Adoption takes many forms in Minnesota, including traditional adoption, open adoption, international adoption, stepparent adoption and grandparent adoption. Each is unique in terms of both the law, and the court process involved in bringing matters to conclusion.

Your adult daughter is getting a divorce. Guess who’s likely to be spending more time with the grandchildren? The assumption may be intrusive, but it’s also natural; after all, in a time of crisis like this, to whom else can your daughter turn, especially when childcare becomes an instant need? More importantly, how can you provide needed support for your daughter during her Minnesota divorce, as well as support for your grandchildren, without upending your own life? The following grandparent’s guide provides some helpful, common-sense tips.

Exercise active support and patience in the short-term

The days immediately following your daughter’s split from her spouse are likely to be filled with turmoil—not just the emotional fallout with her and with the grandkids, but also with the stresses of becoming a newly single parent and all that entails. Now is the time to provide as much support as you can until the family can regain its footing. You may be called upon to babysit more frequently while your daughter juggles a job and the many details surrounding a divorce. There may be no need to offer words of advice at this time; the best support you can offer is to be present and available.

Maintain a consistent front with your daughter for the grandchildren

As you spend more time with your grandchildren, you can expect them to ask some questions as they continue to process the reality of divorce. Confer with your daughter to learn how she has broken the news to the children so your answers can be neutrally supportive, consistent with what their mother has told them. If you are unsure how to answer, defer to their mother. You may have strong feelings about the ex, but now is not the time to share that information with the children.

Acknowledge that the arrangement is temporary

While offering extra support in the short-term, you are within your rights to emphasize that this additional help is temporary until she finds her feet. As an adult, your daughter needs to figure out how to move forward as a single parent, including setting up a more permanent solution for childcare. Don’t be afraid to say no to babysitting requests if you need a break or have other plans, and don’t be pressured to set aside any long-term plans for your “golden years.” You aren’t being selfish by drawing healthy boundaries—in fact, you are empowering your daughter to regain her self-sufficiency for the long run.

Creating a family through adoption is a joyous event. Providing a “forever home” to a child who has none is a heartfelt choice that benefits the parents and child. Choosing to adopt special needs children adds additional layers of challenges and fulfillment to the family. There are several things you can do to make this process rewarding for everyone.

1.    Determine the type of special needs your family can best support. Special needs is a broad category that includes children who:

  • Have physical or health problems
  • Are older
  • Are members of ethnic or racial minorities
  • Have a history of abuse or neglect
  • Have emotional problems
  • Have siblings and need to be adopted as a group
  • Test positive for HIV
  • Have documented conditions that may lead to future problems
  • Were prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol

2.    Educate yourself about the short and long-term needs of the child. Some conditions may resolve over time, and others can worsen. Learn what the child will need, and plan to address those needs.
3.    Establish reasonable expectations. Some children adjust to adoption easier than others. For others, the care they need places a great physical, emotional and financial burden on the family. Be reasonable in your expectations to support your family.
4.    Build a support network. The best networks tap multiple sources, such as families, schools, churches, and community organizations. Give people specific ways they can help, and then let them do so.
5.    Access community resources. Easter Seals, Early Intervention Services, and other Special Education Programs can provide financial, attachment and educational support to special-needs children and their families.
6.    Identify and utilize community medical resources. Establish a team of physicians, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare providers to support the development of your child.
7.    Take advantage of tax deductions. For instance, you might be able to deduct special school instruction, home modifications, and attendant care.

If you are considering adoption in Minnesota, we can answer your questions and facilitate the process. Call us for a free consultation at 763-323-6555.

The traditional “Nuclear Family” – two parents originally and only married to each other, with children – has become less common over the past several decades. This Leave It to Beaver paradigm has given way to a more diverse, intricate set of family types. Let’s explore some of these new family structures and discuss the opportunities and challenges they present.

Person with children marries a spouse with no children. This type of blended family can run into obstacles if the parent-spouse assumes that the new partner will automatically take on the roles and responsibilities of “mom” or “dad.” The childless partner, meanwhile, may feel overwhelmed or awkward because of the new family responsibilities.

