Considering Foster Parenting

This is the column where our readers can write in with their questions. We’ll field the questions to one or more experts in the subject and post the responses typically within 2 weeks. Write Us with Your Question!

Q: My husband and I had our daughter when I was 39 and now that she’s three years old, we’d like to add to our family. Having been through a pregnancy and now raising a daughter who is genetically related to us makes us open to expanding our family by being foster parents and potentially adopting. What should are the steps for fostering?

Response from Sharon Munroe, founder/executive director:

Family photo

Sharon, Jasmine (at her third birthday) and Grandma Barbara.

A:  There are choices for adding to a family through foster care, domestic and international adoption. Here are the steps we took to add to our family through foster care:

  1. My husband and wanted to learn more about fostering and adopting and went to an orientation with our state agency “CPS” in January 2010.
  2. In March of that year we were selected to begin training in Texas’ PRIDE Program with the hope of being certified as a foster and adoptive home and being able to care for a child. (Many similar training and placement programs exist in our city and across the country, including those with private agencies.)
  3. In that six-week period, we had lots of homework, including paperwork to complete, home and fire inspections, a first aid and CPR training class and of course, a home study. Early in the process, we also had the mandatory criminal background checks.
  4. A Home study is next. During that visit, we talked with a social worker about a variety of topics including our own childhoods, and our values and plans for the placement. Importantly, we were asked about our support network and how our families, friends and neighbors would react to a foster placement and adoption of a child.
  5. Once we were certified as a foster and adoptive family we waited fora call. The waiting was hard.
  6. We received a call from our local child protective services office and received our foster daughter and paperwork.

(She was eligible for adoption 1.5 years later and we adopted her at age 2. She is shown celebrating her third birthday in the photo.)

You can learn more, and find out if foster or foster-to-adopt is the right way to build or expand your family at the State of Texas website, or your state’s Child Protective Services website.

We’d love to see your question! Write Us with Your Question!

Expert Voice Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW

                                    Choices and Tips for Starting a Family After Age 35


The number of women who are choosing to have a child after age 35 has been steadily growing for the last 30 years. The Center for Disease Control reported that as of 2006 there were 600,000 babies born to women over the age of 35 in the United States. There are many reasons for this trend:  women want to complete their education, establish their careers, find the right partner, and need to have geographic stability before becoming mothers.  The advances in assisted reproductive technology have also contributed to this trend.

How do you know when you are physically and emotionally ready to begin to build your family? What questions should you ask yourself?  What can you do to prepare yourself for this life-changing journey? Each woman should examine her own reasons for considering becoming a mother after age 35.   

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why is now the right time for me to foster, adopt or birth a child?
  • What is my lifestyle and how will having a child impact it?
  • Do you want a biological link to your child or am I comfortable using a donor, surrogate, or adopting?
  • Do I have a stable relationship with a partner or do I feel comfortable about being a single parent?
  • What are my career goals and time demands and how will they fit in with my new role as a mother?
  •  Do I think I will have regrets in the future about not having an opportunity to become a parent?
  • What sacrifices am I willing to make to become a mother?  When I think about this does it raise any doubts or conflicts?

Pregnant by Choice

Choosing to become a parent is different than having an unplanned pregnancy.  When you plan to try to get pregnant, especially over age 35, you should be more assertive about having good prenatal habits.  Many women start taking folic acid 3 months prior to conceiving and continue through the first 3 months of pregnancy. Consult a trusted physician to get information on good prenatal practices and get a complete medical workup.  It is advisable to learn about any potential medical concerns that might affect you or your partner’s success in having a healthy baby.  You might want to consider seeing a reproductive endocrinologist.  They have specialized training combining obstetrics and gynecology with training in hormonal functioning and in treating infertility.  Women over age 35 may experience new health issues like diabetes or hypertension at higher rates than younger women so ongoing prenatal care is important to your ongoing health and the health of your baby.

You want to work with a physician who shares your beliefs about it being all right to become a mother late in life.  I have heard stories from many men and women who felt they were being negatively judged by their medical team for making this choice. Put together a birthing plan with your partner if you have one and discuss it with your physician ahead of time. (Sharon talks about  her challenges around this in her recent post.)

  • It should include your wishes regarding whether or not to have a caesarean section.
  • Do you want to have medications during your labor and delivery?
  • Where do you want to have your baby, at home , a birthing center or a hospital?
  • Do you want to use a doula?
  • Ask your doctor if there are any risks associated with the choices you are making and what his/her philosophy is about pregnancy, labor, and delivery for women over age 35.

