National Adoption Month: New Study Examines Communication Trends in Open Adoptions

November is National Adoption Month – an initiative with the goal of increasing national awareness and bringing attention to the need for permanent families for children in the U.S. foster care system.

For most of the 20th century, adoptions were largely “closed,” meaning birth parents placed their child with an adoption agency and had no further contact unless the child sought them out later in life. However, statistics show that a shift occurred in the 1990s when agencies started to recognize the benefits of “open” adoptions, or adoptions in which adoptive families have ongoing interactions with the birth family.

University of Missouri communication researchers are studying the benefits and challenges of open adoptions and the ways in which adoptive and biological parents navigate the complex relationships that can result from these new arrangements. Their recent study shows that open adoption relationships in which communication is encouraged, can benefit the child and their adoptive parents.

“Most research on open adoptions has examined the outcomes, but we haven’t – as a research community – studied how adoptive families manage the ongoing relationships with the biological families,” said Haley Horstman, an assistant professor of interpersonal and family communication at MU.

“It truly is a ‘brave new world,’” Colleen Colaner, an MU assistant professor of communication adds. “Families are now navigating new communication tools, like social media or texting. There are many factors that adoptive and biological parents have to consider to put the child at the center of this triangular relationship.”

“These social pioneers are forging their ways into new communication territory and we’re very interested in analyzing how these relationships are affected,” said Alexie Hays, first author on the study.

Last week, the team presented their work at the National Communication Association annual conference in Philadelphia, PA.

Adoption Roundup

Valley family

Two of my children are adopted, and I’ve shared parts of that story here on my blog. It’s a huge part of the Valley narrative, so I have compiled this “adoption roundup” of those posts here.

A Rose by Any Other Name — August 2013 — about changing Maya’s last name.

What’s Her Name? — September 2013 — when Maya asked me about her birth mom’s name.

Modern Family — September 2013 — when we told Maya that she has half siblings living across town.

Birthdays Remembered — January 2014 — photo memories of Maya’s first four birthday parties.

Answering the Call — April 2014 — Anthony and I starting the foster parent process.

Listen to Your Mother — May 2014 — shared my story of motherhood with 14 others at The Rep in Little Rock.

Longing Fulfilled: My Listen To Your Mother Piece — July 2014 — video of my LTYM performance.

Help for a New Old Momma — July 2014 — preparing to bring a newborn home at age 46.

Preparing for Motherhood Again — August 2014 — feeling ill equipped to bring a new baby home.

To Those Who Weep on Mother’s Day — May 2015 — Mother’s Day can be a hard day for so many women.

Waiting — June 2015 — when Quinn’s adoption got postponed.

Termination — June 2015 — remembering the day birth mom’s parental rights were terminated.

Quinn’s Adoption Day! — August 2015 — when we finally got to adopt Quinn!

One Year Ago My World Crumbled — September 2015 — remembering when DHS placed Quinn with another family.

Savvy Magazine story — December 2015 — Savvy Magazine did a cover article on our adoption story.

My Adopted Daughter’s Ancestry — February 2016 — I used 23andMe to discover Maya’s ancestry.

Walk for the Waiting — April 2016 — Raising money to help foster kids in Arkansas.

Adoption is a beautiful thing. It’s not for “incredible” people. There isn’t anything special about me or Anthony. We just saw and need and filled it. You can do that too.


Walk for the Waiting is tomorrow morning (rain or shine)

Walk for the Waiting is tomorrow morning (rain or shine).

There are now 4, website like this 800+ kids in Arkansas’s foster system, human enhancement 600+ of which need an adoptive family today. Over 200 foster youth will age out this year because they were not adopted or did not find a permanent family.

The funds from Walk for the Waiting will go to The CALL, viagra Project Zero and Immerse Arkansas who are working hard to make sure each of these children get the family and care they deserve.

If you’ve already signed up to walk or give – THANK YOU!

If you haven’t participated yet, can you help to make sure every kid in Arkansas has a family? You can give at

Here are my two precious girls that were in the Arkansas foster system, but are now part of a forever family — my family. They are my treasures, and I thank God that I get to be their mommy. meandmygirls

My Adopted Daughter’s Ancestry

Header photo by Niguel Valley Photography.

