Giving Tuesday

December 7th

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Stories

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Adopting Through Upbring: Clare and Phil’s Story

Clare and Phil relaxed on their couch and watched a movie unaware that in less than 12 hours, their lives would change forever. Before heading to bed, they noticed a missed call from Kelly Keen, Upbring’s Domestic Adoption Specialist. Their hopes soared. Clare and Phil dialed Kelly’s number, holding their breath and silently praying that this was the call they had been waiting for.

Tears streamed down their cheeks as they learned that their prayers had been answered. Not only had an expectant mother chosen them as parents, but the baby had just been born! Clare and Phil quickly packed an overnight bag and set off to meet their daughter, phoning friends and family to tell them the good news along the way.

Clare and Phil often reflect on that day and the process that changed their lives in the most beautiful way. Having started the adoption journey with another agency, the couple felt like they were on their own throughout the process. Yearning for a more personal experience, they searched for other options. “Clare is a researcher and did her homework to find Upbring,” Phil said. They knew they were in good hands from their very first phone call with Upbring’s Director of Adoption, Erin Patterson.

Kelly later guided Clare and Phil through the adoption process and paperwork and kept them updated along the way. When they were able to officially adopt their daughter, Joy, Kelly was at the courthouse celebrating by their side. The couple continues to be impressed by the level of care and support Upbring shows their family. “We tell everyone we know who mentions they are interested in adoption to contact Upbring because the entire process was wonderful,” Clare said.

At Upbring, we limit the size of our domestic adoption program in order to offer personalized, high-quality and ethical care as well as lifetime post-adoption services for all members of the adoption triad (expectant families, adoptive families and adoptees). We understand that adoption is a life-changing decision, which is why the Upbring family will be with you every step of the way. For more information on the adoption process, please call our adoption hotline to speak to one of our adoption specialists at 1-833-80ADOPT or visit Upbring.org/Adoption.

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Paying for Adoption: Resources

The journey to becoming a parent can be a challenging process with many routes to get there. For families pursuing adoption, the process can be a long, complicated and emotional ride, with boundless questions and unknowns.

 

Undeniably, one of the biggest challenges of navigating adoption is the cost. Adoption is an expensive endeavor and many often wonder why. It’s important to know that you are not paying for a child, but paying for the many services required to bring your child home in a safe and ethical manner. Those services can include adoptive parent training, home study services, expectant parent fees, background checks, legal fees, medical fees, post-placement support and much more.

 

While adoption may be a complex and costly process, don’t lose heart! Below is a list of resources available to make any form of adoption attainable for your family:

 

  • Employee Benefits Program – A growing number of employers are offering adoption assistance in various forms, including reimbursement for adoption-related expenses.
  • Military Reimbursement – Active duty members and reservists are eligible for up to $2,000 in adoption expense reimbursement.
  • Sliding Fee Scales – Some adoption agencies, including Upbring, offer a sliding fee scale which bases adoption fees on your gross annual household income.
  • Adoption Grants – Many agencies offer grants to adoptive families, such as Show Hope, Helpusadopt.org, Gift of Adoption Fund and many more. Please note many of these applications will require that you provide a copy of your finalized adoption home study, so be sure to start that process as early as possible.
  • Adoption Loans – There are several agencies, such as A Child Waits Foundation, that offer low interest or 0% interest loans.
  • Crowdfunding – The advent of funding websites has made it much easier for families to ask friends, family and their community for financial support during an adoption. One example is AdoptTogether.com, used by many clients as a virtual baby shower where individuals can donate to a loved one’s adoption fund.
  • Tax Credits – If a family is eligible for an adoption tax credit, the credit amount can be applied to a family’s tax liability. Further, if the family’s credit exceeds the family’s tax liability, it can continue to be applied for up to 5 years. For additional information, please visit https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.
  • Fundraising – This is a great opportunity to use your creativity! Some creative ideas we have seen families come up with include empty baby bottles at cash registers to collect coins, an auction for horseback riding lessons and homemade spaghetti plates prepared with donated ingredients and sold for the donor’s amount of choice. The options are endless!

