Happy First Birthday, Devin!

Happy Birthday to Devin, who turned the big 1 on January 31st! Devin's adoption was finalized on September 6, 2017. Her parents, Erin and Tim, were kind enough to share some new photos of her enjoying her birthday and doing her favorite things throughout her first year of life.

Devin sported an adorable pink "1" shirt on her first birthday. She also got to wear a fancy bib with a cupcake on it during the cake portion of the celebration!

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After all the birthday prep, Devin clearly enjoyed her pink cake! We hope she managed to eat some in between the smears on her face, hands and clothes!

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Erin and Tim stated that Devin had a great first year. She has grown so much and is now crawling (getting into everything, we're sure) and cruising all over the house. She is happiest when she is dancing to music or able to go outside for a walk and get some fresh air.

Some of Devin's favorite things to do are attend her swimming lessons, read books, go for walks and swing at the park (even in the winter!).

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Devin loves to eat fruit and some of her favorites are bananas, mandarin oranges and pears! She also likes spaghetti, peas, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and of course sweet treats, such as - birthday cake!

A typical day for Devin consists of playing with anything that makes noise or has music, reading books, walking with walk-behind toys and banging on mixing bowls!

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Thank you to Erin and Tim for sharing Devin's journey with us so far! We're so happy to see Devin growing and playing in a home full of love for her. Happy Birthday, Devin!

Adoption Agencies and Facilitators in Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin law, it is illegal (Class H Felony) for someone to be paid to solicit, negotiate or arrange the placement of a child for adoption, unless they are a Wisconsin-licensed child welfare agency (or the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, or comparable county department). Wis. Stat. § 948.24.

Adoptions of Wisconsin, Inc., is a Wisconsin-licensed child welfare agency. However, many entities that advertise online – often from other states – are not licensed by the State of Wisconsin. These are often referred to as “facilitators.” That means that the adoptions they arrange may not be compliant with Wisconsin law. In most such cases, you will still need to retain a Wisconsin-licensed agency and attorney to perform the work required to be done in connection with the adoption.

As co-chair of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys committee on facilitators, Attorney Lynn Bodi, owner of Adoptions of Wisconsin, prepared these FAQs regarding facilitators for the Academy.

 

Adoption is a beautiful way to grow your family. One of your most important decisions when beginning the adoption process is selecting the resources you will use to locate a child who is available for adoption or to connect with birth parents who will place their baby with you. The Internet is overflowing with banners of entities promising you a quick and easy road to parenthood through adoption. The Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) recommends that families retain an experienced adoption attorney in your state to help you evaluate the resources to ensure that you experience the process with legal, financial, and emotional security.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the difference between an adoption agency and a facilitator?

Resources for connecting or matching adoptive parents and birth parents come in all shapes and sizes. Some are state-licensed adoption agencies that provide a broad range of adoption-related services, such as matching, homestudies, counseling, placement, and post-placement supervision and reporting. These agencies must maintain certain minimum standards of expertise and training set by their state of licensure to qualify to obtain and maintain a license, as well as, maintain insurance and professional standards.

Another type of matching resource is a “facilitator,” which is a person or organization whose role is solely to make introductions between birth parents and adoptive parents in exchange for a large, non-refundable fee paid in advance. Yet, facilitators are not held to any minimum threshold of expertise, professional training, or ethical standards. Often the facilitator staff members are customer service representatives who field calls and match families from different states with little knowledge of the intricacies of each state’s legal requirements. Facilitators are illegal in some states and, in the few where they are licensed; the license is one merely to do business with no professional standards or training to maintain. Some facilitators use the word “agency” in their business name to appear to be a licensed adoption agency, but use of the words “agency” or “license” in no way ensures that you are working with trained professionals who have the skill to coordinate safe adoption plans.

Why do adoptions arranged by facilitators frequently fall apart?