To succeed, the couple should establish clear rules regarding how to care for and discipline the children and how to meet family expenses. Strive to show a united front to the children. Allow new relationships to develop organically. Reassess the family’s governing rules periodically, as the children grow and as the relationship evolves (e.g. couple moves in together, etc.).

Divorced parent with kids marries another divorced parent with kids. This “Brady Bunch” blended family can get quite complex, given the sheer number of relationships and all the permutations they create. On the plus side, both “Brady Bunch” spouses will be experienced spouses, and the children (when well managed) can band together to help each other and/or assist with chores around the house. Again, organization is key to harmony. Consider establishing a weekly meeting, where everyone can speak freely, air grievances or creative ideas (if any), and do something fun as a unit.

Widow or widower with children remarries. These step-families can lead to healing or destructive dynamics, depending on the nature of the new parent-child relationships. The absence of the deceased spouse/parent understandably can powerfully influence the family dynamic. Communication and empathy can deepen bonds. Avoid trying to rush intimacy or the psychological healing and coping processes.

Divorced or widowed parents of adult children marry. Work to address issues related to inheritance, medical care and retirement to alleviate concerns among the children. If the blended family is geographically distant from all or some of the children, create opportunities for bonding, such as shared holidays or vacations.

Our experienced and compassionate Minnesota family law attorneys can address the diverse legal issues that arise in blended families. Call us for a free consultation at 763-323-6555.

Adopting a child with special needs in Minnesota is like adopting any other child, with a few differences. Five things you should know about special needs adoption include:

1. “Special needs” can refer to a variety of issues – Special needs children waiting for adoption may have mental, emotional, physical, or behavioral disabilities. MN Adopt considers sibling groups in the “special needs” category, as well. Before adopting, consider the nature of these and determine whether you have the parental skills and the financial and logistical abilities to accommodate those needs.

2. Diverse factors cause challenges with child development – Special needs children may have been neglected or abused; or exposed to chemicals or drugs in prenatal development. They may have a genetic disorder. If abused, their abuse may have been emotional, sexual, psychological, or physical, or a combination of the above. Identifying the root cause of the challenges can help you and your family adapt and nurture the child effectively.

3. You may qualify for expense reimbursement from the government – In some cases, a family adopting a special needs child may be eligible to receive reimbursement for certain non-recurring expenses.

4. Waiting lists tend to be shorter – Many adopting parents don’t feel they are equipped to handle special needs. As a result, the waiting list is generally shorter for special needs children.

5. Support groups abound to help you and your family – These groups welcome adoptive parents and provide resources to help families with special needs. To find one, Google [your child’s special need] + “support group” + [your local town]  (example: “autism support group in Minneapolis”).

Are you and your family excited to open your hearts to a little boy or girl who could benefit from your love and care? Consult a family law attorney with the Brown Law Offices at 763-323-6555 for a private case consultation.

The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project is a longitudinal study that explores the effect of the nature of adoption. It’s a collaborative effort between the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas at Austin. Recruitment began in the 1980s. The Project questioned parents (both adoptive and birth) over the course of several decades using in-person and internet measures.

The Project is expansive. It requires research of the entire adoptive network, from birth to adoptive families. It also raises unique ethical concerns about confidentiality and privacy.

Privacy Concerns in Adoption

The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project has many implications for privacy. Adoption is a sensitive subject for all parties involved. Adoptive parents may be unwilling to acknowledge that their family’s dynamic is any different than a biological family’s. Adoptive parents may withhold information from their children about birth parents. Children may have a relationship with their birth parents without the adoptive parents’ knowledge.

Openness of Adoption and Relationship Quality

The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project aimed to examine how the nature of the adoption affected the relationships of all parties involved. The Project questioned parents of children from a variety of adoption arrangements: no contact, stopped contact, face-to-face contact, and contact without meetings.

Each arrangement elicited different feelings about the experience. Families who experienced contact with the birth mother were more likely to experience positive feelings about her and a higher level of satisfaction about the openness of the adoption.

Adolescent children and adoptive mothers who had face-to-face contact reported having the highest level of satisfaction. Adolescent children and adoptive mothers with no or stopped contact had the least level of satisfaction. Adolescents who had no contact were mostly likely to want an increase in the intensity of contact. Fewer than 1% of families wanted less contact.

