OA&FS LogoOpen Adoption & Family Services
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Summer 2011, Volume 21, No. 1  
In This Issue:
New OA&FS Web Site Launches
Creating Community
Becoming A Family
Resource for Seattle-Area Families
Bulgarian Adoption Professionals Visit OA&FS

Open Adoption Blog: Write Mind, Open Heart

Written by Lori, an adoptive mother of two, the Write Mind, Open Heart blog chronicles changes in her family's two open adoptions, each with a different level of contact with her children's birthparents. In one post, Lori addresses a reader in an international adoption who wonders how open adoptions work.

Open Adoption: Who "Gets It"? 

Have you come across a company, organization, news article, Web site or people who show a sensitivity and depth of understanding about open adoption? What about a total lack of it? You can rate the level of education demonstrated by submitting a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down recommendation on the Adoptive Families Magazine Web site.

Open Adoption: What Do You Want The World To Know?

Would you like to help with the Open Adoption Awareness Campaign? Here are a few things you can do:

View our videos on YouTube

Stop by the OA&FS Youtube Channel.

You can view and "Like" all the videos from the campaign and the new Waiting Families videos from families seeking an open adoption through our agency. Each video view and each "like," increases the chances that other people seeking our services will also find this information.


Help other people find the OA&FS Facebook Page.

Visit our page and click the "Like" button to participate. You will be able to view, "Like" and share the new videos with your friends, colleagues and family on Facebook. You can also contribute to and read the latest open adoption and agency news with other community members.

Follow us on Twitter

Another way to participate in the Open Adoption Awareness Campaign would be to follow the OA&FS Twitter feed.

You can read, share and re-tweet not only our messages, but messages from other OA&FS community members and your own contributions. What do you want the world to know about open adoption? 

Agency Happenings

OA&FS welcomes back Counselor Maria Villegas, M.S.W., who has rejoined our Seattle office. We are also proud to introduce Linda Kostur, M.S.W., the new part-time counselor in the Eugene office.

Katelyn and her family 

The agency would like to congratulate Eugene-office Administrative Assistant and OA&FS birthmother Katelyn Berry for completing her undergraduate degree this spring. We've missed her since she left OA&FS in June and we wish her well on next steps in her life.

Join our list

Join Our Mailing List 

Dear OA&FS Community Members,

I'm pleased to announce that our new agency videos are complete and we are so proud by how they turned out!

The videos feature stories in which Open Adoption & Family Services (OA&FS) clients describe the all-options pregnancy options counseling and open adoption services they received at our agency. They also share their deeply moving and transformative open adoption experiences. We've included 10 compelling videos and two condensed public service announcements on our new DVD, Exploring Reproductive Choices and Open Adoption, which we've distributed to service providers throughout Oregon and Washington.

I've utilized our new DVD in numerous presentations recently to service providers who work with pregnant women. They are highly effective at communicating the richness and depth of the relationships our clients create. They have evoked tremendous emotion from the viewers. We finally have a meaningful tool to demonstrate the quality and integrity of the work we do! The feedback we've received on the videos has surpassed our highest hopes for this project. 

You can check out these authentic and engaging videos on our  newly redesigned Web site. If you would like to help us increase the accessibility of these videos, you can view and share them through the OA&FS Youtube Channel and the agency's Facebook page and Twitter feed. If you haven't connected with us yet through these social media platforms, please do! You can easily forward the videos to your friends and family members.

I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our open adoption community for supporting our 25th Anniversary Open Adoption Awareness Campaign and for making this ambitious video production process possible!! Now expectant women and couples, prospective adoptive parents, local service providers and the public at large has a new way to learn about open adoption and our unique services.  

Warm Regards,

Shari Levine
Executive Director

New OA&FS Web Site Launches
Enhanced Content and Features

Open Adoption & Family Services (OA&FS) frequently receives high praise for its Web site. Viewers comment on how transparent, welcoming, inclusive and user-friendly it is. In order to increase the content of the website and add a video player, the agency recently redesigned it. It is the agency's hope that expectant parents, prospective adoptive parents and service providers will find it to be even more accessible and informative than before.