I have been anxiously awaiting the results from 23andMe. My daughter, heart Maya, healing and I both sent off our spit to be analyzed about four weeks ago. My results haven’t come back yet, but Maya’s came back this morning via email. The report is very detailed with information regarding ancestry, as well as carrier status (potential health risks that can be passed to her children), physical traits reports and more. I am most interested in Maya’s ancestry report since she is adopted. And to top it off, her birth mom was adopted, so there are lots of unknowns about her background.Maya and StaceyI’ve been told that Maya’s biological grandmother was a Cuban refugee. In 1980, Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith, Arkansas, became a Cuban refugee resettlement center, holding 19,000 Cubans after the Mariel boatlift. This is where Maya’s bio mom was conceived, and then later adopted by who we now lovingly refer to as GranGran. Maya’s ancestry report seems to confirm this theory.

Maya’s ancestry:

  • West African 60.4%
  • Southern European 11.1% (mostly Spain/Portugal)
  • Northwestern European 9.9%
  • Broadly European 4.0%
  • Native American 3.1%
  • Broadly Sub-Saharan African 3.1%
  • Central & South African 2.6%
  • Chinese 1.8%
  • Ashkenazi Jew 1.0%

Another option that you can do through 23andMe is connect with possible family members if they also have done the testing. Maya came back with a long list of possible distant cousins. I don’t think at this point I’ll try to connect with them. If a sibling pops up down the road, that will be something to really consider though.

There’s an incredible story in your DNA – the history of you and your family. Discover your DNA today at

I’m still processing it all. She has a more varied ancestry than I imagined, but I guess we all do. Now I wait for my results to come back.

Genetic testing with 23andMe

*This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, pathopsychology your price will remain the same, page but I will receive a small commission.

I’ve been told that I’m part Irish, Scottish and Native American. But I am really? I’ve wanted to research my genetics for a while now. Also I have two adopted daughters. I know their birth mom, but she was also adopted, so we don’t have any of her extended health history and nothing from the birth fathers. So at-home DNA testing to the rescue!

I chose 23andMe — the first and only genetic service available directly to consumers that includes reports that meet FDA standards. They can help people understand what their DNA says about their health, traits and ancestry through detailed reports, tools and more. And more than one million people have spit with 23andMe using our in-home saliva kit. I should have our kits in next week, and then it’s 6-8 weeks to get results back.

I’m not doing my youngest daughter yet since I doubt I can get her to spit into the tube, so I’m starting with just me and my six year old. Stay tuned for a full review of how the process went with 23andMe and what I think of the reports.

There’s an incredible story in your DNA – the history of you and your family. Discover your DNA today at

Diapers & Menopause

I understand why you should have kids in your 20s. My first daughter was born when I was 40 and my second when I was 46. Both girls are adopted and are incredible additions to my life. But let’s be honest here. I will be 65 years old when Quinn graduates high school and leaves the nest. SIXTY FIVE. I am an old momma. And my body reminds me of that constantly. See, discount I’m in the throws of menopause. Hot flashes. Insomnia. Sudden outbursts of fire-spewing mania. It’s not pretty. I just hope my pleasant moments out-shadow the alien moments in my girls’ memory when they are grown and retelling their stories to their therapists. Because diapers and menopause do not go together. 2015-09-29 15.58.57-1




One Year Ago Today My World Crumbled

September 8, viagra dosage 2014: I was home with Anthony getting the house ready for Baby Girl. She was born the Friday before, and at the request of Elle* (birth mom), I was there for her delivery. See Elle and I had history. I adopted her first child back in 2010 after fostering her for almost a year. During that time, unbreakable bonds were formed with Elle, her mom, and the rest of their family. So when she found out that she was pregnant again, she asked me if I would adopt this child too. I was uncertain if I wanted another child. Anthony and I already had three daughters. But we decided to get open as a foster home, and if this child ended up in foster care, we would foster the baby as “fictive kin.” Fictive kin is defined as people not related by birth or marriage who have an emotionally-significant relationship with an individual. And since we had the biological sibling, our DCFS resource worker said we would qualify.

