Laura Christianson Adoption Information and Inspiration Wed, 20 Sep 2017 22:03:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Talking With Others About Adoption Mon, 10 Dec 2012 14:00:51 +0000

This is one of the first blog posts I ever wrote, back on November 15, 2004. My son is now nearly 17 years old, and we’re still sharing his adoption story with folks who ask.

When you adopt a child, you unwittingly sign up to be a lifelong adoption educator to everyone around you. Sharing your adoption story can be fun, invigorating, challenging and frustrating. I often bite my lip to prevent myself from making a sharp retort to someone who spouts off some insensitive remark about adoption.

I’ve heard plenty of insensitive comments borne of ignorance. But today, I have an uplifting story. The day before Veteran’s Day, my son’s school had an assembly to honor vets. Josh’s third grade class also had a “show and tell” time, during which the children could bring in mementos of a loved one who had served or is currently serving in the military. Josh’s birth father, who is in Iraq with the Army National Guard, e-mailed him a letter and some pictures of himself with his “big gun” (a thrill for any 8-year-old boy!).

Josh memorized his birth father’s letter and proudly recited it to his class and showed them the photos (that’s his birth father, on the right). It warms my heart that Josh feels so comfortable with his adoption that he’s not afraid to face the inevitable questions that arise when he talks about his birth father. When one of his classmates innocently asked whether his birth parents left Josh in a basket on our doorstep (she must have been thinking of Moses), Josh patiently explained the way in which he arrived in our family.

Two days after Josh’s Show & Tell, I did a little show and tell of my own. I was traveling with three women from work and I told them about Josh’s Veteran’s Day presentation. “I didn’t know you adopted your kids,” exclaimed one of my co-workers. I grabbed the opportunity, and the four of us ended up talking for quite some time about adoption. The others shared their experiences with people they know who have adopted, who were adopted or who’ve placed a child for adoption.

While I did cringe a couple of times at some of the language they used to describe adoption, I got over it. I figure that you have to take advantage of the “teachable moments,” and you can’t get much better than having a captive audience when you’re traveling in a car together!

For me, the best way to “teach” others about adoption is simply to share my own story when the opportunity arises. I don’t constantly talk about adoption (as evidenced by the surprise of my co-worker, who’s shared an office with me for several months and didn’t know I was an adoptive parent). I just incorporate it into normal conversation, the same way a woman who has given birth to her children would talk about her kids. Our situation is just a little more complex, and therefore, intriguing to others.

Because I know people are intrigued and they seek a “safe” place to ask “dumb” questions about adoption, I allow myself to be that safe place. More often than not, I leave the conversation feeling as if I have taken one small step in helping broaden someone’s understanding and acceptance of adoption.

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The Top 5 Medications to Bring for Yourself When Traveling Overseas to Adopt Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:00:00 +0000

When adoptive parents pack their bags in anticipation of bringing home their child, they always include oodles of items they think their child might need. But don’t forget to toss in the following items for yourself:

  1. An all-purpose prescription antibiotic such as Cypro
  2. Immodium, for diarrhea relief
  3. Sleeping pills
  4. Anti-itch cream
  5. Hemorrhoidal cream for those long plane/bus/taxi rides

If you’re heading to a warm climate, don’t forget to pack sunscreen and sunglasses. And if you’re prone to asthma (even mild asthma), pack an Albuterol inhaler. Tender Western lungs get easily irritated in countries that have more diesel fumes, dust and pollutants than what you’re used to breathing.

Readers who’ve traveled overseas: What critical items did you bring for yourself?

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Barrenness in the Bible Sun, 11 Sep 2011 09:00:02 +0000

In this post, we’ll examine several oft-quoted Bible passages that compound feelings of guilt, inadequacy and disillusionment in infertile people.

You have a Christian friend who’s infertile. You want to encourage her, so you pull out your Bible. You vaguely recall that several people in the Bible were “barren,” and they all ended up being blessed with children. You decide to quote these passages to your friend.


Before you say anything, become familiar with the following “Biblical” advice that is often given to infertile people by their well-meaning friends:

If you have enough faith, God will grant you a child.

