Adoptive Family Birth Father Birth Mother Blog

2021 Adoption Tax Credit

2021 Adoption Tax Credit

The 2021 tax filing season is upon us! The Internal Revenue Service recommends taxpayers take time to determine if they are eligible for important tax credits. Many of our adoptive families will be applying for the Adoption Tax Credit. With that in mind, we have compiled some basic information about the 2021 adoption tax credit.

Adoption Tax Credit 101 – for 2021 adoptions (claimed in early 2022)

If you have done any research into adoption financing, you’ve probably heard about the Federal Adoption Tax Credit. But what exactly is this credit, and how does it work?

The Federal Adoption Tax Credit is a non-refundable tax credit that helps families offset the costs of qualifying adoption expenses. Families who paid qualifying adoption expenses in 2021, and owe taxes, may be eligible to benefit from this credit. For adoptions finalized in 2021, there is a federal adoption tax credit of up to $14,440 per child. The 2021 adoption tax credit is NOT refundable, which means taxpayers can only use the credit if they have federal income tax liability.

Parents who are adopting from the U.S. and claiming qualified adoption expenses can claim the credit the year of finalization or the year after they spent the funds. Parents who adopt a child with special needs and are not basing their request on expenses should claim the credit the year of finalization. Parents who adopt internationally cannot claim the credit until the year of finalization.

The credit applies one time for each adopted child and should be claimed when taxpayers file taxes for 2021.

To be eligible for the credit, parents must:

  • Have adopted a child other than a stepchild — A child must be either under 18 or be physically or mentally unable to take care of him or herself.
  • Be within the income limits — Income affects how much of the credit parents can claim. The credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) in excess of $223,410, and it’s completely phased out at $263,410 or more.

According to the IRS, “qualified adoption expenses” can include items like:

  • Reasonable and necessary adoption fees
  • Court costs and attorney fees
  • Traveling expenses related to adoption
  • Other expenses that are directly related to and for the principal purpose of the legal adoption of an eligible child

If you’re not sure whether you are eligible to use the adoption tax credit or if you paid qualifying adoption expenses in 2021, a tax professional will be able to provide more information.

How Much is the 2021 Adoption Tax Credit?

The amount families are eligible to receive from the Federal Adoption Tax Credit depends on a number of factors and will vary based on their unique situation. Families who finalize the adoption of a child with special needs in 2021 and fulfill the eligibility requirements above, can claim the full credit of $14,4400 whether or not they had any expenses.

Other adopters can claim a credit based on their qualified adoption expenses, which are the reasonable and necessary expenses paid to complete the adoption that have not been reimbursed by anyone else. If the expenses are less than $14,4400, the adopters claim only the amount of those expenses. However, if the expenses exceed $14,4400, the adopters can claim up to, but no more than, $14,4400, per child.

The Adoption Tax Credit limit is based on modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) and is recalculated each year based on current cost of living. Income affects how much of the credit parents can claim. For the 2021 Adoption Tax Credit, families with a MAGI below $216,660 can claim full credit. The credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) in excess of $216,660, and it’s completely phased out at $256,660 or more.

Adoption and taxes can be complicated, and you will likely have questions about the tax benefits available in your specific situation. While we hope you find the information in this post helpful, keep in mind that Adoption Choices does not offer tax advice. Talk to a tax professional for more specific information about how the Adoption Tax Credit can benefit your family.

2022 Adoption Tax Credit – If you adopt a child in 2022, the credit maximum amount will be $14,890 with an AGI phaseout threshold of $223,410 to $263,410.

2020 Adoption Tax Credit – for the past tax year 2020, the maximum adoption credit was $14,300 per child with a phaseout range of $214,520 – $254,520.

Interaction with the Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit changed in 2018. The amount is now $2,000 per child, but only $1,400 of it can become the refundable additional child tax credit (dependent on the family’s earned income), with the remaining $600 a non-refundable Child Tax Credit.  This credit will supersede the adoption tax credit when reducing the tax liability.

To determine the amount of the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit a family uses, a family must complete the Child Tax Credit Worksheet in IRS Publication 972.  Software and tax preparers will automatically calculate these amounts.

Taxpayers who can answer “Yes” on the last line of the Child Tax Credit Worksheet may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit, which is a refundable credit (meaning they can claim the credit regardless of their tax liability). To claim the Additional Child Tax Credit, parents must complete IRS Schedule 8812.

How Much Taxpayers Will Benefit

How much, if any, of the adoption tax credit a parent will receive depends on their federal income tax liability in 2020 (and the next five years). In one year, taxpayers can use as much of the credit as the full amount of their federal income tax liability, which is the amount on line 11 of the Form 1040 less certain other credits (see Child Tax Credit above). Even those who normally get a refund may still have tax liability and could get a larger refund with the adoption tax credit. Taxpayers have six years (the year they first claimed the credit plus five additional years) to use the credit.

People who do not have federal income tax liability will not benefit this year. We encourage them to claim the credit and carry it forward to future years since the credit may become refundable again in the future.

Claiming the Adoption Tax Credit

To claim the credit, taxpayers will complete a 2021 version of IRS Form 8839 (available at irs.gov in early 2022) and submit it with their Form 1040 when they file their 2021 taxes. Most tax software will create this form for you. Before filing, taxpayers should review 2021 Form 8839 instructions (will also be available at www.irs.gov) very carefully to be sure that they apply for the credit correctly and to see if anything has changed. The instructions are needed to calculate how much of the credit will be used.

