496 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446
800-452-3678 (P) 413-584-1624 (F)
39 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060 www.fullcircleadoptions.com
The Team at Full Circle
Marla Ruth Allisan JD, LICSW, founder and direc- history interviews with birthparents, gathers birthmoth-
tor of Full Circle Adoptions, named the agency “Full ers’ medical records and provides on-call support for
Circle” because she believes the agency’s toll-free birthparent line in the evenings
that giving expectant parents and on weekends. In her spare time, Meredith enjoys
and adoptive parents consci- cycling, genealogy and photographing pre-1800 New
entious and loving care will England gravestones. Meredith has been with Full Cir-
help bring love “full circle” cle since November, 1999.
to the child. She takes spe-
cial pleasure helping fami- Molly Reynolds, M.Ed.,
lies through clinical and le- LICSW graduated from Smith
gal complexities in adoption College in 1988 (BA), UMass
cases. Her interest in chil- School of Education in 1990
dren’s issues grew from her (M.Ed.) and Springfield Col-
education in several disciplines (Mount Holyoke (BA, lege in 1997 (MSW). She is
1978), Northeastern Univ. School of Law (JD, 1981) a trained Montessori teacher
and Smith College School for Social Work (MSW, (New England Montessori
1989)). She takes time with both expectant parents and Teacher Education Center,
adoptive parents, helping them feel supported along 1979) and has been the director of several Montessori
their individual paths. In her “spare” time, Marla is a schools. Molly has been associated with Full Circle
published essayist and avid dancer; she enjoys spend- Adoptions since 1997, doing homestudies, post-place-
ing time with her family and “hanging” with her won- ment meetings, and providing birthparent counseling.
derful teenage daughter. Molly is an adopted person and an adoptive parent, as
well as a biological parent and all of these roles inform
Meredith Davies, JD, LSW her work with Full Circle.
holds a B.A. in Greek and Molly enjoys listening to mu-
Latin from Mount Holyoke sic in small venues, walks in
College, and a J.D. from Ver- nature and traveling to islands
mont Law School, where she such as Grand Manan, Nova
completed their general prac- Scotia, Peaks Island and the
tice program. She became a Hawaiian Islands.
Massachusetts Licensed So-
cial Worker in 2003. As the Meg Buckley, Full Circle’s
Adoption Case Manager at Full Circle, Meredith is Office Manager graduated
primarily responsible for assisting with pre- and post- from the University of Massa-
adoptive placement legal procedures and documents. chusetts, Amherst in the Spring of 2007 with a B.A. in
Among other things, she conducts social and medical continued on page 2
English, along with a certificate in Professional Writ- documentation, support to the social workers with re-
ing and Technical Communication. She spent her sum- search and assistance for both prospective adoptive
mers from 2002 to 2007 working as an office assistant families and expectant parents. She is the loving moth-
at the Mount Holyoke College, Department of Public er of two adult daughters, two grand children and two
Safety working with Full Circle’s Board Member, Bar- irascible Boston Terriers.
bara Arrighi. Upon graduating from college, Ms. Ar-
righi recommended that Meg apply to Full Circle. In Chaia Wolf, MSW, LICSW is currently licensed as
the role of Office Manager, her excellent office skills a clinical social worker in
and ability to manage a thousand streams of activity at the state of Massachusetts.
once are put to excellent use. She is a graduate of Smith
Meg is a master surfer of the College School for Social
internet and, in her spare time, Work (MSW, 1997). She has
she enjoys movies, music and worked as an adoption con-
being an adoring aunt. sultant in various capacities
since 1997. She currently
completes homestudies, post
Sheri Cone, Support Staff, placement supervision and
“does whatever is needed when provides birthparent coun-
it’s needed,” which downplays seling for Full Circle Adop-
her over 25 years of experi- tions. Chaia also has a private psychotherapy practice
ence running offices having to where she sees individuals, couples and families. She
do with all aspects of the life span. She has worked also is a mediator for divorcing/separating couples.
for the Diocese of Springfield, Hospice, Williamsburg In Chaia’s spare time, she enjoys spending time with
Elementary School and the VA Hospital. Sheri works her family, being outdoors on foot, sled or bicycle and
three days a week for the agency, helping with filing, throwing on the potter’s wheel.
Ongoing Events for Adoptive Families
Full Circle’s Full Circle has ongoing activities for connection
Adoption Programs! and community building.
