November, 2009     Volume 5, Number 28

November is National Adoption Awareness Month and you may be attending conferences; educating friends, family or schools about adoption (or at least thinking about doing this); or enjoying personal and family feelings related to adoption. Just Google National Adoption Awareness Month and you will find a gazillion ways to participate and learn. 
And for those of you involved in infertility treatment, please note that while this month's newsletter may be all about adoption, we are FINALLY starting an infertility group in Pennington for you!
Given all that's out there about adoption this month, I'm going to focus on local events; share 6 NEW articles, and talk a bit about a current adoption topic: some changes going on in planning open adoptions today. See the IAC Center Calendar for some excellent conferences in the tri-state area.   IAC Center Counselors have been presenting many well-received workshops. Some Highlights are:
  • Sasha Martone, LCSW, has presented her popular "Lifebook Workshop" twice this month and will be starting a NEW Lifebook Work Group in the Pennington office in January.   
  • Bridget Devine, LSW, presented her "Older Child Workshop: An Introduction" and will be offering a longer version of this workshop for families and professionals (3 NASW CE credits) on March, 20, 2010 in Montclair, NJ.  To learn more, contact and web information will be posted soon.
  • Lindsay Conover, LSW, presented on "Stop Waiting, Start Expecting!" and read a piece called Dear 2005 Me which is a must-read for all waiting parents that moved her audience to tears, actually the good kind of tears.
1.  "How to Talk to Children about Adoption from Infancy to 6": See Handout:  Talking to Your Child About Adoption

2.  "Communicating with Birthparents Before, During and After the Adoption" Since IAC Center works with all adoption triad members over the course of the life cycle, we try to help our clients to think about how relationships amongst triad members may evolve over the life cycle in ways that are in the best interests of the child.   Every IAC Center service we offer is grounded in this concept.

For example, our unique Profile Assistance Program (see videos, client testimonials and how to get started) educates pre-adoptive parents not only to create profiles that will help them to be selected; but to understand the mindset of women and couples considering adoption for their babies.  This approach gives pre-adoptive parents the confidence they need to communicate more easily with birth parents; to gather information; to manage confusing boundaries in these relationships where necessary; and to lay a foundation for a range of open adoption relationships. 

The way you start these relationships will impact the way they develop. The workshop identifies communication and life cycle issues for birth parents, adoptive parents and the child so that pre-adoptive parents can do their best to start these relationships in ways that are mindful of future issues.

A handout and an article of interest to pre-adoptive parents may be:  Facebook Makes Adoption Easier. The internet is changing all social worlds.  And while Facebook may help some pre-adoptive families to connect, many post-adoptive families have sought services at the IAC Center for post-adopt complications related to use of the internet. Look for our "Adoption and the Internet" survey in January, and a continued discussion of the impact of the internet on some post-adoption relationships. This brings me to the next workshop at APC:

3.  "Open Adoption Today: Are You Ready for the New York State Post-Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA)?" Joni Mantell, LCSW and Nina Rumbold, Adoption Attorney - The PACA is an agreement made at the time of adoption about the planned contact between all adoption triad members.  If you are doing an agency adoption in NY State, you may be required to participate in the creation of a PACA that will delineate an enforceable open adoption plan for your family, that may include pictures, letters and/or visits at specified times. Since you will be making life-lasting decisions at the time of the adoption, you will want to understand the legal and psychological life cycle issues for your selves, your child and your child's birth parents; and the choices you actually have in the immediacy of creating this contract and in modifying it later should challenges arise.  IAC Center recommends education and counseling for both adoptive and birth families prior to signing these agreements.

To learn about the legal issues in the PACA, you can read: Introduction to Post Adopt Agreements in NY by my co-presenter, adoption attorney, Nina Rumbold. 
Understanding the psychological life cycle issues and the benefits of the PACA for all adoption triad members, can help you in planning what is in the best interests your adopted child and in articulating your position when the agreement is being created.  In addition, both the adoptive and the birth parents personalities and beliefs will need to factored in, and the agreement must be something that is typically considered to be in an adopted child's best interests rather than something considered to be idiosyncratic or excessive (EG. weekly or monthly visits). 
There is still only a little longitudinal research to guide you in planning for the best interests of your child; only a small set of psychotherapists with significant life cycle adoption experience to help you to understand and process these issues, and most psychologists believe that each family is unique and will need to factor in who their child is to make meaningful decisions; yet in private agency adoption of newborns, these agreements  need to be signed right after the child is born when the adoptive and birth parents are usually in the early courtship phase of their relationship; and clearly before the child's personality can be factored into your decision making.