When claiming the adoption tax credit, you’ll want to be ready with documents such as:

  • The final adoption decree
  • A placement agreement from an authorized agency
  • Court documents
  • A state’s determination for special-needs children, if applicable

This is a lot of information, and you probably have more questions about the tax credit for adopting a child in your specific situation. Adoption Choices does not offer tax advice and recommends that you talk to your tax professional for specific information on how the Adoption Tax Credit can benefit your family.

Adoptive Family Birth Mother Blog

Gift-Giving and Adoption in Missouri

Gift-Giving and Adoption in Missouri

The Christmas season is filled with the spirit of giving. If you’re involved in an open or semi-open adoption, you may be wondering how to approach gift-giving and adoption without crossing any boundaries. Gift-giving can be a very personal, meaningful way to express your gratitude for someone and let them know that they are special to you. However, giving a gift that goes too far or doesn’t display any effort can be somewhat offensive. Adoption Choices of Missouri has counseled hundreds of birth mothers and adoptive parents before and wants to help you understand how to give good gifts this Christmas. Here are some ideas of what to give and what not to give to the various people involved in your adoption this Christmas season. 

Gift-Giving Ideas for Your Child After an Adoption

As a birth mother you might want to give your child a gift this Christmas, here are a few tips. Before you buy your child a gift, you should check with the adoptive parents and figure out what budget they have for Christmas presents. Trying to buy your child a more expensive or elaborate gift than the adoptive parents is not a great way to maintain a good relationship with them. Instead, work out a budget with the parents and base your gift on that. You may want to get your child a gift that reflects your heritage so that they have an item that will remind them that a part of them will always be connected to you. You could also get them a gift that follows a theme so that in years to come, they will have a collection of special items that they can clearly link back to you. Some examples of theme gifts could be an ornament, a stuffed animal, or a board game. Try not to give your child any gifts that might conflict with what their adoptive parents allow or agree with, such as religious items or media that might be controversial. Overall, be thoughtful with the gift that you choose, and deliver it in a way that aligns with the adoption plan you agreed upon with the adoptive parents. 

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for The Adoptive Parents

If you are a birth mother, you may wish to provide the adoptive parents with a gift to express your gratitude or just to show you care about them. Just like with your child, make sure you don’t send them anything that could be considered offensive or contradict their personal beliefs. Giving a gift to the adoptive parents isn’t always appropriate in certain relationships, but it can be very meaningful if you have a good relationship with them. You don’t need to splurge on them in order to “earn” their approval. The gift you choose for them should just be something that expresses your gratitude for them and will let them know that you’re thinking of them during the holidays. If you don’t feel like you can get them a gift, you could consider writing them a thoughtful letter instead. Giving gifts this Christmas should only be done out of care and gratitude rather than obligation or insecurity. 

What Can I GiveThe Birth Mother as a Holiday Gift?

If you’re the adoptive parents, giving a gift to the birth mother might be something that you wish to do this Christmas. If you have a good relationship with the mother and wish to let, her know that you’re thinking of her, sending a gift is a meaningful way to express this. As before, make sure that the gift won’t come across as rude or offensive, and don’t try to overwhelm her with a gift that might make her feel insecure about whatever she got you (if you’re exchanging presents). You could consider asking her what she might need or want so your gift will be utilized well. Buying a personalized gift may show her that you gave her present some thought. 

Have a Merry Christmas from Adoption Choices of Missouri

Christmas time isn’t meant to be stressful, so only give a gift if you want to and know it will be appreciated. Adoption Choices of Missouri hopes that these tips will guide you as you determine what type of gift to give. If you’re facing unplanned or teen pregnancy, please reach out to Adoption Choices of Missouri. We will seek to assist you as you decide whether or not to place your baby for adoption.

Adoption Choices of Missouri serves birth parents statewide and beyond, please call us or text us to learn more! Call us toll-free at 877-903-4488 or, in Missouri call or text us at 816-527-9800

KylaMeet the author: Kyla’s life has been filled with adventure and transition – both good and difficult. She loves to take on challenges head-on and lead an organized and balanced life. She’s passionate about many different areas and loves how writing gives her the flexibility to engage in research of almost every field of study imaginable. She grew up very involved in theater and music and continues to use her free time to play the piano and sing. However, she is also very interested in how the natural world works and takes any chance she has to spend the day away from crowds, enveloped in the seclusion of nature. Growing up in the Philippines, she’s had some unique experiences that have shaped her worldview and given her a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures. She gets excited about research papers, completed to-do lists, and her morning coffee.

Adoptive Family Birth Father Birth Mother Blog

JOURNEY TO MY DAUGHTER

Adoption Story with Author, Jennifer Asher – Now Available for Pre-Order

“I tried so hard at the beginning to force things to go my way. I eventually recognized that I needed to follow the signs when I was headed down the wrong path. When I let go of control a bit, and allowed the tide to direct me, everything worked out as it should.”

A powerful idea. A brave expedition. We hear it constantly on this journey to have a baby, grow our family, or extend our family, right? Don’t force things. Just relax. Go with the flow. Stay positive, have faith, don’t stress… But sometimes hearing it from someone who has actually worn the shoes, been there, done that, and even wrote a book about it – we can listen more closely and too, let go – even if just a little bit – of our control and as Jennifer puts it, allow the universe to conspire.

Jennifer and Marc adopted a baby in 2001 from Adoption Choices of Oklahoma. After multiple miscarriages, their journey through adoption took them across the world and back and ultimately landed in Oklahoma. All they knew from the beginning is that they wanted the entire process to be done quickly. International adoption was their chosen route and specifically, Vietnam, was their destination.