The new OA&FS Web site ( http://www.openadopt.org/) features enhanced content, such as a new section about All-Options Pregnancy Counseling for expectant women and couples and media-rich Waiting Family introduction letters. In order to highlight how genuine and authentic OA&FS waiting families are, the agency has launched a cutting edge video project showcasing individual families. This multi-dimensional venue makes the unique and dynamic qualities of each family more accessible than ever before. 

Additionally, the new agency videos are featured on each page, providing additional information for birthparents, adoptive parents, as well as for service providers and open adoptees. Beyond providing new and more comprehensive information on its site, the agency added new features to make it easier for clients to use and share information from the site.

New features include an expanded Newsletters section, allowing readers to more easily find articles of interest to them. Picture of New OA&FS Connect BoxThe site now features a Connect box, a social media feature located on the right side of every page, that allows visitors to join the OA&FS Facebook page and Twitter feed as well as access tools that allow them to share, tweet, blog, post, bookmark, print and email pages from the site.

Picture of OA&FS Share Videos IconFrom the View All Videos page, visitors can access social media sharing options for the videos by clicking the "Share" icon on the top right of each video.

Clicking the icon gives site visitors the ability to post the video on their accounts on Facebook or Twitter. Screenshot of OA&FS Video Sharing OptionsIt also allows them to copy and paste the URL of each video for emailing to friends or including in their blog.

Additional video sharing options may also be accessed through the videos anywhere on the site by clicking the Youtube HD icon that appears on the bottom right of each video while playing.

Creating Community

OA&FS Adoptive Mother Lisa Adriance

Lisa and familyWe have a wonderful little girl. She makes us laugh every day. Watching her grow from a tiny and precious baby to the smart and out-going toddler she has become, is one of our greatest gifts. It was hard getting here, though. We waited a long time and there were many challenging ups and downs.

Fortunately, early in our wait, we joined the OA&FS Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Families group for waiting and adoptive families in the Seattle area. This community of adoptive families meets every other month. It was a warm, welcoming and supportive place for us to land during our long wait. We found endless hope and encouragement. We watched families come together and children grow. Finally, the day came when we showed up with our bundle of blankets wrapped around a sweet baby, and those great folks were truly excited for us.

Few people can really understand the experience of open adoption, so having a long-standing and stable support group of experienced friends is a blessing. Now that our daughter is beginning to understand the world around her, she will soon begin to ask questions about our family, other families, and about adoption. Through the LGB group, we're lucky to have a community to help our daughter see other families just like hers and gain friends who understand and share her experience. Growing up with lesbian or gay parents can't be easy. Adoption can present it's own challenges. Our daughter will learn the value of a supportive and loving community within the LGB group and she will be healthier and stronger for having it.

We have now belonged to this group for about five years. I imagine we will continue to be a part of the group for a long time into the future.

Any OA&FS waiting or adoptive parents interested in joining a local group or creating one for their community should contact the agency at: 1-800-772-1115 or via email at information@openadopt.org. Open Adoption & Family Services has welcomed gay and lesbian prospective adoptive parents into our infant adoption program since we opened our doors in 1985. Learn more ->

Becoming A Family

By OA&FS Adoptive Father Scobie Puchtler


As I type these words, my four-year-old son's birth mom is on an aircraft carrier surging through 9 to 12 foot seas on her way to Libya. At 20 years old, she is a corporal in the Marine Corps, a meteorology specialist who will produce weather briefings for the ship and its flight operations. The 12-month deployment is the longest we've ever been apart and hard for us all.

Braydern in Fall

Four years in, the openness of our adoption feels instinctual and natural. However, we've done a lot to build it and we do a lot to maintain it. Creating the bi-monthly online photo and video galleries that were a part of the open adoption agreement we created with Alleia is a lot of work, but now simply feels like a part of our family culture.

Brayden in WinterThe the email list we use to share these images now numbers well over a hundred, including both of our families of origin, extended birth family and friends. The amount of love that filters back to Brayden, and to us as his parents, is astounding. What we put into openness comes back tenfold, it seems. 