Adoptions arranged by facilitators, can and often do, fail for many different reasons. Some families who reside in states where payment to facilitators is illegal unwittingly engage and pay facilitators to match them with birth parents. Yet, prospective adoptive families often hire facilitators before consulting a knowledgeable adoption attorney who can help them avoid illegal payments that will impact the entire process and even the ability to finalize the adoption without running into legal challenges. These prospective parents are left distressed and financially drained when they learn that an adoption with the birth family cannot be finalized due to such an illegal payment. An adoption may be legally unfeasible due to the legal requirements of the birth parents’ or prospective adoptive parents’ states of residence, Academy attorneys are frequently called upon by prospective adoptive parents or birth parents to salvage adoptions that are legally unfeasible because a facilitator or matching agency ignored critical state laws. These situations become financially prohibitive for the prospective adoptive parents and emotionally difficult for them and the birth parents, while the facilitator keeps its fee whether or not the match leads to an adoption.

Even in the states where facilitators are allowed to work, many of the matches they arrange do not result in adoption. Facilitators do not have the training, skill, or experience to ensure a safe and legal outcome. Many birth parents are left unprepared to part with their babies as they have not had access to counseling until too late in their pregnancies. Prospective adoptive parents require assistance from experienced adoption attorneys or licensed adoption agencies to have the match result in adoption.

What adoption resources will help us keep our adoption safe and legal?

Locating a child is just one piece of a larger puzzle that is often complex and emotional, partially because the laws concerning adoption differ dramatically from state to state. Completing an adoption demands that the attorneys you retain have knowledge of the laws of your state, the state of the adoptive child’s biological parents, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, and various federal laws. Both adoptive parents and birth parents should have attorneys licensed in their respective states of residence to ensure their initial connection conforms to each state’s laws and all federal laws, and to review legal options. You and the birth parents deserve to be fully informed so that all parties make decisions that will protect the integrity of the adoption. For biological parents, face to face counseling with a licensed social worker or counselor experienced in the field is also recommended to ensure they consider the short and long-term implications of their decisions.

Your road to parenthood through adoption will be fully informed, safe, and legally secure by consulting an experienced adoption attorney in your state of residence before selecting or paying any facilitator, attorney, or agency for matching or assisting you to connect with birth parents.

If we don’t work with a facilitator, will we ever find a child?

There are unplanned pregnancies occurring in this country every day. Birth parents make adoption plans for their children every day. A licensed adoption agency or adoption attorney can help guide you through the process of finding and adopting your child. Licensed agencies can be found through your state licensing department.

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Happy First Birthday, Branson!

It's hard to believe that a whole year has already gone by since Branson was born and placed with his forever family: his mom Jen, his dad Brian and his sister, Zoe. Branson's adoption was finalized in August of 2017 and he celebrated his first birthday with his parents and big sister on January 31st!

Affectionately called Bran by his family, this one-year-old has had an incredibly fast year! He is described by his parents as the most loving, adventurous and happy guy. They're looking forward to future birthdays and life events to celebrate together, and cannot believe a year has gone by.

Bran has five top loves in his short year of life and swinging at the park is one of them! He won't let the cold or snow get in the way of his joy in swinging. He also loves splashing in the warm water during bath time, enjoying both winter days and the warmth of a bubble bath at night!

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Bran loves dogs and one of his favorite tricks is to bark like a dog and search for his furry friends everywhere he goes. He searches for his own family's dog in their home and most likely tires himself out while doing so. Another one of Bran's loves is eating! He even loves eating so much that he tries to snack on dog food during his play acting as a dog.

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Bran likes to impress his parents and sister by cruising around the furniture and climbing up and down the stairs. The latest trick he's learned is to strike a downward dog pose and smile at his mom and dad upside down. Jen and Brian describe Bran as an easy baby to get a giggle out of, and he chortles with his whole body.

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In closing, Jen and Brian said this after reflecting on Bran's first year of life: "We can't believe he is already a year old and are so excited about the days ahead. This past year has been a joyful whirlwind, and we're forever grateful to Bran's amazingly brave birth mother for choosing our family! We love him so very much."