Jennifer details in her book, Journey to My Daughter, the sometimes difficult, often surprising, and looking back hilarious obstacles along the way. Knowing Jennifer and Marc have a beautiful 20 year old daughter doesn’t deter the edge of the seat craving for ‘what happened next!?’ When they say “This child was meant to be our child!” you too, feel it in your soul!

Jennifer first wrote the book, 20 years ago to her daughter. She knew from the beginning to get it all in ink, to remember the details, so she could later share the full report with her. The adoption was no secret and in fact, they maintained an opportunity for an open adoption after placement with the birth parents. Over time the relationship has changed, new relationships have developed, and of course with social media, communication is simple and fast.

After much encouragement Jennifer shares her story in this compelling memoir detailing miscarriage, adoption, and self-discovery. In hopes to be published in December, Jennifer has created a campaign to help reach funding for publishing. If everything feels like it’s going wrong, this adoption story will help you realize you are being led to everything that is right! Plus, pre-order means exclusive rewards!

  • You will receive a personally signed copy of Journey to My Daughter with a handwritten thank-you note.
  • Your name will appear in the Acknowledgments section of the book (“with Special Thanks to”).
  • You will receive early access to the Introduction and some excerpts from the book, with the opportunity to review it and give early feedback.
  • You will have the opportunity to be involved in selecting the cover and author photo.
  • You will be invited to join Jennifer’s Author Community and get behind-the-scenes sneak peeks into the publishing process.
  • And much more!

Place your order for Journey to My Daughter now! <— Click Here!!

Jennifer is offering an exclusive perk for Adoption Choices adoptive families. She is prepared to help you help your child understand their adoption story by helping you create the language for your own personalized book for your child. Most adoptive parents understand the importance of talking to their adopted child about their adoption story and adoption identity. However, no matter how much preparation they do, some adoptive parents still wonder exactly how to talk to their child about adoption in a positive way that they can understand.

With Jennifer’s expertise – which will include a one-on-one consultation – she will help you develop a clear understanding for your child and express your excitement and gratitude about the way your child came into your life. Putting your adoption story in writing provides a concrete story that can be referred to again and again throughout their childhood!

This opportunity is only available to Adoption Choices adoptive families and is only available for a short time!

For more information, you can connect with Jennifer at jenniferroseasher@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jennifer-Rose-Asher-Author-100593285646703 or @Jennifer Rose Asher
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferroseasher/ or @jenniferroseasher
Twitter: @Jenrasher
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferroseasher/

Adoption Choices of Missouri serves birth parents statewide and beyond, please call us or text us to learn more! Call us toll free at 877-903-4488 or, in Missouri call or text us at 1-816-527-9800

Adoptive Family Birth Father Birth Mother Blog

Merry Christmas from Adoption Choices

To all of our friends, families, prospective adoptive families, and birth parents who celebrate Christmas, may the magic of the season fill you with hope and peace! Sending you a very Merry Christmas!

Adoption Choices of Missouri serves birth parents statewide and beyond, please call us or text us to learn more! Call us toll free at 877-903-4488 or, in Missouri call or text us at 1-816-527-9800

Adoptive Family Birth Mother Blog

An Adoption Story – A Life-Changing Decision: Amy Hammack

A Life-Changing Decision: Amy Hammack

“Living an experience is to know it. For the birth mother, however, living the experience and understanding the totality of the experience may take a lifetime journey.” — Donna Portuesi, from  “Impact of the Birthmother’s Experience, Then and Now

You’re 16. Six months pregnant. No one knows. You had done your best hiding the reality of a new life growing inside you. Even from your parents. The due date was quickly approaching, and you know you want to make a plan for adoption, but nothing’s prepared yet. You don’t feel like you can tell anyone because of the shame, but soon you won’t be able to hide anymore. What do you do?

For Amy Hammack, this was the beginning of her adoption journey. The moment in her life when everything changed. I had the privilege of hearing Amy’s story, and marveled at her strength and bravery. What she went through to give her son the best life possible is a rich example of a mother’s love.

The following interview is used with Amy’s expressed permission, including the use of her name. Her son, Robb Dow, has also given consent to the use of his name. Other names of friends and family, however, have been altered for the sake of privacy.

RR: When did you decide to make a plan for adoption?

AH: I was doing a lot of babysitting at the time. I babysat for this woman named Caitlyn. She had her child at a young age, too…she had had her first kid at 16, and her second three years later, and I saw her abuse them from time to time. I was more of a mother to her kids than she was…they used to call me “mommy.”

I babysat for another woman, and I could see she was a very loving mother. That’s when I decided I wanted to choose adoption.

I hid my pregnancy for the first six months. I didn’t tell my parents because I was ashamed. For your first pregnancy, it takes a while for you to show. I was just starting to show a baby lump, and I started wearing baggier clothes. My mother worked a second shift — both my parents, actually — so they didn’t see me much. Then, on the weekends, I tried to stay at friends’ places.

RR: How did you go about telling your parents?

AH: How I told them was through a friend of mine. I hadn’t been to the doctor because I was so freaked out, and he confirmed it there. He said, “You are this far along” and started to give me options. Did I want to keep the baby? I was Catholic, so I didn’t believe in abortion. He talked to me about adoption, which I kinda already knew about.

So, after that, I ran away. I didn’t go to school, and moved in with my friend. My parents didn’t know. I called and said I wasn’t coming home. They told me that no, I needed to come home so we could face this together.