On deliver day, Elle was scared and asked me to be with her in the delivery room. The nurse placed a chair for me near Elle’s head. She was draped with hospital blue cloth and prepped for a c-section. I reassured her that it would be okay. (I was reassuring myself at the same time.) I was so fidgety, about to explode with anticipation. I asked Elle if she minded if I moved from behind the blue draping to watch the actual delivery. She didn’t mind, so I got permission from the nurse. The nurse agreed after I told her that I’m also a nurse and that the sight of blood didn’t bother me. I had seen a c-section in nursing school, but this one was different. With each cut of the blade, with every move of the surgical team, I felt my child coming into this world. It was like I was on that table and having an out-of-body experience watching myself give birth. The doctor exclaimed “It’s a girl!” as I witnessed Baby Girl take her first breath outside the womb. IMG_1232She was big. She had a strong cry. Someone asked me if I wanted to cut the cord, and I did. It was all a big blur, like a surreal made-for-TV movie. I was taken back to another room where they cleaned up Baby Girl, inked her feet for precious footprints on her birth record, and then I got to hold her for the first time. She was very pink — not the dark brown that I was expecting. She had big, bow-shaped lips. I was overjoyed and so nervous.  IMG_1230Sometime later I joined Elle in the recovery room. She was given two armbands for access to the NICU. She gave me one of them, so I was able to stay in the room with Baby Girl. Elle came down to visit periodically and a few times a day she would request that I go up to visit her in the postpartum unit. Every time I would see her, she begged me to raise Baby Girl — to fight to keep her — to not let DCFS place her with anyone else. I said I would. Elle told me that she wanted her daughters to grow up together. I liked that thought too.  IMG_1250Then Sunday came. Around noon or so, Elle came down to the NICU to visit Baby Girl. A DCFS caseworker was with Elle. They asked that I wait outside the room so they could visit. Anthony arrived shortly after that and met me in near the nurse’s station. I just knew that Elle was in there telling the caseworker about our plan — about how Anthony and I became foster parents just so we could foster this baby as fictive kin, and if the case led to termination of parental rights, we would be open to adoption since we already had her sister. Then the nurse on duty came out and said that we were being asked to leave and for me to tell her what things in the room were mine. I couldn’t even enter the room to get my things — the nurse had to gather them for me — and then Anthony and I were escorted out of the hospital. No explanation was given. I was in shock.

The caseworker called me later and told me not to worry. That was reassuring. The plan would work out. I waited all day Monday for the call. Finally mid-afternoon we got the call that Baby Girl was being released into DCFS care and that we would hear from another caseworker about placing her with us. Whew — what a relief. Then about an hour later we got another call that the caseworker was buying a few things for the baby, but we’d get an ETA call soon. Then a third phone call:

She’s being placed with another family.

My heart dropped. What? Surely there’s been some mistake. I called my resource worker and was told that Elle said that I was trying to take her baby from her, and therefore it was assumed we would not be a good foster placement because we wouldn’t work toward reunification. I tried to explain that wasn’t the case. I wrote emails to the resource worker to reconsider. I wrote the area director. Over the next two days, I wrote and called everyone that I thought could help, finally talking to the director of DCFS for the entire state of Arkansas. She basically told me to back off and let the system work.

It was out of my hands. For the next week, I was a mess. I cried and laid on the couch in a crumbly, depressed pile of brokenness. Those were dark and uncertain times. My faith was tested, and I didn’t take it too well.

Finally a meeting was set for September 19. Anthony and I went before the area director and a bunch of other DCFS staff to be questioned. And fortunately, our pure motives came to light. A few hours after the meeting, a caseworker brought Baby Girl to our house. She was two weeks old at this point, and I wondered what I’d missed in those 11 days apart. And I knew she wasn’t mine forever yet — or if she ever would be. The following months were fairly easy as far as foster care cases go. Soon we knew that reunification wasn’t the goal, and we would probably get to adopt her. We were cautiously optimistic.  IMG_1252Almost a year passed until we adopted Baby Girl, now called Quinn, on July 29, 2015. Over that year, God taught me several important lessons. The first and most important one is that HE WILL DELIVERY ON HIS PROMISES IN HIS TIME. I have to remind myself of that daily. I have to relinquish control, open my clinched fists and release my right now to Him. That’s not easy for this control freak, this planner of all things. But I’m learning, one hard lesson at a time.