Before we married, my wife and I knew that plain old pregnancy was not an option for us. When I came across Dan Savage's book "The Kid," I was fascinated by the humane and respectful model of open adoption described there and excited that the agency that practiced it had an office in our city. The more we learned about Open Adoption & Family Services, the more convinced we became that an open adoption was the right direction for us.

We took our time completing the open adoption education and the home study process and eventually entered the pool of families waiting to adopt. We weren't in a rush and we wanted to move deliberately. We'd been waiting about a year, attending the monthly adoptive parent gatherings and had received a few calls to see if we were willing to be considered for a particular placement, but they hadn't worked out. Then, in the course of a single day, we became parents.

Maybe there are placements that are even more last-minute than ours, but it's hard to imagine quite how. Brayden was born on Valentine's Day. The next morning, a counselor called to see if we'd be open to being considered in such an intensely short-notice open adoption. We learned all that we could about this opportunity from the counselor on the phone. An hour or two after the call, when our hearts were finally beating slowly enough for us to think straight, we called the agency back to say we would be honored for the birthmother to receive our profile along with others to consider. It was exciting, but honestly, we figured it would be a lot like the other last-minute screening calls we'd received: we'd say yes to being included, then hear back later that it hadn't gone our way.

What we didn't know was that this birthmother had essentially already chosen us based on reading our introduction letter and wanted to review our full profile to confirm that we were, in fact, the ones. Forty-five minutes later, we got a call announcing that we'd been chosen and asking: "How soon can you be in Salem, Oregon?"

That evening, after frantically packing the car and zipping down the interstate, we opened the door to a dimly lit birthing suite. Seconds later, we were crying and hugging Brayden's grandma and Alleia, his birth mom, whose first words to us were: "Would you like to hold your son?"


We spent the first night in the hospital, taking care of all the night feedings so Alleia, who had spent the previous 30 hours giving birth and choosing an adoptive family for her son, could finally sleep. Our hearts would never be the same again.

In working with Alleia through some extraordinary challenges to the adoption that emerged over the following days, we got to know this strong and determined young woman unusually deeply. By the time we left to drive home, counselors said the relationship they saw between us looked like what they might expect after a few years in an open adoption, not 10 days. We were bonded for life and we knew it. We'd already met 15 members of Alleia's extended family and felt profound permission to be Brayden's parents, not only from Alleia, but from all of them.

BraydenBrayden loves 'his Alleia' fiercely. We've told and sung his adoption story to him since he was a few days old. Brayden sleeps under framed pictures of special snuggly moments with Alleia. The family photo he keeps at his pre-school shows all four of us in a big love hug. He is so clearly bonded to Sarah and I as his parents, that the idea of being threatened by his relationship with Alleia has never even been on our radar.

Even though Brayden and Alleia only see each other a few days a year, they have a natural ease with each other that is unique to the two of them. Her comfort with the adoption is an ongoing gift to all of us.

Brayden in Summer

We've always tried to visit as much as possible - every month or two at first. Alleia was proud to have us all at her high school graduation (a year early, and with honors). Even after Alleia became a Marine and her training bounced her all across the country, we managed at least a couple of get-togethers each year. Before her recent deployment, she used all her remaining leave to come out to Seattle for Brayden's fourth birthday.

When Alleia is able to visit, we always make a point of arranging some 'grownups-only' time for the three of us, so we can really check in about how she's doing and whether there is anything she needs from us. Becoming A Family PictureIn the stretches between visits, we often text photos and silly messages to each other, Skype, and connect on Facebook. Now that Alleia is on a ship, we mail care packages with bundles of Brayden's drawings, and "let's send a letter to Alleia" is one of Brayden's favorite reasons to practice writing and drawing.

Meanwhile the tiny new baby we held that first night in Salem has become a funny, smart, athletic, curious, and huge-hearted boy that is the epicenter of our family life. Parenting well in an open adoption is a lot of good, hard, intentional work and we love every minute of it.