Some Fostering and Adoption Choices

The trends for those who are 35 or older and want to adopt are similar. There is an increase in the number of people choosing to adopt (or foster to adopt) who are in this age bracket.  Those parents who are placing their kids up for foster care and adoption are looking for adoptive parents who are more financially stable, in stable relationships, and have the emotional maturity to be good parents. Age may or may not be a factor in selecting adoptive families.

If you are considering an international adoption, be aware that different countries have different policies about the age of their prospective adoptive parents.  For example, countries like Korea, India, China, Africa, and some Latin American countries have been open to allowing parents over the age of 35 to adopt. These policies are subject to change. Consult established adoption agencies that have the latest information on regulations for countries you might be interested in investigating for potential adoption. If you want to do a domestic adoption, you also have options.  You can try to find an adoption agency in your community that works with older parents. If you have trouble finding a program, there are online adoption support sites (see below) that can offer this information.  Remember, that you have the option of adopting from other states. Clarify their agency requirements in terms of whom and how your home study is done.

Some Considerations

Whether you become a new parent later in life through adoption, foster care, pregnancy with or without infertility treatment, there are things to keep in mind: 

  • Do whatever you can to maintain your physical well-being. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices are important.  You want to be a parent and perhaps grandparent for as long as you can.
  • Get as much sleep as possible. Use your child’s naptime for you to take a nap too.
  • Becoming a parent after age 35 requires a lot of energy.  Find creative ways to allow your child to play safely, expend energy, while you participate in a more
    low key way.  Do play dates to give yourself a break.  Find enclosed play areas and classes that the kids can participate in while you watch.
  • Women that become mom’s later in life have greater world experience, have better problem-solving skills.
  • The emotional maturity associated with older age makes you better equipped to handle unexpected problems that may arise.
  • Women that are older generally have a stronger more established network of family and friends.  Use trusted members of your support community
    to offer physical and emotional support as you engage in parenting.
  • Consider joining groups with other families that have been created in similar ways. For example, if you adopted a child from China, find a local group that
    has other families who have adopted kids from China.  I joined a parenting after infertility group with other families who conceived their kids through egg donors.  It helped me feel less isolated and normalized how our kids came into our families which helps us as parents and provides our kids peers with similar backgrounds offering support as they grow up.

Partial List of Resources

National programs like RESOLVE can offer information on local adoption and infertility support programs. You can find your local chapter by going to Another good resource that offers a variety of information on adoption on a national level is (This website is seeking to provide valuable resources of all types to women seeking to be mothers.)

Choosing to become a parent over the age of 35 offers a unique combination of challenges and advantages for each individual.  It will take patience, determination, physical, emotional, and financial sacrifices to find the best route to make your family building dreams a reality.  Identifying local agencies, resources, family, friends and staff that share your vision will make the journey go more smoothly.  Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, display your confidence, and be actively involved in the process.  This will help others have confidence in you and your decision to parent.                                                                                                                                                                    

Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 30 years.  She has done workshops, individual, and group counseling with people experiencing infertility and authored  the award-winning book Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire

Read Iris’ previous post:  The Experience of Being a Mother of Advanced Maternal Age (MAMA)

“Pregnant Woman” and “Happy Mother and Daughter” images courtesy of Image(s):

The Advanced Maternal Age Project’s Guide to Birthing Classes

We’ve put together this handy overview to help you start evaluating options for birthing classes. Please let us know if there are any you’d like to see added.

*We’ve included only the basic information (straight from the sites) for the different options, so be sure to visit each provider’s site for more details!








Approach to Birth

  • Birth is normal, natural and healthy.
  • The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.
  • Women’s inner wisdom guides them through birth.
  • Women’s confidence and ability to give birth is either enhanced or diminished by the care provider and place of birth.
  • Women have the right to give birth free from routine medical interventions.
  • Birth can safely take place in homes, birth centers and hospitals.
  • Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in health care, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom.

Class Information:  Small classes, with no more than 12 couples, consist of at least 12 hours of instruction time. Lamaze class content includes instruction or information on the following:

  • Body positioning for labor and birth
  • Massage and relaxation techniques to ease pain
  • Support during labor
  • Effective communication skills
  • Medical procedures
  • Breastfeeding
  • Healthy lifestyle choices

Contact:  [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]Lamaze International[/fancy_link]________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Philosophy/Mission:  HypnoBirthing® – The Mongan Method – is a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. HypnoBirthing® provides the missing link that allows women to use their natural instincts to bring about a safer, easier, more comfortable birthing. Emphasis is placed on pregnancy and childbirth, as well as on pre-birth parenting and the consciousness of the pre-born baby. As a birthing method, HypnoBirthing® is as new as tomorrow and as old as ancient times. It is presented in a series of five, 2 1/2-hour classes.

