Table of Contents
From the Editor
After what seemed like an endless winter in North America—no more polar vortexes, please!—warmer weather seems to finally be on its way.
But my joy in the change in seasons is overshadowed by the pain that is being felt on the other side of the world, after a senseless tragedy claimed the life of 50 innocents in New Zealand.
I am reminded again that choosing to raise a child is a profound act of optimism. We cannot know what lies ahead. But despite that uncertainty, we have all chosen to send a little spark of love into the future. Hopefully those sparks will become a flame.
“The people that are trying to make the world worse never take a day off, why should I? Light up the darkness,” says a quote that has been attributed to singer Bob Marley. As we go on into 2019, let us remember to keep our own lights shining.
Back in 2016, I posted a poll on the SMC Forum about annual household income. That poll received nearly 500 responses, and here are the results.
Starting with this newsletter, I plan to launch a periodic series that explores the unique ways we are building and parenting our children. Though we all have being single mothers by choice in common, many of us are engaging in new and interesting child-rearing journeys. I hope this series will give us an opportunity to learn from one another.
For this issue, Patty, an SMC in Arizona, has been kind enough to share her experiences adopting her oldest son from foster care. For privacy reasons, she has asked that her last name not be shared.
Tell us about your family! How old are your children, and how old were they when you adopted them?
I have two boys. My oldest was adopted from foster care and is 5 years old. My youngest is donor-conceived through IVF and is 22 months old.
How did you get involved with the foster care system? Did you start with the intent to adopt from foster care, or did you become a foster parent for other reasons?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be a foster parent. I grew up in an unstable household and I wanted to help kids that were in similar situations. One of my first jobs out of high school was working in a group home. My career path didn’t lead me into social work, but I’ve always felt like being a foster parent was a “calling” for me.
I started my journey as a foster parent with the goal of helping families stay together. I feel very strongly that as a foster parent, reunification is the #1 goal. I was always open to adoption and figured that if it was meant to happen, it would.
Was it challenging navigating the foster care system as a single woman? Did it have any impact on how you were perceived by social workers or others in system?
I don’t think being a single woman impacted the challenge of navigating the foster care system. I think the system is hard to navigate—period! When I was a “new” foster parent, I felt that case managers definitely took advantage of my naivete, optimism, and lack of knowledge. As I became a seasoned foster parent, I was able to navigate the system a lot better, know the rules, and advocate better for my foster kids (and for myself as a foster parent).
Are foster parents allowed to place conditions on the children that are placed with them; for example, by age or gender?
Yes, as part of your foster care license you can limit age and gender. With your foster care agency, you can also set up more specific criteria. However, I’ve found that the restrictions you place are not always honored.
Some women worry that children in the foster care system may have emotional or behavioral needs that they might not be able to meet. Or they may be concerned about meeting the needs of a child of a different race or ethnicity from themselves. How did you handle those concerns for yourself?
I think the most important thing as a foster parent is to know your limits. You may not have the resources to care for certain high-needs children, and that’s ok. You need to be honest with yourself and what you are capable and able to handle. The best needs of the children are what matters the most, and not every home is a good fit for every child. Do your best, get extra training, but be honest. Being a foster parent is not easy; you will be challenged. Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for your household and what’s in the best interest of the foster children.
When fostering children that are a different race, ethnicity, or that come from a different culture—it’s important for the children to have role models and/or access to their culture. As a foster parent, it’s part of your job to help them stay connected. For example, we have a lot of Native Americans in the foster-care system. If one of your placements is part of a tribe, you can take them to cultural events to keep them connected to their origin.
What was the best and most challenging part about being a foster parent?
My greatest joy was watching my kids progress and overcome barriers. For example, I had a medically fragile baby. He was abused and neglected. When I got him at 4 months old, he couldn’t hold up his head. He was one of my shortest placements at 4 months, but he left the biggest impact on my life. By the time he left my home, he was starting to crawl! Watching him gain control of his body and start to make independent movements was awe-inspiring.
The most difficult part about being a foster parent was saying the last goodbye to my foster kids. There’s so much finality to it. You love your foster kids as if they’re your own. When they leave, it’s possible you may never see them again or get any updates. Saying goodbye to my foster kids is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to live through. As difficult as it was, it was also rewarding – as it meant my foster kids were able to be with their birth families.