We wish you the happiest of first birthdays, Bran!

Too Cute Tuesday: Welcome Baby Matthew!

It was a Christmas miracle when baby Matthew was born and placed with his adoptive parents, Bethany and Jeff, a few days before Christmas. Matthew came into this world on December 18, 2017, to a birth mother who wasn't expecting to give birth so soon. Matthew's birth mother and father decided that adoption would be the best option for them, and they contacted Adoptions of Wisconsin from the hospital. AOW Social Worker, Claire, traveled to meet Matthew and his birth mother the same day of his birth. Claire brought profiles of prospective adoptive parents and Matthew's birth mother selected Bethany and Jeff.

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Due to the quick turn around from hospital to discharge, Matthew was discharged into the care of one of AOW's licensed foster families. He spent three days with the foster family, and on December, 22, 2017, he was placed with his forever parents, Bethany and Jeff. Below is a photo of their first meeting together.

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After settling in, Bethany and Jeff said this about their son, Matthew- "Matthew was an unexpected surprise. After hoping to expand our family through adoption for nearly three years we were almost ready to give up when we got the news that Matthew was born and that his birth parents want us to be his family. We welcomed him home on December 22nd and he was just the perfect Christmas miracle. Big Brother Marcus was very excited to have a little brother. Matthew is a super chill baby which certainly makes mom and dad happy. He has already met lots of relatives and friends and has been warmly welcomed by all. 2017 was a hard year for us but we were constantly supported by the wonderful staff at Adoptions of Wisconsin and so it was fitting that our year ended with our perfect baby boy thanks to AOW. We are excited to see Matthew grow and change, and are excited to see where life takes us next."

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Marcus is ecstatic to be a big brother to baby Matthew, and they've been having fun reading books together, playing with toys and getting to know each other. We are so thankful to Bethany and Jeff for sharing their journey with us and we're excited to document the next six months of Matthew's life in post placement!

Heidi Hansen's New Hats

We were surprised and excited to receive a package containing more incredible baby hats from our friend Heidi Hansen in Minnesota. She has been busy, impressing us with her talents!

We've been happy to give Heidi’s to our adoptive families for their children, who no doubt will stay warm and cozy while we go through the end (hopefully!) of our cold northern winter.

Check out Heidi’s creations!

We love the variety of the styles, and how well made and warm they all are! The button on the top of the hat is an additional styling that Adoptions of Wisconsin owner Lynn Bodi is thinking of adding to her own projects because of how clever it is.

We love watching our hat tree grow, but we love removing the hat leaves from the tree to give to kids even more. We managed to snap a photo of the tree with most of the hats on it, but the tree couldn't stay like that! Shortly after the photo was taken, we happily gave away some of the hats to some excited (and now warmer!) kids.

Thank you once again, Heidi! Your contributions towards the warmth and happiness of children have touched our hearts, and we are so grateful to you for what you've done.

 

An Adoptive Father's Parenting Story

Ben and Nick adopted their two sons, Sawyer and Harrison, through Adoptions of Wisconsin in 2013 and 2015. Becoming a family of four has challenges in itself. Things that parents often focus on are adapting parenting styles to meet the needs of two children, communicating effectively as a couple and making time for themselves.

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Nick and Ben have had the added challenges of being a two-dad family. They opened up about what it's like to be asked, "So who's the mom?" and how they've responded to acquaintances reactions to their family and lifestyle. Written by Ben, he explains his own perspective about adoption, being a two-dad family and overcoming gender stereotypes.

"So you are the mom?

That's a question I get asked a lot by fellow parents, friends, family and casual acquaintances. I used to laugh it off as something funny, but always felt it was brash and lacked tact frankly. I am a gay male who is also a parent to two adorable boys with another man. Does that, then, make it so one of us has to be the mother? It made me think of a few more questions I will dare to answer in this blog. Am I female? Am I trying to take a woman's place or roles? Am I trying to portray the stereotypical attributes of a motherly figure? Does society always feel the need to label or categorize?

