Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Q&A: Should I Search For My Birth Parents?

(image: Jeffrey Beall)

Q: I read the article about the 100-year-old woman birth mother who reunited with her birth daughter. I am a 42-year-old male adoptee who has never had any desire to meet my birth mother. My friends are pushing me to search for her. What should I do? 

A: This is a decision only you can make. Here are some things every adult adoptee should consider: 

“WHAT” is the reason, or “WHY” are you considering a search? Is it to meet your birthmother or other birth relative? Is it to obtain medical information and/or other information? Is it both? 

There is a misconception that search and contact are one and the same. You may want information but not want to have contact with your birth family, and you are hesitant to seek this information because you may be afraid to open that door. We recommend you contact the agency that handled your adoption plan and request your non-identifying information background summary. This information not only provides your medical and family history, but also will help you understand the circumstances of your adoption. After obtaining this report, you will have information. Then you can better decide whether to pursue a search for your birth mother for the purpose of contact.

Other tips when considering a search:
  • What are your expectations for the reunion? Unmet and unrealistic expectations are frequently at the root of reunion problems. It is important to set boundaries and be aware of your expectations before jumping into a reunion.
  • Consider using a mediator to make the initial contact.
  • Consider your support system. Do you have family and friends who are supportive of your search?
  • Prepare for the possibility that your birth parent may be deceased. 
Searching, or deciding to search for birth family can be a very emotional process. Therefore, it is recommended an adult adoptee seek Post Adoption counseling and/or join a support group if available. 

For more information about Children’s Aid Society’s counseling services and/or Birth Parent/Adult Adoptee Support Group, please contact: Audrey Derevenko at (205)943-5343 or adereven@childrensaid.org.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Event Recap: Celebrating 100 Years

Children’s Aid Society kicked off our Centennial celebration with a fantastic event honoring Will Gaines Holmes, one of our past Executive Directors! The event, held at Park Lane in English Village, was a wonderful way to honor Mrs. Holmes, who celebrated her 100th birthday the same week. 

Mrs. Holmes has touched so many people in our community through her dedication to helping others. It is evident how much she means to so many people by the number who attended our event. We had almost 200 of her most loyal fans and supporters help her celebrate this momentous milestone! 


Nancy Kane, President of the CAS Board, welcomed everyone to the event. Some of CAS’s founders' children and grandchildren were able to attend the event. Nancy was able to honor them and acknowledge our past by calling their loved ones names. 

Gayle Watts, our current Executive Director, spoke about the history of Children’s Aid, Mrs. Holmes and the wonderful things each has done to transform the community.

We presented Mrs. Holmes with a beautiful cake flanked with 100 candles! It was quite a sight! We also premiered a video of Mrs. Holmes reflecting on her love for Children’s Aid Society and her biggest dreams for the Agency. 

Alice Williams, CAS Foundation Board member, wrapped up the event with a milestone announcement for Children’s Aid: We're buying a building! Mrs. Holmes said one of her biggest dreams for the agency would be to have our own home. Alice explained that Children’s Aid has always provided homes for people in need over the years, without having a true home itself. 

We also announced we are kicking off a capital campaign for our new building. The building, after all of the expenses of buying, renovation, furnishing and other unforeseen costs, will be a $2 million endeavor. As Alice said, “we are embarking on a journey that is very new for us. It will end well, but we will need and will be asking for a lot of help.” 

We would like the privilege of coming to visit you in the near future to explore how you can help make our homecoming a reality. If you are interested in being a part of the future of Children’s Aid, please contact Gayle Watts at gwatts@childrensaid.org. 

We thank everyone who came for helping us celebrate 100 years of Will Holmes and Children’s Aid! 

Here’s to 100 more!

To see more pictures from this 100th Celebration Event, visit our Facebook album

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Sticky World of Social Media and Birth Parents

A common situation that adoptive families are facing these days is relationships with birth parents on social media sites. We get a lot of questions from adoptive families such as, what do we do when our child wants to search for their birth parents on Facebook? What do we do when our child’s birth parents search for them? How much contact is appropriate? How involved do we need to be as adoptive parents?

This is all uncharted territory and there are no “rules” regarding this type of contact. Adoptive parents, children, and birth parents alike are able to log on to Facebook and other social media sites and search for each other with a few key strokes. This can bring about many emotions, questions and problems as they all try to navigate this new world and their relationships. 