I didn’t tell them on the phone that I was pregnant. My dad had told me once that, “if you ever get pregnant, I’ll kill ya.” And, you know, that sticks in your mind. He wouldn’t really, but I was still scared.

My friend was the one who ended up telling them. She said, “We went to the doctor today, and Amy is six months pregnant.” Just like that. Matter of fact. I had already decided I was going to move out and give the baby up for adoption. My dad said, “No, we need to talk about what the next few months are going to bring. If you want to give the baby up, that’s up to you. I understand the situation you’re in, and I kinda know what you’re going through.”

My mom and I were curious about this, so…I’m thinking maybe I have other siblings. My dad played around on my mom a lot.

Then my dad cried and said, “I’m glad you’re doing this.”

RR: Did you ever feel pressured to choose adoption, or was it completely your choice?

AH: It’s something I always wanted to do. I felt like I had nothing to offer. Once you have a kid, you’re responsible for a kid in so many different ways, and I was just a high school student.

I had nothing to offer. I was a high school student. I hadn’t even begun to live my life. I had to get through graduation. I had finished my junior year and still had senior year.

RR: Did you feel stigmatized for your choice?

AH: I was afraid I was going to be labeled as “slut,” or any of those other ones. I hid my pregnancy from everyone. Only three friends knew, and one of them didn’t even go to my school. They didn’t say anything.

RR: What was your path to adoption like?

AH: I babysat for a lady, Vicky, who had adopted a child. She knew my son’s adoptive aunt. She saw me walking one day, and wondered why I wasn’t in school. She hadn’t seen me in a while, and asked me what was going on. I was within six to eight weeks of delivery at this point. She said she knew of a family who was trying to adopt, and asked if she could make a phone call to them.

Within a few days, the adoptive parents took me out to lunch, and that’s the one and only time I met them. I can’t remember the place, but it was somewhere downtown Seattle and they brought their attorney. They wanted to make sure I understood that this was going to be a closed adoption, and that I was going to be taken care of. They offered to buy me a car so I could make it to my doctor’s appointments. (Laughs) A car. I didn’t even have my driver’s license, so that wasn’t going to work.

Closed adoptions is just what you did in 1981. If there was a choice otherwise, I wasn’t aware of it.

RR: What was the hospital experience like?

AH: When I got to the delivery room, I was crowning. Then they put something in my IV and told me to start counting backwards from one hundred. They put me completely out for the birth. Back then, they didn’t want you to remember anything. I understand why now…all the emotions…it makes it harder to give the baby up. Doctors didn’t want women to experience the birth. All they wanted was to get the baby out.

The same thing was done to my mom, even though she never gave a child up. It was believed then that it was best for you and the baby, but I think it had a lot to do with the doctor you got, too.

Afterwards, they put me in a different area of the hospital entirely. I was put in the burn unit. This was so I wouldn’t have any chance of seeing or being close to my baby. They said it wouldn’t have been safe to bring my baby there anyway, because the burn unit attracted bugs.

“I want to see my baby girl,” I told a nurse. I didn’t know what I was having, actually.

“It wasn’t a baby girl,” the nurse said. She was very nice. “It was a healthy baby boy.”

Another nurse came up. “Shh! It’s an adoption! You’re not supposed to say anything!”

They said I wouldn’t remember anything, but I remember that part.

RR: After the adoption, how did you process and grieve?

AH: I went numb. I can’t explain it. You know you’ve had a baby, now you can go back to school. And then…going back to school…everyone is like, “Where have you been?” But what do you say? I just told them I was sick, and didn’t want to talk about it.

It was hard on my parents, too. They were losing a grandchild. So, we didn’t talk about it. We acted like we completely forget about what happened. I think it was harder on my mom, because she had wanted me to keep him. Dad had made it clear from the beginning, “It’s Amy’s decision. It’s not up to you. We need to respect her decision.” This made me feel like they really accepted me and respected my choice.

Because my friend had been getting me my homework, I didn’t fall back behind in school. The only thing I had to do when I went back was earn extra credits so I could graduate. Every day after school, I would take the bus and stay at an elementary school for an hour to an hour and a half. I would grade papers, take kids out a recess, read to them — whatever the teacher wanted me to do.

To keep my mind off things, Vicky said that joining a pageant would help. So, I was part of the Miss Auburn Pageant. It didn’t make me forget, but it helped keep me distracted. The thing about being in the pageant was that you have a very strict schedule you have to abide by. You have to act in a certain way, there are events you had to go to…you had to be a good girl. Four days a week I was learning how to walk in heels, how to model, the proper ways to do makeup and hair — all the stuff I wasn’t into.

I had four brothers. I was your typical tomboy. My mom would put me in a dress, and by the time I got to school the curls and bun were pulled out. I played in dirt. My nickname was Mugs. If there was dirt, I would find it.

So, the [Miss Auburn] Pageant helped, but when it was done I had time to think. Everyone tried to keep my mind off it, but I thought about him — especially on birthdays and holidays.

RR: Tell me a bit more about your son’s adoptive parents.

AH: Rob’s mom was never able to have kids. She had something happen when she was 20 years old, and she had a hysterectomy. But, she’d always wanted children. She was in her early 30s, and her husband was much older.

She was a hairdresser, and he owned a boat company. I knew what they did, and their names. When I babysat for Vicky, I found pictures of Robb, and I took one. I knew it was him, because I recognized the mother holding him and the father and his big smile.

RR: Did you pick Robb’s name, or did his parents name him?

AH: Robb was named after his father’s dad, Robert. This is ironic because, if I had kept him, I was going to [pick the same name, and have his middle name after his birth father].