What Does This Mean for Family Adoptions?

Adoptions are private family affairs. Adoptive and birth parents do what they think is in the child’s best interest. The Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project seems to suggest that families who have continued contact with the birth mother experience a higher degree of satisfaction. Participants in an open adoption may want to consider continued contact.

Minnesota couples who wish to adopt have a variety of resources available to them for support and encouragement. Here are six resources you should know about before you adopt.

1. Department of Human Services (DHS) – The Minnesota Department of Human Services offers financial support, training, and referrals to counseling services.

2. MN Adopt – Contracted through DHS, MN Adopt is committed to the mission of supporting families that adopt and promoting adoption as a viable means of family planning.

3. EVOLVE Adoption and Family Services – Few adoption agencies can handle it all. EVOLVE helps families adopt infants and children domestically and internationally; and it provides resources for couples who want to become foster parents. EVOLVE also provides other family and pregnancy-related services.

4. Children’s Hospital of Minnesota Department of Genetics – Not all adoptive situations are simple. Adoptive parents searching to unlock a child’s genetic history and get answers to previously unexplained medical questions can find useful resources available through the Department of Genetics and Genomics at Children’s Hospital of Minnesota.

5. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network – For couples adopting under difficult circumstances involving child trauma, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a trove of information about how to deal with traumas ranging from physical abuse to complex neglect or abandonment.

6. Disability Minnesota – If you are adopting a child with a disability of any kind, Disability Minnesota can assist you with information about accessibility, education, assistive technologies, advocacy issues and much more.

Story 1: Two Biological Sisters Adopt Two Biological Sisters

One birth mother, Lyndi, had a baby girl in 2012. She decided to place the child with a loving couple, Amanda and her husband, Jared, whom she met through a mutual friend. They had an open adoption, and she was involved with the family and in the baby’s life, even spending time on vacation with them and getting to know the extended family.

About two years later, Lyndi became pregnant again with another little girl. This time, she decided to turn the baby over to Amanda’s sister, Celeste, and her husband, Josh. This adoption is open as well.

Story 2: Nia Vardalos: Hollywood Star Receives the Surprise of Her Life

Nia Vardalos, the writer and actress who penned “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” along with the sequel, recently revealed that she was on the list for foster adoption for years with no success before finally getting a call. The social worker on the other end told her that the agency had a 3-year-old girl for them who would be there the next day. Her husband, Ian, also an actor, was just as elated as she was. The following morning, he took off to buy a few things and returned with a vehicle loaded down with all kinds of dresses, toys, blankets and assorted things — most of them in pink.

At night, their new daughter was afraid. So Nia and Ian took turns holding her until she fell asleep. She has since grown up to be secure and happy. Nia has now become a spokesperson for National Adoption Day to dispel some of the myths surrounding foster care and adoption.

Story 3: Family Adopts Boy with No Arms or Legs

The moment she saw his photo, Bowen’s adoptive mother fell in love with him. Bowen had been abandoned at a Serbian orphanage in 2009. His adoptive parents flew there to adopt the 18-month-old little boy, born without limbs. He had been left in his crib 23 hours a day and only removed to be fed or have his diaper changed. He was still an infant, and he couldn’t chew, sit up, talk or roll over. They had to teach him everything.

Even so, his two older brothers welcomed him with open arms. His parents push him, so he’s willing to try anything. He’s in a mainstream class, and he’s become one of the top students. His mother emphasized that he was full of joy and that he brought joy to everyone he knows.

Story 4: Adopting a Baby at 41

After struggling with infertility and several miscarriages, Mike and Kim adopted their baby boy when she was 41. When her father-in-law first suggested adoption, she still held out hope for becoming pregnant. But the last infertility treatment failed, so she was ready to submit the paperwork, preparing for a possibly long wait.

But it wasn’t long before she got the call from the social worker, instructing her to attend a meeting the next day during her normal work hours. When she pressed for more information, he dropped the bomb: She would be meeting with the birth mom, soft-spoken Joan, 14 years old.

The birth – and the adoption – went through without a hitch, and Mike and Kim welcomed their newborn son into their home a short time later.