 

While covering the cost of adoption can be daunting, it is possible! At Upbring, we have seen clients fund their entire adoption process using these tools, and we encourage you to learn more about the options available to make adoption attainable for your family. If you’re interested in learning more about the adoption process through Upbring, please visit Upbring.org/Adoption or call 1-833-80ADOPT to speak to an adoption specialist.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Patterson, LMSW

Director of Adoption 

Erin Patterson is the Director of Adoption at Upbring where she supervises international adoption, domestic infant adoption and post-adoption support services. Erin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Master of Social Work with a concentration on Community Administration and Leadership and holds the certification of Licensed Master of Social Work. An Upbring employee of nearly 10 years, Erin has a background in disaster relief and adoption services in their various forms.  Erin has been fortunate enough to work and travel in countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Haiti, granting a deeper understanding of the realities of adoption in developing countries. Erin now lives in Austin with her husband and two children and spends her free time cooking for a crowd.

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A Deeper Look at Open Adoption

When an adoptive family decides to take a leap of faith and pursue a domestic infant adoption, they will inevitably be faced with a steep learning curve. They will learn about home studies, transracial adoption, fingerprints and post-placement reports and will find themselves growing as they face each new issue. Arguably, one of the most important issues they will consider is the level of openness in adoption.

 

Because the history of domestic adoption is rooted in secrecy, negative stereotypes and a lack of communication, openness has only recently become a norm in the United States. Today, we define openness in adoption as varying levels of contact between biological families and adoptive families. Essentially, if an adoption is open, the terms of communication between the two families can be anything that both parties agree to, and Upbring staff will act as a mediator between parties as needed. In our history conducting domestic adoptions at Upbring, we have seen many interpretations of open adoption; everything from weekly visits to annual photo updates to a lifetime of silence, but knowing that the door is open should any member of the adoption triad (the adoptee, adoptive family and biological family) want to contact the other that is key.

 

As our profession has followed the trajectory of openness in adoption, we have learned a great deal. By 1999, we learned that two-thirds of domestic adoptions were open and by 2012, U.S. agencies reported that 95% of adoptions fell somewhere on the continuum of openness. Research shows that all members of the adoption triad benefit from openness in adoption. For example, adoptees report feeling a greater sense of identity and peace with their adoption story. They have access to vital medical and psychological information and report having healthier relationships with their adoptive families, among other things.

 

It is important to remember and consider that openness in adoption is not always possible or advisable. At Upbring, we do everything we can to educate adoptive families and biological families on the nature of both open and closed adoptions. There are circumstances where closed adoption is the appropriate choice, and we work to support our clients in identifying and following the path that is right for them. If the families choose a closed adoption, it is just that – communication between the involved parties ends at the time of placement, and there is no recourse later in life.

 

Upbring is honored to assist both adoptive and biological families as they consider the possibilities for openness for the life of their adoption and support both parties along the way. If you’re interested in learning more about the adoption process through Upbring, please visit Upbring.org/Adoption or call 1-833-80ADOPT to speak to an adoption specialist.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erin Patterson, LMSW

Director of Adoption 

Erin Patterson is the Director of Adoption at Upbring where she supervises international adoption, domestic infant adoption and post-adoption support services. Erin graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Masters of Social Work with a concentration on Community Administration and Leadership and holds the certification of Licensed Master of Social Work. An Upbring employee of nearly 10 years, Erin has a background in disaster relief and adoption services in their various forms.  Erin has been fortunate enough to work and travel in countries such as Ghana, South Africa and Haiti, granting a deeper understanding of the realities of adoption in developing countries. Erin now lives in Austin with her husband and two children and spends her free time cooking for a crowd.

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Building Families Through Adoption: Which Type of Adoption is Right for Your Family?

The journey of adoption usually begins with the exploration of the different types of adoption available. Researching the ways hopeful adoptive parents can expand their families and making a definitive decision on which path to choose can be overwhelming. This guide will explore the three types of adoption that are available to families looking to provide a child or children with a loving and forever home — Foster to Adopt, Domestic Infant Adoption and International Adoption, all offered by Upbring.

 

Foster to Adopt and Straight Adoption

Upbring Foster In Texas works with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to find loving temporary and permanent homes for children who have been removed from their biological parents due to neglect, physical abuse, substance abuse, etc. In most DFPS cases, the child is removed from their home and placed with a foster family. A judge will order the biological parents to complete certain tasks within a “reunification plan” to regain custody of their children. If the biological parents successfully complete all tasks asked of them and it is safe for the child to return home, then the child is reunified with their biological family.

 

If the biological parents do not take the necessary steps recommended by the courts, they will likely have their parental rights terminated, and the child will be eligible for adoption by relativestheir current foster family or another foster family licensed to adopt through foster care. Hopeful foster and adoptive families should understand that the primary goal of the DFPS is to reunite children with their biological parents. If that is not in the child’s best interest, they work to place them with relatives or with their current foster family when possible. If their current foster family is unable to adopt, the child will be placed with a foster family who is licensed to adopt. Foster and adoptive families should remain open to the possibility that the child or children will be reunited with their biological parents or placed with a relative.  

