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Meet a Family Online

Internet diaries can take you inside the adoption experience, warts, joys, and all. By Lois Gilman



At a business conference last year, I stopped to chat with a fellow participant pushing a stroller with adorable twin boys. "They're adopted," she told me, not realizing that I was an adoptive parent. Before I could ask the usual "how did you adopt?" questions, she informed me, "If you'd like to know all about their adoption, check out our Web site."

Welcome to the online world of adoption where hundreds of families post their adoption stories. When my husband and I were adopting more than twenty years ago, we went to parent group meetings. If you seek information today, however, your first baby step on the adoption path can just as easily come through the Web.

Numerous adoptive parents have chosen to share their stories online at family home pages. They talk about procedures they've undergone in infertility treatment, record their anxiety at meeting with a birthmother, and describe journeys to China and Russia to pick up their child. These sites, often created to keep far-flung family and friends up-to-date, are filled with photos and the details of daily life, the ups-and-downs of the adoption experience.

Not all the news is happy. You read about failed pregnancies, paperwork hangups, babies crying inconsolably for a lost foster parent. With a few clicks of your mouse you've got an insider's view-the real story. Here are the answers to questions: How did you adopt? What did you have to do? How did you feel? What were the high and low points of your adoption? How did your child react? Have there been problems since your child entered your family?

Let's surf the Web together and explore some families' adoption sagas.

From Infertility to Adoption

Learn about medical procedures people undergo, how one woman coped with disappointment month after month, and when she knew it was time to move on.

Kay Grames' Journal chronicles her years-long infertility struggle-her attempt at donor egg, daily shots, surgery, an earlier miscarriage, the tragic death of her newborn child. "Sometimes I get discouraged on my journey to build a family," writes Kay. "Once in a while someone will say that maybe this is God's way of telling us that we should use our love for children in other arenas." How many times during my own pregnancy quest long ago had I heard that same cruel advice?

After Kay's attempt at donor egg fails, she turns to adoption and succeeds. Her thoughts then are those I've heard echoed by other adoptive parents. "It feels like a close call!" she observes. "If my fertility procedures had worked, then we would not have Elizabeth. And I would not want to parent anybody else but her. It feels like it worked out just right."

You'll find Kay's story on the Web site of the InterNational Council on Infertility Information Dissemination. (http://www.inciid.org/journals/kay.html) The INCIID Web Site also has infertility and adoption message boards.

The Ins-and-Outs of Adopting a Newborn Domestically

Discover what an adoption agency asks prospective parents, the anxieties waiting parents feel, and how it feels to meet someone who's deciding if she will choose you to parent her child.

Our Adoption Diary by Luz draws its strength from pouring out the details of the adoption process-from the first visit to the agency with husband David to the finalization of baby Nicole's adoption. You hear about the daylong adoption education seminar, follow-up interviews with the agency social worker, and the home visit. She knows that her agency lets birth mothers choose adoptive parents and mulls over spreading her network further by creating flyers and cards and installing a babyphone, a second line with an 800 number.

When Luz finds out that a birthmother has requested to look at their family album (you know what her Dear Birthmother letter looks like), you share her tension. "I am stressing big time," she records. After crying herself to sleep, she is awakened the next morning by David who asks "'Are you ready for our Daughter?'" Luz, mouth wide open and staring into space, continues: "'What is he talking about?' Then I thought "Oh my God!!! You mean we are the family she chose!?" He said, 'Yep!' Then it dawned on me..."How does he know it's a girl, since the expected due date is 1/15!? He replied...'She was born last night!'"

On January 10, 2000, Luz posts: "Our daughter is home!" Since then, she has continued to update her family's story with photos of Nicole Eliann. This website (http://members.tripod.com/Marimar_1/ouradoption.html) links to other adoption sites, including ones with information on breast-feeding an adopted infant.

A Journey to China

This year over 4,000 Chinese children, mostly infant girls, were adopted by American families. Is this for you?

Her Chinese name is "Little Treasure," and her parents, Paul and JoAnn, begin the story of Stephanie's World as they head for China in 1998 to adopt her. They've put their day-by-day China diaries and photos online, including their first photo of their daughter-the referral snapshot the agency sent. "You were like a little ball, with so many layers of clothes," recalls JoAnn about their meeting at the hotel where the baby was brought. "Your face looked exactly like your referral picture. I was too overwhelmed to cry."

In their daily entries Paul and JoAnn describe their visits to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, touring the city of Nanchang, picking up adoption certificates. Then it's on to Guangzhou, the medical exam for Stephanie, and trips to the American consulate. Finally on to the United States: "Grandma had tears running down her face as she reached out to hold you." Since then, her parents have updated the site with news and photos.