RR: Did Robb’s birth father know that he had a son?

AH: His birth father knew about him. He called me a “dirty little slut,” then completely disappeared. He was in the army, married with two kids. I thought I was in love, but I had just turned 16. I didn’t know what love was. Here I was with daddy issues, and my dad was drinking. When my dad finally paid attention, it was too late.

I had never had someone pay attention to me in that way. He gave me attention, bought me clothes and dropped me off at school. Even offered his credit card, but I never took him up on that. It was a lot like Pretty Woman.

Years later, I found out he got kicked out the army and did what he did to me to someone else. He had picked up a friend of mine to take her home, and then I found out that he’d had sex with her that day, too. She ended up marrying a woman. I realized then that I had been pretty much raped by him. That he had groomed me. He got what he wanted, and then he moved on.

The attorney that came with Robb’s parents published an announcement in a newspaper just to go through the proper channels. They knew that Robb’s birth father would never respond. He had told me he didn’t care, and to never contact him again. When I signed the papers at the hospital, the attorney explained that they had chosen a newspaper nowhere near us, because they were trying to protect me. Since they knew his birth father wasn’t going to come forward, the distance kept anyone at my school from seeing it.

It was a no brainer to me. I trusted Vicky, and knew that she would make sure I was well taken care of.

RR: How have you found healing?

AH: I went back to school in 2003 and took a Psychology class, where I learned how much I had been punishing myself over the years. In high school, I explained that I chose adoption because of all the things I wanted to do. I was going to go into the military, but never did. I had good intentions, but — honestly — my biggest fear was getting pregnant again. One thing I always did was with every relationship…I was very open and honest about [Robb’s adoption]. I felt like that was the right thing to do. Being baptized and doing Bible study helped, too. It helped me not be afraid to admit who I was. But, inside, choosing adoption was still the hardest thing I ever did.

Until my Psych class, though, I didn’t realize what I was doing to myself. That I never gave myself time to heal. That’s an important process. Healing. One of the ways I learned I could do that was to write about it and let it out. So, in either 2004 or 2005, I found Donna’s article on the website, “Silent Voices Unheard.” It touched me and started the healing process. I tried to not think of Robb’s adoption. It hurt too much not knowing him or if I would ever meet him again, and thinking about it made me very emotional. This article is what inspired me to educate myself, and is what woke me up.

RR: What advice would you give birth mothers or adoptive parents looking to adopt?

AH: (Pause) You brought up a memory when you asked that. Going back to the Miss Auburn pageant…there were other girls who were pregnant and wanted to talk about it. I didn’t think I was the best person for them to come to, and said they should go the counselors. But I told them, “Here’s my story. This is what I did.”

It’s a big decision, and a life-changing one. It will change who you are all the way around. Make sure you do your research. Only you can make this decision for your life.

Having Robb and choosing adoption was a blessing. I’m glad I decided to make a bad choice into a positive decision. He has even told me, “Thank you for giving birth to me.” This makes everything worth it.

 

Adoptive Family Birth Mother Blog

An Adoption Story: The Selfless Choice: Michelle Guykema

The Selfless Choice: Michelle Guykema

“A birth mother puts the needs of her child above the wants of her heart.” 

~ Skye Hardwick

When it comes to making a plan for adoption, birth mothers face a lot of pushback. Stigmas surrounding their choice claim they are irresponsible or just looking to take the easy way out. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Choosing adoption is an excruciating and selfless journey. It is not something that can be decided flippantly, and it isn’t for the faint of heart.

For Michelle Guykema, she’d always wanted to be a mother. It was her ultimate life goal. But, when she became pregnant unexpectedly at eighteen, she didn’t have the resources or lifestyle to adequately make her dream come true. Hence, her path to adoption began.

The following interview is used with Michelle’s permission, including the use of her name and that of my birth father. Names of others involved have been left purposefully nondescript for the sake of privacy or legal reasons. There were so many details shared that not everything was able to make it into this article; however, Michelle has voiced the desire to write a book about her adoption journey, which she hopes to have published one day.

Disclaimer: Please note that the following worldview illustrated in this interview is a reflection of my birth mother’s beliefs and her experience. Adoption Choices Inc. is a non-faith based adoption agency, and ensures clear communication with all parties from beginning to end. 

RR: What was your path to adoption like?

MG: So, when I found out I was pregnant, I was very surprised because I was on the pill. Your birth father and I had a good relationship for a while, but then when he got into drinking and doing drugs, it changed the dynamics of our relationship. He became abusive. He didn’t want you, so I asked my mom and my stepdad if they would help. They were just newly married, though, so they couldn’t do anything about a new baby coming.

I was only working part time and still living with my mom and stepdad. I talked to the pastor of my church — I was working in the daycare, working Sundays and Wednesdays — and he said that he knew of somebody that could help me through the adoption process.

We hired an attorney. I can’t remember who recommended the attorney. If she was recommended by my pastor or not, but through the course of my pregnancy, I was having a really hard time because I didn’t want this. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. That I didn’t have the means to take care of you, and I was still living with my parents. Bob wasn’t any help; he didn’t have a job, no money and still living with his parents.

The attorney said she would help us find a family. My pastor was active in the process as well, and said that he would also help us find a family. We met with the attorney several times and she encouraged us to sign the adoption papers right away, but I wouldn’t. Bob signed the papers a couple months later, in March, but I was still holding on for some kind of miracle that I was going to be able to keep you.

RR: How did you select the adoptive parents?

MG: I was given several packets of biographies from different families — I think either seven or nine, but can’t remember — and I read through each one of them. I was like, “I don’t know how to do this. I have no idea how to make this decision.” But I remember sitting on my bed and just praying and crying…I was so overwhelmed. It’s like, how am I supposed to pick who I’m going to give my child to? I don’t know any of these people, and people can put anything down on paper.

So, I turned all the profiles upside down and shuffled them around on my bed. I prayed over every single one and said, “Ok, Lord. You’re picking the family, because I don’t know who they are and You can see what’s going on. I have no idea, so I’m putting my total trust in you.” I closed my eyes, reached down, and took a deep breath. In that moment, I was thinking, “Ok, if I don’t like the person or their name, I can just throw them back in the pile.” (Laughs) But no…I trusted God and chose the packet I picked up, and it was your adoptive parents, Mark and Patty.

After that, I contacted my pastor and he contacted the attorney, and then…I honestly don’t remember a lot of all the moving pieces because it was so emotional for me. This was the hardest decision I have ever made. But we went through the process of what it was going to be like.

RR: Was it your choice to have a closed adoption?

MG: When I talked to my attorney, I told her that I would like to get pictures of you, see who you were, watch you grow up from afar and to have a relationship with you. Stuff like that. I asked her if that would be possible. She told me that your adoptive parents — the interested party — didn’t want to have an open adoption. It needed to be closed. I guess closed adoptions were popular back then, but anyways…I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. It was something I had to agree to.

RR: What did you know about adoption starting out?

MG: I didn’t know anything about adoption. My brother was adopted, but I didn’t really understand what that entailed and it never mattered.  He was my brother and I loved him like he was my natural brother. I hadn’t researched ahead of time because frankly, I really didn’t know where to start. Because of that, I hadn’t educated myself to the degree that I should have to understand all the ins and outs. Adoption also wasn’t talked about back then as it is now.

RR: Did you ever feel stigmatized or judged for your choice?

MG: So…not many people knew. There was my mom and stepdad, and a few family members, Bob’s family and a few of his friends but for the most part, I kept it quiet and hidden because I didn’t want people to know. What would people think of me? The thought of people not liking me because I gave my child up? Yeah, that was scary to me because you get judged as, you know, you don’t love your child or whatever…those people don’t understand what birth parents go through. I loved my daughter more than I loved myself.  I wanted her to have a better life with parents who could afford to give her the best life possible, employed, a stable and loving home, who would have more children and older than eighteen years old. That is why I had to do what I did, to give her the best life possible.

So yeah…I think that I was pretty nervous to tell people. Not only nervous but it was going to be painful to relive my decision over and over when people asked me, “Well, I thought you had a baby. Where’s your baby?” It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

RR: How did you keep your pregnancy hidden?

MG: When I was with Bob, my circle of friends didn’t like him too much, so that was easy not telling them, because I didn’t see them anymore. We mainly hung around Bob’s friends and family. Bob had his own group of friends that he ran with, and I sort of incorporated myself into that. He was like the leader, and all of his friends were very protective of me.

I lived with Bob at his parents house for a few months and when we weren’t camping, we stayed in a lot. We were always at his house or at his best friends’ house.  Then, during the 2nd term of my pregnancy, we rented our own house on Education Hill. We were only there, though, for probably two or three months because we couldn’t pay rent.

RR: Were your parents supportive when you told them you were pregnant? What was their reaction?

MG: Their first reaction was shock. They started asking me all these questions, like: how are you going to do this? Do you know how much a baby costs? You don’t even have your own place yet. You know, typical things like that. Next was concern. Saying, “Ok, you’re pregnant. You’re going to have a baby. You need to move back home with us. You need to start eating healthy. You need to start taking prenatal vitamins.” Stuff like that.

They did not like Bob. They tolerated him towards the end of my pregnancy because I kept hoping he’d change his mind and want to keep you

At one point, though, after the shock wore off, I think I was 3 months along when I told them I was pregnant, my mom and stepdad became very active in my pregnancy. They went to Lamaze classes, they went for walks with me every day, made sure I was eating healthy and taking my vitamins. Went to my doctor appointments with me and even sat me down and said that they wished they could help. That if there was any way they had the finances, they would take care of you. But, because they were newly married and had just bought their first house, they were financially strapped.

I was 6 months pregnant with you when Bob signed the papers. I started hanging out with my parents more. I moved back in with them, and they were there for me through everything.

RR: How did you process and grieve after the adoption?

MG: After I signed the papers, on the day you were born, my attorney told me I had three days to change my mind. No one ever told me that it had to be in writing. Just that I had three days after I signed the papers. So, on the third day, I called my attorney. I was freaking out, and told her I had changed my mind. She basically told me that I had run out of time and that because it wasn’t in writing, there was nothing she could do. Calling her was a knee-jerk reaction. I didn’t actually know what I was going to do if I got you back. All I knew was that I hurt so deeply, missed you so much and I had to figure out a way to stop the pain.

I spent three months in my room at my parent’s house. Sobbing uncontrollably, and rocking myself like I was holding you on my bedroom floor. I got really depressed. Saying goodbye to you was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I isolated myself, and didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t even talk to Bob or make an attempt to see him. My heart broke when he signed the papers 3 months before you were born, and broke again when I had to give you over to the nurse so she could take you to your new family. In my heart, Bob and I were over then. Although, we didn’t officially break up until the December after you were born.

I couldn’t work at the church nursery for a good three or four months. My pastor told me that the adoptive parents he’d found for you were part of his church, so when I did start at the daycare again, every single baby…I wondered if it was you. I asked my mom if I would be able to recognize you. If I would know I was holding my own child. She told me that we wouldn’t have the same connection, but that it was probably possible that I would. So, I never stopped looking. Every time I saw someone pushing their baby in a stroller, or walking down the street with their daughter. I would always wonder if I’d catch a glimpse of you. I thought about you every day. Prayed for you. Celebrated your birthdays with you. Never gave up hope that one day I would meet you.

RR: How have you found healing?

MG: No one tells you the amount of strength you’ll need to get through this…to continue to go through life. It’s like a death. But, in some aspects, death would be easier. Because while I was grieving the loss of not having you, I knew you were out there with somebody and I couldn’t see you. I couldn’t know what was going on in your life. It was hell.

There’s no way I could have done this without God. He was my focus. My center. He was the reason that I was able to put you up for adoption. I didn’t believe in abortion. That wasn’t even an option. It never crossed my mind. I encompassed everything in my life around God. Listened to Christian music, started going to church a lot more, and became even more active than I had been before. I also read my Bible, and grew my relationship with Christ. Without Him…I didn’t want to be here…so, He is how I got through it.

RR: What was the most challenging aspect of your adoption journey?

MG: I feel that my attorney didn’t give me all the information I should have had. I feel like because I was young, she didn’t think this was any big deal for me. That I wasn’t given the full picture of what things were going to look like. Also, that she was doing this more because it was a job. She wasn’t looking out for my best interest.

Because this affected me so deeply, I really believe that this is why I have a difficult time with trusting people.  Why I have to ask a bazillion questions first. Giving up a child is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to go through, and you want to have people that you can trust. Your attorney should be the one person you can trust the most, because they are supposed to be representing you. I don’t feel like she did that for me.

RR: If there was one, what would be a highlight of your adoption journey?

MG: The Lord honored His promise. He put you with the best family, and they took care of you and loved you as their own. So, in my mind, that makes them amazing parents. And, you’re beautiful! You are just so amazing, and I’m so blessed that I can have you and your parents as a part of my life. The Lord is faithful! He promised, and He took care of you.

RR: What advice would you give to other birth mothers looking to place, and other adoptive parents looking to adopt?

MG: For birth mothers…seriously, do your research. Get as much information as you can. Absolutely make sure what the laws are, and your rights. If you have questions, ask. Don’t leave any holes open. This will affect you the rest of your life.

To adoptive parents…protect your heart as much as you can until you know the child is yours. The risk of falling in love with the child, and things falling through is there. Whether the birth mother changes her mind or something else happens. Always be prepared.

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What is Adoption?

What is Adoption?

As a birth mother who is looking into adoption, you might have a lot of questions. After all, adoption is a huge world to navigate, and placing your baby for adoption a big decision. You might not know where to look at first, but we at Adoption Choices of Missouri would love to help you understand what is adoption?

Defining Adoption

Adoption needs to be defined better. In Webster’s dictionary, adopt means “to take by choice into a relationship.” Adoption is, by choice, a voluntary action for many adoptive parents. That is the easiest definition that we can go by. For everyone involved in the adoption process, the word itself means different things. Ranging from becoming the happiest family ever to having the best childhood ever, adoption changes everyone’s life in a different way. 

“Adoption” can also mean different things to people. To someone who has had a closed adoption or anything related to that, it might have negative connotations to them depending on their experience. But to the ones who are and have been open about their adoptions, they have learned to embrace their own identity for themselves and not be ashamed; they are able to talk about the immeasurable love that their birth mothers had for them in giving them their best chance at having a beautiful childhood and good life. 

It is also important to understand that “adoptive” means “made or acquired by adoption,” which refers to parents who have adopted a child. This term should only be used during the adoption process to help you understand the different terms. Only after the process is done should the terms be dropped.

A Brief History of Adoption

Before 1851, adoption wasn’t legal – there were no laws that actually protected the adopted children. It was always done in secret. Children of unmarried women were seen as illegitimate and were almost always put into orphanages or families who would be willing to take them in because no one wanted them and their mothers were deemed unfit to raise them on their own. There was a lot of pressure on them, and most often, the adoptions were done with the best interests of the children in mind. 

In 1851, the Adoption of Children Act was enacted. This Act was put in place to make adoptions legal and safe for children. In the century that followed, organizations started popping up that strived to help adopted children in any way possible. In the 1970s, adoptions reached a peak and most of them were done by agencies. Adoption Choices of Missouri was formed in 2006 or thereabouts to help facilitate adoptions better. 

Impact of Adoption 

Adoption impacts you, the birth mother, in different ways. It’s often a hard decision to struggle with, and can be traumatic for anyone really. It’s normal to deal with a lot of emotions all at the same time – especially loss. Some people might not understand since adoption is always seen as a choice you make. You might feel guilt or shame for having given up your child and it might affect your other relationships in a negative way. 

To understand how to deal with the impact that it has on you, it is important for you to find the support that you need to help you through the transition.Adoption Choices of Missouri can help you learn to deal with the impact of adoption in a healthy way and connect you with support groups. 

What is Adoption 

Coming into the world of adoption can be a whirlwind. It helps to get an idea of what you’re looking for if you understand a bit of the history of adoption and understand the impact that Adoption might have on you. Please know that if you have any questions, Adoption Choices of Missouri is here to help you.

Adoption Choices of Missouri serves birth parents statewide and beyond, please call us or text us to learn more! Call us toll free at 877-903-4488 or, in Missouri call or text us at 1-816-527-9800

Meet the AuthorSofia Becker is currently a student at Liberty University and is majoring in a Bachelor of Science in History with a double minor in Biblical Studies and writing. She is currently working on a Robin Hood retelling and an entire epic fantasy world in the making. In her spare time, she loves watching The Office and Disney movies.