Please contact us if you’d like to join us for:
This year’s picnic, which will be held just outside Boston on
June 21, 2008, with a rain date of June 22nd, Noon-4 pm.
496 Harvard Street, “Talking With Our Children About Adoption” Discussion for
Brookline, MA 02446 Adoptive Parents, Saturday, September 20th, 2008, 1-3 pm,
496 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446.
Thanks for RSVP’s: 1-800-452-3678.
See our website
Toll Free: 1-800-45-ADOPT Phone: 413-587-0007 e-mail: email@example.com
to Ask Tough Questions
(Excerpt from Article) By Marla Ruth Allisan JD, LICSW
When adoptive parents are trying to decide which negative reactions, we’re less susceptible to reacting
adoption professionals with whom to work, they fre- with justifications and reasons to avoid as opposed to
quently make a choice based upon determination to identify the relevant truths.
the cost of services, the placement
record and sometimes how close When a professional is not “noticing” their reactions,
the agency’s office is to their home. how does avoidance of negative information play out
These are fine factors to consider. in an adoption case? When an expectant mother in-
This essay is about one other fac- dicates that the birthfather is “not involved”, “is not
tor also worthy of consideration: interested” or was a one-night-stand, some profession-
the adoption professional’s ability als are secretly relieved not to have a second decision
and willingness to ask tough ques- maker. They don’t ask further questions. Some adop-
tions, questions that might draw tion professionals may tell the expectant mother, don’t
out “negative” information. This essay is intended for worry, we will prepare an affidavit where you can say
prospective adoptive parents and also for colleagues as that and we can just place a “notice by publication” or
we reflect on our “internal” processes in response to legal notice in the paper.
more challenging adoption cases.
What is not said is that “due diligence” requires there
There are understandable reasons why adoption pro- first be efforts to give “actual” notice to a putative
fessionals may not want to know “negative” informa- birthfather before simply putting a notice in the fine
tion. If we learn, for example, that an expectant mother print part of a newspaper. I recommend this stance for
drank heavily during the pregnancy, we may experi- due diligence – assume that, “but for” a blood transfu-
ence some worry or sadness for the fetus. We may also sion from the birthfather to the child, the child will die.
wonder whether it will be more difficult to identify an This may sound grim, but the point is that, if one truly
adoptive family open to that child’s potential difficul- has motivation to find the birthfather, quite a few pos-
ties. If we learn that there are two possible birthfathers sible avenues come to mind. Suddenly, one learns that
and neither of them knows about the pregnancy (and the friend who hosted “the” party may actually know
she’s due next week), there may be more work to do. how to reach him. The birthmother may remember his
This is “negative” information in that these facts or un- “facebook” page. His current girlfriend is actually a
certainties may make the adoption situation more com- second cousin and so there is a way to find him. He
plex from every angle. works at the tire shop in town. Looked at through the
lens of determination, suddenly, there’s a way.
What do adoption professionals do when we suspect
that there’s negative information? The first thing we How might one get to this information in a clinically
do is notice our own reactions. We notice our disap- sensitive way? One can ask a paradoxical question.
pointment, concern, and worry. Our feelings for the “Let’s talk about all the reasons you might not want
child are primary. We notice the thoughts that have to to involve him,” is a helpful way to begin. Going with
do with discouragement over how complex the case the “resistance” helps draw out the challenging truth.
has become. We notice any judgments floating through “Well he’s with Juanita now, so he should have nothing
our minds, any wishes that the expectant parents might to do with decisions about this baby,” might be one an-
have handled things differently for the sake of the ex- swer. “Well, he said he’s always wanted to be a father,”
pected child. In taking a few moments to notice the might be another. Suddenly, the faceless fellow at the
continued on next page
anonymous party for which there was no address, has logical father need to be recognized for what they are.
not only a name and a place, but feelings and motiva- At times, it is not respect for the biological parents, but
tions all his own. rather it is fear of alienating them and losing a potential
adoption situation, that may lead adoption profession-
It is important to tell expectant parents the truth. Give als to go “lite” on the questions. There are, however,
them access to an adoption attorney who can explain ways to be respectful and still ask the tough questions
that they can’t place “half” a child; that the biologi- so that the child and the adoption, itself, are kept safe.
cal father does have rights. It can be effective to use
a little humor. “Taking the approach of avoiding him, Adoption professionals need to be willing to keep their
might feel good right now, but it could mean we all eye on those factors that will most likely result in an
meet up on Oprah when it blows up.” Their reasons adoption plan that will meet the long-range needs of
are compelling, understandable, important and mean- the child, the birth family and the adoptive family. Ide-
ingful. Nonetheless, one helps expectant parents to ac- ally, best practice would involve obtaining a thorough
knowledge their blind spots and move to a place where medical history of the birth mother and birth father,
the “best interests of the child” and the rights of both genetic testing to confirm that the alleged father is the
expectant parents have a chance to be respected. child’s actual biological father, a health history that
fully discloses any exposure for the fetus to any harm-
Some lawyers or social workers tell themselves that not ful drugs or other substances and any familial predis-
asking more questions of the expectant mother is part position to a medical or psychological problems. The
of being polite or considerate. They say that it would best practice would encourage the kind of honest com-
be disrespectful to question her or his story. Some look munication between birth and adoptive parents that
at the more challenging parts of the expectant mother’s could open the door for the kind of extended family
life and make an internal judgment that the child will feeling that can contribute to the child growing whole
be better off with adoptive parents and the biological and strong. This starts with our willingness to notice
father doesn’t seem to have taken steps forward, so our reticence to learn painful truths and our courage to,
perhaps a stance of “enough said” is enough. The vari- nonetheless, ask the tough questions.
ous rationalizations for not asking more about the bio-
There to Help Us Through
Oh, how our lives changed drew. Every smile, every babble, and every hug has
on a cold Sunday in Feb- brought great joy into our lives.
ruary. And what a won-
derful welcome change Through it all, we have been very happy to have Full
it was. At 2PM the two Circle involved with us. We felt they were all very
of us left our house for a supportive of us. At the beginning, we were a bit over-
drive to western Massa- whelmed by the process and they were always avail-
chusetts and we returned able to help us understand everything we were doing
around midnight with the and everything we needed to do. At one point we
most adorable precious were very discouraged and they were there to help us
bundle named Andrew through. At the end, they were available to us as much
Michael. As we look at as we needed, even giving up the better part of that
him today, a sturdy, independent, even more adorable Sunday to be with us and come with us to the hospital
14 month old, it is almost hard to remember the tiny to pick up Andrew. They even followed up during the
delicate infant dwarfed in size by a car seat he has first week the to see how we were doing.
More importantly, Full Circle helped us to really appre-
We can’t imagine being happier than we are with An- ciate adoption. When we first started the process, we
continued on next page
were more focused on what we wanted and ourselves. put in us to raise Andrew. We hope that as he grows
Over time we really came to appreciate the issues fac- up, he will be thankful that we all love him, that we
ing birthmothers and fathers. We are very happy that all are trying to do what’s best for him, and that we all
we have communications with Andrew’s birth parents. respect each other. Anita
We are grateful to them and humbled by the trust they
A Full Circle of Continued Support
When we learned of our inability to have biological life, it was hands-down the best opportunity and ex-
children, and decided to pursue adoption. We met ceeded even my best dreams.
with Marla Allisan in her Brookline office. Marla took
all the time we needed to go over every part of the There were times during our wait that we knew we had
handbook with us and to answer our questions, which to be driving the staff crazy with our endless concerns
were never ending. In our attempts to have biological and questioning, not because the staff became impa-
children, on our fertility voyage, we’d lost tient with us, because they never did, but
our hope. During this meeting, we both because we knew we would have driven
felt hope again for the first time in many ourselves crazy! And during our most
years, that we’d actually become parents. uncertain and persistent times, Marla
In that Brookline office on that February and FCA rose above and lifted us up and
morning, we found it. helped us continue on our journey, always
respectfully and compassionately.
We started right away with our applica- After we came home with our daughter,
tion and home study. Every step of the we started counting down our monthly
way we were treated respectfully and pro- post placement visits until finalization.
fessionally, when we did not understand At one point, we had one particularly un-
something, Marla and all the workers at settling conversation with our daughter’s
A Full Circle Adoptions took the time to birthmother. Immediately after ending the
explain things to us and to reassure us. call with our daughter’s birthmother, we
There were times during our wait that we called Marla for her professional opinion
fell back into the more familiar feeling of and some reassurance. She once again
wondering if we’ll ever be blessed with parenthood. rose above and was able to successfully explain the
grieving process that some birthparents experience and
ITen months later, we began speaking with a young relate that to us and this particular situation. That was
couple expecting a girl here in Massachusetts. Dur- the moment that we knew we would really never want
ing our talks, there were times when we became over- to end our contact with this agency. The continued
whelmed, and it was a Godsend to have Marla to support that started during our orientation and contin-
bounce our feelings off of, it brought us great comfort ues to this day, over a year after finalization, is the kind
to be able to share our concerns with Marla and the of support that is rarely available in today’s world.
team at FCA.