Did you have many foster children placed with you before you adopted your son?
I fostered nine children. My son was my 7th foster-care placement.
How long did the process of adoption take, from the time your son was placed with you until the adoption was finalized?
My son was not placed with me as an adoptive placement. The case plan was originally reunification. He was placed with me directly from the hospital when he was 4 days old. The case plan changed to severance/adoption when he was 6 months old, severance was granted when he was 18 months old, and he was adopted shortly before his 2nd birthday.
At the time, it felt like a long process. But now that I look back, our adoption went pretty quickly. These types of cases can easily be drawn out for years.
What would you want other “thinkers” to know if they are considering adopting through foster care?
Being a foster parent was life changing for me. If I never went down this path, I would’ve never met my son. Each of my foster children holds a piece of my heart with them and each has had a huge impact on my life. One of my favorite quotes is by author Tonia Christle: “You may be temporary in their lives. They may be temporary in yours. But there is nothing temporary about the love or the lesson.” There are so many children in the foster care system that need a loving home. Whether temporary or a forever home, foster parents are needed. I can’t imagine my life without my son and feel so lucky that I was chosen to be his foster mom and grateful that I get to be his forever Mama.
Many SMCs are using the start of a new year as a jump start to organizing and decluttering their homes. Here’s some decluttering-and-clean-up tips that posters on the national board have shared over the years:
The Big Book of Everything, https://www.erikdewey.com/bigbook.htm, is a template for organizing literally every detail of your life that you can think of. It’s easy to adapt for your own needs.
Pick your 12 best photos of the year and find a way to print them, even if you do nothing else. If technology changes before you have time to do more, you’ll at least have them. These become like a little time capsule of your life. When your child is grown and ready to leave home, give your child a book with these 12 photos per year. She won’t want more than that. The rest of whatever you do is for you, not your kid.
She recommends approximately 120 photos per photo book. Otherwise they are just way too long. So if you’re planning on one main photo book per year, that’s 10 photos per month.
But don’t make a photo book until AFTER you’ve picked the photos for it. Most people do it the other way around.
Plan to keep 100 per month on your computer.
For more information on photo organizing, click here.
Organizing your home:
“Go where the energy is. Sometimes I feel pulled to work in the basement, sometimes in the den, sometimes in a bedroom. It’s great to pick something, but if your heart is really in your closet while you are working in the garage, you will be less productive.”
“Drawers and closets first. My mom taught me, when you can’t put anything away, it usually means drawers and closets need cleaning out.”
“My mom also taught me about closing circles. If you have items in your house that are waiting for you to work on them (and have been waiting for quite a while)—a cabinet that needs painting a shirt that needs sewing, whatever—that item sucks up energy. If you just let go of it, you release that energy back into your life. Try it—it really works!”
“Never underestimate the power of 5 minutes. I have always been the kind of person who thinks, oh, I only have five minutes so I don’t have time to do that. My aunt always thinks, oh, I have five minutes so I could get that job started. She is right, I have found that I can get quite a bit accomplished in 5 minutes!”
Click here for more tips on purging and decluttering.
Announcement from Jane
I’m delighted to announce the good news that in the very near future, SMC will no longer be using a two-login system, and all of our membership information, including the quarterly Newsletters and the Members’ Local Contact Information, will be located on the Forum. We’ve gotten many complaints about the two log-in system, and I am thrilled that, after a long and frustrating period of trying to change it, we’ve finally figured out a way to make all the member information accessible with just one login.
If you haven’t yet joined the Forum, I strongly recommend that you do so. It is incredibly supportive, and there’s tons of useful and important information on there about every aspect of being an SMC. There are cohort threads for those who are trying to conceive in the same cycle or who are pregnant and share a due date. There are threads for all the ages and stages of parenting. The most recent Newsletters are already available on the Forum, and older issues will be added over the next few weeks.
If you’ve tried our Forum before and gotten discouraged, and would like help on how to use it, just let us know. Once the transition to the new system is complete we will send you instructions.