Through her blogs, and her passion for helping and encouraging others, she hopes to make a difference in someone’s life. She also looks forward to becoming a better writer and editor. To learn more about Sofia, be sure to check out her blog and Instagram.

 

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Choosing an Adoptive Family for Your Baby

A fulfilling part of the adoption process is choosing the adoptive family for your baby. Adoption Choices of Missouri only works with families who are licensed to adopt a baby in the United States. Our adopting families have all been pre-screened and are ready to provide a safe, stable, and loving home. No matter what you are looking for, we believe there is a family out there that is a perfect fit for you and your baby.

To decide which adoptive family is the best fit, consider these questions:

  • Are you open to a single parent, or do you prefer a two-parent household?
  • Are you open to a gay, lesbian, and/or transgender couple?
  • Do you prefer a family in a specific location?
  • What kind of family values and views on parenting are you looking for in a family?
  • Is the family’s religion or spiritual beliefs important to you?
  • Do you prefer a family that already has children or plans to have/adopt more?
  • Is it important to you that the family have a large extended family they are close with?
  • What hobbies and interests do you want the family to have?
  • Does it matter to you whether one or both parents work outside the home?

We can help with these decisions and help you find your adoptive family! Contact Adoption Choices of Missouri  for more information Serving Expectant Parents Statewide (in Missouri and Kansas) Expectant Parent Hotline (24/7): 1-877-903-4488

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Signs You’ll Make a Great Mother

Whether you’ve been thinking about starting a family for a while or have just begun to ponder the possibility, you may be asking yourself: do you have what it takes to be a great mother? To answer this, let’s explore what it means to be a mother. Some women know intuitively, but there are others who want to learn more about motherhood. For instance, those who are about  to become moms.

It is important to remember that no one is perfect, including mothers. It can be a challenge to set unrealistic expectations that you think need to be met to be a great mom.But keep in mind, you’re human, and all you can do is try your best. Don’t compare yourself to others and try not to feed into pressures about what a great mother “should” or “should not” be. You might be a lot more prepared to be a mother than you believe, and once on your motherhood journey, you’ll learn and grow with your child. The bottom line is: don’t let doubts stand in the way of becoming the best mom you want to be.

If you are Hoping to Adopt and you want more information, call us at 1-877-903-4488. In the meantime, here are some signs you’ll make a great mother:

You love and accept yourself. Before embarking on your motherhood journey, it’s important to know your worth and confidence. You accept and embrace your flaws that don’t define you but make you unique. You realize that even though life throws many ups and downs, you have an inner optimism that won’t waver. Loving and accepting yourself will help you love your child unconditionally and teach them to be confident. Practicing self-care is another essential part that benefits self-acceptance. Try not to put your well-being on the back burner, whether it be your body or mind. Setting the time to take care of yourself will help you nurture your child and be present in the joys of motherhood.

You are patient. You know how to listen and understand the importance of hearing what others have to say before jumping to conclusions or making decisions. Having self-control in your work and personal life demonstrates to yourself that you are self-aware. Self-awareness helps you not to become easily overwhelmed by small things, which is a part of motherhood. Children make mistakes and accidents happen. Everyone makes mistakes, and knowing how to handle them will positively shape you being a mother. Practicing measures of patience shows your strong level of responsibility and mindfulness. Instead of immediately wanting to take the route of reprimanding, you know how to take the time to assess situations calmly before explaining your perspective and the proper steps to take. Demonstrating patience in your life will help to instill that value in your child as they grow.

You are devoted. Being committed to your work, your relationships and your hobbies show that you do things to the fullest. As a dedicated individual, you also make realistic choices and goals that are feasible and not impossible to achieve. You know that becoming a mother will push you to practice this virtue of being devoted even more, where you’ll help your child grow and learn in a safe, loving environment. You also know that it is essential to balance such devotion between your child as a mother, yourself as a partner and yourself as a friend. It is healthy to maintain equal amounts of time in all your roles as a person and remember that you, too, are entitled to a reciprocated commitment from your partner, your family, and friends who care about you.

You know how to ask for help. Sometimes life can get hectic, and not everything goes as planned. Maybe your job promotion fell through, or your travel plans got canceled last minute. Regardless of the reason, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, especially about things that are out of your control. It is important not to overbook yourself and to remember that you’re not superhuman. Once on your motherhood journey, you know that there will be exhausting times, but that you can comfortably reach out to your partner, family and friends for an extra hand for little and big things. Communicating for help is an additional value that can be instilled in your child as they see their mother practice such an action.

You know how to place boundaries. Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, you take charge of your responsibilities. You’re able to say “yes” or “no” when dealing with matters without being indecisive. As you grow as a mother, you can use your skills from experience to set boundaries for your child, which will teach them to follow the rules and the values that your family exercises.

Signs You’ll Make a Great Mother

These are just some signs you’ll make a great mother. The list could go on. If you’re thinking about starting your motherhood journey, remember that every person is different, and it is okay if you don’t believe you have all of these personal characteristics mentioned. You likely have the traits to be a great mother! It is also okay to be a little anxious about becoming a mother, and that is natural. That shows that you’re seriously thinking about what it means to have and raise a child. Your life will change in surprising ways as a mother, and with a strong support network by your side, you’ll be able to face the challenges along the way and embrace the journey.

If you are Hoping to Adopt and you want more information, call us at 1-877-903-4488.