Class Information: 

  • Unit 1: Building A Positive Expectancy
  • Unit 2: Falling in Love with Your Baby/Preparing Mind & Body
  • Unit 3: Getting Ready to Welcome your Baby
  • Unit 4: An overview of Birthing – A Labor of Love
  • Unit 5: Birth – Breathing Love – Bringing Life

Contact:  [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]Hypnobirthing[/fancy_link]


The Bradley Method

Philosophy/Mission:  What is the difference between The Bradley Method® and other types of childbirth classes? The Bradley Method® is unique. Our classes stress the importance of Healthy Baby, Healthy Mother and Healthy Families. We attract families who are willing to take the responsibility needed for preparation and birth.

Class Information:  The Bradley Method® series is designed for small classes with lots of individual attention. The standard length is 12 weeks covering 12 units of instruction. The Student Workbook is included with classes. It has over 130 pages with over 75 pictures and illustrations. Your local teacher of The Bradley Method® is an independent affiliated instructor.

By taking classes in The Bradley Method®of natural childbirth, you will learn about:

  • Prenatal nutrition & exercise
  • Relaxation for an easier birth
  • Husbands as coaches
  • Birth plans and more!

Contact:  [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]The Bradley Method[/fancy_link]


Birthing from Within

Philosophy/Mission:  Birthing  From  Within exists to inspire and teach expecting and new parents, and those who work with them, to:

  • Prepare for birth as a Rite of Passage.
  • Understand the power and life-long impact that “birthing from within” offers all participants in birth.
  • Co-create holistic prenatal care that is informative, transformative, and builds a foundation for birthing in awareness in our birth culture, whatever the birth location or outcome or events of the birth.
  • Prevent or minimize emotionally difficult births (for parents and professionals) through compassionate, honest preparation.
  • Honor and use the power of Birth Story telling and listening.

Class Information:

In your Birthing From Within classes, you will learn how to:

  • Experience birth as a rite of passage
  • Eat a sound diet (pregnancy and breastfeeding)
  • Open your body-mind before and during labor with self-hypnosis and visualizations
  • Build confidence in yourself and your partner
  • Ask questions and make decisions in labor
  • Protect your birth space
  • Tame your “Birth Tigers”TM
  • Push your baby out
  • Welcome your baby
  • Recover and plan postpartum
  • Care for and feed your newborn
  • Give birth from within during a Cesarean, while using pain medication, or with medical support….and much more!

Contact:  [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]Birthing from Within[/fancy_link]




Philosophy/Mission:  BirthWorks embodies the philosophy of developing a woman’s self-confidence, trust, and faith in her innate ability to give birth. It is our mission to train childbirth educators and doulas who in turn provide evidence-based, current information to birthing families through a unique experiential approach that is based on human values. BirthWorks seeks working relationships with other childbirth related organizations, striving together to help birthing families make more informed and safe choices for birth.

Class Information: 

  • First Class: Feelings, Philosophies
  • Second Class: Healthy Pregnancy, Optimal Birth
  • Third Class: Forces Driving Technology in Birth and What You Can Do
  • Fourth Class: Birth Physiology and Working with Labor Contractions
  • Fifth Class: Your Amazing Body and Beliefs About Birth
  • Sixth Class: Stages of Grieving, Healing Birth-Related Losses
  • Seventh Class:  Labor and Birth, Mothers and Daughters

Contact: [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]Birthworks International[/fancy_link]


International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)

Philosophy/Mission:  The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) as a professional organization supports educators and other health care providers who believe in freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care.

ICEA’s goals are to provide: 
* Training and continuing education programs
* Quality educational resources
* Professional certification programs

The birth of a baby represents, as well, the birth of a family. The woman giving birth and the persons significant and close to her are forming a new relationship, with new responsibilities to each other, to the baby, and to society as a whole. Family-centered reproductive care may be defined as care which recognizes the importance of these new relationships and responsibilities, and which has as its goal the best possible health outcome for all members of the family, both as individuals and as a group.

Family-centered care consists of an attitude rather than a protocol. It recognizes a vital life event rather than a medical procedure. It appreciates the importance of that event to the woman and to the persons who are important to her. It respects the woman’s individuality and her sense of autonomy. It realizes that the decisions she may make are based on many influences of which the expertise of the professional is only one. It requires that all relevant information be made available to the woman to help her achieve her own goals, and that she be guided but not directed by professionals she has chosen to share the responsibility for her care.

Class Information:  There are no membership requirements for individuals other than a commitment to family-centered maternity care and the philosophy of freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in childbirth. *Class content varies depending on instructor

Contact: [fancy_link color=”black” link=””]ICEA[/fancy_link]


*Many hospitals also provide birthing classes.  Check with the hospital where you plan to give birth or the one nearest you.