Ask the Doctor
Ever find yourself struggling with the decision to select an anonymous (aka closed-identity) or open-identity (i.e., identifiable in the future) donor? Many people do. There were good reasons, in the past, to go with donors who would not release their identity to donor-conceived adults. The most common were that using donor sperm was seen as solely a means to an end, or that the donor might interfere with the family by seeking custody of the child or challenging the emotional and relational position of the genetically-unrelated parent (Scheib, Riordan & Shaver 2000).
Fast forward 20 years—research findings and experience now show that sperm bank donors do not seek child custody, nor do they seem to pose other threats. In addition, donor-conceived people know who their parents are—the people who loved and raised them. But we have also learned that the donor is not merely a short-term part of family-building. Follow-up experiences and research reveal that a significant number of donor-conceived adults view the donor as much more. Whereas the donor is rarely viewed as a parent, this person often still holds considerable importance to the person conceived with their assistance. We now see that people can experience distress and loss, when they are cut-off from learning more about their donor origins (Benward 2012 review). We also know that if given the option, adults often choose to identify and sometimes contact their open-identity donor from over a decade of experience at one US donor program and in Victoria, Australia (Scheib, Ruby & Benward 2017; VARTA.org.au). People with anonymous donors, too, sometimes go to considerable lengths to learn more and identify their donor through finding others who share their donor, participating in volunteer registries (e.g., donorsiblingregistry.com or program-specific registries) and, most recently, using easy-to-access DNA-based registries that connect related people (Crawshaw 2018).
The question then becomes why would we select a donor whose limited non-identifying information might not be enough for our child? Perhaps the most important consideration, in this first step of choosing a donor, is to think long-term, to the idea that one day the imagined baby will become their own adult person whose views and needs may differ from our own (Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 2018). With that image in mind, the decision becomes much easier.
Joanna Scheib, PhD, is a Professor at the University of California, Davis, and Research Director at The Sperm Bank of California. Dr. Scheib conducts research on psychological and social issues related to forming families with the assistance of a sperm donor. Her most recent work focuses on the experiences of adults with open-identity donors.
What's the Buzz
We’d like to wish a warm welcome and express our thanks to our newest SMC Contact Persons:
Katie Oleksak- Northampton, MA email@example.com
Caitlin Kerwin- Yukon, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Cullen- Chicago, IL Cullenkelly@gmail.com
Holly Devine- Boynton Beach, FL email@example.com
Jasmin Perez- Charlottesville, VA Jasminperez@live.com
Does your area need a Contact Person (CP)? Might you want to be one? Do you have any questions about being a CP? Just let us know and we’ll be glad to discuss it with you. Contact Jane at our office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Things Our Kids Say
(The Body-Positive Edition!)
“Around lunch time: ‘Mommy you’re so big and soft. You’re just like a marshmallow.’ Thank you, my darling 4.5 year-old.”
“I get lots of ‘wow Mommy, your tummy is SOOOOO big.’ Amelie means it as a compliment. Because bigger is always better, right?”
“Me, hurriedly trying to find a shirt:
G: What’s that?
Me: It’s just an undergarment to make my shirt feel smooth (Spanx tank).
G: I like it better when you let the blubber hang out, because that’s the real you.
Me: Thank you, honey. (I took it off).”
“E, running into the bathroom with a bare bum:
Me: look at that cute little bum!
E: look at mommy’s big bum!”
SMC – Fertility IQ
Have you heard about FertilityIQ? I just recently learned about it and am very excited to share this great resource. FertilityIQ is a platform where verified fertility patients anonymously assess their fertility doctor, nurse, clinic, billing department and more. The data is free and really helps in choosing (or avoiding) a doctor or clinic.
SMC has an opportunity to both contribute to Fertility IQ and to benefit SMC. Thinkers and tryers can look up other women’s experiences with clinics and doctors. Those who are pregnant or already moms can help those just starting out by providing information about their fertility doctors.
We would appreciate your filling out a survey about your experiences with fertility doctors. And FertilityIQ will make a donation to SMC for everyone referred by us who assesses their fertility doctor on their site!
To ensure that SMC gets credit for your survey, just type in “SMC” in answer to the question at the end that asks, “did someone suggest you assess your doctor?” (You can also forward this to anyone who may be interested in doing a survey. As long as they put “SMC” as the answer to that question, we will get credit.)
Please be as detailed as possible so that others may benefit from your experience.
Thanks to all in advance for filling out the surveys and for spreading the word about this!