Air Date: 5.24.16

You can read the transcript below, or listen to the broadcast by clicking here.

Recording: Blog Talk Radio.

Jennifer: Hi, and welcome to Adoption Focus. My name is Jennifer Jaworski and I am a social worker with Adoption Associates of Michigan. This is Adoption Associates premier talk radio blog show. Adoption Associates was founded in 1990 and we specialize in both domestic and international adoption. We provide pregnancy and adoption services throughout all of Michigan with offices located in Jenison, Lansing, Farmington Hills, and Saginaw.

Adoption Associates brings knowledge, support, and understanding in adoption. Adoption is not only our specialty, it’s our passion. One of Adoption Associates’ commitments is this radio show, to help educate and support adoptive families, birth families, and the adoption community. We are very glad that you’re listening in today. If you’d like to call in during the show with questions or comments we encourage you to do so, and that number is 347-850-1100. We would love to hear from you. 347-850-1100.

Today I am looking forward to our conversation about host care. We have with us Bev [inaudible 00:01:49]. Good morning Bev.

Bev: good morning Jennifer.

Jennifer: Hi, how are you?

Bev: I am fine.

Jennifer: Thank you for being with us as we discuss the ins and outs, do’s and don’ts, and exactly what is host care. For those that are listening in that may be new to this topic, our discussion really is, in situations where the birth mother has delivered her baby, and maybe she is not prepared, or does not feel prepared, to care for the baby at home while she’s making an adoption plan, and maybe we have not been able to make arrangements just yet with the adoptive parents, it’s possible that she has not yet selected them, or another circumstance that has necessitated in us looking at host care for the baby in the interim. We’re looking forward to your knowledge Bev, and if you maybe want to just share with the audience you’ve been doing this, how long you’ve been a host parent?

Bev: My husband and I have done this about 40 years. I have always had a big interest and loved babies. So we waited until we had our first and second children and then we started doing host care, and it was kind of a family affair.

Jennifer: That gives us a little bit of insight. It just was something that was personal for you, is that right?

Bev: It was. I have always loved babies. I started babysitting when I was 12, and I was lucky to be the only … I wasn’t quite a teen, but a teen girl in our neighborhood that got a bunch of new homes with young families moving in. They all needed a babysitter, so I was it. I had a lot of experience even long before I was married. I babysat right up until I got married, that was many of my husband’s and my dates were babysitting. That was my passion back then, and it still is.

Jennifer: How many babies have you taken care of?

Bev: My husband and I have had 283 babies.

Jennifer: Wow, my gracious, that is a big number. That’s lots of babies. You’ve probably seen just about everything we can imagine and you’ve got awesome experience.

Bev: Yep. Quite a few bottle feedings and dirty diapers and sleepless nights, but I love every minute of it.

Jennifer: That’s nice. Tell me, what do you view as your role as the host mother, and your husband as the host father, together as host parents, in this adoption process? What is your role?

Bev: First of all, it’s a big responsibility first of all, to have this little one come into our home that is not our baby, and we care for them and love them for the few weeks or short time that we have them. We want to take very good care of them. They go to their first doctor’s appointment, a wellness check, and we take care of them like they are our own. We love each one as they are our own. They are treated just like our babies were treated when we had them.

We also end up, visitation is open to the adoptive family in our home, so there are days that part of my role is talking with and being with the adoptive family, of whom we let them take over once they’re in our home. We’re here but they take over diapering, feeding, and they are bonding at that time, and the enjoy doing that. Some of them have already been in the hospital and have had experience there, but not a lot, so they enjoy coming to our home. Then just knowing that someone is there that is able to answer our question if they have it, but we enjoy so much visiting then, and getting to know the family that the baby’s going to be with.

We like bonding ourselves with the baby. We do that right from the beginning, and that’s nothing for a birth mother or an adoptive family to be afraid of, that we are bonding, because you want the baby to be able to bond and love. The transfer is always, I’ve never heard a negative thing that, this baby didn’t re-bond. We always have good bonding with our babies, and then when we pass them on the family just takes right over. We treat each one with lots of love, lots of care, lots of holding, lots of rocking. We keep our babies real close to us. They’re always in our care. If we have to go somewhere they will go with us if the weather permits. We’re very careful with them like we were our own children, so they’re not passed around, they are always in our care.

Jennifer: That’s nice. Are you still with us?

Bev: Yes I am.

Jennifer: Okay, I thought I lost you for a second.

Bev: No.

Jennifer: Sometimes we hear from women who are feeling a little bit nervous about host care, just not really understanding what it is and what it’s all about, so you’ve already answered a little bit of that for us, but can you talk about why you don’t think we should be afraid of host care? Why should this be something that we can feel more comfortable with?

Bev: First of all, we are just normal, regular people. We’re just a husband and a wife with a family, living in a normal home. We don’t do this, take care of the babies, because we have to, or like it’s a job. That is in no way what it is. We do this because we want to and because we really love babies, and the part that we enjoy is that there are families who even stay in touch with us after they have picked the baby up and have taken it home, or they send us pictures. It’s just something that really becomes close to our hearts, and sometimes we see these pictures, or even meet with the babies every so often after they leave our home. I really want everyone to know that we just love doing what we’re doing, and we love babies, and this is why we do this.

When each baby leaves my home, when they go to their forever adoptive home, I always send, my husband calls it a “bible” of notes, because I just want to know the family has visited here and has spent time here. I just want the transition to be as easy as possible, so I send all these notes of anything I can think of, from just repeating what bottle we discovered works best, and what the formula is, and how the baby sleeps, and how long it sleeps before the next bottle, and so usually I can pretty much write that down so that the transition for the baby, I’m not telling the family what to do and they realize that, and they appreciate the notes just so they have something to rely on.

That is, I guess, what I want to say, is please don’t be afraid if your baby has to go into host care. Because we just open our home, and we open our love, and we open our arms, and we are just excited to take care of this little one that we are given the responsibility of for just a short time. It’s never long enough, I always tease, because sometimes we’re on our way home from the hospital or where have to meet someone to pick a baby up, and we’ll be in the car and our cellphone rings and the baby is with us, and the social worker will say, “I just wanted to let you know I have a court date,” and I go, “Oh please, don’t be so efficient. I want to have my time with this baby.” It’s never long enough for us, but just wanting them to also know that the babies are not just left here. The agency is very good about getting the baby in and out of the host home as soon as possible, to their new …

Jennifer: Yep, with their permanent family, their forever family.

Bev: Yes, their forever family.

Jennifer: What’s been your experience with the average amount of time that a baby is staying with you these days?

Bev: We’re usually told two to four weeks, but I never am lucky enough for a four week baby. Sometimes it’s not even two weeks, but that’s kind of the general amount of time by the time there’s a court hearing, and the courts have been excellent at, the day of the hearing, most often the babies can leave that day. Like I said, in my eyes it’s not long enough, but I know that that is what it is meant to be, that the baby is not meant to be here long. That’s about what it is, just a couple of weeks.

Jennifer: I know that when we were talking offline previously, you were sharing with me some things that you are asked by others in the community, different questions that are posed to you, and I was hoping you could share what you’re hearing from others in terms of misconceptions about host care.

Bev: Okay. First of all I think people just in general have a way different picture in their mind of what host care is. They picture it like a daycare, or an orphanage, or something where I maybe have a room where there’s rows of cribs. That is not it at all. We have a real cute nursery, and with lots of baby accessories. There is one crib, and I have one baby at a time that I can totally focus on, so the baby gets my total undivided attention. It is a home environment, not a daycare or orphanage environment.

The other thing people will say is, when they see us with a baby they’ll say, “That’s a nice job to have, and a baby just sleeps all the time anyway, so it’s simple and easy and it’s a job you get paid for.” I just stop in my tracks and I say, “That’s a misconception that maybe people have.” First of all, this is not a job. This is something that my heart and my self and my husband want to do. We are given a payment for the items the we use for the babies, the formula, the diapers, and if there’s something else that I need. Not even the clothing is provided for me, I do that myself. It’s not a job.

Then when people say, “These little babies, they just sleep all the time anyway, that’s got to be easy,” well a newborn is not easy. First of all, we do not just leave our babies lay in a crib, or lay in an infant seat. We are with them at all times, hold them most of the time. They do have their free time, or time alone in an infant, but I am right there, and I will touch their hand or rub their head and talk to them to let them know I’m right here. They are with us at all times.

We just want people to know that it’s not a job, it’s not a paying job, and the baby doesn’t sleep all the time. May have a baby at night that will wake up, and wake up for its just normal bottle, and then maybe can’t get back to sleep or won’t. Because newborns aren’t born with a schedule. That’s something that you just kind of slowly work with and try to form. that’s where I say I write notes where the babies leave here, because I’ve had them just a couple of weeks, so there’s a formation of a schedule but it’s not written in stone by any means. The babies don’t sleep all the time, and you don’t want to have them just lay by themselves all the time. The misconception of, “A newborn is easy, they just lay there and sleep and then you get paid for it,” that is not how it is, and that I guess would be my explanation of that.

Jennifer: That definitely makes a lot more sense I think. I can tell that this means a lot to you, and I imagine that hearing some of those misconceptions probably doesn’t set so well with you either, it seems like.

Bev: No. Then they’ll say, “Man, the agency really has nice clothes for that baby.” I say, “No, that’s what I do.” Most of us host moms, there’s a few of us that are friends for Adoption Associates, and our husbands get a little nervous when we say, “Hey guys, we’re going to go shopping today. That’s usually not shopping for us, it’s usually all the baby stores and baby department. My husband finally a couple years ago made a rule, he said, “Honey, you need input-output cues your closet’s way too full.”

We just have fun, we all like our babies to look nice and cute, and I’m a former hairdresser, so if I get a baby with hair and it’s a girl, that’s really fun. I have lots of hair accessories and like to do their hair. We like them to look cute and look nice, just like we did our own children. We have pride in how they look clean, and get their baths and their hair’s clean, their clothes is clean, and they have nice clothes. These are all little fun side things that we do for the baby, but our heart is in caring properly and good for the baby.

Jennifer: Right, and I really appreciate what you said about, this is clearly not daycare or orphanage or anything along those lines. I think that some people who aren’t familiar with host care, or the operations of Adoption Associates may have a long-held belief that this is long-term care, that this is a year or two years, and babies languish here, and that’s obviously absolutely not the case. As a case worker with the agency, we do generally fall around two to three weeks, and those are based upon the birth mother selecting the family that she’s chosen, and the legal requirements taking place and such, but we do move that along for the sake of the baby as quickly as we can.

A typical day in host care, what does that look like for you and for the baby? Tell us a little bit about what that is.

Bev: It’s a busy day usually, because there’s bottle feeding every about three hours, so that’s in the plan. I’ll usually give a morning bath, or cleanup, I don’t do a full bath every morning, but I do wash the baby’s bottom and the baby’s face and everything, and then every three days we do a full bath. Then there’s getting dressed, and then maybe there’s rocking time, because there’s a little naptime do. Then we may have the visiting by the family, so then they kind of take over from there, but I kind of suggest what needs to be done, and then they are excitedly waiting for the baby to eat, or mess its diaper or something.

Then there’s the day, like I said, we go to the doctor, we get a doctor’s appointment so they get a wellness check within about the first two to four days that we have them, so that’s kind of immediate. That’s fit into our day. There’s always laundry to do for a baby.

Jennifer: Of course.

Bev: Yes, and then I mix formula ahead little bit so that I have it in the refrigerator and it’s ready to go, because I usually use powdered formula.

Those are kind of the days, and then when the evening comes then I try to keep the baby awake a little bit, because even a newborn will not sleep all day and all night, so there’s awake times that I try to have during the day. Especially in the evening we try to just keep the baby a little active if we can, and then unwrap them a little bit so they’re not so nice and toasty warm in our arms. Then when they’re awake a little bit, then they seem to do well to go to sleep when it is their next bottle time and it’s maybe 10:00 at night. Then once I got the baby to sleep and in bed, then I get in bed for my couple of hours, and then they wake up. We do that all night, and sometimes they have a good night and go right back to sleep after their bottle, but there are many nights that a baby may wake up before the next bottle, or just not sleeping well for some reason. That’s just what a newborn does.

Then by morning we kind of start the whole day over again. It may be the same or it may be different. Basically it’s just, our role is taking care of the baby and doing the very best that we can, and also trying to see when the first few weeks, sometimes the formula doesn’t agree with the baby, so that is something we look for. Then we get in touch with our pediatrician and discuss with him, “This is what’s going on, do you think I need to try a different formula?” After having 283 I can usually guess what he’s going to say and which formula he wants, or I can say, “Can I use this particular formula?” I try to get that ironed out. I had one of my own daughters who could not be on a regular formula, so after being a young mom and having that go on for nine weeks I’m quite tuned into our babies that we care for now. I can see quite quickly if there is a problem with the formula. That kind of helps the adoptive family and they’re usually quite happy with that, that they feel like that’s kind of ironed out between me and the pediatrician.

Jennifer: I was going to ask, I know that when babies are discharged from hospitals there’s always some guidance from the hospital physician about when that baby should follow up with a pediatrician for just a checkup. How often are you able, or experienced, or you’ve seen babies go to the pediatrician for checkups while they’re with you? How often do they go?

Bev: We always take them to their very first appointment, which is their wellness check, after they’re released from the hospital, and that’s within, usually, two to four days. I call as soon as I get home from the hospital with the baby, or wherever I’ve picked the baby up, and I get an appointment. Sometimes I call on my way home, and so I thank the first appointment that the doctor can get me in within, like I said, two to four days. Sometimes it’s the next day I can get the baby in. Then that is the only appointment the babies have to go to because they’re not with us long enough to have to continue the appointments.

If there is a reason that the doctor at the wellness check should say, “I would like to have you come back, I feel like the baby hasn’t gained maybe enough weight,” or he might say, “I would like this or this checked by someone else,” so then we may be sent on, or I may have to come back for, an appointment with him just to check the baby’s weight. Usually, in my experience, most of our babies are well babies, and so they pass the wellness checkup, and I don’t have to take them again. Then the adoptive family takes them to their appointment when they get the baby, just for their wellness check, and then they start their appointment schedule from there on in.

Jennifer: Our adoptive parents are able to spend time with the baby daily right, in the host home, which is your home.

Bev: Yep, they may.

Jennifer: Tell us what that looks like. What does an adoptive family coming to visit their baby in your home look like?

Bev: We actually have a good time, and I’ve met just so many wonderful people, and it’s fun for us to get to know them and see them. Usually they’re here, either they come home from the hospital right with us to see where their baby’s at, or they will come, if they’re not real close by or local, they’ll come the next day. Then if they can they come every day, and that is fine. We love having them. They may spend time at our home daily like we were just talking about.

Like I said, I turn them over to let the baby be their responsibility while they’re here, because if they haven’t had a lot of input in the hospital, the babies don’t stay in the hospital that long, so even if the family has been there they probably haven’t had a real good chance to do all the things that the baby needs. Anyway, I just let them do it here, and if they want me to show them some things I do that, but then the next day when they come they just try to take over and do it themselves. In the meantime we visit and talk about their time that they’ve waited for a baby, and their excitement of having the baby. We chuckle because they have their camera of course, and they’ll take 50 pictures in their one visit, that the baby’s just laying in either of their arms sleeping with the same outfit on. It’s kind of a cute thing.

Then my husband and I will wonder sometimes, they’ll say, “The diaper, I have to change the diaper.” I’ve shown them where my diapers are, so we just say, “Okay, go ahead, do whatever you want to do while you’re here.” We’ll be waiting, and sometimes it’s maybe 20 minutes for a diaper change, but they’re new at it. They’re not doing it like we do. We just chuckle at that, my husband and I together.

Anyway, it’s really wonderful that that can be done. We enjoy the company, we enjoy getting to know the family, and they also get a chance to get to know us. We’ve had many repeat families who have adopted a baby and then have gone for a second, and we’ve even had a family who, we’ve had their third child that they’ve requested us after they get to know us. Our other host families have had the same thing. They latch onto you as you’re their whole family, so their second baby, many times they want you to do it again. That’s really a neat thing too, when we see the second and even the third babies come along that we’ve gotten to take care prior to [inaudible 00:26:45].

Jennifer: That obviously speaks to how much they trust you, and appreciate the care that you’ve provided. I think that speaks volumes.

Bev: Thank you. I know we have one family that lives out of state, and we had their first baby, and so of course they flew in a couple of times to check on the baby and see us, but obviously they lived far enough away, they had to fly in. Then they finally picked the baby up, and then when their second baby came along they flew in right away to see the baby. Then they came, I think one other time, and by the time they requested us for their third baby she called and said, “I’ve got two other little kids home here. I know you, I know your home,” and she said, “I’m just going to call you every day because I can’t fly back with my kids at home here and my husband working.” She said, “I know my baby’s in a wonderful loving home, and we’ll see him when we pick him up.” By the time their third one came they fully just trusted us to care for the baby. She said she knew that we loved every minute of the baby care that we do for the babies, and that we treated them like our own, so they were very at ease with us caring for all three of their children.

Jennifer: What can an adoptive parent or a birth mother do or send with a baby while they’re in host care that would help them until they go home?

Bev: That would be kind of up to their choice. We’re talking an adoptive family. We talk with them and say, “If you have something that you want the baby to wear or whatever, I will be glad to do that.” Then when they see my closet that I have they know they really don’t have to send any clothes or blankets or socks or hats or whatever. If they have something that they want the baby to wear we can do that too.

As far as the birth mother, sometimes she does send an outfit that she’s bought and then she wants the baby to wear, but then certainly she wants that to go to the adoptive family. We are always very careful that anything the birth mother sends, no matter what, it goes with the baby. It never stays back in my home, it goes with the baby. We’ve had some birth mothers send special things or specific things that they wanted their baby to have, and did send it right through out the hospital door with the baby, so it’s been in our care then too with the baby, but we send everything on.

