About Lifetime Adoption
Lifetime Adoption is one of the top American Christian adoption agencies. It was founded in 1986 as an Adoption Support and Referral Group by Founder Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., after her struggle with seven pregnancy losses and her own adoptions and working with women in crisis. The mission was and still is to help adoptive families and birth parents come together. Lifetime’s specialty is assisting and supporting birth parents in their search to find qualified, loving adoptive families. As you’re considering adoption, this video can help you understand how open adoption works. The video shares the reality of open adoption from both the birth parent and adoptive family perspectives.
Lifetime Adoption provides compassionate adoption help reflecting Christian values, builds families through modern open adoption and supports women as they consider their pregnancy options, navigating their personal adoption choices.
Our Core Values:
TEAMWORK: We support each other. As a team, we bring unique strengths that together create seamless support for the families we have the blessing to serve. We share encouragement, experience and guidance to work together toward our mission, with confidence and trust in each other’s capabilities and intentions.
EXCELLENCE: We pursue excellence in everything. We strive to do our best with what matters most, asking for help when needed, and ensuring that our clients are always the highest priority. We accept personal accountability to meet our responsibilities, improve our systems and help each other improve our effectiveness.
SERVANT’S HEART: We are compassionate and kind to everyone we come in contact with. We work to serve others faithfully with a servant’s heart. We strive to build personal relationships, respecting each other as well as our clients, and treat them as we want to be treated.
EMPOWERMENT: We believe that people make the best decisions when they are empowered and educated to do so. While we constantly work to grow our own knowledge and experience, we are also committed to ensuring that pregnant women today fully understand their choices in modern adoption.
How We Are Helping Women As They Make an Informed Choice on Adoption
“Women want to know and need to know where their babies are going. They need that so they don’t have this hole in their heart,” says Heather Featherston, Vice President of Lifetime Adoption. “So we have to be sure we’re talking about what today’s modern adoption is like and the choices it provides women.” For the past 20 years, Heather has been supporting women in unexpected pregnancies as they learn about their choices with adoption. She has a passion for working with them through their journey. Most pregnant women do not accurately know what open adoption is like today. To address this, Heather has developed a training program for medical professionals and others who serve and work with pregnant mothers. “By sharing the truth about modern adoption, we are affirming that adoption is a positive choice,” says Heather.
For many, adoption is not always an easy topic to talk about. This is especially true if the expectant mother objects to adoption before the conversation even begins. Many women say something like, “I could never give my baby away.” However, today’s adoptions look very different from the way that they did years ago.
Some women don’t want to consider adoption because they think it’s the same as foster care. Many women fear being judged as a ‘bad mom.’ They believe bad moms do adoption…bad moms are the ones who have their kids removed, they lose custody of their kids, and then their kids are placed for adoption permanently through the state. This is all tied up in their understanding of adoption. Modern adoption is nothing like foster care.
A better understanding of modern, open adoption begins with an awareness of the choices available. An informed, simple, and confident adoption conversation is key to making sure every expectant mother is adequately informed to decide if open adoption is right for her and her baby. “A lot of women think ‘there are so many kids waiting to be adopted…nobody wants my baby,'” says Heather. “Nothing could be further from the truth. There are families to adopt every baby.”
Who are the women you’re helping?
Lifetime helps women of all ages and backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy. Many have an inaccurate understanding of who chooses adoption. The truth is, most women who choose adoption are not teens. Most women who choose adoption are already parenting other children or have had other children that perhaps someone in their lives is parenting. Women from every background and every situation choose adoption.
Society as a whole still thinks adoption is much like it was in the 50s or 60s, except maybe we keep in touch a little bit. They don’t have the fullness of understanding of the choices in adoption today. We’re all very familiar with the stories of closed adoption in the 1950s where being pregnant and unmarried was just not done, it was not heard of.
If that was you, you went away to a home for unwed mothers where you delivered your baby. Usually, the baby was whisked out of the room. Some women knew if they had a boy or a girl. There was no contact; there was no choosing the family; there was absolutely nothing.
And so some of the shows they have on TV now about reunions or when you hear about the birth mothers going back to try to find their children; those scenarios don’t happen much today because they’re a product of these 1950’s closed, shameful adoptions. Also, the women back then weren’t given much of a choice. Because many of them were teens and not getting married, their parents told them they had to do adoption. If you had an “accident” at 22, you could quickly get married. So this is kind of where that stereotype of teens doing adoption began.