The largest longitudinal study is the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project. The Study clearly identifies some very specific benefits of open adoption for each triad member.  Yet families seeking guidance in planning agreements may be disappointed to find that the study does not delineate specific ages of the child or numbers of contacts as being in the best interests of the child; and there are not significant differences in adoptee's adjustment or self-esteem correlated with levels of openness defined as including direct birth parent contact for the child.  Once again one understands that what is right for one child may not be right for another child, and while openly helping a child to understand his adoption is imperative,  when to open relationships between the child and the birth parents still needs to be determined on a child-by-child basis.
Both the study and IAC Center counseling experience have found that adoptive parents become more comfortable with contact with birth parents that includes the child when relationships and trust build more naturally, boundaries and roles are clear between birth and adoptive parents, and adoptive parents initiate most of the contacts based on their perceptions of their child's personal and developmental needs.   Getting to know eachother post-adoption can ease the way to make these relationships more comfortable for everyone.
Optimally the IAC Center reccomends front-loading the agreements with visits in the first three to six years, before the child is a more conscious participant, and allowing the adoptive and birth parents time to get to know each other better. Relationships cannot be legislated but the agreements can best be seen as a way to set the stage for some post adopt communication between adoptive and birth parents so they can remain open to building a more natural relationship that suits their comfort level and the individual child's needs.  We strongly reccommend that IAC Center clients Under Promise and Over Deliver, so no one gets hurt and so relationships go at a pace that is comfortable and natural for everyone involved, and allowing for everyone to learn what is in the best interests of the particular child.
Some families and children find that they are more comfortable talking openly about adoption and birth parents than having direct open adoption relationships that include the child with the birth parents. Some families prefer to wait until the child is older and self-initiates interest in knowing their birth parents; and to be attuned to the particular child's developmental and personality needs. Other families are comfortable with some intermittent contact, and others with more regular contact, because they find the contact mitigates their child's fantasies and provides a source of good feelings.
Since there is no one size fits all model, deciding how much and what type of post-adoption contact is right for your family is typically difficult. IAC Center Counselors offer education, counseling and advocacy for both adoptive and birth parents in creating these agreements. These contracts are about still largely unexplored waters likely to stimulate huge waves of emotions, many of which will not even be apparent until after the adoption. Since the Center does not do adoptions, many adoptive and birth parents are comforted by the neutral setting and appreciate having an advocate at such an emotional yet important decision-making juncture.  We understand that even if there was a ton of research, most people would still find it difficult to make timely decisions mindful of long term considerations about what is right for their child and their family.  Meet baby/Plan future is simply too tall of an order for most people!  



IAC Center Holiday party and Annual Book Swap
DATE:  December 18, 2009
TIME:  6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
PLACE: This is a fun evening and a chance to meet families at a huge space downstairs at the Pennington, NJ office with different party event rooms including a soft space for the youngest kids; a dance space for tweens; a book swap room and some art activities and lots of good food and company for all.  Meet people at different stages of the family building process and some IAC Center counselors. Spend some holiday time with your group if you are in one and come just to have fun.
RSVP: please to Emily @:
Book Swap: IAC Center clients go through stages and have books they are simply done with! Please bring your old infertility, adoption and kids books, or even a favorite novel and trade them in for some new books for yourself!  If you cannot attend the party and want to drop off some books, please do so when you come for your December appointments at any of the IAC Center offices, or at the Pennington office on any Thursday from 9 to 1; Monday 12/8 from 6 to 8:30; or Friday 12/11 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.  Leftover books will be donated to the Hopewell NJ library for a special section on infertility and adoption. This way we can WISE Up the community!
January 24, 2010  
TIME:  10:00am-1:00pm 
PLACE:  IAC Center; 2 Tree Farm Road, Suite A200, Pennington, NJ, 08534

For pre-adoptive and adoptive parents, teens and adults who were adopted and professionals. 3 NASW CE credits available.  Speakers include two IAC Center Counselors and a panel of adult adoptees.

In the mean time, be sure to read: White Skin on My Hands whose author asked me to include the following testimonial to the work she has done with me at the IAC Center along with this article.

"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. 
It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." -Albert Schweitzer.

"Thank you Joni for helping me rekindle my inner spirit."
-T. Reid
Now I am the one moved to tears. And I am so thankful for being able to share in T. Reid's journey.

Maybe it's no coincidence that November is also Thanksgiving. Many families whose lives are touched by adoption feel they have so much to be thankful for.  I am thankful for my family and the opportunity to work with such wonderful individuals and families in so many different stages of development and family life, and our wonderful IAC Center Counselors and Assistant, Emily. 
IAC Center's goal is to meet the needs of individuals and families whose lives have been touched by infertility and adoption.

We are here for you at all points in your journey,

IAC Center Director
Articles, Books and Videos

Upcoming IAC Center Workshops

Our workshops are for individuals, families and professionals.  NASW CE Credits available upon request.
To sign up contact IAC Center at 609-737-8750 or follow the links above to locate registration links.
Counseling offers a non-biased overview of family building options to facilitate individuals and couples in making timely decisions that are mindful of long term implications. Using a life-long short-term counseling model, counseling is available throughout the adoption life cycle for all adoption triad members.