First off, no I am not a female. I have never been a female nor do I ever have the desire to be one. I love women and respect them and many of my best friends are female. However, I am not a female. Repeat I am male and I love men. Totally love being a gay male.

Secondly, both my husband and I could never take the place of either of our children's birth mother or father for that matter. How could we? They conceived them and made the ultimate selfless sacrifice to give me the opportunity to parent their child. Not be a mother, but a parent. Obviously I want female role models and influences in my kids lives. They have experiences and knowledge that I certainly don't. Do women and men have to have set roles or responsibilities in parenting? Why? Do we still live in a society where men cannot cook and clean and women can work and have no interest in house work or shopping? I certainly hope we do and that these people aren’t seen as abnormal or “modern day families.” Furthermore, if all males and females and everyone else all were treated equally and didn't come with societal baggage or discrimination would it be as necessary to categorize their roles or choices in parenting? I don't know. That dream is sadly way far off.

Third, we certainly have societal views of what a woman's role in parenting is. A lot of this ties in with my response to question number 2. If by being compassionate, nurturing, loving, and affectionate with my kids that makes me a mom then I hope all parents are moms. Or if that means cooking, cleaning, driving my kids to and from practices or endless doctor's appointments then again I hope all parents are moms.

I know by this point this may seem like a lot of ranting and maybe it is. However, that is because I do feel like society likes to label or categorize us. In order for the majority of society to make sense of same sex parenting one person has to fill a certain role or expectation in people's minds. Society does the same thing to single parents or lesbian parents or any set of parenting situations. Not all of society is a heterosexual married couple living in suburbia with a cat and dog and 2.5 kids. Most of society isn't. Let's stop placing labels on people and just let them be what they want to be. I'm just trying to parent the best that I can. Let's leave it at that."

At Adoptions of Wisconsin, we support LGBTQ+ families in joining our agency programs. We feel that everyone should have the opportunity to parent if that is their desire. We are focused on providing the best adoption services possible and are hopeful that more families like Nick, Ben, Sawyer and Harrison will be created with our assistance. Thank you, Nick and Ben, for reaching out about your experiences and your willingness to help others in similar situations.

Too Cute Tuesday: Welcome Baby Clark!

Welcome to the world, Clark! Katie and Jake met their son 2 weeks after his birth at an AOW bridge care provider's home, where Clark had been staying since his discharge from the hospital. Clark's birth mother wanted to choose the perfect parents for her son, so she took time to look over profiles and meet families before selecting Katie and Jake. The sweet photo below captures the moment that Katie and Jake held their son for the first time.

Clark was born on December 18, 2017. His birth mother and father were interested in having an open adoption for their son, but hadn't contacted an agency before delivery. AOW social worker, Megan, traveled to meet Clark and his birth mother on December 22, 2017 to discuss discharge from the hospital and provide support to Clark's birth mother . With the meeting being short notice, Megan contacted AOW's licensed bridge care providers, Deniece and James, to pick up the new baby boy for discharge.

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After looking over profiles, Clark's birth mother and father decided to meet Katie and Jake. There was an instant connection between them, and Katie and Jake soon found out that they were going to be Clark's parents. Two weeks after Clark's birth, Katie and Jake brought him to his forever home.

We asked Katie and Jake for some insight into their first weeks with Clark- "Clark's first few days home have been wonderful. He's been a super eater and we're very happy with how fast he's growing! He loves to lie in his bouncy chair and listen to records. Our dogs are so happy to have a baby brother and have been spending as much time cuddling next to Clark as possible, whether it's on the couch or next to his bassinet.

Clark has been so alert and special around the house. It's so amazing when he makes eye contact with us when we're feeding him and he's even starting to crack a few smiles here and there.

None of this would been possible without the trust and love of Clark's birth parents who will we always cherish."