We are very grateful for the work that Marla and the
When our daughter was born, we went through the team at A Full Circle Adoptions does, and for the in-
gamut of emotions and experiences. I was fortunate tegrity and respect they convey in their work. There
enough to have been asked by our daughter’s birth- are no words good enough to describe the quality of
mother to room in with her in the hospital because she care from this agency. It is the diamond in the rough.
wanted me to start caring for and bonding with our They’ve given us so much more than our hope back,
daughter immediately, from birth. While it was one they’ve given us our dream and our life as a family.
of the most difficult times and frightening times of my Julie
A Rewarding Experience
“It’s Marla, I don’t know what you were our parents (there is nothing in life
have planned for this weekend, but you less subtle than a person who wants to
should cancel whatever it is - birthpar- become a grandparent). I don’t think the
ents would like to meet you.” One phone wedding reception was even over before
call changed our weekend plans and we heard the first “grandbaby” com-
our lives. We began our adoption jour- ment. We didn’t know what to do. We
ney after receiving a diagnosis of infer- were upset, embarrassed and sad. But
tility. After much soul searching (and we kept it in. Whenever someone asked
telephone book searching and internet if we were thinking of starting a family,
searching), we contacted Marla Allisan we’d answer with some cheesy excuse.
at Full Circle Adoptions. We found Marla “George is still in EMT school.” Or,
to be attentive and informative. She is a “Jess is looking for a new job; it’s just
compassionate individual and a “straight not the right time.” We played it off like
shooting” professional - qualities that we hadn’t given having a family much
reassured us. From our first phone call, thought, when in fact; it was the only
and to this very day, Marla has shown a thing we thought about.
continued commitment to our family. We finally reached one year – the magic time when the
health insurance companies decide that you’ve tried
Marla’s knowledge and expertise are complemented long enough and can start discussing infertility with
by her staff - especially Meredith. We have always your doctors. We began blood work and testing, chart-
been impressed with Meredith’s attention to detail, ing cycles and watching calendars. We owned stock
genuine concern, and even her ability to recognize our in the ovulation kit
voices on the phone! Even through stressful times, our companies and ran
process has been a positive one because of Meredith’s out to buy a preg-
willingness to answer our (seemingly) thousands of nancy test every time
questions. my cycle was even
five minutes late. We
How did we come to the world of adoption? We were still were not getting
“that” couple. We had it all figured out. We’d been pregnant. All of my
married a year and decided it was time to get pregnant. tests came back clear.
We’d talked about it long enough and cooed over ba- George’s did not. We
bies so much that we realized we had a serious case of didn’t care at that
“baby fever.” We had a brief (but sweet) bon voyage point. It didn’t matter
service as we flushed the remaining birth control pills who was the “prob-
down the drain and then got to business… if it had only lem.” It was satisfy-
been that easy. ing to finally have
someone give valid-
Months started to pass quickly and we were not getting ity that there was a George, Jess & Owen
pregnant. In fact, the only thing we were getting was problem. We visited
frustrated and worried. We kept thinking, “How is it the infertility doctor
that some people can just say the word ‘baby’ and end and spoke about in-vitro fertilization. The appointment
up pregnant?” To make matters worse, all of our friends was informative but horrifying. I cried the entire time.
were getting pregnant, co-workers were having babies, Our insurance would only pay for one cycle – we only
and (it seemed) every other couple at the mall had a had one chance to get it right. I’m a person that goes
little bundle of joy. We had… nothing. And then, there with my gut instinct and my gut told me this was not
the way I was meant to become a mother. sound like horrible people?). You jump every time the
phone rings because there may be a birth mom that
Once we made the decision to become adoptive par- wants to view your profile. Adoption is stressful. But it
ents, there was no turning back. We knew we were is beautiful, too. We look back now, and can’t believe
making the right decision. I’m not going to lie, adop- that we are the parents of an adorable and curious eigh-
tion is stressful. There is more paperwork to fill out teen month old. It seems like forever ago that we first
than you can imagine. You think you can’t possibly get met Marla. The excitement of our adoption process
the house clean enough for that first home visit (and took away from the sadness of our infertility. We con-
you’re sure someone from the agency is going to check sider our adoption process as our “pregnancy.” It was
for dust with a pair of white gloves!). You want to be exciting and scary (and gave us heartburn sometimes)
sick at the thought of the individual sessions with the but it was the most rewarding experience we have had
social worker (did I say something that will make us as a couple.