* name changed


Adoption Day!

After waiting for what seemed forever, nurse Anthony and I adopted Baby Girl last week! It was a glorious day surrounded by friends and family. Our older girls, Kennedy, Madison and Maya were all smiles too. adoption2Judge Warren is the same judge that did Maya’s adoption back in 2010, so it was really special that she was our judge this time too.

So without further ado, World, meet Quinn Aria Valley… IMG_1058Special thanks go to my mom and dad, Gran Gran, Kristen and Carol for coming to be a part of our big day. adoption1adoption4It’s hard to explain how I feel now that the adoption is final. Relief mainly — no chance that Quinn will be taken away from us. She has been a part of our family since her beginning. Even before she was born, we loved her. I was in the delivery room when she entered the world — I even got to cut the cord! helloShe has been smiling and laughing and bringing us joy since her days in the NICU. I mean really — look at those lips!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up and to see her personality blossom and her talents emerge. She is already trying to stand up unassisted, so I think walking is in the near future. She loves music and is very curious and busy. She’s a sensitive soul and can get her feelings hurt easily, but she easy going and happy most of the time. Honestly, she is just perfect, and I’m so proud to be her mom. Quinn8.2.15

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I’ve held on to this piece since February — just too raw and personal to post. But I’m ready now.

Termination. It’s such an ugly word. It usually doesn’t come with good news. Termination of a job. Termination of a pregnancy. Termination of parental rights.

My husband and I recently sat in on the termination of parental rights (TPR) hearing for our foster baby. Unlike most foster parents, clinic I know this birth mom, Elle*. I went through it all before with her first baby who I fostered and then later adopted. I love Elle. Without her, I wouldn’t have my sweet Maya. Elle has become like family to me — although we rarely have any contact. I keep up with her through her mom who we now lovingly refer to as Gran Gran.

Sitting down in the courtroom, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to fill the space, to reign over the proceeding. Elle walked in wearing shackles and a correctional unit jumpsuit. Still I’d never seen her look better. Her hair was combed and neatly styled. She was clean and well fed. She was not high. Jail is a good place to be when you’re dealt a bad hand like Elle.

She sat down not too far in front of me, so I said hi. She squinted (due to a blinding eye condition) and said, “Miss Stacey, is that you? Is the baby with you!?!?” I told her it was me and that indeed Baby Girl had been placed with me. She beamed with joy! She started asking me question after question about Baby Girl and how she ended up with me, and I answered as best I could. Then…

ALL RISE. The judge entered and the proceedings started. The attorney for child services began reading aloud a long list of every reason why Elle is an unfit mother. And even though they were all true, it broke my heart. Elle sat there with her head in her hands listening to every horrible decision she made over the past several months. She had to hear that she failed as a mother. I cried big sloppy tears. I hurt for Elle. But I also thought about how often I fail as a mother and how it must feel to have that become part of a court record.

After the attorneys were done, Elle asked to address the court. She sat on the witness stand and her anguish gushed out. She sobbed uncontrollably. My husband held me close. Once Elle gathered herself, she expressed in the most beautiful way what I’m sure every mother feels at times. She told the judge that she loved her baby very much, but that she knows that she can’t be a good mother to her. She owned up to her mistakes and shortcomings. Then in an unexpected twist, she pleaded for the judge to let me adopt the baby.

To top it off, the judge gave Elle a precious gift — she validated her. She told her that she is not a bad person; that she is a good person who just made mistakes. She said that we all have struggles, but that doesn’t make us bad people. It was truly beautiful.

And I thanked the Holy Spirit for answering my prayer.

*Name changed to protect her privacy.

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