We're so excited for Katie and Jake to begin their journey into parenthood! We can't wait to see how Clark grows over the next six months of post placement visits. Check for future updates about the newest AOW baby!

Welcome Home Baby Carter!

We featured a couple sweet photos of baby Carter last month on our Facebook page when he had just arrived, and now we are catching up with welcoming him into the world!

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Carter was born on December 22, 2017, about a week before his due date. His adoptive parents, Scott and Troy, rushed to be with Carter's birth parents at the hospital when they heard the news that his birth mother was in labor. Scott and Troy were there at the hospital to hold Carter when he was born. He was born healthy and happy, and baby, adoptive parents and birth parents are catching up on some rest.

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Scott and Troy have an open adoption relationship with Carter's birth parents, and are looking forward to including them in Carter's life. We will be performing 6 months of post placement with Scott, Troy and Carter, so keep an eye out for future features! Carter will absolutely be the star of an upcoming Too Cute Tuesday.

 

Tenley's Vacation to Disney

Tenley was a very lucky toddler when she and her family traveled to Disney for a vacation this past December. She went with her parents, Cassandra and Kyle, and her older brother, Gavin.

 

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The family of four visited Disney, LegoLand and Kennedy Space Center over the 12 days they spent in Florida. Tenley and Gavin even got to enjoy an evening at the Very Merry Christmas Party!

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Tenley's favorite part of vacation was being able to dance and sing with her brother, Gavin. She was excited to see the parades and to try all the special treats at the Very Merry Christmas Party. Her favorites were the chocolate milk and the sugar cookies! Tenley also enjoyed meeting all the Disney characters - especially the ones from Doc McStuffins!

 

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Last but certainly not least, Tenley learned what and Icee is and fell in love with the banana flavor from Goofy's Candy Shop. Gavin and Tenley had a fantastic vacation in Disney, and we're very grateful to their parents for sharing their lives with us after adoption. Thank you, Cassandra and Kyle!

Heidi Hansen's Baby Hats

Over the holidays, Adoptions of Wisconsin received a wonderful surprise from a very thoughtful woman in Minnesota. Ms. Hansen heard about the babies being placed through AOW, and decided that she didn't want them to be cold during this frigid winter. So she knit some of the most adorable hats that we've ever seen!

When we saw the hats that she knit, we couldn't believe how cute they were! And then we saw the intention cards she included, one for each child.

Wishes For Baby

I hope that you

I hope you aren't afraid

I hope you love

I hope you get

I hope you laugh

I hope you never forget

I hope you ignore

I hope you become

I hope you respect

I hope you grow

love....

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In the poem, you're invited to fill in your own intention next to each line, for example "I hope you respect"..."Yourself." With or without your own thoughts though, the poem stands on its own.

The poem's intentions are those we can wish for all children, as well as ourselves. We plan to carry them forward with us into the New Year and invite you to do the same. Thank you, Ms. Hansen, for inspiring us to share your kindness.

We're looking forward to seeing warm and well-loved children in these cute hats.

Happy Adoption Day, Kai!

Happy Adoption Day, Kai! Andy and Sarah celebrated the finalization of their son's adoption on Wednesday, December 27, 2017.

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Kai was born on July 19, 2017 and has been in the care of Sarah and Andy since his discharge from the hospital. After completing six months of post placement visits, Sarah and Andy applied for finalization and were able to squeeze in a court date at the end of 2017. Kai looked very dapper at his finalization hearing, wearing matching bow ties with his dad.

Congratulations to Sarah and Andy on their journey to becoming parents. We are so grateful to have played a role in bringing Kai to form your family of three. Thank you for your continued support of adoption!

Happy Adoption Day, Harlow!

Happy Adoption Day, Harlow! Congratulations to Haley and Noah, who finalized the adoption of their daughter, Harlow, last Thursday, December 21st 2017.