This article discusses all of these questions and gives practical advice for dealing with Facebook and relationships with birth parents. The hardest situation for many adoptive parents is when their child wants to start searching for their birth parents. It is very normal for children to be interested in finding more information about their birth parents but it can be very difficult for adoptive parents to come to terms with. Here are a few tips for adoptive parents.
  • Talk openly about adoption and your child’s birthparents in your home. Provide opportunities for your child to ask questions about their adoption.
  • Use your discretion regarding if this type of relationship is appropriate for your child. This is a very personal decision. 
  • If your child is interested in searching for their birth parents on social media sites, first decide if your child is emotionally ready for the search and if it is safe for them to do so. Prepare them for a variety of responses that they may get. This can be a very confusing and emotional time for them. 
  • Search with your child if possible and stay involved. 
  • If your child’s birth parents have searched for them, determine if this relationship is appropriate. If so, stay involved in their developing relationship. Monitor their social media usage and set guidelines and boundaries. If the contact is not appropriate, talk to the birth parent yourself and explain why contact at this time is not appropriate. Set boundaries and enforce them.
For more stories and suggestions about relationships with birth parents on social media sites, check out the following links.
What is your experience with social media and the adoption world? Do you think you and your child should have relationships with their birth parents in such a public forum?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday: Will Gaines Holmes

On a beautiful day in the winter of 1912, a little baby girl was born and her parents named her Will. We’ve never heard the story as to how that name was selected, but we are quite certain that it helped formulate the popular saying “where there is a Will, there is a way!” 

On a another beautiful day in the fall of 1912, a group of concerned citizens in Birmingham came together and created the concept of an agency that was to be named Children’s Aid Society. Like Will, the agency has been a treasure for so many and helped better the lives of thousands of children and families. 

CAS is excited to be turning 100 later this year, but today we are celebrating the 100th birthday of a very special person in the life of Children's Aid - Mrs. Will Gaines Holmes.

Mrs. Holmes, and her late husband Ben, moved to Birmingham after World War II. They have one son, Ben, who also resides in Birmingham. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church Birmingham which maintains an endowment in her name and in memory of her dear friend, the late Dolly Porter.

Mrs. Holmes worked at Children’s Aid Society from 1952 to 1977, and served as Executive Director from 1966 to 1977. She contributed her time and talents to building a strong organization and leaving a legacy of commitment to nurturing children by strengthening families. 

After retiring from Children’s Aid in 1977, Mrs. Holmes has continued to stay busy. She researches a new topic each year and speaks about that topic to area civic and social groups.  She says the one on Presidential Trivia is a favorite among her many audiences.

Children’s Aid Society honors Mrs. Holmes for her strong commitment and continued support of the community and the agency.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Elaine Friel: She Will Be Greatly Missed

The staff at CAS would like to let our friends know about the loss of our dear staff member Elaine Friel. Elaine passed away this past Saturday at St. Vincent’s Hospital.  We are very saddened by this loss and she will be greatly missed.  

Elaine served in various staff capacities at Children's Aid for more than 20 years. In her most recent years, she worked with our Alabama Pre/Post Adoption Connections (APAC) program and served as our IT Coordinator and volunteer photographer. She was known by the APAC campers as “Ms. Elaine” and was the one responsible for the fabulous videos at the end of each camp session. 

Funeral services are Thursday, January 12 at Vestavia Hills Methodist Church, with visitation from 1pm to 3pm. A memorial service will be held at 3pm. 

Though she has departed life on this earth as we know it, her spirit will live on with us for years to come.

Please feel free to leave a comment celebrating memories you may have of Elaine. We will ensure they are given to her husband Bill and her family.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CAS Impact: At-Risk Middle Schooler Makes Changes

Polson Middle School 
{image: US Coast Guard

CAS provides Life Skills educational services for at risk middle school youth in a local school. Life Skills focuses on increasing students’ awareness of drugs and alcohol, teaching them how to make better decisions, and being aware of peer influences and how to navigate them with confidence. Sam is a 7th grade student who is a part of the Life Skills program. He was known as a bully, a class clown, and a teacher’s biggest challenge. His poor behaviors found him in trouble at school on a consistent basis which made Life Skills an ideal service.
One day, Sam was suspended for bringing drugs to school. The CAS Prevention Specialist, Nolan Goodman, was the individual who noticed he had them. Sam begged Nolan to give him another chance before reporting him. Nolan took this opportunity to teach Sam a critical life lesson. He told Sam that someone had to be an example of why it is never okay to sell or use drugs or bring them to school. He took the time to talk with Sam and continue to discuss the implications of his actions. Sam realized this decision would be one he would remember for the rest of his life. After a 2-month school suspension and attendance at alternative school, Sam returned. Nolan noticed Sam was behaving in a completely different manner in the following weeks. Sam had a positive atttude. He was polite to peers and teachers. He seemed to be a new person with a new outlook on life. His grades improved dramatically and the bullying ceased. When Nolan met with Sam and asked about the changes, Sam responded, “Mr. Goodman, if you hadn’t ever caught me, I probably would have never changed. Thank you.”

DIG DEEPER: Great Resources for Parents of Middle Schoolers: