Behind the Scenes

Wendy Lane, who offers Post Adoption Support, gives a behind the scenes look at what happens in our offices.

Wendy LaneI am Wendy Lane, and I am lucky. I am mom to the two most wonderful children in the world (adopted through Adoption STAR).

I am a social worker and now I work at STAR. Prior to working at STAR I had visited the office many times, to volunteer, drop something off, or stop by to say hi. Every time I went I would wonder, what do they do all day? I knew they were busy and I trusted that they had important things to do. I just wasn’t sure what they were. Now that I have worked in both the expectant parent and adoptive parent departments I know how much has to happen behind the scenes for a successful match to happen. I thought I would share it with others who have had a similar curiosity.

Here is a quick behind-the-scenes look at the work a family advocate does to support the Agency:

  • Facilitate Orientation Sessions and Home Study Classes which includes planning, attending, making follow-up phone calls
  • Attend meetings (both planned and spur-of-the-moment)
  • Keep up to the minute with inter-agency communication (keeping appropriate people up-to-date with information, changes in situations, etc)
  • Paperwork and procedures to support the Adoption
  • Complete and submit legal documents for interstate adoptions
  • Track and offer feedback on profiles
  • Review home studies for errors or missing information
  • Keep track of submission and expiration of clearances
  • Document every client interaction
  • Work with home study social workers
  • Ensure client file is complete and accurate.

Client management: This is what it is all about. Each family is unique – this means that client interaction can’t always be scheduled or planned. Things come up. But there are things they routinely follow-up on – feedback on profiles and profiling opportunities, progress of home study paperwork, assigning social workers for home studies, notifying clients of profiling opportunities and the results of those opportunities, work with financial issues, discussions about what types of profiling opportunities families are comfortable with, check in with clients to see how they are doing etc.

They are always managing a caseload of clients, all in a variety of stages of readiness, and each one with different issues or concerns. The advocates all have a personal commitment to provide each client with the highest degree of personal attention and professional attention to detail… to ensure their peace of mind, as well as to facilitate a successful placement.

The unpredictability of the field of adoption: When you are working on adoptions, you really can’t plan your day with any confidence that you’ll end up doing what you planned. At any moment you may have to stop what you are doing to address an urgent or intense need.

To do list for a typical day for a family advocate:

  • Follow-up with four families regarding their clearances expiring
  • Respond to the twenty or so e-mail questions or requests that came late the day before
  • Gather, fill out and submit paperwork for an adoption finalization
  • Call two clients who have questions about their grids
  • Meet with Michele to go over the status of all your clients
  • Go over a profile sent by a family and give them your feedback
  • Make follow up phone calls to all who attended the last orientation
  • Call an attorney to verify what paperwork is needed for a finalization in another state
  • Conference call with a family who is having trouble deciding if they want to adopt a baby of a different race

You begin working on your list and find that one of your clients is getting low on profiles. You make a note to give them a call to ask them for more.

You open your e-mail to find an e-mail from a birth parent specialist – it appears a call came in last night that there is an expectant mother in upstate New York who is due in about four weeks, who wants to work with Adoption STAR. Here is a bright moment… It makes you happy because you know there is a possibility of good news for a STAR family. It also means the start of a chain of events that need to happen for this placement to occur.

You then get a phone call from a prospective adoptive parent who is wondering how to handle an upcoming meeting with an expectant mother. As you talk with her you begin to realize that she is extremely anxious about the meeting and afraid she won’t be able to do it. You talk with her for a while and then set up a meeting for the next day to do some role playing with her and her husband.

During the phone call you receive some e-mails regarding a policy change in the office. This is not a surprise to you but it does mean that you need to take some time to make some adjustments to the way you handle your caseload.

You read a few e-mails, handle them, and get to the big project of the day, the finalization paperwork. You begin to gather the important documents and get called into a meeting about the on-call situation. It turns out that the baby is due a little sooner than they thought. The expectant parents want to see profiles right away so that they can talk to a few families on the phone before they make their decision. Your team plans to pull profiles and make phone calls after getting additional information from the birth parent specialist. She needs the profiles within the next day so she can take them to her planned meeting with the expectant parents.

I won’t go on, but you get the idea. The role of a family advocate is to be on top of everything, and ready for anything. All things are important, but some have a real immediacy to them.

As I have worked here, I have seen that each STAR employee has high personal standards for their job as well as high standards expected by the rest of the team. They strive every day to achieve and hopefully surpass those standards. No one in the Adoption STAR office takes their job lightly. Their dedication and passion are clear to me. I feel honored to have the opportunity to work with them and see how much they put into their jobs.

Read More on What is Happening at Adoption STAR: Our Calendar of Events for 2013