This not-so-helpful suggestion is rooted in God’s promise in Genesis 12 that Abraham and Sarah – even though they were 100 and 91 years old, would give birth to a son. Romans 4:20 tells us that Abraham “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God,” but was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

When Christians are unable to “be fruitful and multiply,” does that mean their faith is weak? Has God chosen not to bless them for some reason?

God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah was not intended to apply to every married couple thoughout history. In Genesis, God makes a specific promise to one couple, telling Abraham that all people on earth will be blessed through him. Nowhere does the text state or imply that all infertile people will be rewarded with children, just because their faith is strong.

You must have some unconfessed sin in your life. OR God must be punishing you for the sins of your youth.

Arrrrgggh! Do I speak for all infertile people here? If God was punishing us for our sins, would anyone have children?

When we want to encourage our infertile friends, why not choose a more appropriate passage, such as Hebrews 4:16, where the writer tells us: “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

I will pray that God will open your womb.

In Genesis, Jacob is tricked into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, but he does not love Leah as much as he loves Rachel. Genesis 29:31 says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”

Rachel, intensely jealous of her sister, begs Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Most infertile women can relate to her statement).

Jacob becomes angry with her and says, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

Later in the passage, “God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.”

This is where the comment about God opening the womb originates, and also, the belief that opening the womb must be tied to confessed sin, forgiveness, and a close walk with God. Often, there is a big difference between what the Bible teaches and what it reports. The writer of Genesis reports that God opened Rachel’s womb; the writer does not teach that God will open the womb of every infertile woman. The Bible presents a much bigger picture in this story – one that includes the whole future of the nation of Israel and their migration to Egypt through the leadership of Rachel’s son, Joseph.

Instead of telling an infertile friend that God can open her womb, just pray with her instead. Walk alongside your friend and together, lay your heartache before the Lord and allow Him to work in His mysterious way.

Try not to wield Scripture as a magic wand that will make problems disappear. Use it with care and you’ll discover that it will equip you with the encouragement you need to face those problems.

Next: How you can help people connect with others who are experiencing fertility challenges or who are considering adoption.

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Lifelike Dolls Take the Place of Real Babies for Some Parents Fri, 01 Jul 2011 15:00:00 +0000

They look and feel like a newborn baby.

But their limbs are vinyl, their glass eyeballs are imported from Germany, and their rosy cheeks are hand-painted.

Women are buying these lifelike “reborn dolls” by the thousands.  That’s right. I said women. Not girls.

Apparently, reborns are taking the place of real babies for some women who have had multiple miscarriages, are infertile, or don’t have the resources to adopt a child.

ABC’s 20/20 quoted one mommy of a reborn doll, who said that her experience with her baby has been “very nurturing, it’s very cathartic.”

Does anyone else find this trend more than a little odd?

I understand the pain of infertility and the frustration of waiting seemingly forever to adopt a child – I’ve lived with it myself. And I understand that “cuddle therapy” can release beneficial endorphins in the brain.

But taking a looks-like-a-real-baby-doll out in public and pretending it’s your real baby? Paying $1,400 for a reborn instead of parenting a real child? That’s just plain creepy.

There are plenty of options for women who long for “baby time.”

  • Rocking sick babies in the hospital
  • Temporary foster parenting of newborns waiting to be adopted
  • Interim babysitting for single parents
  • Volunteering in the church nursery
  • Visiting an orphanage
  • Helping in a teen parenting program

Am I missing a vital perspective here, readers? Help me out; chime in with your opinion!

Related story & photos:

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How to Avoid Adoption Scams Thu, 21 Apr 2011 13:00:48 +0000

A woman pleaded guilty of using her infant twins as bait in a nationwide adoption scam. The woman, age 20, and her mother, scammed five prospective adoptive couples by offering to allow them to adopt the twins if they paid for medical and other expenses.

Officials estimate that the woman and her mother were given more than $17,000 during the scam, which continued until the babies were born (and placed into foster care). The young woman and her mother face a maximum sentence of 20 years for each charge. To make matters worse, the young woman’s husband also faces five counts of theft by deception. He’s currently serving a 2-year sentence for another theft, and will be tried when he gets out of prison.

While adoption scams are uncommon, prospective adoptive parents should take precautions, especially when doing an independent adoption. I know several prospective parents who have received calls from “birth mothers” (women faking pregnancy) who found their listing on the Internet or in a newspaper ad and tried to con the would-be parents, requesting housing, food, clothing and payment of medical expenses.

