Thank you so much for taking out the time to speak with us today.
Let’s start by learning the three different agencies you are part of .
A Baby Step Adoption, Adoption Associates and Adoption Step, a non-profit.
Let’s start by finding out howthese began and who are the main creators behind the vision? There are three sister agencies, Adoption Associates, Adoption Step a non-profit and A Baby Step Adoption. They are all an outgrowth of Barbara Casey’s adoption law practice. After years of practicing adoption law, it was clear that we needed support for birthmothers and all parties that could best be provided through the agency model. So we added an agency with all services under one roof which would be including counselors, birthmother caseworker, adoptive parent caseworkers, attorneys, as well as adoption specialty staff to take the adoption process from beginning to end. Barbara Casey is the founder of the agency and she started working with adoption 34 years ago when her law partners’ wife came in stating she was done with infertility and a week later an expectant mothers crossed Barbara’s path and she put the two together and did her first adoption! That baby grew up to intern in our office years and started a legacy of family building for Barbara Casey.
What’s unique about your agency’s or firms approach and what do you feel are some of the real benefits that an expectant mom might experience if she was to place through your firm/agency?
Our agency is unique as it’s very individualized. Every adoption is planned to meet the needs of the parties, it’s very flexible. Many agencies have one agenda: open adoption, faith based adoption, but our agency accepts all kinds of clients and is extremely diverse. Because we offer all services under one roof, we can offer the best legal plan and the best social service plan for all types of expectant mothers and families.
Does an expectant mom have to be certain that she is choosing adoption to meet with you? No. Part of our agency’s mission is to give an expectant mom all of her options so she does not need to be certain about her pregnancy plan or to choose adoption to meet with our agency and to get help.
Do you discuss the other options available to her? Yes. We have had expectant mothers come to discuss parenting, possibility of an abortion, different types of adoptions (open, closed, semi open) as well as what benefits they can get with each option. Our agency makes no judgments about expectant mothers’ plans. We follow the motto “it’s your baby and it’s your choice”. We are here to help and guide if we are asked.
Do you provide parenting resources for her? Yes. We are partners with nurse family agencies, with cradles to crayons, and other social services agencies in the region that provide housing, transportation, food and clothing, supplies and we can outreach and refer to regional resources.
What are some of the resources that she might be offerd? Our agency looks at the expectant mother’s needs on an individual basis and our regulations (see here https://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/dfs/icpc/applicable_regulations/regulation_12-2012.pdf ) mandate that the following services, if needed, shall be made available to natural parents either directly or by referral:
- Legal services,
- Education services
- Health-related services,
- Financial assistance
- Housing services
We also include substance abuse and rehabilitation services because our area has faced a serious opioid crisis. We partner with neighborhood and local organizations to make sure they get the services that they need.
Do you help with her medical needs? Yes.
Legal fees? Yes.
What if she needs some basics like maternity clothes? We have a lot of donations, thrift shops, maternity outlets and we can take her shopping. We also give a clothing allowance. Those are a few options.
Can the expectant woman’s boyfriend or spouse and or family be involved in the process too? Absolutely and we get all of them involved from the start.
Can she choose a family for her child or do you select for her? Expectant mothers choose the family from a group of approved adoptive parent that are interested in her individual situation. We can also outreach for additional families if needed.
Does she have her own free legal representation? Yes.
Can she create her own hospital plan? Yes. And that plan can be changed at any time, per the birthmother’s wishes.
Walk me through the process. If I was an expectant mom who came into the agency what would it look like for me working with you? We maintain an expectant mother hotline and she calls for help and advice, she is automatically connected to a birthmother caseworker for support. She needs to give us a proof of pregnancy, sign a hippa release and fill out an intake. We create a birthmother profile which we send out to all available adoptive parents in our program or even outside or program if necessary. The adoptive parents submit their profile to the birthmother’s case. She reviews all of the profiles that were submitted and chooses the right family for her. We also have “parentfinder” on which families are available for review on our website. Typically there is a conference call or meeting so that both the adoptive parents and expectant mom reconfirm the commitment to the match and then all our services begin. The birthmother lets us know what areas or services are her priority and her caseworker would start to provide for those needs. For examples, shelter, food, transportation to doctors’ appointments, coordination with her program such as rehab, getting all the insurances in place and making a hospital plan. All of this could be done by her caseworker if she wants a very closed adoption but would probably be done by her caseworker in conjunction with her adoptive family if she is willing to have a more open adoption plan. At some point she would meet with her lawyer and then the legal plan would be developed. Legal and agency representatives will be available at the time of the hospital and thereafter during all the court procedures. Our birthmothers do not need to go to court and we can travel to them for signing of legal documents. We continue to provide services until the adoption is finalized and also after post adoption if the expectant mother needs or has a desire for them. We can continue support during post-partum period and afterwards as needed. Example: we can petition our court for counseling sessions for the expectant mother with her counselor and these sessions can be paid for by the counseling fund in our state.
I see that you have an amazing team of caring workers all invested in helping those on the adoption journey. Others can read about them and their specific roles here:
Let’s talk next about the type of education that you provide the adopting couple with. Yes, we begin the process by having an in person education meeting rather than a simple application. We sponsor free information sessions and webinars. Caseworkers promote as needed source and materials.
Do you provide training and education for the families to learn about issues that might arise if they choose to adopt a child of a different ethnicity than them? Yes we use resources developed by www.creatingafamily.org to educate about trans-racial adoption and other specialized topics like NAS medical issues related to substance abuse.
Training on problems that can arise over the years for an adoptee? We do this on an individual case-by-case basis and we have resources from the American academy of adoption attorneys and also referral sources in all 50 states. www.creatingafamily.org is also a very helpful because they have articles and films and materials on every topic. We have referral lists of counselors and adoption specific therapists.
How about the different types of adoptions and why knowing the child’s natural family would be more beneficial for the child? We offer different types of adoption and all levels of open and closed adoptions on an individual basis. A large part of our training would include discussion of what’s in the best interest for the child and this particular family. Circumstances change and so our planning must be flexible. We do picture and letter agreements and Pennsylvania does provide for enforceable post adoption contact agreement.
Do you do any closed adoptions? Yes, at the request of the birthmother.
What does your agency consider to be a semi-open adoption? Semi-open adoption is usually picture and letter updates shared through the agency and possible meetings where the parties do not share last names.
Do you encourage open adoptions and if so what does that look like for an expectant mom over time? We encourage open adoption but we do not require it. We tailor each adoption to the needs and desires of the parties. We are very flexible and individualized.
Does the care stop once the expectant mom places her baby with the adopting couple?
If not what kind of POST adoption care can she expect to receive working with your agency? We facilitate the exchange of information between adoptive parents and birthparents through to the age of 18. We offer all kinds of services that are available for birthmothers after the placement, could be helping with school, job hunt, and possible substance abuse battle. Pennsylvania does have enforceable post adoption contact agreements if parties are in agreement.
I think it’s crucial that when a woman gets help around her adoption experience that the help be adoption related. Do you have adoption specific counselors and specialist for her to work with? From the start she’s assigned to an individual birthmother counselor but we also have adoption specific counselors we can refer her to. We also have a program where we petition the court and we request that the sessions be paid for by the state counseling funds.
I have found many times women have other challenges to work through in addition to the adoption experience. Do you find this to be true with the women you serve? Can your services help them overall with all the areas they might be struggling with? Our agency certainly tries to fulfill all the areas for which birthmothers might be struggling with. We coordinate with local opioid clinics and substance abuse programs. We also have help with clothing for work, tools for trade, returning to schooling, we have funds for special requests for birthmothers who have birthmother needs. We run donation drives and special charity events through our 501 3(c) charity.
Is there anything else that you think would be helpful for a woman to know who might be considering working with your agency? We have lots of former birthmothers who are willing to talk to expectant mothers and could provide useful insight and guidance from an insider’s point of view.
Please also include if each family is required to be home study approved. Yes, all of our families has or will have an approved homestudy. There is an exception for an in state adoption only (PA-PA) where the family can be working on the homestudy while the match is made.
Where are you located and how might someone looking for help in your area be able to connect with you? We are located in Pennsylvania but we work with clients and birthmothers nationwide. We can be contacted through our hotline at 888-505-2367, by text at 610-613-1911, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ababystepadoption/ or at our website http://ababystepadoption.com/