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Harlow was born on September 10, 2017, and has been loved and cherished in the care of her parents and big brother, Jason. Harlow's birth parents chose Haley, Noah and Jason to be Harlow's forever family at the end of September. Harlow's big day came quickly, and the family of four looked picture perfect with the judge at the finalization hearing. After a whirlwind few months, Haley and Noah are ecstatic to finalize Harlow's adoption and continue their journey together.

We wish Haley, Noah, Jason and Harlow the best for their future and we are very grateful that they shared a part of their lives with us. Congratulations, Harlow!

Then and Now: Addison and Ashlyn

Adoption is a very central part of many families lives, and children who have been adopted often have questions about themselves. Curiosity and wonder are common feelings, along with uncertainty and confusion. Adoption professionals have come to many conclusions about the "right time" to tell your child that he or she is adopted. While you can find many answers online from professionals or nameless sources, it can be nice to hear from a family who has experienced and embraced that very challenge.

Curt and Paula adopted their oldest daughter Addison in 2007 and then adopted their younger daughter Ashlyn in 2011 through Adoptions of Wisconsin. AOW reached out to the family to ask about their experiences with speaking to their girls about adoption and the challenges they have faced beyond finalization.

Q: At what age did you begin to tell your children about adoption?

A: Like birthday’s they have been celebrated since the very first adoption or “gotcha” day.  It has been part of their lives’ since before they understood the concept.  We’ve read books about it together and retold the stories about the day they each moved in or the day we met them.

Q: As your children have grown, what questions have they asked you about adoption?

A: It began with general questions pertaining to the concept of what adoption is:

  • I was in someone else’s belly?
  • How old was I when you adopted/met me?

Eventually moving to their respective birth mothers names and other, more detailed, information:

  • What was my birth mom’s name?
  • What was the adoption hearing about?

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in speaking with your children about adoption? Most satisfying aspect?

A: Challenge: One daughter, in the middle of a fit and looking to hurt feelings shot out the words: “I’m going to go live with (her birth mother’s name)”

The most satisfying thing has been the girls discussing adoption and birth mother’s names with each other and conversing about adoption not as “the exception” but as the matter-of-fact way we live. For a short time there was a doll named after a birth mom.

Additionally, we have found friends and neighbors that have had adoption touch their lives in some fashion.  Our children having exposure to the adoption community and seeing well-adjusted families where both children and parents have been adopted.

Q: What advice would you give other adoptive parents regarding how to talk to their children about adoption?

A: Don’t hide adoption from your child or wait to discuss it, talk about it now. Make sure the discussion is always framed in love and understanding not in the heat of an argument or any kind of fear.  Make adoption not a concept of you “saving them” from their birth parents, if you frame the birth parents as flawed that has the potential of planting seeds of self-worth issues in your child.

You are not required to tell the whole world your children are adopted, your close friends and family will know, others may know over time.  Don’t shrink from it when asked but don’t advertise it if it makes you uncomfortable. You have bright energetic child, adoption does not define the child or your family, it is just one of the many life-circumstances that has brought that child into your world.

Ashlyn (left) and Addison (right) in the summer of 2016.

Ashlyn (left) and Addison (right) in the summer of 2016.

Thank you to Curt and Paula for being willing to share your stories and feelings with us. Thank you for keeping in contact with us as your lives have progressed beyond our agency!

Happy Adoption Day, Ben!

Happy Adoption Day, Ben! His parents, Heather and Steve, alongside the judge, smiled happily as they celebrated his official adoption finalization on December 12, 2017.

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Benjamin was born on June 7, 2017 in Madison. His birth mother knew that she wanted to choose adoption for him, and she chose Heather and Steve to be his parents. After spending a few days in the care of licensed AOW foster parents, Heather and Steve arrived to pick up their baby boy. Ben has been thriving in the care of his parents since that day.