The prospective parents, who imagined that the “birth mother” was legit, were tempted to provide what she asked for. When they consulted with their adoption professional and learned that the situation was a scam, they were crushed. Although adoptive parents know they need to “guard their hearts” during the adoption process, it’s hard for them to prevent themselves from getting their hopes up.

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that providing money or services to birth parents is illegal in some states. All prospective parents should work closely with a reputable adoption social worker and adoption attorney (or a licensed adoption facilitator or agency). Adoption professionals know the law in their state and in the birth mother’s state. They are almost always aware of the scams that are currently circulating. Although the con artists may use different names when scamming different people, their cover stories are nearly always identical. When adoption professionals hear a suspicious-sounding story, they will warn the adoptive parents.

Parents-in-waiting should contact their adoption professional whenever they have contact with a potential birth parent. Remember, the adoption professionals are a parent’s advocate — adoptive parents pay them to be the objective voice and to determine whether a situation is right for the adoptive parent(s) and for the birth parent(s).

If a “birth mother” contacts you, be wary if she seems unwilling to receive free pregnancy counseling or to visit an adoption professional, who will collect a medical history and ensure that she is receiving prenatal care. Be especially wary if she requests any type of monetary support. Protect yourself and don’t give away anything until you are absolutely certain that all parties are pursuing the potential adoption through the correct legal channels.

Sign up for Adoption World, my free e-newsletter.  Just send a blank email to

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New Edition of ‘Adoption Nation’ Released Fri, 08 Apr 2011 13:00:59 +0000

Adam Pertman

A couple of years ago, I shared the keynote speaker podium at an adoption conference with Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Nation and executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

When I was researching my book, The Adoption Decision: 15 Things You Want to Know Before Adopting, Adam’s book — and the Adoption Institute — were essential resources.  Adam is one of the world’s top researchers in the field of adoption. He’s my adoption hero. So you can imagine that I was more than a little intimidated to be a co-keynoter with him.

I needn’t have worried. As we became acquainted during the conference, I discovered that Adam’s passion for educating people about adoption mirrors my own, and that for both of us, our role as (adoptive) parents is the most important one in our lives.

So it is with delight that I announce the new, revised edition of Adam’s book, Adoption Nation. Whether you’re just beginning to think about adoption or adoption has been part of your life for years, Adoption Nation deserves a permanent spot in your library of adoption resources.

Here’s the official blurb:

Americans adopt more than 130,000 children annually from within the United States and from abroad. That means more than 100 million people in our country today have adoption in their immediate families – and nearly everyone is connected to adoption in some way.

Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families – and America takes on the challenge of explaining the historic changes enveloping us all – and does so with a unique combination of engaging prose, gripping stories, insightful perspective and exceptional research.

Its author, Adam Pertman, is one of the most influential experts in his field and Adoption Nation has been called “the most important book ever written on the subject.” Inspired by his Pulitzer-nominated series while a reporter with the Boston Globe, the first edition of Adoption Nation (2000) captured an important piece of U.S. history and was a game-changer for child welfare professionals, policy-makers, and members of what Pertman calls “the extended family of adoption” (adopted individuals, birth and adoptive relatives).

The new, fully revised edition updates the “adoption revolution” with all of its joys and disappointments, its personal and policy issues, its complexities and controversies.

8 Ways to Support an Infertile Friend Mon, 04 Apr 2011 13:00:13 +0000

From the time we’re girls playing with dolls, most of us dream of becoming mothers. But for the one in six women who experience infertility, the struggle to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to term is a nightmare. Women in the midst of a fertility crisis need a caring friend.

Here are eight ways you can provide hope and healing:

1.  Love by listening.

Don’t give advice or try to fix things. Just be there. Warm hugs are the best gift you can give.

2.  Learn about fertility treatment.

Infertility is a medical condition that often necessitates medical intervention. If your friend is undergoing treatment, learn about the procedures so you can better understand the physical and emotional symptoms she’s experiencing.

3.  Do something normal together.

Invite her to lunch or a movie.

4.  Arrange a childfree visit.

Being around children may be difficult for your friend. If you have children, avoid talking excessively about your own pregnancy, childbirth experiences, or children.