When first presented with the option of adoption, many women say something like, “I could never give my baby away.” However, today’s adoptions work very differently from how they did years ago. So it’s important that that initial negative response does not stop the explanation of modern adoption because that initial response demonstrates that they don’t have an awareness of modern, open adoption.
In modern adoptions, birth mothers make all the choices and control the process. She decides how she learns about adoption and the professional who will help her. She can choose who adopts her baby and get to know them. She can determine how things go at the hospital. She can make a birth plan like any other pregnant mom. She can choose who is in the delivery room, who cuts the cord. She can hold her baby, spend time with her baby, and even breastfeed her baby. She can name her baby. She can choose what type of ongoing contact she has with the family and her child after the adoption. She can get help with pregnancy-related expenses, as determined by her state law, and that can include medical, rent, food, maternity clothes, cell phone. She controls the process and makes decisions about herself and her baby.
Can you give an example of a birth mother story?
We meet with women of all ages in unexpected pregnancies. No matter their age, these women come to us because they’re in a crisis and need help.
One woman we helped was in her twenties. She was in the middle of pursuing her career and found out she was pregnant. Abortion wasn’t something she felt good about, but she struggled to decide whether to parent the child herself.
She came to us seeking information about adoption. Our Adoption Coordinators talked with her at length and answered her questions. She acknowledged she wasn’t ready to be a single mom and liked the idea of open adoption where she could continue to have a relationship with the adoptive family and her child. She chose an adoptive family who was thrilled to welcome her baby into their home.
She keeps in contact with us to this day. And she’s thrilled to see her child thriving in the family. Lifetime loves meeting each woman exactly where she’s at and, if she chooses adoption, to walk with her before, during, and after her adoption journey.
How do you help women?
Once a pregnant woman or mother decides she wants an open adoption for her child, Lifetime will walk with her through the entire adoption process. Our goal is to support her as she makes the best choices for herself and her child.
First, she chooses the adoptive family. The choice of who raises their child is entirely the birth mother’s decision. Lifetime provides online profiles of adoptive families for her to review. The profiles include pictures and information about hopeful adoptive parents. They also include a short video of the adoptive couple so a birth mother can better envision what life would be like for her child with them.
Most women are not 100% certain of their decision because most have never done this before, so they don’t understand what it’s like. They don’t understand this is a decision they have to make over and over; it’s not a one-time decision.
At every point, even when they have their baby and after they have their baby, they’re asking themselves in their mind over again, ‘Am I sure?’ The attorney, their mother, and the birth father may also be asking, ‘Are you sure?’ Choosing the family and getting to know them is part of the decision-making process, not something you do after you’ve decided.
Once the birth mother chooses her top choice of adoptive parents, her Adoption Coordinator will arrange a phone call so they can meet and get to know each other better. Then, once she’s chosen the adoptive parents and they agree to move forward, a match is made, and they will continue to communicate. They will work together to form a Post Adoption Contact Agreement, which states what type of contact they will maintain once the adoption is complete. This contact can include emails, text messages, phone calls, face-to-face visits, social media updates, video chats, and more.
Next, her Adoption Coordinator works with her to create a hospital plan. She can choose who is with her in the delivery room and who cuts the cord. She will decide if she wants to hold her baby or if the adoptive family will be there to hold the baby right after the birth.
What happens after the adoption is final?
After the adoption, an open adoption plan allows birth mothers the chance to stay in contact with the adoptive family and their child. Whether she connects with her child through emails, texting, or meeting with them face-to-face, she and the adoptive parents decide. She can have a relationship with her child and see them as they grow.
Modern adoption exists on a continuum, and it changes with time. For instance, if the birth mother needs a little bit of space, she may kind of push back a little bit and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to not be in so much contact, I need to work on some things.’ And then, some other times, she may be very much involved.
Many of the women we work with, after they’ve done adoption, they are very proud of that because it may be the first time in their lives that they actually set a goal, made a plan, and completed that plan. So for women to walk through this very challenging choice and be proud of it really speaks to the success and the opportunity modern adoption has in putting that power and control into her hands.
Does Lifetime also help expectant mothers with their needs?
Birth mother education and support are our focus at Lifetime Adoption. We have many different resources and support for women online, as well as peer counseling, a wide selection of adoptive parents to choose from, licensed third-party counseling, access to adoption attorneys, help via text and phone 24/7, maternity clothes, and so much more. We provide this support before, during, and after the adoption. Birth mothers can also apply for a college scholarship through the Lifetime Adoption Foundation.