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Ben was surrounded by loved ones on his adoption day, and he even got to hold and drop the judge's gavel! We feel blessed to have been a part of bringing Ben to his forever home with Heather and Steve. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your lives for the last six months of post placement, and the months of preparation before that! We can't wait to see what the future brings for this family of three. Congratulations Heather, Steve and Ben!

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Happy Adoption Day, Zoe!

A warm congratulations to Zoe and her family, who celebrated her adoption finalization on this past Monday, December 4th!

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Zoe was surrounded by with love from her extended family and friends who came to support her adoption finalization. Zoe was happy to hold hands with the judge at the hearing and looked adorable in her pink and white dress.

Zoe was born on May 4, 2017, and has been in the care of her parents, Elizabeth and Matt, since then. She has been the feature of a Too Cute Tuesday, as well as providing us many smiles when she visited the AOW office. We are excited for this family of three to explore life together and welcome future updates from Elizabeth and Matt. Happy Adoption Day, Zoe!

Happy Adoption Day, Baby S!

Congratulations, Baby S! Baby S celebrated her adoption finalization on Wednesday, December 6th with her moms and the presiding judge.

Baby S was born on May 19, 2017, and was placed with her moms and big brother a month later. She is thriving in the care of her moms and has happily become the fourth official member of their family through finalization. Baby S had a roller coaster first month of life, and we are beyond excited to see her settled in her forever home.

We will miss post placement visits with Baby S and her family, but more updates are sure to come in the future! Happy Adoption Day, Baby S!

Throwback Thursday: Waiting Family Group

On Thursday, November 9th 2017, Adoptions of Wisconsin held a Waiting Family Group for the families in our program. In the past, AOW has offered similar groups for open discussion, support and building connections in the adoption world. After inquires and encouragement from families in the program, we planned and offered this successful group!

The theme for our first waiting family group was "What to Do When Waiting Gets Tough". We invited Joanna Ivey, owner of Our Chosen Child, author of The Essential Guide to Adoption Outreach, adoptive parent and friend to AOW, to come speak at the meeting. She shared her personal adoption story, offered suggestions for increasing outreach efforts and gave tips for beating the waiting game. Joanna has a significant amount of experience with helping adoptive parents create successful profile booklets and manage their social media/outreach efforts. One of the main takeaways from Joanna's advice seemed to revolve around keeping yourself busy, especially after you've completed the home study and have become a family in the active program.

We also invited two families who have adopted through AOW recently to share their stories of how they coped with the wait and process. The open discussion format of the group prompted questions, laughs and even tears of joy. Both families had completely different stories, and it was encouraging to see that adoption can work in several ways, even if the path is not always free of twists and turns.

We are planning to offer quarterly waiting family groups with new topics for each group. The next, planned for February, is going to focus on transracial adoption. We are excited for our families to connect with staff and with each other! Thank you to everyone who attended and made our group a success.

An Adoptive Mom's Reflection: Contested TPR

An AOW adoptive mom wrote up an inspiring blog post about her real-life experience with a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing. We thank her for her open heart, kindness and willingness to share with others.

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"What does it mean to have a contested Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)?  This is a rare situation, but it can happen and every family that chooses adoption should know that it is a possibility.  In a brief way, it means that one of the birth parents are fighting for custody or their parental rights.  It is a hard, hard thing to go through… so, let me tell you briefly about our story, what it felt like, and how grateful we are for our sweet girl.

When you first bring your child home, whether from the hospital or from a different setting, your only thought is about how much you already love the child.  You don’t think about the things that could go wrong with the adoption process, you don’t spend time looking up Wisconsin state adoption laws, and you certainly don’t think that it will take close to a year for finalization.

We brought home our baby girl and had our first court hearing about one and a half months later.  This was supposed to be a brief court hearing and it turned out to be our 2nd worst fear.  The birth father showed up to court to contest his rights.  He has the right to do this, it was just totally unexpected.  Getting the phone call from the attorney to tell us this was nothing but a blur.  Did I understand her right? Did she hear me sobbing like crazy on the other side of the phone?  Did she hear my anger? How am I going to call my husband and tell him this at work?  All of these thoughts and so many more were racing through my head while comprehending NOTHING that she was saying.