 

There are also thousands of children whose parents’ rights have already been terminated and are waiting for a forever family to adopt them from foster care. This type of adoption is called “straight adoption and is ideal for families who are not looking to take on the challenge of fostering a child but would prefer to adopt a child whose rights are already terminated. 

 

Adopting from the foster care system is generally free for foster and adoptive families as it is funded by the state of Texas and the DFPS. Some small fees may be incurred by the family for health and fire inspections of your home as well as FBI fingerprints during the background check process. With children under the age of six, the adoptive family may also be responsible for legal fees.

 

Domestic Infant Adoption

Domestic adoption is the voluntary and permanent relinquishment of an infant born in the United States by the biological parents. In most cases, an adoption plan is created by the expectant mother during her pregnancy with the help of a child-placing agency like Upbring. With the help of counseling from an adoption professional, the birth parents will decide the type of adoptive family they want for their child as well as the amount of contact they desire with their child and adoptive family. Some birth families will prefer a more open adoption, while others may choose to keep the adoption closed and have no contact with the adoptive family after placement. Typically, relinquishment documents are signed by the birth family at the hospital and the infant will go home from the hospital with their adoptive family.

 

Because Child Protective Services and the state of Texas are not involved with private infant adoptions, adoptive families are responsible for the fees associated with the adoption. In most cases, these fees are first paid to the adoption agency who manages costs and the adoption process on your behalf. The fees help pay for the adoptive family approval process (application, training and home study) and case management services, as well as birth parent, agency and attorney expenses, among other things.

 

It’s important to note that while there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of non-relative domestic adoptions completed over the past decade, there’s been no reduction in the number of American families looking to adopt infants via domestic adoption. In fact, some figures estimate that only 18,000 infants are adopted by non-relatives in the U.S. every year, and there are 36 waiting families for every one child who is placed.

 

Finally, wait times for families looking to adopt domestically can vary greatly depending on several factors including openness of the adoptive family regarding race and background of the child, the amount of contact they are willing to engage in with birth parents and ultimately, what expectant parents are looking for in an adoptive family for their baby. In Texas, most adoptions are finalized in court approximately six months after the baby is placed in the adoptive home at the conclusion of a period of post-placement supervision.

 

International Adoption

International adoption, also known as intercountry adoption, is the process of a family adopting an eligible child or children from a country outside of their own.

 

When a family considers international adoption, the first decision they must make is identifying from which country they hope to adopt. This is a vital first step because everything about the adoption process varies from one country to another. For example, dossier documents, wait times, the matching process, post-placement reporting requirements and many other things vary depending on the country you adopt from.

 

Once you’ve identified the country, your next step is to find an adoption agency, often referred to as a placing agency, that has a program operating in that country. This agency will then guide you through the complex process of finalizing your adoption. From the beginning tasks of having a home study conducted, completing necessary paperwork and navigating the immigration process to meeting your child, returning home and conducting post-placement reports, the agency you choose will stand by you step by step.

 

While the adoption process, including its many types, can seem overwhelming, Upbring’s adoption specialists and Foster In Texas staff stand ready to guide you through it allFor more information regarding domestic and international adoption, call 1-833-80ADOPT or visit Upbring.org/AdoptionFor more information about foster to adopt or straight adoption, please call 877-747-8110 or visit Upbring.org/FosterInTexas. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Keen, LMSW

Domestic Adoption Specialist

As a Licensed Master Social Worker with a background in foster care and adoption, Kelly Keen has a wealth of experience working directly with children and families. Kelly graduated from Texas State University with her Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and received her Master of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. As a Domestic Adoption Specialist at Upbring, Kelly has a passion for serving all members of the adoption triad; expectant parents, adoptive parents and children. She is committed to creating meaningful connections with expectant mothers and strives to provide the counsel and support they need throughout the adoption process and beyond. Kelly and her husband have three amazing children and reside in the Austin area.

Foster Friday: Establishing Routines for a New School Year

The start of the school year can be overwhelming, especially for a child in foster care who’s adjusting to a new environment. As a foster parent, it’s important that you establish routines that allow the child in your care to feel happy, confident and supported as they navigate through these changes. From starting the morning with a healthy breakfast to ending the night with a bedtime story, each moment throughout the school day has an impact on your child’s emotions. To ensure that the school year is one that creates lasting memories for the child in your care, we recommend establishing these four routines in your household:

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Introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration

Whether you have several children in the same school, or the child in your care is your first in the district – it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers and the school administration. Most schools will host a “meet the teacher” night before school begins. This is a great opportunity for both you and your child to meet school staff. When you introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, explain that the child in your care is in the foster system. Share contact information and create an open channel of communication so that both you and school staff feel comfortable contacting the other should a situation (positive or negative) arise. Not only will this make you feel more comfortable, but it will also allow your child to get acclimated to the adults that will inevitably make a lasting impact while they’re in your care.

 

Enroll your child in after school activities

During the school day, your child is engaged in learning. Aside from lunch and recess, there usually isn’t a lot of time for socialization. Your child will inevitably have pent up energy to release at the end of a school day. Take time to get to know the child in your care and enroll them in an after-school activity that aligns with their interests. Dance classes, gymnastics and youth sports leagues are all great ways to burn energy. Art classes, piano lessons or computer coding classes are good for getting creative juices flowing. There are after school activities to fit every family’s budget – you can pay one time or monthly fees for reoccurring classes or sports leagues or find free after school activities in your neighborhood. Talk to parents at your child’s school or in your area to find fun, safe and affordable options.

 

Set aside 10-15 minutes each night to review your child’s homework and answer questions

School can be difficult and overwhelming, especially for a child who is getting used to a new environment and new routine after their world has been shaken up. Set aside time each night to sit down and help your child with their homework. Answer questions, go over notes from class, sign any papers that need to be returned and talk about upcoming tests or projects that require at-home prep. By doing this, you’re creating a meaningful bond that will help the child in your care feel confident when coming to you with problems or questions. It also allows you to feel more prepared and knowledgeable about what’s going on in your child’s school life.

 

Establish a weekly emotional check-in

Most likely, the child in your care has gone through a lot of emotional challenges. Being placed in the foster care system is a lot to process for a child. Adding in a new school, new routine, new friends and new adults to look to for protection and guidance can often be a lot to handle. Sit down weekly with your child to check in on how they’re doing emotionally. It’s important to communicate in a way that is age-appropriate and that works best for them. These check-ins may take time to become fully effective. For the first few weeks, take time to build trust. From there, conversations can become deeper. Throughout each check-in, reassure your child that you see them, you hear them and you’re there to love and care for them.

 

Grade school years are some of the most formative in a child’s life. By creating and implementing these routines, you’re letting the child in your care know that the past hardships and traumas they’ve experienced don’t have to be the norm. Healthy habits, especially those that involve learning, can make a lasting impact on the child in your care. Have you implemented any of these routines? Let us know in the comments below.

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To learn more about how you can become a foster parent, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo.

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BeREAL: Layla’s Story

From as early as age three, Layla remembers being on her own. She was raised by a single mother who was addicted to drugs. Layla spent most of her childhood looking after her mom, feeding and taking care of herself and tending to the household responsibilities.

 

As Layla grew older, circumstances got even tougher. At thirteen, her mother became violent, and Layla left home to seek help from her best friend’s parents who then became her foster parents. She spent the next several years in their care until she graduated from high school.

 

Like all high schoolers who walk the graduation stage, Layla thought about her future and what she needed to do to succeed in life. While she had the love and encouragement of her foster family, Layla needed extra support to attend college and move into her own apartment.

 

Hope came to Layla when she was accepted into Upbring’s BeREAL program. Through the generosity of friends of Upbring, the apartments participants live in come fully furnished! The BeREAL program also pays for Layla’s rent and utilities while she studies anthropology at Texas State University. After being in the program for more than a year, she continues to work hard to achieve her goal of graduating from college. “I know that I wouldn’t have been able to come to college and succeed at college without all the assistance that BeREAL and everyone involved has given me,” Layla said.

 

Layla hopes that her story encourages others who age out of foster care to believe that college is an option for them. Now, with big dreams and a bright future on the horizon, Layla knows she can lead a much different life than she had as a child

 

To learn more about BeREAL and how you can make a difference in the lives of young adults like Layla, visit Upbring.org/BeREAL.

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Waiting Children – Bulgaria | August

Upbring International Adoption – the primary provider facilitating adoptions from Bulgaria – partners with New Beginning Association, a foundation accredited by the Bulgarian government, to find loving and compassionate adoptive families for children living in Bulgarian orphanages.