Modern adoption means meeting each expectant mother where she’s at, at her comfort level, at her pace. She controls the adoption. Meeting each woman at her pace is important, as we have women call us who are six weeks pregnant, we have women call us six weeks after delivery, and we have women call us seven months along.
A question we often hear is, ‘How far along does someone have to be to make an adoption plan?’ or ‘When do women make adoption plans?’ and there’s no answer. Women can make adoption plans at any point in their pregnancy.
Here at Lifetime, we understand that calling is a way to learn more, a way to get information about how adoption can look for them. It’s not a commitment; no one’s going to force them or pressure them or judge them because the bottom line is, when women reach out, it is reaching out to learn about adoption. It isn’t to ‘start an adoption plan.’ Our entire team knows and understands that women aren’t calling to start, they’re calling to learn, and that’s where we meet them.
Today’s women want to learn about adoption on their own terms, in the way they are comfortable. Women can research without telling anyone she’s thinking about adoption—she has privacy. Women don’t always feel comfortable or safe saying out loud, ‘You know what, I’m thinking about adoption.’
On our 24-hour adoption answer line, available both by phone and text, women often ask, ‘How does the adoption process work?’ or ‘Do you offer help with rent?’ Those are things they may be nervous or hesitant to speak out loud, and this gives them the opportunity to research, to ask those hard questions, without saying it face-to-face, without worrying about being judged. She has the ability to text us her questions in private. It gives her a lot more safety. She can get answers from Lifetime anytime, nights and weekends too. We get a lot of calls during those times because sometimes these are the things you’re thinking about when you’re alone, when you can’t sleep…” How am I going to parent this baby?,” or “Should I think about adoption?”
Providing each expectant mother with modern adoption options shows her that we understand her need for choices and privacy.
Guidance for Adoptive Families
Lifetime maintains contracts with families who have a broad range of religions, races, ages and preferences for infants, older children and sibling groups. Lifetime provides adoptive families with a wealth of information pertaining to the adoption process, alleviating concern and guesswork. In addition to printed materials and online support, Lifetime provides a membership website and monthly webinars exclusively for Lifetime families.
On behalf of adoptive families, Lifetime handles the initial screening of all expectant parents via phone, text, or email through a questionnaire. Only qualified birth parents and adoptive families with matching profiles are linked for further conversations, avoiding false expectations and disappointment.
In addition to assisting with adoptive family and birth parent matches, Lifetime arranges for the transfer of proof of pregnancy, medical releases and records, and written confirmation of future contact between the adoptive family and birth parents. Lifetime makes available to adoptive family’s referrals to attorneys and other adoption professionals nationwide, in order to help them complete their adoption. To culminate the adoption, Lifetime prepares a plan for the baby to leave the hospital with the adoptive family.
Adoptive families can learn more from the Adoptive Families area of our website.
As an open adoption agency, Lifetime continues with follow-up care after birth and post-placement with both the adoptive family and birth parents. This assistance is truly for a lifetime, should either party need it.
Lifetime can help provide counseling, support, and more for birth parents. For adopting parents, we have a plethora of resources for adoptive parenting. For both, we remain available should challenges arise in navigating the open adoption relationship.
We look forward to helping you in your journey for a Lifetime adoption!
Lifetime’s Founder & CEO
Founder and CEO, Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is a Certified Open Adoption Practitioner and is bonded and fully insured as an adoption facilitator. As an award-winning author and recognized expert in the field of adoption, she is often called upon for her experience and knowledge by the media and other adoption organizations.
Lifetime has a national outreach program to educate the public and professionals about the benefits of adoption, and we are often called by the media for our expert opinion on adoption-related issues.
When traveling to see us, it is best to call ahead to let us know when you will be in our area. Appointments are recommended, but drop-in visits are welcomed. If you are traveling by plane, please find information regarding airports here.
For prospective adoptive families, we offer free informational webinars to find out more about how Lifetime can help you adopt successfully.
For more information or to arrange for a private consultation for prospective adoptive families, call (727) 493-0933.
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Lifetime Adoption, Inc. is a Licensed Florida Child Placing Agency. (License #100096562)
Lifetime Adoption, Inc. is a Licensed Florida Child Placing Agency. (License #100084254)
Lifetime Adoption Center is a BBB Accredited Business with an A+ rating
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