Jess & George
Alex Brings Us JOY Everyday
We adopted our son, Alex, after a rel- cle was because of the thoroughness
atively short time in the waiting pro- of the agency when working with the
cess. Our adoption process actually birthparents. Full Circle really makes
happened very quickly. We started sure that both birthparents are mak-
our process in October, finished our ing the decision to place a child for
home study in December and took adoption and that everything is done
home our son in March. Throughout so that both birth parents are comfort-
the whole process we worked closely able with the process. We were really
with Marla and her staff at Full Circle pleased with how our adoption was
to be sure everything was all set. It handled with Alex’s birthfather (his
can be a difficult process with many birthmother, too).
ups and downs. The staff at Full
Circle was great at being completely We were very pleased with our choice
honest about each situation and what to expect - even of using Full Circle as our adoption agency. We got
if it was a difficult thing to hear as the adoptive parents. to know everyone in the agency very well while we
It can be overwhelming at times, but they were great were going through the adoption process. Whenever
about really making sense of different situations. we emailed or called with anything - big or small - we
got a response almost immediately.
One of the main reasons that we chose to work with
Full Circle was because of Marla Allisan’s qualifica- Needless to say, adopting our son has been the most
tions. We liked that she has both a law and social work rewarding and amazing experience of our lives. We
degree and could see things from both perspectives. are grateful everyday for our son and the joy he brings
Another key reason that we chose to work with Full Cir- to our lives.
Kelli & Kara
Thank you to our many donors to the Adoption Assistance Fund and
Full Circle Adoptions: Developer Finance, Marguerite and Dom (and family and
friends in honor of Marguerite’s Birthday!), Barbara Fell Johnson, and delightful
happy families who contributed Anonymously in honor of “our children”.
Full Circle Earns Hague Accreditation
FULL CIRCLE ADOPTIONS is pleased to report that the agency has earned two year tempo-
rary Hague Accreditation from the Council on Accreditation. Hague Accreditation authorizes Full
Circle to provide intercountry adoption services. Licensed by the Commonwealth since 1996,
Full Circle provides both domestic and intercountry adoption services. If you would like more
information about this topic or to schedule an orientation with the agency’s director Marla Allisan
JD, LICSW, at either the agency’s Brookline or Northampton, MA locations, please contact the
agency by telephone - 413-587-0007, or e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org.
We meet with clients at either: 496 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446 or
39 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060
TOLL FREE: Phone:
Welcome, Baby Kyra!
Full Circle is one of the few Kyra and her parents will return
agencies in the United States ap- on a regular basis so that she’ll
proved by the Netherlands gov- grow up knowing her biological
ernment for placement of chil- parents and her siblings. Around
dren with families there. The the time of placement, the social
Netherlands is the most racially worker who helped with expect-
integrated country in all of Eu- ant parent counseling and who
rope. Children growing up in the arranged for foster care for Kyra,
Netherlands learn both English enjoyed a celebration arranged by
and Dutch. They have wonder- Full Circle and attended by other
ful opportunities for education families who had been blessed
and grow up in a society that is with children as part of the excel-
considered to have far less racism lent casework of Danita Holliday
than elsewhere in the world. Kyra’s biological parents MSW and Full Circle Adoptions. We want to share our
are a young, but mature African American couple in respect for Kyra’s birthparents, our gratitude to Danita
the rural south who had three children under the age for many years of loving assistance to expectant par-
of two (one set of twins!). They wanted their daughter ents and our appreciation for Morach and Janneke,
to have greater opportunities for education, attention who’ve done a marvelous job of staying in touch with
and love. They chose Morach and Janneke, a Dutch her birth-family and with the foster family (who got a
family, to be her parents. While growing up abroad, bit attached !) as well.
Toll Free: 1-800-45-ADOPT Phone: 413-587-0007 e-mail: email@example.com