Through our own drive to learn, we started to do our own research.  We wanted to know the laws, what the process was from here, and try to understand the terms that are used in conversation.  Throughout a few more court dates, it was determined that our case was going to a jury trial.  Holy crap, right?  Since when was this possible.  Well, it is.  Throughout infertility, it is difficult to not ask yourself ‘Why us?’… well, here we were again saying ‘why us?!’  To make a long story short, there are several steps to a contested TPR.  Thankfully, we had an attorney and social worker that led us through the entire process.  Do not ever, ever, ever be afraid to ask them questions.  We don’t want to get into much detail about our story, but we want you to know that it all worked out!  Our sweet, smiley, adorable little girl is ours and continues to be our whole world.

How did it feel to go through a TPR? Horrible. Not good. Shocking and appalling.  There was nothing easy about it.  It consumed our daily lives, we talked about it daily between our families, and made us cherish our time with our girl even more.  It felt like time moved so slow.  It felt like our dreams were being shattered.  Not many people understand what the process is like.  We had to spend time educating our family and friends as they were trying to comprehend this process too.  But, through it all, we knew that we were going 150% through this entire process.  We were NOT stopping to fight.  We were not going to change our outlook on life.  And lastly, the financial burden that a contested TPR puts on adoptive families was not going to stop us.  We would do whatever it takes.

How did we get through a contested TPR?  Just looking at our princess was enough to make us smile many times a day, cry tears of happiness, and reiterate that our purpose in life was her.  When she went to bed was our time to chat.  We spent time together communicating, communicating, and more communicating.  Between the two of us, we talked about how we were feeling every day.  We understood that we would have different good/bad days, different emotions to every step of the way, and that any emotion was okay to have.  We leaned on our friends and family very frequently.  People are normally scared to ask questions or talk about bad things, but we encouraged our friends and family to ask any questions and that we wanted to talk about the adoption.  We would often get texts from our best friends that would say, “just checking in to see how you are doing.”  Knowing the amount of support that we had and still have is heart-warming.  The continual support from each other, our families, and our friends is what got us through this process.

Having this be our first adoption and going through a contested TPR, it is interesting to look back on the last year.  It went SUPER fast.  We still ask ‘why us?!’ but have come to reason with it.  We want others to know more about the possibility of a contested TPR than we did.  We want others to go into the process knowing that a contested TPR could happen.  We will never say that any of this was easy, it was extremely hard.  But, WE DID IT and we did it together… as a family of three!

If you find yourself in a situation of a contested TPR, our advice to you, is to lean on your family and friends.  You may have to educate them on the process, but it will be so worth it.  Find a new hobby with your new addition or do an activity together to keep busy.  You WILL get through it if you communicate, show each other love, give your new addition to the family extra hugs & kisses, and remember your purpose."

AOW Adoptive Mom, 2017

Too Cute Tuesday: Baby O's Birthday

Happy 1st Birthday to Baby O!

Today we are celebrating Tuesday's cutest baby and reflecting on the first year of her life with her forever family.

Baby O was born on November 15, 2016, and she celebrated her first birthday this past Wednesday. She loved her yellow cake with sprinkles so much that she couldn't wait for mom and dad to cut her a piece, but had to dig in with her hands!

Baby O has grown into a wonderful one-year-old and her parents are so ecstatic to have their baby girl. Her adoption was finalized on June 27, 2017.

Too Cute Tuesday: Emmons

Happy Too Cute Tuesday! Emmons is already almost a 2-year-old and it seems as though time goes faster with each passing year.

Emmons was born on December 1, 2015, and his adoption was finalized on June 7, 2016. He is now a healthy boy of 23 months and is looking forward to celebrating his second birthday in a few weeks! Enjoy this update photo of Emmons at the pumpkin patch with his parents this past fall season.