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, about 6 percent of married women between 15 and 44 struggle with infertility. These women cannot become pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex. They might seek other alternatives, such as assisted reproduction. If you have decided to pursue assisted reproduction options, either by yourself or with a partner, this brief overview can help you make informed decisions.

•    Superovulation and Intrauterine Insemination. Superovulation and Intrauterine Insemination optimizes the woman’s chances of conception by stimulating the ovaries so that they release more than one egg each cycle. At the same time, the eggs are exposed to more sperm. This process can double or even triple the chances of conception and also increase the risk of a pregnancy with multiples. In

•    Vitro Fertilization. First used in 1978, IVF involves egg fertilization that occurs outside of the body. These babies are sometimes called test-tube babies.

•    Follicle stimulation and monitoring. The woman receives high doses of follicle-stimulating hormones in order to encourage the production of multiple eggs. She gives herself these shots for 10 days and sees the doctor every two to three days for monitoring in order to ensure that the optimal number of eggs develops.

•    Egg Retrieval. A nurse retrieves anywhere from zero to 30 eggs or oocytes from the woman while she is sedated. The eggs are examined by the embryologist and then incubated until the sperm fertilize them.

•    Fertilization and Incubation. The sperm and eggs are then incubated for a few days.

•    Embryo Transfer Procedure. The doctor transfers the embryos to the uterus via a catheter. The mother should rest after the transfer to allow for the implant.
Cryopreservation. The couple might want to freeze the embryos for later use. When they decide to have more children, the lab thaws the embryos, then transferring them to the uterus.

•    Testicular Sperm Extraction. In some cases, the man might not have any sperm in his ejaculate. However, sperm can still be removed from the testicle.

•    Gestational Carrier. A woman might not be able to carry a baby in her uterus, even though her ovaries and eggs function properly. Once IVF is completed, the embryos are then placed in a gestational surrogate, who carries the baby. After birth, the baby belongs to the biological parents. Before hiring a surrogate, all parties should seek legal counsel from an experienced family law attorney.

•    Donor Egg Program (DEP). If the woman cannot produce her own eggs, she might receive them from a donor. After IVF, the eggs undergo fertilization by either a sperm donor or her partner.

•    Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). In this method, the lab injects a single sperm directly into a mature egg. The process can sometimes be more effective than traditional IVF methods.

The possibility of expanding your family through adoption is exciting, scary, joyful and confusing all at once. When people imagine adopting a young baby or older child, though, they sometimes labor under mistaken ideas about what is actually involved and how adoption works in Minnesota. We wanted to set the record straight.

Many perfectly qualified would-be adoptive parents, for instance, never move forward with the process, because they’re intimidated by the prospect of a home study program or background check. The truth is that this kind of “vetting” does not have to be stressful or consuming.

Perfection: Not Required

Your family does not need to be perfect. During the home study, for instance, the social worker just looks for honesty and signs of a coherent, ethical family that knows how to identify, address and overcome challenges.

Five Misconceptions About Adoption in Minnesota

1.    You do not need to own your residence to qualify to adopt a child. If you rent a house or apartment, you’re still in the running.

2.    You do not need to meet minimum income requirements. If you’re an internet entrepreneur making $25,000 a year working at home, and your husband just started a new job as a school teacher making a modest salary, for instance, you will not be disqualified just because your household income is under some arbitrary cut off.

3.    A criminal background will not necessarily make you ineligible to adopt a child. Check with a qualified family law attorney to learn more if you have questions about specific crimes and their impact on a potential adoption.

4.    Not all adoptions are the same. There are special rules for adopting children aged 14+, for instance. Such an adoption may not need to go through a licensed child-placing agency in Minnesota, whether that agency is private or sanctioned by the government. You can adopt a child under the following conditions as long as he or she is older than 14 and wants to be adopted by you:
a.    A homeless child that you meet while volunteering in a soup kitchen.
b.    A child in foster care who attends the school where you work.
c.    A child, either homeless or in foster care, who attends your religious institution.

 5. You do not necessarily need to bankroll the costs of parenting without help. The courts provide monthly monetary assistance and medical insurance for parents who adopt special needs children, for instance. These payments range from $247 to $337 monthly per child, depending on the age of the child. The courts provide additional funds at four different levels, ranging between $150 and $500, depending on the severity of the disability.