5.  Cheer on adoption.

If your friend decides to adopt, show the same enthusiasm you would exhibit if she was physically pregnant.

6.  If you become pregnant, share the news in person, if possible.

Understand that your friend will experience a mixture of emotions—happiness for you and sadness for herself. Don’t pressure her to attend a baby shower.

7.  Extend sympathy.

If she loses a baby to miscarriage or failed adoption, send a card, flowers, or a small gift in memory of the child.

8.  Pray.

If you are a person if faith, pray specifically – on a daily basis – for something related to her struggle. E-mail your friend, letting her know that she’s in your thoughts and prayers.

‘Adoption Network’ Book Signing at Northwest Ministry Conference Fri, 01 Apr 2011 20:45:00 +0000

The publisher of my book, The Adoption Network: Your Guide to Starting a Support System, does such a nice job with their marketing materials.

Here’s my page in the catalog WinePress Publishing is preparing for distribution at next weekend’s Northwest Ministry Conference in Seattle:

The conference — which is one of the largest ministry conferences in the country — is April 8 and 9, 2011 at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA.

I’ll be doing a book signing and giving away copies of The Adoption Network (details about time and location to be announced next week on my blog), and I’ll be helping out at the WinePress booth throughout the conference. Hope to see you there!

The Anonymity of Cyberspace Can Encourage Adoption Fraud Tue, 26 Oct 2010 20:54:44 +0000

You’ve seen the ads in the classified section of your local newspaper:

“Fun-loving, financially secure, happily married couple in our early 30s, eager to adopt a baby.”

Prospective adoptive parents let their intentions be known in cyberspace, as well, via personal websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and online adoption registry services. Pregnant women (or couples) who are considering placing their child for adoption can view adoptive parent profiles online and contact the families.

That’s just what happened to Deana and Rick Watson, who posted their profile at an online registry for would-be adoptive parents. When three prospective birth mothers contacted them in one day, the Watsons communicated with each via e-mail before talking to them on the phone or deciding to meet in person.

“Once you speak with a birth parent on the phone, things become real, says Deana. “E-mail allows both parties to keep some distance.”

It gives biological parents the chance to become acquainted with several couples before they choose a family to adopt their child. Should the birth parents choose another couple, the break is less painful – for everyone involved.

Common Sense In Matters of the Heart

Although the vast majority of adoptions progress smoothly, wise parents should use caution throughout the process – especially in cyberspace, where anonymity may encourage adoption fraud. Women, hungry for money or attention, pose as birth mothers and promise their phantom baby to multiple families.

Becca and Rick Blank thought they were “matched” with a birth mom, “until she laid huge guilt trips on us, trying to get money from us.”

Another woman asked at least two families if she could live with them during the last months of her pregnancy. Yet another claimed to be pregnant but was unwilling to release medical information or her attorney’s name.

One would-be adoptive mom realized she was being conned when she discussed her situation with an online friend and discovered they were both conversing with the identical “birth mother.”

She recommends:

“Be cautious. Make sure it’s real. There will be signs if it’s not. Take your time and get to know each other by having an e-mail relationship. Plan to meet in person after several months. By then she will be showing and you will know that she is really pregnant.”

Red Flags That Could Indicate Adoption Fraud

Adoptive parents who connect with a prospective birth mother should be aware of the following red flags that could indicate possible adoption fraud.

Beware of pregnant women who…

…ask about money
…are transient or living in motels
…refuse medical care
…won’t provide a return phone number or address
…refuse to allow the adoptive parent at least limited access to her medical information (as it pertains to the pregnancy). This may indicate she’s taking drugs and is afraid of submitting to urinanalysis tests.

Joan Ward, a Seattle-based adoption social worker, says, “It is so important for adoptive parents to work with top-notch and highly experienced social workers and adoption attorneys.”

When Joan becomes aware of a scam, she usually contacts the major adoption attorneys in Seattle, alerting them to the situation. “I always ask my clients to call me when they’ve had contact with a potential birth mother,” she says.

If the birth parent lives out of state, Joan recommends hiring an adoption attorney or social worker in the birth mother’s hometown to assess the situation. “I am often hired by out-of-state adoptive parents to evaluate potential birth parent situations in Seattle,” she says. “It’s sad to say but I have found potential birth mothers who aren’t pregnant or birth mothers who are promising their baby to several adoptive families.”

Joan also cautions people to be aware of mentally ill birth mothers, including those with personality disorders.

“Birth mothers with psychological disorders are not at all uncommon, and their disorder may not be immediately apparent to the untrained eye, or to the prospective adoptive parent desperate to have a child.”

Proceed With Caution – Especially When Using the Internet to Research Adoption

Caution is a must for people who plan to adopt, whether they adopt independently or use the services of an agency or facilitator.

One family got burned by an agency they located on the Internet. The agency, which touts that they place over 200 infants per year, collected payments from the couple, who languished for two years on the waiting list. When the couple complained about the lack of action, the agency bowed out of working with them, but refused to return their money.

Would-be parents must check references – and not just the references an agency supplies. Adoption blogs and  e-mail discussion groups are great places to gather firsthand information from people who have worked with particular agencies.

Prospective parents should become versed in the adoption laws of their own state, as well as the state or country from which they plan to adopt. If they suspect fraud or unethical practices by an agency or facilitator, they should contact their state licensing specialist.

The state’s Better Business Bureau (, the Attorney General, or the Social Services headquarters have information about complaints, investigation or litigation against agencies.

When you’re hoping to adopt, it’s tempting to let your heart run ahead of your head. Don’t let that happen. Be as “innocent as a dove,” certainly. But also be as “shrewd as a snake” (Matthew 10:16).

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When Should You Tell Your Child He Was Adopted? Mon, 10 May 2010 13:00:05 +0000

We adopted our sons when they were newborns, and adoption has always been a normal part of the vocabulary around our home.

When Ben was 6 years old and Josh was 3, we went to the hospital to meet one of their newborn cousins. The boys looked around in wonderment. Babies were born in hospitals!

“I thought all babies came from the adoption agency,” remarked Ben.

We have never led our sons to believe that all babies originate at the adoption agency; that was just their assumption. To them, adoption is the normal way to join one’s family; they thought it odd that babies appear on the scene in any other way.

When Should You Tell Your Child Who His Birth Parents Are?

Recently, I spoke with an adoptive mom who shares an open adoption with her oldest daughter’s birth mother. Her daughter, age 4 ½, has always known her birth mother. However, she doesn’t know that the woman is her
birth mother – she thinks she’s just a good friend of the family.

I recommended that the parents and birth mom reveal the identity of the birth mother sooner, rather than later. I believe that the girl will be less apt to resent her parents and her birth mother for keeping secrets, which will save everyone potential heartache in the long run.

Children are so resilient…if the girl learns who her birth mother is now, at age 4, in a couple of years, it will seem as if she’s always known who her birth mother is.

There are two viewpoints about when to discuss adoption with your children.

Theory #1 recommends postponing the discussion of adoption until the child is between the ages of 5 and 7. At that age, say some psychologists, the child will have the inner strength to incorporate and cope with the information.

Theory #2 recommends discussing adoption from the moment the child comes into the family.

I adhere to Theory #2. We have shown our sons photos of their birth parents since they were infants, and we have identified them as their birth parents since day one. We display pictures of their birth families on our fridge (including siblings, grandparents, cousins, etc.) along with the rest of our extended family. I’m hopeful that our sons are growing up with a healthy view of both adoption and of their birth parents.

Yes, I realize that our sons silently grieve over what is often referred to as “the primal wound.” I realize that they wonder why their birth parents made an adoption plan for them. I realize that they may struggle with attachment issues and with rejection issues, even if they aren’t able to articulate them. And I do my best to make sure they feel loved, accepted and welcomed, by both their birth and adoptive parents.

Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner says it well in her book, The Spirit of Adoption: At Home in God’s Family:

“It is essential that adopted children be helped to understand that relinquishment can be tenderly undertaken. Hopefully, the pain of being given up, which connotes abandonment, can be ameliorated with the understanding that an adopted child is given to a welcoming family, a phrase implying loving intent. When possible, it is beneficial to tell adopted children how lovingly the plans for adoption were made. It is of utmost importance that adopted children be told of how expectantly they were awaited, how they grew to life in the hearts of their adoptive parents.”

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