Giving Tuesday

March 28th

#GivingTuesday is Tuesday, November 28. Find out more about this 24-hour, special opportunity to make 2X impact, click here.

Stories

4

Upbring Salutes David Ramos

“I’m thankful for having a job where I get to help people every day.”

 

David Ramos served our country in the Army for three years and in the Air National Guard for five years. After his military service ended, he set out to find a job where he could give back to his community a different way. He knew right away that he wanted to work for an organization that shared his passion for caring for others.

 

After experiencing some difficulty finding a job in the small east Texas town where he lived, David was excited when he first learned about Upbring at a local job fair. Hopeful that he would meet the Youth Care Worker job specifications, David spoke with Claudia Robledo, Lead Shelter Unit Manager, to see if he was qualified for the position at Bokenkamp Children’s Center.

 

The unaccompanied children in our care at Bokenkamp often arrive feeling lost, lonely, frightened and worried that no one will be able to help them or understand what they’re trying to say. Compassionate staff members like David strive to help them feel heard and cared for.

 

“I think the discipline you learn while in the military combined with the compassion you gain for others who undergo trauma makes veterans exceptional Upbring employees,” David said. Similar to soldiers, many of the children we serve have witnessed violence or endured circumstances far beyond that experienced by their peers. David loves to be a listening ear while those in our care share stories about what they’ve been through.

 

When he’s not caring for children at Bokenkamp, David loves to try out new barbeque recipes and practice making his favorite foods. He also enjoys lifting weights, spending time at the beach and watching his favorite team, the Houston Texans, play. While he did some domestic traveling in the military, David also dreams of one day visiting Mexico and Spain to learn more about his family’s roots.

 

At Upbring, we are grateful for our veteran employees and appreciate their service to our country as well as our organization. By sharing David’s story, we hope to recognize and honor him and encourage other veterans to join our team.

 

If you are a veteran, know of one looking for a job or would like to help us advance our mission to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities, please visit Upbring.org/Careers to view a list of open positions.

1

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.

0

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.

0

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.

0

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:

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

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