response is an outsider's witnessing of our difficult and painful challenges, and yet also makes clear that, despite our aching hearts and depth of worry, we were able to move through the experience with grace and respect for both the process and both of Sweet Pea’s birth parents. In a previous post I discuss the possibility of disruptions in the domestic adoption process and the importance of the birth parents having a revocation period. I wrote it so that, if we faced a disruption, I could reread my words and remember to be empathetic to the birth parent process. I believe that Amanda’s email reveals that we were able to remember that it wasn’t just about us.

In the words of Amanda, the birth parents’ social worker:

"The four months that followed the placement of ‘Sweet Pea’ with Kristy and David were probably one of the most stressful ‘post-placement’ time periods that I have encountered in my three years of working at Adoptions From The Heart. The initial couple of weeks after she was placed were extremely risky, in terms of there being a possible disruption in the plan, based on a potential birth father wanting to parent. Up until the final court hearing, terminating the birth parents’ rights, everyone was cautious about what might happen. As an agency, I believe that we do a really good job in training our adoptive families to understand the adoption process, the risk involved, and the perspective from a birth parent. Placing a child for adoption is never easy, and is probably one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. There is always a time period, following placement, during which a birth parent may change their mind and decide to parent. Prospective adoptive families must mentally/emotionally prepare for there being a disruption and a possible loss of this child to go back with their birth parents. I think that in this specific situation, that time period ended up being much longer than normal, which put a lot of added stress/concern on everyone, more specifically Kristy and David.

In looking back at the situation, I can honestly say that I am grateful that it was Kristy/David put in this position to be caring for ‘Sweet Pea.’ While I would never wish that stressful time period on any prospective adoptive family, I feel that Kristy and David went through the experience in the best way a family can. While most individuals would immediately turn to anger/frustration during that time period, Kristy and David turned to a place of complete understanding/sympathy to both birth parents. While many people might claim to understand the birth parent experience, Kristy and David not only understand it but have the upmost respect for it. I believe they have always felt that they just wanted to honor both birth parents’ wishes while also doing what was in the best interest of the child. If that had meant placing her back with one of her birth parents, they would have found it in their hearts to be okay with that.”

I think, from being in the field of adoption for 10+ years and seeing the other side of the journey, I have a better understanding of why the revocation period is vital.

Remember that this is our personal situation and that every experience and journey has unique aspects. Our case was not simply one of an able birth father who wanted to parent and our fighting him in court to be her parents. It was much more complex, and, ultimately, a judge determined what was in the best interest of the child. We continue to believe in his rights as her birth father and will honor our commitment to send the agency update letters and photos of Sweet Pea for him as she grows up.

We are now moving to the next part of the process and will soon be finalizing the adoption.


Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle

3 Comments

I am happy for you and your family, and I hope that your daughter’s birth mom has peace with her decision.

With all due respect, your story has less to do with the revocation period and more to do with the fact that the match was “father unknown” when the bio father actually was known, or at least possibly known.  The bio dad never signed TPR, so he didn’t revoke it, once paternity was established, he wanted to parent.  Maybe your daughter’s b-mom wasn’t sure, or maybe she had what she felt was a good reason not to identify him (especially in light of the fact that the court did not feel baby could be placed with bio dad).  Unfortunately, this is something that potential adoptive parents also have to face; in your case, you were ready to respect the bio dad’s rights, and that is admirable. 

The issue many people have with the revocation period is the implication that a woman is incapable of making this difficult decision simply because she is postpartum.  By your own account, your daughter’s b-mom never wavered in her wish to place her child with your family.

By jszmom on Monday, November 02, 2015 at 9:30 am.

Adoption is definitely a good way to show our mankind and kind nature. But it also improves our emotion level and affection. Therefore before adoption we should mentally prepare and make us strong in order to skip emotions and hardcore feelings; here also we aware about such types of things that what is going on during adoption and after adoption and I hope in case if anyone coming under adoption process they should follow some instructions from here.
Child Care

By nathanprice on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 7:08 am.

Thank you to everyone for their comments. I appreciate you reading and connecting to the blog in some way. Jszmom I really appreciate your feedback as well as deepening the conversation in regards to the revocation period. Mrs C, our daughter will not need to wait until she is an adult to know. We will be open with her about her story, including the difficult things. It’s important to remember that even though I have not revealed the reasons publicly that the judge decided to terminate the birthfather’s rights for the child’s safety or the steps her bithfather decided not to take in order to parent, our daughter will have the complete picture. She will indeed know the truth, even before reaching adulthood we will give her the space she needs to explore her feelings about it, which may indeed be different that ours. She will also see our commitment to open adoption and sending the agency updates and pictures for him whether or not he chooses to pick them up.

By Kristy Hartley-Galbraith on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 9:19 am.

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Meet the Author

Kristy Hartley-Galbraith

Kristy Hartley-Galbraith

Pennsylvania

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