Enjoy other Open Adoption Stories on the new OA&FS Web site.

Resource for Seattle-Area Families

AFFGS LogoBy OA&FS Adoptive Mother and AFFGS Volunteer Toni Higgs

Formed by adoptive moms Dawn Lum and Karen Lindh to create a support network for Seattle-area families,  Adoptive Family and Friends of Greater Seattle (AFFGS) has helped adoptive and waiting families build friendships and share information with peers since 1997. The nonprofit supports Seattle-area families waiting to adopt and offers ongoing support, education and fun activities for families after they've adopted.

Adoptive families have chosen a unique path to parenthood, and it helps to connect with other people on the same path. AFFGS allows people to connect and share support with all kinds of adoptive families: from those in domestic adoptions, to those who adopted from foster care or through international adoptions, to those who adopted infants and those who adopted older kids, to those who adopted kids from a different race or ethnicity than themselves.

Many families involved with AFFGS have open adoptions. Many of our education events touch on open adoption, or are even exclusively about open adoption. In the past, we have teamed with OA&FS to offer an open adoption panel and we look forward to doing so again.  

AFFGS Camping Trip 2010

AFFGS Camping Trip 2010

For my own family, when we felt totally clueless as new parents with an infant, we felt left out of new parent groups like Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), in which everyone was talking about giving birth and nursing their babies. Thankfully, AFFGS was there. Now, AFFGS helps us provide additional support for our daughter, who notices that her beautiful brown-skin is a different color than her parents and wonders where she fits in. It is so helpful for her to be around other families like ours.

Attending AFFGS events has educated us on so many adoption-related topics, through panels of teen and young adult open adoptees and events featuring adoption experts like Patricia Johnston and Yolanda Comparan. Plus, the events and activities are just plain fun for my entire family. We have a blast at the camping trip every summer and at other events. My own bias is that people who have adopted are some of the most warm-hearted and generous people out there and it's a pleasure to spend time in their good company.

AFFGS Provides:

  • AWAIT (Adoption, Waiting, Anxiety, Intensity and Triumph) groups provide support and mentoring for families waiting to adopt.
  • SNAP (Support for New Adoptive Parents) groups are short term meetings in which parents and kids can meet with other new families to discuss issues that are unique to adoptive families.
  • The TWEEN group offers pre-teen and early teenage adoptees a forum for sharing their experience with peers.
  • MORE: education meetings featuring nationally known speakers talking about various aspects of adoption and fun family events which include informal support and education opportunities, such as an annual camping trip, pool parties, picnics, nights out for moms and for dads, and outings such as Mariner's Day or group trips to Vancouver B.C.

Check out other Resources on the new OA&FS Web site

Bulgarian Adoption Professionals Visit OA&FS

Bulgarian Delegation at OA&FS Seattle Office

This April, Open Adoption & Family Services (OA&FS) staff in Seattle were invited to meet with four adoption professionals visiting from Bulgaria through the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program.

The delegation included leadership from branches of Bulgarian government agencies responsible for overseeing child protective services, international adoption and social policy who are striving to deinstitutionalize all children in Bulgaria by 2020. OA&FS Seattle Program Supervisor Katie Stallman and Outreach Coordinator Lisa Koblenz learned their country's plan includes expanding services for families, creating a foster care system and nurturing their domestic adoption programs.

As part of their visit, the professionals wanted to learn about open adoption. They said, "Open adoption is not done in Europe." They were thrilled to hear about Lisa's experience of living an open adoption for the past 17 years and one of the delegates asked Katie for advice on how to open her foster son's adoption and connect with his birthparents. The Bulgarian delegation was impressed by the agency's progressive and innovative model for practicing open adoption. Both Katie and Lisa felt that this exchange of adoption information between the two countries was a very positive experience.

Service providers who would like to learn more about open adoption and all-options pregnancy counseling should contact OA&FS. We offer free trainings for service providers in Oregon and Washington.

Open Adoption & Family Services

www.openadopt.org -1-800-772-1115 - information@openadopt.org


Para Espaņol: 1-800-985-6763


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