Their Web site (http://jpbrown. home.texas.net/welcome.html/) is one of many focusing on the Chinese adoption experience. You can dip into hundreds of family stories at Personal Adoption Stories, a remarkable list compiled by China parent Lisa McClure. (http://www.tussah. com/lara/chinasto.htm.)

The Experience of Foster Parenting

Thousands of American children spend a part of their lives in foster care. Can you imagine yourself as the foster parent of an older child? If a child were to be with you temporarily-and then return to his birth family-how would you feel?

"The advantage of adopting an older foster child that has been living with your family," reports the anonymous Dad-of-8 at his Website, "is that you will have a good idea about whether the adoption will be successful because you've had a chance to really get to know that child." His identity, like that of his children, is hidden (their photos are intentionally blurred on the site), but he introduces you to his kids. Girl #1 entered the family when she was nine as a foster child, while boy #4 was placed as a four-month-old foster child and never left. Others moved back and forth from their families of origin to his.

He tells their success stories-kids in college, working, living on their own-and informs you that he is interested in the positive, not the negative. "Emotional baggage?" he declares, "Just a myth. I realize that my experience might not be every adoptive parent's experience. But until you have met a particular child the myth of "emotional baggage" should not exist in your mind." You share his feelings when he writes on 3/8/2000: "As soon as I came home from work today, my youngest son says excitedly 'Dad, we have to celebrate'. I said 'Why?' He says, 'Don't you know, it's a special day? It's my adoption anniversary!!' I felt bad for not remembering, then, I thought how great it was that not only was he not ashamed about adoption, but he was extremely proud and happy about it. I only hope that he will always feel like this."

While http://members.tripod.com/ dad-of-8/ is light on details compared with others, you don't find many families built through foster care adoption chronicling their stories online, so you appreciate what he's done. His site links to About.com's adoption pages, which are rich.

Adopting a Child with a Physical Impairment

The fantasy child of most parents is healthy and has a smile that warms even the coldest of hearts. What does that mean for the not-so-perfect child, who is born with a cleft palate, missing limb, or other physical disabilities? Is he adoptable? Meet a family that adopted a youngster with special needs.

Start by looking at the "before" photo, a snapshot taken in Russia of two-year-old Rachel with her cleft lip and palate, and the "after" shot, taken eight weeks after she arrived in the United States, and you see the wonders of plastic surgery. Then read the observation of her mother Beth Byler: "We started the adoption process wanting a "healthy" little girl." But a TV program about orphaned children in Russia with birth defects led Beth and Dean Byler to broaden their thinking. "The funny thing," Beth notes "is I look back at that comment and know that now our daughter is very healthy! I think that is a common misconception-that special needs children are not healthy."

In Our Russian Adoption Journey, you're treated to the Bylers' story of adopting Rachel. The journey to Russia itself has short captions and photos of the entire trip, including tips from other parents. There are details about Rachel: "very shy when we first met her. She didn't speak, seemed frightened, and she didn't make eye contact." After the Bylers arrive back home, they report the contrast: "Rachel was running around with her new siblings, laughing and giggling! The transformation was amazing!"

The Bylers provide information about adopting a cleft-affected child and links to other sites, including Wide Smiles (http://www. widesmiles.org), Operation Smile (http://www.operationsmile.com), and adoption listings by agencies of waiting cleft-affected children. This story, part of the Byler Bunch Web Site, (http://pages.ivillage.com/ pp/bylerbunch/russianadoption. html) continues to be updated, and the Bylers are now adopting Rachel's fifteen-year-old brother, Andrei, whom they subsequently learned about. Stay tuned.

Adoptive parent Lois Gilman is the author of The Adoption Resource Book She is also the Web Files Editor at eCompany Now. She can be reached at LoisGilm@aol.com.

Sidebar: Yearning for more adoption stories?

Member Web sites with similar interests band together to bring their sites into linked circles, which are known as Web Rings. These sites are free and open to visitors and members.

Adoption Web Rings include

the China Adoption Web Ring (http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=Chinaadoption&list)

Adoption Web Ring (http://www.plumsite.com/adoptionring/)

Heartland Adoption Ring (http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=heartlandadopt&list)

Open Adoption Web Ring (http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=openadopt&list).

These sites are often eclectic, and members may be adoptees, adoptive parents, birthparents, adoption agencies, and others interested in adoption.

2000 Adoptive Families Magazine. Reproductions in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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