It’s kind of the person’s choice if they feel like they want to have something special for the baby. Some people like to have a blanket in their home, an adoptive family, a baby blanket, and then they will bring that with them to our home, and they like to lay the blanket by the baby, or with the baby, or hold the baby in it, just while we’re sitting around during the day. Then I can do that too if that’s a preference.

There really isn’t anything that, if someone doesn’t want to send anything they don’t have to. I have everything that you could possibly need and more. Lots of baby equipment, I have seven different kinds of bottles, I have, like I said, clothes falling out of my closet practically. There’s really no necessity that needs to be sent, but it would be, if someone has a choice that they shopped specifically for a little outfit, then I will be happy to have the baby wear that, and I’ll wash that delicately like I do all my baby clothes and then send it on with the adoptive family at the end. I guess if that answers your question, I can’t think of anything else that I could say for that question.

Jennifer: It does. This is over 25 years here of infant care here, and well over 200 babies, but I’m wondering what other ways you are involved in adoption.

Bev: I first of all teach a class for Adoption Associates that is on baby care. I’ve done that for many years. Sometimes I do it in a group session at the agency for one of the meetings that the adoptive families have to attend. Sometimes I do it just on a one-on-one with a family that all of a sudden gets a call that they’ve been linked up with a baby, and the baby’s coming due, and they feel like they really would like some pointers on what to do. Then I’m notified, and I just have the family come directly to my home and we have a one-on-one. That’s kind of nice, because then prior to them getting a baby, they can see an adoptive home, they can meet a host mom, or excuse me, they can see a host home, and they can meet a host mom. Then they take the baby care class. That is one other way that I am active.

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I feel it’s very important for me to write the notes that I do to each adoptive family once the baby’s ready to leave my home, and I just do very intricate notes explaining everything that I can think of. I usually end up with five to seven pages, and they’re big pages.

Jennifer: Wow.

Bev: I write everything down, and even though the family has maybe spent time here, all of a sudden when you get the baby in your care and at your home, it’s all new, so they appreciate the notes.

I guess that would be most what I would say my involvement is. The baby care class, I really enjoy doing that. It has nothing medical about it because I’m not a nurse, but I have had the experience of the 283 babies, and so we discuss many things from right home to the hospital to up to a couple of months old, is what my material covers. It’s informative for them, and believe it or not, babies are not the same. Every baby is different. When I was a young mom I read a book and then I thought, “Oh my goodness, this is how it has to be done, this is what the book says.” That really is just not true at all. A book can give you some general information, but to have the knowledge that our host moms have, because we all have had quite a few babies, and each baby is different, we can kind of direct a family with their baby with the notes that I write to the family. It’s directed right to their baby because I’ve had the experience with their baby, it’s not a generalization. I feel like it’s quite important that that’s done, and I know families have really appreciated that.

I guess that would be the role that I play, not only in caring for the baby the best that I can, but teaching the class that Adoption Associates has me teach for baby care, and then passing on info to the individual adoptive homes about their baby.

Jennifer: We’re running a little bit short on time, but I don’t want to end without asking you to give us maybe your one or two tips for surviving those first few weeks home with a newborn. For those who may be listening in that are adopting and coming home with a new baby, what are the most important things to know, if you could real quick?

Bev: The first thing I always say is, please relax. Your baby can tell if you’re uptight, so relax and enjoy each and every moment even if your baby is crying. I always say you cannot hold a baby too much, they need to be close with you, and if they are in an infant seat I, like I said, touch their little hands, hold their little hands, rub their head, just to let them know that I’m near.

A baby will just be different every day. Like I said, they aren’t born on a schedule, so you’re just going to have to work toward what you want the baby to do, little by little by little, and start right away. Feeding, having the correct bottles and formula and nipples, is a real important thing, very important. Those play a big part in the baby’s personality.

And just love holding that baby even if it’s in the middle of the night and you’re lacking sleep. That too shall pass, I always say, but just enjoy that short time of holding a little baby close, even if it’s in the middle of the night and they’re fusing.

Jennifer: That’s great. Great advice. Bev, you and our other host parents are an integral part of what we do here at Adoption Associates, so thank you for what you do for the babies, and for being on the show today. I appreciate it.

Bev: Thank you very much, and we enjoy each and every baby that we have, and we appreciate that we can be part of Adoption Associates too.

Jennifer: Thank you. For our listeners looking to connect with Adoption Associates, you may call us at 800-677-2367, or visit us on the web at . For now, this is Jennifer on Adoption Focus. Have a great day everyone, bye-bye.