 

Meet the children currently waiting to find their forever homes:

 

AIDEN, PENELOPE AND ZOEY

 

 

AMARA

 

 

AVA

 

 

CORA

 

 

ISLA

 

 

JASPER

 

 

JULIAN

 

LUCY

 

 

MADELINE

 

 

MEGAN

 

 

POSIE

 

 

SILAS

 

 

STACEY

 

 

VINNY

 

If you would like to find out more about children available for adoption in Bulgaria, contact Upbring International Adoption by emailing [email protected]. You may also call 800-396-4611 and ask to speak to our International Adoption team.

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18 Books To Read With Your Child As Summer Comes To An End

As summer begins to fade and the school year quickly approaches, now is the time to begin refreshing the skills your child learned in the classroom last year. Chances are, the summers days were filled with picnics, trips to the water park, cookouts and memories to last a lifetime, but as fewer days stand between now and the first day of school, it’s important to exercise the brain and get your child back into “school mode” little by little. An engaging and creative way to prepare your little one for another year of learning is to simply read! Reading a book allows your child to go on an adventure, explore new lands, learn about new people and create worlds beyond anything he or she could imagine. You can keep your child engaged and make reading even more fun by using voices, acting out the scenes or watching a movie based on the book you’ve just read. There are millions of books out there for your child to discover, but to make it a bit easier we’ve created this list of recommendations, separated by age group, that we think you should add to their reading list:

(BONUS: Books in bold italics are recommendations for children in foster care from our Foster In Texas team.)

 

Infant/Preschool

  • Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
    • Beautiful illustrations in Vashti Harrison’s book showcase women of color who changed the world and accomplished extraordinary things
  • Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard
    • This comedic picture book features a grumpy little bird who learns to how to giggle his grumpies away
  • Giraffe Problems by Jory John
    • Edward the giraffe discovers how to accept and celebrate one of the physical features he previously tried so hard to hide, his extremely long neck
  • I Need A Hug by Aaron Blabey
    • This sweet story about a tiny porcupine who is looking for a cuddle is sure to warm your heart
  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
    • Alexandra Penfold’s story follows a diverse group of children during an average school day who, although they are very different from one another, are welcomed with open arms
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
    • The Kissing Hand tells the story of a young raccoon who is hesitant to leave his mother as he attends his first day of school. His mother shares a family secret that helps the raccoon feel loved even when they’re apart

 

Elementary School

  • The Sun Is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
    • Nick Seluk’s comic-style artwork demonstrates all the amazing things that the sun does for our solar system
  • Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
    • Originally published in 1970, this classic story features best friends Frog and Toad who learn vital lessons about friendship
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
    • This imaginative classic follows Stuart, a little mouse on a big quest to find a lost friend. The story would be an excellent choice for readers somewhere between chapter books and full-length novels
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    • In this collection of hilarious poems, Shel Silverstein provides a charming introduction to poetry with detailed drawings that will captivate your child
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • If your young reader is looking for a fantasy series, this would be a great choice as it is the first of seven novels in Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia collection
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
    • Love You Forever is a beloved children’s book that shares the story of a mother’s love for her child as he grows each and every day

 

Middle School

  • Holes by Louis Sachar
    • Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve his juvenile detention sentence after he is mistakenly accused of stealing. He soon finds that his job of digging holes each day may not actually be for “building character”
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    • This story of resilience features Karana, who learns to survive on her own when she is left on a deserted island off the coast of California for eighteen years
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
    • Auggie, about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, has never attended a mainstream school before due to a facial deformity. In addition to the hardships that come with being “the new kid,” Auggie must also learn how to make friends and show others that even though he looks a little different, he is just like them
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    • Leo, the main character in this novel, struggles with peer pressure and must decide whether he will shun Stargirl like the rest of the students at his high school
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
    • Naima, a Bangladeshi girl whose family has fallen on hard times, challenges the traditional role of women in her village and uses her artistic talents to help provide for her family
  • FOSTER RECOMMENDATION: Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
    • Far from the Tree tells the heartwarming story of three siblings separated within the foster care system and their journey to discovering the true meaning of family

 

By crossing a few of these books off your child’s list, he or she will surely be ready to dive back into learning and all the excitement the new school year will bring. Reading is a great way to spend time together, encourage learning all year long and have fun. Providing opportunities for your child to learn and grow will build a firm foundation of success for years to come. What are some of your favorite books to read with your child? Let us know below in the comments!